Dallas Sports News

Did Redskins coach Jay Gruden tip off refs? Another theory on strange 'snapfu' infraction call vs. Cowboys

Dallas Morning Sport News - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 10:37

Editor's note: Longtime columnist and radio/podcast personality Matt Mosley provides his Morning After column each Monday morning, unless the team plays on Monday night. It's a mix of opinion, insight and random thoughts.

To be sure, it was a weaksauce call on Cowboys deep snapper L.P. Ladouceur to force the Cowboys to attempt a 52-yard field goal on the final play of Sunday's game. Ladouceur's been around here for 14 seasons, and his routine of moving the front of the ball before snaps isn't anything new. But it was Redskins head coach Jay Gruden who planted the idea in the officials' minds when he told them before the game to be on the lookout for the way Ladouceur moves the ball, according to a source who talked to the Doomsday Podcast's Ed Werder.

When the Redskins defenders came crashing through, the refs knew exactly what to do. Special teams coach Ben Kotwica had noticed Ladouceur's tendency during game preparation, so he brought it to Gruden's attention. My former radio colleague Craig Hoffman, who covers the Redskins for 106.7 The Fan, told me that Redskins long snapper Nick Sundberg was shouting at the officials to look out for Ladouceur's subtle move during Sunday's game. That is some snapper-on-snapper crime that you really hate to see in these confusing times.

Yes, Brett Maher should've made a 52-yard field goal, but it appears the kick would've slipped inside the left upright from 47 yards. Credit that to some advance scouting from the Redskins. And to some officials who bit on that little gambit hook, line and sinker. What was there to lose for the Redskins? At worst, it would've given Maher a field goal from 42 yards instead of 47. It was a bad call by the officials, but it was very smart of the Redskins. For the record, the NFL was quick to call the snap "illegal" in a tweet that went out after the game.

But there's no way in the world that gets called if the Redskins had not planted the idea on the officials. I guess Ladouceur is now supposed to change his pre-snap routine after all these years. Rest assured, the late George Allen was smiling down on that bit of skullduggery from his beloved Redskins.

Garrett waves the caution flag ... again!

The Cowboys finally had the Redskins on their heels as they raced down the field with just under a minute left and one timeout in their pocket. Redskins quarterback Alex Smith had done them a huge favor when he inexplicably ran out of bounds after a 6-yard scramble. On third-and-10, Dak Prescott connected with Cole Beasley for 18 yards to advance to the Redskins' 46-yard line. If ever there were a time for Garrett to order his offensive coordinator to step on the gas, it was then. A touchdown wins the game and puts this season on a different trajectory.

But it was then that Garrett's mental governor kicked in and told him to slow things down and play for the tie. Prescott completed a 9-yard pass to Beasley on first down. He hit him for a 6-yard completion on second down. There were 12 seconds left after that.

The Cowboys were able to get off TWO plays when they had 52 seconds left and a timeout. They ran the ball for 2 yards with 12 seconds left to set up Maher for a 47-yard field goal. Garrett simply can't help himself in these situations. Instead of riding the momentum of the game, his gut told him to slow down and not do anything that could potentially lose the game. It feels like Jerry Jones has a head coach who is completely opposite of him in every way. And while opposites attract in some areas of life, it's not working with these two. Jerry didn't speak to reporters after the game. It's the second time that's happened this season. Surely he's pondering life without Garrett.

Lord knows he's not alone.

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Update: TCU suspends WR KaVontae Turpin after arrest for assault with bodily injury to a family member

Dallas Morning Sport News - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 10:28

Update, 11:28 a.m.: TCU has suspended receiver KaVontae Turpin, head coach Gary Patterson said Monday morning on a Big 12 conference call.

Turpin, a senior receiver who scored two touchdowns Saturday vs. Oklahoma, was arrested Sunday for assault with bodily injury to a family member, a Class A misdemeanor.

"He's suspended," Patterson told reporters on the call. "Everybody knows how I handle this -- my track record speaks for itself. We can go back through."

Patterson said he's gathering information but doesn't expect Turpin to play in TCU's Saturday game at Kansas. He said he had not yet received information from a police report but that Turpin "knows how that all goes. All of them do."

Turpin was booked into Tarrant County Jail on Sunday after the arrest.

Original story, 10:28 a.m.: TCU receiver KaVontae Turpin was arrested Sunday for assault with bodily injury to a family member, according to Tarrant County Jail records.

The incident, a Class A misdemeanor, was reported just south of Bluebonnet Circle on S. University Dr., per the jail records.

TCU said in a statement that the university is "aware that one of its students was recently arrested for reported domestic situation."

"The university takes these types of reports very seriously and is continuing to gather information to determine next steps," the statement continued. "TCU expects its students to behave in an ethical manner, abide by campus policies and adhere to state and federal law.

"The student also may face a charge of violating the University Code of Student Conduct, the results of which are independent and separate from any legal charges."

TCU head coach Gary Patterson will speak to reporters on the Big 12 coaches conference call at 11:20 a.m.

Turpin's arrest comes a day after the senior receiver scored two touchdowns, including on a 99-yard punt return, in TCU's 52-27 loss to Oklahoma.

Turpin has caught 29 passes for 410 yards and three scores this season. He has 145 passes for 1,748 yards and 13 scores across his career.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available.

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Rick Carlisle: Harrison Barnes, Devin Harris out at least two more Mavericks games

Dallas Morning Sport News - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 10:28

The Mavericks will continue to be without three of their heavy lifters tonight against Chicago at American Airlines Center.

Harrison Barnes (right hamstring) and Devin Harris (left hamstring) both have been ruled out. Dirk Nowitzki remains sidelined until at least early November.

"He's most likely out the next two games," coach Rick Carlisle said of Barnes, who missed virtually all of training camp with the injury. "And then we'll see where we are Friday. It's a hamstring and they take time. He's doing better, picking up the workouts, but he's just not there yet."

As for Harris, Carlisle said: "I don't expect Devin to play this week, either, at least the next two. Ask me on Friday."

The good news is that the Mavericks' next two games are against two of the weakest teams in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls on Monday night followed by the Hawks on Wednesday at Atlanta.

