GROBBER’S NFL WEEK THREE PICKS

AFC: Den over BALT/JAX over Tenn, MIA over Oak
NFC:ATL over N.orl/Dal over SEAT
INT-CONF GAMES: CAR over Cin/KC over S.fran/PHIL over iNDY/NYGiants over HOUST/ LAR over LA C
THURS NIGHT:CLEV over NY Jets
MON NIGHT: TB over Pitt
NFC NORTH GAMES: G.Bay over WASH/MINN over BuffNY Giants over DET/ Bears over ARIZ
Teams in ALL CAPS are HOME TEAMS

Hawks drop Pre Season opener to Jackets 4-1

The Blackhawks started the Pre Season with a 4-1 loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus. They struck first just 53 seconds into the game when Alexandre Fortin took a pass from Dominik Kahun and fired a wrister through the five-hole of JF Berube. From there, the Blue Jackets took over.Columbus scored the next two goals of the opening period with Zac Dalpe redirecting a Ryan Murray slap shot at 12:13 for the equalizer. Cam Ward was screened by Boone Jenner on a power play later in the period and Alexander Wennberg’s shot fired through traffic and past the goalie’s blocker for the 2-1 lead.The fast-paced game stayed relatively even through a scoreless middle frame, but in the third, the Blue Jackets built on their lead. Cam Atkinson pulled the puck away from Philipp Kurashev in the high slot and rifled a shot past Collin Delia just 36 seconds into the third.The Blue Jackets made it 4-1 late in the third with some good work down low followed by a shot from the left-wing circle by Liam Foudy.The Blackhawks clearly wanted a good look at their 2018 eighth-overall pick because Adam Boqvist jumped right into things, leading all players – from both teams – with 7:32 time on ice in his first NHL exhibition period. There was no wading into the water in this one for the 18-year-old defenseman. He’d finish the game with more than 18 minutes of ice time. In similar news, 2017 first-round pick Henri Jokiharju was a bit of a workhorse, playing 23:03, which led all Blackhawks skaters. In the second period, Blake Hillman broke his stick on an attempted slap shot, which resulted in a rush the other way. Ward made a huge point-blank save on Murray to prevent the Blackhawks from going down by two. The veteran netminder finished his night with 13 saves on 15 shots in just under 30 minutes of action.The Hawks leader in shots came from the blueline. Erik Gustafsson fired the puck on net seven times through three periods. His defensive partner Brandon Davidson, who is in camp on a PTO, drew some praise from Joel Quenneville and some players in the dressing room.
The Hawks have their second of three Pre Season games Thursday night against the Red Wings in Detroit.

Bears OK in 4th quarter- beat Seahawks.

Khalil Mack once again put on the sort of havoc-wreaking show the Bears envisioned when they traded for the superstar pass rusher.Even better for them, they came away with the victory this time.Mack had one of six sacks against Russell Wilson, Prince Amukamara returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown and the Bears beat the Seattle Seahawks 24-17 Monday night to give coach Matt Nagy his first career victory.Mack sprinted out of the tunnel to a neat ovation prior to his first appearance at Soldier Field since a blockbuster trade from Oakland just over two weeks ago. That deal happened after he held out the entire offseason and preseason seeking a contract extension from the Raiders rather than play under the final year of his rookie contract. The Bears gave him a six-year, $141 million extension that guarantees $90 million – the richest deal ever for an NFL defensive player.Mack also had the crowd roaring with a strip-sack in the first half, smacking the ball out of Wilson’s hand as he wound up to pass, and he consistently pressured the quarterback. It was more of the same from last week, when he had a strip-sack and interception return for a TD at Green Bay, except there was one key difference.The Bears came out on top after blowing a 20-point lead against a hobbled Aaron Rodgers in a loss to the Packers.

”That’s a great feeling,” Mack said. ”We took it over the top.”

Amukamara jumped the route on a pass intended for Rashaad Penny near midfield for his first career touchdown, making it 24-10 with 6:37 left. It was his first interception since 2015 with the New York Giants.Danny Trevathan then stripped Wilson with his second sack of the game. The Bears’ Leonard Floyd recovered the fumble, and the Bears hung on after blowing a 20-point lead in a season-opening loss to a hobbled Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

”I’m just really looking forward to the future of this team and seeing how we respond not only to tough losses like Green Bay, but how do we respond to a good win for us,” said Nagy, who replaced the fired John Fox. ”Sometimes those are just as hard.”

