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Spurrier steadying No. 3 South Carolina

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Spurrier steadying No. 3 South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Steve Spurrier likes what undefeated South Carolina has accomplished so far. He knows, though, the third-ranked Gamecocks have plenty of games left that will determine how special the season turns out.

South Carolina (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) jumped up three spots Sunday to its highest position since 1984 after a dominating 35-7 victory over No. 14 Georgia on Saturday night. The Gamecocks reached a number of milestones, winning their school-record 10th straight game and taking three straight from the Bulldogs for the first time with the sort of performance that fuels national title talk.

``We realized if we won the game last night, this could happen,'' Spurrier said.

Spurrier handled those sky-high expectations in much of his 12 seasons at Florida from 1990-2001, bringing his alma mater a national championship in 1996. Spurrier says this group of Gamecocks is his most complete and mature group since he took control of things here in 2005. All that doesn't guarantee perfection in the unpredictable world of college football.

``We certainly like where we are right now, but we're smart enough to know it's still a difficult, difficult road for us,'' Spurrier said.

That starts this week with the Gamecocks heading to No. 9 LSU to face a Tiger team angry from its season's first loss at No. 4 Florida earlier Saturday and carrying the advantage of a night game at Death Valley where the home team rarely falters.

The fired-up LSU atmosphere even stung Spurrier before, his 1997 top-ranked, defending national champions stumbling to the Tigers 28-21.

``They'll be ready for us,'' Spurrier said. ``They're ready for everybody.''

Part of Spurrier's success at South Carolina is his steady approach from week to week. When he arrived, he thought too much time was spent tracking state rival Clemson and not focused on the Southeastern Conference and got both players and fans to lock on to chasing a league title.

He also knew the Gamecocks couldn't let the state's best players such as receiver A.J. Green head off to Georgia like he did before Spurrier arrived. So Spurrier landed the past four winners of the state's ``Mr. Football'' award given South Carolina's top prep player. Those included last April's first-round draft pick in cornerback Stephon Gilmore and current Gamecocks stars tailback Marcus Lattimore and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Lattimore and Clowney showed their worth against the Bulldogs. Lattimore gained 109 yards - he has 467 yards and four TDs in three career games vs. Georgia - while Clowney led a defensive effort that held the SEC's highest scoring team coming in without a point the game's first 58 minutes.

Clowney said the noise from a record 85,199 people at Williams-Brice Stadium was so overwhelming, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray had to tap his center on the backside to get the snaps off - and it gave South Carolina defenders the chance to tee off. ``I couldn't hear, so I knew they couldn't hear,'' Clowney said, laughing.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said South Carolina certainly played every bit as well as the LSU team that overwhelmed the Bulldogs, 42-10, in last year's SEC title game. Continuing that level of play is the big question, Richt said.

``There are still some mighty big tests for them as there are for all of us in our league,'' he said Sunday.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones said the Gamecocks quickly got ahead by three touchdowns in the first quarter and the Bulldogs couldn't catch up.

``Being down 21-0 in the first quarter, that's hard'' to come back from, Jones said. ``Especially by a team in the SEC.''

Spurrier has a rule in place, like many coaches, that his staff and players get 24 hours to celebrate success or flush out failure. Then it's back to work, no matter what happened in the previous game.

``That's the way this team works. That's the system coach Spurrier has in place and that's the way the players will handle it,'' South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said.

It might be hard to totally forget this one, especially with happy students and fans on campus telling the Gamecocks how great they've been. Spurrier understands and accepts that, too.

The last time Spurrier's Gamecocks enjoyed this large a spotlight came in 2010 following a stunning 35-21 win over then top-ranked Alabama. South Carolina then lost a week later, 31-28, at Kentucky, a defeat Spurrier blames more on a stalled second-half offense than players not being ready. ``I blame the coaches for that one,'' he said.

This time, the Gamecock feature better, older leaders who've kept the team even-keeled through the high times and the low. ``You really don't ever know anything until you go play the game,'' Spurrier said. ``But we've got some good leaders.''

Leaders, Spurrier thinks, who'll keep locked on to the next opponent while understanding that success won't guarantee anything beyond that. ``We do have a chance for a big year,'' Spurrier said. ``If we continue on doing what we're doing.''

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Instant analysis: 5 field goals lift Redskins past Jets

Instant analysis: 5 field goals lift Redskins past Jets

LANDOVER, MD — Here is my instant analysis of the Redskins’ 15-13 preseason win over the New York Jets.

