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Run defense in crosshairs for No. 13 Oklahoma

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Run defense in crosshairs for No. 13 Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Ask one Stoops brother and he'll tell you he loves that Oklahoma gave up over 200 yards rushing for a fourth time this season, as long as the end result was a victory.

Ask another and he'll tell you the performance was unacceptable and things need to be corrected right away with a road game against West Virginia's high-scoring offense coming up on Saturday.

The only common ground is that coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, his brother, both want the 13th-ranked Sooners (7-2, 5-1 Big 12) to be better.

``We have to stop the run to be a good defense,'' defensive tackle Casey Walker said Monday, leaving no wiggle room. ``The front four has to be solid. It has to be. That's imperative.''

For an ex-defensive coordinator who has always preached stopping the run first, Bob Stoops has been uncommonly accepting of the season-worst 251 yards rushing his team allowed in a 42-34 victory over Baylor on Saturday night. The reason: The Bears came in leading the nation in passing and were held to a season-low 172 yards - 220 below their average.

``That's no consolation,'' his brother countered. ``We want to and we need to play better defense if we want to go the places we want to go.''

At his weekly news conference on Monday, Bob Stoops took a small step back from his postgame proclamation in support of the defense: ``I absolutely love it.'' Looking back at the film, he found too many missed tackles - something he hadn't seen as a problem in previous games.

``To a degree, we'll make some adjustments and again, hopefully make some adjustments on some of the run game,'' Bob Stoops said.

He didn't expect West Virginia (5-4, 2-4) to pose the same issues as Baylor, which frequently spreads receivers within a few steps of both sidelines and ran read option plays with quarterback Nick Florence.

Yet that's not the only run game that has posed the Sooners problems. Kansas State and Notre Dame also eclipsed 200 yards rushing while beating Oklahoma, and UTEP had 207 yards rushing in the opener that was a three-point game in the fourth quarter.

``Everybody's attack is different. Baylor's strategy to work you is a little bit different than theirs, but you've still got speedy receivers, you've still got an excellent quarterback. You don't have as much of the quarterback run game, that kind of thing,'' Bob Stoops said.

``Everybody has their way that they like to try and move the football.''

Mike Stoops saw it differently, calling the tackling ``atrocious'' and the overall run defense ``disappointing'' because the Sooners showed vulnerability both inside and outside the tackles.

``I think they exposed some weaknesses in our defense, and we've got to address them. All the teams we play can do all of the things they did,'' he said. ``You open up Pandora's Box.''

Entering a stretch when they'll play some of the Big 12's most potent passing attacks, Oklahoma frequently used a package with seven defensive backs against Baylor, which could have led to the imbalance in stopping the pass while yielding to the run.

``Good football teams don't miss tackles,'' Walker said. ``It's rare to see a football team that wins with as many missed tackles. You have to correct that quickly because at the end of the day, it'll catch back up with you and that's how you lose a ballgame.

``It was good that we won the game but defensively, the performance could have been better. We've played better.''

Behind quarterback Geno Smith, West Virginia ranks fifth in the nation in passing (347.6 yards per game) and 11th in scoring (40 points per game) but has been at its best when allowed to run the ball. The Mountaineers averaged 164 yards rushing during a five-game winning streak to start the season and just 93.5 during their current five game losing skid, with three straight games in double figures.

``That's No. 1. Stop the run,'' Walker said. ``We harp that every week. We don't even look at the pass. In the defensive tackles' film room, we don't even look at the pass. We don't look at drop-backs or nothing. It's all run.

``If you stop the run, the pass rush, that's just muscle memory.''

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may have won the American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament this weekend, but T.J. Oshie definitely had the most fun.

Using the Modified Stableford scoring format for the tournament — which included several pro and retired athletes, such as Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Charles Barkley and Joe Pavelski — Oshie finished with 11 points, tying for 48th with NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell. 

But the Capitals' winger's score didn't really matter because Oshie was out on the Lake Tahoe golf course in Nevada just having fun with his family and continuing the epic celebration as a new Stanley Cup champion. Obviously, that meant playing and chugging a beer through his t-shirt as 'We Are The Champions' played.

