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Time for JoePa to shuffle into retirement

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The child abuse sex scandal that has rocked Penn State over the past few days has sparked horror, outrage and plenty of opinion, particularly in light of the school’s latest bumbling misstep to cancel at the last minute a press conference scheduled for Tuesday.

But, more than anything, I have questions.  Many, many questions, chief of which is this: Why did Joe Paterno not go to the authorities when it became clear that the athletic director and president and everyone in between were going to keep the 2002 incident — you know, the one where Jerry Sandusky was witnessed by a grad assistant sodomizing a 10-year-old boy in the shower of the football building — in house, under the rug. From the moment I read the grand jury’s findings, that was the one thing — the reprehensible coverup notwithstanding — I simply couldn’t shake.

Why did Coach Paterno, who has carte blanche when it comes to the keys to the Nittany Lion kingdom, not assert the authority, power and influence he had banked during his more than half a century at the school to do something, anything, more than the bare minimum as required by law?  In 2004 or thereabouts, when athletic director Tim Curley and president Graham Spanier reportedly came to his house and asked him to resign, Paterno kicked his bosses out the door and continued coaching.  Certainly a man who can tell his bosses when he will or won’t step down as the head football coach can go over the heads of those same bosses and report suspected criminal activity, particularly as it involved innocent, defenseless children.

In the grand jury’s findings, one of Paterno’s graduate assistants, unnamed but later identified as current wide receivers coach Mike McQueary, witnessed in 2002 “a naked boy… whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall [of a shower], being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky.”  After discussing with his father what he had witnessed, McQueary “went to Paterno’s home, where he reported what he had seen.”  Paterno testified in front of the grand jury in January that he “called… Curley to his home the next day, a Sunday, and reported to [Curley] that the graduate assistant had seen Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”

The only action taken by Curley and others upon hearing the allegations?  Banning Sandusky from bringing children onto the campus, an “unenforceable action” signed off on by President Spanier. That’s it.  No authorities called, no attempts to even track down the victim.  Nothing, merely a slap on the wrist for the most horrific of allegations.

And, incredibly, no other action other than the bare minimum by Coach Paterno.

Where was the storied Paterno leadership when that victim needed it most?  How many more kids became victims because nobody at Penn State, up to and including Paterno, did anything to put a stop to a predator on their own campus, in their own football building, after that incident in 2002 as well as the one in 1998?  Based on the letter of the law, the state’s attorney general’s office has determined Paterno did everything he was supposed to.  He handed the information he obtained from McQueary over to Curley and others.  Morally, as a human being, he, along with many, many others, failed miserably.

JoePa could’ve done more.  As a man with as righteous a moral compass as you’ll find in the sport, and as powerful as he is at that university and in that state, he should’ve done more.

I’ve long felt that Paterno, because of the legacy he has built and how he had built it in more than six decades in Happy Valley, deserved to step down, retire, whatever of his own accord when he damn well felt like it.  Based on the information that’s come out since last Friday, there’s really only one opinion that can be reached:  it’s time for Coach Paterno to realize that the time to step down is after this season comes to an end, if not sooner.

As gracefully as possible given the current scandal and his blatant inaction other than the bare minimum, Coach Paterno needs to announce that this will be his final season — or, better yet, that he has coached his final game — and he will be ending his 46-year run as the Nittany Lions’ coach.

Don’t do any more damage than what’s already been done by fighting it, either publicly or privately.  The last season had to come sooner or later.  For those that still believe in you, make it this season, Coach Paterno.

The end of a storied coaching career under these circumstances is sad on at least some level.  It can’t even remotely compare, however, to the horrors those victims endured at the hands of one of Paterno’s most trusted lieutenants, some of whom may have escaped the predator’s grasp if just someone, anyone had alerted authorities in 2002.

And that’s what this all boils down to: because of the inaction and active coverup of individuals at Penn State University, Jerry Sandusky was permitted to continue preying on children.  And, because of this, Coach Paterno and others have forfeited their right to be gainfully employed by a publicly-funded state institution.

“I’m infuriated that people would not report something like that,” the mother of one of the victims told the Patriot-News. “I still can’t believe it. I’m appalled. I’m shocked. I’m stunned. There’s so many words. I’m very mad. They could have prevented this from happening.”

Not could have, should have.  And that’s precisely why heads should rightly roll, immediately and without hesitation.

(Photo credit: AP)

No. 3 Clemson punches playoff ticket with ACC championship win over Virginia Tech

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 03:  The Clemson Tigers take the field during the ACC Championship against the Virginia Tech Hokies on December 3, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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For the second straight season, Clemson can say they punched their ticket to the College Football Playoff with yet another close ACC championship game victory.

The third-ranked Tigers jumped out to a big lead, led throughout and ultimately prevailed over Virginia Tech in a 42-35 win that was a tad closer than the final score indicated.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson continued his stellar play down the stretch this season, throwing for 288 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The signal-caller added another two scores on the ground to go with his team-high 85 yards rushing as well on a night where he made some clutch throws down the stretch to keep the team in front of a stingy Bud Foster defense.

Tailback Wayne Gallman also found the end zone in Orlando but was still relatively limited with just 59 yards on 17 carries.

The Hokies did make sure Clemson sweated out things by threatening in the second and third quarters. Quarterback Jerod Evans threw for 264 yards and a touchdown but couldn’t get any help from Virginia Tech’s normally reliable ground game and threw an interception with 71 seconds left to end a comeback. Evans also led the team in rushing and scored twice while running back Travon McMillian did the same but managed to do so on only 37 yards rushing.

With a second straight ACC title in the bag for Dabo Swinney and company, the only question left for Clemson is where will they stand on Sunday afternoon and what semifinal site they will head to. Alabama appears locked into the No. 1 seed in the Peach Bowl but could the close result against Virginia Tech — combined with Washington’s emphatic win in the Pac-12 title game — force a national title game rematch in Atlanta?

That’s probably not on the minds of the Tigers on Saturday night as they rightfully celebrate yet another league championship and look like a dangerous team to face at the end of the month.

No. 7 Penn State completes comeback for the ages to claim B1G title

Penn State's Saquon Barkley (26) makes an 18-yard touchdown catch against Wisconsin's T.J. Watt (42) during the second half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
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On Sept. 24, Penn State was 2-2 on the season, 0-1 in Big Ten play after a 49-10 undressing by Michigan in Ann Arbor. Their Big Ten title hopes were left for dead. As we know, they managed to rally and win the Big Ten East.

And then, with 5:15 left in the second quarter, the Nittany Lions trailed 28-7 and their chances of actually winning the game were again left for dead.

But the Cardiac Cats rallied. Again. The seventh-ranked Lions closed the game on a 31-3 run to race past No. 6 Wisconsin for a 38-31 Big Ten Championship victory.

Of course, this win means much more than that. At 11-2 on the season, winners of nine in a row and winners of college football’s best conference, the question now becomes whether the College Football Playoff selection committee chooses the Lions over 11-1 Ohio State or Pac-12 champion Washington on Sunday.

But first, the comeback.

Penn State simply could not get out of its own way — or get Wisconsin out of its way… or get in Wisconsin’s way, for that matter — over the game’s first 25 minutes. The Badgers opened by forcing two three-and-outs and launching two long touchdown drives to grab a 14-0 lead a dozen minutes into the game. After a McSorley touchdown pass put Penn State on the board, the Nittany Lions allowed an errant snap to be returned for a touchdown early in the second quarter.

James Franklin elected to go for a fourth-and-short in his own territory on the ensuing possession and was rebuffed. Wisconsin again capitalized on the mistake to grab a 28-7 lead with 5:15 remaining in the first half. Penn State again failed on a fourth-and-short near midfield on the next possession, but this time the Badgers failed to cash in. And that proved costly.

Because that failure to land the death blow allowed Penn State’s Cardiac Cats persona to awaken.

The Lions’ comeback started when McSorley hit Saeed Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown catch with 58 seconds left in the half to pull within  a more manageable 28-14 deficit at the break.

After Wisconsin missed a field goal to open the second half, McSorley answered by finding Blacknall for a 70-yard scoring strike on the very next play. Then Penn State tied the game on its next touch as Saquon Barkley punched in a 1-yard score at the 4:22 mark of the third quarter.