— Alex Smith started the game and so did most of the other players who are expected to start Week 1. Rob Kelley was at running back, Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson lined up at receiver, and the offensive line was intact — with the exception of Geron Christian playing left tackle. Vernon Davis was the tight end. 

— Smith moved the team efficiently on the first drive, completing four of six passes for 48 yards. He converted one third-and-9 by finding Doctson in a big soft spot in the Jets’ zone for 11 yards. On third-and-goal at the 4, he threw a pass a little behind Trey Quinn; it was catchable but not easy and Quinn couldn’t handle it. A field goal made it 3-0. After that 11-play, 71-yard drive, Smith and most of the rest of the offensive starters left the game. 

— Ten of the 11 regular defenders started the game, the exception being Matt Ioannidis. In his first series in a Redskins uniform, Daron Payne stopped the drive with a sack on third down. After that three-and-out, they weren’t as effective against Sam Darnold on their second possession. The rookie was sharp leading a 12-play, 42-yard field goal drive. 

— The first time Samaje Perine touched the ball, he ran for 30 yards off left tackle, following a nice block from J.P. Holtz, a tight end who was lined up at fullback. Since they released the only fullback on the roster last week, TE as FB is likely to be the plan. Perine then left the game with an ankle injury. He did not return. 

— There were some special teams gaffes in the first half. Dustin Hopkins hit the right upright on a 35-yard field goal try but it went through. On the ensuing kickoff, though, the kick went out of bounds. Later on, Byron Marshall put the ball on the ground on a kickoff return but replay showed it that he was down. So there was one costly miscue and two near-misses. 

— The Redskins backup defensive unit was back on its heels in a second-quarter drive with most of the Jets’ offensive starters in. They ended the drive when Danny Johnson make a good tackle to force a third and one. The Jets went for it and Darnold’s pass was tipped by Deshazor Everett and intercepted by Troy Apke. Tim Settle dominated in the middle, usually matched up against former Redskins center Spencer Long. 

— It was bad news, then good news for rookie WR Cam Sims in the second quarter. First he had a pass in his hands for a first down in the red zone but the ball popped out without him being touched and the pass was picked off. On the Redskins’ next possession he made a nice catch between two defenders for a 27-yard gain on third-and-10. Later in the drive he made a leaping catch in the end zone, but a penalty negated the TD. He has been inconsistent in practice in Richmond and is carrying over. 

— The Redskins had some red zone woes in the first half. The had three shots from there and settled for field goals every time. They also had the situation where Sims had the pass in his hands in the red zone before it popped out for an interception. 

— Long shot Martez Carter got his name on the board with a runs of nine and then 30 yards, showing blazing speed around the corner on both runs. He remains a long shot but speed like that will get you some attention. 

— Third QB Kevin Hogan was able to lead a scoring drive on his first possession but it was done mostly via Carter’s runs and the first application of the new helmet rule in a Redskins’ game this preseason, a flag that went against the Jets. The next two possessions he went two for three for seven yards and the Redskins went three and out both times. 

— The Jets kicked a late field goal to take a 13-12 lead. Hogan had a chance to bring them back and got them into Jets territory. Then Cam Sims made a 20-yard grab to set up a 40-yard field goal attempt. Hopkins hit it as time ran out to give the home team a 15-13 lead. 

— The win doesn’t mean anything but it’s always more fun to win than to lose. 

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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Washington Nationals announce the addition of a bullpen cart

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USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals announce the addition of a bullpen cart

Sean Doolittle has gotten his wish - the Washington Nationals will now have a bullpen cart for the remainder of the 2018 season. 

In a release on Thursday, the Nationals announced that they will unveil a the WGL Energy Bullpen Cart on their upcoming Friday night game against the Miami Marlins. The cart will be at all remaining home games at Nationals Park.

Both the Nationals’ pitchers and opponents will be able to utilize the cart to enter a game as a reliever. The cart will transport the relief pitcher from the bullpen to their dugout instead of the traditional long trout out to the mound. 

Players are not required to use the vehicle if they do not want to. 

Earlier this season, Doolittle was the first National ever to use the bullpen cart at Chase Field, against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Afterward, he noted that although he had less time, he was not out of breath and “loved it.”

In addition to the Diamondbacks and the Detroit Tigers, the Nationals are the third active team to have a bullpen cart. Per the release, this is the first season that the bullpen cart has been used in MLB since 1995.

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