Nebraska Penn St Football

Raw emotion reigns in Happy Valley

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For the first time in 22,638 days — Nov. 19, 1949 — the Penn State Nittany Lions played a football game in which Joe Paterno was neither the head coach nor an assistant.

Instead of the legendary JoePa, it was his long-time assistant Tom Bradley leading Penn State against Nebraska, becoming the first man not named Paterno to coach the Nittany Lions since Rip Engle in 1965.  It was certainly an overriding thought heading into the game that the mystique of Coach Paterno would be an all-encompassing presence in Happy Valley Saturday.

Sure, there were low-key pregame nods inside and outside of Beaver Stadium to the now-fallen coaching legend, and signs of support were seen throughout the stadium.  And, of course, the postgame locker room and press conferences were littered with the memories of a 46-year head-coaching career that ended under a cloud of scandal earlier this week.  But worshipping at the altar of St. Joe, as he’s sometimes called, was not what Saturday turned into, at least not in its entirety.

Rather, it was about the victims of the heinous acts allegedly perpetrated by a former Paterno assistant.  With the emotions of a heartwrenching candlelight vigil the night before the game still fresh, a moment of silence prior to the game by the blue-out crowd, with the color blue symbolizing child abuse awareness, showed what the whole of the Penn State family is truly about, and that they are all too aware of what’s at the heart of this scandal even if their administration wasn’t for far too long.

It was about one of the most poignant scenes ever witnessed on a football field: members of both teams — players, coaching staffs and seemingly every other person not actually in the stands — gathering and kneeling at a very crowded midfield, led in a very impassioned and fiery word of prayer by Cornhuskers assistant Ron Brown.

It was about the 17 seniors on Senior Day, walking out of the tunnel and onto the field for their final game, greeted by a 100,000-plus throng that included dozens of former players who came to town in a show of support for the under-siege football program and its current players.

And, perhaps most of all, it was about a community, a family taking its first tangible steps in what will no doubt be a lengthy healing process.  Television cameras captured numerous shots of the Nittany Lions faithful — men and women, young and old — shedding tears as the events around them transpired and the enormity of the moment seemed to hit them.  The decibel level rose noticeably when, during the singing of the school’s alma mater, the line “let no act of ours bring shame” was reached, as if those in attendance were sending a very loud, very powerful message to those in positions of power that what’s happened in the past decade is not the beloved university they know and that something must be done.

As for the game?  The Nittany Lions lost 17-14 to the Cornhuskers, suffering their first conference defeat of the season and allowing Wisconsin — provided they beat Minnesota this afternoon — to pull to within a game in the Big Ten Leaders race.  That outcome was mostly inconsequential and seemingly secondary, though, to the healing that began and the giving through their actions a voice to the victims, who suffered a loss far, far greater than a meaningless football game.

WATCH: Michigan breaks out your standard 10-man I-formation

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 01: Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh throws the ball during the pregame warms ups prior to the start of the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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Off the field, Jim Harbaugh is an interesting and unique and decidedly different character.  As it turns out, the Michigan head coach is that way on the field as well.

In the first quarter of its game against Wisconsin and facing a second-and-two from the UW six-yard line, Harbaugh and his offensive coordinator busted out the standard 10-man I-formation.  Of course, the Wolverines couldn’t stay in that formation — that nitpicky seven-men-on-the-line-of-scrimmage rule — so they shifted pre-snap to your standard short-yardage set that included three tight ends and a fullback.

Whatever it was and whatever its intent, it was successful as the Wolverines picked up five yards and a first down.  A play later, they scored the first touchdown of the Top 10 matchup.

That formation, though…

As for the game, the Wolverines lead the Badgers 7-0 at the half.

Georgia jumps out to big first half lead over Tennessee in SEC East tussle

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 10: Jacob Eason #10 of the Georgia Bulldogs passes against the Nicholls Colonels at Sanford Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Maybe Butch Jones saved his halftime speech from last week.

