Tuitt's breakout vs. Navy fueled by will to dominate

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Tuitt's breakout vs. Navy fueled by will to dominate

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Stephon Tuitt scooped up a loose ball, took off for the end zone and and didn't look back, running 77 yards into the end zone and to the forefront of minds thousands of miles across the ocean.

"That was the longest run I'll probably ever have in my life," Tuitt said Wednesday.

The sophomore defensive end's breakout game has been in the works since he signed with Notre Dame nearly two years ago. A five-star recruit -- with only superhuman South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney ranking ahead of him at his position -- Tuitt and Aaron Lynch were supposed to be the star defensive ends of the future from the minute each stepped on campus in South Bend.

That's the way things looked in Notre Dame's Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State last December. Tuitt and Lynch were perhaps the two biggest standouts in the game. And Tuitt's emergence wasn't a coincidence, as he said the month of practices leading up to the bowl game helped him immensely.

"From that point to the bowl game, it hit me to know about the defense," Tuitt said. "It was all better, (I) was all comfortable then."

Lynch has since transferred to USF, desiring being back in his native state of Florida. But Tuitt's still in northern Indiana, and his offseason mantra is beginning to pay dividends not only on the field, but off it too.

"The only word I remember him using was dominate; dominate in the classroom, which he did in the summer, over 3.5 (GPA)," coach Brian Kelly said. "He's been on this mission of, whatever it is, and it's not just football, it's everything in his life, it's film study -- last night, he's in there film studying, taking notes, and I think he's just a very, very driven young man right now."

Kelly added that, during running drills in fall camp, Tuitt ran not with his fellow defensive ends, but with the team's cornerbacks. He showed off that speed on Saturday in taking his fumble recovery 77 yards into the end zone, sprinting his way toward six points with the kind of speed rarely seen in a 300-pound lineman.

But that athleticism fits with a sight offensive lineman Chris Watt relayed from earlier in the summer.

"In practice one time, Tuitt dropped back in pass coverage and was covering a wide receiver man-to-man and doing it pretty well," Watt said. "We were watching it on film during camp and it was pretty ridiculous."

Notre Dame will face plenty of challenging offenses this season, from Michigan State and Stanford's powerful rushing attacks to USC and Oklahoma's outstanding passing abilities. While Tuitt is only one of 11, he's someone who could be key in Notre Dame's ability to stop those opponents from finding the end zone.

"The fire is lit with him to dominate and be the best at everything he does," Kelly said.

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

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AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

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Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. But putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Robin Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting as the Paul Zipser played heavy minutes and even finished out the game on the floor.

Zipser scored 13 and Nikola Mirotic scored 11 off the bench, with Jimmy Butler scoring 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes.