Fire

Notre Dame exercising patience under fire with Golson

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Notre Dame exercising patience under fire with Golson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame isn't the only top-10 team with an inexperienced starting quarterback. But whereas Oregon has eased freshman Marcus Mariota into its explosive offense at home against the likes of Arkansas State and Tennessee Tech, Everett Golson has had to travel overseas and face a pair of top-20 teams through his first four games.

"First game in Ireland, second game is his first-ever home game, third game he's at Michigan State, a pretty hostile place, fourth game is prime time against Michigan," offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said. "He hasn't really eased into his college career."

Notre Dame has played the 15th-toughest schedule in the country, per Jeff Sagarin, and with upcoming games at Oklahoma and USC and at home against Stanford, Golson will face plenty more menacing defenses and environments this season. Through his first four games, Golson has completed 50 of 89 passes for 641 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

Two of Golson's three picks came against Michigan, and he went turnover-free in Notre Dame's 20-3 win over Michigan State in East Lansing. At this point, Golson probably won't win many games for the Irish, so his goal has to be avoid losing them.

"We've said from day one, you're not going to be a great quarterback as a freshman," Martin said. That's very rare you might be great in spurts or great on plays or great for a period of time or even a whole game, you might have a completely great game.

"There's so many new experiences for him, and we've told him that from day one that hey, there's going to be things every week you see that you've never seen before. There's things that we prepare for every week, but there's always going to be a few wrinkles that they throw at us that weren't in the game plan."

Golson couldn't explain why he struggled so mightily against Michigan, throwing two interceptions in the first quarter and a half. So Notre Dame deployed its safety net and sent in Tommy Rees, just as Martin and coach Brian Kelly did against Purdue. The circumstances on Saturday were different, though -- whereas Rees played the role of closer against Purdue, he was more of a long reliever against Michigan.

"It's more of a feel, and it's also the feel of having a young quarterback and how's he doing within the moment in time," Martin explained. "He can make a mistake and understand immediately, hey, yeah, I saw that and screwed it up, or it could be more of a mistake based on a little bit being confused. And if it's more based on confusion, then you're more apt to get somebody out there who's less confused."

That somebody is Rees, who has plenty of experience but not the ceiling of Golson. It's part of Notre Dame's attempt to develop a young quarterback while pushing for its first BCS bowl in six years. Sometimes, the two strategies don't mix.

"You got experience, you played, you got confidence, you've seen it before 100 times so you don't flinch. Where Everett's at the point where he's understanding it, he's seeing it, he still flinches sometimes," Martin said. "He doesn't flinch all the time, he's made some great run checks this year. Then other times, he kind of hesitated and he'll come out and tell you 'I should've, yeah.'

"The nice thing is you know the knowledge is there and he's getting it, you're just saying hey, it's just about experience, and the kid's going to get his experience, unfortunately or fortunately, whichever way you look at it, he's getting experience under fire right now."

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

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NBC Sports Chicago

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

Manchester City is coming off a season in which it dominated the English Premier League to the tune of a record 100-point season.

City is kicking off the preseason of its title defense in Chicago. City takes on Borussia Dortmund at Soldier Field on Friday night.

The last time the reigning Premier League champions were in Chicago was when rivals Manchester United came to Soldier to take on the Chicago Fire in 2011.

The Citizens won’t have the full arsenal of stacked stars for its U.S. tour, which also includes stops in New York and Miami as part of the International Champions Cup. Many of the team’s best players are getting a break after playing in the World Cup. Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, one of the stars of the tournament, is one of six Man City players to reach the semifinals.

Paul Dickov, who played for City for nearly 10 years between 1996 and 2008, is on tour with the team and talked about City’s preparations.

“The reason the clubs want to come to the States and play in International Champions Cup is the facilities are fantastic, the training facilities, the hotels, the treatment they get and just give them the best preparation going into what’s going to be a hard season,” Dickov said. “Nobody has won the Premier League back-to-back titles for nearly 10 years now so it’s going to be tough. Coming here and being able to prepare the way they can in the United States is going to put them on a long way to regain the title again.”

City brought the Premier League trophy to Wrigley Field on Thursday for the Cubs-Cardinals game. Dickov got to throw out the first pitch. The Scotsman threw a strike, much to his relief.

“I was quite calm beforehand, but I must admit when I got out there and I had to walk out there both hands started getting a bit sweaty,” he said. “I managed to make it and I got a fantastic reception off the Chicago Cubs fans so thank you to everybody at Chicago Cubs for having me there. It was great. Something I’ll never forget.”


Dickov compared Cubs fans to City fans in the way both teams struggled for a long time before finding success.

“They stuck by us through thick and thin when things weren’t as great,” Dickov said of Man City fans. “I suppose it’s a little bit like the Chicago Cubs here in Chicago. The fans turn out, they get 30-40 thousand, great atmosphere, back their team.”

While promoting the game, the Premier League trophy made multiple stops in Chicago, including with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on an off day.

City also took the trophy and new signing Riyad Mahrez, who just joined Man City from 2016 champions Leicester City, to Haas Park in Logan Square. Haas Park includes a soccer field donated by Manchester City and the American embassy of the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

“The outcome of it has been great,” Dickov said. “Thousands of children and families benefiting, not just from the soccer part of it, but the education program as well. To be down there the other day for the full day and seeing the joy in the kids face seeing soccer here and the other activities that are on is great because, yeah, football is fantastic, soccer is fantastic and when you’re out there and you play you want to win, but it’s important, especially from Manchester City’s point of view, the city and the community. The stuff that they do off the field is second to none and it’s giving something back.”

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

No matter how much people complain and Tweet, Joe Maddon will never go with a set lineup every game.

But that doesn't mean he won't let certain spots in the lineup settle in for a couple weeks in a row.

That's what may be occuring right now with Anthony Rizzo holding serve as the "Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All-Time" once again.

Rizzo made his 5th straight start atop the Cubs order Friday after collecting a pair of doubles and a walk in Thursday's 9-6 victory.

Initially, moving Rizzo from the heart of the order to the top was in part to help the Cubs first baseman get going. Maddon is a big fan of hitting guys leadoff to help them reset mentally and find their stroke again.

But it is working — Rizzo entered play Friday 8-for-16 with 5 doubles, 3 walks, 3 runs and 3 RBI in the leadoff spot over the last week. The promptly reached on a hit-by-pitch and walk his first two times up Friday.

He's also been the team's biggest cheerleader:

So how long will Maddon keep this unconventional lineup?

"I don't know," he said, smiling and shaking his head. "I don't know. He came up again in crucial moments [Thursday]. He looks really good out there. I don't know. That's my exact answer."

Yes, Rizzo is looking good in the leadoff spot, but his insertion atop the order has given the Cubs lineup a new dynamic. 

With Rizzo first and Kris Bryant second, the guys that are historically the Cubs' top two run producers are hitting atop the order and "behind" the pitcher's spot. 

But they're also the Cubs' top two on-base guys and Maddon is liking the look of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — two high-contact guys — following Bryzzo in the order, as they have done recently. (It doesn't hurt to have the NL leader in RBI — Javy Baez — hitting cleanup, either.)

"It's almost a backwards way of doing this right now that I'm finding fascinating," Maddon said. "So I'm just gonna let it play for just a little bit and see where it takes us."

It's taken the Cubs on a 4-game winning streak endcapping the All-Star Break, though the Cardinals got up big early Friday afternoon.

For a team that leads the NL in just about every important offensive category, it's going to be a huge key moving forward if Rizzo gets going on a consistent basis in the second half.