Offense stumbles, Bears fall to Vikes

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Offense stumbles, Bears fall to Vikes

MINNEAPOLIS Adrian Peterson has his sights set squarely on 2,000 yards. Thanks to his latest jaw-dropping performance and an opportunistic defense, the Minnesota Vikings still have their eyes on the playoffs.
Peterson rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns and Harrison Smith returned an interception for a score to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a 21-14 victory over the free-falling Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Peterson topped 100 yards before the first quarter was over, helping the Vikings (7-6) overcome another lackluster day from quarterback Christian Ponder to get a victory that will keep their playoff hopes alive.
Jay Cutler was 22 for 44 for 260 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and couldn't finish the game for the Bears (8-5), who have lost four of their last five. He took a wicked hit to the head from Everson Griffen in the fourth quarter, remained in the game for the rest of that drive, but was replaced by Jason Campbell with 3 minutes to play.There was no immediate word on Cutler's health, and Campbell threw a 16-yard TD to Brandon Marshall with 1:48 to play, but Kyle Rudolph recovered the onside kick to seal the victory.
Marshall had 10 catches for 160 yards, but Chicago's struggling offense couldn't do enough to overcome the two turnovers and Peterson's relentless effort.
Peterson's remarkable comeback from a torn ACL late last season seems to get more impressive every week. Not even a year removed from that major injury in Washington, he broke the 100-yard mark for the seventh straight game. He has 1,600 yards with three games to play, putting a hallowed 2,000-yard season within reach. He ran for 51 yards on the opening play of the game and continued to gash the broken-down Bears the rest of the way.
No one was happier to see it than Ponder, who continued to look skittish in the pocket and out of whack with his mechanics. He finished 11 of 17 for 91 yards, including an ugly interception off his back foot late in the first half.
For once, his performance didn't doom the Vikings.
Vikings fans trudged through a snow storm to get to the Metrodome, and they were ornery and ready to give Ponder all the grief they could. They booed him in pregame introductions, then Peterson touched the ball on five of six plays in the opening drive. He also ripped off a 16-yard run and finished it with a 1-yard TD.
Josh Robinson intercepted Cutler on the next possession, returning the ball to the Chicago 5 to set up Peterson's second touchdown. The Vikings were off and running, exactly what they were hoping to do.
Cutler responded, hitting Alshon Jeffery with a 23-yard TD pass that got a healthy contingent of Chicago fans chanting "Let's Go Bears!'"
Just as the Bears appeared to seize momentum, Cutler floated a pass over Marshall's head right into the arms of Smith, who headed down the Chicago sideline for a 56-yard touchdown late in the third quarter and a 21-7 lead.
The Vikings haven't made big plays in the passing game ever since Percy Harvin was lost for the season with a severely sprained left ankle against Seattle on Nov. 4. They finally did it Sunday, but it was the defense that made it happen.
Robinson and Smith combined for 100 return yards, more than the Vikings' passing game had through the air.
Now the Bears must try to hold off another December malaise under coach Lovie Smith. They started 7-1, but Smith tried to ratchet up the intensity this week, saying the Bears had to win out to get into the playoffs.
Cornerback Tim Jennings was out with an injured shoulder and linebacker Brian Urlacher, the man in the middle of the proud veteran defense, could be out for the rest of the season with an injured hamstring. Defensive tackle Henry Melton hurt his shoulder in the first half and kicker Robbie Gould was limited by a strained left calf that he suffered in pregame warm-ups.
Through six games, the Bears gave up an average of 71 yards rushing. But they had given up 136 yards per game on the ground in the previous six games.

Notre Dame adjusts to schedule disruption of Sunday opener

Notre Dame adjusts to schedule disruption of Sunday opener

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It’s been 20 years since Notre Dame last played a non-Saturday regular season game, which was a 14-7 win at Vanderbilt on Thursday, Sept. 5, 1996. A good chunk of Notre Dame’s current roster wasn’t born yet when that game took place. 

So Sunday night’s season opener against Texas presents some logistical challenges for Notre Dame not only for this week, but in having next week’s Nevada preparation shortened by a day. 

Coach Brian Kelly, though, does have some experience opening a season on a day that isn’t the usual Saturday. Kelly’s Cincinnati Bearcats beat Rutgers on Labor Day in 2009, then had to get ready for a game five days later (which fortunately was against FCS side Southest Missouri State, resulting in a 70-3 Cincinnati win). 

Notre Dame gave its players Monday off this week and won’t leave for Austin until late Friday. Saturday will then have the team’s usual Friday activities, with a bonus that players won’t have to get up early to go to class before traveling — they’ll already be there, so they can sleep in and get more rest before playing on Sunday. 

“I like it,” Kelly said. “I think the guys enjoy getting a little extra rest, extra treatments. And so I think it comes at a good time for our team.”

Where the challenge lies is next week, when the team won’t get back to South Bend until the early hours of the morning Monday. Classes are in session at Notre Dame on Labor Day, and then practice, film study, meetings, etc. for Nevada still has to fit in the usual Tuesday-Friday window, though that will probably have to be tweaked a bit. 

“Generally where it affects you more is on that next week is where you really have to be careful,” Kelly said. “Because we'll get back in at 4 a.m. Monday and then we play Nevada that Saturday. So my concern is usually around the flip side of it, because you adjust your schedule a little bit.”

The growing problem with high school football scheduling

The growing problem with high school football scheduling

Last Friday afternoon Joliet Catholic loaded its team and coaches into "yellow rockets" and headed to Franklin, Wis., on Opening Night. Both Lincoln-Way East and Lincoln-Way Central headed to Indiana to play games.

Hinsdale Central hosted American Fork. American Fork, located just south of Salt Lake City, traveled to Hinsdale play the Red Devils.

Play in a conference such as the DuPage Valley, which needs to find non-conference games outside of the first two weeks of the season? Then much like Waubonsie Valley (Week 7 @ Fishers (Hamilton Southeastern), Neuqua Valley (Week 5 at Indianapolis Bishop Chartard) or Naperville Central (Week 6 at national power Lakewood Ohio St. Edward) you too will be on the road out-of-state.

Finding a few non-conference games to play is becoming an adventure.

Scheduling continues to be a growing problem for many IHSA football programs. Between the pressures of getting into the state playoffs along with a conference system that also seems to be imploding by the week state-wide, something needs to get sorted out sooner than later.

How about some possible solutions?

Some have suggested expanding the IHSA state playoff field, thus making the need to schedule "five wins to get in" less of a focus for teams across the state. Yet ask any high school coach and a large majority of them have a real issue with an "everyone-gets-in" system. Letting everyone into the IHSA state football playoffs would ease scheduling but also eliminates what many coaches feel makes the IHSA football playoffs special, which is making a regular season schedule actually count.

Conferences? These days more and more conferences, many of which have decades of history and tradition, are breaking apart. From the North and Western suburbs, which have already seen new realignments to the soon-to-be powder keg located in the South and Southwestern suburbs, expect even more scrambling for teams to find games.

How about letting the IHSA take over scheduling? Again some have suggested that the IHSA handle state-wide scheduling and make football much like other IHSA sports, such as football conferences becoming more like regionals. Yet this plan would eliminate well established conferences such as the Chicago Catholic League and others who would want to maintain its history.

Yet one thing seem to becoming much clearer these days as more and more schools head to all points to play games: something needs to change when it comes to scheduling.

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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