NCAA

Redskins' Shanahan shows he still has the touch

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Redskins' Shanahan shows he still has the touch

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Mike Shanahan's once-unquestioned legacy was fading rapidly.

Now, a seven-game winning streak has not only put the Washington Redskins back in the playoffs, it has ended the personal drought of the coach who won two Super Bowls way back when in Denver.

Seven weeks ago, Shanahan was 14-27 after roughly 2 1/2 seasons in Washington. To fans with short memories, he had become associated as much with Donovan McNabb failures as with John Elway successes. Though often touted as a Hall of Fame coach by his peers, it had been seven years since he coached a playoff team.

Turns out, he still knows what he's doing.

``You understand as a coach: unless you get it done, people forget very quickly what you've done,'' Shanahan said Monday. ``So that's why I think a game like winning the NFC East, you get a game like that, you want to find a way to win it. Because once you do, that momentum starts again. ...

``Unless you take advantage of that opportunity, people forget very quickly.''

The Redskins (10-6), division winners after a 28-18 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale, will host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in the franchise's first playoff appearance since the 2007 season. It's the first home playoff game since a 27-13 win over the Detroit Lions on Jan. 8, 2000.

In Shanahan's history, the more relevant seasons are 1997 and 1998, when he won those Super Bowls with Elway and the Broncos. And 2005, when he made his last playoff appearance with the Broncos. And 2008, when he went 8-8 and was fired, leading to a year out of the NFL before the Redskins hired him in 2010.

Shanahan recalled some of that history Monday, pointing out that the 2006 and 2008 teams were in playoff contention until the final week. He also spoke of the way his current Redskins finally discovered the confidence to get on a roll when another losing season seemed inevitable.

``I'm very proud of this group,'' Shanahan said. ``Because there's a lot of people, when you're 3-6, and you're fighting some adversity, they're not strong enough mentally to really go out there and practice hard, and give themselves a chance to accomplish goals. You've got to have strong character to take criticism and keep on fighting, not worry about what's being said, and just focus on your job. Players, as well as coaches.''

Shanahan certainly heard the criticism when he said the playoffs were no longer a realistic goal immediately after the record dropped to 3-6. He maintains his words were misinterpreted, and his attempts to explain them actually helped the players believe there was still something to play for.

That confusing week seems ages ago. On Monday, Shanahan was clearly in a good mood at his weekly news conference. He joked with a photographer that ``my good side's over here'' and laughed when asked by a reporter whether any players were being suspended this week. The team has a habit of waiting until Shanahan has left the room to announce such bad news.

Asked about the state of quarterback Robert Griffin III's sprained right knee, Shanahan joked: ``I was a little disappointed yesterday because he only averaged 10 1/2 yards a carry.''

On kicker Kai Forbath, who hit an upright to end a streak of 17 made field goals to start a career, the coach said: ``We cut him since he missed that field goal. He's gone.'' Then he recanted with a smile: ``We'll allow him one miss.''

Seriously, Shanahan offered a clue on how he's changed as a coach over the years. Talent, he's learned, isn't enough.

``When you're younger, you're always looking for the best athlete. You always think that athlete is going to get you that championship,'' he said. ``And through experiences you realize that everybody has to know their role. There's only going to be so many great athletes on your football team, and those great athletes, you're hoping that they're your leaders.''

Obviously, Griffin tops that list: The Redskins are 7-0 since he's been made a team captain. But solid locker room guys such as London Fletcher, Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Lorenzo Alexander and a rehabilitated Trent Williams fit that bill, too.

And then there are those hard-to-grasp intangibles: confidence and momentum. The Redskins now have them both.

``I think that's what separates teams,'' Shanahan said. ``Teams that play with a lot of confidence, you get used to winning. You expect to win. You've been in that situation a few times. Whether it's a tough third quarter, it's a tough first quarter or a fourth quarter, and you find a way to win. It's a mindset, a lot of guys believing in each other, concentrating on their job, and in the end finding a way to get it done.

``And when you do that, sometimes you just get used to it. It's one of those things that kind of separates really good teams from average teams.''

Notes: It's been three weeks since Griffin sprained his knee, and Shanahan cautioned it might take a while before the rookie is back to world-class speed. ``Is it a month? Is it a month and a half? You never really know when it's completely healed,'' Shanahan said. ... CB Cedric Griffin's four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing substances is over. He will return to practice Wednesday, and the team will decide by the end of the week whether to restore him to the 53-man roster. ``It all depends on what type of shape he's in,'' Shanahan said.

