Road-weary USC hopes to get sharper at home


Road-weary USC hopes to get sharper at home

LOS ANGELES (AP) After traipsing from the humid New Jersey swamps to rain-soaked Seattle over the past few weeks, Matt Barkley is awfully grateful to be back in the Southern California sunshine.

With a travel-heavy first half of the year finally behind them, the No. 11 Trojans (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12) will leave Los Angeles just once for the rest of the regular season, which begins with Saturday's visit from lowly Colorado. USC doesn't blame the schedule for its unintimidating performances thus far, but it's clear the preseason's No. 1 team probably will benefit from the comforts of home.

``Seems like we've been away for a long time,'' Barkley said. ``You don't hear guys talk about it, but I think you'll see it in the next couple of games. We don't like to think it affects us, but being back at the Coliseum will be a big help.''

Although the Trojans have hardly been the juggernaut many expected, Barkley and his teammates believe their lofty goals are still achievable if they settle into a flow of strong play after a disjointed month since their only loss at Stanford. With a relatively healthy roster and motivation to land a big destination for their first bowl game since 2009, the Trojans realize they'll need four strong performances at the Coliseum during visits from Colorado, Oregon, Arizona State and Notre Dame over the next six weeks.

USC, which was No. 10 in the first BCS standings, had just one home game in a 48-day stretch between its season opener and Saturday. By comparison, Oregon has been on the road just once - and it was only a trip to Seattle for a neutral-site game with Washington State.

``We've been in a very weird rhythm, with the bye and all the road games,'' coach Lane Kiffin said. ``But now we've got six Saturday games in a row, most of them at home. It's nice to be in the rhythm of being in your own hotel (before games) and not having to get on a plane. ... We're just relieved to make it through not just four road games, but the long trip back East, the preseason hype, everything.''

The Trojans went back to work on campus this week with hopes of finding that rhythm, which has eluded them so far. USC has won three straight games since that seven-point loss to the Cardinal, but the Trojans haven't beaten anybody impressively since their season opener, content to grind out ugly victories that have left their fans wondering why a talent-loaded team isn't flattening everything in its path.

``We knew every game would be even tougher this year,'' said All-American receiver Robert Woods, who has 36 catches for 360 yards and five touchdowns. ``Whenever another team plays USC, they're going to treat it like their biggest game. Every week we have to be prepared for that.''

Yet the Trojans aren't handling it perfectly: USC leads the FBS with an average of 10 penalties per game, and the spate of road games can't be the only explanation. The Trojans also are 112th of 120 teams in third down efficiency, an improbable development for a team with their wealth of offensive talent.

That talent has been offset by deficiencies in other areas. USC still hasn't decided on a starting left tackle midway through the season, with Kiffin re-opening the competition this week between Max Tuerk and Aundrey Walker, the Trojans' most-penalized player.

USC didn't bank many style points during its road trips to Washington, Utah, Stanford and East Rutherford, N.J., to face Syracuse. Their 13-point win over the Orange was the only thing close to a blowout, and the Trojans are back home after a pair of workmanlike 10-point wins over the Utes and Huskies.

Barkley's Heisman Trophy chances are waning with each week, yet the senior leaves little doubt he would gladly skip a trip to New York in December for the chance to play in Miami or Pasadena in January.

``Defenses have tried to play us different ways over the last couple of weeks, knowing our passing attack,'' Barkley said with a shrug after going 10 for 20 for 167 yards at Washington. ``We've been running the ball tremendously well. It's team-first.''

Colorado's visit would seem to provide a perfect opportunity for Barkley, Woods and Marqise Lee to show off before the Trojans travel to Arizona for their only remaining out-of-town game. Kiffin won't promise any offensive fireworks, sticking to his determination to keep banking wins with a steady running game and a defense that has been better than many expected.

The Trojans are hoping those beauty-pageant victories just happen naturally when they're in front of their 90,000 fans.

``We need to get in front of our fans and get some momentum going,'' safety T.J. McDonald said. ``We're finally home now. This is our chance to do that.''

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Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, Time, How to Watch, live stream

Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, Time, How to Watch, live stream

When the Capitals take the ice in Game 6, they will be playing for their playoff lives. After losing Game 5 on Saturday to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Caps must win on Monday or their season will be over.

