3 Notre Dame backs share the ball like brothers

3 Notre Dame backs share the ball like brothers

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame's running back situation has all the ingredients for a rancorous relationship - even an occasional face slap.

There are three talented players: Cierre Wood, whose 1,102 yards rushing last season was the 10th best in Irish history; Theo Riddick, a receiver the past two seasons who returned to his natural running back position this year; and George Atkinson III, son of a former Oakland Raiders great defensive back and a lightning-fast runner.

All three want to be the featured back, but they also understand that there's no room for big egos as the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish (6-0) are off to their best start in a decade. Besides, the three, including housemates Wood and Riddick, say they are great friends who get along like brothers.

``Theo will be sitting on the couch and I'll just come up and smack him in the face, just because I feel like it,'' Wood said. ``Sort of take my frustration out on him. But he'll do the same thing to me. I'll be sitting there and he'll smack me in the face. But at the end of the day, it's all love.''

So far, the Irish backs have been saving their best hits for opponents, averaging 181 yards a game rushing - their highest total in 11 seasons. They've done that despite already facing two of the nation's top 10 defenses against the run in Stanford and Michigan State. This week, Notre Dame hosts Brigham Young (4-3), which is ranked third in the country in rush defense, giving up just 67.9 yards a game.

The advantages of the three-back system are that each runner is less tired as the game wears on and opponents are forced to continually adjust. But it's harder for each to get in a rhythm. Wood said that was a hard adjustment to make.

``Basically what I'm trying to do is as soon as I get the ball, I have to be in rhythm,'' he said. ``I trained myself in practice to try to make big things happen every time I touch the ball.''

Riddick is the most versatile, leading the Irish in rushing at 308 yards and his 20 catches for 170 yards leads the team in receptions. His 3.8 yards per carry is the lowest among the three, but he has been called on for some of the toughest runs. In the four games since Wood returned from a two-game suspension, Riddick has gotten the ball most often on third down and in the fourth quarter.

Wood, who split time last season with Jonas Gray and is just 16 yards from 2,000 career yards, is averaging 69.8 yards a game and 5.9 a run. Coach Brian Kelly said he doesn't see the roles of Riddick and Wood changing much in the season's second half, but he is looking to make one change.

``We have to get George some more touches,'' he said.

Atkinson is averaging an eye-popping 9.1 yards on 32 carries, breaking off a 56-yard touchdown run against Navy, a 55-yard TD run against Miami and a 32-yard run against Michigan State. Atkinson is excited about that the chance to get more carries.

``I'd be lying to say it's not in the back of your mind and you should be getting more, because it's your competitive nature,'' he said.

Kelly is looking for the three to be more disciplined in their running and more patient, allowing the linemen to block - and then to run straight ahead.

``We have a tendency to get too much of an east and west mentality. We want to be more north and south in the running game,'' he said.

He also wants Wood, who has two catches, and Atkinson, who has one, to work on their pass receiving and all three to work on their blocking. All three say they will continue to work together.

``We all help elevate each other's games. We put pressure on each other in terms of coming to work every day and performing up to our standards,'' Riddick said.

It could be a slap in the face for whoever doesn't.

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Bullpen falters as Dodgers rally from 3 runs down to top Nationals


Bullpen falters as Dodgers rally from 3 runs down to top Nationals

LOS ANGELES  -- Although Cody Bellinger's fierce line drive drove in the tying run, it hit the center field wall so quickly that the throw back to the infield beat him to second base.

No problem: Bellinger adroitly avoided the tag with a swim move he learned from watching Mike Trout on television, and the Dodgers kept charging toward the latest win in their comeback surge.

Bellinger followed Yasmani Grandal's two-run double with an RBI double in the sixth, and Corey Seager drove in Austin Barnes with the go-ahead run in the seventh inning of Los Angeles' sixth win in seven games, 4-3 over the Washington Nationals on Sunday night.

With smart plays by Bellinger, Barnes and almost everybody else, the Dodgers (10-10) got back to .500 after a rough start for the defending NL champions. They were largely dominated by Jeremy Hellickson until they erased a three-run deficit in the sixth with three big hits from their patchwork lineup.

"There were signs of that old ballclub when we were coming from behind," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "That was good to see."