The Seahawks (0-2) lost for just the second time in nine Monday night games under coach Pete Carroll.Wilson has been sacked six times in each game this season. With the Bears applying constant pressure and his receivers struggling to get open, the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback completed 22 of 36 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.Mitchell Trubisky was 25 of 34 for 200 yards. The No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, Trubisky threw touchdown passes to Trey Burton on the Bears first possession and rookie Anthony Miller early in the fourth quarter. But he was also intercepted two times by Shaquill Griffin – on a deep ball that was underthrown and on another throw tipped at the line.The Bears presented longtime linebacker Brian Urlacher with his Ring of Excellence for being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Cats blow big halftime lead, lose to Akron

Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)

EVANSTON—Entering the game, Terry Bowden was confident his players believed they could win.Kato Nelson tossed two touchdown passes, Alvin Davis returned two interceptions for touchdowns, and Akron rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 39-34 victory over Northwestern on Saturday night.Nelson was 17 for 28 for 277 yards and added 37 yards rushing. Kwadarrius Smith had six receptions for 90 yards and Andrew Williams had 85 yards on three catches for Akron (2-0).Clayton Thorson completed 33 of 52 passes for a career-high 383 yards with three TDs for Northwestern (1-2), but threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on a strip-sack in the second half that resulted in Akron scores.Jeremy Larkin added 82 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 22 carries for the Wildcats.

”We shot ourselves in the foot,” Thorson said. ”I was responsible for three of their TDs. You can’t have that.

”I think everyone on our team played well enough to win and I didn’t.”

The win was Akron’s first over a Big Ten team since the program moved up to 1-A (FBS) in 1987. The last win over a Big Ten opponent was a 12-6 win over Ohio St. in 1894.The Zips charged out of the locker room to score 23 points in the third quarter – including Davis’ 97-yard interception return for a TD – to pull within 28-26 entering the fourth.

”We always talk about hitting the nearest sideline when you catch an INT,” Davis said of his first interception. ”I was already headed that way and I saw all my blockers in front of me and I knew they would lead me to the promise land.”

Ulysees Gilbert III’s recovery of Thorson’s fumble in the end zone gave the Zips a 32-28 lead, their first of the game. A two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful.Akron put the game away when Davis hauled in a tipped pass from Thorson and returned it 50 yards for a TD and a 39-28 lead.

”I want to tip my hat to coach Bowden and his staff,” NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said. ”He had his guys ready to play.

With a 21-yard TD pass to Cameron Green with seven seconds left in the first half, Thorson became NU’s all-time leader in TD passes with 45. He had been tied with Brett Basanez (2002-05) and Len Williams (1990-93).The Zips rallied for the win despite a slew of mistakes – a poor snap on a punt and 15 penalties – to set up NU scores. But three defensive scores in the second half will make up for a lot of mistakes. ”We made enough mistakes in the first half not to win the game,” Bowden said, ”but we came through.”

The Wildcats have dropped two straight following a nine-game winning streak and looked awful in both, especially in the second half on Saturday. The offense remains inconsistent and the defense struggled in the second half. They have an open date next week to work out the kinks before a big test against Michigan

Illini see fourth quarter collapse at Soldier Field

Illinois Fighting Illini

For the second straight week, South Florida found a way to erase a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit against a Power Five school.Blake Barnett threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to Darnell Salomon and South Florida rallied from 12 points down to defeat Illinois 25-19 on Saturday.Barnett was 23 of 40 for 411 yards passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and Jordan Cronkrite ran for 136 yards and a score for the Bulls (3-0).Trailing 19-7 early in the fourth quarter, Barnett cut the Illinois lead with a 14-yard pass to Salomon to make it 19-14. Two possessions later, Barnett found a leaping Randall St. Felix for a 55-yard catch, which set up a 22-yard field goal from Coby Weiss with 7:47 left. After another South Florida stop, Barnett connected with Salomon from 50 yards to score with 2:24 left to give the Bulls a 25-19 lead.Last week, the Bulls scored 21 unanswered in the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech.South Florida coach Charlie Strong wasn’t thrilled with the way the Bulls began the game.The Illini couldn’t score on its final drive thanks to a sack by Tyrone Barber at the South Florida 25 with six seconds left. Freshman quarterback M.J. Rivers II threw the ball out of the end zone as time expired.Illinois coach Love Smith was impressed with his team despite the loss. Last season, they suffered a 47-23 defeat at the hands of the Bulls.