His brother, Taylor, was his caddy, and at one point, Oshie borrowed his brother's beer helmet while putting. He sunk it, and it was amazing.

Yeah, Oshie had a great weekend. Here's a look at some other moments from his weekend on Lake Tahoe.

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will the Caps look different under new head coach Todd Reirden?

Tarik: It’s an important topic, but let’s not overthink this one. Since winning the Stanley Cup on June 7, the organization has pretty much telegraphed EXACTLY what it hopes will occur in 2018-19. Consider:

  • Todd Reirden was promoted after spending four years as Barry Trotz’s assistant, including the last two years as an associate coach with an expanded role. Reirden already knows everyone, from the players to the trainers and other support staff. He knows what buttons to push and when to push them. There’s a built-in comfort level and trust that should allow everyone to hit the ground running in September.
  • Four of Reirden’s assistants are holdovers, too. The one newcomer, Reid Cashman, is joining the group from Hershey and is a Reirden disciple. So, no adjustment period there, either.
  • Assuming restricted free agent Tom Wilson re-ups (and that would seem to be a very safe assumption), the Caps are bringing back 11 of the 12 forwards that were on the ice for Game 5 in Las Vegas. They’re also bringing back five of six defensemen. And the starting goaltender. Chemistry is a hard thing to explain and/or quantify. But you know when a team has it. And the Caps had it at the end of last year.

So if you look at what GM Brian MacLellan has been doing in recent weeks—and have been listening to what Reirden has been saying publicly—you can only come to one conclusion. The decision-makers feel they discovered the right mix of personnel and systems play at the end of the playoffs, from the defensive structure to special teams. In fact, they were first in goals per game, second-best on the power play and the fourth stingiest team in the postseason.

“Many of my [philosophies] were involved in how we were going to play, how our team was going to look, the identity that we had,” Reirden said on The Junkies recently, referring to last year’s game plan. “So, from a systems standpoint, I would say not much is going to change, at least initially, just because it seemed to work. …You’ll see much of the same.”

That doesn’t mean Reirden won’t make adjustments. He will because he’ll have to over the course of an 82-game regular season and, hopefully, another long postseason run. But it does underscore the fact that the foundation upon on which last year’s championship team was built is going to look awfully familiar. And that's clearly by design.

JJ:  The message from the Caps ever since Reirden was promoted to head coach has been one of consistency as they try to make a seamless transition to the new head coach. In that sense, we probably won't see many changes at all to start the season.

The Capitals just won the Stanley Cup and general manager Brian MacLellan worked to bring almost the exact same roster back for next season. Coming into the locker room saying there's a new sheriff in town and making drastic changes is not the way to go here

But that doesn't mean Reirden will do things the same way.

Reirden has coached at the college, AHL and NHL level. He has seen firsthand how Dan Bylsma won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and how Trotz did it in Washington. He also saw what didn't work.

Reirden got to this point by developing relationships with the players. He is much more of a players' coach than Trotz and that will be evident in training camp. I also expect there will be a much greater emphasis on development. Trotz famously said to the media that the NHL was not a development league, but a performance league. I expect Reirden to take a different approach.

After failing to win with veteran-laden teams, the Caps finally hoisted the Cup last season after getting significant contributions from young prospects such as Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey. Like it or not, the Caps' core will not last forever. Every year those players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson get another year older. I do not believe a coach who is as good at reaching players and developing them as Reirden is will be quite as reluctant to reach down onto the farm and sprinkle youth throughout his lineup whenever the team needs a spark.

It should not be lost on anyone that one of Reirden's new assistant coaches this year will be Reid Cashman, promoted from being an assistant with the Hershey Bears in the AHL. This is all good news for players like Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler and Connor Hobbs, the team's three best defensive prospects who are hoping to have an impact at the NHL level sooner rather than later. The Caps roster is pretty loaded, but at the very least you can expect Reirden to have a hand in helping those players along at training camp.

Ultimately, the product on the ice is going to look almost exactly the same at the start of the season with the biggest changes coming off the ice. We won't see who Reirden is as an NHL coach, however, until we let the full 82-game season play out.

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