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Tar Heels next up in Virginia's bowl drive

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Tar Heels next up in Virginia's bowl drive

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Virginia would like to use the spotlight of a Thursday night game to show that its football program really is on the way up, even if its record suggests otherwise.

The Cavaliers (4-6, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) host North Carolina on Senior Night. While at least 16 players will be playing their final home game at Scott Stadium, they say sentimentality takes a back seat to winning.

``Everyone who loves college football is watching this game, and it's a statement game,'' senior linebacker LaRoy Reynolds said this week. ``... The atmosphere is going to be great, The feeling of playing the last home game, being with the team again and working to get this bowl bid - I think the energy's going to be there, the passion's going to be there and the effort is definitely going to be there.''

Virginia has won two in a row after a six-game losing streak, and still needs to beat the Tar Heels and then state rival Virginia Tech in next weekend's regular season finale to qualify for a bowl game.

The victories at N.C. State and at home against Miami have their confidence soaring.

``We knew we needed to turn this thing around before it was too late,'' senior linebacker Steve Greer said. ``We did put ourselves in this position. I think everyone's all-in, everyone's bought in, so we're going to have to go out and we're facing a good team, so we're going to have to play well.''

North Carolina (6-4, 3-3) would be in contention to win the ACC's Coastal Division title if not for a one-year postseason ban imposed by the NCAA. The Tar Heels relish the chance to keep Virginia home, too.

``We're all about trying to spoil other people's stuff, I guess,'' tailback Gio Bernard said this week. ``We don't have a Christmas present. We want to try to take away other people's Christmas presents, I guess you could say it like that. But for the most part, we just want to keep winning.''

Or get back to it, especially after the way the Tar Heels lost last weekend.

While Virginia won a stirring duel with Miami 41-40 on Michael Rocco's 10-yard touchdown pass to Jake McGee with 6 seconds left, the Tar Heels broke futility records in a 68-50 home loss to Georgia Tech.

The loss made having a short week a blessing, first-year coach Larry Fedora said.

``You really don't have time to dwell on it,'' he said. ``Probably the best thing for us is we play the short week. So mentally you don't have time to think about it. You don't have time to cry about it.

``You've got to step up. You've got to go. It's time to go again.''

Virginia intends to continue with its quarterback rotation, using both Rocco and Alabama transfer Phillip Sims, even after Rocco completed a school-record 18 consecutive passes against the Hurricanes.

The coaching staff and players might prefer having more time to prepare for Bernard. He has already rushed for 1,008 yards, by far the most in the ACC, and is averaging 7.1 yards per carry. He is also the conference's top punt returner with a 17.9-yard average and two returns for touchdowns.

``He's a great player, a great running back, probably one of the best that we're going to play against,'' Reynolds said. ``I have a lot of respect for him, but you live for competition like this.''

The Tar Heels are third in the league with an average of 40 points a game. Quarterback Bryn Renner hopes to hit the ground running at Scott Stadium and take the fans out of the game quickly.

``We're going to be on the road and they're going to be excited at home,'' Renner said. ``One thing about college football is it is about momentum. If we control that early and get some big plays, get some stops on defense and make some big plays on special teams, then we'll be ok the rest of the game.''

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AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in Chapel Hill. N.C., contributed to this report.

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Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

LAS VEGAS—Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom weren’t expecting to lose their head coach less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup.

But business is business, Ovi said, and Barry Trotz is handling his by attempting to capitalize on claiming the championship.

“It’s sad,” Ovechkin said on the red carpet at the NHL Awards, where he accepted his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy on Wednesday night. “Obviously, we won together.”

The Caps’ captain also thanked Trotz for directing him—and his teammates—to new heights.  

“First of all, [I want to] thank him for a great job to be our coach, to be our dad, to give us a chance to win,” Ovechkin said. “But then again, it’s a business. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be fine and I wish him luck.”

Backstrom, meanwhile, said he was caught off guard by Trotz’s decision to step down over a contract stalemate with the team. Trotz asked for $5 million per for five seasons; the Caps balked over the terms Trotz’s camp sought.   

“I was a little surprised, obviously,” Backstrom said. “I heard the scenario.”

Like Ovechkin, though, Backstrom praised the job Trotz did during his four-year tenure.

“He’s done a great job in Washington,” Backstrom said. “We obviously have him to thank for a lot. He’s done a tremendous job of schooling us and winning a championship. No one is going to take that away from him.”

Trotz’s next move is unclear, but he’s a free agent and currently eligible to negotiate with any team. The Islanders are the only team with an opening for a head coach.

As for Washington, GM Brian MacLellan said that associate coach Todd Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz.

Ovechkin said he thinks Reirden would be a good fit.

“We all respect Todd,” Ovechkin said. “We all like him. Again, it’s not our thing to say who’s going to be head coach, but if it’s going to be Todd, it’s going to be fun.”

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A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

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Daniel Duffy on Twitter/@RealArtOfWords

A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

How do you make a photo of Alex Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time even more memorable?

You make it out of all the Capitals' game scores this year, of course.

Capitals fan and artist Daniel Duffy (@RealArtOfWords) posted a phenomenal finished piece commemorating the Cup win on Wednesday, June 20. It's a little meta and astounding to look at, but very fun to try and read. If you want to relive the glory that was the parts of the 2017-18 Capitals season, check out the piece.

The piece, which appears to be done in a traditional medium like pen or marker, holds the team faced, arena played at, and final score of every game. It uses six colors and over sixty lines of text. Ovechkin roars as he holds the Stanley Cup overhead, the white away jersey shaded with bits of grey text. It takes a skilled eye to sort text and colors into shapes and shading, but Daniel did a fantastic job! It's awesome to see a fanbase create different interpretations of iconic moments. We'll surely see more of Ovechkin in this moment.

Just as we thought we were going to get tired of the celebration, fans find new ways to surprise us. Stay creative, Caps fans!

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