”We’ve come a long way. Last year we played South Florida, we weren’t really competitive,” Smith said. ”This year is completely different game. I thought the guys came out strong. … We had some critical mistakes that allowed them to win the football game.”

Chase McLaughlin converted a field goal from 52 yards to give Illinois a 16-7 halftime lead.After a shaky first possession, Mike Epstein scored on a 43-yard touchdown run on Illinois’ third play from scrimmage. Epstein rushed for 113 yards on 19 carries.South Florida, which scored 49 points in a win against Georgia Tech last, week, answered with a 75-yard drive. Cronkrite went in from the 3 to tie it at 7, but the Illini defense held for the rest of the half and forced interceptions by Jartavius Martin and Del’Shawn Phillips, which set up field goals by McLaughlin.McLaughlin connected again from 41 yards, banging off the right upright, capping a 10-play, 53-yard drive late in the third quarter to extend the lead to 19-7.Rivers, in his first career start as quarterback, was 20 of 29 for 168 yards passing for Illinois (2-1). Rivers relieved A.J. Bush Jr., who was injured in the win against Western Illinois.The Illini played a home game at Soldier Field for the fourth time in school history. The game attracted a small crowd with empty seats in the west side upper level.

”When you go on the road, you’ll never know what the crowd will be,” Smith said. ”We didn’t play at Memorial Stadium today for a home game. I know that the fans that showed up, we heard them.”

Smith was back in a familiar place, returning to the sideline where he guided the Bears to a 2006 NFC Championship. Smith was also backed by his former player and newly inducted Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, who was in attendance. It was like old times for Smith, who saw his team thoroughly dominate South Florida on defense and special teams in the first half, a staple of his mid-2000 Bears teams.

Irish still flat, but hold off Vandy

SOUTH BEND—On a day when No. 8 Notre Dame’s offense remained a work in progress, the Fighting Irish got another big play from its defense to hold off upset-minded Vanderbilt in a 22-17 victory Saturday.Safety Jalen Elliott knocked the ball loose from Vanderbilt receiver Kalija Lipscomb with 1:07 remaining to give Notre Dame a fourth-down stop against the Commodores. Last week, Elliott had a pair of interceptions in 3-0 Notre Dame’s win over Ball State.

”I’m proud of the effort and the way we competed,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ”We’re trying to find our identity on offense. We’re far from where we want to be on the offensive line and as an offense. Our defense is good but not a great defense yet. But there are a lot of positives to take from this.”

Kyle Shurmur threw for 326 yards and one touchdown for Vanderbilt (2-1), rallying his team back from a 16-3 halftime deficit. His fourth-and-4 pass from the Notre Dame 31 to Lipscomb, who caught a game-high 11 passes for 89 yards, was grabbed by the receiver at the Irish 11.Vandy managed just a last-play field goal in the first half by Ryley Guay to go into the locker room trailing 16-3.Vanderbilt finished with 420 yards to 380 for the Irish, who forced three turnovers. Notre Dame, which entered the game 104th in rushing offense at 124.5 yards per game, finished with 245 on the ground.

”That’s an SEC team and we ran well today,” Kelly added.

Tony Jones Jr. finished with 118 yards on 17 carries for Notre Dame (3-0). He also caught two passes for 56 yards.

”I feel like I’m in high school again, getting a lot of carries,” Jones said.

Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who had 297 passing yards but three interceptions in the 24-16 victory against 34 1/2-point underdog Ball State, threw for 122 yards and added 84 yards on the ground, including a 13-yard scramble for a touchdown.Wimbush was not sacked and did not commit a turnover.

”I think we’re still trying to find our identity,” Wimbush said of offense. ”We fought play in and play out.”