At least that’s what Tennessee fans hope heading into the locker room down 17-7 at Georgia in a game with massive SEC East implications. The Vols will need a second straight comeback if they’re to remain undefeated and in control of their own destiny in the division.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a big lead behind tailback Sony Michel, who had 72 yards and a touchdown. Despite reports surfacing that he would not play this week, Nick Chubb did get a carry but was mostly limited to a role on the sideline. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason was efficient is not spectacular, going 6-of-10 for 39 yards.

The Volunteers had a chance to really make this more of a game in the second quarter, but Deandre Baker knocked the ball lose from tailback Jalen Hurd just as he was about to cross the goal line. Georgia recovered for a touchdown and promptly went 80 yards in 10 plays on the ensuing drive for another touchdown (albeit on a fumble recovered in the end zone themselves).

Tennessee did seem to get something moving on offense before halftime, with quarterback Joshua Dobbs marching down the field in nine plays before diving in for a touchdown by the slimmest of margins. It was an encouraging sign for the Vols in a half that was otherwise dominated by their mistakes and Georgia capitalizing on them.

Big Ten defense the story of first half between Michigan and Wisconsin

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 01: Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh and Wisconsin Badgers head football coach Paul Chryst shake hands prior to the start of the game at Michigan Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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In a battle of top 10 Big Ten contenders, Michigan has managed to get to halftime with a 7-0 lead on Wisconsin. Still, the Wolverines have to be wondering if missed opportunities could come back to bite them.

Michigan has missed two field goal tries in the game so far, with Kenny Allen missing from 31 yards and 43 yards on consecutive Michigan possessions. With the way Michigan’s defense has been playing, however, it may not matter. Wisconsin has struggled to get the running game going with Corey Clement (31 rushing yards on nine attempts) and just 34 rushing yards as a team. That includes negative yardage taken by quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who has been under pressure by the swarming Wolverines defense for much of the game so far.

Michigan’s offense has not been particularly sharp against a tough Wisconsin defense either. The Wolverines are just one-for-five on third down. The only touchdown drive of the half for either team came on a 77-yard, 11-play drive with Khalid Hill picking up the final yard for a score. The key play of the drive was a 22-yard run by Chris Evans.

Michigan had a bit of a scare when big Grant Newsome needed to be helped off the field in the first half. The cart to take him off the field had come on the field but he was able to be removed from the field with some help by trainers to the Michigan sideline. Perhaps the moral support from the entire Michigan roster on the field helped him out.

Texas AD, on Charlie Strong, Longhorn football: ‘I’m evaluating everything’

Charlie Strong
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According to most observers, Charlie Strong was on the hot seat entering 2016.  After the first two weeks of the season, including a huge win over Notre Dame in the opener, most of that talk was silenced; in fact, the running theme entering Week 3 seemed to be “finally, Texas football is back!”

Since?  Not so much.  In fact, we seem to be right back where we started when it comes to Strong’s future in Austin.

First came the loss to Cal in Week 3, which renewed the rumblings.  Following an embarrassing loss to Oklahoma State this weekend in which both the defense and special teams imploded, the calls grew louder and the heat under his seat grew warmer.  For the defensive-minded Strong — and the administration — the crumbling on that side of the ball is especially troubling as the Longhorns have given up an average of nearly 50 points per game (48.7) this season to Power Five teams.

Following the game, UT athletic director Mike Perrin was asked about Strong’s future.  Not surprisingly, it’s not exactly rock solid.

In three-plus seasons, Strong has gone 13-16 overall. Most distressing from the athletic department’s side, he’s now below .500, 9-10, in Big 12 play.

Especially with Houston’s Tom Herman being such a hot commodity, Perrin will face the most significant decision of his tenure in the coming months: stick with Strong for another season and hope the Louisville lightning strikes in Austin, or cut bait and heavily pursue the most desired commodity on the coaching carousel.  Irrespective of anything else, it’s a decision that will define Perrin’s tenure at the school.