10/4/2012 4:30:00 AM Wednesday's roundup: LaHair's walkoff single ends worst Cubs season since 1966; Johnson hits 3 HRs as Sox beat Indians; A's sweep Rangers, win AL West; Cano's 6 RBIs help Yanks clinch AL East; Cabrera wins first Triple Crown since 1967; Colts move on without Pagano; plus, Manti Te'o, Pat Summitt
Cubs 5, Astros 4
CHICAGO (AP) - The Chicago Cubs' misery now stretches to 104 years and the Houston Astros will depart the National League with a whimper.
Obviously there's no winner in a season finale between a pair of 100-loss teams.
Bryan LaHair homered and hit the winning single in the ninth inning, and the Cubs beat the Astros 5-4 Wednesday in Houston's final game before switching to the AL next season.
In the first series between 100-game losers in the major leagues since 1962, LaHair homered in the second and broke a 4-all tie in the ninth against Hector Ambriz (1-1).
"I was pretty psyched up about today's game," LaHair said of his rare start. "I talked to my grandma last night and I wanted to get one more (home run) for her. Luckily, I did. It was a good feeling right there."
The 29-year-old LaHair held down the starting first base job through much of the first half after spending most of the previous nine seasons in the minors. His story reached its peak when LaHair was selected to the NL All-Star team, but his playing time dropped drastically once prospect Anthony Rizzo was called up in late June.
"To go through the adversity he's had to go through after having a great start, the All-Star game, then obviously losing a lot of playing time, it was a great finish to his year," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "The best way you can finish a season is be at home and have a walk-off win."
The Cubs, who last won a World Series in 1908, went 61-101 for their most losses since dropping 103 games in 1966.
"A lot of hard work was put in this year," LaHair said. "Unfortunately, the record didn't say that, but just to finish the season with a win, it's always fun to do that."
Carlos Marmol (3-3) pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the win.
Cubs starter Travis Wood allowed one run, three hits and five walks in 6 1/3 innings, giving up Carlos Corporan's RBI single in the first. Wood also chased Astros starter Edgar Gonzalez with a two-run single.
Houston went 55-107 and set a club record for losses with one more than last year. The Astros became the first team with 106 or more losses in consecutive seasons since the 1964-65 New York Mets.
Houston finished its NL tenure with 3,999 regular-season wins, 4,134 losses and five ties. The Astros are moving to the AL West next season, creating three divisions of five teams in each league.
The Astros were 16-25 under interim manager Tony DeFrancesco, who took over after Brad Mills was fired on Aug. 18. Washington third base coach Bo Porter already has been hired as Houston's manager for next season.
"It's going to be a game I'll always remember," DeFrancesco said of his last gig at the helm of the Astros. "I just went around to everybody and thanked them for everything they did. I appreciate it. They're ready to go home. It's been a long season."
Justin Maxwell hit a tying, three-run homer for Houston in the eighth off Shawn Camp.
Gonzalez gave up four runs, five hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings. Houston pitched 28 consecutive scoreless innings before LaHair's homer in the second.
Most of the Cubs' regulars were given the day off. The exception, Starlin Castro, became the first player in franchise history to play shortstop in all 162 games, and the first major leaguer to do it since Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins in 2007. Castro's 195 consecutive games played is the longest active streak in the NL.
White Sox 9, Indians 0
CLEVELAND (AP) - Sandy Alomar Jr.'s big week will end in a big day.
Alomar, who was named the Cleveland Indians interim manager when Manny Acta was fired on Sept. 27, will interview for the full-time position on Thursday. No one would blame him if his mind wandered during Wednesday night's 9-0 loss to Chicago in the season's final game, but Alomar maintained that wasn't the case.
"I'll have plenty of time to think about that," he said. "I'm looking forward to it and see how things go. I'm excited about it."
Alomar, who served as Acta's bench coach, believes he learned a lot in the last six games, in which the Indians went 3-3.
"I gained a ton of experience in six days," he said. "I'm kind of glad I got the opportunity to manage the team. This was a wonderful experience for myself. I learned a lot about what managing is all about."
