Cubs

Lynch, Huskies arent changing approach for Orange Bowl

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Lynch, Huskies arent changing approach for Orange Bowl

DEKALB -- Several campus buildings were still bathed in celebratory orange lights on Friday even as Northern Illinois University shut down for a holiday break.

But on the Huskie Stadium turf, quarterback Jordan Lynch and his teammates were too busy to notice as preparation continued for next month's Orange Bowl showdown with Florida State.

"It's starting to sink in (and) practices have been going good," said Lynch, the record-setting setting junior quarterback who's guided Northern Illinois to a 12-1 record.

(But) its been kind of crazy since that one eventful weekend -- winning the MAC championship, losing Coach (Dave) Doeren, having Coach (Rod) Carey step in and then getting the Orange Bowl pick," he said.

Attention on Lynch and the Huskies continues to rise since they beat Kent State in double overtime for the MAC title and then crashed the elite Bowl Championship Series party to earn a major berth.

And while notice for the program and university is welcome, Lynch and the Huskies arent changing their approach while preparing for the Seminoles.

Florida State looks fast and physical on defense, from what Ive been seeing (and) they pride themselves on turnovers, he said. This will be the best defense weve played all year.

Well make a few wrinkles here and there on offense, but were going to do what got us here and stick to what we do.

Lynch has been a potent threat as both a passer and runner this season. He leads the nation in rushing (1,771 yards), total offensive yards gained (4,733) and is tied with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel for second nationally for points responsible (258).

His rushing total is the most ever for an FBS quarterback, topping the mark of 1,702 set by Michigans Denard Robinson in 2010.

Seventh in Heisman Trophy voting this month, Lynch was the only FBS quarterback this season to pass for 150 yards and run for 150 on four separate occasions. Other top quarterbacks like Manziel, Robinson and three others did it just once this year.

Hes truly one of the best players in the country, Toledo coach Matt Campbell said after the Huskies beat the Rockets 31-24 on Nov. 14 to clinch the MAC West crown. Hes been the essence of consistency...His ability to run the football with such power, yet throw the ball with great consistency and (also) have the ability to sustain that success, a lot of credit has to go to him.

Lynch spent several years as a backup to former Huskie Chandler Harnish -- another quarterback proficient as a passer and runner -- and is quick to credit Harnish as a mentor.

He was always there, he was a big brother always there helping me out, Lynch said. I was his understudy for three years and anytime I had questions he was there to help me.

While the recent ride has been heady for the first-year Huskie starter, there was no certainty hed have a major college chance despite playing for the legendary Chicago-Mt. Carmel program.

As a Caravan senior, he passed for 1,221 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 848 yards in Mt. Carmels triple option attack. He also earned the Lawless Award as the Catholic Leagues top player.

But colleges didnt show a lot of interest. Those that did looked more at Lynchs athletic skills than as a quarterback.

The only school that gave me a chance at quarterback was Northern, Lynch said. It worked out, I guess.

Caravan coach Frank Lenti told then-NIU coach Jerry Kill he was confident Lynch would make a mark.

"When (Kill) asked me about him, I said 'Coach, I can promise you one thing. No one in your program will ever outwork Jordan Lynch,'" Lenti said. "When he steps out on the field, the leadership level rises dramatically."

But to Carey, who will juggle head coach and offensive coordinator duties for the Orange Bowl, leadership is just one of Lynch's qualities.

"He's brought a lot, to summarize is hard," he said. "He a good leader, he's a good person, he's a good teammate. On top of all of that, he's a good player. We wouldn't be talking about none of that if he wasn't.

"But the best thing out of all those is that he's a good person. Guys like to be around him."

Among them is running back Akeem Daniels.

Hes an amazing person, Daniels said. Hes a freak of nature as everyone can tell. He takes me back to my Pop Warner day -- a quarterback back doing things that are unbelievable -- and I just feed off that.

The Huskies were originally set to train at the indoor DeKalb Recreation Center. But skies were clear and temperatures hovered in the mid-40s as Carey opted to switch outdoors for a 90-minute session.

With rain in the forecast for Saturday, Northern Illinois will likely be back indoors. The Huskies are scheduled to train daily through next Thursday, break for Christmas and then reconvene Dec. 26 for an early morning trip to Florida.

Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

There are 162 baseball games in a season and some days, you’re just not going to have it. On Sunday afternoon, in a 10-2 loss to the Reds, the Cubs just didn’t have it. 

“It’s already in the trash can...” Maddon said. “... so let’s flush it out and move on.” 

Things were bleak from the very first at-bat of the game, when Kyle Schwarber took a 3-2 fastball looking for one of his three strikeouts on the day. Anthony Rizzo was the only starter not to strike out at least once, as the Cubs’ finished with 11. Reds starter Tanner Roark was responsible for 9 of them, his season-high. 

