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."

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Pirates on CSN

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Pirates on CSN

The Cubs wrap up their three-game series with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage from the North Side starts at 7 p.m., and be sure to stick around following the final out for reaction and analysis on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Jason Hammel (13-7, 3.21 ERA) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (3-3, 3.02 ERA)

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Preview: Chris Sale, White Sox close out series with Tigers on CSN

Preview: Chris Sale, White Sox close out series with Tigers on CSN

The White Sox close out their series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (15-7, 3.14 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (14-7, 3.33 ERA)

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White Sox bullpen falters in loss to Tigers

White Sox bullpen falters in loss to Tigers

DETROIT — The 2016 White Sox expected an improved offense when they addressed two of last season’s biggest needs with trades for Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie.

While scoring is up a hair over the 2015 club, it hasn’t nearly been enough.

As they have for much of the season, the White Sox jumped out to an early three-run lead on Tuesday night but failed to put their opponents away. Their dormancy allowed the Detroit Tigers to rally back to send the White Sox to an 8-4 loss in front of 27,121 at Comerica Park. Frazier homered early before Detroit scored eight runs between the fifth and seventh innings. The Tigers look to complete a three-game sweep of the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon on CSN.

“That’s kind of been the story of our year,” leadoff man Adam Eaton said. “With runners in scoring position we haven’t been able to drive in and get the big hit. When we do that we win. When we get it done we win and when we don’t it bites us.”

The White Sox thought they added serious bite to an offense that finished at or near the bottom of the American League in 2015 in most of the major categories. Frazier was acquired in a three-team deal from the Cincinnati Reds and Lawrie came over from Oakland for two-minor leaguers. On top of the acquisitions of Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche a year earlier, Frazier and Lawrie were expected to bolster positions in which the White Sox finished last in OPS in the majors last season.

To an extent, the plan has worked. The White Sox entered Tuesday having increased their scoring average to 4.07 runs per game, up from 3.84. But even with that improvement, the White Sox started play 13th among 15 AL clubs in runs scored and 63 runs below the league average.

They also were 13th in home runs (131), slugging percentage (.402) and OPS (.717).

Part of their struggles can be attributed to injuries — Lawrie has been out since July 22 and Austin Jackson has been gone since early June. The unexpected retirement of LaRoche also left the White Sox short on left-handed power in the middle of the lineup and forced Cabrera from the second spot to fifth to provide balance. And some can be attributed to down years by several key veterans, including the performance with runners in scoring position by Jose Abreu and Frazier.

But even the White Sox thought they’d be a better run-scoring team than they have proven through 131 games.

“I think we did,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You lose Rochie at the beginning of the year, and that changed the left-handed dynamic of what our lineup would have been like. But you still expect guys to hit a little better and score more runs than we’ve done. We haven’t held up our end of the bargain.”

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Their end of the bargain left the White Sox vulnerable on Tuesday. Frazier’s two-run homer and an RBI groundout by Eaton in the second inning had the White Sox in command. But Daniel Norris struck out Tim Anderson to strand a runner at third.

Then in the fourth, Norris got Tyler Saladino to fly out to shallow right, which prevented the runner on third from tagging. After Eaton walked, Norris got Anderson to ground into a fielder’s choice.

Even though Norris’ pitch count was sky high, the White Sox failed to knock him out of the game. That allowed the Tigers to rally back against Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Albers and Jacob Turner.

“They seem to add on,” Ventura said. “They don’t stop adding on that extra run. A guy on third with less than two outs, they’re able to get it in. That’s been an Achilles heel for us.”

It’s also been a source of frustration, Eaton said. The White Sox look around the room and feel like they have a talented group, especially now with Justin Morneau solidifying the middle. But once again, that group didn’t keep their foot on the pedal and paid the price.

“They just continue to plug away,” Eaton said. “Their offense is good enough to come back from any deficit. Hats off to them, but we’ve got to keep adding on. We got on Norris early and got his pitch count up, but we’ve got to keep knocking on the door. We didn’t keep on it enough and knock him out real early.

“Top to bottom I think we have a pretty good lineup. It is frustrating when you don’t get that big hit and vice versa for the big pitch.”