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Steelman paces Army over Air Force 41-21

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Steelman paces Army over Air Force 41-21

WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) Trent Steelman rushed for 101 yards and scored twice, the Army defense held Air Force's high-powered offense in check for three quarters, and the Black Knights beat the Falcons 41-21 on Saturday to snap a six-game losing streak in the series.

Army (2-7) also stopped a 13-game skid in service academy games and stayed in the hunt for its first Commander-in-Chief's Trophy since 1996. The coveted hardware goes to the academy with the best record in the annual round-robin competition. Air Force (5-4) has won it outright the past two seasons. Navy beat the Falcons 28-21 in overtime a month ago.

Steelman was injured and did not play against Air Force last season in a 24-14 road loss. He more than made up for that absence on this day in a contest featuring the top two rushing teams in the nation. Steelman, who moved past Glenn Davis into third place all-time in rushing at West Point with 2,983 yards, passed for 100 yards and guided a ground attack that netted 314.

Army entered the game leading the nation in rushing at 383 yards per game, just 17 more than the second-place Falcons.

The Army defense intercepted three passes, stopped a fourth-down run from its own 1, forced Air Force to punt four times, and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Air Force, which had only punted 15 times in its first eight games, finished with 103 yards rushing on 43 carries after averaging 5.8 yards per carry in its first eight games.

With the help of a successful onside kick, Air Force scored twice in the fourth quarter to throw a scare into the home crowd. Jon Lee scored on a 4-yard run and Connor Dietz ran in from the 11, but Army linebacker Nate Combs recovered a bad snap in the end zone that had gone through Dietz's hands to stop the rally with 2:50 left. Combs also intercepted Dietz at the goal line in the final seconds.

Cody Getz, who did not play in last week's win over Nevada because of an injured ankle, finished with 23 yards rushing on 14 carries. He entered the game averaging 132.6, fourth best in the nation. Dietz was 10 of 17 passing for 185 yards and rushed for 37 yards on 10 carries.

The Army defense played its best game of the season and began to turn the tide in the second quarter. The Black Knights stopped Air Force on fourth down from the 1 and intercepted two passes that the offense turned into 13 points as Army gained a 20-7 halftime lead.

The Falcons entered the game ranked near last nationally in passing but first in pass efficiency, and the Black Knights became victims on Air Force's first two drives.

After taking a 7-0 lead to start the game, Army, desperate for a victory, used two timeouts on the Falcons' first possession, the second coming before the snap on a third-and-goal play from the 13. Whatever strategy the Black Knights devised went for naught when Josh Jackson was called for pass interference at the goal line. Wes Cobb scored on a 1-yard run two plays later to tie it.

Fourth-down gambles are the norm for both teams with their high-powered run games, and when Air Force forced Army to punt after three downs and drove to the Army 1 there was no hesitation with so much at stake. But the Black Knights stuffed Dietz for no gain on fourth down. The Falcons asked for a review of the play, but the power was out at Michie Stadium and the officials were unable to do it.

Steelman then stunned the Falcons with just his 26th completion of the year, a pass in the right flat to a wide-open Raymond Maples, who turned it into a 53-yard gain up the right side. The Air Force defense stiffened, and Army had to settle for Daniel Grochowski's 20-yard and a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.

Dietz completed his first three passes to run his season total to 79 attempts without an interception, a big part of why Air Force has been so successful with its limited passing attack. That streak ended when freshman defensive back Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires picked off a Dietz pass in the left flat near midfield.

Army capitalized again with the pass as Steelman rolled out and hit Chevaughn Lawrence for 17 yards on a third-and-7 play to set up a first-and-goal at the 7. Two timeouts by the Falcons didn't help them as Steelman scored from the 1 for a 17-7 lead with 1:39 left in the second quarter.

Unfazed, Dietz hit Marcus Hendricks with a 28-yard pass to get the Falcons moving after the ensuing kickoff, and a 19-yard completion to Ty MacArthur gave Air Force a first down at the Army 28. But when Dietz tried to strike again with a pass down the middle, linebacker Geoffery Bacon intercepted and returned it 31 yards.

With the clock winding down, Army settled for Grochowski's 36-yard field goal with 3 seconds remaining.

Air Force trailed Army 14-0 at the half last year and rallied for a 24-14 victory at Falcon Stadium. The Black Knights didn't let that happen this time, forcing Air Force to punt on its first three possessions of the second half and scoring two straight touchdowns to take a commanding 35-7 lead.

After converting its third straight fourth-down gamble - Steelman rushed for 4 yards on fourth-and-1 - fullback Larry Dixon bulled his way for a 6-yard touchdown.

Maples scored on a pitch right and Steelman's two-point conversion made it 35-7 late in the third.

Beating the Falcons was a tall task. Army had lost 14 of 15 in the series and hadn't beaten the Falcons at Michie Stadium since star quarterback Ronnie McAda led them to a 23-7 triumph in 1996, when Army finished at 10-2 and Bob Sutton was named national coach of the year.

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Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Let’s get one thing straight: There are no easy roads to a Stanley Cup. Capitals fans know that better than most after seeing their team dominate the regular season just to get upset in the first or second round of the playoffs for several years. Having said that, seeing Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose in the first round, it seems like things are setting up very nicely for Washington.

The Caps should have one thing and one thing only on their minds on Monday and that is the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington still needs one more win to advance and they should not catch themselves looking ahead to possible future matchups.

