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Stingy Iowa St D gets final shot in Liberty Bowl

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Stingy Iowa St D gets final shot in Liberty Bowl

AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State might have the best defense no one outside of Ames has heard of this season.

The Cyclones held 11 of their 12 opponents below their season scoring average, and half of them at least 10 points under what they normally got.

Iowa State's shaky offense is the main reason why the Cyclones are just 6-6 heading into the Liberty Bowl against Tulsa (10-3) on Dec. 31.

So for the defense, a rematch of the season opener against the Golden Hurricane - who scored 12 points below their average - marks one last shot to show the nation just how strong they've been all season.

``Our goal is to hold teams to no points. Obviously holding teams below their average is a priority, but we also strive to do better,'' first-team All-Big 12 linebacker A.J. Klein said. ``We're just trying to play the best defense we can. If they score 30 points and they still win, it's what happens.''

Iowa State's 38-23 win over Tulsa nearly four months ago was the start of a remarkable run for a program that's often struggled defensively in the past. Though the Cyclones finished 36th nationally in scoring defense, they did so while playing eight teams that scored at least 31 points a game.

The Cyclones held Iowa to just six points at Kinnick Stadium, explosive Texas Tech to 24 points and TCU to just 23 in a road win.

The Cyclones gave Fiesta Bowl-bound Kansas State one of its toughest challenges of the season and held Baylor, the nation's fifth best offense, to a season-low 21 points.

Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia also failed to reach their season averages. Of course, the Cyclones lost all three of those games - but it certainly wasn't the defense's fault.

``I'd like to think we play with a chip on our shoulders, as if we have something to prove to people regardless of how the outside world sees us,'' Iowa State linebacker Jake Knott said.

The Liberty Bowl will be the final showcase for a number of Cyclones who've helped turn around the defense. Knott will miss the game with a shoulder injury, but Klein, senior lineman Jake McDonough, a first-team all-league pick by the coaches, and defensive backs Durrell Givens - back from injury for the bowl game - and Jeremy Reeves will all be playing for the last time at Iowa State.

``I want to go out a winner,'' Klein said. ``It's important to me, and it's important to the rest of the senior class.''

The offense, which scored just 25.2 points a game, appears to have the potential to be much better in 2013. Redshirt freshman Sam Richardson looks like he's has stabilized the quarterback position, which had three different starters this season. The Cyclones also have tremendous depth at running back, and they should be able to plug in replacements everywhere else with relative ease.

There will be much more uncertainty on defense, where a number of promising but unproven players will compete for playing time.

But it's a unit that is slowly establishing itself as the trademark of the program under fourth-year head coach Paul Rhoads, a longtime defensive coordinator, and current coordinator Wally Burnham.

``To have the coaches we have, and for them to be around for this amount of time, is unbelievable in college,'' Knott said. When you can do that, you set up a great system and groundwork for people to just come in like I did and like (Klein) did and just learn every single year and get better and get smarter and quicker and faster. If that continues, the sky is the limit for the defense.''

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Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

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How to watch Capitals vs. Maple Leafs NHL 20 simulation and Caps' chippy Nov. 18 win over Ducks

How to watch Capitals vs. Maple Leafs NHL 20 simulation and Caps' chippy Nov. 18 win over Ducks

The Capitals’ simulated season continues on Tuesday night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs in NHL 20, aired on NBC Sports Washington. Real-life Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin will be on the call.

In a partnership with Monumental Sports Network, NBCSW is airing all Wizards and Capitals games in simulated NBA 2K20 and NHL 20 games, taking place on the dates and times according to each team's regular season schedule with commentary from NBCSW's experts surrounding the coverage.

After the game wraps up, NBCSW will reair the Caps’ physical Nov. 18 affair with the Anaheim Ducks. Richard Panik scored his first goal in a Washington uniform and Garnet Hathaway was ejected after exchanging more than just blows in a fight with several Ducks.

Here’s how you can catch both games Tuesday night.

Broadcast Schedule

7:00 PM – NHL 20: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Capitals (P)

8:00 PM – NHL Classics: Anaheim Ducks @ Capitals from Nov. 18, 2019 (R)

10:30 PM – NHL 20: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Capitals (R)

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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How Ben Olsen is coaching D.C. United during coronavirus quarantine

How Ben Olsen is coaching D.C. United during coronavirus quarantine

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the MLS season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen is working to find his way in the face of massive changes to the day-to-day life of so many around the world.

"The priority right now with the group that we have is to maintain a level of fitness," Olsen said on a conference call with local reporters this morning. "All we can do right now is follow the guidelines given by MLS."

Even though the team is not able to meet face-to-face like they normally would, Olsen and his staff have had to get creative in ways to continue to build team chemistry and make sure everyone is on the same page.

"We have a once-a-week call with everyone on a Zoom chat with the trainers," he said. "We talk about things like social media and how to stay connected to fans, the programs we are sending out and we get feedback from [the players] on what is going well."

Dealing with the pandemic has been especially challenging for players from overseas, who might not have the same support systems that those longtime MLS players have in the area. The club is making a particular point to reach out to those players.

D.C. United and its staff are also making sure that all of the club’s players are able to partake in individualized training to keep a level of fitness, even if that means getting some workout equipment to players who might not have it where they live.

As new challenges arise and are met, Olsen is trying to keep a positive mindset and joked that he now has the time to be a better husband and father than he normally would at the start of a new season.

"There’s this underlying positivity that again I feel very, very lucky because of the scenario I’m in," the head coach noted. "I’m also constantly thinking about others that are not in the situation I’m in. Whether it’s the EMTs, the firemen, the D.C. support system, our medical doctors, so many people on the frontlines that are doing so much and putting their lives in danger right now. I make sure we as a family are constantly reminding our children that there’s a lot of people out there doing some great things in a very, very tough time."

When asked what he misses most about what would be the end of the opening month of the MLS season, Olsen stated that he misses the locker room and being with his players.

"Dealing with the ups and downs of a season, dealing with the journey of the season," he said. "It’s a special thing that we have and I think in some ways you have to lose it to appreciate it. Right now I miss being in that locker room, I miss the guys, I miss my staff."

While no one knows yet when the season will return, Olsen is "very bullish and optimistic" that MLS will recover quickly.

"Of course the league will take a hit, just like every other league and every other business across this country," Olsen said. "This league will be just fine when we get through this, just like our country will be just fine."