Bears

Alabama's rush D presents challenge for Golson, Notre Dame

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Alabama's rush D presents challenge for Golson, Notre Dame

Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin was looking for something, anything, on tape to lend some hope that his stable of talented running backs could make a game-changing play against Alabama's vaunted run defense.

He didn't find much.

"You try to gain some confidence if you look at the big run tape and the big pass tape, (and with) the big run tape Im like did we do all 12 games?" Martin said, half-joking. "Theres only four on here, and one was in the fourth quarter against a team that was like 86-0 so I didnt even count that one because there were no numbers on the field for Alabama that I recognized."

The stats aren't as bad as Martin made them out to be, but they're still not encouraging. Alabama's defense allowed seven runs of 20 or more yards in its 13 games, and only one of those went for 30 or more. Alabama is the only FBS defense against which opponents averaged under 80 yards rushing per game, and only three teams rushed for over 100 yards against the Tide this season.

Two of those teams -- LSU and Texas A&M -- needed 49 and 46 rushing plays to eclipse the century mark. Georgia, behind a physical, fast back in Todd Gurley, ran 29 times for 113 yards in the SEC title game, good for a 3.9 yards-per-carry average. That's the highest Alabama allowed in its 13 games.

"They dont give up squat running, and we know that," Martin quipped.

But Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood proved to be more than capable as a running back duo over Notre Dame's regular season. It was Riddick who pounded USC's defense to help push the Irish into the BCS Championship, and Wood's 62-yard touchdown dash against Oklahoma helped set the tone for the arguably Notre Dame's biggest win of the season.

Just because Alabama doesn't give up much on the ground, though, doesn't mean the Irish will eschew the run. There's still a balance to be fostered, while Riddick and Wood are good enough for the Irish to succeed against even the best of the run-stoppers.

Regardless, Martin and Notre Dame are preparing for Everett Golson to have to make the game-changing plays that have often fallen on the shoulders of Riddick and Wood. Golson's no stranger to those, either -- his 50-yard completion to Chris Brown against Oklahoma certainly falls into that category -- and he's played on plenty of big stages already.

"Im not the type that really succumbs to pressure, I guess. I dont think any moments bigger than what it is," Golson said. "For me, its about that game thats played between (the lines). Its not necessarily about everything thats going on around it. At the end of the day, its about playing Jan. 7 at Alabama."

And make no mistake, Golson's still in the midst of a massive learning process. But as has been the case in plenty of Notre Dame's games, he may not have to do everything right -- just enough to secure a win.

"If we win this game 3-2, were good," Martin said. "And thats been the way weve been all year."

Bears film breakdown: Mitch Trubisky's amazing scramble, Marcus Cooper's soft coverage mistake

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Bears film breakdown: Mitch Trubisky's amazing scramble, Marcus Cooper's soft coverage mistake

Had Connor Barth not missed a 46-yard field goal that would've sent Sunday's Bears-Lions game into overtime, Mitchell Trubisky's 19-yard scramble on fourth-and-13 would've gone down as the biggest play the rookie quarterback made in 2017. Instead, Barth missed the kick, and the Bears couldn't force an opportunity for Trubisky to win the game in overtime.

But that scramble was incredible in its own right, even if it didn't lead to a tie ballgame and/or eventual victory. Here's how it happened:

The Lions rush three, with linebacker Tahir Whitehead (labeled No. 3 here) defending Benny Cunningham, who initially sticks in the backfield in pass protection. Detroit has four defenders playing man coverage against the Bears' four pass-catchers -- wide receiver Markus Wheaton and tight end Daniel Brown are at the top of the image, while wide receivers Kendall Wright and Dontrelle Inman are at the bottom. The Lions have three safeties playing deep with the Bears needing 13 yards to gain a first down. 

Trubisky drops back and doesn't spy anyone open. The yellow line is where the Bears have to get to for a first down, and instead of forcing a throw, Trubisky opts for a scramble drill. 

It doesn't start very well. Trubisky is pursued by defensive linemen Anthony Zettel and A'Shawn Robinson (blue arrows) and has no chance to scramble outside. There's a window created by Wheaton at the top of the screen (purple arrow) but there's no chance Trubisky could set and make that throw across his body now. Scramble it is. 

Trubisky stops on a dime and is able to avoid Zettel and Robinson, and cuts back to the middle of the field. Defensive end Cornelius Washington (red arrow) identifies where Trubisky is going and begins pursuing him. 

A hole opens up! But Washington is now quickly closing on Trubisky, who at this point still has to run about 17 yards to get the first down. It's not looking good. 

Somehow, Trubisky sheds Washington's tackle around the 42-yard line. He still has 10 yards to go, and now safety Miles Killebrew (red arrow) is closing on him. 

Killebrew overpursues to the boundary, and Trubisky is able to cut back to the middle of the field.