The hope is the Mavericks can take care of business against these two teams. But given the inconsistency they have shown through the first two games, there are no easy outs for the Mavericks.

The injuries mean that players like Dorian Finney-Smith, Jalen Brunson and Maxi Kleber will continue to play larger roles.

Meanwhile, Carlisle said the team spent a good portion of Monday morning's shootaround trying to address the Mavericks' sluggish starts in the first two games.

The coach did not mince words about what needs to change after the Mavericks gave up 37 and 46 points in the first quarters of the first two games.

"We got to show up at the beginning of games and try," he said. "We've just been abysmal to start games. We went through some things. The numbers are just staggering. There's no way we can ever be a good team giving up 42 points (41.5 on average) in the first quarter. And Chicago scored 42 in the first quarter at Philadelphia. They're another fast-paced team. It's a lot of hard work."

Twitter: @ESefko

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Film room: 3 things we learned from Cowboys' heartbreaking loss, including this disappointing trend up front

Dallas Morning Sport News - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 09:00

After a nine-yard Cole Beasley catch, the Dallas Cowboys (3-4) had the ball at the Washington Redskins' (4-2) 37-yard line with 46 seconds remaining in the game. Two offensive plays and a snap infraction later, Brett Maher stared down a 52-yard field goal from Washington's 34-yard line with 3 seconds left.

Yes, despite having 46 seconds remaining in the game the Cowboys somehow ran just two plays while effectively gaining just 3 yards. From the moment the Cowboys landed within field-goal range, it was obvious that Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan were perfectly content with settling for a field goal, which Maher missed in the face of swirling winds, leaving the Cowboys on the wrong end of a 20-17 decision.

While some will focus on the low-hanging fruit of Maher's miss or even the questionable snap infraction call, the Cowboys' lack of aggressiveness once they were within field-goal range may deserve more of the collective blame.

The Cowboys seem to find a new way to lose each time they venture outside of AT&T Stadium. The team has squandered multiple winnable games on the road. This week was more of the same.

It was a frustrating day and a heartbreaking loss for a team that could have grabbed the NFC East race by the horns entering its bye week. Instead, Dallas heads into the bye week 1.5 games out of first place in the NFC East. The team has more questions than answers.

Without further ado, let's dive into a few things gleaned from Dallas' disappointing loss.

1) Offensive issues again wreck solid defensive day.

In the Cowboys' last eight road games, they have averaged just 14.6 points per game while converting 34.6 percent of third down. That's not going to get it done in the NFL. In those same eight games, the Cowboys defense has allowed just 16.5 points per game.

The offense failed to get it done again today, accounting for just 17 points while converting 36 percent of their third downs. The offense was abysmal other than during the drive to end the second quarter and the two possessions to end the game. Outside of those three possessions, the Cowboys averaged only 3.3 yards per play.

The Cowboys were ultimately killed by untimely penalties, a poor running game, a couple costly turnovers and spotty protection from the offensive line (more on that later). It's obvious the offense struggles with communication on the road, leading to sloppy and ineffective play from the offense for long stretches.

While Prescott played surprisingly well for most of the game, his two turnovers were costly. Prescott's first fumble didn't lead to points for the Redskins, but it allowed Washington to flip the field advantage: The Cowboys received the ball inside their own 20-yard line on their following three drives before the half.

The second fumble was the most costly play of all, resulting in a Preston Smith scoop and score for Washington. Prescott got too deep with his drop and held onto the ball for too long, which is a recipe for disaster when backed inside the 10-yard line. To make matters worse, Prescott missed Michael Gallup streaking open down the field.

And that's all before factoring in the four offensive penalties Dallas drew against the Redskins. Three of them negated first-down gains; the other transformed a would-be third-and-4 into a second-and-25. When a team is already struggling to move the ball, untimely penalties can turn things from bad to worse. That's exactly what happened today.

The offense's poor day nullified a winning performance by the defense. While the defense had its struggles against the run, it was fantastic against the pass, allowing just 7.12 yards per attempt by Alex Smith.

DeMarcus Lawrence posted a gutsy performance, recording seven tackles - six at or behind the line of scrimmage - and a quarterback hit. Byron Jones had another phenomenal day, rarely tested (and for good reason) by Smith and the Washington pass attack.

The Cowboys are a totally different team at home than on the road. In their last eight home games, the team has averaged 22.375 points per game while converting on 41.7 percent of third downs. The road is a completely different story.

The Cowboys need to fix their road offense and fast, or the team is destined for another frustrating 8-8 finish to the season.

2) Cowboys can't overcome losing line-of-scrimmage battle

The most disappointing development from Sunday's loss was Dallas' inability to control the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys' front lines were taken to school by their Washington counterparts, as the Redskins rushed for 130 yards and gave up just one sack. The Cowboys, on the other hand, accumulated just 73 yards on the ground and allowed four sacks.

It's becoming a disappointing trend for the Cowboys up front, especially on offense given the extent of resources the Cowboys have allocated to the offensive line. Sure, the loss of Travis Frederick hurts. But the Cowboys still possess two active All-Pros. Two other talented linemen - La'el Collins and Connor Williams - were each a top-50 player the years they declared for the NFL Draft.

Outside DeMarcus Lawrence and the occasional play from Antwaun Woods, the defensive line similarly struggled. It was bailed out by an impressive performance from the Dallas defensive backs. The defensive ends struggled to contain the run, and the defensive tackles generated minimal disruption from the interior. The result: Adrian Peterson ran wild for long stretches Sunday.

The Cowboys are a team that thrives when their offense and defense can control the line of scrimmage. Each unit failed to against Washington. Many parties deserve blame for this loss, but make sure to serve a large chunk of the blame pie to the offensive and defensive lines. The offense needs to stay ahead of the chains to be most effective. That's almost impossible when Ezekiel Elliott averages 2.7 yards per carry on first downs.

Whether Maher's field goal at the end of regulation went through the upright or not, the Cowboys played losing football along the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

3) Michael Gallup runs fantastic double moves

The biggest bright spot in the Cowboys' loss was Michael Gallup showcasing his big-play ability, recording three catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.

