Stopping Robinson the No. 1 priority for Notre Dame

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Stopping Robinson the No. 1 priority for Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame is off to its best start in years, and could find itself ranked among the top 10 teams in the country with a win on Saturday. Problem is, Notre Dame hasn't beat Michigan in the last three years. And more specifically, they haven't beat Denard Robinson.

Robinson's touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree with two seconds left in last year's contest was one of the defining moments of last year's college football season. It was the culmination of one of the wildest quarters of college football in recent memory, and most of it was the product of Robinson's masterful performance.

Notre Dame led 24-7 heading into the fourth quarter but lost the lead with just over a minute remaining. With 30 seconds left, the Irish got the lead back. And then with two seconds left, they lost it.

"I was really, really positive that was the game," running back Cierre Wood said. "But in any game you cant be too sure about anything, you cant take your foot off the gas pedal. Thats what I feel we did, the results were what they were.

"This year, theres gonna be a different outcome."

It's easy to forget just how well Notre Dame played against Michigan for the first three quarters last year. Eight of Michigan's first nine drives ended with a punt or interception, and Robinson was contained, only leading the Wolverines to five first downs on those drives.

But the overall picture of Robinson vs. Notre Dame isn't pretty: He's passed for 562 yards and rushed for 366 in two games -- 928 total yards of offense.

"He can beat you with his arm, he can beat you with his feet, and he's a fast little guy back there," defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said. "I feel like if we contain him, and just kinda get him out of his comfort zone, I think we'll be all right."

Robinson's already been muted once this year, but that was by Alabama's incomparable defense. His elusiveness creates plenty of problems, and while he's prone to making a few bad decisions, against Notre Dame last year his scramble-and-heave plays wound up helping more than hurting Michigan's chances.

"He can extend plays, he's a great player," safety Matthias Farley, who will make his first career start Saturday, said. "He's obviously extremely fast, good arm. You can't fall asleepyou gotta play to the whistle the whole time or he'll get you."

But when Robinson's explosiveness is taken out of the equation, he's beatable. That's what Notre Dame did for 45 minutes last year, and that's what they're aiming to do for 60 minutes this year.

"We have to find a way to limit bigchunk plays, just like we have the first few weeks," coach Brian Kelly said."It's about our defense not giving up those big-chunk plays.We gave them up in the running game in year one and we gave them up in the passing game in year two. We have to eliminate and control those big plays that are out there.If we do that, we feel pretty good."

Notre Dame's done well handling a variety of atmospheres in its first three games, from playing overseas against Navy to the home opener against Purdue to a hostile atmosphere at Michigan State. Saturday will have yet another different feel, with the game starting at night and having plenty of hype.

"Everybody and their dog are coming to this game," Lewis-Moore said. "It's going to be an exciting atmosphere, but you can't really get too lost in it and everything.

"It's exciting, but at the same time we gotta focus in. Michigan's had our number the past three years. This is a stepping stone for us and it's a great challenge ahead of us."

Matt Davidson stays mentally involved for fourth consecutive game off

Matt Davidson stays mentally involved for fourth consecutive game off

Matt Davidson, despite a .324 batting average and 1.010 OPS, hasn't been in the White Sox starting lineup in four consecutive games. 

For Sunday's series finale against the Cleveland Indians, Melky Cabrera got the start at designated hitter (he banged up his wrist running into a wall in left field foul territory Saturday night) with Jacob May playing in left field. Cody Asche, who started at DH in the White Sox last three games and went 0-10, is on the bench. 

A few things to note about Davidson's absence: They've come against four of the American League's best right-handers in New York's Masahiro Tanaka and Cleveland's Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Entering Sunday's game, though, the White Sox haven't scored in their last 23 innings and only have had one runner reach second base in their last 20 frames. 

Manager Rick Renteria said ostensibly poor matchups for Davidson, who has 12 strikeouts in 23 plate appearances against right-handers this year, haven't been why he hasn't played him.

"It's not so much the matchup," Renteria said. "I think we have other guys we want to go ahead and give them the opportunity to face who they are facing today. Matty has shown he can hit anybody. It has nothing to do with it. It has more to do with putting the guys we have right now in a particular situation to experience this particular club."

Davidson said the gap in starts hasn't been an issue for him, since he's already dealt with a lull in playing time earlier this year. Davidson made his last Cactus League start March 28 and only had one at-bat between then and his regular season debut April 6, when he went 2-4 with a home run, a walk and three RBIs. 

"I'm just staying with my approach, I'm watching video and staying up just like I'd be playing," Davidson said. "As long as I'm doing that I think I'll give myself the best chance I can."

Davidson, who made his four seasons ago with the Arizona Diamondbacks, spent nearly three years in Triple-A after the White Sox acquired him in exchange for closer Addison Reed in December of 2013. When he finally broke through with the White Sox last year, he broke his foot in his first game back in the major leagues and missed the rest of the season. 

So while Davidson's starts and at-bats have been sporadic this season, he's not taking the chances he gets for granted. 

"All of a sudden you spend a couple more years in Triple-A and you see the same thing over and over again, and you really appreciate being up here," Davidson said. 

The White Sox upcoming three-game series should provide opportunities for Davidson to get back in Renteria's lineup, with left-handers Jason Vargas and Danny Duffy starting the first two games of the series for the Kansas City Royals. 

"You will see him in the lineup coming up a little bit more," Renteria said. "But we will continue to mix and match to do what we can to make sure everybody stays capable of what they need to do."

Bulls' Rajon Rondo fined $25,000 for attempting to trip Celtics' Jae Crowder in Game 3

Bulls' Rajon Rondo fined $25,000 for attempting to trip Celtics' Jae Crowder in Game 3

Rajon Rondo's emergence made sure the Bulls played on the edge but one always had to wonder where he would go over the line—an aspect Jae Crowder and the NBA figured out Friday night.

Rondo was fined $25,000 by the NBA for sticking his leg out in an apparent attempt to trip Crowder when Crowder was close to the Bulls' bench late in the first quarter of Game 3 Friday night.

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Television replays caught Rondo's leg extending after Crowder hit a 3-pointer right in front of the Bulls' bench.

When asked Rondo claimed that due to an ACL surgery he had several years ago he had to extend his leg to keep it from getting stiff.

"When you tear an ACL your leg gets stiff on you. I always do that," Rondo said. "He may have been so deep on our bench."

Upon investigation from the NBA, it issued Rondo a stiff fine and the increasingly contentious series will take another turn Sunday evening in Game 4.

Rondo is expected to miss the rest of the series with a broken right thumb after being a key to the Bulls taking a 2-0 lead by stealing two wins in Boston last week, averaging a near triple-double.