Terry Francona, who managed Boston to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, will interview for the job Friday.
"I know that I cannot match Terry Francona's resume, but I believe I am ready for the job," Alomar said. "The Indians owe me nothing and if they decide to go another way, then that is their decision. I am happy to be considered."
Cleveland contended in the AL Central until going 5-24 in August - the worst month in the franchise's 112-year history, a collapse that cost Acta his job. The Indians finished 68-94 and in fourth place in the division.
If past success and experience are the top priorities, Francona is the front-runner. If Cleveland fans picked the new manager, Alomar, a six-time All-Star catcher with the Indians, would be a clear winner. The crowd of 18,093 chanted "Sandy, Sandy, Sandy" when he changed pitchers in the ninth inning, but Alomar is taking nothing for granted.
"I have not even sat in Manny's chair," he said. "When I use the manager's office, I sit on the couch. Coaches and players come in, it is the manager's office, and I am fine with people coming in and out of it."
Designated hitter Travis Hafner, likely playing his last game in an Indians uniform, had a single in four at-bats. He was given a warm ovation when he hit in the ninth inning and tipped his helmet as he stepped out of the box before popping up. Hafner, 35, has been plagued by injuries the last five years. The Indians hold a $13 million option on Hafner for next season, which the club surely won't pick up. The team likely will pay him a $2.7 million buyout.
"It's something I'll never forget," Hafner said of the fans' ovation. "This is a special moment to have the fans do that. I wanted to thank them. They've been great to me."
The game was a fitting ending for the Indians. Dan Johnson hit his first three homers of the season and the White Sox added two more. Gavin Floyd (12-11) gave up three hits over seven innings.
Johnson hit two two-run homers off David Huff (3-1). His 424-foot shot in the second inning was his first in more than a year. His second made it 7-0 in the fifth, two batters after Paul Konerko hit his 26th of the season.
It was Johnson's fifth career multihomer game and first time he hit three in a game. He's the first player to hit three in a game against Cleveland since Konerko in July 2009.
Dayan Viciedo hit his 25th homer, third in three nights and sixth against Cleveland in the ninth, followed by Johnson's third.
Chicago went 4-11 down the stretch to place second to Detroit after leading the AL Central by three games on Sept. 18. Huff gave up nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. Only three runs charged to him were earned. A throwing error by third baseman Chisenhall made Chicago's entire four-run fifth unearned.
Athletics 12, Rangers 5
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Oakland won the AL West title with another improbable rally in a season full of them, coming back from four runs down and a 13-game division deficit to stun two-time defending league champion Texas on Wednesday.
Josh Hamilton dropped a fly ball in center field for a two-run error that put the A's (94-68) ahead 7-5 in a six-run fourth inning.
While Hamilton's Rangers (93-69) are headed to the new one-game, wild-card playoff, the A's get some time off before opening the division series in their first postseason appearance since 2006.
The A's needed a sweep Texas and they delivered to win their first division crown in six years and 15th in all. They overcame a five-game deficit in the final nine days and took sole possession of the West's top spot for the first time this year.
Oakland's Coco Crisp hit a tying two-run double in the fourth against Derek Holland (12-7). Brandon Moss drove in three runs, including a two-run single in a four-run eighth.
Rookie Evan Scribner (2-0) allowed two hits and struck out two in three scoreless innings after replacing struggling starter A.J. Griffin.
Derek Norris homered leading off the eighth with his seventh homer and Oakland's major league-leading 112th since the All-Star break.
Yankees 14, Red Sox 2
NEW YORK (AP) - Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson each hit a pair of homers, powering the Yankees past the Red Sox for their 13th AL East title in 17 years.
In front of fans poised to party from the first pitch, the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the last-place Red Sox to win their second consecutive division crown. The championship was locked up by the seventh inning, when Baltimore's 4-1 loss at Tampa bay went final.
Cano tied a career high with six RBIs as New York secured home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. The Yankees will open on the road Sunday against the winner of Friday's wild-card game between Baltimore and Texas.
Cabrera wins first Triple Crown since 1967
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Only a precious few people will ever know exactly how it looked when Miguel Cabrera, one of baseball's reluctant superstars, finally celebrated history 45 years in the making.