In order to do that, the Caps will have to change some things. First, they have to figure out how to win at home, something they have yet to do in this series. Second, they will have to find a way to get to Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy who has been dominant the past three games. Alex Ovechkin also needs to win the matchup against the fourth line since he has only two five-on-five points through five games. Finally, the defense will have to be better. Matt Niskanen took the blame for Game 5, but really it was a tough night all around.

Also, a few penalty calls against Tampa Bay would be nice too.

Where: Capital One Arena

When: 8:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Lightning, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBCSN

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Lightning Game 6 on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Game 6 of the Capitals vs. Lightning 2018 NHL Playoff series takes place on Monday, May 21 at 8:00 p.m. at Capital One Arnea.


The TV broadcast of Game 6 between the Capitals and Lightning is on NBCSN. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 on NBCSN
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Game 6 between the Capitals and Lightning is available to stream online on Monday, May 21 live here through the NBC Sports live stream page.


Capitals projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly
Devante Smith-Pelly -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Lightning projected lines:

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Yanni Gourde
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - J.T. Miller
Chris Kunitz - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Andrei Vasilevskiy starts with Louis Domingue as backup.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.


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Need to Know: Redskins player one-liners, offense

Need to Know: Redskins player one-liners, offense

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, May 21, one day before the Washington Redskins start OTAs.  

Redskins player one-liners, offense

A few weeks ago, I did an early projection of the Redskins’ 53-man roster on offense and defense. As the team gets ready for OTAs here is a comment on each player expected to make the team on offense; the defense will be up tomorrow. 


—It seems likely that Alex Smith will jump right into the leadership role on the offense, unlike his predecessor, who often seemed to be a reluctant leader. 

—Since Smith has missed a few games with injuries here and there, the chances of the team needing Colt McCoy to come in and win a key game are greater than they were the past three years. 

Kevin Hogan has from now until the end of the season to show that he can be a viable No. 2 quarterback to help ensure that he has a job here in 2019. 

Running backs

—It’s been a while around here since expectations were this high for a player picked late in the second round but Derrius Guice will try to meet them. 

Chris Thompson could be ready to participate in OTAs but look for him to get a very light workload if he puts on a helmet at all. 

—If Rob Kelley wants to be a regular on the 46-man game day inactive list he will have to play a lot of special teams, something he has done sparingly in his two years in the league. 

—Since the team likely will monitor Guice’s workload as a rookie, Samaje Perine will get some carries in key situations this year. 

Wide receivers

—While Josh Doctson does need to get more chances to use his huge catch radius and take balls away from defenders, he also could benefit by working to get more separation on a regular basis. 

—Smith was one of the best deep ball throwers in the league last year and if he is going to maintain that status he will need to look for Paul Richardson at least a few times per game. 

—After his play leveled off in his second and third years in the league, will Jamison Crowder have a contract year breakout? 

—It will be interesting to see what Maurice Harris can do if he stays healthy and get some consistent playing time. 

—Will Trey Quinn be a project or will the last pick in the draft have some instant impact on the offense? 

Tight ends

—​Jordan Reed could be an All-Pro or he could be a cap casualty in 2019. 

—The numbers say that Vernon Davis needs to have Reed on the field to be consistently productive; he had no more than two receptions in any of the last six games. 

—​Jeremy Sprinkle will be relied upon to block and play special teams and anything he produces in the receptions department will be a bonus. 

Offensive line

—After making the Pro Bowl while dealing with a serious knee injury last year, who knows what Trent Williams can accomplish if he can, you know, practice during the week.

—Right now Shawn Lauvao is the Redskins’ starter at left guard but a trade or free agent signing could change that in a heartbeat.

—Jay Gruden has a great deal of confidence in Chase Roullier as the starting center and the hope is that he keeps the job for many years to come. 

—Will Brandon Scherff take the next step and attain All-Pro status?

—​Morgan Moses dealt with injuries to both ankles last year, but he was the only offensive lineman who didn’t miss at least two starts.

—If I had to bet right now I’d say that Ty Nsekhe will start the season as the backup tackle on both sides and not as the starting left guard. 

—As long as Nsekhe is the swing tackle, Geron Christin is likely to be inactive on game days. 

—​Tyler Catalina will have to battle his way onto the roster but his ability to play both guard and tackle will land him on the 53. 

—​Tony Bergstrom is the answer to the question, “Who is the Redskins backup center?”

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

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Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 22
—Training camp starts (7/26) 67
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 81

The Redskins last played a game 140 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 112 days. 

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