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Owls, Panthers searching for Big East footing

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Owls, Panthers searching for Big East footing

PITTSBURGH (AP) Temple coach Steve Addazio expected growing pains while leading the Owls back into the Big East.

He just didn't quite expect to experience them quite so acutely.

One half, the Owls (3-3, 2-1 Big East) look like a team ready to compete for a conference title right away. The next, they look like a program overwhelmed by the abrupt switch from the Mid-American Conference to their old football home.

Addazio saw both sides in a 35-10 loss to No. 15 Rutgers last week, when a 10-point halftime lead ended with a 35-10 mauling by the unbeaten Scarlet Knights.

``I said at the beginning we had a young football team and we're going to have these roller coaster rides,'' Addazio said.

Pitt coach Paul Chryst can empathize.

The Panthers (3-4, 0-3) began the season talking about winning a conference title in their swan song before heading to the ACC next summer. A few days before Halloween, they're still searching for a first league win and anything resembling momentum.

``We want to win out, win the rest of our games, but first we have to beat Temple,'' running back Ray Graham said. ``We couldn't look forward too much before, because we were in a hole, but if we can win out then we'll look toward getting to a bowl game.''

Chryst isn't quite ready to think that far down the road. Pitt snapped a two-game losing streak in a lethargic 20-6 win over Buffalo last week but will need to be considerably sharper against Temple.

The Owls are no longer the conference doormat they were during their first stint in the league from 1991-2004, when they finished with one or two league wins 10 times. They knocked off South Florida in their first Big East game in eight years three weeks ago then backed it up with an overtime triumph at Connecticut.

Temple was 30 minutes away from another stunner last weekend when it jumped in front of the Scarlet Knights. It quickly fell apart. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova tossed four second-half touchdown passes to keep the Scarlet Knights in the thick of the conference title race.

It was an aggravating meltdown, but Addazio is well aware of how ``fragile'' things can be for a team littered with underclassmen all over the field.

``To this point at this juncture, I think we've competed well,'' Addazio said. ``We've won some, we've lost some, but we're developing. We're growing but I like where we're heading.''

There's only one direction for Pitt go at this point: Up.

The Panthers were trounced by Cincinnati in Chryst's second game on the job but had their chances against Syracuse and Louisville only to come up short. Time is running out if Pitt holds out any hope of making a fifth straight bowl game.

It's something the Panthers insist they're aware of but not focused on.

``We're just trying to get better,'' wide receiver Mike Shanahan said. ``We think that we're improving and we've still got some good football left.''

Pitt will need to play good football if it wants its season to extend beyond Dec. 1. The final month includes games against Rutgers and Notre Dame as well as road trips to Connecticut and USF.

The Panthers are hoping the return of tight end Hubie Graham helps. The senior has missed four games this season due to injury, but his presence on the line should open up holes for Ray Graham and freshman Rushel Shell, who were held to a relatively modest 109 combined yards on 32 carries last week against Buffalo.

``If we can win a couple of these tough games coming up, it can change our season,'' Hubie Graham said. ``You've seen what we can do when we're on, we can move the football, so we need to eliminate all those mistakes and work on just playing against our opponent each week.''

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How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

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USA TODAY Sports

How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

It wasn't supposed to happen.

The Capitals celebrated too hard after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. The Tampa Bay Lightning had been here before. Tampa Bay's roster was deeper. Their goalie was hotter. They had home ice advantage. They had easily won their first two series. Nicklas Backstrom was still injured. Washington wouldn't be able to stop the Lightning's power play.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

For all of those reasons, many did not even give the Caps a chance. Washington overcame every obstacle in their way and was, for the most part, the better team through seven games defeating Tampa Bay to win the Eastern Conference for just the second time in franchise history.

The Capitals showed in their second-round win over the Penguins that these weren't the "same old Caps." They continued to prove that in the conference final when they stunned the Lightning to win Game 1 and Game 2 both on the road.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

When Washington lost the next three, many thought that meant the real Lightning had awoken, but it was the Caps who rose to the occasion in Game 6 and Game 7 where they face elimination as they completely dominated Tampa Bay by a combined score of 7-0.

The Caps now advance to take on the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final. The Knights have lost only three games this entire postseason and will hope to carry that momentum with them into Game 1.

If there is one thing this Washington team has proven, however, it's that you should never count them out.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

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Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

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