Capitals

Texas A&M assistant Polian next Nevada coach

Texas A&M assistant Polian next Nevada coach

RENO, Nev. (AP) Nevada athletic officials reached an agreement with Texas A&M assistant Brian Polian to become the Wolf Pack's next football coach under a five-year deal that will pay him $475,000 in annual base pay plus incentives if it is formally approved this week by the state Board of Regents, school officials said Monday.

Polian, 38, the Aggies' tight ends coach and special teams coordinator, also has coached at Stanford, Notre Dame, Central Florida and Buffalo. He said in a joint statement with the university that he is looking forward to the ``incredible opportunity'' to replace Chris Ault, who recently announced his retirement after 28 seasons at Nevada.

``I cannot express how excited I am to lead the Nevada football program into what will be a very bright future,'' said Polian, who joined the Aggies in capping an 11-2 season with a victory over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl last week.

The regents last week had placed the contract matter on their agenda for this Friday's meeting scheduled in Las Vegas and are expected to formalize the deal at that time, school officials said.

``Brian brings terrific energy and enthusiasm, an impressive and well-grounded coaching philosophy and a tremendous reputation as a recruiter and coach,'' Nevada President Marc Johnson said.

Before Texas A&M, Polian spent two years at Stanford as special teams and recruiting coordinator while also coaching safeties. He also coached mostly defense five seasons at Notre Dame before that. He primarily coached running backs at Central Florida and Buffalo. He said his mentors include Marv Levy, Tony Dungy, Nick Saban, Charlie Weis and Jim Harbaugh.

Nevada athletic director Cary Groth, who also is stepping down later this year, said she's impressed by his resume and his vision for the future.

``He has been mentored by some of the top football minds in the country and he has great experience in all three phases of the game,'' she said.

Nevada made its eighth consecutive trip to a bowl game this past season, it's first in the Mountain West Conference, losing to Arizona 49-48 in the New Mexico Bowl.

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Why this year is different than 2018, Ovechkin's big game and the Caps are in trouble

Why this year is different than 2018, Ovechkin's big game and the Caps are in trouble

The Capitals find themselves in a 2-0 series hole after an ugly 5-2 loss in Game 2 against the New York Islanders on Friday.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the loss

This is different than 2018

You are going to hear a lot of talk about 2018 until Sunday's game. With the Caps down 2-0 in the series, the comparisons are inevitable.

In 2018, Washington lost its first two games of the first round series to the Columbus Blue Jackets and rallied back to win it 4-2.

The problem is that in 2018, the Caps were the better team in both games. They had confidence they could win because they should have won both of those games, plus they got a confidence boost from starting Braden Holtby in Game 3. Philipp Grubauer had started Games 1 and 2. In 2020, they just look bad. Both losses were bad losses and, unless Nicklas Backstrom is ready to go for Sunday, they don't have anyone waiting in the wings that they can plug into the lineup to provide the same kind of spark.

Don't be fooled by the 2018 comparisons. This team is not going anywhere unless it dramatically improves its play from the first two games.

Coming unglued

If you wanted to encapsulate this game in a single moment, it was in the second period when Garnet Hathaway was called for boarding just 21 seconds after Washington gave up a breakaway, go-ahead goal to Brock Nelson in the second period. Hathaway was hauled off to the box by the linesman with his gloves off looking for someone to fight. It was one of five power plays Washington gave up on the night.  Jakub Vrana continued his rough postseason with an early slash and Tom Wilson hit Ryan Pulock before giving him an unnecessary elbow, which sent him to the box. The team also took two too many men penalties. In addition, New York's second goal came off a defensive zone turnover as Lars Eller was attacked by two forecheckers behind the net and no one reacted to give him a target to pass to. The game-winner was scored on a breakaway as Vrana tried to corral the puck at the offensive blue line with his back turned to the pressure. Brock Nelson stole it away to launch himself on the breakaway.

The Islanders deserve credit for the way they have played, but all of these are self-inflicted mistakes by the Caps who look like they have completely lost their composure.

RELATED: CAPITALS WERE THEIR OWN WORST ENEMY IN 'SELF-INFLICTED' 5-2 LOSS

They have to change something

After how badly the team has played in the first two games, you cannot come back with the same lineup for Game 3. Something has to change beyond just Backstrom returning - if he does in fact return. Whether this means changing lines, defensive pairs or putting in the black aces, the Caps cannot take a wait-and-see approach as they already trail 2-0.

Turning point

Alex Ovechkin had just scored his second of the game to tie it at 2. With the Caps in the offensive zone, Vrana grabbed the puck at the blue line and, with his back towards the goal, tried to swing around and pass the puck off. But with his back turned, Vrana did not see Brock Nelson coming. Nelson stole the puck away and was off to the races, scoring the breakaway goal just 15 seconds after Ovechkin tied the game.