Cabrera had slipped away to the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night, where he waited out the final moments in his bid for the Triple Crown. Once everything transpired, all the other possibilities played out, he could finally revel in the feat.
"It was like, everybody said to me it was unbelievable," said Cabrera, who was joined in the clubhouse by Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander and a few other teammates. "They were excited to see this, enjoy this, be a part of something big, and winning, I feel better."
Yes, the AL Central champs managed to beat the Kansas City Royals 1-0, but the outcome of the game was secondary to the true drama that unfolded on the field.
Cabrera became just the 15th player to win baseball's Triple Crown, joining an elite list that includes Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig. Cabrera topped the American League with a .330 batting average, 44 homers and 139 RBIs, becoming the first Triple Crown winner in the major leagues since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," he said. "I can't describe the feeling right now."
Cabrera's achievement wasn't assured until the Yankees pinch-hit for Curtis Granderson in their 14-2 rout of the Boston Red Sox. Granderson had homered twice to reach 43 for the year, tied with the Rangers' Josh Hamilton and one shy of Cabrera.
Cabrera went 0 for 2 against the Royals before leaving in the fourth inning to a standing ovation. He finished the regular season hitting four points higher than Angels rookie Mike Trout, his toughest competition for AL MVP. Cabrera was the runaway leader in RBIs.
"I am glad that he accomplished this while leading his team to the American League Central title," Yastrzemski said in a statement, pointing out that his Red Sox reached the World Series when he won one of baseball's most coveted titles.
The Tigers will have that chance when they open the postseason Saturday against Oakland.
"It was hard the last two days because everybody talked about it. I just had to focus, I had to go out there and do the job," Cabrera said. "The hardest part was to go out there and focus and win games. I said, 'If we win the division, everything would take care of itself.'"
The crowd at Kauffman Stadium gave Cabrera a standing ovation before he flied out in the first inning. He struck out in the fourth but remained in the game, allowing manager Jim Leyland to remove him with two outs to another standing ovation from thousands of appreciative fans.
Cabrera high-fived his teammates as he entered the Detroit dugout, and then walked back to the top step and waved his helmet, just as if he was celebrating at home.
"I would say without question he's enjoyed it. How could you not enjoy what he's done if you're a baseball player?" Leyland said. "I doubt very much, knowing him, that he necessarily enjoys all the extra attention, and all the extra conversations he's had to have. It's kind of out of his realm in personality, to be honest with you."
Cabrera's pursuit of history occurred largely in the dark, though, overshadowed by thrilling playoff races, the sheer enormity of the NFL - even the presidential election.
An event that in other years might dominate headlines has been mostly cast aside.
"The entire baseball world should be here right now," said Verlander, the reigning AL MVP, who may soon watch that award get handed off to his teammate.
Perhaps part of the void has to do with Cabrera's very nature.
He's not the boisterous sort, never one to crave attention. He would rather hang out with a couple of buddies than stand in front of a pack of television cameras, answering countless questions about what makes him one of the game's most complete hitters.
"He's not a talkative guy," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. "One, he doesn't speak English that well, but two, he lets his ability carry through."
It takes a special breed to hit for average, power and in clutch situations, which is why there have been so few players to achieve baseball's version of the Triple Crown.
Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez never accomplished it, failing to win the batting title, and countless other Hall of Fame players have fallen short of one of sport's rarest feats.
Commissioner Bud Selig called it "a remarkable achievement that places him amongst an elite few in all of baseball history. Miguel has long been one of the most accomplished hitters in the game, and this recognition is one that he will be able to cherish for the rest of his career."
To put it in perspective, consider horse racing's Triple Crown.
The last thoroughbred to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in the same year was Affirmed in 1978, more than a full decade after Yastrzemski's magical summer in Boston.
Whether it's on par with Johnny Vander Meer's consecutive no-hitters, Jack Nicklaus' 18 major championships in golf, Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak or Brett Favre's consecutive games streak at quarterback is open to interpretation, and perhaps some bar-room debate.
