Cubs-Sox bring back the drama

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Cubs-Sox bring back the drama

If you wondered whether the Cubs and White Sox still had any juice left, it didnt take long to get the answer.

There couldnt have been many bigger headlines than the new Mr. Cub walking away. The fans chanted Pauley, Pauley. There was a purpose pitch in retaliation and a manager unhinged.

Friday began with word spreading about Kerry Woods retirement, and ended with another farewell news conference in the Wrigley Field dungeoninterview room. In between, the White Sox won a wild game 3-2 in front of 34,937 fans that couldnt have left disappointed.

Paul Konerko staggered to his feet, but didnt want any help walking back to the dugout, a towel pressed against his face. This wasnt the time or the place to show weakness.

No one can question Konerkos toughness. The White Sox captain got up after Jeff Samardzijas 85 mph splitter smashed into his face, leaving a small laceration and swelling above his left eye.

It was a scary scene in the third inning. Konerko had opened the game with a two-run shot, the 404th home run of his career. Samardzija said there was no malicious intent.

There are lot of superstars in the league that put up big numbers, get paid a lot of money, Samardzija said. Pauleys one of those guys that does (it) the right way. Theres not too many of (them) out there. Hes not about show. Hes not about himself. Pauleys a great guy.

That ball got away. Unfortunately, it hit him up high. If I could take it back, I would.

Philip Humber responded by throwing a ball behind Bryan LaHairs back, and this was a game played with a real hard edge.

When David DeJesus tried to stretch a single into a double in the fifth inning, White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham took the throw and barreled over him.

Beckham, an All-State free safety and quarterback in high school back in Georgia, knocked DeJesus off the bag. The out call set off Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who seems to greet everything else by shrugging his shoulders or rolling his eyes.

As far as I know, you cant shove people off the base, Sveum said. Otherwise, everyone would be doing it all the time.

The fuse was lit and Sveum rushed out to argue and got ejected. In the run-up to Cubs-Sox, everyone wondered if it would be boring without Ozzie Guillen or Lou Piniella or Carlos Zambrano playing the instigator. Not so much.

There was Wood striking out Dayan Viciedo, the only batter he faced in the eighth inning, and leaving to a loud ovation.

It was a very special moment, Sveum said. I wish I could have been out there to be the one that took him out of the game and made that decision. I wish I would have thought about that before I got carried away.

Even Samardzija who says things like whatever, dude became a little emotional.

Samardzija gave up the go-ahead home run to Beckham in the eighth, but submitted another strong performance, giving up three runs in 7.1 innings and notching eight strikeouts, again showing he can be a frontline guy.

Samardzija watched both these teams while growing up in Indiana and wanted the spotlight. He has vivid memories of how dominating Wood could be.

I remember being a kid and my dad reading an article or something about Kerry Wood working out in the pool, Samardzija said. Thats why he threw 98 mph. And so my dad has me in the pool the next day kicking floaties around and stuff.

That was the dude you wanted to be. Thats how you wanted to throw. You wanted to throw hard. You wanted to throw a big curveball.

No, it wasnt a sellout. But, yes, the drama was definitely back in this crosstown rivalry. Even one of its villains had to give props to the modern-day Mr. Cub.

I love Kerry Wood, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. He had a tremendous career. I wish he wouldnt have had the injuries he had, because he would have been one of the best ever. Classy guy (who) was good for the game.

He worked his tail off every day and wanted the ball in big situations. He had a great run and its sad to see the way it ended.

Its kind of poetic justice that he struck out the last guy he faces.

Penn State AD says James Franklin is not on the hot seat

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Penn State AD says James Franklin is not on the hot seat

Is James Franklin on the hot seat?

Perhaps fans and observers think the Penn State head coach should be, but the Nittany Lions' athletics director certainly doesn't.

Sandy Barbour told the Altoona Mirror that Franklin is not on the hot seat and gave a complete vote of confidence in the coach, who's coming off a blowout 49-10 loss against Michigan.

"He's not on the hot seat, and he's not going to be on the hot seat in December," Barbour told the Mirror's Cory Giger.

"James is going to be our football coach. I believe in where this football program is going under James Franklin, and I think he's going to be our football coach, period."

Franklin is in his third season at the helm in Happy Valley, and while he's had his fair share of recruiting successes, he hasn't experienced much success on the field. After last weekend's loss to Michigan, Franklin is now 0-7 against ranked opponents since arriving at Penn State ahead of the 2014 season.

"When Penn State is where we ought to be, where we should be, where we're all striving to be, we absolutely should go toe to toe with anyone in the country. Clearly we're not there," Barbour said. "We're not a finished product. I don't think anybody thought we would be a finished product four games into the season.

"Was Saturday disappointing? Of course it was. But no one's more disappointed than our coaching staff and our student-athletes in our football program. So I certainly understand where our fans are coming from and the disappointment."

Back-to-back 7-6 finishes could be seen as mild successes, perhaps, considering the program is still working out from the shadow of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But Penn State's historic status as one of college football's power programs is certainly not applicable right now, and the Lions competing for any kind of championship seems completely unrealistic in the ultra-competitive Big Ten East Division.

All that has led plenty to believe that Franklin's job might be in jeopardy, but Barbour at least verbally put those notions to rest.

"I believe that James is the right guy, and yeah, he's going to be our football coach."

Notre Dame needs mistake-free play from receivers

Notre Dame needs mistake-free play from receivers

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Last year, Notre Dame receivers combined to fumble twice in 13 games. Through four weeks in 2016, Irish receivers already have fumbled three times, losing two of them.

Sophomore C.J. Sanders’ fumble against Michigan State sparked the Spartans’ 36-point run, and fellow sophomore Equanimeous St. Brown lost a fumble that stunted Notre Dame’s offense in a three-point loss to Duke. Freshman Kevin Stepherson also fumbled against the Blue Devils, but impressive hustled back to recover it. 

In 2015, only Torii Hunter Jr. and Chris Brown fumbled (Hunter’s came at the goal line against USC; Brown’s came in that rainstorm at Clemson). That was a veteran-heavy receiving corps, while Notre Dame’s 2016 group only has two upperclassmen in it: Hunter, a redshirt junior, and Corey Holmes, a redshirt sophomore (who doesn’t have much playing experience). 

“A lot of young guys out there, a lot of young guys,” coach Brian Kelly said. “It's unacceptable, but a lot of young guys out there.”

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Sanders’ fumble, Kelly said was more careless — he didn’t have three points of pressure on the ball when it was knocked out. St. Brown tried to make a play despite having a second defender converging on him and should’ve gone down before the ball was dislodged. 

Guys like Sanders and St. Brown, who are seeing the first real college action at receiver this year, were probably able to make plenty of defenders miss with ease while in high school. But that’s nowhere near as easy to do now. 

Notre Dame needs its offense to avoid these unforced (yet, technically, forced) errors while its defense remains an ineffective work in progress. There isn’t much room for error as Notre Dame aims to pull out of its 1-3 tailspin and reach a bowl game. 

“At this level everybody is bigger and faster,” Sanders said. “So you have to kind of have that notion in the back of your head, okay, you know if there's three guys in the area and I don't know where to go, get down. We made that mistake which we learned from it, so now we know.”