Redskins

Tulsa edges UCF 33-27 on Singleton's overtime TD

Tulsa edges UCF 33-27 on Singleton's overtime TD

TULSA, Okla. (AP) Alex Singleton got up and celebrated after muscling his way in for what he thought was the touchdown that clinched the Conference USA championship for Tulsa.

Told he was going to have to try again, there was never any question what was going to happen.

Singleton ran for 100 yards and plunged over the top for a 1-yard score in overtime to lift Tulsa to a 33-27 victory over UCF on Saturday for its first Conference USA title and Liberty Bowl bid since 2005.

``My first championship ever,'' Singleton said. ``I'm still ecstatic about it. I really can't even explain it right now. It just feels so good.''

Singleton came up with the second 100-yard game of his career, breaking the school career record for touchdowns in the process.

After Cory Dorris blocked Shawn Moffitt's 38-yard field goal on Central Florida's possession to start overtime, Tulsa (10-3) kept the ball on the ground on five straight plays. Singleton was initially given a touchdown on second-and-goal, but officials ruled on replay that he was down inside the 1.

That was no problem for the burly back whose specialty is short yardage.

``We just said, `We're going to get it again and put it in for sure this time so there weren't no doubts about it,'' said Singleton, his bulging biceps popping out of his grey muscle shirt. ``So, that's what we did. They told me that they're going to submarine, take flight.''

No replay was needed for Singleton's final score, the 41st overall of his career and the 40th on the ground. In the second quarter, Singleton broke Tarrion Adams' school mark for the most touchdowns in school history with a 7-yard run.

``It's pretty obvious whenever we get seven offensive linemen in and Big Al back there that we're going to come at you and he's going to hit you in your mouth,'' quarterback Cody Green said.

``Just give the ball to Alex, and he's going to run some people over,'' said Trey Watts, who was named MVP after making the play of the game on a 54-yard punt return TD to tie it at 27 with 5:06 remaining.

Blake Bortles threw for 194 yards and a pair of 8-yard touchdown passes to Breshad Perriman and Quincy McDuffie for UCF (9-4). He also ran for 60 yards and another score.

The Knights will play in the Beef `O' Brady's Bowl.

``It's very disappointing, to come that far, have it down in overtime, miss the field goal and have them score a touchdown,'' running back Latavius Murray said. ``We didn't come here to lose and we just have to do what we have to do and make sure we win the bowl game.''

Watts tied it on an unusual play, picking up a punt that had been batted forward by UCF's Kemal Ishmael and then racing 54 yards up the Tulsa sideline for a touchdown.

Knights coach George O'Leary said players told him they thought they heard a whistle to stop the play, but that was no excuse. He said the only safe play in that situation is to pick up the ball and hand it to an official.

``The kid went up and smacked the ball, which is not real smart. If you're going to do that, grab the ball,'' O'Leary said.

Counterpart Bill Blankenship, meanwhile, heaped praise on Watts - the son of ex-Oklahoma quarterback and congressman J.C. Watts - for understanding there was nothing to lose by picking up the bouncing ball after Ishmael had leaped to swing at it.

``Once they touch the ball, there's really no harm, no foul for us. Even if he ran and fumbled, it would go back to the original touching if we wanted it to,'' Blankenship said. `` ... Trey's just a smart, smart, smart kid and a playmaker.''

After Watts' score, A.J. Bouye blocked Daniel Schwarz's extra-point attempt to preserve the tie.

Tulsa limited Murray to short gains and then forced an incomplete pass by Bortles in overtime, leading to Moffitt's field goal try.

The Golden Hurricane doused Blankenship with a cooler after what looked like the game-winning touchdown, but got to celebrate again after Singleton's ``second'' score. Offensive lineman Jared Grigg zoomed around the field to hold up a Conference USA champions sign to the crowd, and the team mobbed near midfield to accept a bid to the Liberty Bowl.

``We're excited to be going to Memphis,'' Blankenship said. ``That's big time.''

It was the third time the teams have met in the Conference USA championship game since 2005, and the last chance for it to happen before UCF departs for the Big East next season.

Tulsa won it in `05, with the Knights taking the crown in `07. The Golden Hurricane took the rubber match by winning the second meeting between the teams at H.A. Chapman Stadium in three weeks.

Watts also had 134 yards rushing. Cody Green threw for 153 yards, with just 41 after halftime as the Golden Hurricane relied on their ground game to produce 290 yards - surpassing 200 for the ninth time this season.

Murray became the first player in UCF history to rush for touchdowns in eight straight games in a single season, scoring on a 2-yard TD run to cut Tulsa's lead to 21-20. The extra point was blocked by Trent Martin, but Bortles' 28-yard scramble put the Knights up 27-21 late in the third quarter.

UCF then had back-to-back three-and-outs before Watts tied it with his return.

``We didn't make plays when we needed to, both on offense and defense,'' Murray said. ``It came down to one more stop or us putting the ball in the end zone one more time.''

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5 questions facing the Redskins as the Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins QB battle begins

5 questions facing the Redskins as the Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins QB battle begins

The Redskins have a quarterback battle. Repeat, the Redskins have a quarterback battle. This is not a drill. It is an open competition. 

When the team gathers in Ashburn on Monday for offseason training activities, it will be the first time that veteran passer Case Keenum and first-round rookie Dwayne Haskins will be on the field at the same time. Incumbent backup QB Colt McCoy should be present as well, but not active as he works back from multiple leg surgeries this offseason. 

The team has plenty of questions for the 2019 season, and the answers will start coming as early as this week. No question is bigger than the signal caller though.

