Tuscaloosa Tornado IV

Parts of Tuscaloosa ‘have been obliterated’ by massive storm

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Forget about the whole rise in the intensity/insanity level of the Alabama-Auburn football rivalry; the state of Alabama has a whole helluva lot more important things on the hearts and minds of its citizens Wednesday evening.

For those unaware, the state has been pounded by a massive storm system that has produced dozens of tornadoes and, according to the early reports, the damage has been devastating.  In particular, the city of Tuscaloosa — and home of the University of Alabama — has been hit by what could only be called a storm of epic proportions.

Tuscaloosa’s mayor, Walter Maddox, appeared on The Weather Channel shortly after the storm plowed through his city, and said that the “devastation is ‘catastrophic’ and parts of city ‘have been obliterated’.”  Maddox added “please pray for us.”

On his Twitter feed, Aaron Suttles, Senior Recruiting Analyst for the Alabama Rivals site, TideSports.com, wrote that “I don’t mean to overstate, but it looks like bombs went off. Nothing left standing. Complete rubble. Cars upside down and caved in.”

Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News wrote on his Twitter feed simply: “Scale of destruction in Tuscaloosa is very bad.”

Based on the early reports, the loss of property will be massive.  What’s uncertain at this point in time is what cost, if any, there will be in terms of lives lost, although initial reports indicate that there was one fatality caused by the storm.  The photos and the video shot on the scene, though, paint a sobering picture of it taking a miracle for there not to be many, many more:

It appears — and not that it even remotely matters in the grand scheme of things — that Bryant-Denny Stadium suffered no damage due to the storm, but videos that have emerged in the aftermath show the powerful tornado that apparently caused the devastation in the city passing in the background of the football home of the Tide.  For a high-quality video of that event, click HERE.  Click on the rain-blurred clip below for additional footage of the tornado passing behind the stadium.

Needless to say, our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Tuscaloosa and all the others across the South who have been impacted by this devastating series of storms.

UPDATED 10:44 p.m. ET: Heartbreakingly, Mayor Maddox, by way of the Tuscaloosa News, has confirmed that at least 15 people have been killed in his city as a result of the tornado.  All told, at least 31 people in the state of Alabama have lost their lives.

As for the university and its campus, the News writes that “power outages at the school are widespread, but they have no reports of structural damage to buildings on campus after a storm swept through the city.”

Additionally, the same storm system that tore through Alabama is wreaking havoc in parts of Georgia and Tennessee.  Fatalities are also being reported in those states as well.

Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected.

SEC overturns Florida WR Brandon Powell’s half-game suspension for phantom punch

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 03: Brandon Powell #4 of the Florida Gators scores on a 77 yard touchdown reception during the second quarter of the game against the Mississippi Rebels on October 3, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Fortunately for both Brandon Powell and Florida, common sense in the league office prevailed.

In the fourth quarter of UF’s loss to Tennessee, Powell was flagged for an unsportsmanlike call and ejected from the game for seemingly throwing a punch at a Vols player.  Because of SEC rules, Powell was also set to be suspended from the first half of this Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt.

The conference, however, overturned the suspension upon review, no doubt determining that Vols safety Rashaan Gaulden performed a flop of such magnitude that it would’ve made an international soccer star stand up and cheer, then bow down and claim they’re not worthy.

We’ve received word that he’ll go,” head coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday. “Nothing from there, so he was full go from Monday afternoon on.”

Powell is currently second on the team with 15 receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

Report: Season-opening starting QB Blake Barnett transferring from Alabama

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 3: Blake Barnett #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws against the USC Trojans in the first quarter during the AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, the rise of Jalen Hurts has led to some turnover in Alabama’s quarterback room.

Citing unnamed sources, al.com is reporting that Blake Barnett has left the Tide football program and is expected to transfer.  Thus far, the school has declined to address Barnett’s status with the team moving forward.

Barnett started the season opener against USC but lasted all of two series before being replaced by the true freshman Hurts.  In his three starts since, all wins for the top-ranked Tide, Hurts has completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 609 yards and three touchdowns.  Most importantly, he hasn’t throw an interception, although he did toss one in relief of Barnett.

A five-star 2015 recruit, Barnett was rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 21 player overall on 247sports.com’s composite board.  The 6-5, 200-pounder took a redshirt as a true freshman.

Hurts also adds an extra dimension in the running game as he’s second on the team with 251 yards rushing and tied for the lead with three rushing touchdowns.

Should Barnett move on to another FBS program, he’d likely have to sit out the 2017 season.  He’d then have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018.

With Barnett presumably gone, the Tide would likely turn to Cooper Bateman, who served as Jake Coker‘s primary backup last season and started one game, as Hurts’ primary backup.

Purdue’s Martesse Patterson facing felony battery charge

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: Purdue Boilermakers mascot Purdue Pete is seen during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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A rather serious-sounding situation is the latest to trigger a resetting of the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker.

According to the Lafayette Journal & Courier, Martesse Patterson was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of battery resulting in serious bodily injury.  That charge is a felony.

Even more noteworthy is the fact that the charge stems from an altercation with a former teammate, ex-Boilermaker walk-on Alex Hilger.  From the Journal & Courier:

Hilger alleged that on Sept. 7, Patterson entered Hilger’s room at their residence in the 800 block of Hayes Street in West Lafayette “to borrow some property.” Hilger told Patterson he was not allowed to borrow the property, but Patterson took it anyway and returned to his room.

According to the affidavit, when Hilger approached Patterson to retrieve his possession, Patterson punched him in the face. Hilger sought treatment at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after sustaining a broken jaw requiring a two-day hospital stay. The affidavit cites medical records showing Hilger suffered a “displaced fracture of the left mandible and a non-displaced fracture of the right mandible.

Hilger, who played in 12 games last season but is not a member of the team this year, obtained a no-contact order against Patterson, who admitted to police that he both took the property and punched Hilger.

Darrell Hazell is aware of the situation, with a statement saying that the head coach “respects that there is a legal process that he will allow to evolve before further commenting.”

Patterson started the first two games of the season before being demoted for what Hazell described as a “personal matter.” The demotion came shortly after the incident that led to the charge.

Report: Arizona lineman Zach Hemmila’s death caused by toxic mix of prescription drugs

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 03:  Arizona Wildcats helmets display the #65 to honor offensive lineman Zach Hemmila who passed away in the off-season before the college football game against the Brigham Young Cougars at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Nearly two months after his tragic passing, a cause of death for Zach Hemmila has been confirmed.

Based on the autopsy report filed by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, the Arizona Republic is reporting that the 22-year-old Hemmila’s death was the result of the combined toxic effects of two different prescription drugs. The two drugs, the Republic noted, were oxymorphone, an opiate painkiller, and alprazolam, an anxiety medication.

From the newspaper’s report:

Chewing tobacco was found in Hemmila’s mouth, according to the autopsy report. No intact pills were discovered in his gastrointestinal system. His lungs were “markedly congested,” per the report.

Hemmila passed away either very late on the night of Aug. 7 or early in the morning Aug. 8. A cousin discovered Hemmila’s body at the Arizona offensive lineman’s residence.

His death has officially been ruled an accident.

“Arizona Athletics continues to mourn the passing of Zach Hemmila,” a statement from the university said in response to the report. “We will honor the family’s request for privacy and support them in any way we can.”

Hemmila started six games last season. He was slated to start at center for the Wildcats this season.

The Wildcats will continue to wear a sticker the No. 65 to honor Hemmila for the remainder of the season.