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Virginia snaps 3-game losing streak with 63-58 win over Georgia Tech

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USA Today Sports Images

Virginia snaps 3-game losing streak with 63-58 win over Georgia Tech

ATLANTA (AP) -- Jay Huff and Mamadi Diakite scored 17 points apiece as defending national champion Virginia snapped a three-game losing streak with a 63-58 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday night.

The Cavaliers (12-5, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) finally regained their winning touch after dropping out of The Associated Press ranking for the first time since November 2017.

Georgia Tech (8-10, 3-5) lost its fourth straight home game. The Yellow Jackets haven't won at McCamish Pavilion since a Dec. 4 victory over Nebraska. 

Diakite's dunk with 14:47 remaining gave Virginia its biggest lead, 43-29.

The Cavaliers were still up 48-37 with just over 10 minutes to go when Georgia Tech suddenly came to life offensively.

The Yellow Jackets scored on four of five possessions, stringing together a 9-0 run that cut Virginia's edge to 48-46.

That was as close as Georgia Tech would get.

Huff, a 7-foot-1 center, knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key to thwart Georgia Tech's momentum. A few minutes later, he swished another open jumper to make it 55-48. 

Georgia Tech got a basket and a defensive stop, but Braxton Key swooped on for an offensive rebound to give the Cavaliers a second chance. With just over 2 minutes to go, Diakite was left open on the wing for a jumper that made it 57-50, effectively finishing off the Yellow Jackets.

Jose Alvarado paced Georgia Tech with 20 points.

Virginia led 33-25 at halftime, taking advantage of the home team's sloppy play. The Yellow Jackets hit 11 of 18 shots (61.1%) but turned it over 13 times, wasting far too many possessions against the defensive-minded Cavaliers.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia: The Cavaliers picked up a desperately needed victory to avoid their longest losing streak since a four-game skid from Feb. 12-20, 2017. While still a far cry from their national championship squad, Virginia showed some offensive efficiency to go along with its always-tenacious defense. Key chipped in with 10 points. 

Georgia Tech: This is shaping up to be another disappointing season, raising more doubts about whether coach Josh Pastner can turn around a program that is approaching a decade since its last NCAA Tournament appearance. The Yellow Jackets continue to show flashes of promise, but Pastner has been unable to develop any sort of consistency in his fourth season. 

UP NEXT

Virginia: Returns home to play North Carolina State on Monday night. 

Georgia Tech: Hits the road for the first of two meetings against No. 11 Louisville. The teams will meet again in Atlanta on March 7, the final game of the regular season. 

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Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

The Capitals may not be participating in Stadium Series this year, but the team is embracing outdoor hockey around Washington for spirited game day fun.

The Caps are hosting Rock The Rink skates at The Wharf, Penatgon Row, Rockville Town Square and The Avenue at White Marsh on select game days from January to March 2020. Fans attending these events can wear Capitals jerseys or gear to get either $5 off admission or free skate rentals.

The Wharf

Jan. 18 at 1 p.m., Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., and Feb 17. at 1 p.m.

Transit Pier will boast a Capitals-paneled ice rink with an ice resurfacer, trivia contests, giveaways, along with a DJ. The Capitals Campire will also boast Adirondack chairs around a fire to roast marshmallows for smores in front of a 14-foot jumbotron screen to watch the Capitals games. 

Pentagon Row

Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and March 9 at 6 p.m.

These skates will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants. The Caps games will also be on at surrounding bars. 

The Avenue at White March

Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

This event will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants.

Rockville Town Square

Jan. 31 at 5:30 p.m. and March 5 at 6 p.m.

In addition to the above fun, Rockville native and Capitals hockey ambassador Haley Skarupa will be there on Jan. 31. You can watch the Capitals game at local bars as well. 

Fans attending these events or using local outdoor rinks this season are encouraged to post about it on social media by tagging @capitals and using the hashtag #RockTheRink to enter themselves for a chance to win prizes.

Caps slept through the first 40 minutes, they did not give Holtby much help though he was bad in his own right and Vrana sure did show something with the game-winning goal.

As for no penalties...not so much.

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