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Stanford looks for consistency at QB vs. Colorado

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Stanford looks for consistency at QB vs. Colorado

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes may get more heat this weekend from a redshirt freshman pushing for his job than from one of the worst defenses in the nation.

Nunes will be constantly looking over his shoulder against Colorado, just to see if Kevin Hogan is trotting onto the field to take his place. Nunes has struggled at times this year in his bid to replace Andrew Luck. So much so that Cardinal coach David Shaw plans to work in Hogan under center more than he has all season.

Nothing all that drastic is in the works - not yet anyway. Shaw simply wants to send in Hogan for 12 to 20 plays to see if he can ignite the sputtering offense of No. 15 Stanford (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12).

This is as good of a time as any, especially considering that Colorado (1-7, 1-4) surrenders more than 500 yards and 46 points a game.

With big contests looming with ranked teams such as Oregon State and Oregon, Shaw hopes to get the offensive malaise straightened out, because the Cardinal's stalwart defense deserves some help.

Then again, Nunes doesn't think the offense is all that far away from finding its rhythm.

``It's just being more consistent,'' said Nunes, who has thrown 10 TD passes and seven interceptions this season. ``We know we have all the playmakers and all the talent to put up points and put up big numbers. We just have to do that more consistently now and make the big plays more consistently.''

Nunes and Hogan are vastly different types of quarterbacks, which could trip up teams. Nunes is more of a pocket passer just like Luck, the No. 1 pick of the Indianapolis Colts last spring. Living in the shadow of Luck, though, has been anything but easy for Nunes. At times this season, he's looked sloppy.

That's opened the door for Hogan, who's seen spot duty the last few weeks. Most of his action has been as a read-option or wildcat-style quarterback. But Shaw hinted that more passing situations could be on the horizon as Hogan gets more comfortable with the offense.

``He doesn't have it all down yet, so we're not going to try to give it to him just yet,'' Shaw said. ``But for what he has been responsible for, he has done exceptionally well.''

Could Hogan eventually be his starter?

``Anything is possible,'' Shaw said. ``Anything is possible, which is always the thing when you're going to give a guy more time at any position. Yeah, that's possible.''

The Buffs are certainly preparing like they'll see a steady diet of both QBs.

Ditto for Stanford.

See, Colorado has a dilemma at quarterback as well: Does the team stick with Jordan Webb or rely more on Nick Hirschman?

``I'm sure they'll both play,'' said coach Jon Embree, whose team has lost 10 straight against ranked teams. ``I want to see them compete and things along those lines. Either way, both of the will be in there.''

This has been another lackluster season for the Buffaloes. Still, a win against Stanford could be just what they need to turn around the program. That's defensive lineman Will Pericak's take on things anyway.

``We're going to beat somebody we're not supposed to,'' said Pericak, whose team is a 27 1/2-point underdog against Stanford. ``So why not this week?''

It won't be easy, though, even if Stanford is having a mini identity crisis at quarterback. The Cardinal still have powerful running back Stepfan Taylor, who is 96 yards away from his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season. The Buffaloes are giving up 204 yards on the ground.

But after facing the high-powered offenses of USC and Oregon in back-to-back weeks - and being outscored 120-20 - this is almost a welcome change.

``This is definitely my type of game. I love seeing a fullback in the backfield,'' linebacker Doug Rippy said. ``They're just a physical team. That's the way they feel they can beat you, is if they out-physical you. Our whole mindset is to out-physical them.''

For Stanford, it boils down to this - execution. Nunes is hoping he can get the offense back on track this weekend, even if he has to share snaps with Hogan.

``I haven't really had that much experience with it,'' Nunes said of splitting time. ``It's just staying alert and being in-tune with what's going on on the field. When I have the opportunity to go in there and make plays, just go in there and do it.''

NOTES: The Cardinal are making their first visit to Folsom Field since 1990, when Eric Bieniemy, who's now CU's offensive coordinator, scored on fourth-and-goal with 12 seconds left in a 21-17 win. Shaw dressed for Stanford in that game, but didn't play. His most vivid memory? Easy - Ralphie, CU's mascot. ``I was the first guy out of the locker room and the first thing I saw was Ralphie coming full speed with those people barely hanging on,'' Shaw said. ``The rest of the team is trying to come out, and I'm trying to go back in.'' ... The Buffs are 61-31-5 in homecoming games.

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AP Sports Writer Antonio Gonzalez in Stanford, Calif., contributed.

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Pat Graham can be reached at: www.twitter.com/pgraham34

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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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