Notre Dame got a 2-yard TD pass from backup quarterback Ian Book to tight end Nic Weishar early in the fourth quarter for a 22-10 lead.

”We have to keep our foot on the pedal for all four quarters,” Wimbush added.

The Commodores couldn’t get anything on the ground early against the defense coordinated by Clark Lea, a former Vanderbilt fullback. They finished with 27 yards on 11 carries in the first half and trailed 16-3. For the game, Vandy had 94 yards rushing.After a strong start with 161 total yards while taking a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, the Irish struggled over the next two, totaling 111 with just 25 yards in the third quarter as Vanderbilt closed the deficit to 16-10.With Notre Dame leading 13-0 midway through the second quarter, Vanderbilt had its first good drive of the first half ended on a weird play that resulted with Irish corner Justin Love recovering the football in the end zone.Justin Yoon, who started his football career as an eighth-grader at Nashville’s Harding Academy, kicked three first-half field goals (26, 33 and 46 yards) to pass Craig Hentrich (1989-92) and become the school’s all-time leading placekicking scorer with 297 points. He did miss a short field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter that would have made the lead eight.

GROBBER’S NFL WEEK TWO PICKS

AFC: LA Chargers over BUFF/ TENN over Hou/ NYJ over Mia/ JAX over N.Eng/ K.City over PITT/ DENV over Oak
NFC: Car over ATL/ Phil over TB/ LAR over Ariz
INT-CONF GAMES: WASH over Ind/N.ORL over Cleve
THURS NIGHT: Balt over CIN
SUN NIGHT: DAL over NY Giants
NFC NORTH GAMES: Minn over GB/ SF over Det/ BEARS over Seat(Mon Night)
Teams in ALL CAPS are HOME TEAMS

Bears blow 20-0 lead, lose in Green Bay despite Rodgers getting injured.

GREEN BAY—The Bears found a way to barf up a 20-0 lead for the first time since 1992(lost 21-20 at Minnesota).Aaron Rodgers’ knee hurt. His arm was just fine.The hobbling two-time NFL MVP threw three touchdown passes in the second half after returning from a knee injury, and the Green Bay Packers overcame a 20-point deficit for a thrilling 24-23 win over the Bears on Sunday night.After putting heat on Rodgers BEFORE he was injured, the Bears ceased putting pressure on Rodgers in ther second half,and promply blew the lead.Rodgers, who was carted off in the first half, connected with receiver Randall Cobb for a catch-and-run through the secondary for a 75-yard touchdown and the go-ahead score with 2:13 left in the game.Nick Perry sacked the Bears’ Mitchell Trubisky on fourth-and-10 with 58 seconds to complete the comeback.The Bears defense featuring newly acquired star linebacker Khalil Mack dominated until the third quarter. Mack had a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown against backup quarterback DeShone Kizer in the second quarter.A gimpy Rodgers returned in the second half and finally figured out the Bears. He also found Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison for touchdown passes.

”Felt something in it. I had a hard time putting weight on it. (The doctor) and I had a conversation,” Rodgers said of his knee. ”We did the tests. I told him I was going back.”

Add this game to Rodgers’ already lengthy career highlight reel. He finished 20 of 30 for 286 yards.It was Rodgers’ first regular-season home game since Sept. 28 against the Bears. He was limited to seven games in 2017 because of a collarbone injury.Mack nearly stole the show. He also stripped the ball for a turnover in the red zone off Kizer in the second quarter. Mack made an immediate impact in his first game since the Bears acquired the premier pass rusher in a blockbuster deal with the Oakland Raiders.The Bears led 20-0 at one point and their defense dominated until the second half.Then Rodgers returned, and the Packers’ defense held the Bears in check.Green Bay scored 17 unanswered points at one point.

”You know we talked about finishing and we didn’t do that,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. NO KIDDING!Rodgers said he plans on playing next week against Minnesota.

Irish overcome flat effort to beat Ball State 24-16

SOUTH BEND—Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly fell on his sword after his eighth-ranked Fighting Irish struggled offensively against Ball State in what many assumed would be a tuneup game.

”I obviously didn’t do a good enough job getting them up to play at the level they need to play,” Kelly said. ”Ball State did a great job coming into this game and doing what it needed to do. Their preparation was great, their coaching was better.”

