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Saban opens up at media day; ND's pair of 5s

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Saban opens up at media day; ND's pair of 5s

MIAMI (AP) Nick Saban has a charity called Nick's Kids Fund.

He and his wife Terry have been running it for 14 years and it raises money for needy children. It's not named after the Alabama coach. It's named after his late father, the hardworking man and tough Pop Warner coach who made Saban what he is.

Saban, who isn't one to let his emotions show easily, opened up a bit while talking about his father during media day for the BCS championship. Saban's Crimson Tide play Notre Dame on Monday for the national title.

Saban grew up in rural West Virginia and started working by the time he was 11, ``which I think is probably been the most critical thing in the development of the work ethic that I have,'' he said Saturday.

His father and mother, Mary, instilled in Saban the importance of respecting people and at times he was taught hard lessons.

``There was a bum that used to come to my Dad's service station early in the morning because he'd give him free coffee and doughnuts,'' Saban said. ``We had had a tough game the night before, I don't remember whether it was basketball game, a football game or whatever. The guy was giving me a hard time and I sort of sassed him. I was 17 years old. I got the strap right on the spot.

``It was the right thing. I needed to learn a lesson. I was disrespectful to an older person, regardless of the situation.''

Big Nick Saban started the Pop Warner football league in which is son played. Saban said his father bought a school bus to drive the kids around, picking them up from the coal mining towns where they lived and driving them home so they wouldn't have to hitchhike.

``He was a tough coach,'' Saban said. ``He expected the best all the time. Probably instilled some of the perfectionist-type characteristics that I have in what I try to do. He had a high standard of excellence for what he expected from me. Discipline was a very important part of what you did.''

Saban said that he, like many people, didn't really appreciate what his father was trying to teach him until he was an adult.

``Probably when I was a senior in college. That's probably when I realized it,'' he said. ``And my first year of graduate school was when he passed away. I never really ever told him, which I regret.''

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TRICK SHOT MONDAY: As media day was winding down, a half-dozen Notre Dame players gathered around the BCS trophy to recreate ``Trick Shot Monday,'' a locker-room ritual back in South Bend where the players try to make outrageous shots into a paper cup filled with water, using a ping pong ball.

They bounced it off the football-shaped crystal. They ricocheted it off a piece of wood placed on the turf. Mike Golic Jr. even dropped to his knees, trying to knock it in with his forehead. Everyone failed until ESPN's Samantha Ponder stepped in to make a shot.

``We're proud to see her get her first win,'' Golic said, grinning. ``It's something I know she'll cherish for the rest of her life.''

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DECISIONS, DECISION: Being a quarterback is always about making the right call at the right time.

That's why Alabama's AJ McCarron brought so many pairs of shoes - about 30 - to the BCS championship. Surely there's a penalty for going out in black sneakers and brown pants, right?

``Back at home, I've got a bunch of shoes. I've got at least 130 pair,'' McCarron said. ``I brought like 30 here. At nighttime, I never know what I'm going to wear so I change and try to match. I've got a bunch of bow ties too. I don't even know.

``My mom does that whole thing.''

McCarron typically wears a suit, bow tie and all, to games.

Tailback Eddie Lacy just shakes his head and points to the only pair of shoes - red and white sneakers - that he brought to Florida.

``That's all I need,'' he says, grinning. ``I've only got two feet. I don't know what's up with him (McCarron) and his shoe fetish.''

Wide receiver Kenny Bell says McCarron is just ``playing catch-up'' with him. Bell said he brings 40 pairs of shoes even on a weekend trip and left 100 more at home. ``I'm a very big sneakerhead,'' he said.

More importantly for the game, Bell is being coy about his status for the game. He had surgery to repair a broken leg sustained against Auburn on Nov. 24, and was expected to be out 5-6 weeks.

His status for the game is uncertain.

``I don't know just like the world doesn't know,'' said Bell, one of the team's better deep threats.

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A PAIR OF 5's: Whether Notre Dame is on offense or defense, the leader of the Fighting Irish is number 5, quarterback Everett Golson or All-American linebacker Manti Te'o.

