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Syracuse holds off Pitt 14-13

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Syracuse holds off Pitt 14-13

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Nose tackle Jay Bromley and the Syracuse defense needed a blow with the Orange protecting a one-point lead against Pittsburgh late in the game and Panthers quarterback Tino Sunseri itching for one more chance.

That chance never came as Syracuse tailbacks Adonis Ameen-Moore, Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley and quarterback Ryan Nassib ran the ball 10 times over the final 4:52 and Syracuse held on for a stirring 14-13 victory Friday night.

The Syracuse defense, on the field for more than 34 minutes, sacked Sunseri five times for 51 yards in losses, harassed him when he did throw, and shut down the Pittsburgh running game and star Ray Graham, who had 24 carries for 57 yards.

``We just don't play defense and call it a day,'' Bromley said. ``We did our job and the offense did theirs.''

Linebacker Dyshawn Davis returned a fumble 52 yards for the Orange's other score as Syracuse broke out of a yearlong funk. Syracuse (2-3, 1-0 Big East) hadn't beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision team since last October, losing eight straight since a stunning win over a ranked West Virginia team.

Syracuse also snapped a seven-game losing streak against Pittsburgh (2-3, 0-2), which had won two straight.

Both teams were coming off bye weeks, and this was their last meeting as members of the Big East. Both will join the Atlantic Coast Conference next season, and they will continue to play one another each year.

Ameen-Moore, a sophomore with only 12 career carries entering the game, scored on a 1-yard run to cap Syracuse's first possession and had 13 yards on four consecutive carries to end it.

``We had to be ready, tuned in to everything,'' Ameen-Moore said. ``I haven't scored a touchdown since I was in 12th grade. They trusted me to get the job done. It felt wonderful.''

Syracuse finally put together a solid game after four erratic efforts.

``The first half, the fumble returned for a touchdown, we did enough stuff to beat ourselves in many ways,'' first-year Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. ``I thought going in Syracuse was a good team and I come away believing the same thing.''

The Orange scored first and never trailed, played well on special teams, converted that turnover into a touchdown, and pressured Sunseri when the game was on the line. Defensive end Brandon Sharpe broke through for three sacks, and when Sunseri seemed poised to give Pitt the lead late in the fourth quarter, the defense rose again against Pitt's imposing offensive line, which averages 317 pounds.

Sunseri was called for intentional grounding and on the next play cornerback Brandon Reddish stormed in from the left side on a blitz and sacked Sunseri for a 9-yard loss and to force a punt. That all came after Sunseri had hit Devin Street for 15 yards, J.P. Holtz for another 15, and Mike Shanahan for 24 on consecutive plays to put the ball at the Syracuse 17.

``It felt great,'' Orange defensive tackle Deon Goggins said. ``It finally felt like we was clicking. During the bye week we were working on little things and it came together.''

Sunseri finished 25 of 33 for 319 yards to move past John Congemi and Rod Rutherford to fourth-all time at Pitt with 6,765 yards. Street had a career-high 10 catches for 130 yards.

After starting the season in dismal fashion, losing by two touchdowns to Youngstown State, an FCS team, and Big East foe Cincinnati, Pitt had rallied nicely behind Chryst. The Panthers stunned then-No. 13 Virginia Tech 35-17, forcing the Hokies into four first-half turnovers, and two weeks ago evened the score against FCS teams with a 55-10 victory over Gardner-Webb.

The Panthers fell behind Syracuse by two touchdowns in the first quarter, managed to force only one turnover after getting seven the previous two games, and Sunseri couldn't rally them again.

``We've got to be able to figure out the protection,'' Sunseri said. ``We have to know that. It's something you have to be able to recognize. Ultimately, it's my job to right the ship on that and I'll be able to next time.''

Syracuse's ho-huddle offense had produced lots of yardage in the first four games, but much of it had come in spurts after the Orange had fallen behind. Nassib was flawless the first time Syracuse had the ball against Pitt.

