Notre Dame vs. USC Preview: The Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh

The setting: my living room. The date: October 15, 2005. The Game: #1 USC at #9 Notre Dame. The stage was set for Notre Dame to catapult themselves back into relevance with a win against the unstoppable USC Trojans, led by Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and Pete Carroll.

This game was different than any Notre Dame game I remember watching in my youth. For the first time in my cognizant life, Notre Dame looked good. It was a rare primetime night game in South Bend, Irish rocking their big game green jerseys that I had not seen in years. Charlie Weis and his Super Bowl pedigree had Irish fans excited, and you could feel the energy pulsing from that stadium through the TV screen. Notre Dame was up 4 late in the fourth and had USC pinned back to a 4th and 9 on their own 25. It felt at the time that everyone, even my family of cynics, was ready to believe again.

Then, he said it.

“All right, all we need to do here is not give up a 60 yard play.”

Whistle blows, the ball is snapped. Leinart drops back, and rops in a dime to Dwayne Jarret, who somehow got behind our secondary 61 yard play. The silence in my house was deafening. We couldn’t believe what we just saw. How do you let him get behind you? Did we never see this play on USC’s game tape? It was 4th and 9!

skip to 2:20

And you know the rest. Stopped on the 1, Leinart rolls left on a QB sneak, Reggie Bush pushes him into the endzone, Notre Dame loses 34-31. The infamous “Bush Push” then set off a butterfly effect timeline of misery for we ND faithful. Seasons of making BCS Bowls and losing in punishing fashion, losing to UCONN, people like Jimmy Clausen and Dayne Christ playing QB for us, and to this day still having to pay off Charlie Weis for his mediocre tenure as head coach.

At the time, a 10 year old me blamed my Dad for the loss to USC, claiming he jinxed us and ruined the season. But the jaded, weathered 24 year old me knows better than that. That’s just Notre Dame football. Whenever Notre Dame has you ready to “wake up the echoes” they throw a pivotal INT to lose the game. Whenever they have you convinced they’ll, “win one for the gipper,” they give up a 75 yard bomb on busted coverage late in the fourth. To be miserable is to be a Notre Dame fan, and that’s just the way things are.

But Saturday, things will be different.

USC enters this game battered and bruised, especially on defense. While they’re linebackers are solid (as is tradition), they’re defensive line is crippled. Both their starting and backup nose tackles are injured, and starting d-end Rasheem Green is not playing due to an ankle injury. Additionally, Sam Darnold looks like he’s regressed a little this year without as many weapons on offense, and while still dangerous, that unit is not nearly as intimidating as they were last year. They’ll put up points, but so will the Irish.

The bottom line is there are very few teams that are more athletic than Notre Dame on offense (hope you read that sitting down). Wimbush is the best dual threat QB that will become a wideout in the NFL in the NCAA, and I am of firm belief that Josh Adams is the best pure running back in the country. Considering USC comes into the game starting reserves on the D-Line, I expect Adams to have a HUGE day running in between the tackles.

Which brings us to the “llave del partido.” If Notre Dame jumps out to an early lead in this game, like they’ve been able to against everyone all year, they’ll win this game. In a run happy offense, playing with a lead has been key for the Irish this year as they can control the clock and settle into a rhythm for the offensive line. If not, they’ll be forced to throw the ball in big spots and I’ve already said how I feel about Wimbush’s ability to throw a six yard in route. But, I don’t see the game going so poorly that it gets to that point.

If the definition of insanity is, “to do the same act over and over again expecting a different result,” then consider me a fucking lunatic, because I’m all in on Notre Dame to win this game Saturday night. Hope will be restored yet again in South Bend, Indiana, if only for a week.

Notre Dame: 38 USC: 27

On the 20 Year Anniversary of Backyard Baseball, I Give You my Definitive Best Possible Lineup

A few days ago The Ringer wrote an awesome article chronicling the origin of the Backyard Baseball franchise. What started as a game with no professional cameos and only one playable field turned into a cult classic that was a pivotal part of my childhood. Not only was the game play unlike any sports game of its time, but the game brought my friends and I closer together. Just about everyone in my neighborhood, including a young Dubs, had a team on my computer. And whether you took it seriously or named yourself something sophomoric like “Coach Poopie,” we all had a love for Backyard Baseball that few other games have been able to recreate in my life.

