Nationals

Texas Tech stuns No. 5 West Virginia 49-14

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Texas Tech stuns No. 5 West Virginia 49-14

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) The matchup between Texas Tech and No. 5 West Virginia featured a quarterback who put up cartoonish numbers, throwing for six touchdowns and 499 yards.

And that quarterback's name was Seth Doege.

Doege led Texas Tech's offense while the Red Raiders' defense shut down Heisman Trophy hopeful Geno Smith, upsetting the Mountaineers 49-14 on Saturday.

Red Raider fans stormed the field after the win, the most lopsided Texas Tech victory ever over a team ranked in the top five.

Smith completed 29 of 55 passes for 275 yards but couldn't get the ball in the end zone.

The Red Raiders offense had no such trouble.

``When you don't have a pass rush it's a lot easier to make your reads,'' said Doege, who threw TD passes of 39, 19, 16, 2, 29 and 7 yards. He completed 32 of 42 passes and the six touchdowns matched his career-high. Darrin Moore caught three TD passes, which tied his career-high.

Texas Tech (5-1, 2-1) had 18 plays of 15 yards or more, including a 61-yard pass to Jace Amaro and a 53-yard touchdown run by SaDale Foster.

Amaro finished with five receptions for 156 yards.

The Mountaineers (5-1, 2-1) last week converted all five fourth-down tries in their 48-45 win at Texas, but against the Red Raiders they made just one of six.

``Those guys did a great job of just attacking us,'' Smith said. ``They attacked us the entire game.''

Doege had one interception, an improvement over the five he'd thrown in the previous two games.

``He came out and played loose and he was on-point today,'' Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown said.

The win for Texas Tech was the second over a top 10 team in as many seasons. The Red Raiders beat then-No. 3 Oklahoma 41-38 to break the Sooners' 39-game win streak in Norman.

On seven first-half possessions the Red Raiders scored touchdowns on five. Texas Tech wasn't as efficient in the second half but by then they were so far ahead it didn't matter.

Doege said his protection was key.

``It's huge for a quarterback to sit back there,'' Doege said. ``We had a lot of opportunities to get the ball downfield, and if they play the way they played today, it's just going to continue and we're going to make plays. We have so many weapons that we can expose at any time.''

Known as a passer, Doege even ran for a first down on fourth-and 3 near the end of a drive that led to a 14-0 lead for the Red Raiders.

``I about fell out when he ran the ball, and he made a couple of first downs,'' Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. ``He's hard-nosed.''

The Mountaineers fell short of their scoring average (52) by 38 points and got just one touchdown in the second half. Even that came when the game was already out of reach. Dustin Garrison scored on a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter to make it 49-14.

The Mountaineers had the third-worst pass defense coming into the game (336 yards) and didn't do anything to improve on that.

``It was a poor performance defensively ... and it's just a team loss,'' Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said. ``They outplayed us. They outcoached us. On all three sides of the ball they did better than we did.''

The Red Raiders, meanwhile, started fast and kept the Mountaineers off balance. By the time it was all over, they had 168 rushing yards on 29 carries and passed the ball 43 times.

Doege said the game showed how well the Red Raiders can play and how much a good defense can help.

``It's totally different from last year,'' Doege said who last season saw the Red Raiders defense finish near the bottom of the nation in several categories then. ``If we got down or whatever the case may be, we might have pressed a little bit. But we know that our defense is playing at a high level right now, and I was just blown away by their performance today.''

After the Mountaineers failed to convert on fourth-and-3 deep in Texas Tech territory, Doege needed just three plays to get his third touchdown of the game. The senior quarterback first connected with Amaro on a short pass along the near sideline and the receiver turned it into a 61-yard gain - Texas Tech's longest play from scrimmage this season - to the Mountaineers 21.

Two plays later, Doege hit Marcus Kennard for 16-yard touchdown pass to put the Red Raiders up 21-7.

Texas Tech's offense already was in rhythm by then, going up 14-0 in the first quarter. Doege hit a wide-open Amaro over the middle at about the 20-yard line and he ran it in for a 39-yard touchdown on the Red Raiders first possession.

Doege then found Eric Ward on a fade route on the far corner of the end zone to put Texas Tech ahead 14-0.

The Mountaineers answered, momentarily. Smith started with a short field after the Red Raiders squibbed the kickoff. Five plays later Stedman Bailey dived to pull in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Smith and pull West Virginia within 14-7. The drive included a 38-yard pass from Smith to Tavon Austin.

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5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

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USA TODAY Sports

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

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