Budzien's record day lifts Northwestern


Budzien's record day lifts Northwestern

EVANSTON The Northwestern Wildcats are figuring out their identity during their non-conference schedule.

At this juncture, the identity is incomplete.

The Wildcats have yet to play a complete game, and Saturday they had trouble scoring touchdowns.

Despite racking up 560 yards of offense and going 4-for-5 in the red zone, Northwestern scored just one touchdown in its 22-13 victory over Boston College on Saturday afternoon at Ryan Field.

The Wildcats (3-0) are the lone college football team to beat three BCS teams, but they kicked five field goals before scoring their touchdown on their 100th and final offensive play with 1:37 left.

At the end of the day, weve got to get six points instead of three, quarterback Kain Colter said. A lot of that comes down to me. A lot of that comes down to a bunch of guys, but weve got to go out there and execute. At the end of the day, were 3-0 and were not nearly playing our best football. Thats the encouraging thing. We can go out and play a lot better. I can play a lot better. Thats something to look forward to.

Jeff Budzien tied a school record kicking five field goals, from 19 yards to 42 yards, but the offense struggled to finish drives, losing two of their three fumbles.

At the end of the day, weve got to turn those threes into sevens, coach Pat Fitzgerald said. Weve got to finish drives. A lot of those issues we had on drives were self-inflicted by drops, by penalties, by not hitting guys who were open. So, were still a work in progress on both sides of the ball.

Northwestern hung on without its top play maker. After fumbling in the third quarter, Venric Mark left the game with an ailment described only as a lower body injury by Fitzgerald and never returned. He rushed for 77 yards on 18 carries. But Mike Trumpy stepped up to rush for a team-high 106 yards on 16 carries and scored on a 27-yard run.

He did great, Colter said. Thats what we expect out of all our running backs. They do a great job. Everybody is in competition. Everyone wants to play. When one guy goes down the other guy gets his opportunity.

The Wildcats continued with a two-quarterback system, as Colter and Trevor Siemian finished with almost identical statistics. Colter started and finished, completing 16 of 20 passes for 144 yards and rushing for 66 yards. Siemian went 14 for 20 for 123 yards.

Fitzgerald said using two quarterbacks is a good situation, and both have shown they can be effective.

Im not in the business of keeping people happy. Im in the business of winning football games and doing it in whatever way we can, Fitzgerald said. I would say both guys are happy because were winning. I would say going 30 for 40 and the way we didnt score touchdowns, I would say both guys are not satisfied with the way they played.

Both quarterbacks lost fumbles. As the offense sputtered overall, Budzien enjoyed a milestone day. He has nailed eight field goals this season, two more than all of last season. But even he wants to see touchdowns.

Its great to get field-goal reps. I work on that quite a bit in practice, Budzien said. Its nice to put that in a game aspect and help the team out like that. But in a time like that we need touchdowns, (and) its great to see the team put seven points up. Its a great job by Mike Trumpy and the offense closing the deal.

After Boston College (1-2) was forced to punt on fourth-and-10 with under three minutes left, the Wildcats drove 44 yards on four plays to set up Trumpys 27-yard touchdown for a 22-13 lead.

But after outgaining the Eagles 293-25 in rushing yards and finishing with 560 total yards to Boston Colleges 316, the Wildcats feel unsatisfied. Northwestern will have a chance to improve with a favorable schedule for the rest of the month, as the Wildcats will face South Dakota and Indiana in home games.

It was frustrating for us because were thinking were moving the ball at will, and we just get down to the red zone and hit a brick wall, center Brandon Vitabile said. So, for us, it was very upsetting. We kept saying, Weve got to finish, weve got to finish because thats what we build our program on, but we werent able to do that today until the end.

Weve got to take a look at it and get better and move on.

The new Cubs are out to write their own history

The new Cubs are out to write their own history

The Cubs felt so nervous just before a 7:09 first pitch on Saturday night that Javier Baez found the camera looking into the home dugout, waved with a big smile and started pumping his fist, hamming it up for the video board as Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” blasted through the Wrigley Field sound system.

The Cubs then ran out onto the field and systematically destroyed the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending this National League Championship Series in six games with a 5-0 win that featured almost no tension or suspense, obliterating for now the narrative around this franchise.

The old stadium still kept shaking, from Kris Bryant’s RBI single in the first inning to the clapping to Anthony Rizzo’s “Intoxicated” walk-up music to a standing ovation for Kyle Hendricks, who outpitched the supposed best pitcher on the planet in Clayton Kershaw.

“We don’t care about history,” Bryant said. “This is a completely different team, different people all around. It doesn’t matter. This is a new Chicago Cubs team. And we are certainly a very confident group.”

Sure, 1908 will hover over the entire World Series, which begins Tuesday night against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. But this is the new normal for Bryant, who within two years has won 200 games, four playoff rounds, a Rookie of the Year award and probably MVP hardware.

This team isn’t going away, either. With a chance to win the pennant for the first time since the Truman administration, the Cubs started two rookies who began this season at Triple-A Iowa – catcher Willson Contreras and outfielder Albert Almora Jr. – in a lineup that featured Bryant (24), Rizzo (27), Baez (23), Addison Russell (22) and Hendricks (26).

Contreras caught a shutout and posed for a moment at home plate watching his line-drive homer off Kershaw fly into the left-field bleachers in the fourth inning. Rizzo – who had looked overmatched earlier in the playoffs – became the first left-handed hitter to homer off Kershaw during this calendar year.

