Dana Holgorsen

Dana Holgorsen calls out WVU fan attendance

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At just about 11 pm for the past few nights, my Twitter feed has blown up with the same set of rumors.

“Source tells me Mike Slive is in Morgantown. WVU to SEC is a done deal.”

“Been told to expect an announcement about SEC membership tomorrow.”

And on and on it goes. As the great West Virginia sideline reporter Jed Drenning relayed, “Some moments are truly special. I’ll never forget where I was all 17 times West Virginia was officially-unofficially invited to the SEC.”

Indeed, the Mountaineer faithful have opined over the last several weeks that West Virginia would be a solid addition to the SEC as the league’s 14th member to the point of some truly believing everything they read. After all, did you not see College GameDay live from Morgantown? Did you not witness the 13,000 fans packing the Mountainlair plaza and the over 60,000 who crammed into Mountaineer Field sporting gold?

It was a big-time atmosphere. A cultural ying to the SEC’s yang. How could they say no?

But then, this past weekend, West Virginia laid an egg. A crowd of roughly 46,000 — 14,000 less than capacity — showed up to a cold, rainy and overall dreary afternoon to watch the Mountaineers lay 55 points on Bowling Green. Speaking with the media on Tuesday, coach Dana Holgorsen said that’s not acceptable.

“Whatever our expectations are with our players as far as preparing every week and going to the games and playing our best – I highly encourage our students and support to take the same approach. You only have seven opportunities a year.   What’s so hard about it? Was it too cold?  It wasn’t too cold for our players.  Wasn’t too cold for our coaches, managers or trainers.  They were out there.  So, why did we have 20,000 less people out there this week than last week?

“We’re all talking two weeks ago about how much difference the fans and crowds going to make to the LSU people. Well, LSU played well in front of 62,000 of our people and then turned around and went home and played a 1-4 Kentucky team at noon with 95,000 people there. You want to talk about an elite program?  That’s one.  I don’t know about this place.

“All I heard about was about how much this meant to everybody across the state of West Virginia and this was the NFL team here in town and we’re going to be there to support you. Having 40,000 people at a game isn’t doing that.  The only thing we can do about it is fix it.”

To be fair, it’s hard to get excited about playing Bowling Green and Norfolk State, the two home games that hosted crowds of 51,000 or less. It’s almost equally difficult to get amped for Big East conference play. There just aren’t any great teams or marquee games.

Asking people to come out in force for Cincinnati or UConn? Even AD Oliver Luck, a smart businessman, has to know that’s a stretch.

But Holgorsen was brought in for a reason: to re-energize Mountaineer Field after it was lulled to sleep over the past three years under Bill Stewart. So far, WVU’s offense has responded accordingly. Geno Smith is a top-five passer in college football and points are bountiful.

The WVU Mantrip, a new pre-game festivity created by Holgorsen, is an exciting way for fans to interact with their team before the game.

If West Virginia’s fans are as passionate and loyal as they claim to be, and if the quality of the product has been raised, then I agree with Holgorsen that there needs to be a reciprocating level from those in the stands. Holgorsen is candid, so it’s not really his M.O. to implore, but his sentiment is valid.

A consistent 60,000 in the stands won’t get WVU an invite to the SEC, but it will show they have the atmosphere to hang with it.

(Big thanks: WVMetroNews) 

Amidst medical mystery, Georgia’s Trenton Thompson withdraws from spring semester classes

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 19: Anthony Jennings #11 of the Lousiana-Lafayette Rajin' Cajuns is pursued by Trenton Thompson #78 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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While the details are very hazy at the moment, a member of the Georgia football team has apparently suffered a health scare recently that calls into question his short-term future with the football program.

First reported by WSB-TV, defensive end Trent Thompson suffered an unspecified medical emergency very early Thursday morning and was rushed to an Athens hospital. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution subsequently confirmed the initial report.

Thompson was released from the hospital Thursday morning, his mother confirmed to the television station. No specifics have been released publicly, although the Journal-Constitution, citing sources with knowledge of the situation, is reporting that no drugs or alcohol were involved. It’s also believed that the issue isn’t related to football.

In the wake of those reports as well as others that indicated he had a run-in with Athens police immediately prior to the hospitalization, UGA released the following statement, which reveals that Thompson will be withdrawing from classes this semester because of the unspecified medical issues:

Based upon recent events, Trenton Thompson’s family has authorized UGAAA to release the following information. Trenton has been dealing with a significant medical issue which required emergency hospitalization and extended hospital stay. Trenton was recently discharged from the hospital and remains under close medical care. With respect to last night’s incident, the physical appearance and behavior described in the UGA PD report is solely related to an adverse reaction to medications prescribed specifically for his medical condition. The adverse reaction required emergency transport to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released. Toxicology tests performed at the hospital were negative for OxyContin. We cannot release any further information at this time due to federal privacy laws. Due to the medical issues, Trenton is withdrawing from classes this semester, and his family requests privacy during this time.