The touchdown was particularly impressive, as the rookie ran a wonderful double move to get wide open for a 49-yard touchdown catch:

The key to Gallup creating separation on this stutter-and-go (double move) route was his eyes. Gallup did a fantastic job selling the stop route by turning his eyes all the way toward the quarterback. This caused the Washington cornerback to bite on the fake, leaving Gallup wide open as he streaked downfield.

That was not the only time Gallup got open using a double move. He created plenty of separation with an out-and-up, or 'chair,' route on Prescott's second fumble:

Once again, Gallup did an excellent job selling the initial route with his eyes and hips, feinting as if he were going to run an out route before stemming upfield on a go route. Unfortunately, Prescott took his eyes off Gallup just as the rookie receiver was breaking open. The resulting pressure eliminated any opportunity for Prescott to come back to Gallup, who badly beat his man.

The last few weeks have shown steady improvement from the Colorado State product, and the Cowboys would be wise to leverage that improvement into a bigger role within the offense in the future weeks.

John Owning writes about NFL player evaluation for SportsDayDFW.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnOwning.

Categories: Dallas Sports News

The real narrative behind this Cowboys team is more damning than you think

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 21:03

LANDOVER, Md. -- It will be easy for the Cowboys to blame their latest loss on a call you rarely see and a field goal attempt that hit the upright as a result.

But if the Dallas players and coaches are honest with themselves, the narrative is much more damning.

The Cowboys lost to Washington because of the mistakes the players made early and often on this crisp Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field. The Cowboys fell 20-17 not because deep snapper L.P. Ladouceur was called for a violation that pushed Brett Maher's ill-fated attempt back 5 yards, but because the coaching staff was timid in the closing seconds.

This is a recurring theme. The Cowboys lost to Houston two weeks ago, in large part, because they played for the tie rather than go for the win.

And here's something even more disturbing. No one in the Dallas locker room appeared upset or questioned why the offense didn't take a shot or two at the end zone in the final 52 seconds. Not head coach Jason Garrett. Not quarterback Dak Prescott or the other offensive players who were questioned.

This offense has been so poor for most of this season that it accepts the wisdom of playing it safe. This group now expects so little of itself that fighting back from a deficit to give itself a chance at victory is something of a victory in itself.

Let's start with the myriad of mistakes that were made and end with another cautious ending that backfired.

The Cowboys were penalized eight times for 65 yards and were 5-of-14 on third down. Prescott was sacked four times and turned the ball over twice.

"We were stepping on our own foot," Prescott said.

Prescott lost two fumbles. The first came on fourth-and-1 in the first quarter when he appeared to pick up the first down only to give it up after being blasted by safety D.J. Swearinger.

"The safety came in, just made a good hit, put his helmet right on the ball," Prescott said. "I've got to do a better job taking care of the ball knowing a lot of hands and a lot of people are coming around right there.

"I've got to put two hands on it and hold it tight."

The Cowboys defense kept Washington off the board after the first fumble. They never had a chance after the second.

Dallas faced a third-and-14 on its own 10-yard line with just over five minutes remaining. The protection broke down, and linebacker Ryan Kerrigan was closing.

Prescott knew he was in the end zone and desperately wanted to avoid the safety. The spin to get out of the end zone did him in. Kerrigan hit him, forced the fumble and linebacker Preston Smith picked up the ball for a 1-yard touchdown to increase Washington's lead to 10 points.

"I was trying not to make a bad play and ended up making it worse," Prescott said. "I've just got to be cleaner there, throw the ball away when I see him in my face.

"I've got to be smarter with the ball there when we're backed up like that."

Prescott came right back to lead the Cowboys on a 12-play, 74-yard scoring drive to cut Washington's lead to three points. The defense held to give the ball back to Prescott and Co. with 1:09 left. An 18-yard completion to Cole Beasley put the Cowboys at the Washington 46-yard line.

The Cowboys had momentum. They had a timeout in their pocket. And what followed?

Two short passes to Beasley and a run by Ezekiel Elliott to give Maher a kick between the hash marks.

"I mean, that's where you're crossing your fingers and hoping at that point," Prescott said on why no shots were taken downfield. "We're just getting the run, getting the time down then putting ourselves in position for a makeable field goal."

Beasley agreed with the strategy.

"I think we did it the right way," Beasley said. "I really do. The way we played at the end of the game, we played well enough to win.

"We just didn't do enough early."

Garrett was asked on two occasions after the game if he thought about being more aggressive in the final 52 seconds. He didn't waver.

"The biggest thing that we wanted to do was maximize the field goal opportunity and run the ball, make some yards, use the timeout and then kick the game-tying field goal," Garrett said.

Garrett got all of that. What he didn't get was a successful field goal attempt as time expired.

"I think play-calling, we did exactly what we needed to do there," Prescott said. "We make that field goal, and we're not talking about this right now.''

But we are.

Again.

Catch David Moore and Robert Wilonsky as they co-host Intentional Grounding on The Ticket (KTCK-AM 1310 and 96.7 FM) every Wednesday from 7-8 p.m. through the Super Bowl.

Twitter: @DavidMooreDMN

Categories: Dallas Sports News

'It sucks': L.P. Ladouceur dishes on controversial snap infraction that pushed Cowboys' final FG attempt back

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 20:40

LANDOVER, Md. -- In his 14th season, in the 212th game of his career, Cowboys long snapper L.P. Ladouceur said he handled the snap on a game-tying field goal attempt with three seconds remaining the same as he always has.

But on this Sunday at FedEx Field, officials penalized him for a controversial snap infraction.

The five-yard false start penalty backed the kick up to a 52-yard attempt, which kicker Brett Maher missed, hitting the ball off the left upright. Maher had made 16 straight attempts, including a 55-yarder the previous week and a 47-yard kick earlier Sunday.

The Cowboys' comeback attempt against the Washington Redskins fell short, 20-17.

The NFL tweeted a statement from Al Riveron, the league's senior vice president of officiating, shortly after the game:

"The illegal ball movement by the center causes the defense to come across the neutral zone and contact a lineman."

Redskins defensive lineman Daron Payne jumped as Ladouceur adjusted the ball.

"They told me I was the one responsible for the false start and I did the same exact thing I usually do," Ladouceur, who is rarely in demand after games, told the mass of media around him in the locker room. "I did the exact same thing, the guy just jumped."