  1. QB Battle - Every major factor in the Redskins organization has been clear that Haskins will get a chance to compete for the starting job. That means every throw between Keenum, the presumed starter after the 'Skins traded for him in February, and the Ohio State rookie will be over analyzed. If McCoy was healthy, he would have a jump start in the competition because he knows head coach Jay Gruden's offense. McCoy isn't healthy though, and that means more reps and work for Keenum and Haskins. This battle will be ongoing throughout the summer, but on Monday with the media present, it will be very interesting to see what player gets more work with the first-team offense.
  2. Who's still hurt - Speaking of the first-team offense, a number of players will be working back from offseason surgery. Will Paul Richardson be out there? Trent Williams? How healthy is Jordan Reed, and what about Derrius Guice? Brandon Scherff? There are a lot  of questions, and some of them will be answered simply by seeing guys run around. Second-year wideouts Cam Sims and Trey Quinn both finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve; will they be ready to go? There are a lot of people to watch out for. 
  3. STARTING DEFENSE (LATIMER VOICE*) - Landon Collins was the prize of free agency, and Monday he will be on the field barking directions at teammates. How will he fit in with Josh Norman, and how does Quinton Dunbar look? When Dunbar went down with a leg nerve injury last season, the Washington defense fell apart. If he is all the way back would be big news for Greg Manusky's defense. There's also Reuben Foster. This will be the first time for the media to see Foster on the field in a Redskins uniform after his controversial acquisition last November. Presumably Foster will answer questions after the OTA session, stay tuned for that.
  4. Camp is over for the rookies - Beyond Haskins, the Redskins have nine other draft picks taking part in OTAs. The rookies went through their own private minicamp last week, but this will be quite different. Rookie minicamp is about letting the new players get acclimated to the new facility and team; OTAs are about real work. Will Montez Sweat take the field with the Redskins first-team defense? What about the two rookie receivers in Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon? There will be hiccups for the rookies, that's inevitable, but now is the time to prove they belong. With all the injuries on the offensive line, Wes Martin has the inside track on a starting job. 
  5. Absent, but not hurt - Never forget that OTAs are voluntary for players, and usually a handful of guys don't show up. That will likely happen tomorrow and some fans might react negatively. Don't be one of them. 

* If you don't get that reference, go watch The Program. 

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Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

We can begin free agent watch with the Washington Wizards way before July 1.

This isn’t about players. Coaching changes can happen whenever.

News broke Saturday out of Houston that the Rockets would not retain associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik. Considered one of the league’s top defensive minds, Bzdelik’s relationship with Scott Brooks along with comments made by the Wizards head coach at the NBA Combine makes this transaction interesting.

Bzdelik, 66, gave Brooks his first NBA coaching job when the then Denver Nuggets head coach hired the former player in 2003.

"I'm thankful for coach Bzdelik," Brooks told the Houston Chronicle in 2016.  "He gave me my first NBA coaching start. One of the best coaches I've ever been around. He has great understanding of the game, both ends of the floor.”

Fast forward to Thursday inside Chicago’s Quest Multisport facility. Amid 5-on-5 games involving 2019 draft prospects, players holding court with media members and the general convention vibe that comes with the NBA Combine, Brooks spent a few minutes chatting with reporters.

Among the non-draft or general manager search topics, whether any changes to the coaching staff were forthcoming.

"I’ve talked to Ted. I definitely talked Ted,” Brooks began his reply, referencing Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. “I have a lot of respect for our organization. I have to get better, first and foremost…Will the staff remain the same? Every year, staffs change. Every year staffs change. We're probably going to make some changes. I don't know if it's for sure. Everything is still up in the air.”

Brooks also noted change could come from members of his staff seeking opportunities elsewhere. Tony Brown, Brooks’ lead assistant during his three seasons with the Wizards, became a coaching free agent following Washington’s 32-50 season, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller.

Two days after Brooks’ comments came news of Bzdelik’s exit in Houston.

Bzdelik, a former Bullets assistant from 1988-94 and three-time college head coach, retired following the 2017-18 season. He returned to the Rockets in November following Houston’s slow start. The associate head coach is credited with guiding the team’s defensive improvement as the Rockets rose up the Western Conference standings.

The Houston Chronicle reported Bzdelik, whose contract expired after this season, remained uncommitted to returning. The Rockets announced Saturday they would not renew his deal.

The Wizards do not want a repeat of their defensive struggles. Only the Atlanta Hawks allowed more points per game than the 116.9 Washington surrendered last season. The Wizards ranked 28th in opponent field goal percentage (48.0) and 27th in 3-point shooting percentage (37.0).

It’s unclear how the Wizards fix those defensive concerns based solely on personnel. The current roster with five healthy players does not include any forwards or mobile big men. Point guard John Wall is expected to miss the majority of the upcoming season following February’s surgery for a ruptured Achilles. Wall, an erratic defensive presence in recent seasons, was previously selected to the NBA’s all-defensive team in 2015.

Coaching strategies could become the primary driver of change on the defensive end. The man who brought Brooks into the coaching fraternity would make for an obvious addition if both sides are interested.

"The accountability that [Jeff] taught me with the coaching staff and the players is second to none,” Brooks told the Chronicle in 2016. “I learned about work. I learned how to transfer my playing career into a coaching career with his help."

News of the next front office leader likely comes before coaching staff tweaks.

Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly was offered the same position with the Wizards Saturday after Denver granted Washington permission to meet. In the interim, the Wizards sent a contingent of scouting personnel along with Brooks to Chicago as the team conducted player interviews and watched scrimmages.

“Ted is going to make a decision and I trust that I going to be the best for the program moving forward,” Brooks said Thursday. “As of right now, (interim GM Tommy Sheppard) is doing a great job leading the group. We all feel comfortable with what’s going on. Hopefully, things work out and we move forward as an organization. We all have to get better, myself included.”

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