Diggs, Hills lead Maryland past Virginia 27-20

Diggs, Hills lead Maryland past Virginia 27-20

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Stefon Diggs returned the opening kickoff 100 yards, and Perry Hills threw for one touchdown and ran for another as Maryland defeated Virginia 27-20 in Atlantic Coast Conference action on Saturday.

The kickoff return started a horrendous first quarter for Virginia (2-5, 0-3), which has now lost five in a row. A 20-yard touchdown pass from Hills to Justus Pickett put Maryland (4-2, 2-0) up 14-0 less than five minutes into the game.

Virginia pinned the Terrapins at their own 2, but a 27-yard pass from Hills to Kevin Dorsey and a 60-yard catch-and-run by Diggs led to Brad Craddock's 33-yard field goal to make it 17-0.

Hills added a 6-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Phillip Sims and backup Michael Rocco threw touchdown passes for Virginia.

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Stock Watch: Harper, Zimmerman looking like themselves again

Stock Watch: Harper, Zimmerman looking like themselves again

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 3-4

Team slash: .283/.359/.454

Team ERA: 5.79

Runs per game: 6.6 

 

STOCK UP 

Ryan Zimmerman, 1B: .375 AVG, HR, 1.014 OPS

Zimmerman announced his return from the disabled list with authority last weekend in Atlanta, hammering the first pitch he saw into left field for a solo home run. The blast was just the beginning; he’s 6-for-16 since he’s been back, getting solid contact even when he doesn’t get a hit. We’re talking about a very small sample size, of course, but a resurgent Zimmerman would mean wonders for the bottom of the Nats lineup.

Bryce Harper, RF: .357 AVG, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 1.026 OPS

Like Zimmerman, Harper’s going to have to be consistent for a little while longer before fans feel like he’s truly back to his old self. Still, the past week and a half have been a welcome sight for an offense that needs him to look like the reigning NL MVP. He’s posted multi-hit efforts in five out of his last 10 games, notching five extra-base hits over that span. For comparison, that’s the same amount of extra-base hits he had throughout the month of July.

Numbers aside, Harper has simply looked relaxed at the plate lately; he’s no longer chasing pitches out of the strike zone, instead reclaiming his patient approach. Even if he may not be able to completely salvage his season, a strong finish would be a huge boost for the Nats.    

STOCK DOWN 

Stephen Strasburg, SP: 1.2 IP, 9 ER, 15-day disabled list

Even if it’s a precautionary measure, there still has to be slight concern that Strasburg is headed to the disabled list with right elbow soreness. The 28-year-old right hander said Monday that his arm recovery between starts had been getting increasingly difficult, but the discomfort never affected him during his performances. Who knows if there was truly a correlation between the elbow issues and his recent 0-3 skid, but the Nats are hoping that time off will do him some good. With the postseason less than six weeks away, will Strasburg be fully rested and ready to go in October? 

Reynaldo Lopez, SP: 1-1, 4.66 ERA, 1.66 WHIP

While Lopez had two good outings recently, both of them were against the lowly Atlanta Braves. Against contenders like the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles? He’s 0-2 with a 10.32 ERA. Granted, he’s still in the infancy of his major-league career, and was only inserted in the rotation because Joe Ross is out with injury. That said, with Strasburg also gone now, it’s up to the back end to create some semblance of stability for the next few weeks. 

Virginia names ECU transfer their starting quarterback

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Virginia names ECU transfer their starting quarterback

When Virginia opens the season on Sept. 3 against Richmond, they will have a new quarterback starting under center. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall named junior transfer Kurt Benkert the starting quarterback on Wednesday morning over seniors Matt Johns and Connor Brewer, according to multiple reports.

Benkert was expected to start for ECU just last season, but a knee injury in preseason forced him to miss the entire year. He is considered the most mobile of the three, which given Mendenhall's history with dual-threat quarterbacks, likely was a major factor in the head coach's decision.

RELATED: HOKIES REVEAL UNIFORMS FOR BATTLE AT BRISTOL

As a junior, Benkert was the only candidate with two years of eligibility remaining, a prospect hat reportedly "intrigued" Mendenhall. If Benkert is able to hold on to the position and start next season as well, it would represent a measure of stability Virginia has not known for quite some time.

What likely helped Benkert was the fact that his head coach at ECU, Ruffin McNeill, is now an assistant as UVa. By coming into a school with an offensive system Benkert was familiar with, it eliminated the learning curve most transfers go through with their new teams.

Benkert will replace Johns who was the team's starter last season and co-starter the season before. The fact that the competition was a three-man race at this point in the summer despite Johns' experience was a clear indication that his ability to win back the starting job was in clear jeopardy.

In addition, Mendenhall also announced Johns and Brewer were still competing for the backup role.

MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL: What is the ceiling for Maryland football in 2016?

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Projecting how Eastern Conference will shake out: Detroit Pistons

Projecting how Eastern Conference will shake out: Detroit Pistons

No. 8 Detroit Pistons

2015-16: After 44 wins, made the playoffs for the first time since 2009 as a No. 8 seed before getting swept in the first round by the eventual-champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Best additions: C Boban Marjanovic, F Henry Ellenson, F Jon Leuer, G Michael Gbinije and PG Ish Smith.

Poised for breakout: F Stanley Johnson. He's a two-way player coming off strong rookie season. A wing defender of his size is a premium in today's NBA.

Question marks: How quickly they're able to upgrade relies heavily on the rookies, Ellenson and Gbinije. If it takes them time, and usually that's the case, the Pistons are looking at a similar season. Smith posts good stats on bad teams but isn't a good shooter or strong second option behind starting PG Reggie Jackson. Marjanovic adds size to a frontcourt that already has Cs Andre Drummond and Aron Baynes. They're not built to play quicker which goes against the league-wide trend. 

2016-17 Eastern Conference Previews:

No. 15 Brooklyn Nets
No. 14 New York Knicks
No. 13 Milwaukee Bucks
No. 12 Philadelphia 76ers
No. 10 Washington Wizards
No. 9 Atlanta Hawks