Alabama's rush D presents challenge for Golson, Notre Dame


Alabama's rush D presents challenge for Golson, Notre Dame

Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin was looking for something, anything, on tape to lend some hope that his stable of talented running backs could make a game-changing play against Alabama's vaunted run defense.

He didn't find much.

"You try to gain some confidence if you look at the big run tape and the big pass tape, (and with) the big run tape Im like did we do all 12 games?" Martin said, half-joking. "Theres only four on here, and one was in the fourth quarter against a team that was like 86-0 so I didnt even count that one because there were no numbers on the field for Alabama that I recognized."

The stats aren't as bad as Martin made them out to be, but they're still not encouraging. Alabama's defense allowed seven runs of 20 or more yards in its 13 games, and only one of those went for 30 or more. Alabama is the only FBS defense against which opponents averaged under 80 yards rushing per game, and only three teams rushed for over 100 yards against the Tide this season.

Two of those teams -- LSU and Texas A&M -- needed 49 and 46 rushing plays to eclipse the century mark. Georgia, behind a physical, fast back in Todd Gurley, ran 29 times for 113 yards in the SEC title game, good for a 3.9 yards-per-carry average. That's the highest Alabama allowed in its 13 games.

"They dont give up squat running, and we know that," Martin quipped.

But Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood proved to be more than capable as a running back duo over Notre Dame's regular season. It was Riddick who pounded USC's defense to help push the Irish into the BCS Championship, and Wood's 62-yard touchdown dash against Oklahoma helped set the tone for the arguably Notre Dame's biggest win of the season.

Just because Alabama doesn't give up much on the ground, though, doesn't mean the Irish will eschew the run. There's still a balance to be fostered, while Riddick and Wood are good enough for the Irish to succeed against even the best of the run-stoppers.

Regardless, Martin and Notre Dame are preparing for Everett Golson to have to make the game-changing plays that have often fallen on the shoulders of Riddick and Wood. Golson's no stranger to those, either -- his 50-yard completion to Chris Brown against Oklahoma certainly falls into that category -- and he's played on plenty of big stages already.

"Im not the type that really succumbs to pressure, I guess. I dont think any moments bigger than what it is," Golson said. "For me, its about that game thats played between (the lines). Its not necessarily about everything thats going on around it. At the end of the day, its about playing Jan. 7 at Alabama."

And make no mistake, Golson's still in the midst of a massive learning process. But as has been the case in plenty of Notre Dame's games, he may not have to do everything right -- just enough to secure a win.

"If we win this game 3-2, were good," Martin said. "And thats been the way weve been all year."

Miguel Gonzalez can't stop two-out rallies as White Sox fall to Oakland

Miguel Gonzalez can't stop two-out rallies as White Sox fall to Oakland

GLENDALE, Ariz. — His split-fingered fastball could use a little work, but Miguel Gonzalez is ready for the regular season.

The White Sox pitcher allowed four earned runs, all with two outs, in his penultimate Cactus League start on Wednesday. Gonzalez also gave up nine hits as the White Sox lost to the Oakland A’s 5-3 at Camelback Ranch.

"I'm pretty excited for (the regular season)," Gonzalez said. "We all know that spring can be a little long sometimes. But we are here, we are here to work and keep doing what we are doing. We are going to be OK."

Gonzalez allowed two runs each in the first and second innings. Both rallies came with two outs and were a bit of a surprise to the right-hander, who left after 4 1/3 innings. Gonzalez wonders if his split-fingered fastball might not be as sharp as normal because of the dry desert air in Arizona that affects many pitchers.

"It wasn't there today," Gonzalez said. "Not quite as good as I thought it would be. Bullpen I felt really good. Falling behind hitters first two innings. That doesn't really help you, especially a team like this that's very aggressive.

"I'm working on (the splitter). It's fine. I mean it's a little different then it is in Florida. It's not as humid. But you can't think that way. You have to go out there and keep working."

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Melky Cabrera went 1-for-3 with two RBIs for the White Sox. Yolmer Sanchez tripled and homered in the loss. Former White Sox farmhand Frankie Montas struck out four over two scoreless innings to earn the save for Oakland.

The White Sox sent four more players to minor league camp before the game, including reliever Tommy Kahnle. The team sent five players to the minors on Tuesday, including pitcher Carson Fulmer. While Fulmer would love to start the season in the majors, he said it won't hinder him from taking advantage of his time at Triple-A Charlotte.

"Obviously last year getting a taste, it's that dream you've had since you were a kid," Fulmer said. "You want more of it. It's not an addiction in a way. But once you get a taste of it you want more of it. All of us young guys are trying to get back to where we've been. I think time will tell, but I think we'll get a chance here soon and get a chance to create something special."

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks go for season sweep vs. Stars tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks go for season sweep vs. Stars tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Dallas Stars tonight on CSN and streaming live on Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Patrick Sharp returns to Chicago.

For the first time this season, Sharp will lace up the skates in the building and city he spent 10 seasons and won three Stanley Cups. He missed the first three meetings of the year due to a concussion, but played in the fourth on Feb. 4 that turned out to be a 5-3 loss for Dallas. The former Blackhawks winger revealed last month that he's been dealing with an undisclosed injury for quite a while that has worsened over time, and will eventually need season-ending surgery, which will likely come when the Stars are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

2. Johnny Oduya faces former team.

Sharp won't be the only one facing his former club tonight. Oduya will face off against the Stars for the first time since being re-acquired by the Blackhawks on Feb. 28 from Dallas, where he spent the last year and a half after signing a two-year contract in the summer of 2015. He was a key part of the team's blue line that won their first division title since 2005-06 last year.

3. Jamie Benn scoring drought.

After scoring 12 goals in his previous 16 games, including three in two games to start March, Benn hasn't scored in six straight, his second-longest drought of the season; his first stretched to nine games from Oct. 20-Nov. 10. It's been a tough season in Dallas, and Benn only recently started looking like the player that finished last season ranked third with 41 goals and second with 89 points. But he's still one of the best players in the league, so don't think a down year makes him any less dangerous on the ice.  

4. Ryan Hartman with a hot stick.

Hartman had been quiet for a little bit, failing to find the back of the net in nine consecutive games. He's been lights out in the last three, where he registered a season-high six shots on goal and scored the game-winning overtime goal in Toronto, and scored two more in Tuesday's 5-4 overtime loss to Vancouver. He's now up to 18 goals on the season, which ranks fifth among all rookies, and all but one have come at even strength. Two more would put him at 20 goals, and would make him the seventh Blackhawks player this season to reach that total.

5. Another successful night coming for the power play?

The Blackhawks took advantage of their six power-play opportunities on Tuesday against Vancouver by cashing in on two of those. They were only 1-for-13 (7.7 percent) in their previous seven games. They're welcoming a Stars team that ranks dead last in the penalty kill department with a 74.0 percentage, and the Blackhawks will look to build off last game's success and keep it rolling.

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