TCU move to Big 12 has become more difficult

TCU move to Big 12 has become more difficult

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) TCU was already facing a challenging task just by moving to the Big 12, where the two-time BCS buster was suddenly part of one of the nation's best conferences.

Take away the second-year starting quarterback and two proven running backs, then mix in 27 freshmen who have already played, and things have gotten even more difficult for coach Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs in their inaugural Big 12 season.

When Casey Pachall withdrew from school this week to enter an inpatient rehabilitation program, the quarterback became the latest of about a dozen players TCU has lost since last fall for various reasons, including drug arrests, injury and academic issues. Each was or could have been a significant contributor this season in the Frogs' transition into their new league.

``We're going to try to go win football games with what we have,'' Patterson said.

TCU is the only FBS team to win at least 11 games in six of the past seven years, and was No. 2 in the final AP poll only two seasons ago after going 13-0 with a Rose Bowl victory. The Frogs won or shared titles in three different leagues since the Southwest Conference broke up after the 1995 season and they were left out of the original Big 12 lineup.

In their first game without Pachall, when injured starting senior tailback Matthew Tucker also didn't play, the Frogs (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) lost 37-23 at home Saturday to Iowa State. And they still have their toughest stretch of Big 12 games ahead, when in the final month they play four consecutive games against top 15-ranked teams.

``The worst thing we can do is feel sorry for them,'' said Patterson, TCU's winningest coach with 113 victories in his 12 seasons. ``You allow (losing) to be OK, what you're saying is that winning's not important.''

The Frogs have played more true freshmen (15) than they have scholarship seniors (11) on the roster. No FBS team has played more than the 27 overall freshmen TCU has, that when added with 22 sophomores account for 65 percent of the players who have stepped on the field.

``We have the same standards with them. I told them that we can't treat you like young players anymore `' Patterson said. ```No matter what happens in the next six or seven ballgames. This group has a lot of potential and there a lot of good players on it. ... For us, we need to keep growing up.''

After TCU's long wait to be part of a major conference, the move to the Big 12 has been a bumpy ride so far - though not so much on the field.

Three likely defensive starters and a backup offensive linemen were kicked off the team in February following their arrests by Fort Worth police with other TCU students after a six-month drug sting. All four players pleaded guilty to marijuana delivery charges and received probation. That included linebacker Tanner Brock, who was Pachall's roommate and the leading tackler for the Rose Bowl team filled with seniors.

Pachall was interviewed by police when Brock was arrested, and the quarterback admitted then that he had smoked marijuana and failed a team-administered drug test two weeks before that. When the police report became public in August, just before the start of fall camp, the quarterback faced no suspension because he had completed drug and alcohol counseling mandated by the university.

Trevone Boykin, the redshirt freshman quarterback who is now the starter, was preparing to play tailback last week before Pachall's arrest on suspicion of drunken driving.

Tucker is the last of three 700-yard rushers from last season that TCU expected to have this year. He could be back for Saturday's game at Baylor (3-1, 0-1), but that ankle might be an issue the rest of the season.

Against Iowa State, true freshman B.J. Catalon had 13 carries for 86 yards with two fumbles, one near the goal line. Boykin completed 23 of 40 passes for 270 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions, two in the fourth quarter.

Ed Wesley, a 1,000-yard rusher on the Rose Bowl team, left the program early last spring. He wasn't picked in the NFL draft and was cut after a short stay in training camp with the Dallas Cowboys. Then, leading rusher Waymon James sustained a season-ending left-knee injury in the second game this season.

One linebacker left the team after last season because of an injury and another, who had 21 tackles while playing 13 games as a freshman, is gone because of academics. A potential starter at offensive tackle is also off the roster after academic issues.

Senior defensive end Ross Forrest played in the opener before a lingering knee injury sidelined him. Tight end Stephen Bryant, who played 12 games last season, suffered a season-ending injury in preseason practice and redshirt freshman cornerback Travoskey Garrett is also out. Offensive lineman Michael Thompson had season-ending surgery last week.

``We talk about guys who are not part of the program. These guys are in the program. You're talking about a group that's fighting through doing the things they need to do,'' Patterson said. ``Do we need to get older? Yes. Do we need to gain more depth? Do we need to get people back? Yes. This group is awful proud.''

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...


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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?