Those who have witnessed it firsthand certainly have their opinions.
"It's pretty amazing," said the Royals' Alex Gordon, who watched the drama unfold from his spot in left field. "Honestly, his numbers are like that every year. He has a great average, great home runs, great RBIs. He's a guy who can pull this off, and it's great for the game."
Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval said he was particularly proud that the Triple Crown would be accomplished by a fellow Venezuelan. Cabrera is from Maracay, along the Caribbean coast.
"I'm excited for the country and for the fans that support us every single day. It's a big deal in Venezuela right now," Sandoval said. "It's exciting, especially because of all the things that have happened in his career."
Yes, it seems that every fairytale these days carries a troublesome footnote.
In Cabrera's case, it stems from spring training last year, when he was involved in a drunken driving incident. According to authorities in St. Lucie County, Fla., Cabrera refused to cooperate, directed an obscene gesture at police and even dared them to shoot him.
The Tigers have been careful to keep him from having to discuss his personal issues, but by all accounts, Cabrera has been a model player ever since. This year, he is the Tigers' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player "who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement."
"This clubhouse wouldn't be quite as good without him," Leyland said.
While the Triple Crown has been decided, the MVP has not. Selected members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America vote for that award, with the winner announced in November.
On one hand, Cabrera has dominated the statistical categories favored by traditionalists, the ones that count toward the Triple Crown. On the other hand, Trout is being championed by new-school baseball thought, number crunchers who rely on obscure stats such as WAR (Wins Above Replacement), derived from several other measures designed to judge a player's overall contribution to a team.
"He's the best hitter in the game," Trout said of Cabrera. "I think his approach, the way he battles with two strikes - you leave one pitch over the plate that at-bat and he's going to hit it. He had an unbelievable year."
Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline said it would be "a shame" if Cabrera didn't win the league's most coveted award. Royals manager Ned Yost offered a similar sentiment.
"I think they're both fantastic players, tremendous players, both of them," Yost said, "but if Cabrera wins the Triple Crown, he has to be the MVP, absolutely."
Colts try to focus without Pagano
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Maybe taking a break from football was just what the Indianapolis Colts needed.
Two days after being told coach Chuck Pagano would be out indefinitely because of leukemia, the Colts went back to work.
There were the usual morning film sessions and team meeting, the normal afternoon practice and after listening to interim coach Bruce Arians' plea, there was a distinctly more upbeat attitude in the locker room. For the Colts, it was almost business as usual Wednesday.
"I think having yesterday off was good because it's the same routine as always," quarterback Andrew Luck said. "I am glad we got to come in Monday and practice and hear the news as a team rather than sitting around a house or an apartment thinking about it (during the bye weekend)."
Normalcy is the top priority right now in Indianapolis (1-2).
Players and most of the assistant coaches were stunned when Pagano didn't show up for Monday morning's scheduled team meeting, only to get the full explanation a few moments later from Indy's hierarchy.
Yes, Indianapolis tried to press on with its regular routine after that meeting, but it wasn't the same.
Arians met with Luck before that morning to ensure the lines of communication would remain open, and defensive players were surprised when Arians started cheering after they came up with a couple of turnovers late in Monday's afternoon practice.
Afterward, in a somber locker room, players repeatedly expressed concern about Pagano, and one player even suggested the best remedy might be getting away from football again - even after returning from a bye week - just to put the illness in perspective.
It certainly made a difference.
"Obviously, we know what's going on and there's no doubt everyone still has that in the back of our heads," defensive end Cory Redding said. "But this team has to move on. We have to go out there and do our job."
Arians is doing what he can to keep players cope with the circumstances and reinforce the message that nothing will change on the field.
He will be calling the offensive plays Sunday, defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will be making the defensive calls and the rest of the assistants will continue to do their jobs without taking additional responsibilities. In fact, Arians said he'd only spent about five minutes looking at tape of the Packers potent offense, giving that task to Manusky and his assistants.
And Arians, the longtime assistant who will be calling all of the shots for the first time in his NFL career Sunday, had a simple message for the team: Don't try to do too much Sunday against Green Bay.