As a sophomore last season, Thompson started seven of the 13 games in which he played. His 9.5 tackles for loss led the Bulldogs, while his five sacks were tied for the team lead and the 56 tackles with which he was credited were tops among linemen.

Capping off that breakout season, he was named MVP of UGA’s Liberty Bowl win over TCU.

Iowa State DB Mike Johnson suspended amid domestic violence arrest

AMES, IA - NOVEMBER 19: Wide receiver Keke Coutee #20 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders blocks defensive back Mike Johnson #3 of the Iowa State Cyclones as he rushed for yards in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Iowa State has suspended defensive back Mike Johnson after he was arrested Thursday on the accusation that he choked his girlfriend.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, Johnson and his girlfriend were fighting over social media posts and music playing over each other’s phones when each tried to reach for the other’s device. That escalated to the point where Johnson allegedly had both hands around the woman’s throat, to the point where told police she “saw stars” and had trouble breathing.

She also had, according to police, bite marks on her right cheek, on her neck and behind her left ear, a swollen upper lip and had what appeared to be dried blood on her. Johnson also said he was bitten during the altercation.

“We are aware of Mike Johnson’s arrest and allegations associated with his arrest,” head coach Matt Campbell told the paper in a statement. “Our program has zero tolerance for domestic violence. Mike has been suspended from all team activities, including practice, under the student-athlete code of conduct policy as we gather more information. His long-term status with the team will be determined once we gain more facts.”

Johnson posted 44 tackles, three pass breakups and 1.5 tackles for loss in 12 games last season.

Report: Former Pitt RB James Conner given clean bill of health

James Conner
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James Conner will head to next week’s Combine with a clean bill of health, according to a report Thursday from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“Pitt RB James Conner, who missed most of 2015 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, received a clean scan today, a week prior to combine, per source,” Schefter tweeted.

Conner led the ACC in rushing in 2014, rushing for 1,765 yards and 5.92 yards per carry with 26 touchdowns in 2014, before a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis caused him to miss all but one game of the 2015 campaign. (And in that one game, Conner still rushed for nearly 10 yards per carry and two touchdowns.)

He battled back to return to the field in 2016, again leading the Panthers with 216 carries for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns while finishing third on the club with 21 grabs for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

Conner will compete at the Combine for draft positioning with fellow running backs Leonard FournetteDalvin Cook and D'Onta Foreman, among others.

Willie Taggart no longer speaking with Oregon beat reporter

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head Coach Willie Taggart walks the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on September 28, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Oregon strength coach Irele Oderinde is now back at work after serving a 1-month, unpaid suspension resulting from three players being hospitalized after Oderinde’s first supervised workout with the Ducks, but the story is not over in Eugene.

According to Oregon’s student paper The Daily Emerald, Taggart is no longer speaking with the reporter who broke the story, The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif.

“When you’re not fair and honest, then to me that’s personal,” Taggart told the paper. “When you do something that’s negative and it’s going to be personal, then I won’t have shit to do with you.”

Greif, for his part, stands by the story and says the paper will not issue a retraction, as Taggart requested:

“Though the description of the workouts is understandably subjective, ultimately what has never been in doubt is that three UO players were hospitalized after the first week of offseason workouts and received treatment for several days,” Greif said in an email to the Emerald.

Complicating matters for Taggart is that the university commissioned faculty athletics rep Tim Gleason, a journalism professor, to review the report. In speaking with players, coaches, trainers and AD Rob Mullens, Gleason found the report not to be inaccurate.

“It’s not an unfair characterization; it’s just that the way it gets interpreted is regrettable,” Gleason said. “In the shorthand of journalism, it resulted in an impression that may not have been completely accurate.”

Also contradicting Taggart are members of his own staff, who said off-the-record that the workouts were “military-style.” Greif quoted them anonymously when inserting that phrase into the piece:

Players this week were required to finish the same workouts, which were described by multiple sources as akin to military basic training, with one said to include up to an hour of continuous push-ups and up-downs.

It’s not clear where the story goes from here, except that Taggart made clear twice in his interview with the Emerald he has no plans to answer questions from Greif in the future.