Notre Dame gets its blowout win at home over Wake Forest

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Notre Dame gets its blowout win at home over Wake Forest

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It took until the final home game of the season, but the Irish finally blew an opponent out at Notre Dame Stadium.

Everett Golson was spectacular, dismantling Wake Forest's secondary as Notre Dame cruised to a 38-0 win. It was easily the best game of the season for the redshirt freshman, with his only mistake coming on an ill-advised heave toward the end zone in the second quarter that went for an interception.

But Golson completed 20 of 30 passes for 346 yards with three touchdowns, frequently linking up with Irish receivers downfield as Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin continued to open up the playbook for the first-year starter.

"We showed our explosiveness and what we could do on the field," wide receiver John Goodman said. "We had a lot of spurts of that throughout the season but I think really, tonight that showed a lot throughout the whole game."

Golson completed six passes to tight end Tyler Eifert for the third straight week, with the senior captain racking up 85 yards and a touchdown. T.J. Jones caught six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, while Goodman caught a 50-yard touchdown as well.

Cierre Wood, playing in potentially his final game at Notre Dame Stadium, rushed 11 times for 150 yards and a touchdown, which was a 68-yard dash in the first quarter.

"I think we're playing really good football at this point offensively and defensively," coach Brian Kelly said. "Our special teams have been okay, but I think offensively we're growing. We're very explosive. We had nine explosive plays in the first half. I think if you can match with what we've done defensively, we're playing pretty good football."

It was Notre Dame's first home rout of the 2012 season, with the team's 38-point margin of victory larger than the combined margins in the Irish's five other home wins (23 points).

"You can never look past one team, because if you lose then what, you drop in rankings, you're not going to get where you want to be and that's the 'ship, so you can't look past one team," defensive tackle Louis Nix explained. "We almost looked past Pitt and the outcome was almost different, they could've won the game. You can't look past any team, you just gotta stay focused on the next one, and that's USC."

The blowout came off an emotional senior day celebration, which saw the Notre Dame student section packed with lei-wearing fans chanting Manti Te'o's name as he embraced his parents at midfield prior to the game.

"I was emotional, but I held it in and managed to hold it in," Te'o said. "But I shed a few tears when I embraced my parents."

Early in the fourth quarter, Kelly called a timeout to give seniors Kapron Lewis-Moore, Zeke Motta and Te'o proper ovations from the home crowd.

"I wanted to make it a special moment for the seniors on defense," Kelly said. "They have been obviously the rock. They've carried us while we were trying to find ourselves offensively. It just seemed to me to be a pretty good gesture to allow us to honor those seniors."

Last Sunday, Notre Dame received one first-place vote in the coaches poll. It was from their own coach, which looked like more of a ploy to boost Notre Dame's BCS number than anything else.

"I voted them number one in the country for a reason because I think they're the best team in the country," Kelly said. "And I think they played like that tonight."

Kelly won't be alone in voting Notre Dame No. 1 in the coaches poll released Sunday morning. And when the BCS standings are released Sunday night, they'll reveal Notre Dame as the No. 1 team in the country.

Just where Kelly had them a week ago.

Kris Bryant ignites World Series nostalgia with Cubs' epic eighth-inning comeback

Kris Bryant ignites World Series nostalgia with Cubs' epic eighth-inning comeback

“Reminded me a lot of a play in the World Series.”

Kris Bryant wasn’t the only one with World Series nostalgia Saturday afternoon at the Friendly Confines. The tens of thousands of Cubs fans losing their minds over the North Siders’ eighth-inning comeback made that very clear.

Bryant, though, was the one who provided it, first driving in the game-tying run mere moments after the visiting St. Louis Cardinals smashed open a pitchers duel with back-to-back homers off Jon Lester in the top of the eighth. Bryant then got a head starts and came around all the way from first, scoring the game-winning run on a ball Anthony Rizzo dumped into the left-center field gap so perfectly he couldn’t have thrown it there any better.

Bryant slid in — feet first — beating the throw home from ex-teammate Dexter Fowler. Cue the hysteria at Clark and Addison.

“Me, honestly, I was just trying to go up the middle. I think that’s kind of where I’ve been struggling this year is with guys on base I want to do too much. Just seeing through the middle. Bat broke and flew, I don’t know where it went, but it flew somewhere. That was huge,” Bryant explained after the game.

“And then obviously with Rizz having a good at-bat off a tough lefty. I don't know if Dexter or Tommy Pham got a good read or if they were way back at the track, but right when he hit it I didn’t see them anywhere close to it so I thought there was a pretty good chance that I could score.”