Ladouceur said he believes he's allowed to adjust the ball as long as it remains on the ground. He said he did adjust it in this instance.

"I just adjust it down so I can put my hands on the bottom of it so I can snap it in the right direction," he said. "Exact same thing I've been doing for 14 years."

The NFL Rule Book regarding snaps under Rule 7, says "it must be one quick and continuous motion of the hand or hands of the snapper. The ball must leave or be taken from his hands during this motion."

Ladouceur said he was not attempting to draw Washington offside.

Veteran Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford said he was upset about that and other calls Sunday as Dallas racked up eight penalties.

"I didn't think it was called fairly today," Crawford said. "At all."

Tony Dungy, the retired NFL coach and NBC commentator, tweeted that the penalty "was horrible. The snapper followed the same routine and did nothing to draw the Redskins offside. We looked at it over and over."

Maher insisted that the penalty did not cause him to miss the kick, despite making one from 47 yards, the original distance, earlier in the game.

"That penalty had zero impact on the result," he said. "I felt like I was very capable of making that kick, I just didn't get it done. ...

"I felt like I just pulled it a little bit, maybe the wind caught it a little on the way down. Hit the upright and that was the end."

Said Redskins running back Adrian Peterson: "So, the penalty came from a false start. ...You push it back five yards and it's like, he's going to miss it. I remember saying to a few guys, 'He's about to miss this kick.'"

Ladouceur, known for his quiet consistency, is the longest-serving player on the roster.

"It sucks," he said. "Should've been in overtime. We're going home."

Categories: Dallas Sports News

The Cowboys lost to the Redskins before Brett Maher's missed FG try or Dak Prescott's costly fumble

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 20:08

LANDOVER, Md. -- Losing a division battle for first place has to hurt under any circumstances. Imagine how it felt when the Cowboys lost a three-point game at least three different times Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field.

The Cowboys ultimately fell to the Washington Redskins 20-17 when Brett Maher's 52-yard field goal attempt clanged off the left upright. Realistically, they endured the pain of losing when Dak Prescott fumbled in his own end zone, turning a bad play into disaster, as Washington grabbed a 10-point lead with less than five minutes to play.

But in my mind -- and I'm not alone here -- the Cowboys lost this game when they couldn't run the ball, when the NFL's leading rusher became an afterthought between passing plays. Ezekiel Elliott carried 15 times for 33 yards as Adrian Peterson (just four months shy of being 10 years older than Zeke) ran 24 times for 99 yards in the victory that left Washington with a 11/2-game lead over the Cowboys and Eagles, both 3-4.

"This is not the start we wanted," Elliott said. "This is not the start we expected."

But it's the only start the Cowboys have, one that now features an 0-4 record away from home although this loss felt different from those that came before. For one, it was their first division loss. For another thing, it came on the heels of a 40-7 victory over Jacksonville that just had to mean the Cowboys were turning the corner, right?

And then, yes, this was the first time Elliott has been stopped almost dead in his tracks since being held to eight yards in a dreadful 42-17 defeat in Denver last season.

What really makes this feel more final than the previous losses, beyond the simple math as the defeats pile up and up, is the manner in which Washington eliminated Zeke from the game. The perception of the greatness of the Cowboys' offensive line moves closer to myth than reality with each road loss.

Washington has a good defensive front, one that has limited opposing backs' production on the way to a 4-2 record. And against a team as challenged in the passing game as the Cowboys, yes, putting the clamps on Zeke was the top priority.

"He's a great, great player, and it takes all 11 men on defense to get him stopped," Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said. "It was an all-around good tackling effort, but I think we won the line of scrimmage which was key."

It would be hard to view this game as anything other than Washington winning the line on both sides of the ball. When the Cowboys' line wasn't failing to produce holes (Zeke's longest carry was six yards), it was getting flagged in what has become familiar drive-stopping fashion.

"It was an ugly three quarters," guard Zack Martin said. "This game didn't come down to the kick. It came down to what we did for three quarters."

Although the final penalty remains something of a mystery -- the flag on deep snapper L.P. Ladouceur -- the Cowboys had 65 yards in penalties to Washington's 35. A particularly damaging one came on rookie guard Connor Williams, one play before Dak's desperate fumble elevated Washington's lead from three points to 10.

Williams had two penalties for 25 yards while tackles Tyron Smith (who continues to struggle against speed) and La'el Collins each had one for 10.

Prescott was sacked four times, raising his season total to 23. He's approaching his 16-game rookie total (25) and not far removed from last year's 32 which, of course, included the infamous eight-sack game in Atlanta. And the Cowboys won't hit the season's halfway mark until they host Tennessee Nov. 5.

Those sack numbers won't slow down if the Cowboys can't do a better job of springing Elliott than they did Sunday. "They did a good job of [stopping Zeke]," Prescott said. "We had to do what we could in the passing game to give our team a chance."

It was a hell of a chance as the Cowboys played fast and furious in the final four minutes. Should they have gone for the win with 12 seconds left, one shot at the end zone from the Redskins' 31?

Probably. But that's more of a missed shot at a Hail Mary by coach Jason Garrett than a likely win-crushing mistake.

The Cowboys have found four ways to lose games at Carolina, Seattle, Houston and Washington this season. Sunday's was the worst, and if the failed running game was any kind of indicator of the future, this team has no reason to think a bye week and all the self-examination in the world will fix things.

"They thought they were going to come in here and run the ball down our throats," cornerback Josh Norman said. "They were trying to move guys out of the way, and they couldn't do anything about it."

Bad sign

Ezekiel Elliott's 33 yards rushing were his lowest total since rushing for eight yards at Denver in Week 2 of the 2017 season. It's the fifth time he's been held below 75 yards rushing in his career, and the Cowboys lost all five of those games:

Yards Carries Opponent Date Result 8 9 at Denver Sept. 17, 2017 L, 42-17 33 15 at Washington Oct. 21, 2018 L, 20-17 54 20 at Houston Oct. 7, 2018 L, 19-16 51 20 NY Giants Sept. 11, 2016 L, 20-19 69 15 at Carolina Sept. 9, 2018 L, 16-8

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Big 12 evaluation: What could derail a Texas-Oklahoma rematch? Plus the biggest surprises, games to circle and more

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 18:56

In case you were wondering, the Big 12 still has a viable path for the College Football Playoff, one that became more clear with Purdue's upset of Ohio State.

