Notre Dame’s whoopsie, plus the end of a USWNT era

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Good morning! Are you doing it for the wins today, or the clicks?

This Sport Has Everything: CFB is really back

College football’s first Actually Big Weekend of the season? Delivered.

No. 6 Ohio State beat No. 9 Notre Dame, 17-14, in a classic that will be even more memorable because of these two moments:

  • In the final seconds, the Buckeyes pounded the winning touchdown in from 1 yard out — right into the spot where Notre Dame’s 11th defender probably should’ve been. The Irish had only 10 dudes on the field for that play and the previous snap. Playing defense on hardcore mode.
  • Because all of college football is fortunately pro wrestling now, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day turned a random Lou Holtz comment about teams being “more physical than Ohio State” into a ferocious victory speech.

The Buckeyes buffed their resume with one of the year’s best road wins before conference play even begins in earnest, and right now, it’s harder to call them a finesse team. But there was so much going on elsewhere, we have to keep moving.

This week in Deion: Speaking of the pro wrestling-est team, will Sanders tone things down, now that Colorado has lost to Oregon, 42-6, and Ducks coach Dan Lanning has emerged as the Pac-12’s other elite microphone man? No, Sanders will never tone anything down. Next question.

Biggest head-turner: Shutting out Iowa is technically impressive, but not exactly mind-blowing. However, scoring 31 points against Iowa? While playing on soggy grass? Okay, Penn State is for real, and the battle for the Big Ten East feels even better than we’d hoped it would.

The Left Behind Championship: Washington State and Oregon State have a sudden kinship as the two teams soon to be abandoned by the rest of their conference brethren. In a show of solidarity, WSU’s band played OSU’s fight song, and soon the victorious, 4-0 Cougs celebrated their new Pac-2 championship with a Step Brothers meme.

History: Haley Van Voorhis, a safety for Division III’s Shenandoah, became the first woman to play a position besides kicker in an NCAA football game, recording a quarterback hurry in the win over Juniata.

New mandatory celebration: Beat Cincinnati, and chug a can of Skyline chili. Thank you for this, Oklahoma.

That’s not even close to everything. Flip the channel to the Until Saturday newsletter for more all week.

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Joosep Martinson / Getty Images

Insider Info: Another legend departs

We said goodbye to Julie Ertz, longtime USWNT stalwart, on Thursday. Tonight brings a doozy: Megan Rapinoe plays her final match in a USWNT kit at 5:30 p.m. ET against South Africa.

This is what the end of an era looks like.

It was a period of American soccer defined by greatness that, on the big stage, ended with a whimper in the World Cup. And yet it should not mar the pair’s staggering accomplishments, or the impact the entire generation had on women’s soccer.

Meg Linehan and Steph Yang are on site for tonight’s match. They were kind enough to give the Pulse some insights into the moment and, oh yeah, the actual soccer happening:

How would you describe the vibe around this weekend? I thought you both put it nicely in your most recent podcast that these two sendoffs could not be more different and, yet, both players are at peace. Am I off?

Meg: These two games serve multiple functions for the team, so the vibe is a little stranger than usual. This isn’t a Victory Tour, for the first time in a long time. We have the send-offs for two major players in Ertz and Rapinoe, but there’s also a lot of new and returning faces who are here trying to earn a more permanent spot ahead of the Olympics. There’s an interim head coach, so there’s also this limbo when it comes to tournament preparation, even though the turnaround is so tight. And coming off that World Cup exit, these players are going to want to prove something. All of that’s happening at the same time, so it really does feel — from the outside at least — that they’re trying to keep it business as usual, but that mission is hard simply because of everything happening all at the same time.

What’s the first play or moment you think of when each player comes to mind?

Steph: Rapinoe has had many iconic moments as a goalscorer or assisting iconic goals, that it’s easy to close your eyes and picture her standing there with her arms outstretched, or hear her voice belt “Born in the USA” into a field mic. It’s a little bit harder for Ertz, who for the entirety of her career has operated in less flashy positions, often doing the thankless, dirty defensive work as a center back or midfielder. Perhaps an image that evokes Ertz, the tireless hardass, comes from a May 2019 friendly — coincidentally also against South Africa — when she picked up a mouth injury in the first half and simply stuffed a square of gauze into her mouth to continue playing. Surely it’s disconcerting to see someone running at you with a bloody piece of gauze in their mouth.

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This might be hard, but I have to ask with her goodbye coming tonight: Where does Rapinoe rank in the history of USWNT players? 

Steph: She’s a hard player to place in the USWNT pantheon because she’s done so much work both on and off the field. If you were to judge either category separately, she’d certainly be highly placed in both. On the field, Rapinoe’s peak was as an elusive, tricky winger who could drop service into the box with great pace and texture. Off the field, her constant advocacy for gender and racial equity while pushing against the strictures of U.S. Soccer has been genuinely boundary-breaking. And if we’re to judge by how a player left the sport compared to how she entered it, Rapinoe is one of the all-time greats.

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News to Know

NFL injury bug
A number of key developments on the NFL QB injury front:

NCAA to change marijuana policy?

An NCAA committee recommended that each division introduce and adopt legislation that would remove cannabinoids — the chemical substance derived from the cannabis plant — from the NCAA’s list of banned drug classes.

“The recommendation aims to recenter student-athlete health while recognizing membership opinions and the shifting cultural and legal landscapes surrounding cannabinoids,” a release announcing the recommendation said. Each of the three NCAA divisional governance structures will decide on the timing of discussing and adopting possible legislation.

Acuña’s unbelievable season

We’re not talking about Ronald Acuña Jr. enough. Seriously. He became the fifth member of MLB’s 40-40 club Friday, sure — but he’s also now the only member of the 40-50, 40-60 and soon-to-be 40-70(!) club. Sheesh. The other four members of the club? Rare company: José Canseco (1988), Barry Bonds (1996), Alex Rodriguez (1998) and Alfonso Soriano (2006).

We should be talking about Acuña so much we should be sick of talking about him, Brittany Ghiroli writes. And then we should talk about him some more.

More news

  • The Warriors are not expected to sign Dwight Howard or another veteran center ahead of training camp. Howard, who had a strong two-day visit with Golden State this week, is expected to discuss a potential return to the league with any other interested teams this week.
  • Aces star A’ja Wilson won WNBA Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. Is a second straight MVP award next?
  • Dodgers MVP candidate Mookie Betts set the MLB single-season record for RBIs by a leadoff hitter. But Acuña is close behind, because of course.

Pulse Picks

Richard Deitsch caught up with CBS NFL broadcaster Kevin Harlan.

Thirteen last-minute fantasy nuggets before you set your lineup. Dig in!

Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw remains focused on the next start, not what’s next, as retirement questions loom.

A key to the New York Liberty’s success? Their elite performance staff.

Chris Kamrani has the story of the ultimate college football road trip and why a sportswriter quit his job to take it.

The Clippers have a big hole at power forward. How can they fix it?

Orion Kerkering began this season in the Florida State League and now shares a clubhouse with big-league stars he played with only in “MLB The Show.”

LAFC, Union exemplify why it’s so hard to excel after making it to MLS Cup, Elias Burke writes.

(Photo: Matt Cashore / USA Today)

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