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No. 9 Notre Dame runs over Miami 41-3

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No. 9 Notre Dame runs over Miami 41-3

CHICAGO (AP) No brawls, no chippiness. Not much of a game, either.

So much for nasty ol' Notre Dame-Miami.

Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III gave Notre Dame its first 100-yard rushing duo in a decade, and Everett Golson came off the bench to lead the No. 9 Irish to a 41-3 victory over Miami on Saturday night in what was a very tame sequel to the heated ``Catholics vs. Convicts'' rivalry.

``We didn't play smart enough, we didn't play disciplined enough and we didn't make enough plays,'' Miami coach Al Golden said. ``It's that simple.''

The Irish improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2002. Their 587 yards of offense was a season high, and their 376 yards rushing was their most since Nov. 11, 2000. Wood had 118 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and Atkinson added 123 yards and another score. Golson, who sat the first series as punishment for showing up late for practice, completed his first six passes and finished 17 of 22 for 186 yards passing. He also ran for 51 yards.

``We felt like we found a way to run the football today,'' Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ``Our game plan was situated on running the football, which equals time of possession for us. We felt like if we could keep them from getting the big plays, and we could run the football, that was going on our recipe for success

Notre Dame's defense held Miami (4-2) to 285 yards after the Hurricanes had piled up 1,260 yards and 86 points in their previous two games. A half-dozen drops, including two certain touchdowns by Phillip Dorsett on Miami's very first drive, didn't help. Neither did the time of possession, where Notre Dame had a whopping 39:08-20:52 advantage.

Notre Dame had been leaning on its defense to remain undefeated.

``I think this game was needed,'' Golson said. ``I don't know necessarily about my confidence but just for the team's confidence, the offense's confidence.''

Miami's only points came on Jake Wieclaw's 28-yard field goal in the first quarter. The Hurricanes got to the Notre Dame 7 late in the fourth quarter only to turn the ball over on downs.

``It was really lopsided in terms of them having the ball, and we didn't really have much opportunity. The times we do have opportunities, we were on the field and we were off,'' quarterback Stephen Morris said. ``We can't win games like that.''

Back in the 1980s, Notre Dame-Miami was perhaps the nastiest, most hotly contested rivalry in college football. Most entertaining, too.

Both teams were ranked in the top 10 when they met in 1987, `88, `89 and `90, and from 1987 through 1989 the winner went on to win the national title. The teams didn't like each other, either, and made no secret of it. Police actually had to be called in to break up a pushing and shoving match as the teams were leaving the field after pregame warmups at Notre Dame Stadium in 1988.

In a video posted on Notre Dame's website, former Irish coach Lou Holtz said he urged his team to avoid any on-field incidents against Miami.

``After we win the game, if Miami wants to fight, fine, we'll meet `em in the alley,'' Holtz, on the video, recalled saying to his team. ``And if they do, you save Jimmy Johnson's (butt) for me.''

The Irish stormed out of the locker room and beat Miami 31-30. Many still consider it the best home win in Notre Dame history, and it propelled the Irish to their eighth - and most recent - national title.

The teams played the next two years before the rivalry was discontinued, with Notre Dame officials feeling ``it brought out the worst sides of fans.'' (Considering it was Notre Dame fans who came up with the ``Catholics vs. Convicts'' moniker, it's hard to argue with them.) It would be 20 years before the teams would meet again, in the 2010 Sun Bowl.

But that old chippiness was nowhere to be found at Soldier Field. Most of the Irish and Hurricanes weren't even born in 1988, and it's hard to nurse a grudge when the history is so ancient.

Hard when the game is such a mismatch, too.

``There's no excuses,'' Golden said. ``We had too many penalties, too many drops. We lost our poise at times. We didn't play well enough in this environment against a really good team, and that's my fault. I've got to get it fixed.''

Miami should have been up 7-0 after its first series, but Dorsett dropped two would-be touchdowns, the second going through his hands on the goal line. Instead of making the Irish play catch-up, the Hurricanes were forced to punt.

``Obviously that doesn't happen much to me,'' said Dorsett, who had 375 yards receiving on 16 catches in Miami's previous two games. ``I guess I got a little too excited, the ball got caught in the lights and I couldn't see it. I'm not a person to make excuses, I got to come up with those.''

Golson inherited the starting quarterback's job when Tommy Rees was suspended for the opener, punishment for his May arrest for a skirmish with police after an off-campus party. Kelly has said repeatedly that Golson is the Irish quarterback, but his hold on the job seemed tenuous after Rees had to bail him out against both Purdue and Michigan.

This time, it was Golson off the bench with a big day.

He was benched for the first series after being late to practice - a meeting with a professor ran long, and he hadn't told Kelly ahead of time - and Rees was run off the field in three plays. But the Hurricanes gave the Irish a second chance when Gabriel Terry was called for roughing the punter, and Golson took over.

``I understand it was a team violation. That was the consequences I had to deal with,'' Golson said. ``I just kind of knew when I got my time I had to go out there and have fun and manage the team.''

He led the Irish to scores on their first three drives, and would have made it four out of five if Kyle Brindza's 34-yard field goal attempt hadn't squeaked right. The running game took over in the second half - the Irish ground out 270 yards in the final 30 minutes - with the Irish scoring on all four of their drives. Wood set the tone on the very first one, taking off from the Miami 39 and ripping off a long run up the right sideline that looked like it was good for a touchdown. But reviews showed he stepped out at the 2. No matter. He rumbled right up the middle on the next play to give Notre Dame a 20-3 lead with just under 12 minutes left in the third.