A once-beaten Big 12 champion emerging Dec. 1 from AT&T Stadium seems like a good bet for the CFP. Could things go wrong? You bet -- because this is the Big 12.

For the moment, the remaining Big 12 schedule carries equal amounts of suspense.

Here are some takeaways and look aheads of the Big 12 season, in kind of a delayed-halftime report, fuzzy-math division:

Red River Showdown II

This year's Red River Showdown was so epic and so memorable -- with Texas winning on a last-second field goal -- why not play it again? It's possible, if not probable, with the championship game at AT&T Stadium. No. 6 Texas is the only undefeated team in Big 12 play and headed Saturday to Oklahoma State. The No. 8 Sooners looked a lot like the team that has won three straight Big 12 titles, beating TCU on the road 52-27.

What could mess it up?

It's not a given. Texas and Oklahoma each have to play at Texas Tech, which has title game hopes of its own. It's a good bet that one -- if not both -- of the games could be at night in Lubbock. Uh oh. Don't forget about one-loss West Virginia, despite the Mountaineers taking it on the chin at Iowa State. With games remaining against Texas and Oklahoma --the latter in Morgantown -- West Virginia could reset the board.

Top Heisman candidate

Will Grier was supposed to be the best hope from the Big 12. The West Virginia quarterback is still impressive, but Oklahoma's Kyler Murray has done the near-impossible by picking up where Baker Mayfield left off and adding an electric run dimension in the process. He's probably one of your Heisman finalists and if somehow Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa stumbles ...

Biggest surprise (up arrow)

By now, websites everywhere were supposed to be chockful of possible replacements for Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech. Instead the Red Raiders are 5-2, one win away from bowl eligibility with a young roster and could make additional noise in the Big 12. It's not a great season yet on the South Plains but it's a fun one.

Biggest surprise (down arrow)

Even with some key losses on defense and a graduation-ravaged offensive line, people expected TCU to keep churning out 10-win seasons like clockwork. At 3-4, the Horned Frogs are struggling for bowl eligibility and are facing a potential quarterback controversy between Shawn Robinson and Michael Collins. "I'm not going to talk about it," coach Gary Patterson said Saturday. "You write what you want."

Team you're glad
you played early

That would be Iowa State, where the combination of a real defense and freshman quarterback Brock Purdy make the Cyclones really, really dangerous down the stretch.

Where'd the offense go?

OK, the Big 12 can still produce eye-catching scores. But two weeks ago, it also produced finals like Texas Tech's 17-14 win over TCU. While the Big 12 has three teams among the top 12 in FBS total offense, a few years ago, it might have been double that. Defenses are catching up, especially with what Iowa State and Texas have done the last couple of years. "It's a cyclical game, and I think you're seeing defenses make adjustments, slowing the game down," Kingsbury said on a recent Big 12 teleconference

Games to circle

Nov. 3: Oklahoma at Texas Tech. Red Raiders have lost six straight to OU.
Nov. 3: West Virginia at Texas. Potentially biggest home game for Texas since ...
Nov. 10: Texas at Texas Tech. The 10-year anniversary of another pretty big game in Lubbock.
Nov. 23: Oklahoma at West Virginia. Winner gets a ticket to the title game?
Nov. 24: Baylor vs. Texas Tech. The final game for now at AT&T Stadium and maybe bowl eligibility on the line for Baylor.

Categories: Dallas Sports News

5 thoughts from Cowboys' loss to Redskins: Who's ready for another 8-8 season in Dallas?

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 17:48

LANDOVER, MD. -- The Cowboys have a bye next weekend. This will be a tough one to think about for the next 15 days. They didn't play very well across the board, but like the game in Houston, there were opportunities to possibly steal a win late.

Here are my thoughts on Dallas coming up short in the final seconds Sunday at FedEx Field, falling to Washington 20-17:

1. What is a snap infraction? I couldn't see much from my seat in the press box. It was ruled that Cowboys long snapper L.P. Ladouceur illegally moved the ball before snapping it on the game-tying field goal attempt. Dallas received a 5-yard penalty. The worst part for the Cowboys is that Brett Maher's kick would have been good from 47 yards. Instead, it was moved back to 52. It hooked at the last second. A matter of inches separated the Cowboys from overtime and a 3-4 record.

"They told me I was the one responsible for the false start and I did the same exact thing I usually do," Ladouceur said. "I just adjust it down so I can put my hands on the bottom of it so I can snap it in the right direction. Exact same thing I've been doing for 14 years."

2. Who's ready for another 8-8 season? That's where the Cowboys appear to be headed considering how they continue to play on the road, particularly on offense. Hard to believe this is the same team that looked so dominant against Jacksonville. Maybe it's the road. Maybe the Cowboys really just are a .500 team. They had a great opportunity Sunday, a chance for first place in the division. Washington left the door open for a while. Dallas never capitalized. Not taking a shot for the end zone in the final seconds left me scratching my head. The Cowboys had a ton of momentum. Seems like it was worth at least one attempt at winning the game in regulation.

"The biggest thing after we got ourselves into field-goal range was to try to clock the ball and preserve that last timeout," head coach Jason Garrett said. "I think we were able to get it clocked at 12 seconds. Once we got to that point, the biggest thing we wanted to do was maximize the field goal opportunity and run the ball, make some yards, use the timeout and then kick the game-tying field goal."

3. Dak Prescott made the costly error late, fumbling in the end zone. He didn't play his best game. But his toughness should be recognized. He took a big hit early and looked like he might be done for the day. He was evaluated for a concussion and was cleared. Prescott came back and made some nice throws when he was given time. The Michael Gallup touchdown was the best example. Prescott also had the impressive touchdown dive late in the fourth quarter to pull the Cowboys within three. His throw to Cole Beasley in the final minute was one of his best, getting them in field-goal range.

"We got a great team," Prescott said. "We got great guys in that locker room that all support each other. I've been part of some good teams since I've been playing the game of football and this team is special. Our heads aren't down."