Things weren’t much better on the basepaths or in the field. Besides making two errors, Anthony Rizzo was thrown out at the plate in the 2nd inning and David Bote got doubled-up at first after drawing a walk in the 6th. The Cubs were playing playing their 13th game in 13 days, and it showed.

“I feel really good about how we’ve been playing until today,” Maddon said. “This whole month we’ve been in almost every game except for this one, and maybe the [7-0 loss on May 10th] against Milwaukee. There’s not a whole lot to be upset about, and I’m not. I just want to make sure everyone’s well moving forward.” 

There was a scary moment in the 6th inning, as Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward collided in the right field gap while trying to make a play on a fly ball from Eugenio Suarez. Bryant was slow to get up and eventually had to leave the game. He’s still being evaluated for a head/neck injury, and the Cubs don’t yet know if he’ll go into concussion protocol. For what it's worth, Bryant was cleared to fly with the team. 

“He’s doing okay,” he said. “He’s still under evaluation. We don’t know exactly what we’re doing with this whole thing yet, but we’re trying to talk with the doctors and find out exactly where we’re at.”

“We collided, and I called for the ball,” Heyward added. “We were both going hard to make a play and ran into each other.”

The loss dropped starter Jose Quintana to 4-4 on the season. Quintana went 5.1 innings while allowing six runs on 12 hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Despite relatively weak contact, the Reds hit well all weekend. Their 42 hits over three games was the most for them in a three-game series at Wrigley since 1976, and they finished the weekend with a .404 BABIP. 

“Yeah, I just had to keep pitching, you know?” Quintana said. “Keeping my focus. It was really tough - too many base hits. In some contests that happens. I just try to stay close in the game.” 

The Cubs finished their 7-game homestand at 3-4, and now hit the road for a two-city trip. Up first comes the 35-19 Astros, who are 20-7 at home. This season Houston ranks first in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, and third in home runs. Their closer, Ryan Pressley, has the lowest ERA of all qualified relievers and is fresh off a streak of 40 straight scoreless appearances.

“I’m excited,” Joe Maddon said before Sunday’s game. “Let’s get by today, but I’m excited for the whole week. Look at our schedule - it’s been pretty firm, and it continues to be pretty firm. And that’s the way it should be. I’m looking forward to it.” 

ICYMI: Kris Bryant leaves Sunday's game, Tim Anderson scratched from White Sox lineup for second-straight game

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NBC Sports Chicago

ICYMI: Kris Bryant leaves Sunday's game, Tim Anderson scratched from White Sox lineup for second-straight game

Here are some of the Chicago sports stories you may have missed from the weekend.

Cubs

Over the weekend the Cubs lost a series 2-1 to the Cincinnati Reds, with pitching being a serious concern, as the Cubs gave up 22 runs over three games.

In their lone win from the Reds series, the Cubs put up eight runs to overcome the Reds, and were boosted with a surprise relief pitching appearance from one Tyler Chatwood.

Yu Darvish has shown signs of being able to turn things around, with his cutter looking like it could lead to a bounce back season. Ultimately, fans will be holding their breath, hoping that Kris Brynat is healthy following his collision in the outfield with Jason Heyward on Sunday. While we wait for updates, fans no doubt have plenty to think about courtesy of manager Joe Maddon. The always quotable Maddon had some interesting things to say on the popularity of the MLB game and the MLB's absurd home run rate

White Sox

The White Sox had quite the eventful week despite being beat handily in three straight games by the AL Central leading Minnesota Twins.

Before the tough series against the Twins, the White Sox split a series with the Astros, getting a gem of a complete game performance from Lucas Giolito. The south siders suffered a huge blow to their catching depth as Wellington Castillo went to the IL, resulting in a call up from Seby Zavala. 

Other sports

The Blackhawks have made some signings this offseason, but have yet to formally announce them. There are lots of huge decisions looming over the franchise this offseason, including what to do with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Our Charlie Roumeliotis tackles these topics and much more in our latest Blackhawks Mailbag

There has been much discussion over what the Bulls should do with the No. 7 pick in the draft. Our Mark Strotman did a deep dive into the history of the Bulls moving up and down in the draft to give us an idea of what may lie ahead.

We also discussed the draft with ESPN college basketball analyst Jordan Cornette, and did breakdowns of some of the options the Bulls could have with their second round pick, their first round pick and if they were to trade down in the draft

Khalil Mack could be in for an even bigger season next year following an offseason full of practices with the Bears creative coaching staff. Our JJ Stankevitz breaks down just how Mack can reach his absolute peak in 2019.