"He ran to my side and cut back and then made another guy miss, and I was like, oh s***, he’s really about to get this," Inman said. 

Killebrew whiffs, and Trubisky picks up the first down. 

"That’s his mentality," running back Tarik Cohen said. "Y’all got to see his mentality. That situation, fourth and 13, he’s not going down, not taking a sack, not throwing the ball away — he’s going to find a way to make a play, and he’s going to lead us to where we need to be." 

***

One of the game's most critical plays for the Bears' defense came midway through the second quarter. The Lions were backed up near their own goal line, and Leonard Floyd had just forced a Matthew Stafford incompletion with an excellent speed rush to the quarterback's blind side. The Bears defense seemed to be locking down on Detroit, and with a 10-point lead, forcing a punt here could've turned into more points by an offense that was having success in the first half. 

The Bears rush Floyd, Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks and Pernell McPhee (red circle), and have cornerback Marcus Cooper playing off Lions wide receiver T.J. Jones (orange line). Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (blue arrow) is going to sit in the flat. 

Jones gets to the sticks and sits down (orange circle), with Cooper still backpedaling. Kwiatkoski, perhaps, could've been a little deeper, but it doesn't appear that he's in the wrong spot. Also, tight end Eric Ebron has some open space just before the first-down line with safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson (purple arrows) keying on him. 

The ball is in the air, and Cooper is about six yards off Jones, who's right at the first down marker. Kwiatkoski can't get to the ball, and Jones and Stafford easily converts the first down. Credit needs to be given to Jones for a savvy route and knowing exactly where he needed to go to pick up the first down. 

And this was a heck of a throw by Stafford, who in this frame is about to get hit by Goldman while Floyd is leaping to try to disrupt the throw. A good route, a great throw and poor coverage led to the Lions picking up a first down. This throw sparked something in the Lions' offense, too: Including it, Stafford had a run of nine completions in 10 attempts for 153 yards and two touchdowns before halftime. For the Bears' defense, this play was the beginning of one of the "siestas" coach John Fox said have plagued his team this year. 

***

One of the Bears' best designed and executed offensive plays on Sunday came midway through the fourth quarter in the red zone down by a touchdown.

Tre McBride was motioned to the hashmarks from the outside, and the Bears have fullback Michael Burton and tight end Adam Shaheen lined up to the field side (red circles). Zettel (yellow circle) is lined up well off left tackle Charles Leno's left shoulder. 

Trubisky sold this play well, planting his right foot and sort of turning his body toward the field. Zettel (orange arrow) bites hard on that fake and loses contain, while Shaheen, Burton and McBride (red arrows) all disguise the play as a stretch/toss to the field. Cohen (purple arrow) now has some open space to the boundary. 

In the top left corner, another player does his job to set up the play: Inman carries cornerback D.J. Hayden (blue circle) into the end zone, freeing up plenty of green grass for Cohen. Safety Quin Glover (gray arrow) now has to pursue Cohen toward the pylon. 

"(Inman) ran the DB off, so I knew I had to get to the pylon or if he’s going to meet me there first, I had to stop his feet," Cohen said. "So I gave him a hesitation move." 

That hesitation froze Glover just enough for Cohen to tee up this:

Wheeee! "I felt like I had a 44-inch vert," Cohen said. He's able to dive in the end zone and tie the game up in a critical spot. 

The top players to watch during the IHSA State Football championships

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The top players to watch during the IHSA State Football championships

Below is a listing of several prospects and recruit names to watch this coming weekend for the IHSA State Football championships.