4. Ezekiel Elliott never had a chance. The Cowboys are in trouble when they can't get their run game going. Washington was great again at limiting teams in that department. Through six games, the Redskins have not allowed a run longer than 18 yards. Elliott was held to 34 yards on 15 carries Sunday. If you told me that's what he'd finish with, I would have predicted an easy Washington victory. The Redskins defensive line looks like it's going to be a problem for a while. Basically all of the Cowboys offensive linemen not named Zack Martin had trouble with that group most of the day.

"This is not the start we wanted," Elliott said. "This is not the start we expected. Going into the bye week we got to figure things out so we can finish this season right."

5. Red-zone defense. The Cowboys again saved some of their biggest stops for the red zone, holding Washington to field goals instead of touchdowns in the second half. Some of the key plays: Byron Jones' big stop to keep Adrian Peterson out of the end zone early in the third quarter. David Irving coming up big on the next possession, sacking Alex Smith. The big run stop on Peterson for a loss of two yards by DeMarcus Lawrence. It wasn't in the red zone, but Sean Lee's tackle of Smith on third down on Washington's last possession gave the Cowboys a chance. The defense again held up their end, giving the offense an opportunity to pull out a win late.

"We have to do better on offense," Elliott said. "We got to help this defense out. This defense is playing as good as any other defense in the league, probably the best defense in the league. And we're not giving them any help. We haven't given them any help on the road."

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Through 2 games, Mavs have shown the good, bad and inconsistency of a talented young team

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 15:06

Well, that didn't take long.

In the span of two games, the Mavericks have exposed themselves. Young, with some talent. Old, with some injuries.

Edgy and gritty. Except when they're not.

In other words, very inconsistent in the frightfully small sample size that is two NBA games.

We've seen the good in the home-opening 140-136 win over Minnesota and the bad in the 121-100 loss at Phoenix.

If this is what we have to look forward to for the next 80 games, it's going to be choppier than any ride you've had at 38,000 feet.

Coach Rick Carlisle has said it's up to the staff to whip this crew into some sort of consistency. It would be nice for everybody if it's the sort of consistency that produced three solid quarters of basketball Saturday. After giving up an absurd 46 points in the first quarter to the Wolves, they allowed "only" 90 in the last three quarters.

So far this season, that qualifies as handcuff defense.

"We played with a little more edge, a little more pride, but again, we can't get down like that," said Wesley Matthews, who bristles about the fact that the Mavericks have surrendered an average of 128.5 points in the first two games. "As soon as our defense shows up, we'll be a tough team.

"Offense is not going to be one of our issues."

Luka Doncic, Dennis Smith Jr. and, perhaps starting Monday night, Harrison Barnes, will make sure of that. The Mavericks have playmakers to burn, including new center DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Powell, J.J. Barea and others off the bench.

As they say, growing some teeth and backbone are going to be the critical factors that will turn this group into a relevant threat in the Western Conference. If they play with the passion that was on display for the last three quarters Saturday, this team will deliver the goods.

And by that, we mean entertainment value and a fair amount of victories.

Part of this equation rests with Carlisle, of course. He has to make decisions that often do not sit well with some of his players.

You could tell when he yanked Smith in the first quarter Saturday that the second-year point guard was not thrilled.

"After the bad start, all the starters got pulled, and they weren't happy about it," Carlisle said. "They wanted to stay in there. But Dennis bounced back and made plays that were the decisive, winning plays in the game.

"And that's what character is. Luka, after a disappointing start, got himself into the game with aggression and was making plays at both ends. We had some guys play great."

That helps, too, of course.

Two other things have become clear in the first week of the season.

First, the Mavericks are going to rely on at least 10 players, and sometimes more than that, per game. They played a dozen in the opener and 10 contributed in the win over Minnesota.

"Everything is on the table," Carlisle said. "When you're missing guys like Barnes and Dirk [Nowitzki], you become a sum-of-the-parts-type team. Everybody can bring something positive to our game. We've got to be ready to pull the trigger on getting them in there if there's a need."

Second, watching Smith and Doncic build chemistry is going to be fascinating. Even those on the outside can see the potential.

"Terrific talents," Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. "They have bright futures. They're basketball players. And that's sort of the way the league is going. They have terrific young talent coming through the pipeline -- Jalen Brunson as well."

World according to Wesley: Matthews had an interesting take on the ridiculous league-wide scoring binge early in the season.

"I know it's good for viewing," he said. "But we've got to be able to stop somebody. It's only entertaining if you win. Otherwise, it's a hell of a film session when you lose."

Matthews was less concerned with his 3-of-15 shooting, which is where he stood before making the final four shots he took Saturday.

"Shooters shoot," he said. "Shoot to get hot. Shoot to stay hot. Short-term memory. If I miss, I think it's the rim's fault, not mine."

Twitter: @ESefko

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Riding 5-game goal streak in AHL, Stars prospect Denis Gurianov builds on strong preseason

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 14:46

CEDAR PARK -- Wrapped in a 21-year-old, 6-3 package, Denis Gurianov has been a puzzle for the Stars organization. Through first-round expectations and AHL playoff scratches, the speedy Russian winger oscillated between future top-six winger and draft day bust.

But through the first seven games of the season for AHL affiliate Texas, Gurianov is flashing the potential the organization saw when they selected him 12th in the 2015 draft. Including a power-play goal during Saturday night's 3-1 win over the Iowa Wild, Gurianov has scored in five straight games. Only three AHL players have more goals than Gurianov's five.

"I just think his preparation and his care, I think it's starting to grow his game of who he is," Texas coach Derek Laxdal said. "I feel he's going to be an NHLer in due time. He's taken steps to get there. He shoots the puck like an NHLer. He passes the puck like an NHLer. It's just about stringing shift to shift together, now stringing games. That's what he's doing."

Gurianov's improvement is a far cry from where he was at the end of last season, when he was a healthy scratch in the Calder Cup final. He finished the regular season with 19 goals and 15 assists in 74 games, but chipped in only two goals in 16 playoff games.

This season is Gurianov's third with Texas, and he's been called up to Dallas for one game, in 2016-17.

"It's my third year, so of course every year I feel more comfortable here," Gurianov said. "Also, just trying to do my best, listen to coach, listen to guys, just try to play hard every game. Trying to be better every game, every practice."

