After narrow victory, Irish feel they've learned their lesson


After narrow victory, Irish feel they've learned their lesson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's national title hopes rested on the leg of Pittsburgh's Kevin Harper. If his 33-yard field goal went through the uprights, Notre Dame would fall to 8-1, squarely out of the BCS championship conversation.
Harper's kick missed wide right.
A few minutes later, Everett Golson broke the plane of the south end zone at Notre Dame Stadium, and the Irish secured a 29-26 win over Pitt in triple overtime.
It was a three-point win against a Big East team with a 4-4 record heading into Saturday.
Notre Dame was favored by 16 12 points.
"I think just maybe taking this week lightly a little bit, thinking that we could play Pitt and not play our A-game, we could play our B-game and get the W," wide receiver T.J. Jones said of Notre Dame's sloppy play. "It took us a while to kind of catch on and click. But once we figured out that this was going to be a battle, we started to get things rolling."
Notre Dame dominated the fourth quarter, but the first three rounds had Pitt nearing a knockout punch. The Panthers' 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter was the largest deficit Notre Dame had faced all year, and it came from a team that, on paper, was clearly inferior to the No. 3 Irish.
But Notre Dame has come to realize the team they face on paper -- and on film, too -- may not be the same team they face on game day.
"It's a different type of team, when they come here they play Notre Dame. Notre Dame itself, just the name, has a lot of presence behind it," wide receiver DaVaris Daniels explained. "And then us being ranked so high now, it's added. It's really tough to get a feel for what kind of team you're going to see."
It wasn't so much that Notre Dame wasn't prepared for Pitt -- coach Brian Kelly said the Irish had a good week of practice and preparation, for what it's worth -- but it was more that it's tough to anticipate an unknown.
And while Pitt upped its game on Saturday, Notre Dame didn't play half as well as they did in Oklahoma. The Irish had three costly turnovers -- two of which came in the end zone -- and few ill-timed penalties. Notre Dame's vaunted front seven were largely neutralized through the first three quarters, with running back Ray Graham gouging the defense on the ground and on a few screen passes.
Had that play continued in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame would be sitting at 8-1, and it wouldn't have been by a close margin.
"Last year, that would have been a loss for us, but our team kept fighting, kept playing," Kelly said. "I told them they have to understand that everybody they play against will play their absolute best. Next week, BC will play out of their minds against us, and Wake Forest will (the week after that). And they can't just highlight certain teams on their schedule, because they will play their very best. I think that's a lesson learned for our football team."
Looking around the BCS championship landscape, it reveals three teams that have experience with success. Alabama is the defending national champion, Oregon is two years removed from a title game berth and Kansas State was a top-10 team in 2011.
Notre Dame started off 2011 0-2 and finished with five losses, the same number the Irish had in 2010.
"I think coach put it best, it's hard being 9-0," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "And we're learning that. We have a lot of veteran players, but we don't have anybody on this team that's ever been 9-0. And so we're understand that now, through this process we're growing. We're looking at things, seeing we have to be mature about this whole thing. We came out and things weren't working out, things weren't falling into our hands, but we kept fighting. Happy that it came out the way it did."
Saturday's win certainly won't sit well with the pollsters or computers, most of which didn't think too highly of Pitt. But ultimately, how Notre Dame won doesn't change the big picture, which is that Notre Dame needs attrition ahead of them to reach the BCS championship game. It doesn't matter how Notre Dame wins, just that they win.
But with that win in the books, Notre Dame players say they aren't going to go home and aggressively channel-surf Alabama-LSU, Oregon-USC and Oklahoma State-Kansas State.
"I'm actually going to go home and go to sleep," Te'o said. "When you start paying attention to other teams, you forget what the main thing is, your team. Those other teams don't affect you. The only thing that affects you is you."
"I'm not looking at any of that," fellow captain Zack Martin added. "If they're on, I'll watch them. But I'm not worried about that. I don't think the team's worried about that. We're worried about being 9-0 and BC next week."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon misses his chance to guest-star in ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

Cubs manager Joe Maddon misses his chance to guest-star in ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

MESA, Ariz. – This is a big bowl of wrong: Cubs manager Joe Maddon might have missed his only window to make the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" cameo appearance Jeff Garlin promised. 

