Cubs

Records broken in wild Orange Bowl

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Records broken in wild Orange Bowl

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- The West Virginia Mountaineers were tough to slow down, and only the Orange Bowl mascot could stop Darwin Cook. Geno Smith tied the record for any bowl game with six touchdown passes, and the No. 23-ranked Mountaineers set a bowl scoring record Wednesday night with their high-powered offense. But safety Cook made the pivotal play by returning a fumble 99 yards for a touchdown to break the game open and help rout No. 14 Clemson 70-33. Cook collided comically with mascot Obie after scoring one of the Mountaineers' five TDs in the second quarter, including three in the final 2:29 for a 49-20 lead. It was the highest-scoring half by a team in a bowl game. "I always envisioned making great plays," Cook said. "If you think it will happen, it will happen." Tavon Austin tied a record for any bowl game with four touchdown catches. Smith went 31 for 42, and had 401 yards passing to break Tom Brady's Orange Bowl record. Smith also ran for a score, helping West Virginia break the bowl record for points established six nights earlier when Baylor beat Washington 67-56 in the Alamo Bowl. "Never could we imagine we'd put up 70 points," Smith said. The Mountaineers (10-3) won in their first Orange Bowl appearance and improved to 3-0 in Bowl Championship Series games. "The guys wanted to come in and make a statement, and the only way you can do that is if you play well on all three sides of the ball," coach Dana Holgorsen said. Clemson (10-4) lost playing in its first major bowl in 30 years. "We're a better team than we played tonight," coach Dabo Swinney said. "Just too many mistakes. But we'll be back." The offensive showcase was the latest in a succession this bowl season, and perhaps the last. Defense is expected to dominate in the final BCS game Monday night when Louisiana State faces Alabama for the national title. Tacklers had their hands full -- or rather, they didn't -- on a chilly night in Miami. Smith and Austin combined on scoring passes of 8, 27, 3 and 37 yards, and Shawne Alston scored on two short runs for West Virginia, which totaled 589 yards and 31 first downs. Smith was chosen the game's outstanding player. Even when Clemson managed to corral the Mountaineers, the play wasn't always over. Andrew Buie rolled over a defender but was never downed, so he got up and ran for an additional 18 yards. Clemson couldn't keep up with the Big East Conference co-champions, although Andre Ellington did score the game's first points on a 68-yard run. First-team All-Americans Sammy Watkins and Dwayne Allen combined for only seven catches for 87 yards. "We kind of got down when they scored so many points in such a short amount of time," Watkins said. Amid the flurry of points, it was a defender who came up with second-longest scoring play in Orange Bowl history. Clemson was on the verge of taking the lead in the second quarter when Ellington ran up the middle and disappeared into a heap at the 1. A teammate signaled touchdown, but the ball came loose and Cook grabbed it, then took off with nothing but the end zone in front of him. "I saw the ball come loose," he said. "I grabbed it. I didn't hear a whistle, so I ran." After Cook crossed the goal line, he gleefully leaped on mascot Obie, a smiling orange, and they both tumbled to the turf. Obie rose unhurt and resumed her duties. Cook and Obie met on the field after the game and shared a hug. "I didn't know you were a girl," he told the mascot. "I apologize." Smith, standing in the sideline, watched a video replay of Cook's touchdown in disbelief. "Crazy, man," Smith said. "When I saw that, I knew things were breaking our way." The potential 14-point swing seemed to deflect the Tigers, who had moved the ball almost at will to that point. "It was a pretty big moment," Swinney said. "They hadn't really stopped us. That was huge. Then it snowballed quickly." The Tigers were doomed when quarterback Tajh Boyd committed subsequent turnovers on consecutive Clemson plays. After Smith ran 7 yards on a keeper for a 35-20 lead, Pat Miller intercepted Boyd's pass. Smith flipped a 1-yard touchdown pass to Austin and, on the next play, a call was overturned, with the replay official determining Boyd had lost a fumble. Alston then ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 4 seconds left in the half. "Momentum swung not in our favor, and it was hard to recapture," Boyd said. "West Virginia is a great offense. You can't really get behind them. We couldn't stop them. Guys were gassed. Their legs were going. It was a tough loss -- pretty embarrassing." Defensive woes were nothing new for the Tigers, who won their first Atlantic Coast Conference title in 20 years but gave up at least 30 points in six regular-season games. Clemson kept pace for a while, leading 17-14 after one period. It was the highest-scoring first quarter and first half in Orange Bowl history. West Virginia went ahead for the first time early in the second period on an 80-yard touchdown drive capped by Austin's 27-yard catch, making the score 21-17. Cook's takeaway touchdown came next, and the Mountaineers were off to the races. "You don't score 70 points by being good on offense," Holgorsen said. "You score 70 points by being good on all three sides of the ball."

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."

Really? 

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

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USA TODAY

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.”