The hot start also comes after a strong training camp for Gurianov, who was one of the last forwards assigned to the AHL. During Dallas' preseason, Gurianov assembled an impressive resume:

--Two goals during the intrasquad scrimmage in Boise.
--Screened the goaltender on Miro Heiskanen's goal in Minnesota.
--Assisted on Justin Dowling's winning goal in Minnesota.
--Scored a goal against Florida in Tulsa.

In Texas, Gurianov has found a spot on the top line with Dowling at center and Michael Mersch on the right wing.

"He's been doing it since training camp," Mersch said. "He's carried it into the regular season here. He obviously has a lot of speed, when he's using it, he's really effective, and everything else just comes naturally."

Dowling said: "You can tell this year he's finally getting a little more comfortable and accepting his role that he's going to have to be a scorer on this team for us to be successful. He's been dynamite for us. ... Denis, with his speed, just get him the puck anywhere with time and space, and he's going to make something happen."

Gurianov's worth will probably be determined with his ability to score goals. But Laxdal said his overall game has improved because of added maturity in his game.

"He's been one of our best back-checkers, not only on the offensive side, but pushing the puck, recovering pucks, getting above pucks, having a strong stick," Laxdal said. "He's been outstanding. With that effort, we're going to start to use him on the penalty kill moving forward here, start to reward him with some more ice time. He's playing very well, and he's growing. He's a young 21-year-old, and he's matured. Seems like he's taking a little bit more care of being first on the puck and battling for pucks."

In the NHL, the Stars have an open roster spot after assigning center Roope Hintz to Texas on Saturday morning. Dallas coach Jim Montgomery said the team could bring a player up from the AHL, but it hadn't been determined yet. Currently, Dallas has 13 forwards on their roster, but Alexander Radulov and Valeri Nichushkin are battling lower-body injuries.

Montgomery said he keeps track of the AHL team and talks with Laxdal and assistant general manager Scott White about "who's playing well, who's on top of their game."

"I know Scott White has said [Gurianov's] playing well," Montgomery said. "He's playing the right way. I think they think that his confidence has grown because of it."

Laxdal said they have seen glimpses of this Gurianov. Despite opening last year without goals in the first 16 games, Gurianov showed it at times last year. When he returned from the World Junior Championships in the 2016-17 season, Laxdal said they saw it.

"Now, he's got the confidence," Laxdal said. "He's got the know-how, and he's got the demeanor to keep on pushing. The next step is playing in the National Hockey League."

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Best in Texas poll (Week 8): Idle Texas and Texas A&M still on top; Baylor and TCU continue to battle for No. 4 spot

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 14:24

With three of the area's top five school off during Week 8, there was very little movement in our weekly Best in Texas rankings.

Like the previous week, there was a consensus top three at the top of everyone's ballot: Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

And like the previous week, the most contentious battle came between rivals TCU and Baylor for the No. 4 spot. Idle Baylor ended up extending its lead over TCU for the No. 4 spot from a 101-99 margin to 101-97 margin. That's more a product of Houston improving in the eyes of some voters than anything else (like TCU's fourth loss of the season, which came against Oklahoma) -- the 6-1 Cougars posted another impressive win in Week 8 and now holds a share of the state's best record with Texas, thanks to North Texas' loss to UAB. The Cougars went from 84 voting points last week to 90 in this week's poll and could start breathing down the backs of some Big 12 schools if they continue winning.

With all Power 5 schools having taken their bye weeks already, there should be plenty of action over the final five weeks of the regular season.Week 9's slate includes Baylor-West Virginia, Texas-Oklahoma State, Texas A&M-Mississippi State, SMU-Cincinnati, Texas Tech-Iowa State and South Florida-Houston.

Here is this week's full poll:

[Previous installments: Week 7 poll | Week 6 poll | Week 5 poll | Week 4 poll | Week 3 poll | Week 2 poll | Week 1 poll | Preseason poll]

Full standings

1. Texas: 144 (12 first-place votes)
2. Texas A&M: 132
3. Texas Tech: 120
4. Baylor: 101
5. TCU: 97
6. Houston: 90
7. North Texas: 72
8. SMU: 60
9. UTSA: 48
10. Texas State: 36
11. Rice: 24
12. UTEP: 12

Best in Texas panelists (click names to view their Twitter accounts): Ben Baby, Scott Bell, Chuck Carlton, Trenton Daeschner, Spenser Davis, Reece Graham, EJ Holland, Selby Lopez, Alex Miller, Jose Rodriguez, Kevin Sherrington, Brett Vito.

---

1. Texas (6-1)

The only undefeated team in Big 12 play, Texas travels Saturday to Oklahoma St. After ending a 12-year losing streak in 2010, Cowboys are 6-2 vs Texas this decade. (Chuck Carlton)

2. Texas A&M (5-2)

Texas A&M used its bye week to shore up lingering issues, particularly finishing drives on offense. Now the Aggies travel to face a struggling Mississippi State squad. (Alex Miller)

3. Texas Tech (5-2)

Alan Bowman is back and just in time for the toughest stretch of the Red Raiders' schedule. Their next three are against Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas, with the latter two at home. (Selby Lopez)

4. Baylor (4-3)

Coming off the bye week, the Bears will face West Virginia on the road. A win would get Baylor one step closer to bowl eligibility and take a lot of pressure off the four remaining games. (Selby Lopez)

5. TCU (3-4)

The Frogs played better than they did in their previous two games but couldn't overcome Oklahoma. Getting back to .500 seems doable next week at Kansas. (Reece Graham)

6. Houston (6-1)

After a fourth straight double-digit victory, Houston shifts its focus to South Florida, the lone ranked team on its schedule. A win could get the Cougars in the top 25. (Scott Bell)

7. North Texas (6-2)

UNT fell 29-21 at UAB and might have lost any chance it had of repeating as C-USA West Division champs after falling to 2-2 in the league play. The Blazers are 4-0. (Brett Vito)

8. SMU (3-4)

SMU's win over Tulane wasn't pretty, but it did effectively keep the Mustangs' bowl chances alive. SMU now preps to host Cincinnati and Houston, who are a combined 12-2 this season. (Reece Graham)

