NCAA

Cowboys' Rob Ryan ready for Cleveland reunion

Cowboys' Rob Ryan ready for Cleveland reunion

IRVING, Texas (AP) Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan doesn't pretend to ignore that the Cowboys are playing Cleveland for the first time since the Browns dumped him when they fired Eric Mangini two years ago.

Even when he's pretending.

``Honestly, I'm going to say no,'' Ryan said when asked if he had discussed this week's personal motivation with his players. ``Honestly, I haven't talked about it. Honestly, I don't know how that got out there.''

How about dishonestly?

``I've addressed a few things,'' said Ryan, the twin brother of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.

Ryan says Sunday's game at Cowboys Stadium is personal for a pretty simple reason. He didn't think two years was enough to try to turn a franchise that has now missed the playoffs nine straight years and reached the postseason just twice since 1990.

To him, it doesn't really matter that Cleveland's ownership and front office changed in midseason, and that more changes are likely in the offseason.

``Anytime you pour everything you have into it and apparently management didn't see it as it was good enough, of course it's personal,'' Ryan said.

Ryan's animosity doesn't extend to his former players, though. He sounds like he wouldn't mind having some of them still on his side, particularly defensive backs T.J. Ward, Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden in a secondary that has Cleveland ranked sixth in the league with 10 interceptions.

``These are some of the best people I ever coached, so I still love those guys,'' Ryan said. ``But I plan on beating them.''

Ryan's first year in Dallas after the Cleveland firing was a little rough. The Cowboys had one of the worst pass defenses in franchise history and rarely made big plays when they needed them late in the year. Two late-season losses to the New York Giants essentially kept Dallas out of the playoffs, and the Cowboys didn't sack Eli Manning once in 47 pass attempts in the first game.

That's not exactly what Dallas had in mind when Ryan brought an attacking style to go with his boisterous and demonstrative sideline behavior, but this year has been better.

The Cowboys harassed Manning and held him to 190 passing yards despite losing 29-24 in the first game after defensive leader Sean Lee was lost to a season-ending toe injury. Dallas held Atlanta, unbeaten at the time, to 19 points in another close loss before the defense scored twice in the fourth quarter of last week's win over Philadelphia.

``We've been playing pretty well the last few weeks,'' Ryan said. ``I think we're hitting it at the right time. I think our guys are starting to go after it.''

Ryan has cut his hair and the size of his waistline since he was in Cleveland, but the Browns will probably be able to recognize him.

``He was a hoot,'' Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas said. ``He's really funny and he's a great defensive coordinator.''

Ryan will be out to prove it Sunday.

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Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

PITTSBURGH -- No. 1 Virginia allowed just seven points in the first half and secured the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title outright with a 66-37 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Freshman guard De'Andre Hunter came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers (26-2, 14-1 ACC) with 14 points in a game that didn't take big offensive efforts from Virginia's regulars. Of the five starters, only guard Ty Jerome exceeded his season average with 13 points.

The game was never competitive, as Virginia started on an 8-0 run and Pitt didn't make a field goal until Jared Wilson-Frame hit a 3-pointer at the midway point of the first half.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett rested most of his regulars in the second half. Reserve Nigel Johnson added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Parker Stewart led Pitt (8-22, 0-17) with 12 points, all on 3-pointers. Pitt had next to no presence inside. The Panthers were outscored 28-8 in the paint and out-rebounded 36-24. Seven of Pitt's 11 made field goals were from beyond the arc.

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE

Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.