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Texas vs. Texas A&M history; TCU on tap for Horns

Texas vs. Texas A&M history; TCU on tap for Horns

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Since 1895, the Texas Longhorns have played 75 games on Thanksgiving. Of those, 64 were against Texas A&M in a game that turned into a holiday tradition.

In case anyone forgot, tradition got blown to bits last year when the Aggies left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference and the Longhorns said ``so long'' to their oldest rivals. No. 18 Texas (8-2, 5-2) wanted to keep playing on Thanksgiving and the Big 12 this year served up TCU (6-4, 3-4), an old rival that has become a new one again.

Texas and TCU used to face each other every year in the now-defunct Southwest Conference, and having the Horned Frogs back on the schedule rekindles memories of the salty old days of name calling and sarcasm between programs.

``They are like a bunch of cockroaches,'' former Texas coach Darrell Royal said in 1961 after unranked TCU spoiled the Longhorns' national title hopes with a 6-0 victory. ``It isn't what he eats or totes off, but what he falls into and messes up.''

There's no national title game on the line Thursday night, but the Horned Frogs could still mess things up for a Texas team that still has a shot at a Big 12 title and BCS bowl if it can win its last two games.

While there are several tie-breaker scenarios that would still have to fall Texas' way, it's a surprising position for the Longhorns, who were written off at midseason after consecutive losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma. Texas has won four in a row and its much-maligned defense appears to be getting better every week

``We've worked hard to get back here and build something we could be proud of,'' Texas guard Mason Walters said.

Coach Mack Brown said he talked to his team about all the different scenarios and bowl projections.

``Let's just try to beat TCU,'' Brown told them. ``And the more you win, the better it gets.''

TCU's season has just been flat-out hard. The Horned Frogs started 4-0 before starting quarterback Casey Pachall was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, got suspended and then left school for treatment at an inpatient rehabilitation facility. After playing in BCS games after the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the Horned Frogs had to overcome that adversity as well as the tougher scheduled in the Big 12.

``With everything's that happened to us, for this team to have fought back ...to be bowl eligible is truly an accomplishment,'' coach Gary Patterson said.

Patterson acknowledged being excited about his team getting the marquee matchup on Thanksgiving night against Texas in their first year in the Big 12.

``For us to get a chance to do that, I think is a big deal,'' Patterson said. ``We as a program, as a university, are really excited about the fact you're getting an opportunity to play back in that kind of venue, to be part of the tradition of Thanksgiving day. We hope to be a great substitute at this point in time.''

That's all the Horned Frogs are for now. The 2013 Big 12 schedule released Tuesday has Texas Tech in Austin against the Longhorns on Thanksgiving next year.

Brown beat Texas A&M 10 times in 14 years. He called Texas-Texas A&M the ``ultimate instate rivalry,'' but said Texas has to move on under the new conference landscape. Texas' regular season schedule is booked until 2018, and athletic director DeLoss Dodds has said there are no plans to schedule the Aggies in the future.

``We're really excited about TCU,'' Brown said. ``I know our players are excited about it because it once again showcases high school football in the state of Texas with two great programs. And at the same time our players know a lot of their players. So it really will not be that much different from the A&M game for us.''

Several of Texas' older players said they will miss the playing the Aggies but accepted the change.

``It was fun while it lasted,'' said senior tailback Jeremy Hills ``We won the first, the last and the most (against Texas A&M), so that's done. That chapter is done.''

Senior defensive end Alex Okafor shrugged off the Aggies.

``Honestly, I feel sorry for A&M,'' Okafor said. ``We still have a big-time (Thanksgiving) game, and they're missing out.''

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Three things to watch for Wizards' first matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors

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Three things to watch for Wizards' first matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors

John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Once again, we await word from head coach Scott Brooks on the status of Dwight Howard. Howard, who missed all of the Wizards' preseason with a piriformis injury, was a gametime decision for the opener on Thursday. He ended up not playing, but appeared very close to finally making his debut.

Saturday night could be a different story, though we won't know until shortly before gametime. The Wizards' training staff will evaluate him pregame and make the call. If he can't go, Ian Mahinmi will get the nod as starter like he did against Miami.

Need more Otto

Though it wasn't the reason why the Wizards lost to the Heat, it certainly stood out in the box score how Otto Porter Jr. went without a three-point attempt in the opener. Porter finished third in three-point percentage last season with a 44.1 clip. He simply has to be more involved in the offense.

It will be interesting to see what adjustment the Wizards make to create more opportunities for Porter, and how Porter responds. All parties involved insist it is a mix of several factors, including a need for Porter to simply be more aggressive. That won't be easy against a tough Raptors defense, but expect Porter to get up plenty of threes in this one.

First look at Leonard

The Wizards know this team well, having just seen them in the playoffs in the spring. But the Raptors have a major difference this season with perennial All-NBA selection Kawhi Leonard swapped in for DeMar DeRozan.

It was the biggest trade of the offseason and now the Wizards get to see the new version of Toronto for the first time. Though Leonard only played eight games last season due to injury, he is off to a strong start so far in this one.

Through two games, Leonard is averaging 27.5 pints and 11.0 rebounds. He just dropped 31 in a win over the Celtics on Friday night. This is his first back-to-back, so that could play a factor.

The Raptors also got guard Danny Green in the deal and he's averaging 12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals while shooting 50 percent from three so far. Getting him in the trade was a very underrated move by Toronto.

 

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Did the Capitals solve their depth scoring issues in Friday's loss?

Did the Capitals solve their depth scoring issues in Friday's loss?

Friday’s loss to the Florida Panthers was disappointing in a number of ways for the Capitals, but some good may yet come from it with the emergence of the third line.

A poor performance in the opening frame led to Todd Reirden switching up his lines to start the second. No change had a greater effect than the addition of Jakub Vrana to the third line in place of Andre Burakovsky to play with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly.

The move yielded instant results.

Connolly scored his first goal of the season less than two minutes into the period and added an assist. Vrana also recorded a goal and an assist, while Eller had a three-point night with three assists.

“It was just to make something happen,” Eller said, “Not that [Burakovsky] did something wrong, but just to make something happen and it worked. We kept riding the wave from there on and got two in that period. That seemed to work so that was positive.”

Vrana, Eller and Connolly were three players who had been playing well for the Caps, but were just not producing.

Heading into Friday’s game, Vrana and Eller both had only one point apiece on the season. Connolly had four, but three of those points came earlier in the season while he was skating on the team’s top line.

Friday was his first goal of the season.

“It’s good to get a goal,” Connolly said. “Getting some assists and all that and being a factor on some goals, but it’s nice to see one go in. I’ve had a lot of chances to start the year, thought I’ve been playing well. Lot more shots, lot more chances than I had last year and throughout the last two seasons per game. So I feel I’m ahead of the game right now in terms of that.”

Depth scoring has been a major weakness for the Caps so far in the early season. Washington had gotten only two bottom six goals prior to Friday’s game, and both came in the team’s blowout win over Boston in the opener.

They needed a spark to get offense from the bottom six, and they just may have found it on Friday with that third line combination.

Don’t be surprised to see that Vrana-Eller-Connolly trio stick together in Vancouver for the Caps’ next game against the Canucks.

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