Cubs

Notre Dame notes: Kelly 'hopes' for field turf

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Notre Dame notes: Kelly 'hopes' for field turf

On Thursday, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said on a radio appearance that "field turf is coming to Notre Dame." During his pre-camp press conference Friday, Kelly clarified that comment.

"I want to go back on that one a little bit, and I want to add one word. I said, 'field turf is coming.' I want to say I hope field turf is coming," Kelly said. "And as you all know, and I've said this a million times, that's above my pay grade. I'm not the one who's rolling out the turf."

Some have bristled at the notion of Notre Dame stadium ditching natural grass for an artificial surface, but it's certainly a preference of Kelly's. Although, the third-year coach emphasized that it's not his call to make.

"Certainly, Jack Swarbrick, that's his domain," Kelly said. "I do not want to do Jack's job, I got enough to do with my own. But I think I've made it pretty clear that I hope that that's where we, but that's clearly not my decision."

Notre Dame not actively recruiting Penn State players

Illinois coach Tim Beckman received some flack last week at Big 10 media day when he admitted members of his coaching staff descended on State College to talk to Penn State players. Those actions were well within the bounds of what the NCAA and Big 10 determined to be legal, but in the face of a majority of coaches saying they wouldn't try to pull players away from Penn State, they were met with some derision.

On Friday, Kelly echoed what coaches such as Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Michigan's Brady Hoke said.

"We treat it as if those players were committed to Penn State, on their roster," Kelly explained. "We kind of used the recruiting scenario. If they were committed, the only way that we would be involved would be if they de-committed, and if they publicly said they were looking to transfer. And if that occurred, and they wanted to transfer, then we would've taken it to the next step. We never got to that point.

"It never became a situation for us that we had to take that next step."

However, class of 2013 Penn State commit William Fuller -- a three-star wide receiver from Philadelphia who committed to the Nittany Lions in early June -- reportedly will visit Notre Dame this weekend.

Kelly looking for more on punt returns

A year ago, Notre Dame players returned 13 punts for 48 yards, giving them the ninth-lowest average yards per return in the country. Kelly decided to put Michael Floyd in for a punt return against Air Force Oct. 8 and elected to keep him there through the rest of the season.

After Floyd was inserted, Notre Dame's average yards per punt return went from 0.3 to 3.69 -- a small improvement, but still, an improvement.

"When you look at the punt return situation from last year, Michael Floyd showed that he could probably be a great punt returner," Kelly said. "If there was a problem with punt return last year, it was that the head coach didn't put Michael Floyd back there quicker."

With evolving punting styles -- rugby-style kicks have become increasingly popular in the last few years -- and rules that permit gunners to race downfield before the ball is kicked, Kelly feels finding a dynamic punter in the mold of a Tim Brown or Rocket Ismail will be difficult.

"The rules changed," Kelly explained. "We had Rocket and Tim Brown, but those rules didn't apply when they played -- not to take anything away from their ability, but we certainly do not want to be where we were last year."

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?