Garlin – a Second City alumnus and one of several celebrity fans within the team's orbit – had offered Maddon a role whenever Larry David brought the band back together for the loosely scripted HBO comedy.

But last week's Cactus League media event at the Arizona Biltmore conflicted with filming in Southern California, where "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is working on a ninth season after a five-year hiatus.

"There was one matchup, and I couldn't get there," Maddon said before Sunday's World Series rematch against the Cleveland Indians at Sloan Park. "I just couldn't do it. It'll happen."

During an all-over-the-place session with reporters that lasted 20-plus minutes, Maddon declined to make any Oscar predictions, saying he's into Netflix and Hulu now and doesn't really go to the movies anymore.

Maddon also hasn't watched much – or any – of the World Series highlights or documentaries. When it came to the handling Aroldis Chapman part, there were some boos inside Chicago's Civic Opera House during the premiere of Major League Baseball's "The 2016 World Series."

But Maddon said he basically skipped that type of content after being Mike Scioscia's bench coach for the 2002 Anaheim Angels and managing the Tampa Bay Rays to the 2008 World Series.

"You get busy and I don't know," Maddon said. "I need to start reading more and watching Netflix less."

Didn't you say that last spring?

"I did," Maddon said.

Maddon had been addicted to cable news during last year's polarizing presidential campaign: "But, damn, it's gotten really annoying, so I stopped watching all that stuff. It's just not good for your brain. It's really not. There's nothing to be gained."

When Maddon starts rolling, it's not hard to picture him in a scene with David and J.B. Smoove. Shaquille O'Neal, John McEnroe and Bill Buckner are among the sports figures with "Curb Your Enthusiasm" credits.

"That was the only day, so I don't know how we're going to figure this out," Maddon said. "First, they had one day set up, and that was going to be good. And then they had to change it to this other day, which was not good. So we'll have to (come up with something else), even if it's maybe a picture on the wall or a phone call."

Preview: Corey Crawford ill, Scott Darling in for Blackhawks vs. Blues

Preview: Corey Crawford ill, Scott Darling in for Blackhawks vs. Blues

The Blackhawks were already without Niklas Hjalmarsson on Sunday night. Now they’re without Corey Crawford as well.

Crawford is ill and Scott Darling will start in his place when the Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Crawford was expected to start but did not skate this morning – goaltending coach Jimmy Waite took the other net. Coach Joel Quenneville does not believe Crawford has the mumps – “I haven’t heard the word mumps around here,” he said. The Vancouver Canucks are currently working through an outbreak of the mumps and several teams battled it a few seasons ago.

As for the backup, Quenneville was hoping Lars Johansson could be up in an emergency situation, as long as logistics work out. The Rockford IceHogs are scheduled to play at the Ontario (Calif.) Reign later today.

Marian Hossa did not skate this morning but he is expected to play tonight. As Quenneville said on Saturday, Hjalmarsson is day-to-day with the upper-body injury he sustained on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes but is out tonight.

The last time the Blackhawks faced the Blues was in their Winter Classic game on Jan. 2. A month later coach Ken Hitchcock was fired and, now under Mike Yeo, the Blues have gone 7-3-0 since then. That includes two losses heading into their bye week, however, which they come out of tonight.

“I think usually teams seem to respond pretty well with coaching changes. Whenever you get something new, something to renew the group, whether it’s systems or different energy in the locker room, teams seem to respond at least in the beginning,” Jonathan Toews said. “We can expect this team to be really hard to play against and obviously pretty eager to, maybe, be better overall than they have been all year, knowing what they’re capable of as a team. We know whether we’re playing St. Louis or Minnesota, teams that are close to us in the points race, the points are always huge.”


6:30 p.m.


Live stream: NBC Sports app

Radio: WGN 720 AM

Chicago Blackhawks

Forward lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Tomas Jurco-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Andrew Desjardins


Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell-Michal Rozsival



Scott Darling


INJURIES/ILLNESS: Corey Crawford (ill).


St. Louis Blues (via

Forward lines

Alex Steen-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-David Perron

Dmitrij Jaskin-Jori Lehtera-Magnus Paajarvi

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves


Defensive Pairs

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko



Jake Allen