"The one thing that I think we have to be very aware of is not getting overexcited, overhyped to try to do something extra. We don't need to do anything extra," Arians said. "We just need to play, coach every day like we have and prepared like we have and not get caught up in snot bubbles and tears. They don't beat anybody."
Some of the veterans understand because they've been through the emotional shockwaves of NFL life.
A few Colts players are still around from the days Tony Dungy's son committed suicide in 2005 and Reggie Wayne's brother was killed in a traffic accident in 2006. Center Samson Satele was playing in Oakland last season when Raiders owner Al Davis died, and Redding was mourning along with his ex-teammate, Baltimore receiver Torrey Smith, who lost his younger brother in a fatal motorcycle accident less than two weeks ago.
Those who been through other tragedies are now trying to pass those lessons along to a large group of young guys including Luck who acknowledged Wednesday that he's never been through anything quite like this.
"You have to keep your emotions under control," Redding said. "That's the way it is in any profession."
It won't be easy.
Pagano has been widely embraced by his new players despite holding the job for less than 10 months.
He is expected to be hospitalized six to eight weeks as he undergoes treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia, an illness in which the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells that interfere with healthy blood cells.
Moments after Monday's announcement, team owner Jim Irsay made this week's goal clear - beat the Packers (2-2) so the team could take a game ball to Pagano.
Arians worries the emotional quest to win one for Pagano could create an undue burden on players, something neither he nor Pagano want the team to be dealing with as they prepare for the Packers.
"I think more and more as the week progresses, the emphasis is going to be more and more on win this game for Chuck," Arians said. "Chuck doesn't want that."
Instead, Pagano and the Colts staff want these players to practice and play the way would Pagano has been preaching - a point that seemed to resonate during Tuesday's day off.
"There will be a little bit of a focus to try to not get too emotional," Luck said. "Coach Pagano wouldn't want us crying about him before the game. ... I don't think we will."
Bears' Marshall in awe of Hester
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) - Every time he sees Devin Hester operate, Brandon Marshall feels humbled. And the most recent performance really impressed him.
Hester made an impact on offense after asking to be more involved, coming through with an impressive touchdown catch to help the Chicago Bears beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-18 on Monday.
It was a good night for a record-setting return specialist who has never quite delivered the way the Bears hoped he would on offense. He has, however, been productive at times as a receiver, and when Marshall looks at Hester, he's in awe.
"I'm striving to be on his level," he said.
It sounds strange coming from a three-time Pro Bowl receiver with five straight seasons with more than 1,000 yards. After all, it was Marshall's arrival in a trade with Miami in the offseason that sent expectations soaring because it gave the Bears a No. 1 receiver and reunited Jay Cutler with his favorite target from Denver.
They believed that with defenses focusing on Marshall, there would be opportunities for other receivers. They also saw the potential to put up big numbers, to make opposing defenses miserable.
They did it in a season-opening win over Indianapolis and again against Dallas after struggling in a loss at Green Bay and a win over the Rams.
Hester, meanwhile, had been mostly a nonfactor on offense with two catches in the opener and none in the next two games. He let a high pass in the end zone go through his hands as he tried to make a leaping catch against St. Louis, but against Dallas he was targeted four times and wound up with three catches for 38 yards, none bigger than his 34-yard touchdown early in the third quarter.
"He's a Hall of Fame player, it's in the return game, but when you see greatness you have to humble yourself and really try to observe and see what he's doing to be great," Marshall said.
On the TD, Hester made a lunging catch with the defense keying on Marshall to extend the lead to 17-7.
"I felt if I could get more opportunities to make plays that I could make them," Hester said. "That's the most important thing about making plays is getting the opportunity to make them. Once you get the opportunities, you've got to take advantage of them. The more opportunities you get, the more plays you can make."
And he said offensive coordinator Mike Tice told him there would be chances in that game.
"That catch shows you what he's capable of doing," coach Lovie Smith said. "We'll continue to find ways to get him the ball."
The Bears envisioned Hester making big plays on offense when they started using him at the end of the 2007 season. They gave him a four-year contract extension through 2013 the following year with the idea that he would become a key contributor on offense. It hasn't quite worked out that way.
