With a little help from the Kansas City Royals’ aggressive brand of opportunism, the New York Mets committed a variety of blunders en route to losing the World Series. But the one that might haunt the team most in the wake of its season-ending 7-2 loss Sunday was the acquiescence of manager Terry Collins to the demand of starting pitcher Matt Harvey to remain on the mound for the ninth inning with a 2-0 lead.Up to that point, Harvey had spun a gem of a game — eight innings of shutout ball with nine strikeouts — under pressure-packed circumstances. But he’d also thrown 101 pitches and was navigating his way through the heart of the Royals’ lineup for a dangerous fourth time. Meanwhile, Mets closer Jeurys Familia had been warming up and was about to enter the game… before Collins changed his mind after Harvey lobbied to stay in. (Harvey could be seen in the dugout shouting “no way” at the idea of being replaced.)Three batters later, Harvey had already given up one run and put the eventual tying run on base, effectively giving New York its own version of Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez on the hill in the 2003 ALCS. But how much did it really cost the Mets at each step of the way?Under normal circumstances,1As per wOBA, computed using Baseball-Reference’s Marcel projections and using the MLB average to determine the expected runs per plate appearance in a theoretical matchup between Harvey and hitters No. 3-7 in KC’s lineup. the heart of the Kansas City order would score about 0.36 runs per inning against Harvey, giving the team a corresponding 9 percent probability of scoring at least the two runs required to tie the game. But all else being equal, pitchers going through the order a fourth time see about a 7.5 percent increase to their runs allowed per inning — meaning there was more like a 10 percent chance that the Royals would score two or more runs against Harvey at that stage of the game.Meanwhile, the same Royals batters would have been expected to score about 0.35 runs per inning against a fresh Familia, which corresponds to a 9 percent probability of plating two or more runs. A difference of 1 percentage point may not sound like much, but the start of the ninth inning is already a medium-leverage situation before a pitch is thrown, so even small changes to the probability of getting out of the inning without relinquishing the lead (and therefore winning the game) are amplified.Of course, Collins arguably made a bigger mistake when he declined to pull Harvey even after Harvey allowed a leadoff walk to Lorenzo Cain. With a tired Harvey in the game, the odds of allowing two or more runs in the inning climbed to 19 percent, as opposed to the 17 percent it would have been against Familia in the same situation. (And after Cain stole second base, those numbers became 20 percent and 18 percent.)Again, the odds were still good that the Mets would be able to record three outs before the Royals scored two runs. Eric Hosmer’s subsequent double would have been an unexpected event whether he hit it off Harvey or Familia — it was the game’s most important play in terms of win probability added — and even after that, the Royals still needed Hosmer’s remarkable heads-up baserunning (and a bad throw by Lucas Duda) to tie the ballgame and force extra innings.So it’s unfair to criticize Collins too much for leaving Harvey on the mound to start the ninth inning. But in a must-win game where every small edge matters, that fateful decision definitely shaved a few percentage points off of New York’s chances of sending the Series back to Kansas City.CORRECTION, Nov. 2, 3:15 p.m.: An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the difference in the probability of the Royals scoring two runs in the ninth if Harvey had been replaced by Familia at the top of the inning. The difference is 1 percentage point, not 1 percent. In addition, the article incorrectly referred to Duda’s throw to home as an error. Although the throw was wide of its mark, it was not officially scored as an error.
