Notre Dame running backs break out in a big way

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Notre Dame running backs break out in a big way

Cierre Wood's not going to go ahead and paraphrase Keyshawn Johnson, but he just wants the damn ball.

On Saturday, he got the damn ball 18 times on the ground and rushed for a season-high 118 yards and two touchdowns. Most of that production came in the second half, as Notre Dame repeatedly punched Miami in the mouth in a 41-3 win over the Hurricanes at Soldier Field.

"I was past overdue," Wood said. "When I say it's just a matter of when I get the ball and stuff like that, I know I can ball out and I can make plays almost every play. It's just a matter of when the opportunity presents itself."

Wood finally got that opportunity on Saturday to show why he led Notre Dame in rushing last year. He was suspended for the first two weeks of the season, and only carried the ball 17 times in the next two games.

Part of Wood getting a shot on Saturday had to do with starter Theo Riddick suffering a bruised elbow. But more so, Wood's 18 carries were the product of something the coaching staff saw.

"We go with the guy that's running well," Kelly explained. "He did a great job on one of his runs where he showed great patience, stepped on the heals of the guard and bent it back. He had not done that this year."

Wood wasn't getting opportunities through most of the first half, though. At halftime, Wood had rushed four times -- the same number as George Atkinson III and one fewer than Riddick. But Wood's a guy who believes he's at his best when his workload is increased. He just hadn't earned that workload yet, at least in the eyes of the coaching staff.

"Just given the fact that opportunities are real small because we come in so sporadically and stuff like that, once I got handed the ball three, four times in a row, something's bound to happen," Wood said. "It's all a credit to my line, they blocked everything to a T. I just made the cuts and do what I do best."

While Riddick's night was fairly muted -- only five carries for 21 yards -- Atkinson went off, too, rushing 10 times for 123 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown scamper. Once again, though, Tyler Eifert was held largely out of Notre Dame's passing equation, with last year's FBS receptions leader among tight ends reeling in only two catches.

Miami, like Michigan State and Michigan, rolled its pass coverage toward Eifert in an effort to neutralize him in Notre Dame's passing game. And while neither of Notre Dame's last two opponents really got burned for it, Miami wasn't as lucky.

"When they try to double Eifert, that just brings people out of the box and that just opens up more lanes for us to run," Wood said. "It's just really, pick their poison."

With Wood and Atkinson running so well there was no second-half surge for Miami, which could barely get its offense on the field in the third and fourth quarters. And with Stephen Morris being increasingly hurried and his wide receivers dropping passes left and right, it was a perfect recipe for a Notre Dame blowout.

"They were all upbeat and jumping and stuff in the beginning, but you smack a team so many times in the mouth, eventually they're going to want to stop playing," Wood said. "And that's what happened today."

Former White Sox OF Tim Raines elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame

Former White Sox OF Tim Raines elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame

On his tenth and final year on the ballot, Tim Raines finally earned enough votes to earn the title of being a baseball immortal. 

"Rock" Raines will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer after 86 percent of voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America cast ballots for the former White Sox outfielder. Raines played for the White Sox from 1991-1995, but was best known for being a star outfielder for the Montreal Expos from 1979-1990.

Raines received the second-highest vote percentage among the three players who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame July 30 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Former Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell (86.2 percent) and former Texas Rangers, Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez (76 percent) will join Raines in the class of 2017. 

Over his 23-year career, Raines put together a Hall of Fame-worthy resume in spite of being overshadowed by fellow leadoff hitter and Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson. Over 10,359 plate appearances (63rd all-time), Raines stole 808 bases (5th), drew 1,330 walks (38th), scored 1,571 runs (54th), hit 113 triples (118th) and had an on-base percentage of .385 (135th). His 69.1 WAR ranks 73rd in major league history and is squarely in the realm of plenty of current Hall of Famers, including Barry Larkin (70.2), Carlton Fisk (68.2), and Ryne Sandberg (67.5), among others.