He has struggled at times to grasp the plays, and his production on special teams took a hit before it rebounded in recent years. But the Bears continue to use him on offense because of his potential for big plays.
"It's more on us getting him the ball and getting him involved like we did Monday night," Marshall said. "That was a step forward."
Hurd pleads not guilty to new drug charges
DALLAS (AP) - Former NFL receiver Sam Hurd pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a new indictment accusing him of trying to obtain cocaine and marijuana while he was out on bond awaiting trial on charges of trying to start a drug ring in the Chicago area.
The indictment filed last month is based on allegations that Hurd asked a cousin, Jesse Tyrone Chavful, to buy drugs. Chavful signed a guilty plea agreement Monday to one count of conspiracy to possess five or more kilograms of cocaine - documents in which Chavful said Hurd contacted him at his T-shirt shop in San Antonio and asked to "get him cocaine and marijuana."
According to the documents, Chavful said he set up a deal to purchase the drugs but was arrested.
Hurd's attorney, Jay Ethington, has said Chavful is lying, but Chavful's attorney, Laura Harper, said her client simply wanted to come clean.
Hurd entered his plea in federal court in Dallas, appearing in an orange jail uniform and standing next to Ethington. He's been in custody since August after failing two drug tests and the Chavful allegations surfaced.
Hurd's arrest during last year's NFL season shocked his teammates on the Chicago Bears. Authorities have accused him of trying to set up large-scale purchases of cocaine and marijuana - and accepting 1 kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of what he thought was cocaine from an undercover officer at a Chicago-area steakhouse.
Hurd allegedly told the officer he wanted to eventually buy 5 to 10 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 pounds of marijuana per week to distribute in the Chicago area. Agents arrested him outside the steakhouse.
Hurd was then cut by the Bears, months after signing a contract reportedly worth up to $5.15 million.
In prison, Hurd has been playing basketball and working out in hopes of one day playing football again, Ethington said after court Wednesday.
"Under the circumstances, he's doing a lot better than I would," Ethington said.
The San Antonio native played at Northern Illinois and spent five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys before signing with the Bears in 2011.
Hurd's co-defendant, Toby Lujan, has pleaded guilty. Lujan signed paperwork saying he told an informant for law enforcement about a potential drug buyer named "Sam" who played for the Bears.
U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis scheduled Hurd's trial for Dec. 3. Right now, Ethington said his intention was to prepare for trial.
"There's not going to be any plea discussions that I've heard of," Ethington said.
Notre Dame's Te'o playing through tragedy
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - The profile page on the Twitter account of Manti Te'o doesn't say he's a Notre Dame linebacker, that he's being mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate or that he's a Sports Illustrated cover boy.
Instead, it features a quote from "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas: "Life is a storm. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes."
Te'o has been through a storm.
His maternal grandmother, Annette Santiago, died in Hawaii after a long illness on Sept. 11 and his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died in California of leukemia several hours later. Te'o didn't miss a practice that week, choosing to be with his teammates as the Irish prepared for their game at then-No. 10 Michigan State, even though coach Brian Kelly told him he didn't need to be there.
Te'o calls it the hardest thing he's ever had to do.
"To be able to operate, and to be able to try to continue with my daily routine, but knowing that I just lost a woman that I truly loved, that was the hardest thing," he said.
The task was made even harder knowing he couldn't attend her funeral in Carson City, Calif.. He said Lennay had made him promise he wouldn't miss a game, instead asking him to honor her with his play.
Te'o did that. He had 12 tackles, one for a loss, and broke up two passes in the win against Michigan State. A week later, he had two interceptions, leading to a touchdown and a field goal, in a 13-6 win over Michigan in which he had eight tackles. The Irish defense didn't give up a touchdown in the two games.
The performances caught the attention of his teammates, his classmates and college football fans across the country.
"At that time he may have been a little weak inside, but he never showed it out," defensive end Stephon Tuitt said. "He stayed strong. Watching him kept us going strong."
