Virginia Tech v North Carolina

It’s official: Butch Davis out as UNC’s head coach


Move over, Jim Tressel.  You have some company in the coaching unemployment line.

Stunningly, unexpectedly and, perhaps most importantly, just 38 days ahead of the first game of the 2011 season, North Carolina has fired Butch Davis, mere days after the now-former head coach expressed gratitude for the support he’s received from the athletic department and university throughout the scandal-plagued last 12 months.  The move came a few hours after rumors began circulating that the would’ve-been fifth-year coach was out.

The press release stated that the decision to dismiss Davis — and the school used the word “dismissed” — was not related to any change in the NCAA investigation, but that it was the result of the cumulative damage to the University’s reputation over the past year.

Additionally, the school has yet to name an interim head coach, although Sam Pittman was promoted to associate head coach.

UNC chancellor Holden Thorp and athletic director Dick Baddour will meet with the media Thursday at 11 a.m. ET to address the stunning turn of events, which comes just eight days before the start of summer camp.

“To restore confidence in the University of North Carolina and our football program, it’s time to make a change,” said Thorp. “What started as a purely athletic issue has begun to chip away at this University’s reputation. I have been deliberate in my approach to understanding this situation fully, and I have worked to be fair to everyone involved. However, I have lost confidence in our ability to come through this without harming the way people think of this institution. Our academic integrity is paramount and we must work diligently to protect it. The only way to move forward and put this behind us is to make a change.”

Thorp said the decision was not related to any change in the NCAA investigation, but that it was the result of the cumulative damage to the University’s reputation over the past year.

“Athletics and football are an important part of this University, and a successful football program is essential to the overall health of our athletic program,” Thorp said in a statement. “That’s why we have to put this behind us and move forward.”

“The last 13 months have been some of the most difficult that anyone associated with the athletic department and football program have dealt with,” Baddour said. “At this time, a decision has been made to change the leadership of the football program to help the entire University community move forward.

“I want to thank Butch Davis and his family for their four-plus years of service and dedication to the University and the Chapel Hill community. My staff and I will work with Chancellor Thorp to transition to an interim head coach as soon as possible. It is critical that we do all we can to help our students and other staff members on the football team since preseason training camp begins in just eight days.”

Davis’ four years in Chapel Hill resulted in an overall record of 28-23 record, including a 15-17 mark in ACC play.  During his time with the Tar Heels, they finished third twice and fourth twice in the Coastal division.

Beyond the subpar record in conference play, Davis’ legacy will likely be the baker’s dozen players who missed all or part of the 2010 season due to the agent/academic scandal that’s plagued the program for over a year.  Additionally, one of his most trusted assistants and his most gifted recruiter, John Blake, resigned last September under a cloud of controversy for his alleged role in the agent side of the scandals.

No. 21 Auburn rushes for 543 yards in 56-3 win over No. 17 Arkansas

AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 22: Kamryn Pettway #36 of the Auburn Tigers runs the ball in the second quarter of the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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No. 21 Auburn (5-2, 3-1 SEC) rushed for more yards against No. 17 Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC) than any team has since before the turn of the century en route to a smashing 56-3 victory over the Razorbacks Saturday evening in Jordan Hare Stadium. When all was said and done, the Tigers racked up 543 rushing yards.

Kamryn Pettway led the ground attack with 192 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Eli Stove had a 78-yard touchdown run to boost his 94-yard day and Stanton Truitt rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns to add to Auburn’s wildly productive day on the ground. Quarterback Sean White was a part of the fun too, with 61 rushing yards and a score to go with his 77 passing yards and passing touchdown.

On the other side, Auburn’s defense never allowed Arkansas to get a running game going. The Razorbacks ran 31 running plays and managed just 25 rushing yards in the game. A combined loss of 14 yards were credited to Arkansas quarterbacks Austin Allen and Ty Storey. Allen was forced to leave the game in the first half due to an apparent knee injury but he returned after a brief absence. Rawleigh Williams III was the leading rusher for the Razorbacks with 22 yards on 13 carries.

Auburn also played a pretty clean game with just two penalties for 10 yards and no turnovers (Arkansas had two turnovers). The Razorbacks are going to have to think long and hard about this one, or simply put the game film in the trash and forget about it. Either way, there was no denying this was one of the worst losses Arkansas has experienced under Bret Bielema.

Arkansas will get a little extra time to prepare for their next game. The Razorbacks have a much-needed bye week coming up next weekend, giving them an extra week to prepare for a home game against Florida.