Now, most people probably played for fun and used the game as an their alotted daily computer time. But in my house there was a level of intensity that proved you were the real deal. Every team generated on my computer had a random team name (i.e. Humongous Fishes), random team colors, random home field, and a random roster only consisting of backyard kids. No pros. If you used pros when you played this game, you’re kind of a huge pussy. There’s nothing more demoralizing than being named the Crazy Melonheads with all yellow uniforms, having your home field be Sandy Flats and having your first three picks be Billie Jean Blackwood, Lisa Crockett, and Jorge Garcia.

I can still recall hearing groans of frustration when someone clicked one space away from Pablo Sanchez and ended up with Sidney Weber instead. In fact, if you catch Dubs and me at a bar, there’s a shockingly strong chance we’ll be talking about something like the time Star Moonbeam hit a right hook into the gap that knocked in Lena Ng and cost us a game.

After playing the game for so many hours and having a wealth of player knowledge that is otherwise utterly useless, I figured on this most special of occasions that I’d throw together my perfect lineup. A lineup that I could actually pick with my eyes open, and one with which I’m confident I’d never lose a game. Here it is:

Coach Name: Paul Giamatti

Team Name: Mighty Wombats

Team Colors: Green and Orange

Home Field: Steele Stadium


1. Pete Wheeler, CF

Backyard Baseball 2001_2015-06-12 22_20_44-Greenshot1434180856-full

Obvious pick to lead off. You bunt with Pete down the third baseline, steal second and third. If he bunts foul twice, he still has enough ability to hit on line drive.

2. Vicki Kawaguchi, 2B

Backyard Baseball 2001_2015-06-12 22_24_26-Greenshot1434180864-full

Possibly controversial, but also lightning quick like Pete. Best case scenario Pete is on third with a 1-1 count to Vicki, you tell Pete to steal home and have Vicki bunt for a not so suicide squeeze because everyone will no doubt be safe.

3. Pablo Sanchez, SS


Bottomline, Pablo is too good to not have. I tried to get creative and make an ideal lineup without him in it because I think he’s a liability in the field sometimes being so short, but his raw power can’t be matched. He’d be mashing dingers into the pool in left every home game and that’s a quick 3-0 lead with no outs through three batters.

4. Kiesha Phillips, LF


Kiesha does not get nearly enough love when people recall memories of this game, but she’s the perfect four hitter. If Pablo doesn’t clear the fences, Kiesha almost always does. Can hit for power and is a pretty decent fielder.

5. Achmed Kahn, C


Besides having the best walkup music in the game, you gotta love Achmed’s spirit. Always listening to music and never to a word of encouragement I would tell him, he lives in his own world and you need a guy like that. One could argue Achmed Kahn is the original Beats by Dre commercial.

6. Stephanie Morgan, 3B

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Stephanie and Jocinda Smith are often times wayyyy overrated (especially Jocinda) but Stephanie is solid enough all around to make this team. Will never have the highest average but won’t have the lowest, and she has a cannon from third only bested by Tony Delvecchio.

7. Mikey Thomas, 1B


It was between Kenny Kawaguchi and Mikey T for this spot, but with Achmed catching I needed a power hitting first baseman and Mikey fills that role beautifully. He hits for power and that’s pretty much it. He’s really slow but if you need a lefty pitcher for an inning he can also come in and do that.

8. Angela Delvecchio, P

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Nobody better than Angela on the bump, flat out. She has the meanest right and left hook in the game and gets a boost when she plays against her brother Tony. Everytime she’s on the hill you know you can get a solid four innings out of her, and you won’t waste her juice on hitting because she’s pretty horrific swinging the bat.

9. Luanne Lui, RF

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Love the old double leadoff strategy. Having Luanne round out this lineup and having her bunt her way on just sets up the top of the lineup to do their thing. Imagine having Luanne, Pete, and Vicki all on base with Pablo coming up? You may as well just forefit the game.

