Nationals

No. 13 Florida St. holds off Georgia Tech 21-15

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No. 13 Florida St. holds off Georgia Tech 21-15

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Florida State has regained its perch atop the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Now Jimbo Fisher plans to stay there.

The third-year coach talked all season about re-establishing a ``winning culture'' at Florida State and his team took a big step toward that Saturday night.

The 13th-ranked Seminoles opened with a flurry on offense and rode a strong defensive performance the rest of the way to hold off unranked Georgia Tech 21-15 to capture its first Atlantic Coast Conference championship since 2005 and earn a trip to the Orange Bowl.

It was Florida State's 13th ACC title.

``I think you got to understand, you have to win one before you can ever say, `I'm back,''' Fisher said. ``And everybody wants you to win the national championship. You got to win a conference championship before you win the national championship and keep getting in that hunt.

``Now our kids understand what it takes, how hard it is. But you know they're champions and I'm going to tell you it means something. You think different. You act different. You become different. Hopefully it will translate into the offseason with our young guys and we can keep that culture around here like it used to be.''

Although he had a rough outing Saturday night, quarterback EJ Manuel finishes up ACC play with a legacy of having brought a title back to what was once considered a prestigious program but one that had certainly fallen off in recent years.

``You know, I only see greatness from here on out,'' Manuel said. ``They got a lot of great players, a lot of great young players. Guys understand what it takes to get to this point, you know, so I don't see us going back to where we used to be. You know, I think Florida State is back in the conversation.''

James Wilder Jr. ran for two touchdowns as the heavily favored Seminoles (11-2) built a 21-6 lead at the half and held on to win, easing some of the sting from last week's 37-26 loss to their bitter rival, No. 4 Florida.

The win didn't come easily.

Georgia Tech came in as a two-touchdown underdog and it looked like they might get blown out, but the game wasn't decided until defensive back Karlos Williams intercepted Yellow Jackets quarterback Tevin Washington with less than a minute remaining.

``Luckily it got tipped up in the air and I just tried to catch the ball,'' Williams said of his first career interception.

``We knew the road was going to be hard anytime you win the championship,'' Fisher said. ``Our offense played a great first half and our defense played a great game overall.''

Despite its record, Georgia Tech (6-7) is bowl eligible after receiving a waiver from the NCAA on Thursday.

The Yellow Jackets earned the right to play in the ACC Championship after Miami, which tied for the same record in the Coastal division, placed sanctions against themselves and elected not to participate in the game.

``Everybody has told them they're not very good and they don't belong and I think they wanted to show that they did, that they did belong,'' Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said of his team. ``And, like I said, they came out and played their tail off. They played with some effort and some heart.''

Down by 15 at half, the Yellow Jackets shut down the Seminoles in the second half and forced two turnovers by Manuel to get back in the game.

Defensive end Emmanuel Dieke jarred the ball from Manuel's grasp and recovered the loose fumble in the third quarter.

Washington, who hadn't completed a pass all game, suddenly came alive, hitting Chris Milton for a gain of 18 yards and B.J. Bostic for 32 yards to reach the Florida State 3. Robert Godhigh picked up a critical first down on fourth-and-1 and Washington scored his 19th touchdown of the season on the following play to cut Florida State's lead to 21-15 with 6:27 left in the game.

Defensive back Jemea Thomas intercepted Manuel's downfield pass to give the Yellow Jackets one last chance with 2:17 left in the game. But Georgia Tech's last ditch effort ended when Williams intercepted Washington at the Yellow Jackets 44 and returned it to the 4 to seal the victory.

Florida State captured the momentum early.

The Seminoles, who came in with the fourth-best rushing defense in the country, stuffed Georgia Tech on three plays on its first possession setting the tone for the game.

Taking advantage of a shanked punt, the Seminoles took over at the Georgia Tech 42 and scored six plays later as Devonta Freeman took a pitch from Manuel and ran around right end for a 3-yard run. It was Freeman's eighth touchdown of the season and his seventh in the last six games.

Wilder scoring runs of 16 and 1 yard to make it 21-3 before the Yellow Jackets added a field goal before halftime.

Fisher had some concerns about defending Georgia Tech's triple option offense coming into the game. The Yellow Jackets came in averaging 40 points per game in ACC play this season and 323.3 yards rushing per game, third-best in the country.

But Florida State, led by ACC Defensive Player of the Year Bjoern Werner, swarmed running backs David Sims and Bostic in the first half, repeatedly stuffing the option.

Georgia Tech played without its leading rusher Orwin Smith, who sat out with an ankle injury. Smith came in averaging 9 yards per carry.

Prior to the game, a 22-year-old man fell off fourth-floor ramp leading to the upper level at Bank of America Stadium and was taken to an area hospital with what authorities called ``life-threatening'' injuries.

