Updated: Navy makes it 10 in a row over Army

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There were no Heisman candidates or major award winners. With a combined seven wins, neither team was within a sniff of a bowl.  Yet, none of that mattered on a crisp and clear Saturday afternoon less than 10 miles from the nation’s capital at Fed Ex Field. It was, after all, the 112th playing of Army and Navy.

An event that oozes with pride and patriotism had a heightened level of both thanks to a visit from President Barack Obama, who took in the opening half on the Navy side before crossing the field at halftime to be with the West Point brass.  Well after the late-autumn sun had disappeared and the first game played between the Academies within the Capital Beltway was entered as another chapter in the storied series history, the Midshipmen and their faithful celebrated yet another victory. The 27-21 win was Navy’s 10th consecutive over Army.

This victory, in front of 80,789, was unlike any of the previous nine in which Navy was victorious by a combined 322-91 and winning five by at least 28 points. This game would not be a rout as the teams went back and forth with Navy letting a pair of leads slip away, including a 14-0 second-quarter advantage.  The Middies took the lead for good, though, on Jon Teague’s 23-yard field goal that made the score 24-21 with 12:03 remaining the fourth quarter. The kick capped an 18-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up 9:12.

After Army’s Scott Williams fumbled away the ensuing kickoff when he was leveled by Navy’s Noah Copeland, the Midshipmen were knocking on the door again with Black Knights’ 27 the starting point. Though Navy could not muster a single yard on three plays, Teague drilled a 44-yard field goal with 10:26 to play for the final margin.

For the senior kicker, it was a wonderful way to conclude what had been a difficult season. Teague had an extra point blocked against Air Force in a 35-34 overtime defeat on Oct. 1 and things continued to go down hill after that. He made only 8-of-13 field goals coming in and had a couple of disheartening misses. Teague had a potential game-winner blocked late in the fourth quarter against Rutgers on Oct. 15 and he hit the right upright on the game’s final play versus East Carolina the following week. He kept battling and better times were ahead.

“Beating Army is something that I have always dreamed,” said Teague. “I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the best feeling in the world. I was definitely hugging the right upright today, but they went through.”

They did indeed and they put to an end to criticism directed at Teague that lit up many a message board during that rough month of October. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo choked up at the postgame press conference when he started to talk about his kicker.

“It’s just a game and some of the things that were said about the kid were like he committed a crime,“ said Niumatalolo of how people responded to Teague’s misses. “It could not have ended up better for someone like Jon, who had to persevere through all of the criticism.”

Army, which fumbled the ball away three times, would not have an answer to Teague’s field goals. The Black Knights would drive to the Navy 24 with six minutes remaining, but that’s when junior linebacker Matt Warrick took over. On 2nd-and-6, he picked a great time to record his first-career sack, dropping Trent Steelman for a five-yard loss. Two plays later with the Black Knights having to go for it on 4th-and-7, Warrick tackled Steelman for a one-yard loss and giving the ball to the Middies with less than four minutes remaining.

On that ensuing possession, facing a fourth down and less than a yard at their own 48, Navy’s Gee Gee Greene faked going into motion. That drew Army offside and, from there, the Middies were able to largely melt the clock as they left Army with one desperate play from its own 10.

“It was a battle and both teams fought hard to the end,” said Niumatalolo, now 4-0 versus Army. “It’s unfortunate one team had to lose. Both teams had a hard time stopping each other.”

With the win, Navy improves its all-time series lead to 56-49-7.

“We didn’t do the things that correlate with success on the scoreboard,” said Army coach Rich Ellerson, who endured his third loss in the series. “We didn’t win the turnover battle. We got crushed in the kicking game and those are always going to be strategic determinations of who wins and loses.”

For Navy supporters, the scoreboard indicated they will have bragging rights for another year – a year that will once again be painful at West Point.

Report: Florida appears ready to move on from Chip Kelly pursuit if deal isn’t consummated soon

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Florida’s search for a new head coach could very shortly be ready to take another twist.

Despite a certain former Head Ball Coach saying UF’s new head coach would be a current one, speculation on Jim McElwain‘s replacement has seemingly centered on Chip Kelly over the last few days. In fact, a group of UF officials headed by athletic director Scott Stricklin and president Kent Fuchs visited with Kelly in New Hampshire over the weekend to discuss the job.

While it walks, talks and smells like the university has targeted Kelly as its top choice, it appears they want an answer, one way or the other, from the former Oregon head coach sooner rather than later. From Yahoo! SportsPat Forde:

But with other potential candidates becoming available for discussion this weekend, Florida officials appear to be ready to move on shortly after Thanksgiving if a deal has not been struck with Kelly.

Potentially mucking up the works in Gainesville is UCLA, which fired Jim Mora Sunday and is also said to be targeting Kelly as a replacement.  In fact, it’s being reported that the Bruins’ search contingent has already met with Kelly.

UCF’s Scott Frost, who is believed to be Nebraska’s top choice when/when it moves on from Mike Riley, and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen are thought to be likely targets should either Kelly snub the Gators or they move on.

One very likely reason for UF’s reported urgency for a decision from Kelly is the revamped recruiting calendar. This year marks the first time that there’s an early signing period in football, with Class of 2018 recruits given a 72-hour window from Dec. 20-22 to sign their National Letters of Intent.

The sooner UF can wrap up its search, the sooner its new coach and his staff can try to hold together some semblance of a first recruiting class with the program – especially with two SEC programs, Tennessee and Ole Miss, already looking for a head coach while a couple of others (Arkansas, Texas A&M) could be on the hunt as early as this coming weekend as well.

Miami jumps Clemson, Wisconsin remains No. 5 in latest CFP rankings

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The third-to-last edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, and the only changes in the top 12 came at spot No. 2, where Miami jumped Clemson ahead of the pair’s ACC title clash on Dec. 2.

USC remained the highest-ranked Pac-12 team at No. 11, dimming any hopes the Pac-12 could back-door its way into the top four should chaos reign elsewhere. The Trojans were one spot ahead of TCU and two spots ahead of the Pac-12’s second-highest ranked team in Washington State. Central Florida again led all Group of 5 teams at No. 15.

Virginia Tech re-joined the rankings at No. 25, one spot behind the debut rankings for South Carolina.

The top 25:

1. Alabama
2. Miami
3. Clemson
4. Oklahoma
5. Wisconsin
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Notre Dame
9. Ohio State
10. Penn State
11. USC
12. TCU
13. Washington State
14. Mississippi State
15. Central Florida
16. Michigan State
17. Washington
18. LSU
19. Oklahoma State
20. Memphis
21. Stanford
22. Northwestern
23. Boise State
24. South Carolina
25. Virginia Tech

Report: LSU victory would not save Kevin Sumlin’s job

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Kevin Sumlin said Tuesday afternoon he expects to be Texas A&M’s head coach in 2018. A report Tuesday night says otherwise.

Sumlin will be fired in the day or days following Saturday’s game with No. 20 LSU, win or lose, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle. The Aggies are 0-5 against LSU under Sumlin and double-digit underdogs for Saturday’s game in Baton Rouge. The Chronicle‘s report is not the first to proclaim Sumlin’s future firing, but it is the most definitive.

Sumlin is 7-4 (4-3 SEC) this season and 51-25 overall, a mark that ranks in the top-third of the SEC since joining the league in 2012 — but Sumlin is not paid to deliver top-third results. His program failed to live up to the standard set in that debut campaign, with an 11-2 mark, a win in Tuscaloosa, a Cotton Bowl blowout of Oklahoma and a Heisman Trophy for Johnny Manziel.

The Chronicle reported that Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher will be A&M’s top target to replace Sumlin.

Nebraska AD Bill Moos wants to keep Huskers-Hawkeyes on Black Friday

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It was the 21-17 loss to Northern Illinois that pushed Shawn Eichorst out the door, but I wonder if it wasn’t a news item on the Tuesday before that game that convinced Nebraska stakeholders to replace their athletics director. The Big Ten released its 2020-21 football schedules on Sept. 12, four days ahead of Nebraska-NIU, and they featured Nebraska concluding each season against Minnesota — on a Saturday.

For a program that shed all of its traditions in leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten, losing the Black Friday finale was the final cut of the string that connected the current program to any vestige of its past. Eichorst didn’t get Nebraska, and allowing the Black Friday game to be lost proved it. Or so it seemed.

Bill Moos is Nebraska’s AD now, and he’d like to see things remain as they are: with the Black Friday finale, and against Iowa.

“I’m going to really push to establish Iowa as being our rival,” Moos said the Husker Sports Nightly radio show, via the Lincoln Journal-Star. “We came into the Big Ten and we need a rivalry game, and I’ve already been to the Big Ten and talked to them about that so hopefully we can keep that Black Friday game and have that be Iowa each year.”

Nebraska still has two more games against Iowa scheduled after this season, and the Huskers and Hawkeyes have met in each of Nebraska’s six previous Big Ten seasons. The series is deadlocked at 3-3 over that span. (Nebraska led 26-12-3 before joining the Big Ten.)

Though the Nebraska-Minnesota games are on the schedule as of now, there’s really no reason the Big Ten can’t change its schedules for 2020 and ’21 to preserve this tradition. And it should.