Capitals

Syracuse's dynamic duo leads late-season surge

201211172004722714075-p2.jpeg

Syracuse's dynamic duo leads late-season surge

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib is rewriting the school record book in his final season, mainly because he has the luxury of throwing to a talented group of receivers and has the blockers up front to give him the time.

Nassib has shattered his single-season record of 2,685 yards passing set last year - he's at 3,404, 14th nationally - and he's spread the ball around: Alec Lemon (65 catches), Marcus Sales (60), Jarrod West (39), Beckett Wales (31), Prince-Tyson Gulley (25) and Chris Clark (10) top the list.

``When all those guys are playing well, it opens up a lot of opportunities for us,'' coach Doug Marrone said. ``I see a chemistry with Ryan and the receivers.''

Especially so with Lemon, who has 989 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Entering his senior year, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Lemon had 129 career receptions, which ranked fifth all-time at Syracuse, and his 11 touchdown receptions was tied for ninth-best. He's now the leader in the former and just four behind Rob Moore in the latter.

Lemon's 12 catches in Saturday's comeback win at Missouri were two shy of Art Monk's school record for a game and his 244 receiving yards were just five off Scott Schwedes' mark.

``People don't understand how they can complete what they can complete,'' offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. ``That's something that's been growing for three years. They've connected so many times. They have a great feel for each other. It's awesome to watch. I really haven't seen anything like this since I was a kid watching Joe Montana throw to Jerry Rice.''

After sitting out the season opener against Northwestern because of an injured hamstring, Lemon started slowly but has come on like gangbusters. In the last five games, he has 41 catches for 727 yards. The Orange (6-5) won four of those games to qualify for the postseason for the second time in three years.

``It's come from a long time of just working together, a lot of practice, a lot of hard work, a lot of time and effort,'' said Nassib, who is 267 of 420 passing and has been sacked just 14 times. ``We've been fortunate enough to play together for four years and built such a great relationship.''

Lemon, on target to eclipse the school record of 68 receptions for a season that he set last year, is ranked 13th nationally at 98.9 receiving yards per game. He needs 143 yards to surpass Marvin Harrison's school record for a season and just 75 to move past Moore, his position coach, into second place.

``He's a really smart football player. You can throw a lot at him,'' Moore said. ``He remembers a lot of things, little nuances of certain routes and plays and techniques. He's got a toughness that's very, very underestimated, he's very tough to bring down after he catches the ball, and he catches the ball well in traffic. Some guys can stretch the field, but they don't like going in the briar patch where it's awful thorny.''

Lemon was in that briar patch on Saturday and it never fazed him as Syracuse rallied in the final minute for an important 31-27 win over the Tigers. Lemon accounted for all 81 yards on the deciding drive. He made four receptions, the big one a 19-yarder over the middle on fourth-and-10 from the Missouri 36.

``It was tough. (The defender) was holding me,'' Lemon said. ``But once I saw the ball in the air I said, `I've got to catch this no matter what.'''

On the next snap, with 20 seconds left in the game, Lemon made the clinching catch with no defender in sight.

``He was faced with some adversity this year,'' Moore said. ``He was injured early, had a stretch where he had a couple of games where he didn't perform to the level we expected him to. He's held himself accountable, came back, put the work in, and now he's starting to reap the rewards.''

Clearly, Lemon has put a midseason loss at Rutgers - three catches for 50 yards - far in the rearview mirror.

``I had my worst game ever,'' Lemon said. ``I just said to myself that I didn't ever want to play like that again. I put in my head that I had five more weeks left of college football, and I just wanted to take that next step, go out there and perform the way I know I can, show everyone that Rutgers game was a fluke.

``It really wasn't me.''

Quick Links

What's next for Barry Trotz?

capture_trotz.png
USA TODAY Sports

What's next for Barry Trotz?

Barry Trotz is no longer the head coach of the Washington Capitals and, after resigning, he is officially free to pursue other opportunities. So what's next for the now former Capitals head coach?

For those who believe Trotz will simply retire, that seems unlikely. Trotz is only 55 years old. Plus, general manager Brian MacLellan indicated the main issue in the contract negotiations between him and Trotz was term. If Trotz was, in fact, seeking a five-year contract, that doesn't sound like someone who is ready to walk away from the game.

