Notre Dame tops USC to move on to Miami

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Notre Dame tops USC to move on to Miami

LOS ANGELES -- Notre Dame no longer needed anyone ahead of them to lose. All they had to do was win, and an early January trip to Miami was in their grasp. Nobody had to lose on Saturday night but USC, and Notre Dame made that happen, securing a spot in the BCS Championship with a 22-13 win over the Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

"We just find a way to win, week in and week out," running back Theo Riddick said. "That's our message."

Riddick was Notre Dame's offensive star Saturday, rushing 20 times for 146 yards and a touchdown. When the Irish needed yards, Riddick was the go-to guy, breaking tackles and garnering plenty of yards after contact.

That's pretty good for a running back-turned-wide receiver, who returned to the backfield for his senior season.

"If you want to know about the Fighting Irish, you just need to look at Theo Riddick," coach Brian Kelly said. "Here's a guy that was a wide receiver for me the first two years. We asked him to move back to running back, and in game 12 he manages (146) yards but broke countless tackles and got us the tough yards we needed today.

"You just look at his jersey after the game, there's no wonder why this team has got the toughness that it does."

Notre Dame's offense started strong, slicing through USC's defense to take a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Everett Golson looked calm and poised, while Riddick scrounged up a handful of important plays, including a nine-yard touchdown run late in the first. But Notre Dame wasn't able to pull away early, only managing field goals on a pair of promising drives bookending Riddick's touchdown and setting the tone for the team's offensive output Saturday night.

"I think not getting touchdowns came back to make it a little more difficult on us, and I knew it would," Kelly said. "Every time we had to kick a field goal where we missed an opportunity -- we're still in the process there. We're not there yet. When we start clicking down in the red zone, we'll be really good."

But the Irish didn't ultimately need to convert those red zone opportunities, although the collective blood pressure of Notre Dame may say otherwise. That's because the Irish defense once again locked down, only allowing a touchdown and two field goals to an offense that remained high-powered despite injured quarterback Matt Barkley spending the entire game in sweat pants on the sidelines.

After a shaky start, first-time starter Max Wittek settled down, completing seven straight passes and leading USC to 10 first-half points, keeping the Trojans within striking distance. Notre Dame couldn't capitalize off a Manti Te'o interception to open the second half, with Brindza missing a 34-yard field goal.

That interception, though, sparked a defensive struggle for most of the third quarter. Notre Dame and USC traded punts throughout the quarter until Golson hit Tyler Eifert for a 36-yard gain late in the period, setting up Brindza's third successful field goal of the game to put Notre Dame up by nine. USC only managed 24 yards in the third quarter.

"The entire game was managed the way we managed each and every game -- minimize the big plays, they had the one great completion late in the game," Kelly said. "We minimized the big plays and we ran the football, and our quarterback was able to manage the run game for us."

That big completion Kelly referred to was a 53-yarder to Marqise Lee, which set USC up on the Irish two-yard line late in the fourth. Even with Notre Dame leading by nine with time ticking away, the thought of a Trojans comeback was hardly far-fetched.

After a slew of pass interference calls on KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame stopped Wittek on a pair of QB sneaks, then dropped Curtis McNeal for no gain on the one-inch line. And when Soma Vainuku dropped what would've been a touchdown pass, Notre Dame pulled off another miraculous goal-line stand. Their last one led to a win over Stanford, which athletic director Jack Swarbrick saw as a benchmark for the team's title hopes.

"Coming into the year, I thought Stanford was the test," Swarbrick said. "I just think that in the past few years, they were more physical than we were, bigger and tougher than we were, and I thought that's going to be our benchmark. And when we survived that, especially the way we did, that's when I thought we had a chance."

Notre Dame survived Stepfan Taylor, and on Saturday, survived USC's goal-line efforts in the same manner.

Only this time, that goal-line stand is sending Notre Dame to Miami.

Bears: Leonard Floyd approves of deep-dish pizza

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Bears: Leonard Floyd approves of deep-dish pizza

Leonard Floyd admitted it'll take some getting used to the Chicago weather.

As for its pizza? He's already on board with that.

The Bears' first-round selection stopped by CSN's studios late Friday night and got his first taste of deep-dish pizza, specifically a Lou Malnati's pepperoni and sausage pie.

Floyd didn't have much to say while his face was stuffed with the deep-dish.

But when he did a live chat shortly after, he confirmed that the Chicago-style pizza was as good as advertised.

"If I had three thumbs I would hold all of them up," Floyd said. "Pizza was awesome, awesome."

It's safe to say he's fitting in to the Chicago lifestyle quite well already.

Check out Floyd's entire Q+A on our Facebook page.

Recapping the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft

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Recapping the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft

The first 98 selections of the 2016 NFL Draft are in the books. Here's a look at the second and third round choices made Friday night.

(Click here for a recap of Round 1)

Round 2

32. Cleveland Browns: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State

33. Tennessee Titans: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson

34. Dallas Cowboys: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

35. San Diego Chargers: Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas

36. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Baltimore): Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

37. Kansas City Chiefs (via San Francisco): Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State

38. Miami Dolphins (via Baltimore via Jacksonville): Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor

39. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Noah Spence, LB, Eastern Kentucky

40. New York Giants: Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma

41. Buffalo Bills (via Chicago): Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama

42. Baltimore Ravens (via Miami): Kamalei Correa, LB, Boise State

43. Tennessee Titans (via Philadelphia via Los Angeles): Austin Johnson, DL, Penn State

44. Oakland Raiders: Jihad Ward, DL, Illinois

45. Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles): Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

46. Detroit Lions: A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama

47. New Orleans Saints: Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State

48. Green Bay Packers (via Indianapolis): Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana

49: Seattle Seahawks (via Chicago via Buffalo): Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama

