Capitals

West Virginia may need defense at some point

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West Virginia may need defense at some point

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) West Virginia is off to a blistering start in its first Big 12 season, piling up points behind quarterback Geno Smith.

But if the No. 5 Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0) want to win the league and even challenge for a national title, they may have to eventually start playing some defense.

West Virginia has torched Baylor and Texas for 118 points the last two weeks, but also surrendered 108 in two wild, heart-pounding games.

Smith doesn't seem to care, so long as he can keep pushing the Mountaineers in to the end zone. Smith has 12 touchdown passes the last two weeks, with 24 on the season without an interception.

``We play as a team, we fight as a team. No matter what it takes to win the game, that's what we're going to do,'' Smith said after throwing for 268 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-45 win over No. 15 Texas that wasn't secured until the Mountaineers recovered an onside kick with 14 seconds to play.

Smith may have to be at his best every game the rest of the way. The Mountaineers still have to play No. 13 Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, which has the No. 1 total offense and scoring offense in the country, and No. 6 Kansas State, which has topped 50 points three times this season.

The Mountaineers rank No. 102 in total defense and scoring defense and surrender an average of 35 points per game.

Cornerback Pat Miller said it was difficult for the defense to shake off giving up 63 points to Baylor while preparing for Texas.

``It was a tough week mentally because it's hard to bounce back from a game like that. There were a lot of people criticizing me personally. But you know, we just feed off that,'' Carter said.

West Virginia's defense did make a couple of big plays to help get a huge road win at Texas.

The Longhorns led 28-27 at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 13-play drive that ate up seven minutes. But the Mountaineers got a key third-down stop that forced Texas to kick a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown. That kept Smith and the offense within one possession of taking the lead as the teams traded five more touchdowns.

In the fourth quarter, West Virginia forced a turnover on downs near midfield and didn't surrender any points after Smith lost his second fumble. Trailing 41-38 Texas had the ball on the Mountaineers' 12 with just over seven minutes to play.

Texas gained only four yards on two plays, then lost 16 yards when a shotgun snap sailed past quarterback David Ash as he turned his head to look at the play clock. Texas kicker Anthony Fera then missed a 41-yard field goal, another miscue that proved critical at the end.

``That was the difference in the game because momentum shifted. Defense just had to buckle up and stand up,'' linebacker Isaiah Bruce said.

While that mistake was self-inflicted by Texas, the Mountaineers took it as a break that went their way.

``It was a tremendous team victory. Defense came up with some big stops in key situations,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. ``I thought they showed a lot of improvement.''

Texas left feeling as if it let one get away when that ball sailed past Ash and kept bouncing backward on the turf.

``When we had our opportunity to go ahead and didn't, that really hurt us,'' Texas coach Mack Brown said ``You've got to give (West Virginia) credit. They made the critical plays.''

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John Carlson once again an All-Star snub

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USA TODAY Sports

John Carlson once again an All-Star snub

The Capitals' Stanley Cup run may be even more remarkable than we thought considering there were zero all-stars on Washington's roster apparently.

As part of Wednesday's NHL Awards, the First and Second-Team All-Star rosters were released and not a single Capital made either team.

Here is a look at both teams:

In the interest of full disclosure, the All-Star Teams are voted on by members of the Pro Hockey Writers Association of which I am a member. I did not, however, have a vote for the All-Star rosters.

The first thought most Caps fans will have when looking at these teams is what about Alex Ovechkin?

I'm actually OK with Taylor Hall and Claude Giroux getting the nods at left wing.

Hall won the Hart Trophy for what he was able to accomplish in New Jersey in leading a team that looked like a trash heap before the season to a playoff berth. Compare the Devils' roster to the Caps' and there's no question Hall had a lot less to work with than Ovechkin and tallied 93 points as compared to Ovechkin's 87. Giroux finished second in the NHL with 102 points, one of only three players this season to finish in the triple digits. He very narrowly beat out Ovechkin for Second Team honors.

