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Golson, Notre Dame seeking discipline in opener against Navy

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Golson, Notre Dame seeking discipline in opener against Navy

All eyes will be on Everett Golson Saturday morning, as the sophomore quarterback makes his collegiate debut against Navy at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. But he won't be the only one on Notre Dame playing his first game at the NCAA level.

Most, if not all of, Notre Dame's young group of wide receivers -- Davonte Neal, Chris Brown, Justin Ferguson and Da'Varis Daniels -- should see playing time. Tight end Troy Niklas, who played as a linebacker last year, could make his debut on the offensive side of the ball. And true freshman KeiVarae Russell, who came to Notre Dame as a running back, will start at cornerback.

"It can all be decided and look perfect in practice, and when the lights go on -- we all know from being around this game that, when the lights go on, kids react differently," offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said, referencing Notre Dame's quarterbacks earlier in August. "Some kids play better than they ever play, and some kids play worse."

Golson's performance will carry the most weight. While coach Brian Kelly and his coaching staff would like to stick with the same quarterback from Week 1 through bowl season, a change does exist as a possibility. But Kelly sounded like he'll be a little more patient with Golson than he was last year with Dayne Crist, who was yanked after two quarters in Notre Dame's season-opening loss to South Florida.

"Let's make it clear, (Golson) will make mistakes," Kelly said. "I think if we really look carefully at the mistakes that we made (last year), they were turnovers in the red zone. They were turnovers in the end zone, they were heightened within the game. He's going to make some mistakes, and we know that and we are going to have to obviously try to overcome those. But it's those poor decisions that we have to eradicate."

Defensively, Navy may be a good team for Golson and the Irish offense to open his college career against. The Midshipmen lost three of their top cornerbacks and a trio of defensive ends from their 2011 squad, which struggled on defense to begin with. Pressure often begets mistakes, and if Golson can stay poised, Kelly expects him to succeed.

"Our entire offensive staff feels as though he's disciplined in his approach, that he understands the routine of the quarterback position that he's going to minimize the mistakes," Kelly said. "He's shown that over the past month. If he's not out of character on Saturday, I will safely say he will do a very good job of taking care of the football."

For Russell, the Navy matchup could be even more favorable. The Midshipmen only attempted 135 passes in 12 games last season, and their leading receiver won't play Saturday. Comparatively, perhaps it's a positive for Russell's confidence to be introduced to college football against an option offense that rarely throws the ball.

"Yeah, that's one way to look at it," Kelly said with a wry grin. "But if you're not disciplined, the ball goes over your head like that.

"We think he's got the ability to do the job against Navy, a different job than it will be against Purdue, but we think he's got that ability to do the job. I don't want to say pick your poison, but they are so different in terms of the roles that he's going to be asked to be performing. We would not put him in this position if we didn't think he would perform this role."

That's not to say Russell won't be tested -- it just might come in a different form. Navy's option can drive defenses mad, and often times it's like a 99-mile-per-hour fastball in baseball: You know what's coming, but that doesn't mean you'll succeed against it.

"Thats the challenge, you know what theyre going to do," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "They know that you know. You always have to stay disciplined, keep your eyes on your key, keep your eyes on your guy and take care of your responsibility. When somebody doesnt do their responsibility, they get out of their fit, they lose their eyes, thats when big things happen for Navy."

One thing that Notre Dame players didn't expect to be an issue -- at least, before they left for Dublin on Wednesday -- was the time-zone change. An 8 a.m. (CST) kickoff is three hours before the usual early-kickoff start time of 11 a.m., but Irish captain Zack Martin didn't expect a few messed up internal clocks to hinder Notre Dame's chances.

"I know that the coaches will do a great job letting us rest," Martin said on Tuesday. "Like coach Kelly said and like weve all said, if we cant get up for our opener, were in the wrong business."

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

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USA TODAY

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

“Sometimes, you got to lay your marbles out there,” Jon Lester said Sunday night inside Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, before the Cubs flew home from Los Angeles down 0-2 in the National League Championship Series. “And you get beat.”

It will be extremely difficult for the Cubs to win four of the next five games against the Dodgers, starting Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs had the, uh, marbles to win last year’s World Series and have developed the muscle memory from winning six playoff rounds and playing in 33 postseason games since October 2015.