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Nats rookie Juan Soto makes second MLB debut, retroactively hits HR on first-ever MLB at-bat

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Nats rookie Juan Soto makes second MLB debut, retroactively hits HR on first-ever MLB at-bat

The Washington Nationals hosted the New York Yankees to finish a once-suspended game, tied at 3-3 in the sixth inning. Though it seemed like just a makeup, it was anything but for rookie Juan Soto.

It’s true that Soto struck out as a pinch hitter in his first-ever game on May 20. Since then, the 19-year-old has caught fire, batting .312 with five home runs and 12 RBI in 23 games this season.

But the makeup of the suspended game took place on May 15, five days before Soto was called up to give the Nats an extra bat. Soto would make his major league debut once again.

Though it’s uncommon for a player to compete in a game prior to his major-league debut, it’s been done before. Barry Bonds hit a go-ahead single in a suspended game that dated a month before his debut. Closer Jeff Reardon threw a scoreless inning and picked up a win in a suspended game nearly two months before his debut, as well.              

After Anthony Rendon hit an opposite-field single in the bottom of the sixth, Soto pinch hit for Matt Adams who has missed the previous two games with a hand injury.                                                  

And Soto, with a chance to change his first career at-bat from a pinch-hit strikeout to anything but, did just that. He turned on a fastball and sent a rocket to right field. Aaron Judge took a few steps before looking up toward the bleachers. The ball landed in the second deck.

Talk about a first career at-bat. A no-doubt, two-run shot to give the Nationals the lead in a game that took place before his first major-league debut.

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Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

In terms of the needs on their roster and the guys most likely to be available when they are on the clock at No. 15 in the first round, few players in this draft class seem as obvious a fit with the Washington Wizards more than Robert Williams of Texas A&M. So, it was no surprise that he not only visited them in Washington on Monday, but received the only individual public workout they have held during this year's predraft process.

Williams could be the answer to their longstanding quest for an athletic big man. No need to bring in five other guys for the usual six-player workout when Williams deserves a longer and more extensive look than most prospects they are considering.

The 20-year-old was put through a variety of drills Monday afternoon, just days before the 2018 NBA Draft. He likes the fit with Washington, if that's how things end up sorting out.

"I definitely feel like they could use a big like me, a defensive-style athletic big like me. I definitely see myself fitting here," he said.

Williams is one of the best big men in this year's draft. He is 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds with a 7-5 wingspan. He used that length to dominate in the paint at the college level.

Williams averaged a modest 10.4 points for the Aggies in 2017-18, but also 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. That was his sophomore year. He averaged 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as a freshman.

He was a shot-blocking force the day he stepped on campus and believes those skills will translate to the professional ranks. In the NBA, Williams believes he can thrive because his defensive versatility will be even more valuable in a day and age where switching is paramount.

"I feel like I can guard all positions. That’s one of my biggest attributes," he said. "It’s just about embracing it, having fun stopping a guard. Once you’re comfortable with it, you can do it."

Williams may adapt to the NBA quickly on the defensive end and that's where the Wizards need help the most. They haven't had a consistent rim-protector in years. Last season, point guard John Wall led the team in blocks per game.

Offense is where the questions lie with Williams. He wasn't a big scorer in college and does not have much of an outside shot. The fact he shot just 47.1 percent from the free throw line this past season suggests he has a lot of work to do before he can stretch the floor.

Williams will need to find a niche offensively, likely as a rim-runner off pick-and-rolls. He sees a lot of potential in a possible pick-and-roll pairing with Wall.

"He’s an elite passer and an elite guard. Coming off a pick-and-roll, you have to pay attention to him as well as have to pay attention to me as well. It’s a win-win situation," Williams said.

Williams believes his offensive game will open up with more space at the NBA level. The Wizards have Wall surrounded by three-point shooters in Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris. Toss Williams into the middle and he could go to work in the paint doing the rest.

If Williams were drafted by the Wizards, he could look at Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets as a model to follow. Like Houston, the Wizards have two All-Star guards. An athletic big man who doesn't need plays run for him could be the perfect complement.

No one needs to tell Williams that, he is well-aware. He said that at nearly every stop during the predraft process Capela's name has come up.

"I knew that’s what you were going to say," Williams said to a reporter (raises hand) who asked about the Capela comparison.

Williams continued to say they are different players and it's not entirely fair to compare them. That exchange showed Williams has an edge to him, sort of like Morris. He's clearly not afraid to be honest when some players would not.

Despite downplaying the comparison, Williams can see what makes Capela successful.

"I’ve watched him. He’s a great player," Williams said. "He is around the right people. He just plays his role. He runs off a lot of screens. He gets up there and does what he has to do."

Williams is gearing up for Thursday's draft and trying to decide who he will walk the stage with, as the NBA has introduced a new tradition of each player walking with two people. He said it will likely be his mother and sister. Perhaps by the end of the night he will also walk that stage wearing a Washington Wizards hat.

For more on Williams, check out our extensive draft profile on him.

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