Pitt game nearly doomed Notre Dame's title shot


Pitt game nearly doomed Notre Dame's title shot

MIAMI (AP) Luck of the Irish.

For starters, it's a misleading phrase, in that most historians would tell you Irish luck is not necessarily a good thing. No matter - No. 1 Notre Dame enjoyed its share of fortunate breaks on its way to the BCS title game, with perhaps the bulk of those coming during a wild, wacky, marathon game at home against Pittsburgh on Nov. 3.

Irish 29, Pitt 26, triple overtime.

If any of at least a half-dozen plays in that one went another way, Notre Dame would be watching No. 2 Alabama play someone else for the title on Monday night. But the Irish found a way in that game, finished the regular season unbeaten and are now one win from capturing the national championship.

``I've always been one of those that doesn't really believe in luck,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ``You kind of create your own luck by how you execute and how you perform. I think sometimes people think you're lucky when you're able to make significant plays at critical times in the games.''

Maybe, maybe not. Because on that day at Notre Dame Stadium, the Fighting Irish had luck in bunches.

There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Irish in that game, just a few of them including:

- A first-quarter play when a surefire touchdown was missed because an open receiver was never seen;

- A 43-yard field goal try at the end of the half going awry;

- Theo Riddick being ruled down just shy of the end zone, a possession where the Irish settled for a field goal;

- Everett Golson getting picked off in the end zone with 4 minutes left and Notre Dame still trailing;

- Cierre Wood fumbling the ball away an inch or two from the end zone on the opening possession of the second overtime.

And then came the moment, perhaps the quintessential moment of Notre Dame's season to date.

Pitt kicker Kevin Harper lined up for what would have been a game-winning 33-yard field goal in that second OT, with the stadium still somewhat stunned over the play where Wood simply lost the ball.

A veritable chip-shot.

Make the kick, Pitt wins.

Along the Notre Dame sideline, barely any of the offensive players could look at the scene.

Snap was high, but got down. Harper struck the ball, which went end-over-end toward his target.

``It was so close,'' offensive lineman Zack Martin said. ``We heard their crowd up in the corner cheer, so we thought it was done.''

The Pitt crowd's cheer was quickly drowned out, of course. The kick went past the right upright, a foot or two away from being enough to give Pitt the win. Harper missed, and that was just one of two breaks Notre Dame caught on that play. The other was that Bennett Jackson and Chris Brown - players who both wear No. 2 for Notre Dame - were on the field at the same time, meaning the Irish should have been penalized.

The infraction wasn't noticed by the officials.

``A coaching mistake,'' Irish coach Brian Kelly said.

Neither seemed to have an effect on the play ... but still, there's that luck factor again.

``A lot of people say we were lucky,'' Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert said. ``But we missed a field goal, too, or we would never have been in overtime, and we also fumbled on the 1-yard line and threw an interception inside the 10. I think that was unlucky, if anything. And we showed a lot of heart in that game.''

Perhaps no one showed more than Golson, who made a series of big plays in the fourth quarter, one that began with Notre Dame trailing 20-6.

On a drive that was extended by a questionable pass-interference call on fourth down - more luck? - Golson found T.J. Jones for a touchdown that got the Irish within 20-12, after the point-after try was missed. And after the interception, Golson stayed composed, first connecting with Riddick for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 2:11 left, then coolly waiting for his chance to run the ball in for the 2-point conversion that tied the game.

``If I would have got down on myself or not believed, we wouldn't be sitting here today,'' Golson said. ``So I think me, not riding that wave, and me just always believing that we were going to win and having that confidence has helped us get to this point right now.''

There wasn't much need for more drama down the stretch of the season.

Notre Dame beat Boston College 21-6, easily topped Wake Forest 38-0 and punched its ticket to Miami by going on the road and beating USC 22-13 to finish the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record.

But now, more than two months later, the Pitt game still gets talked about - a lot.

``Pitt came in and gave us their best and luckily they missed the field goal and we went on and won,'' Zack Martin said. ``Every team that goes undefeated during the season has situations or games like that, and that was ours.''

Luck of the Irish?

``People always wish you good luck,'' Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said. ``I always tell them, `Hey, we'll take all the luck we can get.'''

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Caps prospect watch: Signing season?


Caps prospect watch: Signing season?

