Golson emerges as Notre Dame's championship quarterback

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Golson emerges as Notre Dame's championship quarterback

Everett Golson was Notre Dame's most impressive quarterback seven months ago, when Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix both threw interceptions in the team's spring game. But coach Brian Kelly still referred to Golson as a "heart attack for me," noting how the young quarterback struggled to read signals and get plays called in a timely manner.

When fall camp rolled around, it quickly became clear Golson was the favorite to beat out Andrew Hendrix for the starting nod. Despite having no experience at the collegiate level, Golson was going to be Notre Dame's quarterback. So did the redshirt freshman picture back in August the kind of season he and the Irish wound having?

"Nah, not at all," Golson laughed after Notre Dame's 22-13 win over USC Saturday. "I think I was getting frustrated too much to be envisioning that."

Early on, Golson didn't struggle statistically, completing 47 of 81 passes for 611 yards and two touchdowns. A year after Notre Dame's season was done in by a spate of early-season turnovers, Golson didn't throw an interception against Navy, Purdue and Michigan State.

But he wasn't comfortable in that stretch, and that led to Tommy Rees replacing him late in Notre Dame's win over Purdue. The Michigan game -- three completions in eight attempts for 30 yards with two bad interceptions -- was the culmination of Golson's September discomfort.

"I keep going back to Purdue week, talking about that game. It was a little bit a lot for me, to be honest," Golson said. "But seeing how Ive progressed now, with the help of coaches and the O-line being with me and the wide receivers and the running backs, and also the guys on the defensive side instilling that confidence, its helped me a lot."

Kelly stuck by his quarterback, reaffirming over and over that Golson was entrenched as Notre Dame's starter. Rees has slowly been phased out as a safety net, with Kelly saying prior to the USC game that Golson reached a point where he would play through any struggles.

The playbook has opened up for Golson, starting with some zone reads against Miami and progressing to deep balls and options as the weeks have wore on. But his development still has a ways to go, and Golson was quick to point out he still needs to work on red zone execution heading into the BCS Championship.

"Its been a learning process. Were still right in the midst of it, youre watching it," Kelly explained. "Hes making better decisions with the football. I guess the difference is hes not careless with the football. Careless I cant take. Hes going to make some bad decisions once in a while. But hes not careless with the football."

Few expected Notre Dame to be in the position they currently are, awaiting the winner of the SEC championship in Miami Jan. 7. But of all the teams with first-year starting quarterbacks, it's Notre Dame and Golson -- not Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel, not Oregon and Marcus Mariota -- that's going to the BCS Championship.

"It was a great feeling knowing everything you worked for in spring ball and everything you worked for in summer camp, it really kind of proved itself to be true and worthwhile," Golson said.

Cubs enjoy 'Anchorman' road trip after big home stand: '60 percent of the time, it works every time'

Cubs enjoy 'Anchorman' road trip after big home stand: '60 percent of the time, it works every time'

Win or lose, the Cubs were always going to leave Wrigley Field on a good note Thursday evening.

Joe Maddon made sure of that.

The Cubs left "The Friendly Confines" dressed in "Anchorman" attire for Maddon's themed road trip that included Kyle Schwarber dressed as fictional sportscaster Champ Kind, right down to the gallon-size hat.

"Champ's my guy," Schwarber said.

John Lackey also got in the spirit of Champ Kind

Maddon thought Schwarber was the perfect fit for Champ Kind.

"Of course he should be," Maddon said. "Isn't that a [John] Lackey kinda look, also?

"I just love that they're into it. It would've been perfect going to San Diego first, but I'll take it."

The Cubs are shipping out to Los Angeles for a weekend series beginning Friday before heading to San Diego — the site of Ron Burgandy's affection — from there.

The Cubs apparently even have some "Sex Panther" on board, the cologne that Paul Rudd's character used that smelled...shall we say...awful.

"Sex Panther's on board," Maddon said before Thursday's game. "I'm hearing a lot of good things about Sex Panther. 'Sixty percent of the time, [it works every time].' I wanna know who wrote that. That's brilliant.

"Of course, a win always makes it better, but even after a loss, it's a good way to just let 'er go. But I think everybody's embraced the 'Anchorman' very well."

Of course, the Cubs did win, beating the San Francisco Giants 5-1 to close out a 7-2 home stand.

Check out some of the best photos as the Cubs exited Wrigley Field on Thursday:

Cubs slug their way to impressive homestand

Cubs slug their way to impressive homestand

For the third straight year, the Cubs' season could hinge on an important series with the San Francisco Giants.

In August of 2015, the Cubs swept the Giants in a four-game set at Wrigley Field and they built off that momentum to win 97 games and make it all the way to the National League Championship Series.

Last fall, the Cubs rallied to beat the Giants in an epic comeback in Game 4 of the NLDS, essentially winning the World Series in that game, by Joe Maddon's opinion.

The 2017 Cubs have spent all year hovering around .500 before winning three of four against the Giants this week at Wrigley, looking more and more like the defending champs.

Thursday's 5-1 win over the Giants was the icing on top of an impressive 7-2 homestand that also featured a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds and a split in a rain-shortened series with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cubs are now 14-11 at home and 25-21 overall, having caught up to the Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. 

They also flashed plenty of defense throughout the homestand, including Javy Baez's ridiculous play in the eighth inning of the series finale against the Giants:

Eddie Butler turned in another solid start, allowing just a run in five innings. Mike Montgomery faced one above the minimum in four innings of relief, inducing six outs on ground balls.

Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist delivered the offense with a solo homer each off former Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Bryant and Anthony Rizzo added insurance by both scoring on a wild pitch (and subsequent error) in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Heyward's blast was his fifth of the season. He didn't earn his fifth homer of 2016 until July 29.

On the nine-game homestand, the Cubs found their offense, scoring 59 runs — good for 6.56 runs per game.

They also smashed 20 home runs, which is nearly a third of their season total (62). On the homestand, 45.7 percent of the Cubs' runs came via the longball.