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No. 15 Clemson runs and passes over Ga. Tech 47-31

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No. 15 Clemson runs and passes over Ga. Tech 47-31

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Tajh Boyd threw for a career high 397 yards, but both he and his coach agreed he could have played better in No. 15 Clemson's 47-31 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday.

``Could have been some more out there,'' the junior quarterback said. ``Honestly, I came out too hyped. I was missing some passes, some easy throws.''

But Boyd and the rest of the offense settled down, running 93 plays and gaining 601 yards. It is the fourth time the Tigers (5-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have gained more than 500 yards this season.

DeAndre Hopkins had 173 yards receiving on seven catches and two touchdowns, Andre Ellington ran for 82 yards on 24 carries and Clemson ran 93 plays to just 60 for Georgia Tech (2-4, 1-3), leaving offensive coordinator Chad Morris happy after a rough opening two possessions.

``The only thing that's going to stop us is ourselves,'' Morris said.

For all the offense, it was still a defensive play that turned the game Clemson's way. Right after Boyd threw a 35-yard touchdown to Hopkins that put the Tigers ahead 38-31 with 10:29 left in the game, Georgia Tech bobbled the kickoff and had to start from its 2 yard line. Tigers linebacker Spencer Shuey sniffed out an option pitch two plays later for a safety that crushed the Yellow Jackets' chances. It was the first time either team led by more than a touchdown.

``We got points and the ball. That was big,'' Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

Orwin Smith was tackled for a safety. It was his only bad play - he gained 117 yards on seven carries. Quarterback Tevin Washington, who ran 16 times for 104 yards, also missed seeing Shuey when he made the pitch. But he didn't think it cost his team the victory.

``With a game like that, there are so many little things that add up,'' Washington said. ``It could have been something that happened in the first quarter.''

Georgia Tech had a chance to get back in the game. Linebacker Daniel Drummond picked off a tipped pass with 8:32 to go. The Yellow Jackets drove to the Tigers 20, but David Scully's 37-yard field goal was blocked by Josh Watson.

``If they had had a fake on, they would have got it,'' Swinney said. ``We really gambled and brought everybody thinking they've got to kick it, they've got to get this field goal.''

The offenses were expected to dominate. Clemson came in allowing 1,087 yards in its past two games, and the Yellow Jackets had allowed 1,119 yards in their last two games.

Both teams chewed up yards. There were only two punts, with one per team. Georgia Tech couldn't even stop Clemson at the end, with Roderick McDowell running a yard for a touchdown with 50 seconds to go.

``If we take a knee right now, I was going to be disappointed,'' Boyd said of the last drive. ``I know it's sportsmanship, but at the same time, we got down there, we've got to go get it. This is a rivalry game for us.''

The rivalry has recently been slanted Georgia Tech's way. Even with the win, Swinney is 2-4 against the Yellow Jackets.

Clemson's offense hummed for the most part. The Tigers only struggled when they got close to the end zone, settling for three field goals and three touchdowns on six trips inside the Georgia Tech 6 yard line. Clemson was 13-of-19 on third down, but three they failed to convert were with goal to go.

Sammy Watkins, back from missing a because of a virus, caught six passes for 42 yards and ran twice for four yards.

Georgia Tech's 2-4 start is its worst since they went 1-10 in 1994.

``Right now we've got to play close to perfect,'' Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson said. ``Clearly we have to score more points.''

Along with completing 26 of 41 passes, Boyd also ran for a touchdown and caught one pass - a 2-point conversion. The ball was snapped to running back Andre Ellington, who pitched to Hopkins, who threw the pass to Boyd. The points were critical, because Clemson would take a nine-point lead after the safety.

Boyd also set a school record for career touchdown passes with 51, beating Charlie Whitehurst's 49 TD passes.

After the game, Swinney heaped praise on his quarterback, saying he does what every coach wants a player to do - get better with every game.

``That's where he had grown the most as a football player. Last year, when he would struggle at times, he would go out and it was like, I've got to get it all right now. He couldn't go to the next play. He's still ticked off about the last series,'' Swinney said. ``But he's grown beyond that.''

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

Game 1 Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES?

Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1?

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.