DEFENDEREXPECTEDACTUALDIFF.DIFF. PER GAME Hassan Whiteside885764-121-1.57 Gilbert ArenasRonnie Brewer Elton BrandRasheed Wallace Chris WebberMike Miller POINTS AGAINST DEFENDER Since 1980, all players who were traded in the first three years of their career, younger than 23, and ranked in the top 100 of Win Shares through their first two seasons. Kristaps Porzingis812691-121-1.84 Giannis Antetokounmpo811706-105-1.32 Regular season 2016-17. “Expected” value is what a shooter would make against an average defender.Source: NBA Andre Roberson871758-113-1.43 New York is not a place where hope lives long.On the eve of the 2017 NBA Draft, Knicks president Phil Jackson appeared on the team’s MSG Network to explain why the team was entertaining trade offers for Kristaps Porzingis, the best young prospect the franchise has seen since Patrick Ewing. Not that there are many contenders for that particular throne. And while Knicks fans understandably don’t extend much benefit of the doubt to Jackson and the front office, trading a player like Porzingis is practically unheard of, especially for the reasons that the Knicks are considering trading him.Tension between Porzingis and the Knicks rose following a missed exit interview following the season; Porzingis’s brother has acted as an intermediary since. But the rift goes all the way back to the 2015 draft, when Jackson reportedly preferred Duke center Jahlil Okafor for, let’s say unconventional reasons. Following the season, Jackson expressed concerns about Porzingis’s ability to stand up to a full season’s schedule, and bizarrely complimented him for going a full game without taking a 3-pointer. Jackson has openly antagonized star Carmelo Anthony for months, which frustrated Porzingis, who sees Anthony as a mentor. And with the team president in open war with his two best players, the Knicks have held pre-draft workouts accentuating the Triangle offense — a system neither quite fits, and which likely precludes the Knicks’ selecting top prospects such as De’Aaron Fox.According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Knicks, who currently hold the No. 8 pick, have been in touch with every team that has a top-5 pick, and are looking for one of those picks in addition to a talented young star. For instance, Ian Begley reports that potential Phoenix deals include Dragan Bender or Marquese Chriss along with the No. 4 pick. But even in the best case scenario, the sort of young player the Knicks could get from the teams in the top five accentuates the trouble with trading a player like Porzingis.Prospects like Chriss or Julius Randle of the Lakers or even Jaylen Brown on the Celtics all have potential, but it’s uncertain whether they’ll fulfill it and become playoff-caliber starters. And that uncertainty goes double for whomever the Knicks draft, whether it’s Jackson’s reported favorite, Kansas’s Josh Jackson, or the big man the team has reportedly eyed as a Porzingis replacement, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen. Porzingis has room to improve as well, but fulfilling potential is much less in doubt — he’s already incredibly valuable on the floor. Rudy Gobert1078903-175-2.16 Draymond Green1066866-200-2.64 Anthony Davis839700-139-1.86 LaMarcus Aldridge706596-110-1.53 Dealing a young player who has made an immediate impact is exceedingly rare. Next to this paragraph is a list of every player since 1980 who was traded in the first three years of his career, despite being 22 or younger (Porzingis is 21) and ranked in the top 100 of Win Shares through his first two seasons.Win Shares aren’t an absolute measure of a player’s worth — Porzingis trails the marks set by fringe NBA players such as Josh Childress and Nenad Kristic through two years — but they’re good enough to give us a broad peer group. For the most part, a team only parts with a promising young player when its hand is forced either by the salary cap or by the player himself.Webber, for instance, had negotiated an opt-out into his rookie deal, and forced a trade due to disagreement with coach Don Nelson. Elton Brand, traded after his second season, was a flight risk at a time before restricted free agency gave home teams an advantage in retaining players. As one of the most valuable rookies ever drafted, Kevin Johnson was traded by the Cavaliers — the worst franchise of the decade — as part of a lopsided deal for Larry Nance and Mike Sanders. Arenas was a second-round pick and restricted free agent. He flipped a coin to decide where to sign; the coin came up Washington and spawned a new rule. You know about James Harden.Under slightly different circumstances, Jackson would have the right idea. The Knicks have needs at virtually every position; talent-poor teams are supposed to roll large assets into smaller ones in the hopes of turning one potential star into two or three starters. But Porzingis isn’t just a prospect. He’s the sort of concrete asset that teams like the Knicks should be turning their organization inside-out to make happy.Porzingis’s