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."

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

CSN's Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd preview the Blackhawks' three upcoming games in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

The Blackhawks have three home games before the NHL All-Star break, which takes place in Los Angeles.

The Blackhawks have dates between the Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Winnipeg Jets. All three opponents are out of the playoff picture, sand Steve Konroyd is looking for the Blackhawks to step up in a certain part of their game: scoring.

See what Boyle and Konroyd had to say in the video above.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.