Raines made seven consecutive All-Star teams from 1981-1987 and won the 1987 All-Star Game MVP. He led the National League in runs scored twice, led the National League with 38 doubles in 1984, hit a league-best .334 in 1986 and stole 70 or more bases in six consecutive seasons (including 90 in 1983).

[WHITE SOX TALK PODCAST: Going deep with 2016 first-round pick Zack Collins]

In 1993, Raines was an integral part to the White Sox American League West crown, with the then-33-year-old hitting .306 with an .880 OPS, both of which were his best marks of his post-Expos career. 

"We got a guy at the top who could steal bases," former White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura, who played with Raines from 1991-1995, recalled last summer. "He got on base and did a lot of things. A switch-hitter that could get on base and steal some bases. He was a definite impact, similar to what Rickey did with the A's and some other teams. He just immediately gave credibility at the top of the lineup.

"… When you break down his numbers with some other people, I think he ranks right up there with anybody."

Still, Raines' Hall of Fame election has hardly been a sure thing since he debuted on the 2008 ballot. His year-by-year vote percentages reveal gradual progress, then a surge in 2016:

2008: 24.3 percent
2009: 22.6 percent
2010: 30.4 percent
2011: 37.5 percent
2012: 48.7 percent
2013: 52.2 percent
2014: 46.1 percent
2015: 55.0 percent
2016: 69.8 percent

"This is probably the first year out of the nine years that I've been on the ballot that I really, really feel like I have a chance," Raines said last May. 

What began as a sort of fringy, sabermetric-oriented campaign to get Raines elected eventually received a groundswell of support from a broad voting audience. And because of it, on July 30 this summer, Raines will head to Cooperstown to take his place among the greatest players to ever play the game. 

AP Illinois girls basketball rankings: Week 8

AP Illinois girls basketball rankings: Week 8

Here are the girls prep basketball polls with rank, team, first-place votes, record, total points and previous rank.

Class 4A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Montini (12) 21-0 120 1
2. Rock Island 22-1 96 2
3. Edwardsville 20-0 94 4
4. Homewood-Flossmoor 13-2 82 3
5. Benet 18-2 67 5
6. Rockford Boylan 19-1 48 6
7. Springfield 17-2 41 7
8. Hersey 18-2 33 8
9. Geneva 14-3 22 9
10. Oswego East 19-3 21 NR

Others receiving 12 or more votes: Bradley-Bourbonnais 12, Evanston Township 11

Class 3A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Chicago Marshall (7) 18-0 132 2
2. Morton (4) 19-2 123 1
3. Mattoon (1) 21-0 92 4
4. Highland (2) 16-3 87 3
5. Bethalto Civic Memorial 17-3 85 5
6. Richwoods 18-3 73 6
7. Rochester 14-3 56 8
8. Effingham 18-2 34 7
9. Normal University 16-3 32 NR
10. North Lawndale 14-3 13 10

Others receiving 12 or more votes: Litchfield 13, Peoria Central 8

Class 2A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Byron (11) 19-2 127 1
2. Eureka (1) 19-2 105 2
3. Teutopolis 20-2 96 3
4. Sherrard 20-2 92 4
5. Camp Point Central 19-2 72 5
6. Kewanee 21-3 50 9
7. Hall 18-5 47 6
8. Sesser-Valier (1) 19-1 41 8
9. Hillsboro 18-4 35 7
10. Gilman Iroquois West 18-2 11 NR

Others receiving 12 or more votes: Auburn 11, Arthur-Lovington-Hammond-Atwood 9, St. Edward 8

Class 1A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Lebanon (12) 19-0 135 1
2. Winchester (2) 20-0 123 3
3. Ashton-Franklin Center 18-2 97 2
4. Colfax Ridgeview 19-2 87 5
5 Mount Olive 19-2 81 6
6. Okawville 16-4 58 7
7. Danville Schlarmann 13-5 40 8
8. Calhoun 13-4 34 4
9. Princeville 21-2 29 9
10. Heyworth 20-1 26 NR

Others receiving 12 or more votes: Annawan 21, Galena 15