Nationals

Vanderbilt, NC State to meet in Music City Bowl

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Vanderbilt, NC State to meet in Music City Bowl

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Vanderbilt will only have to travel a few miles from campus for its bowl game, and the Southeastern Conference program that finally needs a second hand to count its postseason games couldn't be happier.

The Commodores (8-4) will face North Carolina State (7-5) in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31 at LP Field in a game matching a coach who just signed a contract extension against an interim coach from the Atlantic Coast Conference. This also will be the Commodores' third straight bowl inside the state of Tennessee and second Music City Bowl game since 2008.

``We just love the opportunity to play in the postseason,'' Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers said.

``That's something we don't take for granted around here at Vanderbilt. It's something we're going to be doing a lot more in the future,'' Rodgers said. ``But this is a great opportunity to play a different conference, to play on New Year's Eve. It's going to be a day game I believe so we'll have New Year's Eve to hang out with all our fans here in Nashville.''

This will be just the sixth bowl game for Vanderbilt, and coach James Franklin had his new contract announced earlier Sunday night for taking the Commodores to consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history. They bring a six-game winning streak into this bowl sponsored by Franklin American Mortgage.

Franklin calls this bowl a great opportunity to stake their claim as Nashville's team.

``The numbers I threw out of being able to sell 55,000 or so tickets to this game I truly believe we can do that,'' Franklin said. ``I don't believe that's a reach. I believe that's a realistic thing we can do and make this the best Music City Bowl that's been played here. I'm excited about it. I think it makes a lot of sense in a lot of different ways, and we're proud to represent the SEC in the Music City Bowl.''

North Carolina State offensive coordinator Dana Bible will serve as the Wolfpack's interim head coach in place of Tom O'Brien, who was fired last weekend. The Wolfpack introduced new coach Dave Doeren at a news conference Sunday, but Bible will be in charge of the team for the bowl.

The Wolfpack will be playing in its 27th postseason game and are one of only 12 teams to win back-to-back bowls.

``Nashville is a unique city with a tradition all its own,'' N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement. ``The Wolfpack will enjoy becoming familiar with it and appreciate its charm.''

The Commodores beat Boston College 16-14 in 2008, their first bowl win in 53 wins. Linebacker Archibald Barnes, a fifth-year senior, was a redshirt that year. He couldn't stop smiling looking over a room that had been filled with Vandy fans while school officials stayed busy selling T-shirts and taking ticket orders.

``The seniors who were here for the last Music City Bowl, we're excited,'' Barnes said. ``We get to end where we started. It's kind of like a legacy, like we did the older guys proud by being able to get back to the Music City Bowl. We're honored to play in Nashville. We love it here, and that's why we're here.''

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John Gant homers, pitches Cardinals to 6-4 win over Nationals

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USA TODAY Sports

John Gant homers, pitches Cardinals to 6-4 win over Nationals

ST. LOUIS -- Even John Gant cracked a smile.

Gant homered for his first major league hit and pitched one-run ball into the sixth inning, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 6-4 on Tuesday night for their season-high seventh consecutive victory.

Kolten Wong had three hits and three RBIs as St. Louis (65-55) pulled within four games of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs and moved within one game of the Philadelphia Phillies for the second NL wild card. The Cardinals also improved to 18-9 since Mike Shildt was named interim manager on July 13, the most wins for a manager through his first 27 games in franchise history.

"Things are starting to click for us," Wong said. "We're playing confident. We're out there playing aggressive and I think it's the kind of baseball Cardinals fans have been waiting for."

The Nationals (60-60) have dropped six of eight to fall eight games behind Atlanta in the NL East.

"We've just got to keep pulling the same rope, keep grinding it out, keep trying to win ballgames," Nationals slugger Bryce Harper said.

Gant (5-4) permitted four hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings. He has given up just two earned runs over 11 1/3 innings in his last two starts, both wins.

The 26-year-old Gant was 0 for 30 for his career when he drove a 1-1 pitch from Gio Gonzalez (7-9) over the wall in left in the second. The two-run shot gave Washington a 3-0 lead.

"I was jogging kind of my hands in the air," said Wong, who scored on Gant's homer. "I already knew it was going out. Looking back I think he almost caught me."

Added Gant, "I thought it was going to hit the wall maybe but when I finally looked up and (Wong) was looking back at me, that's when I knew it was going over the wall."

Gant, who has a reputation for being a stoic player, admitted to smiling "once or twice" once he got back to the dugout.

Wong's solo homer made it 6-1 in the sixth, but Washington responded with three in the eighth. Harper hit a two-run shot, and Daniel Murphy singled in Anthony Rendon.

Matt Adams then struck out looking against Dakota Hudson, ending the inning, and Jordan Hicks worked the ninth for his fourth save in eight chances.

Paul DeJong also doubled and scored for St. Louis one night after he connected for a game-ending homer in a 7-6 victory. Matt Carpenter walked in the sixth to extend his on-base streak to 32 games.

"We have a 25-man roster and we have confidence in all of them," Shildt said. "They're here for a reason and guys are looking to contribute every night and in different ways."

Gonzalez was charged with five runs and five hits in four innings. The veteran left-hander is just 1-4 in his last six starts.

"I wasn't hitting my spots," Gonzalez said. "Just not being as consistent in the strike zone as I should be. It's just one of those games you can't explain."

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Need to Know: Redskins have faith in their young cornerbacks but will keep their options open

Need to Know: Redskins have faith in their young cornerbacks but will keep their options open

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on Wednesday, August 15, one day before the Washington Redskins host the Jets in their second preseason game. 

Talking points

The Redskins paid Orlando Scandrick $1 million and he didn’t play so much as a preseason snap for them. The money is gone, and the Redskins are left with what is mostly a youthful group at cornerback

The senior citizen is Josh Norman, who is 30 and entering his seventh NFL season. Quinton Dunbar is next on the age scale at 26. Those two will be the starters at cornerback on the outside. After them, youth rules the day. 

Fabian Moreau, 22, will take the slot corner position that Scandrick was going to fill. He is in his second NFL season having played just 59 snaps as a rookie. 

That’s 59 more NFL snaps than the next three players on the depth chart have combined. Rookies Greg Stroman, a seventh-round pick this year, Adonis Alexander, a supplemental sixth-round pick, and undrafted free agent Danny Johnson, all 22 years old, are the next men up if any of the top three on the depth chart falter or get injured. 

“I’m very impressed with them all,” said Jay Gruden. “You know, obviously Adonis not as much because he just got here, and he’s been hurt but he’s got the skill set that we’ve noticed, as far as your sixth corner, I think he’d be a very good guy to have in your building to develop. Watching Stroman and watching Danny Johnson compete and play, I’ve been impressed. Watching Fabian move inside, I’ve been very impressed.”

That all sounds good. However, Gruden made sure that everyone knows that the cornerback depth chart is not set in stone.

“We still have time if it doesn’t work out or if somebody gets injured, we still have time to make moves also ourselves,” he said.

The Redskins have about nine practices and three preseason games before they have to set their roster. If it proves that their confidence in the young corners is not well founded, they could look to pick up an alternative on the waiver wire, in the free agent market (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is still available), or via a trade.

The best-case is that the kids work out. But if not, there are alternatives. 

Bureau of statistics

The 2017 Redskins were sixth in the league in pass defense according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. 

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The agenda

Today: No media availability

Upcoming: Preseason Jets @ Redskins (Aug. 16) 1 day; Final cut (Sept. 1) 17 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 25 days

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page,Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler