After Rees leads Irish to victory, Kelly says Golson still No. 1


After Rees leads Irish to victory, Kelly says Golson still No. 1

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- With the score tied at 17 and about two minutes left in Saturday's game against Purdue, boos rained down from the stands as Notre Dame's offense took the field. That's because Everett Golson was no longer in at quarterback -- instead, it was Tommy Rees.

Coach Brian Kelly said Golson hurt his hand on his last play, which coincidentally was a fumble that set up Purdue's game-tying touchdown. But minor injury or not, Rees was coming in, according to Kelly. And he led a scoring drive that resulted in Kyle Brindza hitting the game-winning field goal, handing Notre Dame a 20-17 win.

Although that doesn't mean Golson has lost his spot as Notre Dame's No. 1 quarterback.

"There is no quarterback controversy," Kelly said. "Everett Golson is our starter. He will start against Michigan State. We know we have assets at that position with Andrew Hendrix and Tommy Rees."

Golson certainly didn't do anything to lose his job, completing 21 of 31 passes for 289 yards and one touchdown. With Purdue stacking the trenches and shutting down a Notre Dame rushing attack that gouged Navy last week in Dublin, Golson was forced to drive the Irish offense, and he did so successfully.

"Purdue made up their mind that they were going to have a loaded box today," Kelly said. "That was it. You're not going to run the football."

But a pair of injuries to DaVaris Daniels (ankle) and Tyler Eifert (mild concussion) contributed to Notre Dame's offense grinding to a half for most of the third and fourth quarters. With the offense stalling, as Rees trotted out to take his place under center most of the crowd seemed to think Golson had been deposed as the No. 1 quarterback.

The boos came almost instantly as Rees' name was announced. After a few early incompletions, the vocal displeasure continued.

"I was a bit surprised," linebacker Manti Te'o said of the booing. "But I think Tommy knew it didn't really matter because he knew what was most important is the guys out there on the field, and the guys on the sideline trusted him and had confidence in his ability to make plays."

"I don't agree with that at all," offensive lineman Zack Martin added. "A guy like Tommy, it just fuels his fire. He's been through a lot. I'm so proud of him and so happy for him that he was able to answer the bell today and lead us down the field."

There was at least one person not on the Notre Dame sideline who liked the decision, though -- that being Purdue coach Danny Hope.

"I thought that was a really good decision by their head coach," Hope said of inserting Rees. "That was a pressure situation and certainly would have been a tough assignment for a rookie quarterback. I was kind of excited about the idea of maybe having a rookie quarterback in there on the last drive -- I thought that may have given us an opportunity to get after him some and get ourselves in a good position to win."

Instead, it was Rees who put Notre Dame in a position to win. He converted on third-and-6, narrowly avoiding a delay-of-game-penalty and floating a pass to John Goodman on the near sideline for a gain of 10. His strike to Robby Toma accounted for 21 yards and moved the Irish within field goal range for Brindza, whose 27-yard attempt sailed through the uprights to give Notre Dame the victory.

"That's what I knew about (Rees) and his makeup, his moxie, his mental toughness," Kelly said. "Does he has all of the elite skills? No. But he's a gamer. He'll do anything. Those guys in that locker room will go to the wall for him. They'll do anything, because he's a great teammate."

"It was no surprise to us that he could drive down the field, put us in a situation to win the game," Te'o added. "It just goes to show the work that he put in, just his poise, just preparing himself in any way he could help us to continue."

Whether Rees was Notre Dame's No. 2 quarterback wasn't known leading up to the Purdue game, as he was listed with Hendrix in that spot on the depth chart. But just because he entered the game in the fourth quarter Saturday doesn't mean that battle has been decided.

"Tommy's a guy, if you look at it in baseball terms, he's a closer. He can close for you," Kelly said. "Maybe your middle relief guy is Hendrix. But maybe next week it changes."

But one thing that won't change is Golson's place atop the quarterback depth chart, even if his development process may have a few bumps along the way.

"We're going to have some growing pains," Kelly said. "But we won today. He was our starter. He's 2-0, 1-0 in terms of playing a Big Ten opponent that was pretty darn good. So that's a good start for him."

Are Cubs feeling drained? The clubhouse is divided

Are Cubs feeling drained? The clubhouse is divided

For the second straight week, Kyle Schwarber halted his postgame media scrum to get something off his chest.

Standing at his locker — the same spot he stood exactly a week prior — the Cubs slugger got about as forceful as he's ever been with the cameras rolling.

Are the Cubs drained right now?

"Never. Nope. Not at all," Schwarber said. "I'll shut you down right there — we're not running out of gas at all."


You gotta admire Schwarber's grit. He's got that linebacker/football mentality still locked and loaded in mid-October after a brutal first three games of the NLCS.

But...come on. The Cubs aren't drained? They're not tired or weary or mentally fatigued?

Schwarber says no, but it doesn't look that way on the field. They look like the high point of the season was that epic Game 5 in D.C. It was one of the craziest baseball games ever played, very reminsicent of Game 7 in last year's World Series.

Only one thing: Game 7 was the ultimate last game. They left it all on the field and that was cool because there was no more season left. Last week's wacky contest wasn't the final game of the season. It was just the final game of the FIRST series of the postseason.

So if the Cubs aren't feeling any weariness — emotional, physical, mental or otherwise — they must be superhuman.

Yet Anthony Rizzo — the face of the franchise — backed Schwarber's sentiment.

"I'm 28 years old right now," Rizzo said. "I could run laps around this place right now. I've got a great job for a living to play baseball.

"We have a beautiful life playing baseball. You gotta keep that in perspective. So if you wanna try to get mentally tired, realize what we're doing."

Rizzo talked that talk, but his performance on the field has hit a wall. After his "Respect Me!" moment in Game 3 of the NLDS, Rizzo went hitless in his next 16 at-bats before a harmless single Tuesday night. He then struck out in his final trip to the plate.

Bryzzo's other half — Kris Bryant — actually took the opposite stance of his teammates.

"Yeah, [that Washington series] was pretty draining, I think," Bryant admitted. "Some good games there that I think were pretty taxing for our bullpen and pitchers, too. 

"Kinda expect that around this time of year. The games mean a lot."

It's not surprising to hear those words from Bryant. In fact, it wouldn't even be mildly shocking to hear every player in the clubhouse share the same point of view.

The Cubs played all the way past Halloween last fall, then hit the town, having epic celebrations, going on TV shows, having streets named after them, etc. 

Then, before you know it, there's Cubs Convention again. And shortly after that, pitchers and catchers report. 

From there, the "title defense" season began, featuring a lackluster first half and a second half that took a tremendous amount of energy just to stave off the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central and get into the postseason.

Oh yeah, and then that series with the Nationals where the Cubs squeaked out a trio of victories by the slimest of margins.

These Cubs have never really had anything resembling a break. 

However, they're now just one game away from getting that rest they so badly need (and deserve).

Ben Zobrist breaks down how Dodgers pitching has made Cubs offense disappear


Ben Zobrist breaks down how Dodgers pitching has made Cubs offense disappear

Ben Zobrist didn’t look for any deeper meaning in Kyle Schwarber’s first-inning homer off Yu Darvish on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, or hope that one swing could change the entire momentum of this National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Zobrist knows what it takes to win in October, the Cubs identifying him as the missing piece to their lineup after he helped transform the 2015 Kansas City Royals into a championship team, and then getting a World Series MVP return on their $56 million investment.

That “Schwarbomb” turned out to be fool’s gold, the only run the Cubs would score in front of a quiet, low-energy crowd of 41,871, the defending champs one more loss away from golfing/hunting/fishing/signing autographs at memorabilia shows.

“That was great to get a homer, but I’d rather see some hits strung together,” Zobrist said after a sloppy 6-1 loss, standing at his locker for almost 10 minutes, answering questions in the underground clubhouse. “I’d like to see a couple doubles together, a few singles, three or four hits in an inning. We just haven’t done that.

“That’s what makes rallies. They’ve stayed away from those kinds of innings. That’s why they’re ahead right now.”

Darvish – Jake Arrieta’s replacement in the 2018 rotation? – canceled out the two singles he allowed in the first inning by getting two of his seven strikeouts and answering some of the questions about how he would respond to all the pressure in October.

Darvish – a trade-deadline acquisition that had echoes of Theo Epstein’s “If not now, when?” explanation for last year’s Aroldis Chapman trade – walked one of the 25 batters he faced and pitched into the seventh inning before handing the game over to a lights-out bullpen.

“There’s nothing that we didn’t see beforehand on video,” Zobrist said. “It’s just a matter of we need him to make more mistakes, and we got to take advantage of those mistakes when he makes them.

“When he got to 3-2 counts, he wasn’t throwing a heater. He was throwing the cutter, and it’s a tough pitch to hit. You have to sit on it, and even then it’s got good movement to it. He kept us off-balance.”

Forward-thinking manager Dave Roberts is at the controls of a Los Angeles bullpen that can match up against right- and left-handed hitters, target locations, unleash upper-90s velocity, execute the elevated fastball that messes with eye levels and lean on All-Star closer Kenley Jansen for multiple innings.

The Dodger relievers essentially put together a no-hitter that lasted nine-plus innings across Games 1, 2 and 3. Together, they have pitched 10.2 scoreless innings, facing 36 batters and allowing two hits and a walk and hitting Anthony Rizzo with a pitch.

“They kept the ball on the edges and kept us off-balance,” Zobrist said. “They’re not throwing the pitch in the middle of the plate when we need them to. They’re keeping it on the edges and those are hard (to hit). When you got guys with good stuff on the mound, you need them to make some mistakes for you, or at least start walking some guys.

“When they’ve gotten in those situations with a three-ball count, they’re still making the pitch when they need to. They’re not walking many guys – and we are.

“That’s why they’re up 3-nothing.”

Zobrist (4-for-23 this postseason) is now more of a part-time player/defensive replacement, no longer the switch-hitting force who dropped the bunt at Dodger Stadium that helped end the 21-inning scoreless streak during last year’s NLCS.

Zobrist insisted the Cubs are still all there mentally, not checked out after a grueling first round against the Washington Nationals and a brutal walk-off loss in Game 2 at Dodger Stadium. He owns two World Series rings and one has the Cubs logo and this inscription: “We Never Quit.”

“We keep it loose all the time,” Zobrist said. “We know what’s at stake. And we don’t shy away from it. We look forward to the challenge ahead. It would be a great story for us to be able to come back in this series and win this series.

“We make adjustments, we take advantage of mistakes and we come out with a victory tomorrow. That’s what we have to do.”