Los Angeles went ahead shortly after Barnes was hit by a pitch from Trevor Gott (0-1). Barnes wisely advanced to third on Chris Taylor's single and scored on Seager's fly.

"You've got to make something happen in that situation," Barnes said of his dash to third. "We're trying to get runs on the board late in the game. It was worth a shot. Be aggressive and play our kind of baseball, and eventually it'll pay off for us."

Alex Wood pitched six innings of six-hit ball for the Dodgers, and Josh Fields (1-0) survived a rocky seventh inning.

Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth for his first save since April 10 and his third of the season -- but not without drama. The Dodgers' vaunted closer began the ninth by yielding two singles, but then struck out Andrew Stevenson and Trea Turner before ending it on Howie Kendrick's fly to the warning track.

Michael Taylor homered, doubled, singled and walked for the Nationals, who have lost seven of 11.

Hellickson retired 14 straight Dodgers before doubles by Chris Taylor and Grandal, with a walk by Seager sandwiched between them. Bellinger followed with his go-ahead line drive against Sammy Solis.

"The one that Taylor got was probably just a tad up," Hellickson said. "(The pitch to) Grandal was down. Probably the only at-bat I'd like to have back is that one to Seager."

Michael Taylor put his first homer of the season into the home bullpen beyond left field in the fourth. He then doubled, advanced on Wood's pickoff throw into center field and scored on Moises Sierra's mid-length fly in the sixth for a 3-0 lead.


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Another 40-point third quarter evens another playoff series for the Wizards

Another 40-point third quarter evens another playoff series for the Wizards

Last night's Washington Wizards comeback would not have happened had it not been for the team's blowout third quarter. 

Of course, you can say that literally about any quarter, but if you take away the third, the Toronto Raptors outscored Washington easily, 78-66.

The Wizards won by eight and this wasn’t the first time we’ve seen a performance of this magnitude from this bunch.

In that frame alone in Game 4, the Wizards broke out to 40 points, the same amount they had in the first two quarters combined. As a team, they shot 65 percent and 83 percent from deep (5-for-6).

By far that was their best offensive quarter of this series.

Of course, Bradley Beal got his due, 12 points including three 3pters, but for the first time this series, Otto Porter Jr. became a threat on the offensive end of the court.

The 6-8 forward scored 10 of his 12 points, all of which came in a 26-14 run. First, he started with back-to-back three-pointers, both in the tail end of a transition, both a feed from John Wall. One came from the corner and the other came off of a screen that ended up being a close contest from OG Anunoby.

That run resulted in the Wizards’ first lead of the game from a corner three courtesy of Beal.

Speaking of Anunoby, he was silent in that quarter for the Raptors. Granted in the first half he was taken off the court after getting pinned under Marcin Gortat, but the Raptors’ guard played for nine minutes and the only thing he recorded on the stat sheet was a foul.

Serge Ibaka, who has also been a pain in the Wizards’ side also disappeared. One rebound, two points from the free throw line, and one block was all that the 6-10 forward managed. With Porter on the court and producing, it pushed Ibaka to set up outside the paint, clearing the lane for Wall to generate movement on the offense.

All this being said, Toronto actually didn’t have a bad quarter. They shot 50 percent from the field and DeMar DeRozan had 14 points.

But the Wizards were simply better. They out-shot one of the best all-around offensive teams in the league.

Rolling with the punches in transition, not passing up open looks, Wall dealing out six assists; that is the Wizards’ team that knocked off some of the top teams in the NBA this year. No one shot more than five times in the quarter and the team combined for 10 assists on the 15 made baskets.

They erased a 14-point deficit and were tied at 80 heading into the fourth.

If you look back to the last 40-point playoff quarter for Washington, there are many parallels. It was another series where the Wizards were down 0-2 to the Celtics. They were dealing with an offensive driven team and the physicality became a prevalent story in the series.

Had it not been for those 12 minutes of basketball, the Wizards would be down 3-1 and face an insurmountable climb to get back into their First Round series. Now they are at a fresh slate in a best-of-3 series. With all the momentum, Washington is just two wins away from getting back to the Second Round of the NBA Playoffs.

Hopefully, this time is a little different than the last.