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Little things adding up for Notre Dame's Golson

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Little things adding up for Notre Dame's Golson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly believes Everett Golson is ready for what awaits him at Southern California.

He believes the 6-0, 185-pound sophomore quarterback who did not play as a freshman is ready. Ready for the pressure of leading the Fighting Irish (11-0) on the field ranked No. 1 for the first time in 19 years. Ready for a rivalry game that has been dominated over the past decade by USC (7-4). Ready to help Notre Dame advance to the BCS title game with a win.

Kelly said he bases that opinion by the maturity Golson has shown as he's improved throughout the season, playing in tough venues such as Michigan State and Oklahoma and rallying the Irish from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh to a triple-overtime victory.

``All of those things go into Saturday and all of those will be positives for him going into the USC game,'' Kelly said.

Golson said he is feeling more comfortable because of all he's learned and he has learned to manage the clock better so he doesn't have to rush each play.

``I think I've progressed a lot,'' he said.

Golson keeps doing a lot more of the little things right and it's leading to more big plays for the Irish. He waited until the last second to pitch the ball to set up Cierre Wood's 68-yard touchdown run on the fourth play against Wake Forest. He had TD passes of 50 and 34 yards against Wake Forest, and the second came after a nice pump fake.

Slowly, Golson has turned what had been an at-best average offense into one that opponents are increasingly having trouble slowing down.

``He's a guy that makes explosive plays,'' Kelly said. ``He's got the ability to throw it. He can run the football. He's elusive. I think we're seeing a guy that's growing each and every week.''

Through Notre Dame's first five games, Golson was 67-of-111 passing for 827 yards with three touchdown passes and three interceptions, with a pass efficiency rating of 126.46. He also had run for 40 yards on 27 carries.

In the last five games, after sitting out against BYU with a concussion, Golson is 84-of-145 passing for 1,091 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions, a pass efficiency rating completion rate of 136.58. He's also run for 202 yards on 53 carries - and that includes just one carry in the win over Wake Forest.

The Irish have improved during that span from 71st in the nation in total offense, averaging 398.4 yards a game, to 50th, averaging 419.7.

``He's definitely on the right path to providing us the offense that we need,'' Kelly said.

The coach admitted he hasn't run Golson as much as he'd like because he still needs to get stronger.

``He still needs another coat of armor on him. He needs another year in the weight room and he needs to get thicker. We want to be judicious when we run him,'' Kelly said. ``We've got to run him. He's better when he runs, physically and mentally. He loves to run.''

Golson is the fourth quarterback in Notre Dame history to start his career with nine straight victories. He would have 10 straight if he hadn't been benched the first three plays against Miami. The school record is 11 wins by Bob Williams during the national championship season of 1949.

Last week, the focus was working on footwork and communicating with teammates, calling plays and then checking into different plays. Kelly had Golson watching film of Peyton Manning and other quarterbacks.

``Manning is probably one of the great communicators, his ability to get into plays and check and do it efficiently,'' Kelly said. ``We try to use some of the greats to show some things that could be helpful.''

As for the pressure of playing at USC with Notre Dame eager to win its first national championship since 1988, Golson said he's taking the same attitude he's taken all year of focusing on the opponent and not worrying about the big picture.

``As far as I'm concerned, my head is down, my foot's on the gas, I'm never going to look up and lose focus,'' he said. ``My thing is just keep your head down and keep pushing it.''

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How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

The Capitals found themselves in deep trouble on Saturday.

Game 5 at Capital One Arena provided Washington a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A loss -- another home loss -- would have been a devastating blow.

After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit, to lose in Washington would mean facing elimination in Columbus. Game 5 was the game the Caps needed and it would have slipped away from them if not for Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps’ most underrated superstar -- the one who is constantly overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby -- took center stage on Saturday as he tipped a Dmitry Orlov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 11:53 of overtime to seal the victory for Washington.

“It was just a good shot from [Orlov],” Backstrom said after the game. “I thought before he had a chance to block it, and I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs. Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is. It was nice.”

Backstrom’s overtime goal capped off a three-point night for the veteran center, who also scored in the first period and assisted on a goal from T.J. Oshie.

The team ended up needing every one of his points.

From the start, Columbus outplayed Washington. With the series tied 2-2, a best-of-three mentality took over and the Blue Jackets pushed hard for the pivotal Game 5 win.

It is in those very moments that team needs its superstar players to step up. In Game 3, it was Holtby who stole the show to help Washington steal a win in Columbus.

On Saturday, it was Backstrom.

Columbus converted a shorthanded goal to seize a 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominant first period. A fluke goal from Backstrom, however, made sure the score was knotted up, 1-1, after the opening frame.

With the puck behind the goal line, Backstrom tried to slip a pass through the crease. Bobrovsky got a piece of the puck with his stick, but the amount of spin on the pass forced the puck to carom off the stick, off the back of Bobrovsky himself, and into the net.

“I was trying to make a pass,” Backstrom said. “Honestly, got lucky. I don’t know who came back-door there but I was trying for him. I’ll take it.”

After a back and forth game, the Blue Jackets came out swinging to start the third. Down 3-2, Columbus tied the game just 2:30 in and made a real push to win the game in regulation. Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third and looked like they had no push at all.

But the Caps looked like a different team when they took the ice for the extra frame. What happened in between periods?

“As I was leaving the room after the period, I could hear guys, the right guys, all saying the right things,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

When later asked if one of those guys was Backstrom, Trotz said, “Absolutely. He's one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about let's make sure we're doing the right things. There's a lot of pride, lot of good leadership in that room.”

Whatever Backstrom and the other leaders said did the trick. Washington made a strong push in overtime leading to Backstrom’s game-winning goal.

This isn’t the first time Backstrom has delivered. Saturday’s overtime tally is the fourth of his career. That’s the most in franchise history and tied for fifth in NHL history.

Through his efforts on the ice, the Caps were able to erase a bad first period and steal the win in overtime. But it also took a big effort off the ice to get the job done.

“If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn't say enough of about Nick Backstrom, his contribution from in the dressing room to on the ice to key moments to key faceoffs,” Trotz said.

“I've been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is and I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He's got enough games under his belt, he's got enough stats to back it up and he's played huge minutes and he's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous hockey player.”

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."

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