There is a cross section left of the 2015 team that beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and silenced PNC Park’s blackout crowd in a sudden-death wild-card game. While 2016 is seen in hindsight as a year of destiny, those Cubs still had to kill the myths about the even-year San Francisco Giants, survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Dodgers and win Games 5, 6, 7 against the Cleveland Indians under enormous stress.

There is at least a baseline of experience to draw from and the sense that the Cubs won’t panic and beat themselves, the way the Washington Nationals broke down in the NL Division Series.

· Remember the Cubs pointed to how their rotation set up as soon as Cleveland took a 3-1 lead in last year’s World Series: Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks would each give them a chance to win that night. The Dodgers will now have to deal with last year’s major-league ERA leader (Hendricks) in Game 3 and a Cy Young Award winner (Arrieta) on Wednesday night in Game 4.

“Obviously, we know we need to get wins at this point,” Hendricks said. “But approaching it as a must-win is a little extreme. We've just got to go out there and play our brand of baseball.

“Since we accomplished that, we know we just have to take it game by game. Even being down 3-1 (in the World Series), we worry about the next game. In that situation, we didn’t think we had to win three in a row or anything like that. We just came to the ballpark the next day and worried about what we had to do that day.”

· The history lessons only go so far when the Dodgers can line up Yu Darvish as their Game 3 starter instead of, say, Josh Tomlin. There is also a huge difference between facing a worn-down Cleveland staff in late October/early November and a rested Dodger team that clinched a division title on Sept. 22 and swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round. Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez aren’t walking through that bullpen door, either.

“We’ve done it before. We’ve been there before,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “But this year’s a new year. That’s a different ballclub. We’re definitely going to have to bring it.”

· Outside of Kenley Jansen, can you name anyone else in the Los Angeles bullpen off the top of your head? No doubt, the Dodger relievers have been awesome in Games 1 and 2 combined: Eight scoreless innings, zero hits, zero walks and Anthony Rizzo the only one out of 25 batters to reach base when Jansen hit him with a 93.7-mph pitch.

But the Dodgers are going to make mistakes, and the Cubs will have to capitalize. Unless this is the same kind of synthesis from the 2015 NLCS, when the New York Mets used exhaustive scouting reports, power pitching and pinpoint execution to sweep a Cubs team that had already hit the wall.

“Their bullpen is a lot stronger than it was last year,” Kris Bryant said. “They’re really good at throwing high fastballs in the zone. A lot of other teams try to, and they might hit it one out of every four. But this team, it seems like they really can hammer the top of the zone. And they have guys that throw in the upper 90s, so when you mix those two, it’s tough to catch up.”

· Bryant is not having a good October (5-for-28 with 13 strikeouts) and both Lester and Jose Quintana have more hits (one each) than Javier Baez (0-for-19 with eight strikeouts) during the playoffs. But we are still talking about the reigning NL MVP and last year’s NLCS co-MVP.

Ben Zobrist is clearly diminished and no longer the switch-hitting force who became last year’s World Series MVP. Kyle Schwarber doesn’t have the same intimidation factor or playoff aura right now. But one well-timed bunt from Zobrist or a “Schwarbomb” onto the video board could change the entire direction of this series and put the pressure on a Dodger team that knows this year is World Series or bust.

“We need to hit a couple balls hard consecutively,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Once we’re able to do that, we’ll gain our offensive mojo back. That's all that’s going on.

“I inherited something from my dad, and that was patience. So you’ve got to be patient right now. You’ve got to keep putting the boys back out there. You keep believing in them, and eventually it comes back to you.”

· Maddon is a 63-year-old man who opened Monday’s stadium club press conference at Wrigley Field by talking about dry-humping, clearly annoyed by all the second-guessers on Twitter and know-it-all sports writers who couldn’t believe All-Star closer Wade Davis got stranded in the bullpen, watching the ninth inning of Sunday’s 1-1 game turn into a 4-1 walk-off loss.

By the time a potential save situation develops on Tuesday night, roughly 120 hours will have passed since Davis threw his 44th and final pitch at Nationals Park, striking out Bryce Harper to end an instant classic. Just guessing that Maddon will be in the mood to unleash Davis.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?