offensive numbers flattened out in his sophomore season, which may seem like reason for concern. But underneath modest gains to his overall shooting percentage, Porzingis made improvements in key areas. He scored much better around the rim, improving from 57.6 to 70.1 percent on shots from 0 to 3 feet, and from midrange, improving from 40.5 to 48.2 percent from 10 to 16 feet. This was offset by a nosedive on his percentage on long 2s, but he also took fewer of those shots in his second season in favor of more 3-pointers as he adjusted to the NBA 3-point line. Still, he was a good but not exceptional offensive player in a year when fellow young, big stars Karl-Anthony Towns and (especially) Nikola Jokic had breakout seasons.But while Porzingis has untapped potential on offense, he’s already one of the best defensive players in the league. Here’s a chart showing the defenders who affected opponents’ shot value the most in the regular season1These values are based on the NBA’s player-tracking data, which covers shot location, defender location and other variables. The “expected” value is what a shooter would make against an average defender given shot distance and the time on the shot clock, and the actual value is the result that the listed defender allowed.: Brevin KnightKevin Johnson Hedo TurkogluStephon Marbury Alonzo MourningJoe Smith Jason KiddWayman Tisdale James HardenTerry Cummings Though he isn’t as well known for his defense as peers on this list, his production stands alongside that of some of the best defensive players in the league. Meanwhile, Towns was ranked 79th, and Jokic was 479th out of 485. In an environment where teams are increasingly packing a few specialized skills into their big men, Porzingis’s ability to protect the rim, score inside and stretch the floor make him ready to contribute to a contending team right now, today, even if he isn’t quite ready to carry an offense.In sum, Porzingis’s production outpaces his hype. That makes his place on the trading block something familiar to Knicks fans: a reality even more nightmarish than advertised.VIDEO: Why the No. 1 pick is such a valuable crapshoot The small list of young, good players who were traded Which defenders hampered opponents’ shooting the most? Carlos BoozerMichael Beasley Myles Turner1014890-124-1.53
In a typical year, the NBA’s All-Star break offers the league’s most dysfunctional contenders a chance to reset, take inventory and right what ails them heading into the final stretch before the playoffs. This season, thanks to Cleveland’s moves at the trade deadline, the post-All-Star watch likely will fall to the Oklahoma City Thunder and how it weathers the loss of Andre Roberson, the beating heart of its defense.After an offseason that included acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to combine with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, the Thunder expected to compete at the highest levels. It hasn’t worked out that way. The team is 33-26 at the break and has lost six of its last nine games. There are all manner of reasons for this, from the obvious difficulties of integrating three high-usage stars to the decline of key players on an already-thin squad. (Offseason acquisition Patrick Patterson, who was a reliable stretch 4 for years in Toronto, has disappointed and tanked the offense while he’s been on the court.) Despite all that, the team seemed to have figured something out by January, when it ran off eight straight wins on the strength of its defense and a newly thriving offense. But late in that stretch, Roberson went down with a ruptured patellar tendon. He was lost for the season, and the Thunder had a whole new sort of crisis.Roberson is a singular player in the NBA. He is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, and at 6-foot-7, he has the size and quickness to guard four positions. Roberson’s effect on the Thunder defense is tremendous. He can switch practically any matchup, cover opposing stars and not only challenge their shots but also dissuade them from even attempting them. His defensive Real Plus-Minus — a stat that heavily favors big men — ranks fourth in the league. Overall, the defense was 12.5 points worse per 100 possessions when he left the floor. His effect doesn’t grade out at quite the same level of Golden State’s Draymond Green or Utah’s Rudy Gobert, but he just about maximizes the impact a perimeter defender can have on a game.Or as Westbrook put it: “I think people outside our building, people across the world always complained about different things Andre didn’t do instead of embracing all the great things he did do. I’ve always embraced Andre and I was always very, very happy he was on my team because of things he did on both sides of the ball. Setting screens, cutting, running the floor. A lot of things that you can’t teach.”Those “things Andre didn’t do,” of course, refer to Roberson being one of the worst regular offensive players in the league. Roberson is a notoriously inept and unwilling shooter. He