The Irish chewed up 86 yards, all on the ground, on their next drive, capping it with a 3-yard run by Wood. That gave Notre Dame a 27-3 lead, and the game was all but out of reach.

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What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

Just four more wins. It hardly seems possible.

For only the second time ever and for the first time in 20 years, the Capitals will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final. And they could actually win it.

They’re not there yet. The Vegas Golden Knights have cruised through the playoffs thus far and continue to shock the hockey community with their postseason run. Washington’s players need to think about how to beat Vegas, not what happens after.

But while the players cannot and should not look ahead, for fans, it’s hard not to. It’s hard not to dream about that moment when Gary Bettman hands the Stanley Cup over to Alex Ovechkin.

Winning the conference is always a huge achievement that should be celebrated, but this year is different than 1998’s run. Back in 1998, the Caps played against a Detroit Red Wings team that is one of the greatest teams in NHL history. They were the defending champions after sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers the year before. Washington suffered the same fate as the Flyers, losing in just four games.

This year is a battle between two more evenly matched teams. Picking the Caps to win this series is not outlandish or crazy at all. This year, they could actually do it.

So before the puck drops for Game 1 and all dreams are pushed aside for the realities of what may happen, allow a fan a chance to think about what seeing the Washington Capitals actually hoist the Stanley Cup would actually mean.

Breaking news: Washington is not Canada and the Capitals are not an original six team. Hockey is not ingrained in the culture of D.C. the way it is in Canadian cities or in places like Boston and Detroit. Unlike in Vegas where the success of the team in its inaugural season has caught the city by storm, the Capitals won only eight games in their first year. Eight wins doesn’t exactly help a team grow roots in the community.

If you’ve been a fan of the Capitals long enough, chances are you’ve seen some pretty tough times. There have been plenty of playoff disappointments in this team’s history even before the current era. There was also the rebuild that began before the lockout that saw a very bad team play in front of a half empty stadium for several years. And they would not have even gotten to that point without the “Save the Caps” campaign in 1982.

But through it all, that small group of hardcore fans kept coming back. Some may have wavered from time to time, but they came back because being a hockey fan is different than other sports.

It’s hard to be a sports fan in any city with an NFL team and not follow football. Football may not even be your sport, but there is almost on obligation to following it because coverage and interest in football is so prevalent. It’s hard to avoid.

You have to seek out hockey

Hockey at times has been viewed as more of a niche sport than mainstream. Before the age of Alex Ovechkin, if you were from Washington and you were following the Caps, it was because you loved both.

So why did those Caps fans keep coming back after so much heartbreak? Because despite all of the disappointing seasons we always walked away telling ourselves, this will just make it that much sweeter when they do win.

One day, it will all be worth it.

That’s why we watch sports, isn’t it? We watch with the knowledge that sometimes, our hearts will be broken but it’s OK because the good will always outweigh the bad. And the worse the bad times are, the better the good times will feel afterward.

We kept telling ourselves that for a long time, but admittedly some years were tougher to get past than others. It’s hard to keep believing when you’ve seen your rival beat you nine times out of 10 in the playoffs heading into this year’s postseason. It’s hard when a team cannot seem to overcome its playoff history despite having one of the best players of all-time on its roster.

When Ovechkin was drafted, the question we all asked ourselves was not whether he would bring a Cup to Washington, but how many? He brought new fans with him, he brought excitement with him, he brought validation with him…at least initially.

But with every passing year, doubt began to creep into our minds. The upset loss to Montreal in 2010 stung, but Ovechkin was still 24. There was still hope that one day, he would still win the Cup.

Now at 32 years old, many did not know what to expect from the Great 8 this year. When would decline start to show in his game?

Ovechkin is part of why we want the Cup so badly. We want to see the best player in this franchise’s history honored. We want to see the player who transformed hockey in Washington from niche sport to mainstream take his proper place in the sport’s history. No one wants to hear him described as one of the best players to never win a Cup because he should be remembered as one of the best players, period.

But that’s not all of it.

This is about all those times we told ourselves this would all be worth it someday. This is about how we used to cope with the sting of another postseason heartbreak by thinking about what it would feel like when it was finally our year. This is about how we stuck with the team when the stadium was half empty. This is about the blue jersey in our closet with the eagle on the front and the black one hanging next to it with the capitol building on the front. This is about all the 5, 12, 32 and 37 jerseys. This is about replacing Esa Tikkanen as our lasting Stanley Cup memory.

When the Washington Redskins have a rough year, those fans who can remember them think about those three Super Bowl wins. When the Washington Wizards fall short, those fans who can remember it think about the championship in 1978. Even if you’re too young to remember the Super Bowls or NBA championship, those banners still give your team a sense of validation. They have their little piece of history to be proud of.

That’s what this would mean. A Stanley Cup would be not just for the players, it would be for the fans who stuck it out through thick and thin, those fans who despite everything still supported their team. This win would be about the Capitals forever earning their spot in the heart of Washington sports alongside the Redskins and Wizards.

This would be about never having to tell ourselves again that someday all the love we pour into this team will pay off.

A Stanley Cup would mean finally getting to experience a championship and realizing, yeah, it was all worth it.

Let’s go Caps!

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Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One is repping the district in a big way: by changing their logo to incorporate the Capitals' font and name. 

The new Capital One logo appears on the bank's websites and social media ahead of the Caps' Stanley Cup Final games, which begin on Memorial Day Monday in Vegas.

The McLean, Virginia, based bank recently purchased the naming rights to the Capitals' home arena, formerly known as "Verizon Center." And in the first year of its renaming, the Capitals have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. Coincidence? 

We've seen a small, Northern Virginia town change its name to "Capitalsville," and now Capital One Bank is all-in for the Caps.

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