Cutting down on mistakes keys turnaround for Irish

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Cutting down on mistakes keys turnaround for Irish

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Ask any Notre Dame defensive player about Alabama's offense, and the words "mistake-free" will pop up somewhere in their answer. The Tide have one of the best turnover margins in college football at 1 per game, keyed by A.J. McCarron only throwing three interceptions all year.
Notre Dame has a painful firsthand knowledge of how turnovers can torpedo a season. The Irish coughed the ball up 10 times in losses to South Florida and Michigan to open the 2011 season, setting the tone for a sloppy 8-5 year marred by 29 turnovers, the 10th-highest total among FBS teams.
There's some part of turning the ball over that involves luck. For Notre Dame, there was plenty of it last year, and coupled with poor decisions and the so-frequently-mentioned need to improve the team's "attention to detail" it cost the Irish a season.
That's why going in to spring practice, the emphasis on Notre Dame's quarterback battle was on keeping hold of the football. Everett Golson didn't have a turnover in the team's spring game, while Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix both did. And while there was plenty about Golson's game that was frustrating for coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin, his ability to hold on to the football was a big point in his favor.
Four months later, it's telling that Golson didn't field any questions about turning the ball over from the throngs of media assembled around him at Monday's media day. In 2011, that's all anyone could talk about -- how was Notre Dame going to stop turning the ball over so much?
The answer hasn't just been inserting Golson in as the team's starting quarterback. He's still turned the ball over, throwing five interceptions and losing four fumbles. But it's also telling that, after Golson quarterbacked Notre Dame to a road win over Michigan State this year, the freshman was universally praised -- by everyone outside the team, that is.
"Michigan State, (the media) applauded him -- but if you really broke down what he did against Michigan State, he ran around a little bit, he scrambled and threw an ESPN play of the day, and that kind of overshadowed the rest of the game," Martin said. "Where in his mind, he knew he didnt play great at Michigan State.
" Michigan State game, I almost pulled him away from you guys and said you stink,'" Martin added.
But consider this: the worst turnover margin among the last five national champions was Auburn's 0.36, good for 33rd nationally in 2010. Notre Dame was at -1.15 in 2011, third-worst among 120 FBS schools. In 2012, the Irish are 0.75, ranking 23rd nationally.
Couple that with a defense that's gone from good to great, and Notre Dame is going from the Champs Sports Bowl to the BCS Championship.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Here are some of Sunday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Patrick Kane leads Blackhawks to win in Buffalo homecoming

What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

Wojnarowski: Bulls-Celtics Jimmy Butler trade talks 'will loom over the entire week'

After surreal offseason, Ben Zobrist comes to Cubs camp in style as World Series MVP

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

Fire score five goals for fourth preseason win

Simeon beats rival Morgan Park for city championship

Former Northwestern football player Torri Stuckey now focuses on helping others

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

NEW ORLEANS — Every All-Star isn’t created equal, even by the slimmest of margins as the best 24 NBA players take their turn on the midseason stage.

So Jimmy Butler being announced among the first five as an All-Star starter had to represent some form of validation, now that he’s not a novice at the whole experience and he’s able to go through the motions of the hectic weekend without breaking much of a sweat.

But despite being a three-time All-Star and routinely mentioned as one of the game’s top 15 players or even top 10, he can’t shake the trade rumors that have seemed to follow him since this time last season.

As he finished up his All-Star experience at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, clarity was nowhere to be found—although heading to some tropical island for a couple days to actually unwind with clear water and warm air seemed to be the best therapy if he’s stressed by the uncertainty of the next few days.

“What’s Thursday? Oh, trade deadline,” Butler said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. Am I anxious? Come on, man. I don’t worry about it. It don’t bother or scare me none.”

“Hopefully I’m not going to get traded but I don’t know. I don’t control that. Control what I can control, like going on vacation.”

Surely it has to be frustrating for a guy who’s elevated his game yet again, averaging 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals for the Bulls in 51 games. But he refuses to let it damper his All-Star spirits, playing with some of the best players in the world and a few guys he calls friends, like DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Durant.

“Not for me,” said Butler of the potential stress. “Not saying I’m untradeable but I don’t think about that. If I’m not in a Bulls uniform, I’ll give you a hug and say goodbye to you.”

Moments after Butler made his statement in the media room, the floodgates opened for the trade market as fellow Olympian DeMarcus Cousins was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans for what seemed to be mere fodder, pennies on the dollar for the most talented center in the NBA.

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While Cousins is far more of a handful than Butler could be, the trade almost signals a consistent truth that always bears repeating—that short of a select few, anybody can be traded.

Even a franchise altering talent like Cousins, who was traded to the city he was physically in for All-Star weekend, and included in the package of players was a guy who hit him in the groin last week (Buddy Hield), resulting in a Cousins outburst and ejection.

Butler has made his name with the Bulls, although not necessarily on the All-Star stage, a player who values defense and doesn’t have as much flash as some of the game’s shinier players.

With a six-point outing in 20 minutes, Butler was an on-court afterthought despite being a starter for the first time.

“Six? Should’ve gone for eight,” he sarcastically deadpanned.

In a relatively jovial mood through the weekend, Butler joked about the talk surrounding him and tried to brush it off as mere chatter as opposed to the franchise not seeing enough in him to make a firm commitment for the long-term, as the Boston Celtics are always hovering.

League sources expect the Celtics to engage the Bulls in conversations for the next few days, but nobody has a great feel for what either side is truly looking for.

But as Butler insisted, he’s only controlling what he can control, which is making himself a fixture for All-Star games to come as opposed to some of the first-timers who don’t know if they’ll get back here again.

“I think I got two underneath my belt,” Butler said. “I know what they’re feeling the first time, It’s so surreal like maybe I do belong here. That’s how I was thinking. Now it’s how do I get here every year? I think that’s the fun part, that’s the challenge. A lot of those guys have done it 10-plus years, hopefully I’m one.”

The only question seems to be, which uniform will it be in because the crazy season has begun.