Te'o, a senior, explained that the reason he wears 5 is not for some former Irish great like Paul Hornung - who also had the number - but because, when Te'o was a young boy, he and his dad were in the car and his father asked him, ``When you play football, what number would like?''

Being 5 years old, Te'o said ``5.''

For Golson, a redshirt freshman, the number is simply the one he wore all through high school.

So, coming to Notre Dame - a school where Te'o was already a star - did Golson ask for Te'o's permission to wear the same jersey?

``No,'' the normally forthcoming Te'o said Saturday, shaking his head.

Manti, you mean he just did it?

``Yes.''

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STAR TREATMENT: Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and his All-American center, Barrett Jones, were sitting next to each other on separate podiums. But only McCarron's spot came with speakers, which made it a little tough for Jones to stay focused.

``Sorry, it's hard to concentrate when he's talking about me over there,'' Jones said. ``The skill players get all the love. AJ got speakers, and I've got sit over here and listen to him.''

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GUNNER: Notre Dame freshman Gunner Kiel, from Columbus, Ind., was one of the most heralded quarterback recruits in the country last year. He had a hard time deciding where he wanted to go to school - to say the least.

First he verbally committed to Indiana. Then he de-committed. Then he verbally committed to LSU. Then at the last moment, he decided to go to Notre Dame.

As far as recruiting news goes, Kiel's indecision was big news and his choosing Notre Dame was considered a huge score for coach Brian Kelly.

``I think I put more pressure on myself because I overanalyzed a lot of things,'' Kiel said. ``If I could do it all over again I would probably go back and enjoy the recruiting process and enjoy my senior year and enjoy the people around me and just have a fun with it instead of making it seem like a job. And putting so much stress, so much on myself it buried me.

``I wanted to please everyone. I wanted to make everyone happy. I also couldn't make up my mind either. That's why I committed so many places and de-committed to so many places.''

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SABAN STARS IN NBA: Nick Saban is not tall.

By his own admission, not fast, either.

Yet somehow, he's found a way to be a successful pickup basketball player. Then again, it's easy to win at pickup ball when you can manipulate everything from rules to rosters.

In between recruiting season and spring-football season at Alabama, it's basketball season for Saban and his staff. Saban was asked at the BCS title game media day on Saturday what he does to stay in shape, and Saban revealed that he enjoys getting on the court.

With certain conditions, of course.

``I'm the commissioner of the league,'' Saban said. ``It's a noontime basketball league, NBA. I pick the teams so I have the best players on my team. I also pick the guy that can guard me and there's only two guys in the whole organization who are shorter and slower that I would pick to guard me. And then I call the fouls. So if you call that working out, I guess that's my workout.''

Saban, who checks in at around 5-foot-8, said he doesn't keep stats, and no, he doesn't break down those game films, either.

``No one would want to see that,'' Saban said.

Does Saban call fouls on himself? He said it happens - but only sometimes.

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

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USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

he win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.

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Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

COLUMBUS — Alex Ovechkin confidently predicted earlier this week that the Caps were going to win twice at Nationwide Arena and take their first round series back to Washington knotted, two games apiece.

And, on Thursday night, that’s exactly what Ovechkin made sure his team did.

No. 8, who was playing in his franchise-record 101st playoff game, scored his third goal of the playoffs early in the final frame and the Caps beat the Blue Jackets 4-1 in Game 4.

Tarik’s Three Stars of Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4

1. Tom Wilson, Capitals

After a slow (and penalty plagued) start to this series, Wilson has become a force. Yes, he took another minor.

But the good is far outweighing the bad these days. Big Willy recorded a goal, an assist and a team-high seven shots.  

2. Braden Holtby, Capitals

Holtby had his best game in, well, a long time. He stopped 23 shots, including all eight he saw in a contentious second period.

The goal he surrendered was a nearly unstoppable tip-in by Boone Jenner.

3. T.J. Oshie, Capitals

Osh just plays the game so dang hard.

So it should come as no surprise that he delivered in his team’s biggest game of the season to this point. Oshie, of course, scored the game-winning goal on the power play midway through the second period. It was No. 77’s second tally of the series.

Agree? Disagree?

Let us know what you think in the comments.