Redskins

Smith scores 17, FIU down Louisiana-Monroe 76-73

Smith scores 17, FIU down Louisiana-Monroe 76-73

MIAMI (AP) Malik Smith scored 17 points, including a go-ahead three-point play with 19 seconds left, as Florida International snapped a two-game skid and handed Louisiana-Monroe its seventh straight defeat in a 76-73 Sun Belt Conference decision Saturday night.

Smith's three-point play gave FIU (12-10, 7-6) a 74-73 lead. Deric Hill stole the ball off R.J. McCray on the ensuing possession and made both free throws for the final score.

Smith hit four of the Panther's eight 3-pointers.

Amos Olatayo set career-highs for the second consecutive game with 30 points and 12 field goals in 18 attempts for the Warhawks (3-15, 2-10). The junior is averaging 25.3 points over his last three games. Trent Mackey added 21 points, including 5-of-8 3-point shooting.

Louisiana-Monroe knocked down 58 percent (29 of 50) from the floor.

FIU had 18 steals, including six by Hill, and turned 24 Louisiana-Monroe turnovers into 33 points.

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How Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson is cramming for his first start in seven years

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How Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson is cramming for his first start in seven years

REDSKINS PARK —The surprise has worn off now and the work has begun in earnest for Josh Johnson, who will start his first NFL game in seven years when the Redskins play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

That is not something he or the Redskins would have thought possible during the summer. Alex Smith was going to be the new starting quarterback and Colt McCoy was set to be his backup. Then Smith and McCoy sustained broken legs in a nine-day span last month and the unthinkable happened. 

Behind an offensive line decimated by injuries once again, Johnson at least moved the ball when called upon down 40-0 against the New York Giants on Sunday at FedEx Field. Redskins coach Jay Gruden immediately made the decision to give Johnson the start against Jacksonville. A career backup now on his 12th NFL organization will start for a team whose season has cratered during a four-game losing streak. 

Johnson says he’s ready and that his journey around the NFL is part of the reason why. The Redskins had an extended practice on Wednesday with scripted sessions and walk throughs at the beginning and end to get him comfortable with the offense. He’s familiar with Gruden thanks to their time together in Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, when Gruden was the offensive coordinator. But it’s a lot to cram into one week and the playbook will naturally be limited.      

"It has helped because I’ve been around a lot of different quarterbacks, a couple Super Bowl quarterbacks, a Hall of Fame quarterback, first-round picks, fifth-round picks,” Johnson said. “I’ve experienced coaching from numerous coaches and you pick up on some common traits. You pick up on different things where you can apply it when necessary whether it is preparation, performance, mental stability. Everything becomes a full circle, so it’s getting me ready for Sunday."

But prior to Sunday’s loss to the Giants, Johnson last threw a pass in a game on Dec. 11, 2011. Ironically, that came for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Jaguars in a 41-14 loss. Johnson’s last start was the week before that in a 38-19 loss to the Carolina Panthers. 

Cam Newton was a rookie. So was Redskins linebacker Mason Foster, who was Johnson’s teammate that day, too, as a starting rookie linebacker for the Buccaneers. Johnson appeared in two more games with Tampa Bay and then began his journey around the NFL. 

His stops included Cleveland, Cincinnati and San Francisco twice each, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Baltimore, New York with both the Jets and the Giants, Houston, his hometown Oakland Raiders this past offseason and now the Redskins.

“The one thing that I really respect about Josh Johnson is he is a very confident guy,” Gruden said. “He believes in his ability to be a quarterback in the National Football League despite being on [12] teams. He has a skill set that’s pretty good but hasn’t been able to stick anywhere, but still, the game's not too big for him.” 

Indeed, Johnson came on with 5:31 left in the third quarter and his team down 40-0 against New York and completed 11 of 16 passes and had seven carries for 45 yards with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown plus two two-point conversions. He didn’t look nervous. 

With Washington’s situation at both left and right guard so disastrous because of injury, there isn’t much Gruden can do to change the playbook. Johnson’s mobility allows the Redskins to use him a little differently than Mark Sanchez, who originally took over for McCoy but struggled against New York and was benched.

Johnson is still grasping the new terminology, though. He was with Gruden in Cincinnati in 2013, a backup on a team that made the playoffs, but much of that wording was changed when Gruden arrived in Washington in 2014. But Jon Gruden – Jay’s brother and the Raiders’ head coach – once told Johnson to keep a manual on what coaches across the NFL are doing when he was between jobs so he’d be prepared if a call came. It did, but this time from a familiar face. They all hope it helps. 

“To come back and kind of experience a similar culture and being in something that I've been comfortable with before, it's kind of a blessing for me,” Johnson said. “Because I don’t really have to go through the rigors of a coach trying to figure me out. It's more of just figuring me in.”

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John Tortorella ‘embarrassed’ by Columbus’ one-sided loss to the Capitals

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John Tortorella ‘embarrassed’ by Columbus’ one-sided loss to the Capitals

Before the Capitals dominated the Detroit Red Wings at Capital One Arena on Tuesday, they stopped off in Columbus on Saturday for what was expected to be a great game between the top two teams of the Metropolitan Division.

It wasn’t.

Instead of two heavy-weights trading blows or the Columbus Blue Jackets going after the Capitals in an attempt to exact some measure of revenge for last season’s playoff loss, Washington blew apart Columbus in a one-sided, 4-0 affair.

As you could imagine, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella was displeased with the result and sounded off on Monday in typical Tortorella fashion.

"I'm embarrassed as the coach of this team," Tortorella told reporters, according to The Athletic's Aaron Portzline. "I missed something along the way. I'm part of it also. I'm embarrassed that we embarrassed our organization."

The Caps took control of Saturday’s game early with three goals in the first period. The physical battle that had been the trademark of last season’s playoff series never came. Washington pushed and received no pushback from a Columbus team that looked like a shadow of the team that had jumped out to a 2-0 series lead over the Caps.

"It was disgusting," Tortorella said. "After our last home game, that debacle, 9-6 [loss to Calgary], to show up on a Saturday night for first-place seeding, against a team that knocked us out of the playoffs, in front of a full house, it's embarrassing."

The Blue Jackets seem to be reeling a bit of late. On Dec. 4, Columbus coughed up a 4-1 lead allowing five goals in the second period to the Calgary Flames in what turned into a 9-6 loss. A narrow overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday was followed by the blowout loss to the Caps and on Tuesday, Columbus allowed two goals in a span of 1:18 late in the third period that turned a 2-1 victory into a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks.

Washington and Columbus have been locked in a standings battle the last few weeks (and years) with both teams vying for supremacy over the Metropolitan Division. Now, the Caps hold a five-point lead for first place in a division that seems to be rapidly declining. At mid-December, we are still waiting to see if another team can emerge to push Washington late in the season in a battle for first place in the division. A contender has yet to emerge and, the longer the season goes, the less likely it seems that someone will.

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