Redskins

Target on the No. 2 Ducks in the Pac-12

201210062111763149934-p2.jpeg

Target on the No. 2 Ducks in the Pac-12

USC coach Lane Kiffin insists his team isn't looking ahead to its game against No. 2 Oregon, while Arizona State coach Todd Graham admits it was hard not to. And Washington's Steve Sarkisian is trying not to look back.

At the halfway point of their season, the Ducks have yet to face the teams that many believe pose their biggest challenge in Pac-12 play, including No. 11 USC and No. 17 Stanford.

The list also includes the Pac-12 South-leading Sun Devils, who face Oregon next Thursday, and No. 10 Oregon State, which gets the Ducks in the annual Civil War at season's end.

But at 6-0, speedy Oregon appears to be racing toward the Pac-12 championship and beyond. Just ask the Huskies, who lost 52-21 to the Ducks last weekend.

``We have a hungry team,'' Oregon running back Kenjon Barner said. ``I will just leave it at that.''

With USC back in the postseason this year and ranked No. 1 in the preseason, many circled the meeting between the Trojans and the Ducks on Nov. 3 as a preview of the conference championship game between the league's north and south divisions. Then USC lost to Stanford, and the Cardinal lost to Washington, taking some of the shine off the showdown.

``We're not playing well enough to be looking forward to anybody, obviously we've already had one screw-up,'' Kiffin said this week, adding somewhat unconvincingly: ``I don't know if our guys even know when that game is.''

What hasn't diminished is the speculation about whether anyone in the Pac-12 can take the Ducks down. The Trojans, who defeated Oregon last season at Autzen Stadium, get the Ducks at the Coliseum. The Cardinal visit Eugene Nov. 17.

The surprise in all of this is the Beavers, who went 3-9 last season but are 4-0 to open this one. The Ducks will visit Reser Stadium, where the Beavs are notorious for pulling off big upsets, on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

But Oregon State was hit this past week when starting quarterback Sean Mannion injured his left knee and required surgery. There's no timetable for the sophomore's return, but there's a chance he could be back in time for the Ducks. The Beavers are playing junior Cody Vaz, who has not started since high school, in the meantime.

Oregon State (4-0, 3-0) plays out of the conference at BYU on Saturday, while USC (4-1, 2-1) is at Washington (3-2, 1-1), and Stanford (4-1, 2-1) is at Notre Dame (5-0).

Oregon, which is off this weekend, ranks seventh nationally in total offense with an average of 542 yards, fourth in scoring with an average of 52.3 points a game, and fourth in rushing with just over 302 yards a game.

``I would say off the top of my head, just from watching their scores and the game (against Washington) the other night, their defense is probably the best it has been, even with losing their safety, and their offense just continues to plug people, it doesn't matter who it is,'' Kiffin said.

``There's a reason they're No. 2 in the country,'' Kiffin added.

Sarkisian singled out Oregon redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota, who follows a string of mobile quarterbacks from Dennis Dixon to Jeremiah Masoli to Darron Thomas. Mariota is tied (with USC's Matt Barkley) for the most touchdown passes in the Pac-12 with 15. He's thrown five interceptions. His passing efficiency rating is 156.42, 21st in the nation.

``None of them had the speed that Marcus has. That's been one of the biggest differences in preparing for them and the ultimately seeing them live and in person,'' Sarkisian said. ``His ability to escape and his ability to create is much different than the last guys.''

Mike Leach, the new coach of Washington State, also had a firsthand look at the Ducks. The Cougars lost 51-26. Before that, Oregon blanked Arizona 49-0.

Leach was asked this week about the ongoing speculation about Oregon's postseason chances on the national stage. The Ducks played in the BCS title game two seasons ago but lost 22-19 to Auburn.

``They're real well-coached; they're quick,'' Leach said. ``I don't know that they're as physical as some other teams that might be in the conversation.''

But before all of that, the Ducks have Arizona State (5-1, 3-0) which sits atop the Pac-12's South Division. The Sun Devils defeated Colorado 51-17 on Thursday night at Folsom Field before next Thursday's game at home against the Ducks.

``I can tell you for the last week and a half I've been watching Oregon every day. It's hard not to do that especially when everyone keeps asking you about it,'' Graham said. ``I will tell you that our players didn't look at Oregon at all. ... It's hard to get guys up for every game but you got to, you got to get up for every single week and it won't be hard to get them up this week.''

Quick Links

Fans, Redskins pay tribute to longtime NBC Sports Washington reporter Rich Tandler

rt_rip.jpg
NBC Sports Washington

Fans, Redskins pay tribute to longtime NBC Sports Washington reporter Rich Tandler

NBC Sports Washington lost an important piece of its family this week when longtime Redskins reporter Rich Tandler died on Tuesday. He was 63.

Tandler joined NBC Sports Washington in 2011. He began his writing career in his 40s after working in restaurants and created his blog, Real Redskins, in 2004, which became the longest-running blog on the team. He also wrote three books on the Redskins and posted an estimated 2,300 consecutive “Need To Know” posts, becoming a must-read for Redskins fans as part of their morning routine.

“We’re devastated to learn of the loss of one of our most loved and valued media members, Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington,” Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder said in a statement. “His dedication to covering the Redskins over the past 14 years has made him an irreplaceable presence among our media corps, and he will be in our hearts. Our thoughts are with his family, our family at NBC Sports Washington, and the entire Redskins community. He will be truly missed.”

The team will hold a moment of silence for Tandler before its game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday and will keep his regular seat on press row empty. On Wednesday, Redskins quarterback Alex Smith offered his “thoughts and prayers to his family.”

“Rich’s kind and warm nature made him a good friend and an especially close colleague to many of us at NBC Sports Washington,” NBC Sports Washington General Manager Damon Phillips said in a statement. “His passion for his work and the Redskins was inspiring and made him a critical part of many of our successes over the past seven years. This is a very big loss for the sports community. Our thoughts are with his family and his many friends.”

Fans, Redskins players, fellow reporters, and friends of Tandler paid tribute to him on social media.

“Incredibly saddened by the sudden passing of NBCSW’s Rich Tandler. He was a great talent and an important voice in the DC sports community. Our thoughts are with his wife @MissSkeetersmom, his family and his family at @NBCSWashington,” Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis wrote on Twitter.

 

Quick Links

Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

dwight_injury.jpg
NBCSW

Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: