Fantastic finish for Friends of Coal Bowl

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Not to be confused with the Coal Bowl, the Friends of Coal Bowl has been all West Virginiain the nine meetings between the Mountaineers and Marshall. In the five meetingsprior to the establishment of the Friends of Coal Bowl, WVU had beaten Marshallby an average score of 50-10. The last four games have been slightly closer (35-11)with tonight’s match-up the closest since 1911.

For three and a half quarters it looked like Marshall University would steal theirfirst-ever victory against West Virginia. Ultimately, West Virginia would take theirfirst lead of the game during their first possession in overtime, and run away with itfor a 24-21 win and ownership of the Governor’s Cup.

With two 95-plus-yard fourth-quarter drives resulting in touchdowns and aconverted two-point conversion, the Mountaineers escaped with a victory over theThundering Herd Friday night at John C. Edwards Stadium.

West Virginia running back Noel Devine capped a 96-yard drive byscampering four yards into the end zone with 5:12 remaining in the game to bring thescore to 21-13.

Despite fumbling four times, Marshall limited costly mistakes, turning the ballover only once. But that lone turnover was the difference maker. Freshman Herdrunning back Tron Martinez fumbled and lost the ball on the WestVirginia four yard line with ten minutes to play. Instead of scoring a touchdownand going up 28-6, the Mountaineers’ ensuing drive resulted in Devine’stouchdown run.

The following Marshall drive lasted only four plays before Herd punter KaseWhitehead pinned the Mountaineers at their own two-yard line.

The entire game was a battle of field position. Whitehead had previously pinnedWest Virginia within their own five-yard line twice. The Mountaineersaverage starting spot was their own 26-yard line. As for the Herd, their averagestarting position was their own 31-yard line. Holliday once relied on his puntingunit rather than his kicking unit late in the game due to place kicker TylerWarner‘s career long of 37 yards.

Starting from their own two, the Mountaineers capped a fifteen-play, 98-yard drivewith a five-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith to Will Johnsonwith just 0:12 remaining in the game. Wide receiver Jock Sanders hauledin the two-point conversion to tie the game at 21.

Earlier in the week, Marshall head coach Doc Holliday mentioned thatthis rivalry had not yet officially become a rivalry. “We have to win this gameat some point. For it to be a rivalry we have got to go win thatgame.”

Holliday is a former West Virginia assistant whom many thought shouldhave been named head coach upon current Michigan head coach RichRodriguez‘s departure from Morgantown. He has taken serious control of the program and has themheaded down the right path. They were embarrassed last weekend in a 45-7 loss toOhio State, but rebounded nicely tonight to almost beat a ranked opponent for thefirst time since 2003 (27-20 victory at Kansas State).

Once WVU started giving their playmakers the ball, they settled down. Star widereceivers Sanders and Tavon Austin caught eight of their combined 13passes in the second half, and Sanders added his two-point conversion catch as well.Devine added more than three-quarters of his rushing total in the second half andovertime period, along with his touchdown run.

In the overtime period, Mountaineer kicker Tyler Bitancurt added a fieldgoal on West Virginia’s first possession. When given the opportunity, Herd placekicker Warner failed to extend his career long to 40 yards, missing and losing thegame for Marshall.

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts uses photo of Clemson celebrating title win as motivational phone background

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Nick Saban said last week that the loss to Clemson in the the national championship game earlier this year is one that he’ll never get over, although he didn’t go so far as to compare it to a death in the family. One playing member of Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide team is taking to steps to ensure that he never forgets, either.

Jalen Hurts was the Tide’s talented true freshman starting quarterback who helped lead ‘Bama into the title game and, with a 30-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left, gave his team a 31-28 lead. That lead was short-lived, however, as Deshaun Watson led his Tigers on an epic 88-yard drive that was capped by his two-yard touchdown pass with just one tick left on the clock for the 35-31 win.

The stunning last-second loss is something that Hurts makes a conscious effort to remind himself of daily as the rising sophomore, as the background on his smartphone, has a picture of Clemson players celebrating their win.

“We’re obviously all on our phones all the time,” Hurts said according to al.com after this past weekend’s spring game. “Every time I unlock it, it’s kind of a reminder. It kind of humbles me and keeps me motivated. …

“It’s not a grudge at all. It’s just something that keeps it on the back of your shoulder like, yeah, it’s still there. Remember why you’re doing it because at the end of the day, the goal for this team is to win the national championship.

Father of former Florida State WR Travis Rudolph killed in accidental shooting

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The father of Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph was killed Friday in an accidental shooting, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Darryl Rudolph was working on repairs inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., when a gun accidentally fired in an adjacent room, hitting him in the back/neck area. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 55 years old.

The younger Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver over the past two seasons before becoming an early-entrant into this week’s NFL Draft. He gained viral notoriety after a photo snapped of him sitting at lunch with an autistic elementary school student hit Facebook.

“When I used to coach and help other kids with football, basketball and sports, Travis was small but he used to pay attention to what I was doing,” the elder Rudolph said in an interview with ESPN last year. “I told them get your education. You can be the best athlete in the world, but without an education, you’re not going very far. That’s what Travis followed through on.”

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.