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Virginia Tech has 22 sacks in last 5 games

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Virginia Tech has 22 sacks in last 5 games

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Virginia Tech is preparing to face two quarterbacks when it plays Virginia on Saturday.

The Cavaliers (4-7, 2-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) have used Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims pretty much all season, and ``it's probably safe to say'' that both will play again, coach Mike London said.

When they do, they will face a pass rush that has 22 sacks in its last five games.

Virginia Tech (5-6, 3-4) had just eight sacks in its first six games. But defensive coordinator Bud Foster said as the defense has improved and more players have earned playing time, the unit has been able to put opponents in third-and-long situations, allowing his pass rushers to ``pin their ears back.''

The Hokies also have been blitzing more than usual, and that's fun for the defense.

``Coach Foster is a blitzing defensive coordinator,'' linebacker and leading tackler Jack Tyler said. ``That's kind of his M.O. Over the past few weeks we've had a lot of depth get in there. We've had a lot of guys on the defensive line ... that are really stepping up and playing as well as the starters. It's kind of pushing those starters to play even better. Because of that, our pass rush has been great.''

Virginia Tech had seven sacks last week in its 30-23 overtime victory at Boston College, and five the week before against Florida State, allowing it to limit the Seminoles to minus 15 rushing yards.

``When you get people behind the sticks and they can't run well, they only have one other option,'' linebacker Bruce Taylor said. ``It all ties in. Good run defense turns into great pass defense.''

The aggressive tone of the Hokies' style is a high-risk, high-reward approach, London said.

Sims said one-on-one coverage on his receivers can make it easier to find them and make plays downfield.

``When you've got more one-on-one matchups, you've got to man up,'' Sims said. ``It's one-on-one now. There's no excuses about having two or three guys in the area, or there's a small window for me to throw the ball into.''

``When I see that, I make it personal. As a competitor, it's one-on-one, that's the best feeling you can get,'' the sophomore said. ``One man says he can shut you down. If you're any kind of competitor, that should raise your level of play.''

The Hokies have been shutting Virginia down with regularity, winning the last eight meetings and 12 of the last 13. Only once in the past eight has been close, a 17-14 final in 2008, and the last three games have been mismatches. The Hokies won 42-13 in 2009, 37-7 in 2010 and 38-0 last season.

The lopsided nature of the series has Hokies senior linebacker Bruce Taylor concerned that his team might be overconfident in this annual season-ending battle for the Commonwealth Cup. He knows the Hokies need to win to extend their streak of seasons competing in a bowl game to 20.

``I feel like Monday's practice was a little slow, and I'm not saying that's the reason why it was slow, but I feel like guys kind of have that in the back of their mind,'' he said of overconfidence. ``And especially when they have the Commonwealth Cup with the paper that says how many days we've held it.

``I'm trying to make sure guys don't do that, because that's how you get embarrassed.''

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Bradley Beal's phantom foul and the Wizards' most important rally of the season

Bradley Beal's phantom foul and the Wizards' most important rally of the season

After calling an inconsistent game throughout the night, the referees made a decision with five minutes to go in Game 4 that nearly altered the entire series between the Wizards and Raptors.

DeMar DeRozan was chasing a rebound on the baseline and ran into Bradley Beal. Beal, who had a team-high 31 points, was levied a sixth and final foul with the score tied. 

Beal had unloaded for 20 points in 12 minutes in the second half, but now the Wizards would have to close it out without their All-Star shooting guard. Somehow, they were able to seal the win and tie the series.

Beal heard the whistle as he laid on the ground. He immediately hopped up and unleashed a tantrum that nobody could blame him for.

He jumped up and down, screaming at the referees, who had just called by all accounts a questionable foul and in a key moment of a playoff game.

Both Beal and head coach Scott Brooks were incensed and with good reason.

“I was beyond emotional, beyond mad, frustrated," Beal said. "I honestly thought they were going to kick me out of the game I was so mad, but I was happy they didn’t do that."

Beal is probably lucky the referees didn't take offense to his reaction because it continued when he was on the bench. He walked past his teammates and leaned over with his hands on his knees, still furious. Then he returned to the sideline to yell at the refs. Center Ian Mahinmi helped convince him to step back and cool off.