And when Rizzo tried to wave off Baez for the ball Josh Reddick popped up to the right side of the infield in the fifth inning, Baez cut right in front of Rizzo to catch it, continuing a long-running gag among the Cubs infielders.

“I don’t think they’re oblivious, because that’s sort of insulting in some ways,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “They know the history. I just don’t think they care. They think they’re a good team and they love to play. And we have some guys that definitely shine on the big stage.”

Baez – a September call-up last year who couldn’t get an everyday spot during the regular season – showed off his bat speed and unbelievable defensive instincts and emerged as the NLCS co-MVP along with big-game pitcher Jon Lester. Sold on the idea of all this young talent someday coming together, Lester joined a last-place team after the 2014 season, taking a leap of faith, even at $155 million.

“I don’t feel like there’s pressure at all in our clubhouse,” said Almora, the first player Theo Epstein’s front office drafted here in 2012. “There’s just hunger and excitement and desire to win.

“None of us were around in 1945…so we just got to write our own history.”

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This is what the Cubs have been talking about since the New York Mets swept them out of last year’s NLCS, since the Ricketts family invested almost $290 million more in free agents, since unconventional manager Joe Maddon made “Embrace The Target” the theme of spring training.

Whatever your preconceived notions of the old Cubs are, know that this group has an amazing sense of balance. They are youthful and experienced. They play as a team and with individual flair. They have style and get dirty. They are analytical and sort of oblivious. They are loose and intense. And the ending hasn’t been written yet.

“We still got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “We’ll enjoy tonight – don’t get me wrong – we’ll have a celebration. We’ll have a good time. We’ll smile, we’ll hug each other, probably get drunk a little bit…but we got some work to do.”

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

John Hendricks sent a text message to his son at 11:24 a.m. on Saturday: “Good luck tonight!! Remember, great mechanics and preparation will prevail. Just let it go!!” It ended with three emoji: a smiley face with sunglasses, the thumbs-up sign and a flexed biceps.

The Cubs have bonded fathers and sons for generations, and Hendricks immediately understood what it meant for his boy when the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers minutes before the deadline on July 31, 2012, telling Kyle: “You win in this city, you will be a legend. There is no doubt about it. This is the greatest sports town in the United States.”

This is the intoxicating lure of the Cubs. It didn’t matter that Kyle had been an eighth-round pick out of Dartmouth College, and hadn’t yet finished his first full season in professional baseball, and would be joining an organization enduring a 101-loss season, the third of five straight fifth-place finishes.

Kyle’s low-key personality will never get him confused with an ’85 Bear, but he delivered a legendary performance in Game 6, outpitching Clayton Kershaw at the end of this National League Championship Series and leading the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

Five outs away from the pennant, a raucous crowd of 42,386 at Wrigley Field actually booed star manager Joe Maddon when he walked out to the mound to take the ball from Kyle and bring in closer Aroldis Chapman. Kyle, the silent assassin, did briefly raise his hand to acknowledge the standing ovation before descending the dugout steps. 

After a 5-0 win, Kyle stood in roughly the same spot with Nike goggles on his head and finally looked a little rattled, his body shivering and teeth chattering in the cold, his Cubs gear soaked from the champagne-and-beer celebration.

“It’s always been an uphill climb for me, honestly,” Kyle said. “But that really has nothing to do with getting guys out. My focus from Day 1 – even when I was young, high school, college, all the way up until now – all it’s been is trying to make good pitches. 

“And as we moved up, you just saw that good pitches get good hitters out.” 

At a time when the game is obsessed with velocity and showing off for the radar gun, Kyle knows how to pitch, putting the ball where he wants when he wants, avoiding the hot zones that lead to trouble, mixing his changeups, fastballs and curveball in an unpredictable way that takes advantage of the team’s intricate scouting system and keeps hitters completely off-balance.

“Kyle didn’t even give them any air or any hope,” general manager Jed Hoyer said.

Amid the celebration, scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod spotted Kyle’s dad and yelled at John: “You f------ called it!” John – who once worked in the Angels ticket office and as a golf pro in Southern California – had moved to Chicago two years ago to work for his good friend’s limo company and watch his son pitch at Wrigley Field. John had told McLeod that Kyle would one day help the Cubs win a championship.

“That was one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen,” McLeod said. “Ever.”

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The media framed Kyle as The Other Pitcher, even though he won the ERA title this season, with all the pregame buzz surrounding Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP. Except Kershaw gave up five runs and got knocked out after five innings, while Kyle only gave up two singles to the 23 batters he faced, finishing with six strikeouts against zero walks and looking like he had even more left in the tank at 88 pitches.

“It was incredible,” Ben Zobrist said. “That was the easiest postseason game we’ve had yet and it was the clincher to go to the World Series. 

“He’s just so good, so mature for his age. He just has a knack to put the ball where he needs to. He’s smart and he’s clutch. He deserves to win the Cy Young this year.”

Where Kershaw’s presence loomed over the entire playoffs, Kyle has always been underestimated, coming into this season as a fourth or fifth starter with something to prove, and even he didn’t see all this coming. But big-game pitchers can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t have to throw 97 mph. 

“He wants the ball,” John said. “Every big game – I don’t care if it was Little League or wherever – he wants the ball. Plain and simple, (he’ll) get the job done.”