is shooting 22 percent from the 3-point line this season on a diet of wide-open shots the opposing defense is thrilled to see him take. And yet, his overall effect on the offense doesn’t seem to have been as dire as advertised.Since Roberson went out, Oklahoma City’s defensive rating has been 112.3, which would rank 27th in the league, ahead of only the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns. That’s extreme though not unexpected with Roberson no longer there to cover for weaker defenders like Westbrook or Anthony. But here’s the kick in the head: The team’s offensive ratings has barely budged despite losing one of the worst offensive players in the league, going from 110.9 before Roberson’s injury to 111.8 after it. This is much harder to explain.Roberson didn’t simply deprive his offense of a player who could do a better job of shooting, passing or dribbling. He shrank the court, allowing defenders to roam guilt-free, to harass ballhandlers and make life difficult for anyone establishing post position or running around off-ball screens.So clearly the team would be expected to show more improvement than it has in his absence. But while the overall offense has been flat, the individual stars have thrived with Roberson out. With Roberson on the floor, the Thunder pick and roll barely worked at all, producing just 87 points per 100 chances, according to data from Second Spectrum. It didn’t much matter if it was Westbrook handling the ball (90 points per 100 chances), George (73), Raymond Felton (91) or Carmelo Anthony (94). Without Roberson there, the team’s pick-and-roll points jump to 95. Westbrook and George see especially large jumps without Roberson, landing at 100 and 91 points per 100 chances created on the pick and roll, respectively.It gets stranger: George produced only 77 points per 100 chances on drives with Roberson on the floor; without him, that shot up to 96 — on a significant number of shots. Westbrook, too, goes from 98 points per 100 chances to 105, or the difference between Ish Smith and Victor Oladipo this season. And while Roberson didn’t actually affect the team’s effective field goal percentage overall, both Westbrook and George suffered large drop-offs in their shooting numbers when they shared the court with him.But the Thunder have yet to capitalize on the additional space available with Roberson out. Westbrook has played well in some ways, creating at James Harden/Chris Paul levels on the pick and roll, and poorly in others, shooting just 43 percent from the field and 18 percent from the three in the games since Roberson’s injury. George has been hot from the three — he’s hit at least five 3-pointers in four consecutive games — and has averaged 29.6 points on a 62 effective field goal percentage through those 10 games. But Anthony has gone absolutely dormant, and both he and Westbrook missed two games to injury.There’s plenty to be encouraged by over these past few games. George looks like a different player without Roberson, and all may be right if he and Westbrook are both firing at close to optimal levels by the playoffs. Further, second-year shooter Alex Abrines, seeing increased minutes with Roberson out, has run hot and cold, shooting 35 percent on threes overall since the injury. That should improve over time.But even so, the offense taking a dip despite subtracting a guy who may be the single worst offensive player who’s actually allowed to play s troubling, and Oklahoma City doesn’t have an obvious source of those unteachable qualities Westbrook mentioned — the cutting, the running, the screens. The Thunder’s stars may finally have the room to operate as stars, but its problems are now ones not solved easily by star power.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
Sugar Bowl MVP Terrelle Pryor had surgery Friday to “stabilize a ligament” in his right foot, an Ohio State spokesman confirmed to The Lantern. Pryor tweeted about 4:30 p.m., “Surgery successful.” At noon on Saturday, Pryor posted, “I’m doing good. Resting. Foot up. Can’t do much but lay around. And write in my journal.” Pryor injured his foot during the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s 31-26 win over Arkansas. He sat out a play on OSU’s penultimate drive, replaced by backup Joe Bauserman. Pryor was limping considerably following the game and said he was in a lot of pain. The junior quarterback threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 115 yards against the Razorbacks. Pryor is one of five OSU players suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season after the NCAA learned those players sold memorabilia to the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor in 2009. NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from receiving benefits based on their personae. Pryor said repeatedly that he will return to OSU for his senior season. Coach Jim Tressel made the five suspended players pledge to return before granting them permission to travel with the team to New Orleans for the bowl game.
