Notre Dame goes into BYU game with QB questions


Notre Dame goes into BYU game with QB questions

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) BYU worked this week getting ready to face both Notre Dame quarterbacks Everett Golson and Tommy Rees on Saturday. Turns out Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff should have been getting ready for a third option, just in case.

Coach Brian Kelly added more intrigue into the Notre Dame quarterback situation Thursday evening by saying he wouldn't decide on a starter for the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish (6-0) until game time, and added the choice might be Andrew Hendrix. The Irish have been using Golson as a starter and Rees as the closer with great success.

The cause of Kelly's uncertainty is a concussion sustained by Golson on a helmet-to-helmet hit against Stanford. Golson has been cleared to play, but Kelly wants more time to evaluate whether the sophomore is ready.

BYU (4-3) enters the game with the nation's fifth-rated defense giving up an average of 261 yards a game even after No. 8 Oregon State amassed 450 yards total offense against the Cougars last week. Mendenhall is looking for his defense to bounce back.

``I'm anxious to perform how our defense performed the first six weeks, not the last week. That's my main focus right now, getting them to perform again the way I know they're capable,'' Mendenhall said.

The Cougars gave up 42 points last week against an Oregon State team that was using backup quarterback Cody Vaz, who hadn't started since he was in high school. BYU could be facing the same scenario this week if the Irish start Hendrix, the backup last season. Hendrix, a strong runner, has appeared in six games the past two seasons, completing 22 of 42 passes for 302 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He's also rushed for 189 yards on 31 carries, or 6.1 yards a carry.

BYU also could face Rees, a less mobile quarterback who had 17 starts and knows the Irish offense the best. He helped lead the Irish to late game victories over Purdue and Stanford and replaced a struggling Golson in the second quarter against Michigan.

``I think more than anything it's supporting my teammates and trying to give them the best,'' Rees said. ``They look to me when I come in and I can't let them down. We have to find a way to win the game.''

The Cougars have quarterback issues as well. Riley Nelson threw three interceptions against Oregon State after missing the previous two games with a back injury and argued with offensive coordinator Brandon Doman on the sideline during the game. Mendenhall said he has confidence in Nelson, saying he improves BYU.

``But we do need to take better care of the football,'' he said.

The Cougars also are looking for better play from their defense, which hadn't given up a touchdown in three games before giving up 42 points to Oregon State.

``We want to go out and make sure everybody knows that wasn't us,'' linebacker Spencer Hadley said.

Notre Dame's defense is ranked 11th nationally, giving up 287 yards, and is coming off a thrilling finish where the Irish stopped Stanford twice from inside the 1 in overtime to hold on for the 20-13 victory. The Irish defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in four straight games, the longest such streak for the Irish since 1980.

``We want to dominate opponents,'' linebacker Manti Te'o said. ``The best way to do that is to keep the points down. Along the way of doing that, we've managed to limit those points and the touchdowns.''

Te'o, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the game against BYU doesn't have any special significance because of his religion or because he was heavily recruited by BYU and has friends and a cousin playing for the Cougars.

``It's just game seven. I think I said this before: When you start to do things differently than you've done in the past, then bad things start to happen. I've been there before. I've made the mistake of being overly excited for a game and it hurt me. So fortunately for me, I've been there, done that. That's a mistake that won't happen again,'' he said.

It's a theme repeated by Irish players, who say with a win over No. 22 Stanford last week and a game at No. 10 Oklahoma looming, they won't overlook BYU because they know how important each game is.

``As much success as we're having, you can't let success be your downfall,'' running back Theo Riddick said. ``We understand we've just reached the halfway mark and we still have plenty of football to play.''


AP Sports Writer Lynn DeBruin in Provo, Utah, contributed to this report.

Quick Links

Stephen Strasburg makes history at the plate against Atlanta

USA Today

Stephen Strasburg makes history at the plate against Atlanta

Stephen Strasburg had the best hitting performance of his career against the Braves Thursday night, going 3-3 at the plate with two singles and a 420-foot three-run bomb. 

He didn't just set personal records but reached rare air in baseball history. He's the second pitcher ever with at least three hits, a HR, and five RBI since the DH debuted in 1973 and the fifth pitcher in the last 50 seasons to get two hits in an inning including a home run. 

Strasburg set franchise firsts with his performance, dating all the way back to the Expos. 

An extraordinary milestone for the Nationals' ace, hopefully Strasburg's performance will inspire the team during a crucial four-game series with Atlanta. 


Quick Links

‘The Redskins love Alabama guys’: Washington could run old draft playbook in 2020 to fill huge need

USA TODAY Sports Images

‘The Redskins love Alabama guys’: Washington could run old draft playbook in 2020 to fill huge need

Perhaps no position group on the Redskins has more questions or uncertainty than the wide receivers.

Josh Doctson enters the final year of his rookie contract, and has yet to record over 550 yards in any of his three professional seasons. Washington signed Paul Richardson to a five-year deal in 2018, but he just played in just seven games for the Burgundy and Gold in 2018 before having season-ending shoulder surgery. Second-year receiver Trey Quinn is expected to fill the role in the slot after Jamison Crowder departed for the New York Jets this offseason but has yet to prove anything on the NFL level. 

The Redskins addressed the position during the 2019 NFL Draft, selecting Terry McLaurin in the third round and Kelvin Harmon in the sixth round. But it's unclear how much either one will contribute to the Washington offense in 2019.

So, it's likely the Redskins will need to address the position during the 2020 NFL Draft, and probably very early on it. Well, this works in Washington's favor, because the 2020 wide receiver class is loaded. 

On a recent episode of the Redskins Talk podcast, J.P. Finlay and Pete Hailey spoke with NFL Draft expert Jordan Reid (no, not the Redskins' tight end) about the top wide receiver prospects heading into next year's draft, and which players the Redskins could potentially target.

Before diving into the top 2020 prospects, Reid gave an initial assessment of the current Redskins' receivers.

"The Redskins just don't have that headliner, top go-to guy," Reid said. "They were expecting Josh Doctson to be that when they did draft him in the first round of 2016. But he's had some injuries, and he's already come out and said he's looking forward to free agency. That just not something you want to hear."

Reid was high on McLaurin, though, the first receiver the Redskins selected in 2019.

"They drafted Terry McLaurin in the third round, I liked him a lot even going back to the Senior Bowl," he said. "I think he's going to have a really good year, not just as a receiver but the special teams phase as well. He's going to flash in a lot of ways."

As far as the 2020 draft wide receiver class, one school stands on top, and it's a school the Redskins are very familiar with: Alabama. The Redskins used their first-round picks in 2017 and 2018 on 'Bama guys and signed another Crimson Tide alumni this offseason in safety Landon Collins.

"We know the Redskins love Alabama guys, and there's a lot of [wide receivers] coming out this year," Reid said. "It's not just Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs is another guy that's getting a lot of steam. They're going to have the chance to get the receiver they want. This is a very special wide receiver class."

Crimson Tide receiver Jerry Jeudy is the consensus top receiver in next year's class, but Reid believes his speedy teammate could challenge him for that spot by season's end.

"With Ruggs, I think he's a bit more as far as polished a route runner [than Jeudy]," he said. "I think his hands are a bit better, and I wouldn't be shocked if he runs below a 4.3 at the combine. He can absolutely fly."

If the pair of Alabama receivers currently hold the top two spots for best wide receiver prospect, there's another guy who's right on their heels: Oklahoma's Ceedee Lamb.

"He reminds me a lot of DeAndre Hopkins coming out," Reid said on Lamb. "He's not a thick guy, but he plays much stronger than what he indicates. Very reliable hands, and his body control is out of this world. He had a one-handed catch against UCLA, it didn't count, but it's truly amazing."

As a true sophomore, Lamb totaled 1,158 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018. Sure, it may have helped to have Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray under center, but Lamb has proven he's an elite talent.

Two other prospects Reid is keeping an eye on are Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr. and Texas' Collin Johnson.

"He's not as polished as some of these other guys, but he's more of a do-it-all type of receiver," Reid said on Shenault Jr. 

Where Shenault may be a do-it-all receiver, Johnson plays to his 6'6 size.

"He's a really good route runner," Reid said on Johnson. "It's just a matter of how consistently can he separate, and how fast he is. If he goes to the Senior Bowl, I think he can light it up."

While many of these guys seem like sure-fire guys, there's still a full season of football to be played before the draft. Players will rise, but just as many, if not more, will fall off.

"You just have to let this play out, that's what happens with the draft process," Reid said. "Guys fall off, and then you have guys that come out of nowhere. Quinton Williams from last year is a prime example. He was a 270-pound defensive end at this time last year; we had no idea who he was and he ends up being the No. 3 overall selection."

But if everything plays out close to how it's expected to, this wide receiver draft class will be one to remember. 

"This class is special man," Reid said. "I think it's going to rival 2014, with Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and all those guys, Jarvis Landry, Davante Adams too. It's going to be very similar to that. It's very special."