After forcing the Panthers into a three-and-out on the game's first possession, Syracuse marched quickly for the first touchdown of the game, mixing the run with the pass as the Pitt defenders seemed to struggle to get a handle on the pace of play.

Nassib had four completions for 51 yards, while Smith and Gulley combined to rush for 18 yards to set up Moore's touchdown at 9:54. Moore's first career TD came on his first carry of the season.

Through four games, the Syracuse defense had produced only four turnovers (three interceptions and one fumble recovery) as the Orange struggled with one of the worst turnover margins in the country (minus-1.5).

Syracuse made it 14-0 late in the first on Davis' fumble return. Sunseri hit Drew Carswell for a short gain near midfield. Carswell lost the ball after a hit by Jeremi Wilkes, and Davis scooped it up and scored untouched down the right side.

Coming into the Syracuse game, Sunseri ranked as the Big East's most efficient passer (15th nationally) with a 166.80 rating, and he combined with Street to rally the Panthers.

Sunseri was 16 of 21 for 187 yards in the first half, and eight of those passes went to Street for 107 yards. Street's 14-yard catch over the middle on a third-and-7 from the Syracuse 20 set up Graham's 1-yard scoring run, which came on third down after some spirited play by the Orange front.

Kevin Harper's 40-yard field goal pulled Pitt within 14-10 at halftime and he hit a 27-yarder late in the third to make it 14-13. Sunseri set up the second with a gutsy throw as he was being hit, somehow finding Shanahan for a 46-yard gain down the left side.

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Follow John Kekis on Twitter athttp://www.twitter.com/Greek1947

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Redskins Talk hosts "Redskins On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

Redskins Talk hosts "Redskins On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

It's the moment we've all been waiting for: finding out who the Redskins are going to take as their No. 15 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

After much anticipation and countless mock drafts, Redskins fans will finally find out what's to come for the Burgundy and Gold in the upcoming NFL season. 

And we couldn't let you handle this news alone: So we've got the Redskins Talk crew hosting a special "Redskins on the Clock" live stream to address, analyze and hopefully rejoice over the 'Skins decision. 

<<CHECK OUT NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON'S LATEST NFL MOCK DRAFT>>

On Thursday, Apr. 25th, JP Finlay, Peter Hailey and Mitchell Tischler from the Redskins Talk Podcast, along with guests Travis Thomas and Trevor Matich, will be offering a live look into their thoughts and concerns surrounding both the Redskins' pick and all of Round 1. The live stream will be available on the MyTeams by NBC Sports App from approximately 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

And if you haven't already downloaded the MyTeams App, you can do so right now, RIGHT HERE.

Redskins Talk Podcast "Redskins on the Clock" Special

CLICK HERE to watch the daily live stream of the Redskins Talk Podcast

When: 8 p.m. - (approximately) 11 p.m. ET, Thursday, Apr. 25th 

Live Stream: Click to stream Redskins Talk Podcast Live every day this week

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How the Capitals went from 'chokers' to 'closers' in Game 6s

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USA TODAY Sports

How the Capitals went from 'chokers' to 'closers' in Game 6s

RALEIGH — There was a time when a Stanley Cup Playoff series lead of any kind produced nothing but stress and anxiety for the Capitals and their tortured fan base.

This is an organization, after all, that has blown a 3-1 playoff series lead five times – often in horrifying, heartbreaking fashion. That has only happened 28 times in NHL history, and Washington owns 18 percent of those epic collapses. But the league’s biggest chokers have put those demons to rest. And that trend started well before winning the Stanley Cup last year. 

Tonight, the Capitals have a chance to close out the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 6 of a first-round playoff series at PNC Arena. They lead 3-2. They know they always have another chance, if necessary, on Wednesday for Game 7 at Capital One Arena back home. 

But if ending a series on the road once seemed like a daunting task, it hasn’t fazed the franchise for a while now. Washington has won four Game 6s in a row when up 3-2 in a series.  

“When we play to our identity and force other teams to make mistakes and they’re in an elimination situation, then those mistakes become magnified,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “That team is already feeling the pressure of that being their last game. And if we play to our identity then it really seems to match up nicely for those elimination games.”

