Cubs

Notre Dame looking to avoid another '93, '02 collapse

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Notre Dame looking to avoid another '93, '02 collapse

BOSTON -- Brian Kelly said last week "history will have no effect on how we play," a nod to Notre Dame twice falling flat on its face following two of its biggest wins in the last two decades, both of which were championship-killing losses to Boston College.

Notre Dame nearly had the same misfortunes that befell the school's 1993 and 2002 teams last weekend, with the Irish eking out a three-point win over Pittsburgh. So now it's on to Boston, where the Irish will face the main culprit in spoiling the 1993 and 2002 seasons.

"I don't too much care because that was the past," defensive tackle Louis Nix said. "I think many teams that's happened to, and I don't think it'll affect us at all. We're a different group. I think we just come out different. I didn't know much about Notre Dame before I got here, so I don't think that'll register with me at all, like Boston College beating an undefeated Notre Dame team then. I don't care all about that."

Notre Dame is 9-0 and nearly learned the hard way about the pitfalls that come with a championship run. This isn't exclusive to the Irish -- everybody that plays an undefeated, championship-caliber team in November wants to be the group that ruined the opposition's chances. Most recently, Iowa State spoiled Oklahoma State's run at a title last year.

But for Notre Dame, 1993's loss to Boston College was about as rough as it gets. The Irish had just beaten Charlie Ward's No. 1 Florida State team in a game few expected the Seminoles to lose. Had they won against BC, the Irish would've gone to a bowl game knowing a win would net them a national title.

Tom Coughlin's Eagles, though, squeezed out a 41-39 win in South Bend. Notre Dame hadn't been at 9-0 or better since, at least until this year.

When asked about the loss, and what Lou Holtz said after the game, former Irish All-American safety Jeff Burris summed up the calamity.

"I don't think I remembered any message whatsoever because it was such a heartbreaking thing," Burris told CSNChicago. "Just heartbreak with the game, that there was no recollection of that moment because we went from competing, knowing that you had the national championship in your grasp to, all of a sudden, it's not.

" There was no consoling. It was the complete opposite we have experienced the week before, obviously, when we were on the top of the world. And now you feel like you just let the world down. I honestly can't tell you I remember a word he said because I was so heartbroken."

If Kansas State, for example, loses this weekend, they'll still have the fallback of being Big 12 champions, most likely. Obviously, that's not much of a consolation prize for a team with national title aspirations, but it's better than nothing. That 1993 Notre Dame team had nothing else to fall back on, as has been the case for all of Notre Dame's 125-year history: At the end of the regular season, you're either going to a title game or you're not.

"We don't have a conference to play in, and the motivation for us and it even to this day is you have to win every game," Burris said. "We didn't have a conference championship, Big East, SEC, to redeem ourselves. That was it. That was the finale."

The buildup to that loss to Boston College 19 years ago was similar to Notre Dame's week leading up to its game against Pittsburgh -- Burris said the Irish had a good week of practice and Holtz did a good job "quieting the excitement" that came with such a big win against FSU. And, like Notre Dame players said after beating Pittsburgh, the effort BC gave was unexpected, at least from watching the tape.

"They came out with a physical mentality that we didn't see on film, necessarily," Burris said. "They were physical. And what we're also saying, we didn't think they were hard-nosed, we didn't think they were that physical on film. Their running game was okay. They came out and ran it, threw it, and the first plays when that game started they were a physical football team."

It was one of those games where everything came together for a good team -- the Eagles went 9-3 that year and won the Blockbuster Bowl -- not unlike what happened Saturday, although Pittsburgh's 2012 team is hardly as good as that BC team from 19 years ago.

"You gotta give Tom Coughlin, you gotta give Glenn Foley, you gotta give Pete Mitchell, those guys deserve their just due. They played lights out," Burris said. "All credit goes to them. Not necessarily how well or how bad we played, it was the fact that they played that well."