There is only one head coaching vacancy left in the NHL, that of the New York Islanders. New President of Hockey Operations Lou Lamoriello cleaned house after getting hired and fired both general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight earlier in June. Now, suddenly, there is a Stanley Cup-winning coach on the market.

While it certainly makes sense for the Islanders to pursue Trotz, there's one big reason why Trotz, or anyone, would likely be hesitant to accept the job on Long Island and that is John Tavares.

New York's franchise player is a pending free agent and, until his contract situation is resolved, convincing anyone to take the head coaching job with the Islanders is a tough sell. If the Islanders re-sign Tavares, improve the defense and bring in a dependable starting goalie, then there is no reason to think they cannot be a playoff team.

But those are a lot of "ifs" and Tavares is a big one. If he goes, suddenly the situation on Long Island is much different. Tavares' decision could be the difference between the Islanders being a playoff team or getting a high lottery pick.

For Trotz to walk away from a team that just won the Stanley Cup to go to a New York team that may or may not have its best player back next season does not make a lot of sense.

But just because there may be only one head coaching vacancy open doesn't mean Trotz does not have any options.

The 2017-18 season saw no head coaching changes made during the season for the first time since the league expanded in 1967. Chances are jobs will begin to open up during the season especially if those teams believe they can land a Cup-winning coach as a replacement.

If you're Trotz, you just won a Stanley Cup. There is no reason to rush into another opportunity. Trotz will instantly be near or at the top of every wish list for teams in need of a head coach.

Don't just assume that Trotz will be on Long Island to start the 2018-19 season just because it is the only opportunity currently available. He can wait for the perfect opportunity to come to him.

MORE CAPITALS COVERAGE:

Quick Links

Cavaliers are gunning for Kawhi Leonard, though it's doubtful they have enough to interest Spurs

usatsi_9975642.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Cavaliers are gunning for Kawhi Leonard, though it's doubtful they have enough to interest Spurs

With word out that Kawhi Leonard wants a trade from the Spurs, teams are lining up with offers to San Antonio and one of the NBA’s best teams has reportedly already made a call.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have contacted the Spurs about a potential Leonard trade, according to Cleveland.com. Terry Pluto wrote on Sunday that multiple teams have done the same. That is to expected, of course, as Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA. He's a two-time defensive player of the year and he's only 26.

Let's look at Cleveland as a potential destination. It should first be noted that it's questionable whether they have enough to land a player of Leonard's caliber. They have the eighth overall pick in Thursday's draft, but it may take a lot more than that to get Leonard.

They also have Kevin Love, who is an All-Star still in his prime. But if they gave him up, they would then need to seek more help to surround Leonard and LeBron James, if James decides to stay. Though James and Leonard are both top-five players in the NBA, they still likely wouldn't be able to beat the Warriors unless they had another running mate. Those two plus Love and then you're talking.

Whether the Cavs have the goods to land Leonard or not, it's no wonder why they are trying for him. Getting Leonard, a two-time All-NBA selection, would likely be enough to retain James, the best player in the game. If James were to look around the league for a top-shelf running mate, he would be hard-pressed to find one better than Leonard.

That is assuming Leonard is healthy, of course. He did miss all but nine games this past season with a quadriceps injury. That injury was central in a saga of discord between him and the team. Until he hits the court again, Leonard offers no guarantees. Still, he may be worth the risk for Cleveland, as the alternative is potentially seeing James walk. 

If the Cavs got Leonard, that would probably solidify their standing as the best team in the Eastern Conference, even if they lost Love in the process. Leonard is better than Love and they would arguably have the two best players in the East. They may not have enough to beat the Warriors, but that would likely give them the edge over the young teams like Boston and Philly that have been nipping at their heels.

Sending Leonard to the Cavs would get him out of the Western Conference and that might be enticing to the Spurs. If they send him to the Lakers, his reported preferred destination, that could come back to bite them much more often than it would if he was traded to the East. Though putting him in Cleveland would form another very good team, they wouldn't affect the Spurs directly but for two regular season games, unless they were to meet in the NBA Finals.

The Spurs haven't indicated they will actually trade Leonard, but it does seem to be heading in that direction. It sounds like Cleveland will at the very least give it a shot. 

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!