Nationals

Woods, Barkley eye records when USC hosts Colorado

Woods, Barkley eye records when USC hosts Colorado

LOS ANGELES (AP) Robert Woods and Matt Barkley are closing in on two remarkable records at Southern California.

Even with the way Colorado's defense has played lately, the No. 11 Trojans say they aren't planning their celebration just yet.

With its national title dreams still somewhat realistic, USC (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12) finally returns to the Coliseum on Saturday for just its second home game in seven weeks. The Trojans are a 40-point favorite against the Buffaloes (1-5, 1-2), who have yielded more than 45 points per game since their season opener.

``We're trying to treat it like they're another top team,'' Woods said.

Even with ample evidence to the contrary - and even with history in reach.

With 96 career touchdown passes heading into his 43rd career start, Barkley needs four TDs to pass Matt Leinart for the USC and conference career marks. A big chunk of those throws have gone to Woods, whose pending achievement is even more spectacular: He needs just five catches to surpass Dwayne Jarrett's 216, making him USC's career leader midway through his junior season.

``Growing up watching all the USC receivers - Jarrett, Steve Smith, Mike Williams, all those great guys - it's special to be a part of that,'' Woods said. ``It's a blessing that I could do it in just 2 1/2 (seasons). I hope I can do it on Saturday at home.''

With 36 catches for 360 yards and five touchdowns this year, Woods' performances haven't been as eye-popping they were in his All-American sophomore season, albeit for a variety of reasons. Opposing defenses have been daring the Trojans to run the ball since their season opener, blatantly sitting back in unbalanced pass defenses to limit Woods and Marqise Lee, who still has 54 catches of his own for 681 yards and seven scores.

``It is different than last year, but I have a different role,'' Woods said. ``Marqise emerged as a top receiver. We've got a great running game. I have to do different things to make us successful ... and I care about winning games most of all.''

Barkley and Woods are hoping coach Lane Kiffin will allow them to unleash the passing game that tormented defenses down the stretch last season. Kiffin has been content to grind out wins with USC's running game and a sturdy defense - and though Barkley's Heisman Trophy candidacy is on life support, his chances of playing in a January bowl for the first time are still healthy.

``I'm certainly having a good time,'' Barkley said. ``From now, our goal is to win out for the rest of the season.''

It all starts Saturday at the sold-out Coliseum, where football-starved USC fans begin a delicious stretch of four games in six weeks, including a showdown with Oregon in two weeks and culminating in Notre Dame's post-Thanksgiving visit. Yet the Trojans aren't looking past the Buffaloes, who are trying to relish the long odds they're facing in their first Coliseum visit since 2000.

``I want to play the best, and they have the best guys, some of the best guys in the nation,'' Colorado safety Parker Orms said. ``Matt Barkley, the receivers, even their running back, their whole team are NFL guys, and I just want to see how I can match up against them. I know our guys aren't afraid.''

Orms was disappointed when the Buffaloes didn't face Stanford's Andrew Luck in their first season in the Pac-12. Barkley's numbers haven't been prolific this season, but he burnished his reputation during USC's visit to Boulder last season, throwing a school-record six touchdown passes in a 42-17 victory that kept USC perfect in its six meetings with the Buffs.

Colorado coach Jon Embree realizes the hazards of taking on USC's passing game after what it did to the Buffaloes last season, and he's not professing any secret knowledge about how to shut down Barkley, Woods and Lee.

``Well, to keep them in check, don't let them play,'' Embree said. ``You're not going to keep them in check.''

USC's defense also hopes to build on its strong season, culminating in an impressive effort at Washington last weekend. The Trojans have given up just 111 points all season, while the Colorado defense gave up 51 last week alone.

With a full week at home after back-to-back road trips and a bye, the Trojans are hopeful they've moved back into their groove.

``Just because we're a 40-point favorite doesn't mean we have a week off,'' USC safety T.J. McDonald said. ``We're creating good habits and making sure we still pay attention.''

Embree realizes the California recruits attending Saturday's game might not be terribly enticed by the Buffaloes if they're getting pounded by USC. But even if a blowout ensues, the Colorado coach is looking for players who understand it won't always be this way.

``They need to understand that we are not instant oatmeal,'' Embree said. ``We are not just adding water and going. So if that's what they're looking for, then this is not the place for them. If they want to be a part of something special and help build something, those are the things we talk about.''

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How to entice Bryce Harper in to re-signing with the Nationals? With food, of course!

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How to entice Bryce Harper in to re-signing with the Nationals? With food, of course!

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach… and if that leads us to Bryce Harper’s potential landing spot, then I present to you the yummiest reasons he should stay with the Washington Nationals.

In a video from TMZ, a paparazzi follows Harper to baggage claim and implores him for any hints toward where he is signing this offseason. The only true answer he got was that Harper likes a place called Steak 48 in Chicago. This surf-and-turf hot spot in the River North neighborhood of downtown Chicago has the audacity to serve “Maryland STYLE lump crab cakes.” Really, Bryce? Will the real thing convince you?!

On that note, let’s start off with the seafood we have to offer. This is the Mid-Atlantic, after all.

How can you work here April-September without eating local crabs in some form? I think that’s impossible. You can choose from hard shell or soft shell, but no shame in either game.

Live Chesapeake blue crabs can be bought at Captain White’s Seafood and other vendors on The Wharf off Maine Avenue. Otherwise, you can sit down and have them steamed for you at Quarterdeck, Ivy City Smokehouse, Bethesda Crab House or Captain Pell’s.

If Harper is more of a soft shell guy, all of those places also serve out-of-the-park crab cakes, but you can’t go wrong with Hank’s Oyster Bar, Old Ebbitt Grill, Chris’ Marketplace, or Clyde’s.

If the star really wants to dive in to local taste, he should eat Chesapeake Bay oysters from the largest estuary in America. My personal favorite selection is at Whaley’s (seafood tower on me, Bryce), but Rapphanock Oyster Bar, The Dabney, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Black’s Bar & Kitchen can’t be beat.

I find it hard to believe the team hasn't had an outing at The Salt Line, the lively seafood spot just a short throw from Nats Park where teammate Ryan Zimmerman is an investor and co-owner.

Now that we’ve satisfied Harper’s iron intake, let’s break down his protein. In order to keep the superstar here, I want to make sure he knows that D.C. cares about providing a well-rounded diet.

Barbecued meats in general around here are delectable. Sitting in juxtaposition between the north and south, D.C. restaurants bring a mash-up of styles of smoked and sauced meats. Favorites are Federalist Pig, Hill Country, Fat Pete’s and Hardy’s BBQ truck.

However, if Bryce Harper show he’s as invested in authentic Nationals fans as our season tickets are in him, he should really pick up a half-smoke, the district’s original recipe for a spicy, thicker pork and beef dog that’s aggressively seasoned and sometimes served with chili sauce.

Could you imagine Harper making his announcement to stay over a half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl? I think even the panda statue would cry tears of joy.

Another hyper-local taste is mumbo sauce. While proven not originally from here, D.C. natives are enthusiastic about the special sauce. Yum’s is pretty well-known for carrying it.

Time for dessert! I think we can all agree that in the past 10 years, cupcakes have become iconic in the district with Georgetown Cupcakes, Baked & Wired and Sprinkles all having a home in Georgetown. To settle the debate, Baked & Wired is best. They are ranked #1 on Yelp if you don’t believe my own palette.

But what if it’s game night, you ask? D.C. has it’s hearty share of restaurants that are open even after extra innings. The Diner, Kramerbooks, Mandu, New Big Wong, Old Ebbitt Grill, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Amsterdam Falafelshop and Jumbo Slice are all here to keep you warm at night no matter what you’re craving post-victory. Need I go on?

Bryce reassured Nats fans and TMZ that he is “still a National right now.” Better eat these while you can, Bryce, or you’ll be sorry you didn't sign in one of the best food cities in the MLB.

Do you have any local food or restaurants you think will convince Bryce Harper to stay with the Washington Nationals this offseason? Send them to @NBCNationals or @rmhopmayer. Maybe we can throw together a friends-giving or holiday dinner for those that want him to stay our beloved Guest of Honor.

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Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman caused quite a stir with his comments Sunday about the atmosphere at FedEx Field, and the Redskins cornerback made it clear he plans to do his part in making sure the stadium is packed for Sunday's game against the Texans. 

Norman told reporters Thursday he's going to be giving away "40 or 50" free tickets for the Houston game, online and perhaps even in person.

"Yes, I will be giving out free tickets," he said. "I'll be doing it on my socials as well, I think I'll probably post tonight or something about it."

"Who knows, you may see me coming out and being an early Santa somewhere in the mall or something, just handing out tickets."

And if you are one of the lucky fans who gets a ticket from "Santa Norman," he has specific instructions on how you should behave at Sunday's game:

"Whoever get(s) them, we want them loud and just obnoxious. Just really obnoxious."

Norman joins several Redskins players who have promised to give away tickets to the Texans game.

It may be November, but the Christmas spirit is alive and well at Redskins Park. 

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