Notre Dame goes into BYU game with QB questions


Notre Dame goes into BYU game with QB questions

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) BYU worked this week getting ready to face both Notre Dame quarterbacks Everett Golson and Tommy Rees on Saturday. Turns out Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff should have been getting ready for a third option, just in case.

Coach Brian Kelly added more intrigue into the Notre Dame quarterback situation Thursday evening by saying he wouldn't decide on a starter for the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish (6-0) until game time, and added the choice might be Andrew Hendrix. The Irish have been using Golson as a starter and Rees as the closer with great success.

The cause of Kelly's uncertainty is a concussion sustained by Golson on a helmet-to-helmet hit against Stanford. Golson has been cleared to play, but Kelly wants more time to evaluate whether the sophomore is ready.

BYU (4-3) enters the game with the nation's fifth-rated defense giving up an average of 261 yards a game even after No. 8 Oregon State amassed 450 yards total offense against the Cougars last week. Mendenhall is looking for his defense to bounce back.

``I'm anxious to perform how our defense performed the first six weeks, not the last week. That's my main focus right now, getting them to perform again the way I know they're capable,'' Mendenhall said.

The Cougars gave up 42 points last week against an Oregon State team that was using backup quarterback Cody Vaz, who hadn't started since he was in high school. BYU could be facing the same scenario this week if the Irish start Hendrix, the backup last season. Hendrix, a strong runner, has appeared in six games the past two seasons, completing 22 of 42 passes for 302 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He's also rushed for 189 yards on 31 carries, or 6.1 yards a carry.

BYU also could face Rees, a less mobile quarterback who had 17 starts and knows the Irish offense the best. He helped lead the Irish to late game victories over Purdue and Stanford and replaced a struggling Golson in the second quarter against Michigan.

``I think more than anything it's supporting my teammates and trying to give them the best,'' Rees said. ``They look to me when I come in and I can't let them down. We have to find a way to win the game.''

The Cougars have quarterback issues as well. Riley Nelson threw three interceptions against Oregon State after missing the previous two games with a back injury and argued with offensive coordinator Brandon Doman on the sideline during the game. Mendenhall said he has confidence in Nelson, saying he improves BYU.

``But we do need to take better care of the football,'' he said.

The Cougars also are looking for better play from their defense, which hadn't given up a touchdown in three games before giving up 42 points to Oregon State.

``We want to go out and make sure everybody knows that wasn't us,'' linebacker Spencer Hadley said.

Notre Dame's defense is ranked 11th nationally, giving up 287 yards, and is coming off a thrilling finish where the Irish stopped Stanford twice from inside the 1 in overtime to hold on for the 20-13 victory. The Irish defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in four straight games, the longest such streak for the Irish since 1980.

``We want to dominate opponents,'' linebacker Manti Te'o said. ``The best way to do that is to keep the points down. Along the way of doing that, we've managed to limit those points and the touchdowns.''

Te'o, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the game against BYU doesn't have any special significance because of his religion or because he was heavily recruited by BYU and has friends and a cousin playing for the Cougars.

``It's just game seven. I think I said this before: When you start to do things differently than you've done in the past, then bad things start to happen. I've been there before. I've made the mistake of being overly excited for a game and it hurt me. So fortunately for me, I've been there, done that. That's a mistake that won't happen again,'' he said.

It's a theme repeated by Irish players, who say with a win over No. 22 Stanford last week and a game at No. 10 Oklahoma looming, they won't overlook BYU because they know how important each game is.

``As much success as we're having, you can't let success be your downfall,'' running back Theo Riddick said. ``We understand we've just reached the halfway mark and we still have plenty of football to play.''


AP Sports Writer Lynn DeBruin in Provo, Utah, contributed to this report.

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.