There it is folks, the definitive perfect Backyard Baseball 2001 team. No doubt in my mind that if there were a mercy rule I would reach it every game by the fourth with that team. Even a team of all Mr. Clanky’s wouldn’t be able to keep that game close. If you think you have a better lineup I’d love to hear it, because I love seeing people be wrong about stuff.

Post Bye Week, Let’s Take a Look at Where Notre Dame Sits in the College Football Picutre

The bye week has come and gone for the Irish, so I thought I’d take this off week as an opportunity to reassess the year that’s been, and preview what’s on the horizon for the now 13th ranked team out of South Bend. Year in and year out Notre Dame’s bye week is typically my favorite week of the year, because it’s the only Saturday during college football season where I can act like a sane person, not stressed over how Notre Dame will find a way to lose this week. This bye week was particularly enjoyable, however, because with four ranked teams falling the Irish rose three spots without having to play a minute of football.


Truth be told, this year really hasn’t been all that bad watching Notre Dame. I’m often times too pessimistic about Notre Dame, so that’s about as high of a compliment you’ll get from me. But this team has won convincingly against teams they should beat, went on the road and beat Michigan St. soundly in a night game, and were one stupid penalty and two missed field goals away from beating Georgia, who’s now third in the country.


These wins have been team efforts too, which is stunning. A common trend for Notre Dame is one player or group shouldering the load that proves to be unsustainable (2012 defense, Brady Quinn, Michael Floyd). This year though, the team appears to be well balanced on both sides of the ball. Drue (crazy way to spell Drew) Tranquill has looked comfortable in the new defensive scheme as the Rover Linebacker, Wimbush is way more athletic than any QB has been in recent memory, and Josh Adams is having a sneaky Heisman worthy season without getting nearly enough love. He is ahead of Barkley in multiple rushing categories, including rushing yards and yards per attempt.


All this being said, the second half of the schedule is BRUTAL for Notre Dame. They open up this week with a home game against an underachieving #11 USC, home again against #16 NC St which was the ugliest game of 2016 in a driving hurricane, Wake Forest, at #8 Miami, home against Navy who does nothing but score and run clock so that SCREAMS trap game, and finish the year at #22 Stanford. Four out of six opponents ranked in the top 25, and Navy just fell out of that poll a week ago.


If Notre Dame survives these six games and wins out there’s no conceivable way they’re left out of the playoff with their only loss coming from the SEC East Champion. The biggest issue facing this team will be stamina and I just don’t know if a run heavy offense will have enough gas to win all six of those games. Hell, having watched Notre Dame for almost 20 years of my life, it wouldn’t shock me if this team found a way to go 1-5 in these games and play in some bowl game I’ve never heard of like the Avocados from Mexico Bowl (which would actually be sick if a. it was a bowl game and b. they played it in Azteca in Mexico City).


But, because I seemingly refuse to learn my lesson, I genuinely believe this Irish team can pull this off. The games won’t be fun to watch, my Saturdays will be filled with stress and a looming threat of heartbreak, but I’m all in on this team finding their way into the four-team playoff. Run the ball, eat up clock, the defense will bend not break. It all starts this weekend with USC.


Wake up the fucking echoes.


NLCS Game 1: Some Dude Vs. Jose Quintana

So as of 11:00 AM Central Time, it looks like we’re going with Jose Quintana to start game one of the NLCS. I’m conflicted. I’m sure some of the takes are “Lackey is a battle tested post season pitcher who knows how to win the big game,” but to be honest, that’s not at all where my minds at. This is where my mind’s at:

John Lackey.png
“I said dressing on the side!”

