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Clemson heads into bye with momentum and skeptics

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Clemson heads into bye with momentum and skeptics

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Quarterback Tajh Boyd has been around Clemson long enough to know that he isn't only going to hear praise and optimism even with the No. 16 Tigers at 5-1 going into an off week.

``At the end of the day, there are always going to be skeptics and things of that nature,'' Boyd said after Clemson's 47-31 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday ``Now we're coming off a bye weekend, and they're (worried that we are) not going to be prepared for that game.''

For the past decade, people have almost expected Clemson to fall apart after success. Last season, the Yellow Jackets beat the Tigers, ending their 8-0 start and leading to three losses in four games. If not for a weaker-than-expected Atlantic Division, Clemson might have even missed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.

And that's just the most recent example. In 2000, the Yellow Jackets ended another 8-0 start by the Tigers, who then lost three of four. In fact, Clemson has gone through a stretch of losing at least three out of four games in all but two seasons since the turn of the century.

Despite Saturday's win, Clemson still fell one spot in The Associated Press Top 25.

But the Tigers still have plenty to play for. Florida State's loss Saturday to North Carolina State means the Tigers are back on track for another ACC title game appearance with one more loss by the Seminoles. And with five wins already, Clemson has a chance to get back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since going 10-2 four straight years from 1987-1990.

Coach Dabo Swinney thinks this year's Tigers are different from some recent Clemson squads.

``I know there's a lot of people out there that believe in voodoo or something, we can't win here - we don't buy into all that stuff,'' Swinney said. ``I hear it all the time.''

Clemson's offense is leading the ACC and is tenth in the nation at nearly 526 yards a game. The Tigers gained 601 yards against Georgia Tech, marking the fourth time in six games they have gained over 500 yards.

Boyd threw for a career-best 397 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, giving him 51 passing TDs for his career, passing Charlie Whitehurst's Clemson record of 49 scoring passes. DeAndre Hopkins caught seven passes for 173 yards and is ranked fifth in the country at more than 129 yards receiving a game.

Even so, center Dalton Freeman thinks the offense isn't exactly where it should be. Clemson punted just once against Georgia Tech and converted 13 of 19 third downs. But three of them they missed were on third-and-goal, leading to field goals.

``There was a lot left out there,'' Freeman said ``Until we score every drive, we're not going to be satisfied.''

And the Tigers get their open date at an opportune time - right at the middle of the season. Freeman said the team has some nicks and small injuries that should heal up before the Virginia Tech game in two weeks. Swinney said his team has earned some time off next week.

``They don't let me have any input on the schedule, but the schedule gods are looking down upon us this year,'' Swinney said. ``Last year, we had about nine games or something before we had an open date. That's a grind.''

Boyd, who is taking an athletic leadership class this semester, said the bye week provides its own challenges,

``It's another test for us, ``Boyd said. ``How do we respond from the bye week. It's a serious question - how do we practice?''

And Swinney knows there is still more work to do as well. He has been impressed with his offense and thinks his defense is getting better, but there is still a lot more to do to reach the goal of finishing the regular season 10-1.

``We're not a great team or a great defense or a great offense yet,'' Swinney said. ``But I think we've got a chance to be.''

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Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Following the Redskins' Week 2 preseason win over the Jets on Thursday, Jay Gruden said both Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine were "OK" after the two running backs each left the game with injuries. Marshall's was labeled a lower-leg issue, while Perine's injury was called a twisted ankle.

Timetables for their recoveries were then reported on Friday, and while the two members of the backfield escaped anything too severe, they will each be sidelined for decent chunks of time.

Perine will miss a week, according to Mike Garafolo. Marshall, meanwhile, is looking at a longer two-to-four week recovery, per Tom Pelissero. Those pieces of news hurt them in more ways than one.

Derrius Guice's torn ACL in Week 1 of the team's exhibition schedule meant that Marshall and Perine both had a big-time opportunity to step up and earn a spot on Washington's 53-man roster, spots that were harder to envision for them when Guice was healthy.

