Nebraska Penn St Football

Raw emotion reigns in Happy Valley


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.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.