Nationals

Texas Tech D needs to bring A game vs No. 5 WVa

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Texas Tech D needs to bring A game vs No. 5 WVa

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) If Texas Tech thought Oklahoma was a good test for its revitalized defense, one has to wonder what the Red Raiders are thinking about No. 5 West Virginia coming to town.

Texas Tech's defense allowed 41 points through three quarters in a home loss to the Sooners last weekend - just two points shy of what it had allowed to everyone else combined in the first four games of the season.

Now the nation's No. 2 defense will face Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith, running back Andrew Buie, and two of the best receivers in the country, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. West Virginia is averaging 570 yards of offense a game. Oklahoma was averaging 492 before beating the Red Raiders 41-20 last Saturday.

``In this game we feel like we'll be able to come out a lot faster in the first half so we don't have as many mistakes and we'll be able to perform a lot better,'' senior safety D.J. Johnson said.

The Red Raiders (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) gave up more points than OU had averaged coming into the game (37 points). West Virginia (5-0, 2-0) is averaging 52 points.

Texas Tech leaped to the top of the defensive stats nationally this season after three wins against lesser opponents (Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico) and a victory at Iowa State. That's a complete reversal from last season when the Red Raiders finished near the bottom in several defensive categories.

Improvement from the OU game is vital if the Red Raiders hope to slow the Mountaineers, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. Against Oklahoma, the defense gave up 150 yards after contact on runs and pass completions, and allowed touchdown passes on two third-and-longs, he said.

``We've got to get back to making sure that we play the way we played in the first four games on defense,'' Tuberville said. ``It wasn't anything other than the fact that we just got there and didn't make plays.''

The challenge begins with Smith, the nation's most efficient passer. Last week, the senior threw for 268 yards and four touchdowns in West Virginia's 48-45 win at Texas. For the season, he's thrown 24 touchdown passes and has not been intercepted in 204 pass attempts.

Buie last week was the balance to Smith's 35 pass attempts. The sophomore got a career-high 207 rushing yards on 31 carries and added 66 receiving yards. Then there's Bailey and Austin, who combined for 177 receiving yards on 18 catches against the Longhorns. Bailey is No. 2 in the country (142 receiving yards per game) and Austin is third (132 yards per game).

West Virginia coach Dana Holgerson, who was a receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator with Mike Leach at Texas Tech from 2000-2007, said he and his staff have spent hours looking for creative ways to get first downs against the Red Raiders. The offense, he said, is going to have to play as well as it has all season.

``They're technically sound,'' Holgerson said of Texas Tech's defense. ``That poses problems when you don't know what they're going to do. That aggravates you from a game-plan standpoint. We can come up with a bunch of plays, but it's just hard to execute against them.''

Johnson said the run-pass threat of Smith, his receivers and Buie is an opportunity.

``It gives us the challenge, gives us the chance to show what we can do,'' he said. If ``we can tackle the pass and contain it as much as we can and force them to run the ball and force them to be one-dimensional, I feel we'll affect them greatly.''

Against Oklahoma, the Red Raiders' defensive woes began early. Texas Tech watched as Oklahoma put together a 12-play drive on its first possession that included three third-down conversions - the last a third-and-10 from the Red Raiders' 13 that resulted in a touchdown pass from Landry Jones to Justin Brown.

The rest of the way, the Red Raiders gave up field goals or touchdowns on drives of nine, eight, six (twice) and 10 plays. The biggest drive came after Texas Tech gambled and failed on fourth-and-5 from the OU 36 early in the second half. The Sooners sacked quarterback Seth Doege for a 10-yard loss and the short field quickly led to 31-13 lead after a 1-yard run by Blake Bell.

``In this league, as tough as it is, you're not going to be able to bring your `A' game every week,'' Tuberville said. ``We hope we bring it this week, because we obviously didn't bring it last week.''

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Mike Rizzo provides an injury update on Max Scherzer

Mike Rizzo provides an injury update on Max Scherzer

After being placed on the 10-day injured list with a mid-back strain, Max Scherzer is supposed to come off of the IL by Saturday in time for the Nationals' third game of their series against the Atlanta Braves.

When he will actually pitch, is another question.

On Tuesday, Scherzer reportedly told manager Davey Martinez he's feeling "a lot better." Nationals GM Mike Rizzo followed up those comments during his spot on The Sports Junkies Wednesday.

"If he’s capable of pitching he will," Rizzo said.

Rizzo told the Junkies that he will find out more information about Scherzer's status prior to Wednesday's final game against the Baltimore Orioles. He said he, in conjunction with the Nationals' medical personnel, made the decision to place Scherzer on the 10-day IL.

“He was incapable of pitching the way Max Scherzer pitches so we all decided to put him on the IL," Rizzo said.

Scherzer was scheduled to start against the Braves this weekend, but the decision will depend on how Scherzer feels.

‘We’re still in July," Rizzo said. "Guarantee you this: If this is September and we needed this win, you couldn’t keep Max off the mound. Sometimes I have to be the adult in the room and just say, ‘sorry, buddy, not this time.”

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Mike Rizzo on how the Nationals plan to approach the nearing trade deadline

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Mike Rizzo on how the Nationals plan to approach the nearing trade deadline

With the MLB trade deadline only two weeks away, Nationals' general manager Mike Rizzo expects the team to be more focused on acquiring players than trading away any - and that includes third baseman Anthony Rendon, whose contract expires at the end of season.

"Obviously, we’re always listening and we’re always talking to people," Rizzo said on The Sports Junkies Wednesday. "But I don’t anticipate moving Anthony Rendon, no."

Rendon's contract extension of $18.8 million going into the 2018 season will expire at the end of this season, and while Rizzo and the Nationals have made it clear they are actively working to re-sign him, a deal has yet to be made.

Rendon's agent Scott Boras told NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas during the All-Star Break that he and the [Nationals team owners] Lerners have "always worked out things -- usually."

“There are times that they make decisions and we make decisions, and I think they’ve been very good decisions for all parties involved," Boras added at the time. "When they sit down and look at where their franchise is going, that’s a direction they have to give us. Obviously, they have to make those decisions. Rendon is a superstar and that is a major decision in their franchise. I don’t ask. I just go and prepare for our meetings and we talk and kind of listen to what they tell us they want to do. It’s really in their corner as to how we go from there.”

Rizzo told the Junkies that the Nationals plan to keep Rendon, though acknowledged the calls for him from other teams do keep coming in.

‘’[An offer] would have to be something that wouldn’t make sense for us to turn down and probably wouldn’t make sense for them to acquire," Rizzo said on trading Rendon.

Rizzo said the Nationals' front office is prepared to add some players to the roster.

"We’ve been most recently in acquire mode, because, you know, we’ve had the chance to win the last eight seasons and I think we're in that mode again," Rizzo said.

Though, of course, he wouldn't actually rule out making any trades that send some players out of DC.

"We're an aggressive front office, we're an aggressive ownership group, and if there’s a deal to be made that would help us prepare for meaningful games in September and beyond, we’ve shown in the past that we’re capable of doing that and we're not afraid to make a trade," he said.

The Nationals take on the Orioles for game 2 of the Battle of the Beltways Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. 

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