That goal proved to be the game-winner. It was horrible puck management from Vrana who did not play again in the second period.

Play of the game

Ovechkin deflected in a shot from Brenden Dillon to tie the game at 2 in the second period, Ovechkin's second goal of the game.

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Stat of the game

Another milestone for Ovechkin who deserved one as he tried to single-handedly carry the team on his back.

Quote of the game

Despite how bad this game looked, Ovechkin very nearly tied it at 3 in the third period with an open net opportunity on a power play. He won't miss many of those, but this time he hit the side of the net. When asked about the miss after the game, he was blunt.


Fan predictions

Score was off, but you were right about Ovechkin and the Caps still losing.

Close. Let's hope you're right about the second part.

Three people sent me this exact same GIF so kudos to you, Ryan, for getting there first. And, unfortunately, you were right....

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Terry McLaurin embracing No. 1 wide receiver role in second year with Washington

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Terry McLaurin embracing No. 1 wide receiver role in second year with Washington

NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay sat down for an exclusive interview with second-year Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin. To catch the full interview, listen to the latest edition of the Washington Talk Podcast.

Terry McLaurin's spectacular rookie season with Washington a year ago is well documented by now. 

As the 24-year-old enters his second year in the NFL, the expectations for him are extraordinarily high. McLaurin, the 12th wide receiver selected in the 2019 draft, won't have the ability to sneak up on teams in 2020; he'll be the first player Washington's opponents will hone in on when scouting the Burgundy and Gold.

In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay, McLaurin said he's ready to embrace the challenges and responsibilities that come with being the team's top offensive threat.

"My job, I feel like, is to be a guy that can be that go-to guy, be the receiver when we need a play, we're going to Terry there's no doubt about it," McLaurin said to Finlay. "I want to be that guy. I expect to be that person."

McLaurin has a plan for himself to make sure he remains that No. 1 option, too. That plan starts with establishing trust with his quarterback, coaches, and teammates.

"It's just a matter of making sure I form that trust in the offensive staff, in the quarterbacks, and in all my teammates as well, is to be that guy each and every down," he said.

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Washington's offense was among the league's worst a year ago, but McLaurin churned out impressive performances week in and week out. As a rookie, No. 17 accounted for nearly a third of Washington's receiving yards and just under half of the team's receiving touchdowns.

Additionally, McLaurin became the first player in NFL history to have five or more catches and a touchdown in each of his first three NFL games.

Excluding McLaurin, Washington's wide receiver unit has a ton of question marks. Second-year wideout Steven Sims, who showed plenty of promise last December, is likely to start in the slot. But who will play on the outside opposite of McLaurin remains a mystery.

Many expected Washington to add a star on the outside in free agency to complement McLaurin, but the team missed out on the top pass-catcher on the market when Amari Cooper turned down more money from Washington to stay in Dallas.

Kelvin Harmon was going to have a chance to be Washington's No. 2 wide receiver, but he tore his ACL earlier this offseason. The team has added two veterans in Cody Latimer and Dontrelle Inman, but neither has shown much production throughout their career.

McLaurin knows there's a lot of uncertainty within his position group, but is confident in the bunch that Washington has.

"We have a lot of guys who may not have what they call a 'sexy name,' the name or the notoriety," McLaurin told Finlay. "But we got a lot of hungry guys looking to make a name for themselves and this team. I feel like when you have that, with a hungry coaching staff, that makes for a good relationship."

RELATED: MCLAURIN RANKED ABOVE AJ GREEN, ADAM THIELEN AS TOP WRs ENTERING 2020

Earlier this week, McLaurin expressed his excitement for playing in Scott Turner's up-tempo style of offense. The second-year receiver reiterated his thrill to play under Turner, citing the success of that previous top targets such as D.J. Moore and Josh Gordon have had playing in Turner's system.

"I'm just looking forward to being in a new offense as well. The offense is going to be very explosive," McLaurin said. "You've seen the track record with guys they've had in that offense. Especially those go-to guys, they've had some pretty big numbers and had a lot of success. Going into Year 2, I feel like I'm versatile enough to play inside and outside and looking forward to seeing that's a possibility for me."

As for his overall expectation for the wide receiver group, McLaurin admitted he's not sure what it should be. Yet, he said that he's confident in the group if they have the right mentality, one where they "do what's asked of us every single day and see where it takes us."

But for himself, McLaurin is ready to prove that his rookie season was no fluke and truly establish himself as one of the game's best pass-catchers.

"I feel very confident going into my second year," McLaurin said. "I feel like while I had success [as a rookie], there's a lot of things that I can improve on. I feel like the game will even slow down for me even more."

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