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Mark Richt makes a classy gesture that’ll put a lump in your throat

Getty Images - Kevin C. Cox Getty Images

Or, maybe even a tear or two in your eye.

To be honest, there are a lot of really crappy things that go on in the game of college football.  From the BcS to agent/pimps to the BcS to shady coaches to the BcS to arrests/suspensions/NCAA violations to the BcS, there’s enough negativity going on to cause even the most fervent fan to question why the hell they follow this great game so religiously.  Conversely, there’s also a lot of good that comes out of the game, but doesn’t get nearly the attention it probably deserves.

No, not probably; it doesn’t.  So, at least for one post, we’ll rectify the inequity.

For all of the criticism Mark Richt, the head coach, has received in recent years, you’d have to look long and hard to find anyone to say a bad word about Mark Richt, the man.  Just a couple of weeks ago, the Georgia coach did something that only goes to further solidify the latter.

On Jan. 15, 17-year-old Valdosta High School football player James Eunice drowned while duck hunting near his Georgia home, and his body wasn’t recovered for 17 days.

Prior to his death, Eunice had spoken to Richt about walking on with the Bulldogs after graduating this year.  Unfortunately, Eunice was never able to achieve his dream while he was alive.  In death, however, he reached what he’d hoped would be his football destiny.

During Eunice’s funeral last Saturday, Jay Rome and Malcolm Mitchell, who played football with Eunice at Valdosta High and have signed letters of intent to play for Georgia, came to the podium with a box. A letter that Richt had written to the Eunice family was read to the mourners in attendance.

At the end of the letter, Richt wrote, “Oh yeah, James made the team.”

Then Rome and Mitchell took an official Georgia jersey out of the box. On the jersey were Eunice’s last name and the No. 23 he had worn at Valdosta.

James Eunice had become a member of the Georgia football team.

[/kleenex]

Richt’s gesture obviously touched the two recruits who had signed Letters of Intent before their friend’s and teammate’s funeral.

I’m going to play for an incredible man,” Rome told the Valdosta Daily Times. “Coach Richt is just incredible. He’s the best. Just to know that he had that in his heart, just to do that for James and his family, means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to the family.”

“It made me proud to be a Bulldog,” Mitchell added.

During what was no doubt a very emotional and heartwrenching time for dozens of people, it was an incredibly classy, honorable, noble gesture on Richt’s part, one that he probably would’ve preferred to remain out of the public light.

The thing is, Richt would never attach labels such as “classy” or “honorable” or “noble” to what he did for that family.  He’d just say it was the right thing to do.

Indeed, it was.  As is recognizing and applauding Richt for the gesture.

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Quarterback play defines No. 12 Kansas State’s 26-20 victory over WVU

Kansas State v West Virginia

Bill Snyder‘s Kansas State Wildcats are known for playing fundamentally sound, ball-control football. Neither was the case Thursday against the West Virginia Mountaineers. Yet, the No. 12 Wildcats still found a way to beat WVU 26-20 in Morgantown.

Two leaders on Kansas State’s offense, quarterback Jake Waters and wide receiver Tyler Lockett, took over the game and never looked back.

Everything starts with the quarterback. Waters was forced to carry the offense due to West Virginia completely taking away Kansas State’s running game. The Wildcats gained one yard on the ground. Waters was forced to throw the ball 33 times. He completed 22 passes for a career-high 400 yards through the air.

Waters doubled as the team’s leading rusher. The quarterback was credited with 12 carries for 13 yards. And his seven-yard touchdown pass to running back Demarcus Robinson on the team’s initial drive was the only time the offense found the end zone.

Lockett was, as per usual, Waters’ favorite target.

The senior wide receiver caught 10 passes for 196 yards. His biggest contributions actually came on special teams, though. Lockett’s 43-yard punt return for a touchdown granted Kansas State a 17-3 lead in the second quarter. The talented receiver/returner finished the contest with 321 total yards.

Lockett completely outplayed one of the nation’s top wide receivers in West Virginia’s Kevin White. The Wildcats successfully bracketed White throughout the contest, and the nation’s third-leading receiver finished the contest with seven catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.

Waters’ play wasn’t the only interesting quarterback situation in this particular game.

West Virginia sophomore Sklyer Howard took over for senior Clint Trickett, and the underclassman may not hand the job to Trickett with only Iowa State remaining on the schedule.

Howard played much better than Trickett did once he was inserted into the lineup. The sophomore was 15-of-23 passing for 198 yards and two touchdowns.

At 6-5 overall, the future is now for the Mountaineers.

As the Mountaineers contemplate their fledgling quarterback controversy, Kansas State still has an outside shot of claiming a Big 12 Conference championship.

The Wildcats are now tied with the TCU Horned Frogs at 6-1 overall in the division. With a contest remaining against the No. 7 Baylor Bears and TCU playing the Texas Longhorns this weekend, Kansas State can still claim an outright Big 12 title.

Snyder’s squad will have to play better than they did against West Virginia for the program to have a chance of that actually happening.

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MAC cancels contest between Buffalo Bulls and Kent State Golden Flashes

Record Snowstorm Pummels Buffalo

Snowmageddon 2014 will prevent all of us from enjoying more MACtion.

With the city of Buffalo completely snowed over and suffering from blizzard conditions, a college football contest became a secondary concern.

The MAC announced Thursday that the meeting between the Kent State Golden Flashes and the Buffalo Bulls, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday, has been cancelled.

The two sides hoped to play Friday, but the conference decided the game will not be rescheduled.

“Despite the best efforts of all involved, it will not be feasible to play the football game between Kent State and Buffalo on Friday,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a statement. “The game has been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. The safety of the student-athletes and fans is paramount. We want to be respectful of the efforts of the emergency service personnel in the Buffalo area who are working to assist those in need.”

The two teams will finish their seasons under revised schedules. Both teams will play their final games on Friday, Nov. 28. Kent State will face the rival Akron Zips at Dix Stadium, while Buffalo will travel to Amherst, Mass. to challenge the UMass Minutemen.

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UNC dominates Duke 28-7 during first half as ACC Coastal starts to take shape

Mack Hollins, Ryan Switzer

If the Duke Blue Devils are trying to earn an Orange Bowl berth, the team has a funny way of showing it.

During a sloppy first half of play, the North Carolina Tar Heels dominated the Blue Devils. The Tar Heels built an impressive 28-7 lead, which appears to be an insurmountable lead due to the mistakes Duke committed.

Overall, the two teams combined to turn the ball over five times. North Carolina actually fumbled the ball three times, but Duke wasn’t able to take advantage. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, scored after both of Duke’s fumbles.

As soon as North Carolina built a lead, questions regarding the ACC Coastal standings started to surface.

A loss by Duke will hand the No. 18 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets an ACC Coastal crown and an appearance in the ACC Championship Game against the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles.

Duke still has the second half to redeem itself.

The Blue Devils have to start by stopping the Tar Heels offense. North Carolina amassed 391 yards of total offense through two quarters of play. If not for three fumbles by quarterback Marquise Williams, the score could be worse than it already is.

Sophomore Ryan Switzer proved to be North Carolina’s biggest threat on offense after catching two passes for 107 yards. Whereas Williams, T.J. Logan and Romar Morris combined to run for 203 yards.

Duke needs to get a strong second-half performance from senior quarterback Anthony Boone, who is 8-of-17 passing for 89 yards. If Boone and Duke’s talented corps of wide receivers can’t get the passing game going, the Blue Devils don’t have a chance in the second half and will concede the ACC Coastal to Georgia Tech.

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Fortunate calls allow No. 12 Kansas State to build 17-3 lead against WVU

Kansas State v West Virginia

The ball bounced in favor of the No. 12 Kansas State Wildcats during the first half of play against the West Virginia Mountaineers.

A suspect touchdown call and another touchdown being called back proved to be the biggest difference for the Wildcats, who hold a 17-3 lead at halftime.

The fortunate calls in Kansas State’s favor started on the team’s initial drive.

After a 23-yard punt return from Tyler Lockett — and his presence on special teams will come up again — the Wildcats started their initial drive from West Virginia’s 49-yard line. Seven plays later, Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters drove his offense to the 7-yard line. On third-and-goal, Waters scrambled in the pocket and found running back Demarcus Robinson open for a touchdown pass.

However, Robinson dropped the football during the follow through of the catch. Despite the bobbled ball, the referees ruled he had possession before he went to the ground and the touchdown call stood. Kansas State gained an early 7-0 lead.

After the team’s traded field goals, the Mountaineers finally found the end zone on one of the wackiest touchdown catches of the season. Or so they thought.

Kevin White, the nation’s third-leading receiver, came up with an amazing tipped pass for the unlikely score (see: below).

The catch was eventually ruled incomplete upon review. One angle appeared to show the ball hitting the ground before it flipped into the air toward White. The situation was compounded by the fact West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert missed the ensuing field goal attempt.

Locket extended Kansas State’s lead with a 43-yard punt return for a touchdown. The All-American returner averaged 33 yards per punt return through two quarters of play.

As the teams enter the second half, Kansas State wants to return to playing sound football after a sloppy first half. West Virginia, meanwhile, needs to capitalize on its opportunities and find ways to get its vertical passing attack on track.

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Steve Sarkisian: CB Josh Shaw will have ‘some role’ against UCLA

Josh Shaw

What a long and strange trip it has been for USC senior cornerback Josh Shaw.

After a perplexing story of heroism turned fraud, Shaw was indefinitely suspended from the team until Tuesday when he was officially reinstated by the program. No charges were filed in the domestic incident between Shaw and his girlfriend, and the senior returned to practice after the school was notified.

Shaw practiced with the team for the second time Thursday, according to the the Orange County Register’s Michael Lev, and his return to the lineup appears imminent.

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian told Lev after Thursday’s practice that Shaw will have “some role” against the No. 9 UCLA Bruins. The exact nature of Shaw’s role has yet to be determined.

Shaw’s return to the Trojans secondary will be a welcome addition for the naton’s 102nd-ranked pass defense. The senior started 21 games in his career before this season, and it should allow him to adjust quickly to the team’s new defensive scheme.

“He’s played a lot of football,” Sarkisian said. “He’s very bright. He’s able to grasp things quickly.

“Obviously, on game day, things change for a variety of reasons. But I feel good that he’ll have some role to contribute in the ballgame.”

Shaw may have proved to be a distraction for a large portion of this season, but his inclusion to the team can’t come at a better time as the Trojans prepare for the rival Bruins and quarterback Brett Hundley.

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Michigan officially anoints Jim Hackett interim AD

Jim Hackett

Nearly three weeks after former Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon resigned his position, the school’s Board of Regents finally approved Jim Hackett as the university’s interim athletic director.

Once Hackett was officially approved, the meeting was “disrupted by a protest” and concluded early for  “safety reasons.”

However, the protest wasn’t due to athletic standards. According to the The Detroit News, the meeting was halted by “protesters demanding greater minority enrollment at the University of Michigan.”

Brandon’s resignation was prompted by multiple factors, but they revolved primarily around the disappointment of the football program. The Wolverines are currently 5-5 with contests against the Maryland Terrapins and the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes remaining. It’s not difficult to envision Michigan finishing 6-6 this season to become bowl eligible.

Will it be enough for head coach Brady Hoke to retain his position?

With dwindling student attendance plus the Shane Morris incident and Frank Clark situation still lingering, it’s difficult to believe Hoke will last beyond this season.

No timetable has been given by the University of Michigan as it pertains to naming a permanent athletic director. Hackett, a Michigan graduate, will remain in his current role until the new athletic director is hired.

Depending on the outcome of the search for a new athletic director, Hackett could be the guiding force behind the hire of Michigan’s next head football coach.

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Shaq Thompson one of five Hornung Award finalists

Shaq Thompson AP

Five of the most versatile college football players in the country are being recognized for their, well, versatility.

Thursday morning, the Paul Hornung Award announced its list of five finalists for the 2014 trophy.  One of those five is the player most would consider is far and away the front-runner.

Washington’s Shaq Thompson has scored four touchdowns defensively this season — three fumble returns for scores, one interception return.  Additionally, he’s second on the team in rushing yards after being pressed into service due to injuries.

The other four finalists are Nebraska running back/return specialist Ameer Abdullah, TCU running back/return specialist B.J. Catalon, Stanford wide receiver/return specialist Ty Montgomery and Missouri running back/return specialist Marcus Murphy.

Last year’s winner was LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr.

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Utes lose leading picker Gionni Paul for what’s left of season

Gionni Paul AP

An injury delayed the start of Gionni Paul‘s 2014 season.  Unfortunately, another one bookends it.

Wednesday, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham confirmed that there’s been “a setback” with Paul’s foot.  As a result, the linebacker will miss the last two games of the Utes’ regular season (Arizona, Colorado) as well as the bowl game.

The good news is that a full recovery is expected for the junior.

Paul initially suffered the injury during spring practice and, months later, it caused him to miss the first two games of the year.  Despite that, he leads the Utes with four interceptions, a total that’s second in the Pac-12.

In early January of 2013, it was confirmed that Paul was no longer a part of the Miami (Fla.) football team.  A short time later, Paul landed with the Utes and was idle all last season because of transfer rules.  Despite never playing a down for the Utes, Paul was voted a team captain in the spring.

He will still have one season of eligibility remaining.

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Stefon Diggs (kidney) out rest of regular season; bowl still possible

Maryland v Penn State

Rumored to be out for this weekend’s game, one of Maryland’s top offensive playmakers will be out a little bit longer than that.

Thursday afternoon, Maryland head coach Randy Edsall announced that wide receiver Stefon Diggs will miss the last two games of the regular season due to injury.  Diggs sustained a kidney injury in the Nov. 1 win over Penn State – he also received a one-game suspension stemming from his pregame antics the same day — and, following a bye week, did not play in last Saturday’s loss to Maryland.

Edsall’s announcement means Diggs will also miss Saturday’s game against Michigan and the regular-season finale against Rutgers.  Edsall did allow that Diggs could return for the Terps’ bowl game, and he’s expected to be cleared for contact Dec. 1.

As the Terps look to climb up the Big Ten’s bowl game pecking order, the loss of Diggs is a substantial one.

Despite missing one complete game and part of another, Diggs is easily the team’s leader in receptions (52), receiving yards (654) and receiving touchdowns (five).  Not only will it hurt in the passing game but his absence will leave a mark on special teams as well as he’s the Terps’ leading kick returner.

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A.D. releases statement on FSU shooting tragedy

Shooting on the Florida State Universaity campus in Tallahassee AP

Sadly, tragedy struck the Florida State University campus overnight as a lone gunman wounded three people in a shooting at the Strozier Library. Police officers responding to the scene shot and killed the suspect, who has been identified as an FSU alum who received his law degree from Texas Tech.

According to reports, hundreds of students were in the library at the time of the shooting studying for final exams, one of whom was reportedly saved from a bullet by his textbooks.

One of the victims is in critical condition while another is listed in stable condition. The third victim was treated at the scene after being grazed by a bullet.

It’s unclear how many if any FSU athletes in general and Seminole football players specifically were in the area or at the library at the time of the shooting. There was an on-campus prayer vigil held this morning, though, with the most recognizable face on campus offering up his prayers and support.

This afternoon, athletic director Stan Wilcox released a statement addressing the tragedy. While offering up thoughts and prayers, Wilcox also confirmed that all athletic events, including FSU’s home football game against Boston College, will be played as scheduled.

We are deeply saddened by the early morning events on campus. The entire Florida State family and surrounding community are affected. Our university administration has increased security measures and is providing a strong law enforcement presence on and around campus. We have been assured there is no further threat.

Classes have been canceled today, but campus is open. This weekend’s athletic events, including those planned for tomorrow, will take place as scheduled.

Following tragic times like we experienced today, athletic events can help in unifying both the student body and community. That is our hope in moving forward with these events.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those directly affected by this tragedy.

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Five finalists for Nagurski Award announced

Aaron Donald

Forget semifinalist appetizers; the award that honors a Minnesota college football legend has gone straight for the main course.

The Bronko Nagurski Award announced Thursday the five finalists for the 2014 version of the award.  Two of the finalists hail from the SEC, while there is one each the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12.

Three of the five, interestingly, are defensive backs.

The finalists for the award, given annually to the nation’s best player on the defensive side of the ball, appear below.

  • Texas defensive tackle Malcolm Brown
  • Alabama defensive back Landon Collins
  • Ole Miss defensive back Senquez Golson
  • Louisville defensive back Gerod Holliman
  • Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright

The 2013 winner of the Nagurski Award was Pittsburgh defensive lineman Aaron Donald.

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Beavers announce another home-and-home with Boise

Hawaii Bowl: Boise State v. Oregon State

Already scheduled to play Boise State in the back-end of one future series, Oregon State has decided to double-up on the blue-field love.

In a press release sent out Thursday, OSU announced that it his reached an agreement with BSU on another future home-and-home series.  The Beavers will play host to the first game of the new matchup on Sept. 3, 2022, in Corvallis, while the Broncos get their home game in Boise on Sept. 2 the following year.

The two teams are still scheduled to play Sept. 24, 2016, in Corvallis.  The first game of that home-and-home was played in Boise in 2010, a 30-27 win for the Beavers.

There have been a total of six meetings between the two programs, with the series tied at three wins apiece.  The last meeting came in the 2013 Hawaii Bowl, a 38-23 OSU win.

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All-defensive look to Lombardi Award’s four finalists

Aaron Donald AP

A parade of finalist announcements made on Thursday begins with an award that’s handed out annually to the nation’s most outstanding lineman on either side of the ball — or a linebacker who lines up no more than five yards off the ball.

While the Lombardi Award is for linemen on either side of the ball, this year’s finalists are decidedly defensive as there are no offensive linemen among the four final finalists.  Instead, there are two defensive linemen and one linebackers.

All are first-time finalists, with two being seniors and two being sophomores.

  • Clemson senior defensive end Vic Beasley
  • Ohio State sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa
  • Washington senior linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha
  • Arizona sophomore linebacker Scooby Wright

The individuals who vote for the Lombardi were obviously enamored by the stats that defensive linemen could put up as opposed to the non-stats for offensive linemen.

Kikaha, Wright and Bosa are all in the Top Five nationally in sacks per game, and are in the Top Seven in tackles per loss.  Beasley this season became Clemson’s all-time leading sacker, and is in the Top 15 among FBS players this season in sacks and tackles for loss.

Last season’s winner was Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald.  And, for those who are wondering, the last offensive lineman to win the award was Ohio State’s Orlando Pace in 1996.  Pace actually won it the year before as well, and is the only two-time winner of the prestigious trophy.

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Snowed-out MACtion forces league to shuffle pair of games

Record Snowstorm Pummels Buffalo Getty Images

A winter storm that impacted one MAC game this week will do the same to another next week.

First things first: the Kent State-Buffalo game, scheduled for Wednesday night but postponed due to extreme weather conditions, has been tentatively rescheduled for Friday, Nov. 21.  Instead of a night kickoff, however, the game will begin at 1 p.m. ET tomorrow afternoon.

Television information is to be announced later.

The MAC made sure to insert the word “tentatively” into the release. A severe winter snowstorm, which has been blamed for eight deaths, has dumped upwards of six feet of snow in the Buffalo area, with another 2-3 feet possible throughout the rest of Thursday and on into Friday.

Additionally,the conference announced that, due to this schedule change, next week’s Akron-Kent State game at Kent’s Dix Stadium will be rescheduled for Friday, Nov. 28 at 1 p.m. ET. That game was originally scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. ET.

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Bowden on unbeaten FSU’s ranking? ‘Don’t care for it one dadgum bit’

Eric Barron, Molly Barron, Bobby Bowden

Even as it’s been four years since he stepped off the sidelines, Bobby Bowden‘s patented “dadgum” is still relevant.  Well, it’s still relevant in my eyes, at least.

Shortly after the latest College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, the legendary former Florida State head coach took to Facebook– yes, the 85-year-old Facebooks — to decry the undefeated Seminoles’ placement at No. 3, behind a pair of one-loss teams.

How many times have you heard a Coach say,” We didn’t finish”? Coaches harp on it continuously, finish, finish, finish! Coaches emphasize each practice,”finish your block”, Finish your tackle, finish your run, finish the last quarter. Every team in the Top Ten failed to ‘finish’ their game at least one time, but not Florida State. One thing they have done is ‘finish’ the game. They have ‘finished’ 10 straight times this season and the last 26 games in a row. All the Polls now are just speculation and opinions. 26 finishes in a row is not an opinion!

A day later, the slotting of a team that’s won 26 straight games still wasn’t sitting well with the Hall of Famer.

“I don’t care for it one bit,” Bowden told the Tallahassee Democrat. “I really don’t care for it one dadgum bit.

“But that’s what they’ve decided to do and I’ll be pulling for it to work. But just think of all the scrutiny you see nowadays. This team or that team or this team or that team. Why don’t they vote like they did last year, they end up with two and that decides it?”

The reasons for Bowden lashing out at the rankings is likely twofold, aside from his obvious loyalties.

One, he, as a coach, places more value on wins and losses. The committee, obviously, places more importance on résumés and contrived “game control” stats than they do the loss side of the ledger.

And, two, he’s simply not a fan of the new system that will determine a national champion.

“I always thought they got one and two right. Really people don’t care about three and four,” Bowden said back in late August. “It’s going to give more teams an opportunity to play for the national championship, but I like it the way it was. I’m not sure it’s going to work. Maybe it will turn out better. …

“Now No. 5 is really upset. No. 5 says we should have been in that dadgum top four. That’s what three said. You get the same debate going on down the line.”

I don’t agree one bit, but keep railing, dadgummit.  Keep railing.

(Photo credit: ACC’s Facebook page)

(Also, thoughts out to the FSU community on the tragedy that hit the campus overnight.)

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