Will third time be the charm for Notre Dame against BC?

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Will third time be the charm for Notre Dame against BC?

By JJ Stankevitz
CSN Chicago

The last 20 years have produced three legitimate championship-contending Notre Dame teams. The first two had those hopes dashed with losses to Boston College, with BC besting a pair of undefeated Irish teams in 1993 and 2002.

This year, though, may be a different story. The Irish have played markedly better away from South Bend than at Notre Dame Stadium, with an average margin of victory on the road and at neutral sites of 28 compared to 4.6 at home. Nobody around the team seems to know why, but that's certainly a point in Notre Dame's favor heading into Saturday's game at Boston College.

Notre Dame's offense, too, looks like it might finally be starting to click. Everett Golson struggled through the first three quarters against Pittsburgh, but engineered a 14-point fourth-quarter comeback in what turned out to be a miraculous win for the Irish last weekend. DaVaris Daniels -- son of former NFL defensive end Phillip Daniels -- may finally be taking a step forward and Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and George Aktinson III comprise a talented trio of running backs.

Defensively, Manti Te'o has garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy hype as a linebacker, something that's pretty well unheard of. He won't win the award, but he'll likely join Ndamukong Suh as the only exclusively defensive players to earn a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist. Te'o is the emotional and physical leader of a suffocating defense, without which Notre Dame wouldn't be close to the 9-0 record they're currently sporting.

Stephon Tuitt is closing in on breaking Justin Tuck's single-season sack record at Notre Dame, and if he's leading the charge to pressure Chase Rettig, BC will have a tough time generating offense. Pittsburgh had success against the Irish last weekend largely on the ground and through a mix of screen passes, but BC doesn't have a running back the caliber of Ray Graham, so that Notre Dame's coming off a down week may not stand as a major reason for optimism.

But stranger things have happened in this series, and while the BC teams of 1993 and 2002 were better than this year's squad, that history is certainly in the back of the collective mind of Notre Dame fans. The 1993 game stands out, though, as Notre Dame was coming off a massive win over Charlie Ward's No. 1 Florida State squad. They were one win away from having a shot at a title in their bowl game, and lost 41-39 to BC.

"There was no consoling," former Irish safety Jeff Burris recalled Friday. "It was the complete opposite we have experienced the week before, obviously, when we were on the top of the world. And now you feel like you just let the world down. I honestly can't tell you I remember a word then-coach Lou Holtz said because I was so heartbroken."

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – The Bruins simply weren’t ready to play on Thursday night when the puck was dropped against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

They fell down quickly by a 2-0 score, had a couple of completely inept power plays in the first period that sucked all the game’s momentum away from them and received some subpar goaltending from Anton Khudobin on the way to a 4-2 loss to the lowly Avs. About the only B’s person above reproach in this one was David Pastrnak after scoring a pair of goals in the second period to get Boston back into the game, but it all fell short in a very frustrating, lackadaisical loss to a Western Conference team that isn’t very good. 

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Needless to say B’s coach Claude Julien wasn’t too happy after a loss where the Bruins might have had more success with a smarter approach to holding the puck. 

“There were a lot of problematic things [in the loss]. No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period, and failed to do that. They’ve got to be better,” said Julien. “We needed some saves tonight, and we didn’t get them. [Anton Khudobin] has got to be better. 

“A lot of things here that we can be better at, and take responsibility [for]. But at the same time, you got to move on here.  It’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”

Clearly it was about a lacking group effort when dissecting the loss, and the minus-3 for David Krejci on Thursday night marked back-to-back negative performances from the playmaking Czech center in big spots. The goaltending was shoddy with Anton Khudobin allowing four goals on 22 shots for Colorado, and unable to make plays on a couple of Colorado shots from outside the painted area that built up the Avs lead in the first place. 

But it was also very much about the inability of the Bruins to generate consistent offense outside of David Pastrnak’s offensive burst in the second period, and the complete breakdown of the Boston power play in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struggled to enter the zone in their first PP possession of the game, and then allowed a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal after Torey Krug futilely dove at the blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The Krug misplay at the offensive blue line gave MacKinnon a clear path the net, and he buried a wrist shot past Khudobin to get the one-sided loss rolling. Beyond the costly mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, the Bruins looked sloppy and slow-reacting in their breakouts and more than willing to settle for outside perimeter shots.

That doesn’t exactly make for a winning combo even when it comes against a flawed, underachieving team like Colorado, and especially when it comes less than 24 hours after a hard-fought road game in Washington DC. 

“I think we were still sleeping there early in the game and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities. We couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brad Marchand, who picked up an assist on David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night on a perfect dish for the one-timer. “I think it was definitely a mental [block]. You’re able to battle through that physical fatigue. It was more the mental mistakes and not being prepared right off the hop of the start of the game. Again, that’s kind of where we lost it.”

The sleepwalking Bruins lost Thursday night’s valuable two points as soon as the opening puck was dropped against the Avalanche, of course, and the Bruins never got out of lollygag mode at a time when intensity should have been automatic. 

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs hold off Raiders 21-13 to take control of AFC West

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs hold off Raiders 21-13 to take control of AFC West

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Tyreek Hill had touchdowns receiving and on a punt return, Kansas City's defense made life miserable for Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, and the Chiefs beat the Raiders 21-13 on a frigid Thursday night to take control of the AFC West.

Charcandrick West also had a touchdown run for the Chiefs (10-3). They moved into a first-place tie with Oakland (10-3) but holds the tiebreaker with two wins over their longtime divisional rival.

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