BCS game rout takes shine off Notre Dame's season


BCS game rout takes shine off Notre Dame's season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Was it all just wishful thinking?

Notre Dame put together one of its most magical seasons in years, winning its first 12 games and climbing atop the rankings in what many Fighting Irish fans hoped was a return to glory for one of college football's most storied programs.

Following an embarrassing 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS championship game, the worst loss in three seasons under coach Brian Kelly, the offseason will be filled with questions and a concern that Notre Dame had simply spiked again - seemingly back among the elite - only to fade back to mediocrity or worse.

If recent history is any indication, Irish fans have reason to be concerned.

Notre Dame hasn't won the national championship since 1988 or even a major bowl game since beating Texas A&M 24-21 in the Cotton Bowl following the 1993 season. It hasn't put together back-to-back strong seasons since 2005-06, when Charlie Weis and the Irish lost 34-20 to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl and then 41-14 to LSU in the Sugar Bowl. The Irish went 3-9 the next season.

The Irish also had similar good seasons in 2002 under first-year coach Tyrone Willingham and coach Bob Davie in 2000 followed by disappointing seasons - and firings. Notre Dame didn't do much Monday night to suggest they will compete at Alabama's level next season. The Irish were thoroughly beaten along the line on both sides and the defense that played so well all season, making key goal-line stands against Stanford and Southern California, missed tackle after tackle against the Crimson Tide. Even when Notre Dame defenders were in position to make plays, they couldn't.

Kelly said playing the Crimson Tide showed the Irish how much they need to improve.

``We've got to get physically stronger, continue to close the gap there, and just overall you need to see what it looks like. Our guys clearly know what it looks like,'' he said. ``We all now know what we have to do to move from where we are, which is a 12-0 football team, pretty darned good football team, but not good enough.''

Even with the disastrous showing against Alabama, giving up 529 yards and 42 points, the Irish defense still finished seventh in the nation, giving up an average of 305 yards a game - the best Notre Dame has finished since finishing fourth in 1980. The Irish finished second in scoring defense at 12.77 points a game, their best ranking since finishing second while winning the national championship in 1966 (3.8 ppg).

Most of the defense will be back next season. The Irish lose the top two tacklers in linebacker Manti Te'o and safety Zeke Motta, as well as defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, who was hurt during Monday's loss. Safety Jamoris Slaughter is seeking a sixth-year of eligibility from the NCAA after tearing his left Achilles tendon in the third game against Michigan State and cornerback Lo Wood also is expected back after missing the entire season with a similar injury.

On offense, the Irish lose tight end Tyler Eifert, center Braxston Cave, right guard Mike Golic Jr., receiver Robby Toma, running back Theo Riddick and possibly running back Cierre Wood. Wood has a year of eligibility left, but is considering declaring for the NFL draft.

Quarterback Everett Golson will be back and the Irish will also have running back Amir Carlisle, a transfer from Southern Cal who missed this season with a foot injury.

``We feel really good about the nucleus and the development,'' Kelly said.

The Irish also are expected to sign their best recruiting class since the Irish had the No. 2 consensus class in 2008 under Weis.

Kelly, who failed in his first attempt at winning the national championship in Division II while coaching Grand Valley State before winning the next two national titles, said playing for a title changes players.

``It just changes everything when you walk into that building on a day-to-day basis. Everybody is playing for championships. So this will be a great springboard in making sure that we get back to this game,'' he said.

It wouldn't be the first Notre Dame squad to bounce back from an embarrassing bowl loss to win a national championship. In 1972, coach Ara Parseghian and the 12th ranked Irish faced No. 9 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and were beaten 40-6. The Irish went 11-0 the next season and beat top-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to win the national championship.

Te'o said he believes the Irish, whose No. 4 ranking in the final poll is the best for the Irish since finishing second in 1993, are close.

``Because if we weren't close, we definitely wouldn't be in South Beach. And I know coach Kelly and Everett and all the guys who are coming back, they're just going to be that much better, and it's going to be exciting to watch them next year,'' Te'o said.

Notre Dame opens the season Aug. 31 at home against Temple, followed by visits to Michigan and Purdue. Oklahoma, Arizona State and USC are on the schedule, which closes with a Nov. 30 game at Stanford.

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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 18, 39 days before the NFL draft.  

Looking at next year’s free agents

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens.

Note: I’m not including Brandon Scherff here because the team has a fifth-year option on him that they surely will activate before the May 2 deadline.

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard).

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility.

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon.

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup.

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight.

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Regarding the reported visit of defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins with the Redskins:


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 29
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 131
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 175

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