The Capitals were ahead 3-2 with road Game 6s in Philadelphia (2016), Toronto (2017), Columbus (2018) and Pittsburgh (2018) and won them all. They also put Vegas away last June up 3-1 in the series with Game 5 on the road and won the Stanley Cup that night. If the recent version of the Capitals has a chance to put a team away, the team has done it.

The last time they blew a lead with a chance to eliminate the opposition was 2015 when they coughed up a 3-1 advantage in a second-round exit to the New York Rangers. 

There are theories why.

A big, physical team with elite skill, Washington has been able to wear teams out the later a series goes. In 2017, the Maple Leafs put up a great fight against the Presidents’ Trophy winners in the first round. They won two overtime games. They took a 2-1 series lead and had a chance to go up 3-1 on the Capitals with Game 4 at home in Toronto. 

Washington, instead, won Game 4 by a 5-4 score and allowed just two goals in Games 5 and 6 to end the series.

The offense went dry in 2016 against Philadelphia in the first round and a 3-0 series lead suddenly was cut to 3-2 with the Flyers hosting Game 6. They had life. The old Capitals might have panicked. But they won that game 1-0. Philadelphia managed just four goals over the final three games of the series and had nothing left in Game 6. 

There is a mentality that goes into playing a game where the other team’s season is on the line and yours is not.   

"To ourselves, I think, to show that when we play that way, we're going to be real tough to beat,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “I don't think we put much emphasis on [Carolina]. We know they're going to prepare and play as if it's an elimination game for them. We know they're going to come hard, we know they're a good young team and they never shy away from anything. It's on us to play like that and take everything else out of it."

Last year against Columbus in the first round, Washington overcame a 2-0 deficit to tie the series. Game 4 on the road was a clinic with the frustrated Blue Jackets hardly able to get the puck through the neutral zone in a 4-1 Capitals win. Washington broke Columbus’ will with its relentless, physical play. It scored 10 goals in Games 5 and 6 to end the series.  

The same thing played out the next round against Pittsburgh. A dominating 6-3 win in Game 5 at home – much like the 6-0 win over Carolina on Saturday – set the stage for a classic road Game 6. Washington scored first. The Penguins tied it. But the Capitals were the team with enough juice left in overtime to take the series on Evgeny Kuznetsov’s game-winning goal. 

The best example of how the Capitals have worn down one opponent after another actually came last season in the Eastern Conference Final when they were down 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Washington didn’t allow a goal in Games 6 and 7 and advanced. 

“Our team likes being on the road, plays well on the road, enjoys spending that time with each other,” Reirden said. “When you want to have success on the road you have to have contributions from everybody throughout your lineup. That makes you a very difficult team to match up as the home coach. So by us having the seven 20-goal scorers, we were a difficult match.

"And now, we started to see a little bit more of our depth scoring [Saturday]. … It certainly becomes an easier road assignment for the coach -- I can tell you. That’s an advantage for us.”

The Lightning last May looked like a boxer that had taken too many blows to the head after the Capitals blitzed them in Game 6.

If you looked closely on Saturday, you saw elements of that when Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton raced back for a puck, knew Alex Ovechkin was steaming right behind him, and gave up on the play. Hamilton didn’t appear to want to pay the price for winning that race and instead Ovechkin took the puck away and fed Brett Connolly in front for the goal that put Washington up 3-0. 

Maybe Carolina regroups tonight. The Hurricanes are a young team, but with grizzled veterans like Jordan Staal and Justin Williams who have won multiple Stanley Cups between them. They won’t play scared. The crowd at PNC Arena will be a factor. They do not want their season to end.

But these Capitals are a different breed. Time and again the past three years they have grinded their opponents into dust so by the time the series reaches this point there isn’t enough fight left to them.     

“We’ve just got to regroup here and move forward,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “That was just a 3-2 lead. Toughest one is the last one. We haven’t been happy with the way we’ve played in Carolina so far. Let’s change that.”

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