Beal has made a major difference in this series. He averaged 14.0 points in the first two games, both losses. He has averaged 29.5 points in Games 3 and 4, two Wizards wins.

Getting him out of the game was a major break for the Raptors, but they couldn't take advantage. The Wizards closed the final five minutes on a 14-6 tear. John Wall stepped up to lead the charge with eight of those points.

The Wizards still had one star on the court and he played like one.

“Just go in attack mode," Wall said. "When Brad went out, I knew I had to do whatever it took... I just wanted to do whatever, so that we could advance to Game 5, tied 2-2.”

Once Beal composed himself, his confidence grew in his teammates. He and Wall feel comfortable playing without each other because they have done so often throughout their careers.

This year, Wall missed 41 games due to a left knee injury. Two years ago, Beal missed 27 games. Early on in his career, he had trouble staying healthy. Now he is an iron man who played in all 82 games during the 2017-18 regular season.

Beal has grown accustomed to being on the floor a lot, but he realized he can still affect the game from the sidelines.

"I just gathered my emotions, gathered my thoughts and told my team we were going to win, regardless. I knew if we still had John [Wall] in the game I loved our chances," Beal said. "Face the adversity that I had to overcome, just gather myself and be a leader, being vocal and keeping everyone encouraged in the game.”

Wall and others did the heavy lifting in the end. The Wizards used Kelly Oubre, Jr. as the shooting guard with Beal out and he made key plays down the stretch, including a steal on Kyle Lowry in the closing seconds.

The Wizards were thrown a significant curveball and they overcame it to put themselves in good position now having won two straight.

“You have to have resolve to win in this league," Brooks said. "You win playoff games and you win playoff series with having that. We have that, and we have to continue to have that because we have to win two more games and one of them has to be on the road."

When it comes to the officiating, the Wizards deserve credit for their resilience and restraint early in Game 4. The Raptors had 16 free throws in the first quarter compared to the Wizards' four. Washington perservered and ended up with more free throws (31) than the Raptors (30) did for the game.

In Game 1, the Wizards appeared to be affected by a lack of foul calls. That came was called loosely by the referees, while this one was officiated tightly. Though Beal went off, the Wizards for the most part stayed the course and were rewarded for it.

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The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

WASHINGTON -- As the home team in a dire situation you have to take advantage, and that is exactly what the Washington Wizards did in their 106-98 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Highlight reel play after highlight reel play, the Wizards ignited the crowd with some of their best plays from the entire season to make it 2-2 in the series. Here are just a few of them:

1. John Wall collects posters in the first half

The first one was perhaps the best. Everything was going wrong for the Wizards, poor turnovers, bad shots, a three from Toronto. Then John Wall had enough. Not only did he fly past his defender Kyle Lowry, but he went up and slammed one home past the 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas. Up until that point, the Wizards were shooting 1-for-7.

Rinse and repeat, except this time Jakob Poeltl was Wall’s victim.

2. Wall to Beal alley-oop in transition

With the Wizards’ offense faltering, the Raptors remained on the verge of blowing the game open throughout the second quarter. But with a steal from Otto Porter Jr., Wall hung up the ball for Bradley Beal to slam home. The alley-oop kept the Wizards within single digits in the second with an uninspiring offensive effort.

3. Otto Porter breaks out of the half

A subdued offensive start to the game was due in part to the production from Porter. In the first half he went 0-for-4 with one point in nearly 17 minutes of action.

Throw that away in the second half. He broke out of halftime with back-to-back threes and 10 of the Wizards’ 26 in a monster 26-14 run to take the lead back in the third.

He finished the quarter with 10 points, an assist, and two blocks.

4. The Polish Hammer throwing it home

Are you convinced yet that Marcin Gortat’s new haircut is doing him some good? Gortat squeezed through two Raptors’ defenders, threw it down, gave a Goliath-type roar to the crowd before officially bringing the hammer down. 

5. Beal being called for his sixth foul of the game

Agree with the call or not, there is no denying that Beal’s removal from the game lit a fire underneath the Wizards. From that point Washington went on a 14-6 scoring run to end the game, closing out for the win.

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