It was a coin flip and Ovechkin lost. That's not what Caps fans should be crying foul over. The fact that John Carlson was not among the four defensive all-stars is a far more egregious omission for which there is no excuse.

After inexplicably being excluded from the NHL All-Star Game in January, Carlson was snubbed once again as he came in fifth in the voting.

Just what does Carlson have to do to get some recognition?

No defenseman in the entire NHL had more points than Carlson's 68 this season. That's not just because of increased minutes as Carlson finished 13th among defensemen in ice time per game.

But being a good defenseman is not about the offensive stats.

That's right. Now go ahead and show me which of the four who finished ahead of Carlson was partnered with a rookie for most of the season. I'll wait.

The answer is none of them.

It's very easy now to look at the Capitals as a team that had all the pieces in place and managed to put it all together at the right time to go on a Cup run, but that's not what happened this season. Carlson was very heavily relied upon by the Capitals during the regular season when the blue line was an obvious weakness, especially after an injury forced Matt Niskanen out of the lineup for 14 games. Carlson was averaging nearly 30 minutes per game in Niskanen's absence. Carlson also spent the majority of the season with his primary partner being a rookie in Christian Djoos.

Charlie McAvoy was a rookie too. Does that mean Zdeno Chara should have been named an all-star?

A player like McAvoy is very much the exception, not the rule. Djoos has a bright future ahead of him, but his career is not yet at the same level as a player like McAvoy.

With all due respect to the voters, it seems like not enough attention was paid to what the Capitals asked of Carlson this season. His strong play on both ends of the ice made up for a weak defense that was only bolstered by a late trade for Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks just prior to the trade deadline.

If you looked at Carlson's stats and saw just an offensive specialist who was not strong enough in his own end to warrant an all-star spot, then you were not paying close enough attention to the role he played in Washington this season.

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Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The rain was heavy and relentless. As the puddles grew deeper on the tarp at Nationals Park, the Baltimore Orioles were left to wonder if their bid for a rare road victory would be thwarted by, of all things, the weather.

During a season in which very little has worked in their favor, the Orioles withstood a long rain delay to beat the Washington Nationals 3-0 Wednesday night.

Baltimore led 2-0 after four innings when play was stopped. After a wait of 2 hours, 43 minutes, the game resumed with a few hundred fans from the announced crowd of 32,153 sprinkled around the lower seating bowl.

Mark Trumbo homered for Baltimore, and Andrew Cashner and four relievers combined on a five-hitter in a game that ended long after midnight.

"It was nice," Trumbo said. "I'm glad that we actually kept the game going. Had we not been able to, it might have been a wash. But it ended up being pretty big for us."

Baltimore ended a six-game losing streak to Washington that began last May, won for only the fourth time in 20 games and improved the majors' worst road record to 10-28.

This one was worth the wait.

"It's never easy, especially when you get over the hour mark, two-hour mark," Trumbo said. "Then you have to restart. It's almost two games in one, so, great job by our guys tonight."

The Nationals managed only two hits following the delay, both in the ninth inning.

"It happens. You can't do anything about the rain," manager Dave Martinez said. "You've got to come out and get yourself ready to play. I'm not going to make any excuses."

The rain delay cut short a solid pitching performance by Cashner, who allowed three hits and no walks over four innings in his return from an 11-day stay on the disabled list with back spasms.

Miguel Castro (2-2) followed with two hitless innings, Darren O'Day pitched a perfect seventh and Zach Britton got four outs.

Brad Brach allowed the Nationals to load the bases with two outs in the ninth before striking out Mark Reynolds .

Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Gio Gonzalez (6-4), and for a while it appeared the drive would be washed out by the rain.

"One pitch. That was the whole game," Gonzalez lamented. "That was it."

Indeed, it all ended well for the Orioles, who added a run in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled off Shawn Kelley and scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia .

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