A second shot to stop one team; that’s what Ohio State is facing Saturday when it plays Kansas in the Final Four. The rematch will take one of the teams closer to their goal of being a national champion, but don’t bother tallying up statistics to try to calculate whether OSU can or will proceed to the national title game. The trip is the first for the Buckeyes since 2007. Also advancing to the Final Four are Louisville and Kentucky, who will play at about 6 p.m. Saturday. After defeating the NCAA Tournament East Region’s No. 1-seed Syracuse, OSU’s confidence has grown. They are connected on defense, although the offense seems to struggle at times. It’s an ongoing storyline for the Buckeyes, never knowing which player will get hot at the right time. For instance, OSU sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. went off with 18 points in the win against Syracuse, and trailed only sophomore forward Jared Sullinger, who had 19 points, against the Orange. Senior guard William Buford was quiet for stretches of the contest. Meanwhile in the Midwest Region, Kansas defeated North Carolina, 80-67. The Jayhawks finished strong as senior guard Tyshawn Taylor finished with 22 points while junior forward Thomas Robinson, the Big 12 Player of the Year, tallied 18. With all the momentum you can possibly have on your side after winning a regional final in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas has proven it has the total package as it looks to knock down OSU for the second time this year. The last time these two teams met, OSU was been without big man Sullinger and Robinson was on fire, scoring a career-high 21 points. The Buckeyes were defeated, 78-67. So, what exactly does OSU have to do? Buford has to shoot higher than 1-of-5 at the arc like he did against Syracuse and be the senior leader people expect him to be. But statistics don’t always tell the story, especially in the Final Four. How the teams push through adversity Saturday is what will set these two highly competitive teams apart. I think OSU will come out strong mentally and physically to make it to the last man standing. The stat lines and box scores are diminished at this point in the season. The injuries and the season’s ups and downs go out the window. It’s about who wants it more and who comes ready to fight to the very last second at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Saturday with about 74,400 people cheering the players on. This is the Final Four. Here we go.
Last week was the start of something new for American fans of the English Premier League; it was also the start of something great. For years now, Fox Soccer Channel has dictated how we watched a sport loved across the world, but after the debut of NBC Sports Group coverage of the EPL on Aug. 17, I believe we can now breathe a sigh of relief.Back in October 2012, NBC Sports Network bought the rights to show EPL matches when it outbid Fox and ESPN, although Fox will still carry the UEFA Champions League and ESPN, the Fifa World Cup, who had been airing the matches together for nearly two decades, with a bid of roughly $250 million. I never had anything against the way Fox broadcasted the matches at the time, but after experiencing NBCSN, I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that I don’t want it to go back to the way it was.When Fox Soccer aired the matches, you were required to have a Fox Soccer 2 Go subscription if you wanted to watch any matches that were not aired live on TV. This subscription could be purchased in two separate ways. A monthly subscription would have cost you $19.99 per month, or you could opt to pay for the subscription annually, paying $169.99, saving you roughly $70 a year. With this subscription, you gained access to watch thousands of matches from the EPL to the Champions League on your computer and mobile devices, but it cost you a pretty penny.This brings me to the best part of NBCSN coverage of the EPL. Not only will NBCSN air all 380 EPL matches, but they also offer both Premier League Extra Time and NBC Sports Live Extra at no extra cost to everyone who has NBC Sports. Premier League Extra Time is a collection of extra channels that air any match not shown on an NBCUniversal designated channel and NBC Sports Live Extra offers EPL viewers the capability to stream every match live using a desktop or a mobile device for no extra charge. The NBC Sports Live Extra app is supported by both Apple iOS and Android.This may sound too good to be true for EPL fans, but currently the only downside to NBCSN airing the matches is that not every cable provider is currently carrying NBCSN. However, NBCSN claims on its website that it is working hard on adding other providers to a list that already contains WOW!, AT&T U-Verse, DISH and DirecTV.NBCSN is receiving positive feedback from fans too, as last weekend’s EPL debut earned an average of 792,000 viewers and the best rating for an EPL opening weekend in the U.S. with a 0.8. These numbers show a 43 percent increase from last year when the matches were still shown on Fox Soccer. This significant increase is due partly to the sport gaining more fans across the U.S. but also because of the coverage offered by NBCSN.