Class 1A

Tuscola

2018 OT Hunter Woodard (Oklahoma State) 6-foot-5, 285 pounds

2018 TE Cal Sementi 6-foot-6, 202 pounds

2019 QB Luke Sluder 6-foot-2, 195 pounds

2019 OL CJ Piczao 6-foot-3, 271 pounds

2019 OL/DL Brayden Vonlanken 6-foot-2, 244 pounds

Lena Winslow

2020 TE/DE Isaiah Bruce 6-foot-3, 238 pounds

2020 RB/LB Sean Ormistron 6-foot-0, 191 pounds

2019 TE/DE Parker Magee 6-foot-3, 206 pounds

2019 OL/DL Ian Kuehl 6-foot-2, 260 pounds

Class 2A

GCMS

2019 WR Ryland Holt 6-foot-4, 190 pounds

2019 S Lane Short 6-foot-2, 180 pounds

2019 QB/DB Nathan Garard 5-foot-11,185 pounds

Maroa Forsyth

2020 QB Ian Benner 6-foot-2, 165 pounds

2019 DL Lane Ohlemeyer 6-foot-1, 275 pounds

2019 WR Max Davenport 6-foot-1, 190 pounds

Class 3A

Immaculate Conception

2019 OL/DL Ricky Mysliwiec 6-foot-1, 275 pounds

2019 LB Khali Saunders 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

2019 WR Khalil Saunders 5-foot-11, 185 pounds

Pleasant Plains

2019 TE/LB Tristen Tewes 6-foot-3, 220 pounds

2019 OL Deven Burns 6-foot-3, 250 pounds

Class 4A

Morris

2018 OL Nathan Korte 6-foot-6, 298 pounds

2018 TE/DE Tyler Spiezio 6-foot-5, 210 pounds

2018 OL Nolan Feeney 6-foot-3, 282 pounds

2019 TE Nathan Little 6-foot-4, 259 pounds

Rochester

2018 QB Nik Baker 5-foot-9, 185 pounds

2018 OL/DL Sean Brewer 6-foot-4, 245 pounds

2018 OL/DL Clay Johnson 6-foot-1, 290 pounds

2018 DL Mike McNicholas 6-foot-1, 215 pounds

2018 DB Tyler Caruso 5-foot-9, 180 pounds

2018 RB Nick Capriotti 5-foot-11, 190 pounds

Class 5A

Phillips

2018 DT Queneil Morrisson (NIU commit)

2018 QB J'Bore Gibbs (South Dakota State commit)

2018 DE Terrance Taylor (Toledo commit)

2018 WR/S Fabian McCray (WMU/Toledo offers)

2019 WR/DB Joseph Thompson

2019 TE Jahleel Billingsley 

2019 DB/WR Joseph Thompson

2020 DB Robert Pledger 

Dunlap

2018 TE Charlie Mangieri (Northwestern commit) 6-foot-4, 230 pounds

2018 RB/LB Luke Bennyhoff 5-foot-10, 180 pounds

2018 WR/DB Isaac Guyton 6-foot-2, 170 pounds

2018 OL Broc Jockisch 6-foot-3, 280 pounds

2019 WR/DE Josiah Miamen 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

Class 6A

Prairie Ridge 

2018 QB Samson Evans (Iowa commit) 6-foot-1, 210 pounds

2018 OL Jeff Jenkins (Iowa commit) 6-foot-4, 280 pounds

2018 LB Joe Perhats 6-foot-3, 205 pounds

2018 LB Jacob Ommen 6-foot-1, 215 pounds

2018 OL Justin Grapenthin 6-foot-3, 250 pounds

2018 OL Jeffery Schultz 6-foot-6, 300 pounds

Nazareth Academy 

2018 DT Isaiah Lee (Iowa State commit) 6-foot-1, 290 pounds

2018 TE/LB Austin Reifsteck 6-foot-1, 210 pounds

2018 LB Wesley Lones 6-foot-2, 205 pounds

2019 RB/DB Devin Blakely 5-foot-9, 180 pounds

2019 WR/DB Diamond Evans 5-foot-10, 180 pounds

2019 WR/DB Michael Love 5-foot-10, 165 pounds

2019 DB Jermaine Baker 6-foot-2, 200 pounds

2019 WR David Ogelsby 5-foot-10, 182 pounds

Class 7A

Batavia

2018 OL Nolan Eike (Central Michigan commit) 6-foot-6, 260 pounds

2018 SS Michael Niemiec 6-foot-1, 190 pounds

2019 ILB Luke Weerts 6-foot-2, 230 pounds

2019 OLB Michael Jansey 6-foot-2, 210 pounds

2019 DE Ethan Towers 6-foot-5, 210 pounds

Lake Zurich

2018 QB Evan Lewandowski 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

2018 LB Jack Sanborn (Wisconsin commit) 6-foot-2, 220 pounds

2018 OL Ian Fitzgerald 6-foot-6, 300 pounds

2019 LB Lucas Dwyer 6-foot-2, 195 pounds

2019 DL Jackson Farsales 6-foot-3, 265 pounds

Class 8A

Loyola Academy 

2018 QB Quinn Boyle 6-foot-1, 180 pounds

2018 OL Charlie Gross (Fordham commit) 6-foot-5, 270 pounds

2018 TE Charlie Gilroy 6-foot-5, 225 pounds 

2018 DL Marty Geary 6-foot-2, 265 pounds

2018 DE John McMahon 6-foot-3, 245 pounds

2019 LB Armoni Dixon 6-foot-3, 220 pounds

2019 S Jacob Gonzales 6-foot-1, 175 pounds

2019 WR Noah Jones 6-foot-2, 195 pounds

Lincoln-Way East

2018 DL Devin O'Rourke (Northwestern commit) 6-foot-6, 250 pounds

2018 TE/LS Turner Pallissard (Iowa PWO) 6-foot-2, 220 pounds

2018 DT Jayden Hacha 6-foot-0, 250 pounds

2018 WR Shane Pedersen 6-foot-4, 185 pounds

2018 LB Declan Carr 6-foot-1, 200 pounds

2020 WR AJ Henning 5-foot-10, 170 pounds

2019 OL Dane Eggert 6-foot-3, 265 pounds