OK, so time to look forward for Auburn. Before you start looking to the end of the year with the Iron Bowl matchup with Alabama, Auburn has to go on the road next week to play Ole Miss. Yes, the Rebels may be a fringe top-25 team this season, but there is no question they can be a dangerous opponent. However, Auburn’s defense has been playing very well the past month and has now held each of their past four opponents to fewer than 15 points. Doing that against Ole Miss may be difficult, especially on the road, but Auburn is playing with confidence.

Alabama loses star safety/ace returner Eddie Jackson to broken leg

Alabama defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) returns a punt for a 79-yard touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Knoxville, Tenn. Alabama won 49-10. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
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Alabama’s win over Texas A&M came at a steep cost to both its defense and special teams.

Early in the fourth quarter of the 33-14 win, Eddie Jackson sustained an injury to his left leg and did not return.  Following the game, head coach Nick Saban confirmed that Jackson had suffered a broken leg.

As a result, both the senior’s season and his career have come to an abrupt end.

“Eddie was a fantastic player for us and a great leader,” the coach said in quotes distributed by the school. “I think he was an All-American player as a safety, at least in my book. We’re certainly going to miss him, but what a great player, what a great competitor, and what a great guy to have in this program for the time he’s been here.

“He’s done a fantastic job for us and I’m just sick for him and his family. I hate it that it’s one of the things about sports, all sports, and that we have to deal with sometimes as injuries. It’s unfortunate, especially when it happens to a great guy and a very, very good player. We’re certainly going to miss him.”

The loss of Jackson, who some consider the heart and soul of a very talented Tide defense, is a huge one.

Jackson had started the last 23 games at safety after starting 14 games at cornerback his first two seasons with the Tide.  The past two seasons, Jackson has returned three interceptions for touchdowns.  He’s also one of the best punt returners in the nation, having returned two for touchdowns this season.

Entering the 2016 season, Jackson was widely viewed as a likely first- or second-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft.

Recent retiree Joe Williams runs wild in Utah’s win over UCLA

Utah running back Joe Williams, center, runs for a touchdown as UCLA defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley, left, linebacker Jayon Brown, second from left, and defensive back Jaleel Wadood, right, give chase along with Utah offensive tackle Sam Tevi during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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Apparently the grass can indeed be greener on the other side of retirement.

Two games into the 2016 season, Joe Williams announced his retirement from the sport because of unspecified health issues.  Less than four weeks later, the senior running back returned to a Utah squad just last week because of a backfield decimated by injury.

In his first game post-retirement, Williams ran for 179 yards in a win over Oregon State last Saturday.  A week later, Williams trumped that effort.

In the Week 8 win over UCLA, Williams ran for a career-high 332 yards and four touchdowns as Utah kept pace with Colorado in the Pac-12 South.  Williams had entered his brief retirement with 549 career rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns; the past two games, the senior has totaled 511 yards and five touchdowns.

Not surprisingly, Williams’ Week 8 performance set a couple of school records.

The win allowed Utah to keep pace with Colorado, with both the Utes and Buffaloes, thanks to a 10-5 win over Stanford, sitting at 4-1 in Pac-12 South play. Those two teams will meet in the regular-season finale in a game that could very well determine which team represents the division in the conference championship game.

USC, which handed Colorado its lone league loss, could also be factor in the divisional race as they sit at 3-2 on a bye this weekend.

Auburn running all over and around Arkansas, 28-3

AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 22: A young fan of the Auburn Tigers cheers as the team takes the field before the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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It took one play for Auburn to put some points on the scoreboard, and the Tigers have yet to look back on Arkansas. Auburn holds a decisive 28-3 lead on the Razorbacks at the half. Auburn has run for 268 yards to just 26 yards on the ground by Arkansas.

Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen left the game in the first half with an apparent knee injury. He was helped off the field and replaced with redshirt freshman Ty Storey. Allen did return to the game.

Eli Stove (85 yards) took off for a 78-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play Auburn got to run after Arkansas was forced to punt on the game’s opening possession. Auburn’s second touchdown drive took a little longer (10-plays, 91 yards). Kamryn Petway (117 yards) finished off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead. Arkansas fumbled away the ensuing possession after just three plays, and Auburn capitalized with a Stanton Truitt touchdown run from 20 yards out.

It’s just been a mess of a first half by Arkansas, and the bad news is there is a second half to play.