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Pitt game nearly doomed Notre Dame's title shot

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Pitt game nearly doomed Notre Dame's title shot

MIAMI (AP) Luck of the Irish.

For starters, it's a misleading phrase, in that most historians would tell you Irish luck is not necessarily a good thing. No matter - No. 1 Notre Dame enjoyed its share of fortunate breaks on its way to the BCS title game, with perhaps the bulk of those coming during a wild, wacky, marathon game at home against Pittsburgh on Nov. 3.

Irish 29, Pitt 26, triple overtime.

If any of at least a half-dozen plays in that one went another way, Notre Dame would be watching No. 2 Alabama play someone else for the title on Monday night. But the Irish found a way in that game, finished the regular season unbeaten and are now one win from capturing the national championship.

``I've always been one of those that doesn't really believe in luck,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ``You kind of create your own luck by how you execute and how you perform. I think sometimes people think you're lucky when you're able to make significant plays at critical times in the games.''

Maybe, maybe not. Because on that day at Notre Dame Stadium, the Fighting Irish had luck in bunches.

There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Irish in that game, just a few of them including:

- A first-quarter play when a surefire touchdown was missed because an open receiver was never seen;

- A 43-yard field goal try at the end of the half going awry;

- Theo Riddick being ruled down just shy of the end zone, a possession where the Irish settled for a field goal;

- Everett Golson getting picked off in the end zone with 4 minutes left and Notre Dame still trailing;

- Cierre Wood fumbling the ball away an inch or two from the end zone on the opening possession of the second overtime.

And then came the moment, perhaps the quintessential moment of Notre Dame's season to date.

Pitt kicker Kevin Harper lined up for what would have been a game-winning 33-yard field goal in that second OT, with the stadium still somewhat stunned over the play where Wood simply lost the ball.

A veritable chip-shot.

Make the kick, Pitt wins.

Along the Notre Dame sideline, barely any of the offensive players could look at the scene.

Snap was high, but got down. Harper struck the ball, which went end-over-end toward his target.

``It was so close,'' offensive lineman Zack Martin said. ``We heard their crowd up in the corner cheer, so we thought it was done.''

The Pitt crowd's cheer was quickly drowned out, of course. The kick went past the right upright, a foot or two away from being enough to give Pitt the win. Harper missed, and that was just one of two breaks Notre Dame caught on that play. The other was that Bennett Jackson and Chris Brown - players who both wear No. 2 for Notre Dame - were on the field at the same time, meaning the Irish should have been penalized.

The infraction wasn't noticed by the officials.

``A coaching mistake,'' Irish coach Brian Kelly said.

Neither seemed to have an effect on the play ... but still, there's that luck factor again.

``A lot of people say we were lucky,'' Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert said. ``But we missed a field goal, too, or we would never have been in overtime, and we also fumbled on the 1-yard line and threw an interception inside the 10. I think that was unlucky, if anything. And we showed a lot of heart in that game.''

Perhaps no one showed more than Golson, who made a series of big plays in the fourth quarter, one that began with Notre Dame trailing 20-6.

On a drive that was extended by a questionable pass-interference call on fourth down - more luck? - Golson found T.J. Jones for a touchdown that got the Irish within 20-12, after the point-after try was missed. And after the interception, Golson stayed composed, first connecting with Riddick for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 2:11 left, then coolly waiting for his chance to run the ball in for the 2-point conversion that tied the game.

``If I would have got down on myself or not believed, we wouldn't be sitting here today,'' Golson said. ``So I think me, not riding that wave, and me just always believing that we were going to win and having that confidence has helped us get to this point right now.''

There wasn't much need for more drama down the stretch of the season.

Notre Dame beat Boston College 21-6, easily topped Wake Forest 38-0 and punched its ticket to Miami by going on the road and beating USC 22-13 to finish the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record.

But now, more than two months later, the Pitt game still gets talked about - a lot.

``Pitt came in and gave us their best and luckily they missed the field goal and we went on and won,'' Zack Martin said. ``Every team that goes undefeated during the season has situations or games like that, and that was ours.''

Luck of the Irish?

``People always wish you good luck,'' Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said. ``I always tell them, `Hey, we'll take all the luck we can get.'''

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Despite early results, Alex Smith is confident in the progress with his wide receivers

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USA Today Sports

Despite early results, Alex Smith is confident in the progress with his wide receivers

The Redskins signed two new wide receivers this week in Michael Floyd and Breshad Perriman, and while that might generate attention, those two players will not solve Washington's offensive funk. 

For the Redskins pass game to improve, Alex Smith needs to increase his connections with Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder and Paul Richardson. Despite poor statistics through two games, Smith sees the chemistry with his wideouts growing. 

"I think it's hard looking at the numbers with these first two weeks just the defenses we played, the style that they've played necessarily hasn’t dictated a lot of balls going outside to those guys," Smith said Wednesday. 

Smith is right that it's hard looking at the numbers.

Through two games, the Redskins top three receivers have combined for 18 catches and 173 yards. There are 11 players around the league with more than 200 yards receiving. Not teams, individual players. 

It's definitely too early to discount the Redskins wideout crew, and Smith believes in his receivers. 

"I feel really good about it. Those guys all work extremely hard. They're all crazy talented."

Talented or not, injuries could play a big role, too.

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden revealed Wednesday that Richardson underwent an MRI but that everything came back clear. The speedy wideout injured his AC joint on a diving catch attempt in Week 1, and Gruden suggested he might have tweaked his knee in the Week 2 loss to the Colts. Even with modest numbers of eight catches for 85 yards, Richardson is the team's leading receiver, and losing him for any game action would be a big blow to the offense.

Richardson did not practice on Wednesday but said in the locker room that his knee is fine, though the shoulder injury has continued to bother him. 

Assuming Richardson can play Sunday, the top three wideouts need more production, and more opportunities. 

"In hindsight, you're always kicking yourself," Smith said. "We could’ve done this, could’ve done that, I could’ve done this, things like that. What's tough in that game, it felt like you also wanted to tell yourself to stay patient."

The Redskins offense lacked big plays against Indianapolis, though had Doctson or Richardson been able to haul in two different passes it might have made a difference. 

Going forward, the good news is Smith believes he can get things working well with the starting wideouts. The Redskins need that to happen. 

"It's a process that never ends. You're constantly working at that. You don't know when that opportunity is going to present itself. I think all those things, it comes in bunches. You keep working. You never stop, no matter what," Smith said. 

In Week 2, the 'Skins offense struggled to move the ball and did not score a single touchdown. That needs to be better.

"You just keep firing and you keep taking your shots when they're there and you don't think or dwell on the rest. I think you just kind of keep staying in the moment and focusing on what you have to do."

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Wizards add veteran Lavoy Allen to group of training camp invites

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards add veteran Lavoy Allen to group of training camp invites

The Wizards will have six-year NBA veteran Lavoy Allen in to compete for a roster spot in their 2018-19 training camp, his agency announced on Wednesday. NBC Sports Washington has confirmed the deal.

Allen, 29, joins three other players who received training camp invites. They include Tiwian Kendley, Chris Chiozza and Chasson Randle.

Randle’s rights were sent to the Capital City Go-Go in a July trade. Chiozza and Kendley caught on with the Wizards first during the Las Vegas Summer League before getting spots in training camp.

Allen’s rights were acquired by the Go-Go in the G-League expansion draft last month. A 6-foot-9 forward, Allen has played for the Sixers and Pacers at the NBA level. He holds career averages of 4.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in 388 total games.

Allen will push for a final roster spot, though the Wizards have more depth than they did at this time last year. Barring something unforeseen, they have 14 guys under contract in addition to their two two-way players, Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae.

Though the Wizards can keep a 15th player, they don’t have to by league rules. Last year, they opted to leave roster spots open for most of the season.

Regardless of whether he makes the NBA roster, Allen could be a solid option for the Go-Go as they begin their inaugural season.

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