9. UTSA (3-5)

After two straight losses, the Roadrunners suddenly have an uphill climb to bowl eligibility. They must win three of their final four to get there. Next up: At UAB after a Week 9 bye. (Spenser Davis)

10. Texas State (1-6)

The Bobcats changed offensive coordinators but couldn't find a way past Louisiana-Monroe. TXST is the only team winless in Sun Belt play. (Ben Baby)

11. Rice (1-7)

The Owls dropped their seventh straight game, losing 36-17 at FIU. Rice has been outscored 138-42 in C-USA play heading into a matchup at North Texas. (Jose Rodriguez)

12. UTEP (0-7)

UTEP got within striking distance but ultimately suffered its 19th straight loss at the hands of Louisiana Tech. Next up is a red hot UAB team as the Miners look to put an end to their skid. (EJ Holland)

Categories: Dallas Sports News

'There's missiles flying everywhere:' Mavericks' Rick Carlisle, Mark Cuban say 'amped up' NBA scores are here to stay

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sat, 10/20/2018 - 20:13

Even before their team went out Saturday night and surrendered a franchise-record 46 first-quarter points to the Jimmy Butler-less Minnesota Timberwolves, of all teams, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle had a message for all NBA fans.

Get used to these video-game-like scores that so far have characterized this season.

Mavericks 140, Timberwolves 136 on Saturday night at American Airlines Center merely was the latest example of what Carlisle proclaimed "a new age of basketball." The first six days of the 2018-19 NBA season produced a plethora of scores that remind longtime basketball fans of the wide-open, 3-point shootin', red-white-and-blue ball American Basketball Association.

The Mavericks attempted a franchise-record 50 3-pointers on Saturday, making 17. Sure, they allowed those franchise-record 46 first-quarter points, but, hey, they scored 43 in the final period.

"You're going to see all kinds of records set," Cuban said. "Because more shots mean more rebounds; you'll see records on rebounds. You'll see records on assists as all these scores go up. You'll see all-time lows on defense."

Through 39 games league-wide entering Monday's play, NBA teams are averaging 113.3 points. Yes, this is a small sample size, but if the pace continues it would be the ninth-highest scoring average in NBA history and the highest since the 1969-1970 season.

Never mind the early average, though. It's the scores of numerous early-season games that have been eye-opening:

New Orleans 149, Sacramento 129.

New Orleans 131, Houston 119.

Memphis 131, Atlanta 117

Golden State 124, Utah 123.

The Knicks scoring 126 points in their season opener.

"I'm sure Dick Harter is turning over in his grave right now," said Carlisle, referring to the coach who, as a New York assistant from 1991 to 1994, oversaw the defensive scheme that in many respects characterized that NBA era. "The days of games in the 80s are probably done. Everything is spread out, there's freedom of movement, there's four attackers and often-times five 3-point shooters, and there's missiles flying everywhere."

In some respects, former Mavericks coach Dick Motta started the trend of firing up 3-pointers when, late in a lost 1995-96 season, he ordered his players to fire up as many treys as possible. Don Nelson encouraged his early 2000s Mavericks to fire up threes, then Phoenix took it to another level and in the recent seasons Golden State and Houston have gone even more higher-octane.

The 50 3-pointers attempted by Dallas on Saturday broke the previous franchise record of 49, set by that Motta-coached team against New Jersey on March 5, 1996. On that night the Mavericks made 18 treys. On Saturday they made 17, for 34-percent.

"It's a systematic thing," Carlisle said. "You have to keep getting the good ones. That's where the money is. It is such a potent weapon that the good threes are a must."

Carlisle, noting that with teams are playing at a faster pace and with more shooters on the court, predicted: "It's gonna speed up before it slows down. That's been the reality the last few years. Now you have a lot of the centers that are shooting threes. It's an amped up game. It's exciting."

For fans, certainly, but not always for coaches. Carlisle watched his Mavericks allow 37 first-quarter points in Wednesday's season-opening 121-100 loss at Phoenix.

The 46 first-quarter points that Minnesota scored on Saturday broke the previous first-period high by a Mavericks opponent, 45, at Utah on Jan. 17, 1986.

"Yeah, because it's all threes and layups, and teams haven't figured out how to defend it yet," Cuban said. "And when teams start off with fresh legs and hot and making threes, you're going to score a lot of points.

"The challenge, the unknown, is 'How do you defend it?' " Cuban added. "Because it's not only guys shooting more 3s, they're shooting them deeper. And by shooting them deeper, you have to come out. And when you come out, you open up the court, and that opens up more cuts and more opportunities."

Before Saturday's game, Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said that NBA referees' mandated "education point," namely calling fouls of defenders who impede offensive players' movement on the perimeter and inside, is playing a significant role in the higher scores.

Indeed, 69 fouls were called on Saturday, with Dallas and Minnesota combining for 74 free-throw attempts.

"The points of emphasis, or I should say education, right now, I think everyone's adjusting," Thibodeau said. "But you have to be smart. We've seen a lot of free throws across the league which I think is probably slowing the game down."

Slowing down the time it takes to play games, yes, but not the numbers on the scoreboard. By halftime Saturday the Mavs had pulled into a 69-69 tie.

Cuban told The News that he has no doubt that the Mavericks, when healthy, will have enough firepower to compete in the new-world NBA, but there will be growing pains.

"This is going to be our biggest adjustment: We let our guys shoot a lot of mid-range twos last year and that's got to stop," Cuban said. "And so you'll see us, don't be surprised if the coaches yank a guy out of the game for shooting a mid-range, unless their name is Dirk [Nowitzki] and maybe Harrison [Barnes], for the obvious reasons of the math."

Meanwhile, we're going to see a lot more scoring, throughout the NBA. Will fans like it, or complain about lack of defense?

"It'll seem a little cheesy, I think at some point, when it happens a lot," Cuban said. "But it's going to be interesting because for every action there's a reaction. So the question becomes, 'How do you defend against it? And what kind of players do you get to defend against it?'

"And if they go too far in one direction, how do you counteract that. It's just a game of chess.

"And plus you're probably going to have all-time low scores, too, because if you're not making 3s and you're 1-for-76, you're going to score 53 points."

Categories: Dallas Sports News