Te'o has been the driving force behind the best Notre Dame defense in at least a decade, leading the Irish to their 4-0 start and their No. 9 ranking. He has played a role in seven of the 13 turnovers forced by the Irish, intercepting three passes, recovering two fumbles and hurrying the quarterback twice on passes that were intercepted.
Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco believes the 6-foot-2, 255-pound Te'o is the finest football player in college, saying he can power his way through blocks, but moves like a much smaller player.
"He's a unique blend of being able to be kind and good and courteous and warm and friendly when he's not inside the gates or inside the stripes, and then when he's in there he's an absolute warrior," Diaco said.
Te'o's father, Brian, believes part of that is it's a Polynesian trait, citing Junior Seau and Troy Polamalu as examples. He also believes it's partially related to Te'o's Mormon upbringing.
"He understands that his actions have a direct impact on those who are watching him, and also the fact that his actions and decision-making does have a direct reflection on the family, on both my wife and I," he said. "We both remind him constantly."
His father said Te'o also works hard at his craft because he knows another talented athlete is working just as hard.
"He knows when he meets that person he's going to have to be at the top of his game in order to compete with him," he said.
Te'o has 362 career tackles and is on pace to finish third on Notre Dame's all-time list behind Bob Crable (1978-81), who had 521, and Bob Golic (1975-78), who finished with 479.
Crable calls Te'o one of the best players he's seen at Notre Dame.
"He has great speed. He knows where the football is," he said. "Unfortunately for him, as far as the tackling record goes, the game has changed so much. I don't know how anyone can get the tackles some of us old guys got just because they don't run the ball as much."
Kelly said what separates Te'o from other stars is he knows the names of every player on the team, even the walkons.
"He doesn't call them, 'Hey, 42, or 57.' He knows each of those guys. ... That's pretty unique," he said.
Student body President Brett Rocheleau said classmates love Te'o because he's one of them. He takes part in campus events, he's seen walking around carrying his backpack and talking with other students.
"Every story you hear about Manti is that he is genuinely nice guy. He's one that is easy to talk to. He goes out of his way to carry on conversations," he said.
The students showed their love for Te'o by chanting his name and wearing leis at the Michigan game and pep rally. Te'o jumped up in the crowd to celebrate the victory with them.
"I felt a sense of peace knowing that so many people cared about Manti instead of No. 5," he said.
He was able to get home for his grandmother's funeral during the bye week and said he feels rejuvenated as the Irish prepare to play Miami (4-1) Saturday in Chicago.
"I've never felt so strong; spiritually strong," he said. "I could never thank the student body and the fans around the world for their all love and all their prayers and support. I truly felt all of that, and it's helped me to get past, help me get through these past three weeks and I'm truly grateful and I'm truly humbled."
WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Affidavit: Summitt initially felt forced out
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Pat Summitt said in an affidavit that she initially felt she was being forced to step down as the Lady Vols' basketball coach by Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart, who later told Summitt that she had misinterpreted his comments.
The signed affidavit was part of a lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee by former Lady Vols media director Debby Jennings. In it, Summitt said Hart told her at a March 14 meeting prior to the NCAA tournament that she would have to step down at the end of the season. Summitt had revealed before the season that she was battling early-onset dementia.
"This was very surprising to me and very hurtful, as that was a decision I would have liked to have made on my own at the end of the season after consulting with my doctors, colleagues and friends and not be told this by Mr. Hart," Summitt said in the affidavit. "I felt this was wrong."
Summitt went on to say in the affidavit that Hart later told her that she had misinterpreted what he had said. The affidavit is included in an amended complaint filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
Jennings' lawsuit alleges that age and sex discrimination led to her forced retirement from the school where she had worked for 35 years.
Tennessee officials had no immediate response to the amended complaint. Summitt's son, Tyler Summitt, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press Wednesday that, "We are not going to comment right now on this matter."
Summitt, whose 1,098 career wins are the most in NCAA men's or women's basketball history, retired from coaching in April after a 38-year tenure at Tennessee that included eight national championships. She remains part of the staff as head coach emeritus. Holly Warlick, Summitt's longtime assistant, was chosen to replace her.