Capitals

Syracuse finds balanced attack at critical time

Syracuse finds balanced attack at critical time

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Thumb through the Syracuse media guide to the records section, and it's no surprise the first three pages are devoted to rushing. For a school steeped in a tradition of greatness at running back, the first half of the season was an anomaly.

The Orange failed to have one 100-yard rusher and fell to 2-4. Then Jerome Smith finally broke through against Connecticut on Friday night.

Smith rushed for a career-high 133 yards to pace a running game that netted 251, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and the Orange (3-4, 2-1 Big East) routed the Huskies 40-10.

Coaches always strive for balance, and Syracuse delivered against UConn with equal yardage in both phases and 20 points in each half. Ryan Nassib was 14 of 20 passing for 251 yards in an offensive performance that netted 502 yards to Connecticut's 290. UConn entered the game ranked sixth in total defense (261 ypg) and 13th against the run (99.4).

``It was a big emphasis,'' Orange coach Doug Marrone said of the run game. ``There was a lot of frustration. We knew we had to run the ball. We challenged those guys. We challenged them up front. We challenged their backs. I think we did a nice job. It shows that we can keep building and keep becoming more physical.''

Syracuse lost the first two games of the season, to Northwestern and Southern California relying on a no-huddle offense that ran an amazing 182 plays and produced 1,051 yards. The rushing attempts were there (35 per game) but the yardage wasn't (3.6 yards per carry) as Smith, Nassib and Prince-Tyson Gulley combined for the bulk of the carries.

In losing 23-15 at Rutgers 10 days ago, Syracuse managed just 62 yards rushing on 32 carries, committed four turnovers, and had a blocked kick returned for a touchdown. That came after a solid 14-13 win at home over Pittsburgh in this topsy-turvy season.

The Orange set the tone against UConn on their opening drive, playing smash-mouth football as Smith broke a 20-yard gain on the first of four straight carries that produced 49 yards and set up Ross Krautman's 22-yard field goal.

``It was execution,'' Syracuse offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. ``I mean, they just did what they were supposed to do. As simple as that sounds, it's hard to do. Nobody's coming out and dominating us. Nobody's beat us every game this season, and it's been on us.''

Just that one series seemed to have a snowball effect as the Syracuse passing game opened, even against the likes of UConn's standout cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. They combined for just five tackles and failed to break up a pass. Alec Lemon was open often on slant plays and tight end Beckett Wales caught four passes for 69 yards and the first touchdown of his career.

``We showed that we are a complete team in all three phases,'' said Lemon, who caught eight passes for 166 yards, setting up three TDs and scoring once. ``The first couple of drives we were running the ball great. That brought the corners up, brought the safeties up. They were worried about the run and that opened up a lot for the pass game. We could get open up the field.''

Since its demoralizing start, Syracuse is 3-1 and might challenge for the Big East title, though the loss to Rutgers won't help.

The Orange travel to South Florida (2-5, 0-3) on Saturday, facing a team that's given Syracuse fits over the years. The Bulls have lost 11 of 12 Big East games dating to last season, but they nearly upset No. 16 Louisville last weekend before losing 27-25.

``We wanted to make a statement,'' Lemon said. ``We're capable of winning all these games. We've just got to come out there and play like we know how to play. Our goal coming into this season was to win the Big East, and I feel like we're on track to do that.''

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The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

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USA TODAY Sports

The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

The NHL released the salary cap range for the 2018-19 season on Thursday. That sound you hear is the general managers frantically typing numbers into adding machines to figure out which of their players they can afford and which they are going to have to let walk.

The cap ceiling will rise from last year's $75 million all the way up to $79.5 million with the cap floor set at $58.8 million.

So what does this mean for the Capitals?

Here's a look at the team's pending free agents:

Unrestricted free agents: Jay Beagle, John Carlson, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, Anthony Peluso, Zach Sill, Wayne Simpson

Restricted free agents: Riley Barber, Madison Bowey, Travis Boyd, Adam Carlson, Philipp Grubauer, Tim McGauley, Liam O'Brien, Devante Smith-Pelly, Tom Wilson

We will not know exactly who will make the roster, so to project how much money the Caps will have to work with, let's assume Nathan Walker makes the team and Shane Gersich goes to the AHL. That will give the Caps a little less than $14.8 million with which to work.

Considering the team will need to use about half of that number if not more to re-sign Carlson, that's not a whole lot to work with.

Is $7 million enough to re-sign Beagle, Kempny, Bowey, Smith-Pelly and Wilson? Probably not and that does not even account for prospects who will try to compete for the NHL roster such as Barber and Boyd.

Here's what the cap ceiling tells us:

  • The team's entire offseason will depend on if the team can re-sign Carlson and for how much.
  • Carlson's cap hit last season was just under $4 million. A $4.5 million increase in the salary cap ceiling doesn't mean much when Carlson is going to get a raise of $3 million or more.
  • Grubauer will almost certainly be traded because he is an asset and because there won't be enough money for the team to commit $1.5 million or more to the backup goalie like they did last season.
  • If Carlson returns, fan favorite Beagle has almost certainly played his last game as a Cap. Everyone wants him back, but he would have to take a severe discount for the Caps to fit him and even then, he would be taking away a roster spot from a young prospect ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Free agency opens July 1.

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Derrius Guice continues to ingratiate himself with Redskins fans with new fundraising effort

Derrius Guice continues to ingratiate himself with Redskins fans with new fundraising effort

For most college players, being a part of the NFL Draft experience is a dream come true, but for Derrius Guice, it was becoming a nightmare. Originally projected as a first round pick, Guice saw his name falling fast on draft boards due to questions raised about his maturity and high-maintenance personality.

Two months removed from the Redskins selecting him 59th overall, Guice has erased any doubt regarding his character. Whether it be taking fans out to the movies, shooting the breeze while signing autographs, or even the occasional leap frog over two practice barrels and a trainer, Guice has ingrained himself as a Redskins fan favorite. He's done a great job at making himself popular, now he's focused on making change for others. 

On June 20th, a day before his birthday, Guice announced he would be running a fundraiser for the Mary Bird Perkins center, a cancer foundation in his hometown of Baton Rouge. Inspired by his best friend's mother who "rang that bell,"—an indication that a patient has beaten cancer—Guice wants to help others do the same. 

Guice has utilized his newfound popularity to entice other peope to donate. If you donate $5, you can play him in Fortnite. For $50, you guys can go bowling together. Anyone willing to donate $100 or more will be entered in a raffle for tickets to the Redskins Monday Night Football game against the Saints. 

If Guice can match his off the field popularity with on the field production, he'll be in contention for Rookie of the Year. Anyone interested in donating can click here