50. Houston Texans (via Atlanta): Nick Martin, OL, Notre Dame

51. New York Jets: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State

52. Atlanta Falcons (via Houston): Deion Jones, LB, LSU

53. Washington Redskins: Su'a Cravens, LB, USC

54. Minnesota Vikings: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

55. Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

56. Chicago Bears (via Seattle): Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas State

57. Indianapolis Colts (via Green Bay): T.J. Green, DB, Clemson

58. Pittsburgh Steelers: Sean Davis, DB, Maryland

59. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via Kansas City): Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State

60. New England Patriots: Cyrus Jones, DB, Alabama

61. New Orleans Saints (via New England via Arizona): Vonn Bell, DB, Ohio State

62. Carolina Panthers: James Bradberry, DB, Samford

63. Denver Broncos: Adam Gotsis, Georgia Tech

THIRD ROUND

64. Tennessee Titans: Kevin Byard, DB, Middle Tennessee State

65. Cleveland Browns: Carl Nassib, DL, Penn State

66. San Diego Chargers: Max Tuerk, OL, USC

67. Dallas Cowboys: Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska

68. San Francisco 49ers: Will Redmond, DB, Mississippi State

69. Jacksonville Jaguars: Yannick Ngakoue, DL, Maryland

70. Baltimore Ravens: Bronson Kaufusi, DL, BYU

71. New York Giants: Darian Thompson, FB, Boise State

72. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Bullard, DL, Florida

73. Miami Dolphins: Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama

74. Kansas City Chiefs (via Tampa Bay): KeiVarae Russell, DB, Notre Dame

75. Oakland Raiders: Shilique Calhoun, DL, Michigan State

76. Cleveland Browns (via Tennessee via Los Angeles): Shon Coleman, OL, Auburn

77. Carolina Panthers (via Cleveland via Philadelphia via Detroit): Daryl Worley, DB, West Virginia

78. New England Patriots (via New Orleans): Joe Thuney, OL, N.C. State

79. Philadelphia Eagles: Isaac Seumalo, OL, Oregon State

80. Buffalo Bills: Adolphus Washington, DL, Ohio State

81. Atlanta Falcons: Autin Hooper, TE, Stanford

82. Indianapolis Colts: Le'Raven Clark, OL, Texas Tech

83. New York Jets: Jordan Jenkins, LB, Georgia

84. Washington Redskins: Kendall Fuller, DB, Virginia Tech

85. Houston Texans: Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State

86. Miami Dolphins (via Minnesota): Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers

87. Cincinnati Bengals: Nick Vigil, LB, Utah State

88. Green Bay Packers: Kyler Fackrell, LB, Utah State

89. Pittsburgh Steelers: Javon Hargrave, DL, South Carolina State

90. Seattle Seahawks: C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame

91. New England Patriots: Jacoby Brissett, QB, North Carolina State

92. Arizona Cardinals: Brandon Williams, DB, Texas A&M

93. Cleveland Browns (via Carolina): Cody Kessler, QB, USC

94. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver): Nick Vannett, TE, Ohio State

95. Detroit Lions: Graham Glasgow, OL, Michigan

96. New England Patriots: Vincent Valentine, DL, Nebraska

97. Seattle Seahawks: Rees Odhiambo, OL, Boise State

98. Denver Broncos: Justin Simmons, DB, Boston College

Bears' 3rd rounder Florida DE Jonathan Bullard to add pass rush to front three

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Bears' 3rd rounder Florida DE Jonathan Bullard to add pass rush to front three

The Bears had to cut ties with defensive end Julius Peppers a couple of years ago, only to see him change from a 4-3 end to 3-4 linebacker hybrid for the Green Bay Packers. In the third round of this year’s draft, the Bears added a player whose goal is to emulate Peppers, which would be more than fine with the Bears.

“Julius Peppers is my favorite player,” Florida defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard said at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine.

Bullard was selected by the Bears with the 72nd pick of this year’s draft.

“My oldest brother actually wore No. 90 because of Julius and I wore No. 90 because of my brother but it was actually Julius," Bullard said. "We all watched him play growing up. My brother also played at a D-2 school and I wore 90 in high school.”

No. 90 came available last year when the Bears released defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff. It was taken over by Greg Scruggs when he was signed on Dec. 30 for Game 16, but could be Bullard’s in the foreseeable future, particularly if Bullard plays to his self-description.

“I would say my disruption,” Bullard said of his specific strength. “I had a lot of disruption and I make things easier for my teammates to make plays, also.”

They may be very pleased with the progress of Ego Ferguson’s rehab and recovery from season-ending knee surgery but that did not stop the Bears from adding internal pressure on the defensive line with the selection of Bullard.

“We see him as a 3-4 defensive end,” said GM Ryan Pace. “He played defensive end [at Florida], bulked up and played more of a three-technique position for them.

“When you watch tape on him, there’s one thing you can’t coach, and that’s get-off. His get-off is excellent and I think there’s a lot of advantages from just that alone.”

Bullard, 6-3, 285, had 6.5 sacks in 2015 along with 17.5 tackles for loss, good enough to be a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award. He started eight games at defensive end in 2013, then all 12 games in 2014 and 14 his senior season.

“My junior year I started back out at end…but most of my senior year it was 3-technique,” Bullard said.

With the Bears set at nose tackle with Eddie Goldman and defensive end with Akiem Hicks, Bullard is expected to be part of a rotation inside in sub packages, which the Bears operated out of some 60 percent of the time in 2015, per GM Ryan Pace.

“I think because off my versatility,” Bullard said. “I can do whatever you want me to do on your defensive line, inside to outside, quickness to hold the point. So I think I’m going to bring a lot to your team.’’