But we can look ahead.

The top seeds in both conferences have been eliminated in the first round for the first time. Long-time nemesis Pittsburgh is out. Either Boston or Toronto will soon be joining them plus there is a possibility that both Nashville and San Jose could still lose as well.

This is not meant to discount any of the teams the Caps could still play. Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders swept the Penguins and earned a spot in the second round. He has proven his worth as a coach and his team is going to be incredibly tough for anyone to score on, let alone beat. The Columbus Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 series lead on Washington last season and got better this year as they showed Tampa Bay with a four-game sweep. Whoever comes out of the West no doubt will be a great team as well.

But if you were to draw up the best-case scenario for the Caps through the first round, having Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose would likely be part of that scenario.

The Cup is truly up for grabs. This is true every year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it is especially true this year. If the Hurricanes find a way to win Game 6 and shock the Caps in Game 7, we are going to look back at this season as a missed opportunity considering the number of contenders ousted in the first round.

SEE THIS WEEK’S STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF POWER RANKINGS HERE

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The Caps are, at their core, a physical team. That is how they ultimately find success and they went away from that earlier in the series, especially in Games 3 and 4. When they reestablished it in Game 5, they blew the Hurricanes away. Any team can play well for one game. Any team can respond after losing a really good player for one game. The real test is to see how they play in Raleigh where they were beaten so thoroughly and the offense was held to only a single power play goal and zero 5-on-5 production.
  • If you want to know why physical play still matters in today’s NHL, watch Brett Connolly’s Game 5 goal again. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is in a footrace with Alex Ovechkin to get the puck behind Carolina’s net and he completely gives up on the play. He does not go into the boards and put himself in a position to get checked by Ovechkin. It looked like he thought the play would be called icing, but if you’re not 100-percent sure you need to get to that puck even if it means taking a hit. Hamilton looked like he wanted no part of that which allowed Ovechkin to get the puck and set up a goal.
  • The Caps may finally have settled on defensive pairings. The defense has been a work in progress ever since Michal Kempny’s injury, but Todd Reirden may have finally found three pairs he can stick with. After making his playoff debut in Game 4, Jonas Siegenthaler played on the top defensive pair with John Carlson on Saturday. We have seen Reirden mix and match his defensive pairs throughout games, but things stuck in Game 5 as Siegenthaler and Carlson played 11:19 together at 5-on-5. The most Carlson played with any other defenseman at 5-on-5 during the game was 51 seconds. I asked Reirden afterward if he felt he had found his top defensive pair and he remained non-committal saying he still would mix and match as needed depending on the situation, but the numbers speak for themselves. Siegenthaler is a defensively responsible player, he has not looked rattled at all by the forecheck and, perhaps most importantly, he’s a left-handed shot allowing Carlson to play on his natural right side. I like the look of this pair a lot.
  • Nick Jensen has had a rough series. In fact, it looks like it has been a rough transition from Detroit to Washington since he was acquired. That’s OK. Sometimes players take time to adjust to a new team and a new system, but because of that, it benefits the Caps more to have him play on the third pair than the top, especially if moving him up means playing with Carlson on the left. That’s a lot to ask. With Siegenthaler up top, Jensen moved back down to the third pair on Saturday and it was easily his best game of the series. Pairing him with Brooks Orpik allows Jensen to step more into the offense, an area of the game in which his skills are greatly underrated. Jensen looked good on both ends of the ice in Game 5 and was particularly strong on the penalty kill. He can be a top-four defenseman, but I am not sure he is ready for that type of role in Washington yet. He is a definite asset on the third pair, however, and he showed that on Saturday.

The Caps are one win away from advancing to the second round. Here is where they stand among the other playoff teams in this week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings.

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

We've made in to NFL draft week. Here's the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. The 2019 NFL Draft is Thursday night in Nashville, Tn. While the chances of pundits predicting each team's first-round pick accurately is about the same as picking the Powerball numbers, we can't seem to stop ourselves from looking at them. Here's a look at 20 prospects mocked to the Ravens at No. 22, courtesy of the Ravens' website.  


2. One of the many exciting parts of the NFL draft is waiting to hear which organizations trade forward or backwards to acquire a pick. Just last year, the Ravens traded back from their No. 16 pick several times to select Hayden Hurst at No. 25, before trading back into the first-round to pick Lamar Jackson at No. 32. But which trade in Ravens history was the most impactful? ESPN's Jamison Hensley selected the Ravens' trade for running back Jamal Lewis.


"In 1999, the Ravens traded their second-round pick (No. 43) for Atlanta's first-round pick in 2000, which they used to land running back Jamal Lewis," Hensley wrote. "The Falcons selected tight end Reggie Kelly, and the Ravens got what turned into the No. 5 overall pick in the 2000 draft. Baltimore drafted Lewis, who carried the offense during the team's 2000 Super Bowl championship season and recorded the NFL's fifth 2,000-yard season in 2003."


3. As Marlon Humphrey enters his third year in the league, the cornerback will not only be expected to take on a leadership role within the Ravens' new look defense, but top his impressive sophomore season. In 2018, Humphrey contested 35% of targets thrown into his coverage marking the second-best rate in all the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. 


Looking Ahead:

April 25-27: 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tn.

May 3-6 or May 10-13: Potential three-day rookie mini camp

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get long-term deal done with designated franchise tag player

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

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