The 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket has been announced and only one Capitals prospect, Brian Pinho, is still in the running.

Providence College was selected as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional and will play No. 3 Clarkson in the first round on Friday, March 23 on ESPNU. The winner will play the winner of Notre Dame-Michigan Tech on Saturday with a chance to advance to the Frozen Four.

The college season is over for the rest of the Capitals' college prospects which begs the question, will any of them sign an entry-level deal with Washington?

In the spring when seasons end for colleges, junior leagues and European leagues, we see a flurry of signings across the NHL as teams sign their prospects and young free agents.

Among the Caps' college prospects, the most likely candidate to sign would be Shane Gersich. Gersich just wrapped up this third season at the University of North Dakota, finishing second on the team in goals (13) and tied for third in points (29). The Capitals will certainly make a push to sign him considering his talent and because if he returns to college for a fourth year, he stands to become a free agent on Aug. 15, 2019.

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported Wednesday that North Dakota was still awaiting Gersich's decision on whether he planned to return to college.

Quinnipiac defenseman Chase Priskie is in a similar situation, but it he has decided to head back to school for another season.

“That wasn’t a season I’d want to leave on,” Priskie told the New Haven Register. “When I came here as a freshman I saw our senior class, Garteig, St. Denis, Soren Jonzzon, and they left such a legacy that guys still talk about them. Same for Sam Anas and Devon Toews. They were all such great players and some of the best people for our program. When I leave, I want to be talked about like they are.”


Other prospect notes:

  • For Pinho, now a senior at Providence, this marks an opportunity for him to finish his college career the same way he began, with a national championship. “I don’t think I realized at the time how hard it is just to get back to the tournament,” Pinho told the New Haven Register. “So that’s something we older guys have been telling the younger guys. You never know when you’re going to be back and you have to make the most of it when you’re there.” (You can read the full feature on Pinho here)
  • The end of the season may suddenly be near for goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov. Metallurg Magnitogorsk finds itself down 3-1 in its series with Ak Bars in the KHL playoffs meaning their season could be over as early as Friday. Of course, the big news to watch after that is whether or not Samsonov would come to North America. If he does, he would most likely go to Hershey to play for the Bears. With only 10 games remaining on Hershey's schedule, however, the sooner Samsonov's team is ousted from the playoffs, the better. At least from a Washington perspective.
  • All three of Washington's WHL prospects have reached the WHL playoffs. Moose Jaw (Dmitriy Zaitsev) finished with the best record in the league and will play Prince Albert in the first round. Swift Current (Beck Malenstyn) finished second in the East Division behind Moose Jaw and will play Regina. Everett (Garrett Pilon) won the U.S. Division and earned the top seed in the Western Conference. They will play Seattle in the first round.
  • Dmitriy Zaitsev remains out after taking an illegal hit last week. He did not play in either of Moose Jaw's final regular season games, but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
  • Adam Carlson has found his groove in Kansas City. Playing for the Mavericks of the ECHL, he won each of his two starts this past week allowing only one goal on 43 shots. He was named the 2nd star of the game for both games.
  • Madison Bowey recorded an assist on Friday and two more for Hershey on Saturday for three over the weekend in his first week back with the Bears. Bowey has spent the majority of the season with the Caps, but the additions of Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek at the trade deadline meant there were just too many bodies up in Washington and not enough playing time to go around. As Bowey is waiver exempt, he became the odd-man out and was sent to the AHL. It would not be surprising to see him recalled by Washington when the NHL playoffs begin.
  • Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler brought his goal total up to five for the season with two goals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Monday. The Bears really wanted to emphasize his offensive game this season to see if Siegenthaler could be developed into a two-way player. His strength is definitely is on the defensive end of the ice, but he will be a more versatile player if he can also be a threat offensively as well. You can see the highlights of Siegenthaler's two-goal game here:

  • Forward Hampus Gustafsson was recalled to Hershey last week and did not wait long to make an impact. He scored his first career AHL goal on Friday. He also added an assist making that game his first career multi-point game as well.
  • Tyler Lewington was suspended two games by the AHL for a punch he delivered to Bridgeport's Scott Eansor in Friday's game.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in this week's updated rankings 

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Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Actually, one deal did happen. According to a report, Williams has signed with the Lions. 

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. 


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

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