Wisconsin re-gained the lead with a 23-yard Andrew Endicott chip shot, but only after Bart Houston missed what would have been a walk-in touchdown to tight end Troy Fumagalli on 2nd-and-8 from the 10-yard line.

Given the opportunity to take the lead, Penn State took full advantage, marching 81 yards in only four plays as Barkley hauled in an 18-yard wheel route from McSorley.

McSorley finished the game hitting 22-of-31 passes for 384 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions — against a defense that came in allowing eight touchdowns while swiping 21 interceptions. Compared to Houston’s numbers — 16-of-21 for 174 yards — quarterback play proved to be the difference in the game. McSorley’s play allowed Penn State to win a game in which it was out-rushed 241-51.

Wisconsin punted on its next touch, and Penn State missed its chance to deliver a knockout punch, instead settling for a 24-yard Tyler Davis field goal with 5:14 to play in the game.

Wisconsin would need a touchdown to force overtime, while Penn State would need a stop to complete its 21-point comeback. The Badgers moved to the Penn State 24, but, facing a 4th-and-1, Corey Clement was stuffed for no gain.

Penn State expired the final 58 seconds and secured the largest comeback ever in a Power 5 conference championship game.

Arkansas State, Appalachian State end up as SBC co-champs

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Two of the 10 FBS conferences don’t have championship games to determine a league champion.  The Big 12, which will go to a title game format next season, crowned an undisputed champion earlier today.  The other game-less league, on the other hand, will have more than one official champ.

Arkansas State had the opportunity to potentially win the Sun Belt Conference outright, but lost in Week 13 to drop to 6-1 in conference play.  Appalachian State won the same weekend to finish the season at 7-1 and claim at least a share of league title.

ASU and Troy, both 6-1 entering Week 14, needed a win to claim its share.

Troy failed miserably, falling 28-24 on the road to a Georgia Southern team that entered the game 4-7 overall and 3-4 in the SBC.  ASU, though, passed its final regular season test, putting 20 fourth-quarter points on the scoreboard in getting past Texas State in a 36-14 win in San Marcos.

The Red Wolves have now won five SBC titles the past six years, with three of those (2011, 2012, 2015) being undisputed.  They’re also the first team since Troy was in the midst of a five-year run from 2006-10 to win back-to-back championships.

As for App State, this is the Mountaineers’ first FBS league championship since moving to the SBC from the FCS for the 2014 season.

The three teams at the top of the SBC will play in some combination of the New Orleans/Dollar General/Camellia Bowls.  Arkansas State will be playing in its sixth straight bowl game, while Appalachian State will be in its second in a row in just its third season at this level.  Troy, meanwhile, will be making its first postseason appearance since winning the New Orleans Bowl in 2010.

San Diego State runs past Wyoming for second straight Mountain West title

San Diego State's Donnel Humphrey runs for a touchdown during the first half against Wyoming in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Laramie, Wyo. (AP Photo/Michael Smith)
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They say revenge is a dish best served cold. San Diego State checked off both boxes on Saturday night.

The Aztecs captured their second straight Mountain West championship and avenged an earlier loss with a 27-24 win over Wyoming in freezing conditions up in Laramie.

The San Diego State ground game was clicking all night long in a game where it was difficult to get much of anything through the air. Star tailback Donnel Pumphrey finished with 110 yards and a touchdown, passing former Texas great Ricky Williams to become the second leading rusher in FBS history late in the third quarter. The senior trails only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne by 108 yards on the all-time list with a chance to top his mark later this month in what will likely be a berth in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Pumphrey’s backup Rashaad Penny wasn’t too shabby either, picking up a team-high 117 yards on the ground and finding the end zone twice. It was a good thing both players were humming in the backfield as quarterback Christian Chapman managed only 85 yards on six completions.

The SDSU defense also came to play in one of their best performances in a while. They picked off Wyoming’s Josh Allen twice, recovered a fumble late in the second half and bottled up the prolific runner Brian Hill to the tune of just 93 yards.

The Cowboys made a run to close the gap to just a field goal in the fourth quarter but couldn’t quite get over the hump for their second win in as many weeks over the Aztecs for a first ever Mountain West title.

Instead it was Rocky Long’s San Diego State squad that could lay claim to being the best in the conference this season for the second year in a row.