Bears

Notre Dame running backs break out in a big way

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Notre Dame running backs break out in a big way

Cierre Wood's not going to go ahead and paraphrase Keyshawn Johnson, but he just wants the damn ball.

On Saturday, he got the damn ball 18 times on the ground and rushed for a season-high 118 yards and two touchdowns. Most of that production came in the second half, as Notre Dame repeatedly punched Miami in the mouth in a 41-3 win over the Hurricanes at Soldier Field.

"I was past overdue," Wood said. "When I say it's just a matter of when I get the ball and stuff like that, I know I can ball out and I can make plays almost every play. It's just a matter of when the opportunity presents itself."

Wood finally got that opportunity on Saturday to show why he led Notre Dame in rushing last year. He was suspended for the first two weeks of the season, and only carried the ball 17 times in the next two games.

Part of Wood getting a shot on Saturday had to do with starter Theo Riddick suffering a bruised elbow. But more so, Wood's 18 carries were the product of something the coaching staff saw.

"We go with the guy that's running well," Kelly explained. "He did a great job on one of his runs where he showed great patience, stepped on the heals of the guard and bent it back. He had not done that this year."

Wood wasn't getting opportunities through most of the first half, though. At halftime, Wood had rushed four times -- the same number as George Atkinson III and one fewer than Riddick. But Wood's a guy who believes he's at his best when his workload is increased. He just hadn't earned that workload yet, at least in the eyes of the coaching staff.

"Just given the fact that opportunities are real small because we come in so sporadically and stuff like that, once I got handed the ball three, four times in a row, something's bound to happen," Wood said. "It's all a credit to my line, they blocked everything to a T. I just made the cuts and do what I do best."

While Riddick's night was fairly muted -- only five carries for 21 yards -- Atkinson went off, too, rushing 10 times for 123 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown scamper. Once again, though, Tyler Eifert was held largely out of Notre Dame's passing equation, with last year's FBS receptions leader among tight ends reeling in only two catches.

Miami, like Michigan State and Michigan, rolled its pass coverage toward Eifert in an effort to neutralize him in Notre Dame's passing game. And while neither of Notre Dame's last two opponents really got burned for it, Miami wasn't as lucky.

"When they try to double Eifert, that just brings people out of the box and that just opens up more lanes for us to run," Wood said. "It's just really, pick their poison."

With Wood and Atkinson running so well there was no second-half surge for Miami, which could barely get its offense on the field in the third and fourth quarters. And with Stephen Morris being increasingly hurried and his wide receivers dropping passes left and right, it was a perfect recipe for a Notre Dame blowout.

"They were all upbeat and jumping and stuff in the beginning, but you smack a team so many times in the mouth, eventually they're going to want to stop playing," Wood said. "And that's what happened today."

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Everything changed for the Bears after going up 17-3 last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell Trubisky’s 27-yard touchdown to Dion Sims was immediately followed by Bobby Rainey running a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, then the offense was bogged down with three fumbles (two lost) on three consecutive possessions. 

But Adrian Amos seemed to seal the game with his 90-yard pick six — that is, until Michael Campanaro ran Pat O’Donnell’s punt back 77 yards for what wound up being a game-tying touchdown after a two-point conversion.

The point is the Bears should’ve cruised to a comfortable win last week; a few critical mistakes didn’t allow that to happen. The Bears haven’t led at the end of the fourth quarter this year, a pretty strong indicator they haven’t played a complete game yet despite having two wins. 

The Carolina Panthers have road wins over the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots this year, and only lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by five points last week (despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions). The bet here is the Bears keep things close on the backs of a strong defense, but either can’t make enough plays or make too many mistakes to win. 

Prediction: Panthers 20, Bears 16

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

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USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, the team declining a club contract option for next year and making a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.