Bryant’s very presence in the Cubs’ starting lineup was the headline before the game, the “freak of nature” returning from a jammed finger after missing only one game. So of course it was the reigning National League MVP who played the biggest role, flipping the script from his sick day by being right in the middle of the Cubs’ eighth-inning explosion. It was the eighth inning where the Cardinals staged their game-defining rally Friday.

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Manager Joe Maddon went as far as saying that perhaps only Bryant could have made the play he did, scoring from first base on what went down as a Rizzo double.

“KB being able to play was the difference in today’s game,” Maddon said. “A combination of the hit and his speed. I don’t think anybody else scores on that. Maybe Jason (Heyward), possibly. (Ian) Happ, possibly. But KB is such a good base runner. He had it in his head the moment the ball was hit, and all (third base coach Gary) Jones had to do was wave his arm. You can’t underestimate the importance of one person in the lineup.

“He’s a very bright base runner. He’s shown that from the beginning. … He demonstrated that early on, and for me when a young player demonstrates awareness on the bases, man, that’s a good baseball player.”

All that talent made Bryant last season’s Most Valuable Player and one of the most important figures in the curse-breaking World Series championship.

Bryant mentioned he thought Saturday’s game-winning trip from first to home conjured memories of a similar play in Game 7 of last fall’s World Series, when Bryant went first to home on Rizzo’s base hit off Andrew Miller in the fifth inning.

“Reminded me a lot of a play in the World Series off of Andrew Miller. It was a full count there, started early,” Bryant said. “Rizz hit it, you’ve got to give him a ton of credit, worked a great at-bat. But the head start really does help. It's something that I take pride in is my base running, surprising people. Hopefully I did that today.”

With Bryant back in the lineup Saturday, Kyle Hendricks’ return to the rotation coming Monday, a now 7-1 record since the All-Star break and a bunched-up NL Central that had four teams within three and a half games of each other entering Saturday’s action, it’s no wonder the World Series feeling is making its way back to the North Side.

All season long, fans and observers have been waiting for that switch to flip, and maybe it finally has.

The bats were thunderous on that six-game road trip out of the All-Star break, with 16 home runs helping the Cubs to back-to-back sweeps of the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves. Friday’s loss to the Cardinals provided plenty of evidence that the rest of the season might feature a knock-down, drag-out slugfest between the four NL Central contenders. All that was missing was a game that got Wrigleyville rocking.

“Probably one of our better wins of the year,” Bryant said.

That’s all without even mentioning the efforts of Lester, who was perfect until Adam Wainwright’s single in the top of the sixth. It was another stellar effort from a Cubs starting pitcher, and what was the team’s biggest problem during that sub-.500 first half — inconsistent starting pitching — certainly seems to be ironed out.

While the standings say it’s still going to be a brawl to the end with the Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs could be in a first-place tie by the end of Saturday night.

In other words, the race is on. And Bryant and the Cubs are clicking at the right time.

“It’s already Jaugust,” Maddon joked, inventing a new month out of thin air. “There’s no waiting around right now. Everybody feels the same way. We took advantage of the break, I believe. We came back with renewed energy. You don’t want to give up anything right now.”

After losing uncle, emotional Jon Lester pays tribute with Notre Dame rallying cry

After losing uncle, emotional Jon Lester pays tribute with Notre Dame rallying cry

Jon Lester wore PLACT on his hat Saturday and he made good on the Notre Dame rallying cry — Play Like a Champion Today — against the Cardinals.

Lester didn't attend college and doesn't cheer for Notre Dame, but in his postgame session, he fought through tears to tell reporters why he decided to put the Notre Dame nod on his hat:

"My family — I lost my uncle yesterday," Lester said. "For the Notre Dame fans, he went to Notre Dame, so it's Play Like a Champion Today. Just to let him know that I was thinking of him."

Lester worked through the grief and carried a perfect game into the sixth inning, retiring the first 17 Cardinals hitters in the game.

Lester wound up surrendering two homers in the eighth inning, but the Cubs offense rallied behind him with three runs in the bottom of the inning, giving their ace his seventh win of the season.

But Lester's teammates didn't even know the struggle he was going through.

"I didn't even know that, man," said Kris Bryant, who scored the winning run. "That's tough. Jonny, he won't ever show you any emotion. Something like that, to hear that, obviously it's terrible, but he's probably one of the best teammates I've ever been able to play with in my short time.

"You know what you're going to get with him every day. You know he's gonna be the same guy, the same competitor and I love that about him."