On the scoreboard, it was a 24-16 victory for Notre Dame. But it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pretty.The Irish (2-0), coming off an emotional 24-17 victory over Michigan, looked lackluster against the Mid-American Conference foe whose campus in Muncie is a 2 1/2-hour drive away. The Cardinals (1-1) also played nothing like the 34 1/2-point underdogs they were labeled in the schools’ first meeting in football.Junior strong safety Jalen Elliott picked off Ball State quarterback Riley Neal twice – the first interceptions by a Notre Dame safety in the last 14 games – and the Irish turned them into a pair of rushing touchdowns of 31 and 1 yards by junior Tony Jones Jr. It gave the Irish a 21-6 lead in the third quarter, but Ball State wasn’t done.

”Hats off to Ball State,” Notre Dame linebacker Drue Tranquill said after making nine stops and securing the victory by recovering an onside kick with 1:30 remaining. ”They came here and competed.”

Notre Dame outgained Ball State 414-349 but the Cardinals ran off 97 plays to Notre Dame’s 72 and controlled the clock for 8:44 more than the Irish.Following a 46-yard field goal by Justin Yoon that gave the Irish a 24-6 lead going into the fourth quarter, Nolan Givan caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Neal, who threw for 180 yards but completed just 23 of 50 passes. A 49-yard field goal by Ball State’s Morgan Hagee, his third of the game, closed out the scoring.Junior James Gilbert rushed for 72 yards for Ball State, which outgained Notre Dame on the ground, 169-117. Sophomore Jafar Armstrong led the Irish with 66 yards, including a 42-yard scamper up the middle in the first quarter that he followed with a 1-yard scoring run two plays later. Jones finished with 61 yards.The Cardinals’ 3-4 defense frustrated senior Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who threw for 297 yards but finished with minus 7 yards rushing as Ball State registered four sacks and picked off three of his passes.

Illini overcome early struggles and beat W.Ill 34-14

Illinois Fighting IlliniImage result for WESTERN ILLINOIS LEATHERNECKS LOGO

 
 

CHAMPAIGN—Illinois beat Western Illinois 34-14 Saturday, but the victory came with a price.Illinois quarterback AJ Bush injured his left leg in the first quarter and didn’t return. M.J. Rivers finished the game, providing a needed spark for an Illinois offense that’s had trouble getting started early in both games this season.While Bush’s injury didn’t appear serious, Illinois coach Lovie Smith declined to provide specifics.

”I’m coach Smith, not Dr. Smith,” he said. ”We’ll see what the doctor says on Monday.”

For the second week in a row, the Illinois offense has been ineffective in the first half. Smith couldn’t explain the team’s slow, mistake-plagued starts.Rivers was 9 of 16 for 105 yards and two touchdowns for Illinois (2-0). Mike Epstein rushed for 105 yards on eight carries. Reggie Corbin ran for 63 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries.Sean McGuire went 24 for 36 for 276 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for Western Illinois (0-2). Tony Tate rushed for 41 yards to lead the Leathernecks.Illinois also lost wide receiver Edwin Carter, injured while making his second touchdown catch of the game. Carter was seeing more playing time Saturday because of the season-ending injury to star receiver Mike Dudek last week.McGuire was sharp early in the game, but the Illini adjusted at halftime and McGuire was forced to scramble often to avoid pressure. One of his two interceptions came as he was chased from the pocket. Michael Marchese intercepted for Illinois and returned it 41 yards to the 3. Reggie Corbin ran it in on the next play for Illinois.While coach Jared Elliott’s Leathernecks went to the pass often throughout the game, the Illini kept the ball mostly on the ground because of windy conditions.

”We didn’t plan on passing much in the first half, but we had some problems getting the run going,” Smith said. ”But once we got our running game going, it opened up the passing game for us.”

Carter’s second touchdown catch gave Illinois its first lead of the game early in the second quarter, but it was a costly catch. Rivers faded back, threw high into the end zone and Carter had to leap to catch it. He was hit hard just below the knees and did a complete flip in the air, landing on his head. He held onto the ball.Chase McLaughin’s 54-yard field goal for Illinois early in the third quarter was the third-longest field goal in school history. It was the longest Illini field goal since 2012.