Senior wide receiver, Corey Brown (10), reaches for the end zone for the first Ohio State touchdown of the game. OSU won against Iowa, 34-24, Oct. 19 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor It took just over three quarters, but the Ohio State football team finally managed to put Iowa away, winning 34-24 and extending the nation’s longest winning streak to 19 games.The Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-2) were in control of the game from the outset, as senior tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz caught a two-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock to end a 12 play, 80-yard drive to open the game.OSU (7-0, 3-0) cut the lead to 7-3 after Drew Basil’s 27-yard field goal on the ensuing drive, but Iowa made it 10-3 when Mike Meyer connected on a 28-yard kick of his own.Junior quarterback Braxton Miller then hit senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown on a 58-yard strike on the next drive to tie the game. It was Brown’s sixth touchdown reception of the season.OSU coach Urban Meyer said he was proud of the way that Brown played, citing how he has become more of a leader on the team since senior safety Christian Bryant went down with an injury.“When you lose a Christian Bryant-I keep looking for that next guy and I found him, I think,” Meyer said. “It’s No. 10, Philly Brown. The emotional guy that’s in the locker room and the kickoff team. He was outstanding.”Iowa fired back, though, as Rudock found junior wideout Kevonte Martin-Manley from six yards out to put Iowa ahead at halftime, 17-10.OSU knotted the score again after Carlos Hyde ran for a one yard score to open the second half. The Buckeyes took their first lead of the game at 24-17, when Miller found junior wide receiver Devin Smith for a 14-yard score with a little over three minutes to play in the third.Miller, who ran for 102 yards in the win, said he has not physically felt this good since the beginning of the season.“I had a knee injury and it set me back a little bit, but (I) felt pretty good out there, good week of preparation,” Miller said. “And the O-line did a hell of a job and coaching and it showed it on the field.”Iowa again fought back, as Rudock found sophomore tight end Jake Duzey for an 85-yard score down the right sideline.Meyer said he was “very concerned” about the defense after giving up a play like that.Hyde gave OSU the lead for good when he ran for his second score of the game, this one from 19 yards out. The Buckeyes’ running back broke numerous tackles on the play, leaping over two defenders for the score.“I never had a run like that (before),” Hyde said. “I was just trying to catch my balance and once I did I turned around and I see Philly Brown with an unbelievable block…I got so excited and I hadn’t even scored yet when I saw the block. And then I just went in for a touchdown.”Basil kicked another field goal that put OSU up by 10, and redshirt-freshman Tyvis Powell recorded his first interception of his career when he picked off Rudock just over four minutes to play. The Buckeyes were able to run out the clock to preserve the 10-point victory and stay unbeaten.OSU had to play most of the game without their top cornerback, redshirt-junior Bradley Roby, who was ejected from the game for targeting a defenseless receiver in the first quarter. It is the first time an OSU player has been called for targeting this season.“I’m curious to find out the rule and the replay official,” Meyer said of the play. “That’s supposed to be all replay. If that’s not true, then I need an answer.”Miller finished the game 22 of 27 passing for 222 yards and two touchdowns, and Hyde carried the ball 24 times for 149 yards and two more scores.The win tied OSU for the second longest winning streak in school history, at 19 games, with the 2002-03 Buckeyes.Junior tight end Jeff Heuerman said the team as a whole team has great confidence in itself to keep the streak alive.“That’s something really special about this team is there’s never any doubt that we’re not going to win that game,” Heuerman said. “No matter what the score is, no matter if the offense is getting stopped or defense is getting run through, there’s never any doubt and we always know we’re going to win the game.”OSU is scheduled to take on Penn State next weekend at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.
