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ACC defenses giving up big yards, lots of points

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ACC defenses giving up big yards, lots of points

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Defenses across the Atlantic Coast Conference are having trouble getting stops or keeping offenses out of the end zone.

League teams are giving up points and yards at their highest rate in more than a decade. And that's led to plenty of shootouts, including last weekend's Georgia Tech-North Carolina matchup that stands as the highest-scoring game in ACC history.

``I hate it because I want to go out here and be dominant on defense every week and I like to see other defenses be dominant as well,'' UNC defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said. ``I want to see tackles for loss, sacks, interceptions, fumbles, forced fumbles. I don't want to see the ball thrown in into the end zone. It kind of makes me not want to watch the games no more, man.''

ACC teams are giving up an average of 26.2 points per game this season, up from 24.7 a year ago and the highest since teams averaged 26.4 points in 2001, according to STATS LLC. In addition, teams are giving up an average of 389.4 yards per game, up from about 369 last year and the highest since at least 1995.

Those numbers get worse ACC teams play each other. Teams are giving up 29 points and 413 yards per league game, both ranking as the highest averages since at least 1995.

Those struggles were on display during last weekend's games, starting in Chapel Hill.

In the Tar Heels' 68-50 loss to the Yellow Jackets, the teams combined for 1,085 yards, 11 players scored touchdowns and the 118 combined points broke the previous mark of 110 set in Virginia's 63-47 win against Tulane in 1968.

``I know how they feel,'' said Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell, whose Blue Devils have allowed at least 41 points in all four of their losses. ``I understand what's going on on that sideline and how tough it is to be part of a game like that where for some reason or another, you just can't get a stop. So I sympathize more with the defense than worry about the offense.''

That same day, Virginia beat Miami 41-40, marking the 11th conference game this season in which the losing team scored at least 30 points. It happened 10 times in 2001, the only other time it's reached double figures since 1995, according to STATS.

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said the trend will continue.

He remembers the goal was to hold teams to 14 points and 300 yards during his days as an Air Force assistant in the 1980s. Now, he said, defenses are struggling to adjust to a mix of spread, triple option and pro-style offenses in the ACC.

``People want to see a lot of scoring,'' Grobe said. ``They like seeing football scores like 38-35, they don't like seeing a 3-0 game. I don't think we're going backwards in this deal. What you typically see is offenses take the lead then defenses catch up. It's point-counterpoint, punch-counterpunch. But right now, I don't see the defenses getting to where they'll ever be dominant again.

``Offenses are here to stay.''

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson pointed to those offensive schemes as a reason for the defensive struggles, noting how more teams are willing to throw the ball or run hurry-up attacks that squeeze more plays into the 60-minute game. Throw in the fact that the 10 of 12 ACC programs returned their regular starting quarterback this season, and the pressure has only increased on defenses.

``If you're one of these teams that says you're going to run 100 plays, well, unless you're three-and-out on defense, your defense is going to be out there for 80 plays, too,'' Johnson said. ``It goes both ways. You don't just get to run your 100 and they get to run 40.''

Tenth-ranked Florida State has been the exception, leading the country in total defense (242.9 yards) and ranking fourth nationally in scoring defense (13 points). They're the only team in the league holding teams to fewer than 22 points and 315 yards per game.

The only blip for the Seminoles came against Clemson's high-powered offense. Florida State won that one 49-37 in September.

``It's very important to be great on defense in the South because that's where the largest number of your defensive linemen, defensive ends and secondary guys come from,'' FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. ``There's a larger group of them in this region than there is in any other region in the country.''

Miami's struggles offer one of the most glaring examples. Sixteen of the 27 players on the defensive depth chart for this weekend's game against South Florida are underclassmen. The Hurricanes are two points away from matching a school record for points allowed in a season and could give up about 100 yards per game more than any other team in Miami history.

Yet, despite allowing 31 points and an ACC-worst 490 yards per game, Miami is still in contention for the ACC's Coastal Division title.

``The only thing that I can tell you is that we're playing hard,'' coach Al Golden said after the Virginia loss. ``We were fighting our tails off.''

The Hurricanes aren't the only ones feeling that frustration.

``Defenses, we're always a year or two behind,'' North Carolina defensive coordinator Dan Disch said. ``You've got to study (an offense), you've got to figure out how it's hurting you and what you can do to stop it. I think the pendulum has swung a little bit, but it'll swing back - and then the offenses will discover something different.''

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AP Sports Writers Joedy McCreary in Durham, N.C.; Charles Odum in Atlanta; and Tim Reynolds in Miami; and Associated Press Writer Brent Kallestad in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed to this report

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3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson. Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's goals on Monday. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.

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Carlson gets a goal, Kuznetsov simultaneously gets a penalty in bizarre sequence in Buffalo

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NBC Sports Washington

Carlson gets a goal, Kuznetsov simultaneously gets a penalty in bizarre sequence in Buffalo

If you take a look at the box score for Monday's game between the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres, you will see a bizarre stat line at 13:33 in the second period.

At that time, John Carlson scored a goal to put Washington up 2-0. At the exact same time, however, Evgeny Kuznetsov was also assessed a penalty for tripping Evan Rodrigues.

A Kuznetsov shot from the blue line hit off the boards and bounced back out to the right of goalie Chad Johnson, sparking a scrum next to the net. Carlson got his stick on the puck for a shot that got past Johnson, but Kyle Okposo kicked the puck off the goal line and out for an incredible save. On the resulting breakout, Kuznetsov was caught tripping Rodrigues and the play was blown dead when the puck was touched up by the Caps.

The Situation Room then initiated a review on Carlson's shot and he was ultimately awarded a goal. Here's a look at the image the NHL sent out after the review:

When a goal is rewarded on review after play is allowed to continue, the clock reverts back to the time the goal was scored, meaning the roughly 14 seconds that happened after Carlson's goal never happened.

Yet, when the goal was assessed, Kuznetsov was still assessed a tripping penalty. Barry Trotz was clearly incredulous with the referee's decision, but ultimately it was the right call.

Rule 78.6 of the NHL rulebook states, "Any penalties signaled during the period of time between the apparent goal and the next stoppage of play shall be assessed in the normal manner."

Had Buffalo scored a goal after Carlson's goal, it would have been called back. Penalties, however, are to be called as normal despite the fact that the extra time after goal technically never happened.

Thus, at 13:33, Carlson was awarded the Caps' second goal while Kuznetsov was given a penalty.