Cubs

NCAA recap: Huskies win sixth straight; Redbirds prevail

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NCAA recap: Huskies win sixth straight; Redbirds prevail

Lynch, Northern Illinois rout Buffalo

DEKALB -- Jordan Lynch ran for a pair of first-half touchdowns and threw two scoring passes in the second half as Northern Illinois rolled to a 45-3 victory over Buffalo on Saturday.

Northern Illinois (6-1, 3-0 Mid-American) got 129 yards on the ground from Lynch, and he completed 13 of 20 passes for 232 yards. Martel Moore caught 8 passes for 133 yards and a TD.

Buffalo (1-5, 0-3) was pressured by the Northern Illinois defense most of the day. Northern Illinois intercepted Alex Zordich on two occasions and sacked him twice.

Devon Hughes caught 9 passes for 105 yards for Buffalo.

Box score Complete recap

Brown, Redbirds take down Youngstown State

NORMAL -- Matt Brown threw for 3 touchdowns and ran for one more as Illinois State made a comeback to beat Youngstown State 35-28 on Saturday afternoon.

Brown was 20 of 31 passing for 225 yards, including a 16-yard pass to Donovan Harden. Brown scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth for the Redbirds. He also threw touchdown passes to Lechein Neblett and Tyrone Walker. Brown was 20 of 31 for 225 passing yards.

Jamaine Cook put the Penguins on the scoreboard first with a 7-yard run. He had two more touchdowns, including a 14-yard run, keeping Youngstown out in front of Illinois State (6-1, 3-1 Missouri Valley Conference). Cook had 30 carries for 177 rushing yards.

Youngstown State had a 28-7 lead in the second quarter. The Redbirds came back, scoring 28 consecutive points and keeping Youngstown State (4-2, 1-2 Missouri Valley Conference) scoreless in the second half.

Box score Complete recap

Southern Illinois edges Northern Iowa

CARBONDALE -- Austin Johnson kicked a 24-yard field goal with 59 seconds to play and Southern Illinois rallied to beat Northern Iowa 34-31 on Saturday.

The Salukis (4-3, 3-1 MVC) trailed 21-6 in the second quarter when Kenn Boatright blocked a UNI punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. The Panthers (1-5, 0-3) were driving for a touchdown late in the half when SIU's Bryan Presume picked up the ball at the goal line and ran 100 yards for a touchdown. A 2-point conversion tied it at 21.

Southern Illinois took a 31-21 lead thanks in part to Kory Faulkner's 21-yard scoring pass to MyCole Pruitt, but Northern Iowa tied it at 31 before Johnson's winning kick.

David Johnson ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers. Faulkner ran for a 49-yard touchdown for SIU.

Box score Complete recap

Eastern Illinois trips Jacksonville State

CHARLESTON -- Chris Wright caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo with 3:37 left in the game, giving Eastern Illinois a 31-28 victory over Jacksonville State on Saturday.

The decisive drive went 80 yards in 11 plays and took 2:46 off the clock.

Erik Lora caught 11 passes for 128 yards for Eastern Illinois (4-3, 3-1 Ohio Valley). Garoppolo completed 26 of 51 passes for 220 yards with a pair of interceptions. Jake Walker rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown.

Washaun Ealey had a big day for Jacksonville State (3-3, 2-2), rushing for 149 yards and three TDs.

The Eastern Illinois defense came up with three interceptions of Jacksonville State's Marques Ivory.

Box score Complete recap

Cubs Talk Podcast: Checking in with Joe & Theo at the Winter Meetings

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Checking in with Joe & Theo at the Winter Meetings

Tony Andracki goes 1-on-1 with manager Joe Maddon at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. The Cubs manager touches on his efforts to put art back into the game, his biggest challenge in 2019, the Cubs' sense of urgency and his thoughts about Matt Nagy and the Bears (:30).

Plus, we catch up with Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who discusses internal team leadership, whether or not the Cubs are close to a deal and how Maddon is changing up his coaching style (5:45).

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Where do Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo fit in Cubs leadership equation?

Where do Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo fit in Cubs leadership equation?

LAS VEGAS — All this talk about the Cubs' desire for more leadership on the roster has raised several questions and chief among them is wondering what it says about the core players already on the team.

If the Cubs have a leadership void — as Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said this month — does that mean players like Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and Javy Baez are not leaders?

Epstein confirmed Tuesday afternoon at the MLB Winter Meetings that the Cubs feel they have plenty of leadership on the roster, but they're looking more for that one guy — a veteran who has been around the block and isn't afraid to call somebody out or hold teammates accountable. The David Ross or Jon Jay mold, as Hoyer said Monday.

Rizzo is the face of the franchise and the driving force in the lineup every day, but he's still only 29 and developing as a leader. 

Heyward isn't real vocal, but when he does speak up, it carries a lot of weight — as the famous Rain Delay Speech indicates. 

Zobrist can talk hitting for hours and it's easy to see him becoming a coach whenever his playing career is done. But he isn't super vocal by nature, either.

Baez is an interesting case as he is quickly becoming an impactful leader for this team. In the process of putting up a huge breakout 2018 campaign that earned him a second-place finish in NL MVP voting, Baez became one of the most outspoken players in the dugout and clubhouse.

His instincts and baseball IQ are off the charts and he sees the game on a whole other level, which lends a different viewpoint to the squad. 

When the Cubs were handed a disappointing and abrupt early offseason, it was Baez that stood at his locker for nearly a half hour, ranting about how the team lacked urgency and an edge for most of the year.

Baez is starting to emerge as a true leader, but March 28, 2019 will only represent his third big-league Opening Day and he still has played in just 527 games at baseball's highest level.

"Javy is as respected as anyone in that clubhouse and is just starting to find his voice," Epstein said. "That's probably the next step for him — speaking up a little bit more. But by the way he plays the game, how much he cares about winning, how tough he is, he's got everyone's respect and attention."

Epstein said Rizzo is making it his personal mission to take his leadership to another level.

Epstein and Hoyer and the rest of the front office are taking responsibility for the "miscalculation" that the 2018 Cubs did not need — or have room on the roster — for one of those leaders.

Now they're trying to fix that for 2019 by attempting to add the right guy into the mix.

But what type of leader are the Cubs seeking?

"It's really certain leadership you need from the right bench guy who's not expecting a ton more playing time, who's content at where he is in his career — he's just completely invested in winning, invested in his teammates," Epstein said. "Those little difficult conversations that you have to have sometimes. Or bringing energy on a day where the everyday guys are dragging.

"That's an important role on a club, but please don't take it the wrong way that we think there's some deficiency with our position players. We have incredible guys and a lot of character there and some leaders — they're just continuing to grow into it."

What is it that Ross provided this club that they haven't been able to duplicate since he left?

Here's a perfect example:

"David was unusual, because Dave would grab guys walking off the field after a play," Joe Maddon said Tuesday. "And I would be entertained in my corner watching this whole thing unfold. I would address it afterwards. There's nothing wrong with that. I know that some of the guys were afraid to come in the dugout. And still that's OK, because they knew David was on their side.

"Yes, we want that. I would say that every team out here wants that and they're hard to find."