OSU coach Urban Meyer watches the Buckeyes during a game against Purdue Nov. 2 at Ross-Ade Stadium. OSU won, 56-0.Credit: Ritika Shah / Asst. photo editorOhio State junior wide receiver Evan Spencer made national headlines Monday when he told the media he thought OSU’s football team could “wipe the field” with the top ranked teams in college football.Although Spencer acknowledged he was “a little bit biased” before making that comment, and chuckled as he said it, OSU coach Urban Meyer said Tuesday he was displeased with what Spencer said.“I’m very disappointed. I can’t stand that,” Meyer said during Tuesday’s Big Ten teleconference. “What he believes and what goes on inside the locker room certainly doesn’t need to be in the papers and all that. I just don’t, I don’t like disrespecting other teams.”Meyer said the media should not expect Spencer to be available for a comment for a “long, long time” as a result of what the wide receiver said Monday.“You don’t do that, that’s not good sportsmanship and that’s not just what we expect,” Meyer said. “I understand he’s a young man that made a minor mistake but we just don’t do that. You talk about your teammates, you talk about the team and move on.”Spencer, who has caught 21 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns for the Buckeyes this season, apologized for his comments Monday via Twitter.“I did not mean to disrespect any FB team today. I am confident in my team, and as is evident in the video (of the interview), I was having fun…” Spencer’s first tweet read. “… With the media answering their questions. I should have chosen my words more wisely. There was no intent to disrespect any other team,” he finished.The No. 3-ranked Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0) are looking to remain undefeated and tie the school record for most consecutive wins at 22 with a victory against Illinois (3-6, 0-5) Saturday.“We’ve not spent much time talking about (tying the record) … we’ll address that probably if that does occur,” Meyer said. “That’s certainly not something we’re using as motivation right now but I think any time a player plays at a place like Ohio State and you can make a name or a dent in this great tradition that it’s certainly worth being recognized for it.”
Then-sophomore defensive lineman Adolphus Washington (92) gets up after tackling an opposing player during the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl Jan. 3 at Sun Life Stadium. OSU lost, 40-35.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorAll it takes to end a career early is an injury.Even if the injury itself isn’t of a significant nature, the possibility remains that the player who steps in as a replacement can do such a good job that the original starter loses his place forever.For junior defensive lineman Adolphus Washington, that possibility became all too real for the briefest of moments last season. After injuring his groin against San Diego State Sept. 7, Washington watched then-freshman Joey Bosa come in and claim the starting defensive end position, opposite then-sophomore Noah Spence.But a late season switch saw Washington take up a position on the interior of the line, something that could take a career that was once hanging by a thread and turn it into something completely different.Now with Washington “inside for good,” he said he has been improving this offseason with the different style of play on the inside.“I’ve been doing real good with it this spring,” Washington said Thursday. “Especially going up against guys like (redshirt-sophomore offensive lineman) Pat Elflein and (redshirt-junior offensive lineman) Tommy Brown. If I can do it against them, I know I can do it against pretty much anybody.”New defensive line coach Larry Johnson said Washington has the right skill set to be successful as an interior lineman.“You always want a three-tackler, a guy that’s going to get a lot of one-on-ones and have an ability to rush the passer,” Johnson said Thursday. “He’s 285, 290 and that’s big enough to play inside. So you have to take a skilled guy who’s rushed on the edge and play inside and play as a guard position, it’s going to give you a different edge on the inside. That’s what I’m excited about. He’s got great hips, he can rush the passer, so there should be some great things coming from him.”But it’s not just the skill set Washington brings that has Johnson raving, it’s also the drive Washington shows on the practice field.“He’s worked really hard,” Johnson said. “He’s had a really good … spring ball. He really has. We moved him inside because of the pass rush ability, he’s playing the run real nice and then he’s doing a great job for us.”Last season, in limited time, Washington recorded 36 tackles, to go along with four tackles for a loss and two sacks.Even though he played on the interior later in the year after Bosa became established as the defensive end starter, Washington said he was uneasy when practice first started, but that things have improved.