Looking back, the 2012 Irish were lucky. Perhaps their game against Pittsburgh was the same kind of letdownlights-out opponent effort the team saw in 1993 from Boston College. But unlike 1993, Notre Dame escaped with a win.

BC's 2012 squad is 2-7, with wins over FCS-level Maine and struggling ACC counterpart Maryland. The Eagles have a nice quarterback-receiver tandem in Chase Rettig (2,556 yards, 16 TDs) and Alex Amidon (67 receptions, 1,073 yards), but have the worst record in the ACC -- a conference in which Duke is one of the four or five best teams.

A BC win on Saturday would qualify as a monumental upset, one larger than Notre Dame's loss to the Eagles in 1993. But a BC win would have at least some historical precedent, even if Irish players could care less about what happened 19 years ago.

"I don't know what happened in '02 and '93, so it doesn't really matter to me," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "What matters is what happens in 2012."

Joe Maddon drops a dynamite 'Office' reference in regards to any future Cubs celebrations

Joe Maddon drops a dynamite 'Office' reference in regards to any future Cubs celebrations

The Cubs are not in the business of putting the cart before the horse, so don't even bother asking. 

Or, you know, keep asking, since it leads to hilarious answers.

Their goal is to win the National League Central, not just to clinch a playoff berth.

Though, they could lock up a spot in the postseason as early as Monday night if they beat the Pirates and the Rockies lose. The Cubs cannot clinch the division until Wednesday at the earliest, as they're still clinging to a 2.5-game lead over the Brewers.

This would be the fourth straight year in which the Cubs have played October baseball, making good on the promise of sustained success Theo Epstein made when he first took over the front office at Clark and Addison.

But the Cubs are caught in a weird situation here. Going all-out to celebrate a postseason berth when the division is still undecided seems like a direct contradiction to the process-oriented way Joe Maddon preaches and clubhouse leaders like Jon Lester and Jason Heyward promote.

"We always celebrate achievement," Maddon said before smirking and unveiling a classic reference to his favorite TV show ("The Office"). "I have not been a part of a planning committee right now. That's Angela and I think Phyllis was involved — they let her in and she wanted to eventually let Oscar in. So when it comes to party planning committees, I'm really not involved. I am, like, really boring right now."

The last thing the Cubs want to do right now is lose their division lead and have to play the crapshoot that is the one-game wild-card.

So should we expect to see the Cubs poppin' bottles and rippin' shots Monday or Tuesday night at Wrigley Field?

"I have no idea," Maddon said. "I've been kinda avoiding that mentally. I'll say one thing about myself this year — and I'm not bragging or anything — I've been really locked into the day. I have no idea what's going on outside of Monday.

"So I haven't even asked anybody. I'm not worried about it. I'm focused on this lineup today, the bullpen. If and when that happens, I'm sure we'll react to it properly. But I'm not [focused on it].

"I guess I've listened to [former Cubs sports psychologist] Kenny Ravizza long enough to know that the only thing that matters is taking care of today and all that other stuff — that'll just happen."

Maddon continued deflecting questions about any potential celebration by reiterating that he's only focused on Monday, referencing the day of the week so much that a Cubs staffer played "Monday Monday" by The Mamas & The Papas as Maddon exited the press conference room.

It's safe to say the Cubs were in a joking mood as they kicked off the final week of the regular season.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bears are in first place, and talking Hawk's final broadcast

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USA Today

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bears are in first place, and talking Hawk's final broadcast

On the latest Sports Talk Live podcast, David Haugh, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.  The Bears win.  They’re in 1st place in the NFC North.  However, Mitch Trubisky didn’t look so good.  Should fans be worried about another lackluster performance?

Plus the Sox say goodbye to Hawk, the Cubs have a Kyle Schwarber decision to make in October and Patrick wasn’t too impressed with Tiger Woods win at the Tour Championship.

You can listen to the entire thing right here, or in the embedded player below: