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Saban opens up at media day; ND's pair of 5s

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Saban opens up at media day; ND's pair of 5s

MIAMI (AP) Nick Saban has a charity called Nick's Kids Fund.

He and his wife Terry have been running it for 14 years and it raises money for needy children. It's not named after the Alabama coach. It's named after his late father, the hardworking man and tough Pop Warner coach who made Saban what he is.

Saban, who isn't one to let his emotions show easily, opened up a bit while talking about his father during media day for the BCS championship. Saban's Crimson Tide play Notre Dame on Monday for the national title.

Saban grew up in rural West Virginia and started working by the time he was 11, ``which I think is probably been the most critical thing in the development of the work ethic that I have,'' he said Saturday.

His father and mother, Mary, instilled in Saban the importance of respecting people and at times he was taught hard lessons.

``There was a bum that used to come to my Dad's service station early in the morning because he'd give him free coffee and doughnuts,'' Saban said. ``We had had a tough game the night before, I don't remember whether it was basketball game, a football game or whatever. The guy was giving me a hard time and I sort of sassed him. I was 17 years old. I got the strap right on the spot.

``It was the right thing. I needed to learn a lesson. I was disrespectful to an older person, regardless of the situation.''

Big Nick Saban started the Pop Warner football league in which is son played. Saban said his father bought a school bus to drive the kids around, picking them up from the coal mining towns where they lived and driving them home so they wouldn't have to hitchhike.

``He was a tough coach,'' Saban said. ``He expected the best all the time. Probably instilled some of the perfectionist-type characteristics that I have in what I try to do. He had a high standard of excellence for what he expected from me. Discipline was a very important part of what you did.''

Saban said that he, like many people, didn't really appreciate what his father was trying to teach him until he was an adult.

``Probably when I was a senior in college. That's probably when I realized it,'' he said. ``And my first year of graduate school was when he passed away. I never really ever told him, which I regret.''

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TRICK SHOT MONDAY: As media day was winding down, a half-dozen Notre Dame players gathered around the BCS trophy to recreate ``Trick Shot Monday,'' a locker-room ritual back in South Bend where the players try to make outrageous shots into a paper cup filled with water, using a ping pong ball.

They bounced it off the football-shaped crystal. They ricocheted it off a piece of wood placed on the turf. Mike Golic Jr. even dropped to his knees, trying to knock it in with his forehead. Everyone failed until ESPN's Samantha Ponder stepped in to make a shot.

``We're proud to see her get her first win,'' Golic said, grinning. ``It's something I know she'll cherish for the rest of her life.''

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DECISIONS, DECISION: Being a quarterback is always about making the right call at the right time.

That's why Alabama's AJ McCarron brought so many pairs of shoes - about 30 - to the BCS championship. Surely there's a penalty for going out in black sneakers and brown pants, right?

``Back at home, I've got a bunch of shoes. I've got at least 130 pair,'' McCarron said. ``I brought like 30 here. At nighttime, I never know what I'm going to wear so I change and try to match. I've got a bunch of bow ties too. I don't even know.

``My mom does that whole thing.''

McCarron typically wears a suit, bow tie and all, to games.

Tailback Eddie Lacy just shakes his head and points to the only pair of shoes - red and white sneakers - that he brought to Florida.

``That's all I need,'' he says, grinning. ``I've only got two feet. I don't know what's up with him (McCarron) and his shoe fetish.''

Wide receiver Kenny Bell says McCarron is just ``playing catch-up'' with him. Bell said he brings 40 pairs of shoes even on a weekend trip and left 100 more at home. ``I'm a very big sneakerhead,'' he said.

More importantly for the game, Bell is being coy about his status for the game. He had surgery to repair a broken leg sustained against Auburn on Nov. 24, and was expected to be out 5-6 weeks.

His status for the game is uncertain.

``I don't know just like the world doesn't know,'' said Bell, one of the team's better deep threats.

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A PAIR OF 5's: Whether Notre Dame is on offense or defense, the leader of the Fighting Irish is number 5, quarterback Everett Golson or All-American linebacker Manti Te'o.

Te'o, a senior, explained that the reason he wears 5 is not for some former Irish great like Paul Hornung - who also had the number - but because, when Te'o was a young boy, he and his dad were in the car and his father asked him, ``When you play football, what number would like?''

Being 5 years old, Te'o said ``5.''

For Golson, a redshirt freshman, the number is simply the one he wore all through high school.

So, coming to Notre Dame - a school where Te'o was already a star - did Golson ask for Te'o's permission to wear the same jersey?

``No,'' the normally forthcoming Te'o said Saturday, shaking his head.

Manti, you mean he just did it?

``Yes.''

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STAR TREATMENT: Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and his All-American center, Barrett Jones, were sitting next to each other on separate podiums. But only McCarron's spot came with speakers, which made it a little tough for Jones to stay focused.

``Sorry, it's hard to concentrate when he's talking about me over there,'' Jones said. ``The skill players get all the love. AJ got speakers, and I've got sit over here and listen to him.''

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GUNNER: Notre Dame freshman Gunner Kiel, from Columbus, Ind., was one of the most heralded quarterback recruits in the country last year. He had a hard time deciding where he wanted to go to school - to say the least.

First he verbally committed to Indiana. Then he de-committed. Then he verbally committed to LSU. Then at the last moment, he decided to go to Notre Dame.

As far as recruiting news goes, Kiel's indecision was big news and his choosing Notre Dame was considered a huge score for coach Brian Kelly.

``I think I put more pressure on myself because I overanalyzed a lot of things,'' Kiel said. ``If I could do it all over again I would probably go back and enjoy the recruiting process and enjoy my senior year and enjoy the people around me and just have a fun with it instead of making it seem like a job. And putting so much stress, so much on myself it buried me.

``I wanted to please everyone. I wanted to make everyone happy. I also couldn't make up my mind either. That's why I committed so many places and de-committed to so many places.''

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SABAN STARS IN NBA: Nick Saban is not tall.

By his own admission, not fast, either.

Yet somehow, he's found a way to be a successful pickup basketball player. Then again, it's easy to win at pickup ball when you can manipulate everything from rules to rosters.

In between recruiting season and spring-football season at Alabama, it's basketball season for Saban and his staff. Saban was asked at the BCS title game media day on Saturday what he does to stay in shape, and Saban revealed that he enjoys getting on the court.

With certain conditions, of course.

``I'm the commissioner of the league,'' Saban said. ``It's a noontime basketball league, NBA. I pick the teams so I have the best players on my team. I also pick the guy that can guard me and there's only two guys in the whole organization who are shorter and slower that I would pick to guard me. And then I call the fouls. So if you call that working out, I guess that's my workout.''

Saban, who checks in at around 5-foot-8, said he doesn't keep stats, and no, he doesn't break down those game films, either.

``No one would want to see that,'' Saban said.

Does Saban call fouls on himself? He said it happens - but only sometimes.

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A Vrana steal, a Kuznetsov surprise and more shenanigans between the Caps and Ducks

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A Vrana steal, a Kuznetsov surprise and more shenanigans between the Caps and Ducks

For the first time in franchise history, the Capitals have swept all three California teams on the road. The final win came on Friday in a 3-2 narrow defeat of the Anaheim Ducks. The game was full of shenanigans, some of which were cheeky and fun, but others were cruel and tragic.

Check out the game recap here.

Observations from the win

Just let them fight

We all remember what happened the last time these two teams played between Garnet Hathaway and Erik Gudbranson. It was no surprise to see those two lock horns in the second period, but the moment Gudbranson dropped his gloves, the refs were pulling the two apart preventing the fight.

The game devolved from there. In total, there was 66 PIM distributed in this game and I can't help but think most of it could have been avoided had the refs just let Hathaway and Gudbranson fight it out initially.

Why were they so quick to step in? I'm guessing that was the line in the sand drawn by the refs in an attempt by to keep control of the game and both players were told this is what would happen if they tried to fight. Rather than calm the game down, however, that seemed to make things worse.

Hathway and Gudbrandson ended up fighting in the third period anyway so what was the point of stopping them?

That sure sounds like they just needed to get that initial fight out of the way. That would have been better for both teams. Gudbranson's took an extra two minutes on the original fight attempt and the Caps scored on the resulting power play. Washington, meanwhile, sure seemed to get distracted by all the fisticuffs and scrums as the game went along, quickly losing control of a game it led 2-0.

Offside reviews stink and the NHL should get rid of them

Anaheim had a goal disallowed after a coach's challenge showed that Cam Fowler lifted up his back toe just before the puck crossed over the blue line. Once again, the game was slowed down so the refs could review a play and break down the video pixel by pixel to see if a player was just a hair offside. It saved the Caps a goal, but it was another example of the ridiculous standard linesmen now must stick to when judging if a play was offside or not.

The Ducks did not gain an advantage by the fact that Fowler's toe barely came off the ice right before the puck crossed. That's not the spirit in which the rule was intended.

Just please get rid of the offside review.

Context

The Caps swept a four-game road trip for just the second time in franchise history and they did it without Nicklas Backstrom and with Alex Ovechkin scoring in only one of those four games. They could actually be even better than what we saw  Friday.

Turning point

Anaheim tied the game at 2 just 45 seconds into the third period. They had complete control of the game. They were getting prolonged offensive opportunities in the Caps' zone and Washington's offensive structure was non-existent. They were skating the puck in, shooting and that was about the extent of the Caps' offense at that point.

Everything changed with one bad turnover.

Play of the game

Ovechkin is the team's most dangerous weapon on the power play. Getting the puck to him is priority one. Having said that, the Caps have a lot of weapons on the power play and they don't always utilize them. 

Washington's power play system is run on the half-wall. From there the puck is distributed, but rarely do they ever shoot from that position. They should because it would force defenses to account for it, but they don't and so you can understand why this shot from Evgeny Kuznetsov from the half-wall seemed to catch goalie Ryan Miller by complete surprise.

Stat of the game

The win completes a four-game sweep of the road trip. Does it seem like the Caps are really good on the road this season? That's because they are.

Quote of the game


Fan predictions

This is impressive. You nailed it and you got pretty specific too. There were only three misconducts, but still I'm very impressed.

A bit off on the score, but you got to see a Caps win.

Ha.

There was plenty of this. A total of 66 PIM were issued in this game.

Well, it was nuts but it didn't get that nuts.

Just about everything that could happen to Radko Gudas did in this game...but he still didn't score.

I did, but barely. I am going to guess we lost a few people along the way.

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Capitals punch their way through Anaheim for the win and California sweep

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Capitals punch their way through Anaheim for the win and California sweep

The Capitals survived a physical affair in Anaheim on Friday to earn a narrow 3-2 win over the Ducks and complete the sweep of its four-game road trip. The bad blood from the previous matchup between these two teams boiled over as the game went on. There were two fights, multiple misconducts and plenty of scrums, but ultimately Washington was able to overcome all the extracurriculars to earn the win.

Here's how the Caps did it.

No angle

Travis Boyd opened up the scoring with a Houdini-like goal in that it came at a severe angle. How severe? The shot actually came slightly behind the goal line.

OK, how is that even possible?

Carl Hagelin made the pass behind the net and Boyd made the one-time shot from just past the goal line. When you look at the replay, the puck actually banked in off of goalie Ryan Miller.

The shot may not have defied the laws of physics as it originally appeared, but it was still a pretty darn good shot to put the Caps up 1-0.

Kuznetsov surprises Miller

When the Caps went to the power play, we all knew who was going to shoot, including Miller and that was the problem.

Washington's power play is run on the half-wall. From there the puck is typically distributed to John Carlson to setup Alex Ovechkin or down low to setup T.J. Oshie waiting in the slot. Typically Nicklas Backstrom plays the half-wall. He is one of the elite playmakers in the league but does not shoot nearly enough on the power play and as a result, no one seems to account for a half-wall shot as a possibility.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was playing the half-wall role on Friday. As he skated casually along the wall, Miller shrunk back into his net and planted against the post. That's not what a goalie does when he is expecting a shot. It looked like Miller was placing himself in anticipation of Kuznetsov passing the puck low behind the goal line. Instead, Kuznetsov called his own number and fired the puck on net which Miller was not expecting or ready for at all and the puck snuck through him for the goal.

A successful offside challenge

Sam Steele thought he had put Anaheim on the board in the second period, but for the first time all season, Todd Reirden challenged the goal as offside. The play was reviewed and showed that Cam Fowler had lifted his back toe off the ice just before Brendan Guhle brought the puck over the blue line. As ridiculous as the video review has made offsides, by the letter of the law the play was in fact offside and the goal was disallowed.

Ryan Getzlaf would score soon after for real this time so the review ultimately did not cost the Ducks, but the point wasn't so much that it cost Anaheim, but that it didn't cost Washington.

Had Reirden lost the challenge, not only would the goal stand as called, but the Caps would have been assessed a delay of game penalty. Instead, the goal was taken off the board and Washington maintained its two-goal lead...briefly.

A bad turnover

Anaheim tied the game at 2 just 45 seconds into the third period. They had complete control of the game. They were getting prolonged offensive opportunities in the Caps' zone and Washington's offensive structure was non-existent. They were skating the puck in, shooting and that was about the extent of the Caps' offense at that point.

And everything changed with one bad turnover.

Less than a minute after Adam Henrique pulled the game even Miller went behind the net and left the puck for Guhle. Guhle took it and put it right to the stick of Vrana. His initial shot was stopped, but he picked up the rebound and stickhandled it past the netminder for the go-ahead goal

Anaheim had all of the momentum and had finally pulled even and then handed the lead right back to Washington.

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