“At first I was kind of nervous and scared about it. But now that I got a hold of it, it’s whatever. I am just going to go out there and play,” Washington said.He added that sometimes having to face multiple blockers at once — compared to the one he would face at end more often than not — is what really made him nervous.“The double teams. I used to watch … (senior defensive lineman) Michael Bennett used to tell me about them and he used to be like ‘You just have to get your pads low and fly off the ball,’” Washington said. “So I am like, ‘I can do that’ if that’s all it takes. I can just do that.”Johnson said facing the double teams won’t be a problem for Washington, as long as he pays attention and learns from his coaches.“Talk technique to him. Show him how to fit the double teams, and he’s doing a great job for us so far in spring ball, doing that and as he does it, confidence will come in the run game,” Johnson said. “I’ve been really excited for all these guys, Adolphus has done a really good job for us.”Washington is likely set to have his second chance to start on the interior of the line for the Buckeyes — after starting the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl against Clemson — when OSU opens its season Aug. 30 against Navy.Kickoff is scheduled for noon at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
OSU freshman defender Kylie Knight fights for a ball during a game against West Virginia on Sept. 11 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU lost 2-0. Credit: Kylie Bryant / For The LanternThe No. 15 Ohio State women’s soccer team hosted No. 8 West Virginia on Friday evening at 7 p.m., falling to the Mountaineers 2-0.The defeat was the Buckeyes’ first loss of the season.Throughout the entire first half, the Mountaineers played a tight defense and the Buckeyes couldn’t get anything going. OSU and WVU seemed to fight through every possession and headed into halftime with no score on the board for either team, but the Mountaineers held a commanding 12-1 lead in shots.“I think the first thing was that we had very good possession, we were keeping the ball, but our possession was not progressing forward,” OSU coach Lori Walker said. “We needed to be able to gain space with every pass and we just kept knocking the ball around the back, around the back, around the back and that’s not ever engaging a team.”The Mountaineers put the first point on the board in the 77th minute, with their second goal scored less than two minutes later.Despite the loss, Walker said after the game that she was glad the team had a chance to learn from a strong opponent like WVU.“This was a fantastic opportunity for us to play against a team that I think is going to go very far this year. And we learned a lot,” she said. “And so there’s a lot we can gain from this, and as long as we don’t lose the lessons, the loss won’t hurt us that much.”The Mountaineers led the Buckeyes 23-5 in shots.The Scarlet and Gray then hosted Bucknell on Sunday afternoon, shutting out the Bison 2-0.The game marked the first meeting between the two teams.Sunday was also Parents’ Day, where each player’s parents were honored on the field at the start of the game.OSU put the first point on the board with a goal by junior defender Bridget Skinner on a header from sophomore midfielder Nikki Walts’ free kick.The opening score was Skinner’s first career goal.“I was so happy,” Skinner said. “I actually said on Friday morning that that was my goal for the season, so to have that come in the same weekend was pretty cool.”The second half got underway with a goal from freshman midfielder Sarah Roberts in the 50th minute, deflected off a Bucknell defender. This was also Roberts’ first career goal.“It’s surreal,” Roberts said. “I don’t think I really expected it. I haven’t been taking that many shots this year, but Coach had said everybody needs to take at least one shot before halftime, and after halftime, so I had my chance and I took it.”Roberts also explained the importance of carrying the team’s momentum into Big Ten play.“I think we need to learn from our mistakes,” she said. “Watch film, break it down. We’re 5-1-1, and that’s huge going into Big Ten play where the teams are going to be harder, they’re going to be stronger, everything elevated to the next level. So, if we can carry our momentum through the Big Ten, I think we’re going to be competing for the championship.”Walker said she was pleased with the way her team bounced back from Friday night’s loss.“I think the biggest challenge coming off of a loss against a top team is to have a high level of energy, and certainly playing at noon on a Sunday it’s important to wake up and really find that quick rhythm, and I thought we did that today,” she said.The Scarlet and Gray now prepare for conference play as they enter 5-1-1 on the season. “We’re still trying to play faster, all the time, just trying to increase your speed to play,” Walker said. “The faster you can play, the quicker you can pull defenses apart.”The Buckeyes are set to open up Big Ten play in Columbus on Thursday evening as they take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.