Notre Dame looking to avoid another '93, '02 collapse

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Notre Dame looking to avoid another '93, '02 collapse

BOSTON -- Brian Kelly said last week "history will have no effect on how we play," a nod to Notre Dame twice falling flat on its face following two of its biggest wins in the last two decades, both of which were championship-killing losses to Boston College.

Notre Dame nearly had the same misfortunes that befell the school's 1993 and 2002 teams last weekend, with the Irish eking out a three-point win over Pittsburgh. So now it's on to Boston, where the Irish will face the main culprit in spoiling the 1993 and 2002 seasons.

"I don't too much care because that was the past," defensive tackle Louis Nix said. "I think many teams that's happened to, and I don't think it'll affect us at all. We're a different group. I think we just come out different. I didn't know much about Notre Dame before I got here, so I don't think that'll register with me at all, like Boston College beating an undefeated Notre Dame team then. I don't care all about that."

Notre Dame is 9-0 and nearly learned the hard way about the pitfalls that come with a championship run. This isn't exclusive to the Irish -- everybody that plays an undefeated, championship-caliber team in November wants to be the group that ruined the opposition's chances. Most recently, Iowa State spoiled Oklahoma State's run at a title last year.

But for Notre Dame, 1993's loss to Boston College was about as rough as it gets. The Irish had just beaten Charlie Ward's No. 1 Florida State team in a game few expected the Seminoles to lose. Had they won against BC, the Irish would've gone to a bowl game knowing a win would net them a national title.

Tom Coughlin's Eagles, though, squeezed out a 41-39 win in South Bend. Notre Dame hadn't been at 9-0 or better since, at least until this year.

When asked about the loss, and what Lou Holtz said after the game, former Irish All-American safety Jeff Burris summed up the calamity.

"I don't think I remembered any message whatsoever because it was such a heartbreaking thing," Burris told CSNChicago. "Just heartbreak with the game, that there was no recollection of that moment because we went from competing, knowing that you had the national championship in your grasp to, all of a sudden, it's not.

" There was no consoling. It was the complete opposite we have experienced the week before, obviously, when we were on the top of the world. And now you feel like you just let the world down. I honestly can't tell you I remember a word he said because I was so heartbroken."

If Kansas State, for example, loses this weekend, they'll still have the fallback of being Big 12 champions, most likely. Obviously, that's not much of a consolation prize for a team with national title aspirations, but it's better than nothing. That 1993 Notre Dame team had nothing else to fall back on, as has been the case for all of Notre Dame's 125-year history: At the end of the regular season, you're either going to a title game or you're not.

"We don't have a conference to play in, and the motivation for us and it even to this day is you have to win every game," Burris said. "We didn't have a conference championship, Big East, SEC, to redeem ourselves. That was it. That was the finale."

The buildup to that loss to Boston College 19 years ago was similar to Notre Dame's week leading up to its game against Pittsburgh -- Burris said the Irish had a good week of practice and Holtz did a good job "quieting the excitement" that came with such a big win against FSU. And, like Notre Dame players said after beating Pittsburgh, the effort BC gave was unexpected, at least from watching the tape.

"They came out with a physical mentality that we didn't see on film, necessarily," Burris said. "They were physical. And what we're also saying, we didn't think they were hard-nosed, we didn't think they were that physical on film. Their running game was okay. They came out and ran it, threw it, and the first plays when that game started they were a physical football team."

It was one of those games where everything came together for a good team -- the Eagles went 9-3 that year and won the Blockbuster Bowl -- not unlike what happened Saturday, although Pittsburgh's 2012 team is hardly as good as that BC team from 19 years ago.

"You gotta give Tom Coughlin, you gotta give Glenn Foley, you gotta give Pete Mitchell, those guys deserve their just due. They played lights out," Burris said. "All credit goes to them. Not necessarily how well or how bad we played, it was the fact that they played that well."

Looking back, the 2012 Irish were lucky. Perhaps their game against Pittsburgh was the same kind of letdownlights-out opponent effort the team saw in 1993 from Boston College. But unlike 1993, Notre Dame escaped with a win.

BC's 2012 squad is 2-7, with wins over FCS-level Maine and struggling ACC counterpart Maryland. The Eagles have a nice quarterback-receiver tandem in Chase Rettig (2,556 yards, 16 TDs) and Alex Amidon (67 receptions, 1,073 yards), but have the worst record in the ACC -- a conference in which Duke is one of the four or five best teams.

A BC win on Saturday would qualify as a monumental upset, one larger than Notre Dame's loss to the Eagles in 1993. But a BC win would have at least some historical precedent, even if Irish players could care less about what happened 19 years ago.

"I don't know what happened in '02 and '93, so it doesn't really matter to me," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "What matters is what happens in 2012."

White Sox: Jose Abreu hits 100th career home run

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AP

White Sox: Jose Abreu hits 100th career home run

PHOENIX — Jose Abreu became the third Cuban player to hit 100 home runs for the White Sox when he hit blasted one Tuesday night.

The White Sox first baseman reached the left field seats with a 386-foot drive in the eighth inning off Arizona’s Jorge De La Rosa. The homer was the ninth hit by Abreu this season in 184 plate appearances.

Minnie Minoso hit 135 home runs for the White Sox and Alexei Ramirez had 109.

Abreu is on pace to hit 33 homers this season. He burst onto the season and hit 36 home runs en route to winning the American League rookie of the year award in 2014. Abreu’s homer total dropped to 30 in 2015 and dipped to 25 last season.

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All nine of Abreu’s homers have come away from Guaranteed Rate Field this season. The White Sox have only played 16 games at home. Prior to 2017, Abreu had homered 46 times at home and 45 on the road.

Abreu’s 100th homer had an exit velocity of 104 mph off the bat and a launch angle of 40 degrees. 

Joe Maddon explains his ‘defensive foot fetish’ and what Cubs need to see from Ian Happ in center field

Joe Maddon explains his ‘defensive foot fetish’ and what Cubs need to see from Ian Happ in center field

Joe Maddon went Full Larry David while trying to explain what the Cubs need to see from Ian Happ in center field.

“I’m into feet, man,” Maddon said. “I just like good feet. I don’t have a foot fetish, other than defense. I have a defensive foot fetish. I admit to it.” 

And with that, Maddon got up from his chair and walked out of the Wrigley Field interview room after Tuesday night’s 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants, saying: “You can’t top that.” The only thing missing for the Cubs manager in that moment was the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” theme music.

Maddon gave credit to bench coach Dave Martinez and the team’s scouting reports for Happ’s sliding catch, which took a leadoff hit away from Brandon Belt in the seventh inning of Jon Lester’s complete-game masterpiece.     

“The guy’s really confident,” Maddon said. “Now I’ve seen some things we need to work on fundamentally out there. And I’ve already talked to Davey about it. And I know Happer’s going to work on that to make it even better. But he was positioned well, I thought, by our guys. He was in the right spots.”

If Happ needs work on reading swings and running routes, remember that the Cubs drafted and developed him as an infielder/outfielder with Maddon’s versatility ideals in mind. Actually, the Cubs went offense first with the ninth overall pick in 2015, fast-tracking a switch-hitter who needed only 26 games with Triple-A Iowa.       

While Happ didn’t exactly appreciate or fully understand where the knocks on his defensive game came from out of the University of Cincinnati, he will be in the lineup when he puts up a .323 average and a 1.126 OPS through his first nine games with the Cubs.    

“Just saw a couple little things I would like to see him address and get better with,” Maddon said. “Again, I’m being nitpicky right now, because I want him to be really good at this. His arm’s fabulous. He throws really well. Yeah, I mean, he could be really good out there.”