Overall, the two were slated to compete with Kapri Bibbs for what will likely be two spaces on the depth chart behind the absolutely safe Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley. Now, though, they'll be forced to sit until they're healed up, giving Bibbs more chances in practice and the two remaining August contests to earn Jay Gruden's trust.

Against New York, Bibbs struggled on the ground but led the offense with seven grabs, including a 29-yard gain off a screen play. That performance absolutely brought him closer in the race with Marshall, who scored vs. the Patriots a week earlier. Next, he'll need to prove he can run effectively between the tackles vs. the Broncos in Week 3, which will put some heat on Perine as well.

The 'Skins have 15 days left until they have to finalize their regular season roster. As things stand now amongst the running backs, Bibbs presently has a real shot at stealing a job from the two shelved RBs. But with the way this race has unfolded thus far, that can all change in a split second. 

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Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

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Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

Despite being a brand new franchise with a new roster and new facilities, the Capital City Go-Go will carry into their inaugural season a level of continuity. Both their general manager and head coach are familiar with what they are getting into and the people they will be working with.

GM Pops Mensah-Bonsu is no stranger to the D.C. community and the Wizards franchise. He made a name for himself starring at George Washington University, spent time with the Wizards as a player in their 2013 training camp and remained a frequent visitor to Wizards games as a scout for the Spurs in recent years.

"To be back in the community and the first general manager of the G-League team is special," Mensah-Bonsu said. "This is D.C.’s team. I want them to embrace us."

Head coach Jarell Christian played college ball in Virginia and goes back several years with Wizards coach Scott Brooks. Christian joined the Oklahoma City's G-League staff when Brooks was in his final year as head coach of the Thunder.

Christian began his coaching journey with an eye trained on how Brooks goes about his job.

"My introduction to pro basketball was under Coach Brooks and his philosophies. A lot of that stuff, I believe in wholeheartedly. That’s my foundation," Christian said. "I got a chance to know him through training camp and throughout that season. He and I developed a bond and a relationship that stood the test of time. To this day, we still talk often. It’s just another chance for me to reconnect with him and to continue to grow our relationship."

The Go-Go intend to make what they do as similar to the Wizards as possible. When guys like Devin Robinson, one of their two-way players, is called up he can step right in without a learning curve of the playbook or how they practice.

Having Christian in place will help that process in particular.

"There won’t be any issue or any slippage with guys going up and down to know what’s in store for them," Christian said. "A lot of the stuff that the Wizards will do, we will implement with the Go-Go. Just some offensive and defensive concepts. Some of the playcalls and the terminology will be the same."

"Whatever you see the Wizards doing, you will probably see the Capital City Go-Go doing, too," Mensah-Bonsu said.

The symmetry between the G-League and the NBA teams will also be helped by the fact they will share the same practice facility. Their proximity will come with many advantages from the Go-Go perspective.

"I think it’s going to help motivate these guys. We’re going to be practicing in the same place that the Wizards do and the Mystics do," Mensah-Bonsu said. "I think if these guys can see Dwight Howard and John Wall and Bradley Beal walking around every day, it will help motivate them to get to that next level."

"The exposure our players get with the Wizards [front office], the Wizards personnel, being able to watch them practice daily, watching their practice habits and what their routines may be, is really big," Christian said.

That element will also apply beyond the players. Christian, who is just 32 years old, will get to watch how an NBA coaching staff operates on a daily basis.

Christian has yet to take a tour of the new building in Ward 8, but he has seen blueprints. Among the amenities the Go-Go will enjoy that other G-League teams do not usually have is a dedicated dining area.

Many G-League teams do not go to that length.

"A lot of organizations do not provide food for their players on a daily basis, but we will. That’s the No. 1 thing in my opinion that’s gonna set us apart from our competitors," he said.

The Go-Go won't take the floor for their first game until November, but it seems like a good foundation is starting to take place.

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