After benching, Golson steers Notre Dame to victory

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After benching, Golson steers Notre Dame to victory

Everett Golson finally felt comfortable, and that was despite losing his starting role.

Before Notre Dame's 41-3 throttling of Miami at Soldier Field, the team announced Golson would be benched in favor of Tommy Rees. That's all anybody outside the Irish locker room knew, and it seemed reasonable to posit Golson had lost his starting role only a few days after coach Brian Kelly re-affirmed it in South Bend.

Instead, Rees took three snaps and gave way to Golson, who turned in arguably the best game of his young career, completing 17-of-22 passes for 186 yards while rushing six times for 51 yards.

"I feel little bit more confident," Golson said after the game. "It wasn't necessarily because of this game, just the whole week of preparation really made me feel a little bit more confident. It really showed throughout the game."

That week of preparation, though, involved Golson being dinged for violating a team rule -- thus, the benching to begin the game. Coach Brian Kelly said Golson's punishment stemmed from a meeting with a professor that ran long, and the quarterback didn't communicate that with the team and missed the start of a football obligation.

"But he took full responsibility for it, accountability for it," Kelly said. "I thought he came in and played very well. I was proud of him today."

It was only two weeks ago when Golson was at his worst, throwing two interceptions and looking lost before he was lifted in favor of Tommy Rees from Notre Dame's 13-6 win over Michigan. But with two weeks to re-assess, Golson looked like a completely different quarterback at Soldier Field.

"My main motive tonight was just to have fun, never try to -- I'm not going to make anything too serious, but I think I put a lot of pressure on myself during the Michigan game, so talking to coach Kelly and coach Martin, they really just wanted me to calm down and have fun out there," Golson said.

"I didn't really feel like I was having fun out there," he added about his performance against Michigan. "Just stuff off the field added a little bit of extra pressure or whatnot. But when I'm on that field, I gotta play within myself, I can't let other stuff affect my play."

Golson didn't force anything and didn't make any questionable reads on Saturday. He looked like the quarterback of a 5-0 team, one that's solidly in the AP top 10 and has legitimate BCS aspirations.

With questions mounting about whether a quarterback controversy was brewing in South Bend, the news before Saturday's game probably set off alarm bells at more than a few locations across Notre Dame nation. But Kelly's decision to insert Golson into the game after three plays wasn't about quieting that noise -- it was about Kelly expressing his faith in his freshman quarterback.

"It was important for me after disciplining him to get him back in the game right away, to let him know that I had trust in him, and that I believed in him," Kelly said. "I think that helped him to go in and be relaxed and feel like, hey, I've got the head coach's support here, even though I goofed up, he's going to put me right back in the game. And I think that really helped his confidence and then he backed it up with this play."

Perhaps aiding in Golson's success was the use of his legs. Entering Saturday, Golson had rushed 21 times for -11 yards, but thanks to implementing the zone read into Notre Dame's playbook, he rushed for 51 yards on six carries.

"I felt that it was good that we implemented that in our offense this week, because they never really had a chance to prepare for that because we haven't really shown it before," Golson said.

It took Notre Dame five games to implement the zone read, when the coaching staff finally had enough confidence in Golson to use it. And it's just another example of how Notre Dame's offense is still growing, and has plenty of room for improvement -- even after scoring 41 points.

"Today, we showed a glimpse of what we could be," Golson said. "And just to think about it, to me, is kinda scary. We got all the physical tools. It's just a matter of putting it together and playing as a unit."

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Yanni Gourde had a breakaway goal 4:25 into overtime and the Tampa Bay Lightning rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on Monday night.

Victor Hedman set up the winner with his third assist of the game.

Tampa Bay, which trails Boston by a point for the second Eastern Conference wild card, also got two goals from Jonathan Drouin. Ondrej Palat and Anton Stralman also scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who got pulled 14 minutes into the first after allowing three goals on eight shots, returned to the start the second and finished with 25 saves.

Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane, Tomas Jurco and Richard Panik scored for the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks, who were coming off a 7-0 loss Saturday night at Florida. Scott Darling stopped 25 shots.

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

MESA, Ariz. – After an impressive camp where he looked like the next homegrown Cubs hitter to roll off the assembly line, Ian Happ will go to Triple-A Iowa and get ready to make his big-league debut, or perhaps build his value for a trade-deadline deal.

Along with Happ, the Cubs assigned outfielder John Andreoli and catcher Taylor Davis to minor-league camp on Monday while optioning pitchers Eddie Butler and Rob Zastryzny to Iowa, cutting their roster to 31 as the Opening Night picture comes into focus.

Happ – the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Cincinnati – batted .417 with five homers, four doubles and 17 RBI in 24 Cactus League games.

"Offensively, what was there not to like?" general manager Jed Hoyer said. "I feel like he hit the ball hard every at-bat for six weeks. It's always fun to see a young guy like that come in and open a lot of eyes."

Happ, 22, is a switch-hitter who can play second base and the outfield, skills that could help him escape from Des Moines once the need arises on the major-league level.

[MORE CUBS: How Cubs came to fully believe in the legend of Kyle Schwarber]

Though there are questions about Happ's defense, Theo Epstein's front office and Joe Maddon's coaching staff clearly value versatility and trust young talent, moving Addison Russell to shortstop in 2015 and elevating rookie catcher Willson Contreras last season.

Stay tuned to see when/if the Cubs will have a spot at Wrigley Field, but Happ looks like he will be on a fast track.

"Whenever you're in Triple-A, you're always a call away," Hoyer said. "Sometimes it happens quicker than you think. We never expected Addie would be up in April of that year, and he was. I feel like with Willson last year, if you had asked me in spring training – would he be up in June? – I probably would have thought it would be more like a September call-up or something like that.

"You never know. Things happen. When you have good players in the minor leagues, sometimes it speeds up on you a little bit."