For a lack of a better word, dude kinda sucks. Not at baseball obviously, but he’s just kind of a dick. That’s the guy I want taking the mound for me in 8 short hours. The 15 year vet with three rings who is being told he’s not good enough to start a game in the postseason. I can 100% imagine John in his hotel room staring at himself in the mirror quietly saying “oh I’m not starting this post season Joe? Is that right?” while slowing thumbing the sharp blade of a steel knife, not because he’d ever do anything with it, but just because he wants to know what the pain would feel like as he finally opened himself up to the world where he can literally drink the blood of his doubters. To be honest I haven’t looked at match-ups at all (clearly, that’s not what we do here), there’s a good chance Q makes way more sense. Hell, there’s a good chance Q pitches far, far better than Lackey. But if you want to galvanize a team right now, a team that has needed two starters twice so far this post season, I want to see Crazy Joe Davola staring down Chris Taylor when the Dodgers come up to bat in the bottom of the first.

Either way, in Joe we trust (unless Happ continues to ride the bench while Jason Heyward to record 5 outs in 4 at bats). We’re not in our 3rd straight NLCS after making 3 in 50 years for nothing. Cubs in 7.


P.S. Clayton Kershaw? More like, Clayton “we’re worse off” when he pitches in a postseason game

Meet Your New Browns Starting QB *sighs deeply* Kevin Hogan!

NFL – The Cleveland Browns have changed quarterbacks. Again.

The team announced Kevin Hogan will start Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans in place of rookie DeShone Kizer.

“I’ve made the decision to start Kevin this week,” Hue Jackson said in a statement Wednesday. “We’ve liked what Kevin has been able to do within our offense when he’s been in there and he will start on Sunday because that’s what we feel is best for our team at this point in time. This does not change the way we feel about DeShone going forward. He has worked extremely hard and still very much has a bright future. Right now, it’s better for him and his development to back up Kevin.”

“I’m so fucking scared right now!” – Kevin Hogan playing football, me watching Kevin Hogan play football.

Ahh the Browns changing their starting QB, a fall tradition unlike any other (because no other team has to do this, ever). Yes, it may be hard to believe coming from such a storied franchise, but the Browns are unhappy with their 21 year old rookie’s performance up to date, and are switching to their savvy veteran* quarterback. Just in time too, I might add, because I’ve got a real good feeling this Browns team may just rip off 11 wins in a row!

In all honesty, I don’t really hate this move. Actually, let me rephrase. On the scale of emotions I use to rate the Browns’ decision that starts don’t hate and ends at a self-inflicting harm level of despise, I don’t hate this move. The Browns play the Texans this week in a game that has a shocking amount of levels to it.

This offseason, the Browns took Brock Osweiler and his ridiculous salary off the Texans’ book along with their 2018 second round pick, which are now so prevalent in Cleveland that they are used as a form of local currency in the city. The Texans used this as an opportunity to dump Osweiler’s salary and pick a proven winner, Deshaun Watson, to be their quarterback of the future. The Browns then later cut Osweiler, still have to pay him the money owed to him, and drafted Kizer to start who is now of course benched.

If Kizer plays in this game, all we’ll hear all game is how sick Browns fans must be that we didn’t draft Watson, and most likely we’ll probably still hear these comparisons even with Kizer on the bench. Even though Watson is throwing to Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller and Kizer is throwing to Seth DeValve and Ricardo Louis, announcers will mention how Watson is “a proven winner” as he inevitably torches the Browns’ secondary. By not playing Kizer, Jackson hopefully will save us some of this pain, although to be a Browns fan is to be one who feels pain all the time.

So, let’s meet the Browns 28th different starting QB since 1999, Kevin Hogan!

Name: Kevin Hogan

Alma Mater: Stanford

Years Experience: 2

Mobile?: He’s an 80 speed in Madden 18 so I guess so.

Handsome?: …eh?


Concerning Fact: When you type in “Kevin Hogan” to Google Images, the fourth option that comes is his throwing motion, and I definitely see why…


One scout even wrote, “God his mechanics are terrible.” Great!

Hogan definitely throws a weird ball, but he’s a smart QB that has looked a lot better than Kizer has in most spots this year. My hope is that Kizer will pay attention to how Hogan reads his progressions and makes decisions on when/where to throw the ball. My expectation, however, is that Hogan tears his ACL in the second quarter and the 0-16 bound season is right back on track.

Cleveland Browns football baby, catch the fever!

*second year 2016 fifth round pick