Confidence not a problem for Lynch, Huskies

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Confidence not a problem for Lynch, Huskies

By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com contributor

The Northern Illinois Huskies' foray into the world of the BCS might be less than 48 hours old, but that time has been as eventful off the field as it has been beneficial on it.

The Huskies have practiced twice in preparation of the 2013 Orange Bowl, but they have also found time to unveil new uniforms, party, and generate a bit of legitimate, old-fashioned bulletin-board material for their opponent on New Year's Day.

The epicenter of the controversy is NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch, who, before leaving DeKalb, told the Sporting News that FSU hasn't "seen anything like our offense."

Lynch continued: "They're just like us. They're human, too. If you cut them, they bleed... We plan on wearing them down. In the fourth quarter, we plan to have them on their knees, and then just keep pounding away.

The story published Thursday, and after the Huskies' afternoon practice, Lynch stood tall though he was still drowned in a sea of reporters refusing to back down from his comments.

"It's not cocky," Lynch said. "It's confidence."

Lynch's teammates and his new head coach had his back.

"What's he supposed to say?" NIU coach Rod Carey "'Hey, we're just hoping we get a first down, a yard or two?' I mean, come on. That's the confidence. These guys expect that. And we're doing everything we can to make that happen."

As for the practice itself, Carey said that it wasn't as sharp as the team's first in South Florida, which happened Wednesday afternoon. Perhaps the team played better after initially thawing out in the Miami sun. Perhaps that same sun drained the Huskies, leading to the second-day let-down.

"We did good, don't get me wrong," Carey said. "They know how to work, but focus was at times lacking today. I have high expectations for them."

Lynch's comments added some bile to the game, perhaps it was Wednesday night's unveiling of Adidas' specially-made uniforms for the Huskies that had the player's minds elsewhere.

The uniforms were a surprise and were introduced to the squad at its nightly meeting, eliciting cheers, hoots and hollers from the already-excited squad.

The Huskies will wear red pants for the first time, and the new white uniforms featured grey, beveled numbers and a red undershirt with the NIU logo and "Huskies" emblazoned on the sleeves.

That could have been in, or perhaps the Huskies had their minds on what was coming after practice Thursday.

Cheering erupted again at the team's beach party after practice Thursday afternoon. No doubt many of the players were comparing the weather in DeKalb to the bright, sunny, 76 degree day on South Beach.

The new jerseys, the beach parties, the ten-fold media attention it's all part of the BCS lifestyle, one the Huskies are hoping to savor, even if it is ultimately fleeting.

"We worked for this," Carey said. "We wanted this and we earned this."

For Lynch, who is being revered as the Mid American Conference's version of Johnny Football, the downsides of playing in a BCS bowl aren't outweighing the positives.

"Ever since getting off the plane, I felt it starting to kick in more and more," Lynch said. "It's pretty big time. It feels pretty special. It was surreal at first, but it's starting to kick in now and it feels pretty good."

While Carey is no doubt enjoying the "business trip" as well, it is his job to impart perspective, and while he might not be able to speak from much experience Carey was named the NIU head coach a few hours before the Orange Bowl announcement he did his best to reduce the hoopla to a base.

"It's a football game," Carey said. "We're here to win the football game? Otherwise, what would you be playing the game for?"

Never say die: Cubs battle back for wild walk-off win over Pirates

Never say die: Cubs battle back for wild walk-off win over Pirates

It would have been so easy for the Cubs to just chalk this one up as a loss and head home.

But this 2016 Cubs team isn't built that way.

They showed what they're made of again Monday, walking off the Pirates, 8-7, in front of 38,951 fans at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs had plenty of chances to score all game, including in extra innings as Javy Baez was thrown out at home plate to end both the 10th and 12th innings.

In the top of the 13th, the Pirates finally broke through, loading the bases with nobody out against Rob Zastryzny and scoring a run — but only one run.

In the bottom of the 13th, the Cubs got their offense going again as Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant led the inning off with singles to put runners at the corners. Anthony Rizzo then singled through the infield to tie the game and drive home Fowler.

Ben Zobrist was intentionally walked to load the bases with nobody out, setting the stage for Miguel Montero's walk-off single to start the Cubs' homestand off on a positive note and send Zastryzny home with his first MLB victory.

It capped off a game in which almost 465 pitches were thrown and took more than five hours to complete.

"We got in late last night," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I got back about 3 am. So these guys — they're coming off West Coast to the Central Time Zone, they're tired, we had to show up today early for a picture — that happens sometimes — and they came out and played until Midnight.

"Of course you want to win that game. That's a tough game to lose. But understand the effort that you saw tonight based on a lot of fatigue. And that's probably what I'm most proud of."

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The Cubs opened up a 3-0 lead on Pirates rookie starter Steven Brault early, but they could have easily had more, narrowly missing home runs in the first (Zobrist) and third innings (Jorge Soler).

The Pirates, meanwhile, came roaring back against Jake Arrieta. 

First, Josh Bell hit a solo homer just over the basket in left field in the fourth inning. Then Gregory Polanco deposited a three-run shot down the left-field line in the sixth inning, two batters after it appeared the Cubs had gotten a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play. Home plate umpire Tripp Gibson disagreed, calling the pitch Ball 4 to Bell and putting two runners on with nobody out instead of two outs and nobody on. Arrieta was irate, staring down the umpire and prompting a visit from Maddon, who proceeded to get in Gibson's face at the base of the mound after calming down Arrieta.

"That's an entirely different baseball game right there that occurred on that particular pitch," Maddon said. "Everything turned on that particluar pitch.

"But I'm not gonna denigrate the umpire. We had plenty of opportunities — PLENTY — to win that game in a normal fashion or earlier. We had so many great at-bats to set it up and then we could not seal the deal.

Arrieta was also saddled with a pair of runs in the seventh inning, with Travis Wood letting two inherited runners score on Josh Harrison's two-out double to make it a 6-3 Pirates lead.

The reigning NL Cy Young winner finished with a tough-luck line that flashed six earned runs in 6 1/3 innings on five hits and three walks.

Then the Cubs began their comeback.

In the eighth, Jason Heyward doubled and Willson Contreras homered to straightaway center.

With one out in the ninth, Jorge Soler sent a charge into Tony Watson's offering to tie the game with a blast to center.

That set up Montero for the storybook ending.

"The resiliency of our team is incredible," Arrieta said. "That's what you need down the stretch. ... Just a crazy ballgame all the way around."

Preview: White Sox continue series with Tigers on CSN

Preview: White Sox continue series with Tigers on CSN

The White Sox continue their road series with the Tigers on Tuesday night in the Motor City, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage from Detroit starts at 6 p.m. Then be sure to stick around following the final out for reaction and analysis on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today's starting pitching matchup: Anthony Ranaudo (0-1, 7.88 ERA) vs. Daniel Norris (2-2, 3.63 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you're ready for the action.

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Isaiah Wright, young fan with cancer, receives VIP treatment from White Sox

Isaiah Wright, young fan with cancer, receives VIP treatment from White Sox

Berwyn-native and White Sox fan Isaiah Wright entered the world fighting the odds. At just 14 years old, he has undergone multiple organ transplants and more than 50 surgeries because of a rare birth defect.

Isaiah and his family have an appreciation for just how precious life can be and they were able to make the most of a recent visit to the South Side for a White Sox game, where he received VIP treatment and met his favorite players, including a private meeting with Jose Abreu.

Check out the video above.

A Go Fund Me page was also created to help support Isaiah and his family. Click here to make a donation.