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.

Ex-Alabama DL O.J. Smith tweets transfer to Minnesota

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After leaving one Power Five program, O.J. Smith has landed on his feet at another.

On his personal Twitter and Instagram accounts late Thursday morning, Smith announced that he is “Officially Family Of The University Of Minnisota !!!!” While the lineman says his move is official, the Gophers have yet to announce his addition to the roster.

If/when it comes to fruition, Smith will have to sit out the 2017 season, and will then have one year of eligibility to use in 2018.

Smith had announced in early June that he would be transferring from Alabama.

A three-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2014 recruiting class, Smith was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 18 player at any position in the state of Louisiana.  The defensive tackle redshirted his true freshman because of an injury suffered in summer camp.

The past two seasons, he’s played in a combined two games and was credited with one tackle in each of those contests.

Protests growing over Michael Vick’s impending induction into Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame

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One new addition to Virginia Tech’s Sports Hall of Fame is causing a bit of controversy and consternation and angst.

On July 11, it was announced that Michael Vick would be one of five inductees into the university’s Hall of Fame.  There is little doubt that, on the field, Vick was one of the greatest players in the history of Hokies football and, for that, he deserves a spot.

Off the field, some would argue, precludes him from such an honor.  After leaving Blacksburg, Vick served 19 months in a federal prison after being convicted on dogfighting charges.

As noted by the Roanoke Times,  there are two different online petitions on change.org (HERE and HERE) at the moment that are pushing for the university to reverse its inclusion of Vick as part of this year’s class.  As of this posting, nearly 100,000 individuals combined have signed the petitions, one of which notes that one of the school’s own criteria for inclusion is “[m]ust be of good character and reputation/not have been a source of embarrassment to the university in any way.”

“The College unequivocally opposes honoring an individual whose past actions contradict our values and the cornerstone of our mission,” a Facebook statement from Dr. Cyril Clarke, dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, began. “Over the course of several days, I have communicated with President [Timothy] Sands and other campus administrators to express our disappointment and opposition to this decision. I continue to be in conversations with the president regarding this issue.”

In response to the burgeoning brouhaha, the university released a statement defending Vick’s induction that includes shining a light on the former Hokies quarterback’s post-conviction actions.

Mr. Vick’s induction into the university’s sports Hall of Fame acknowledges his tremendous achievements as a student athlete — who some will say was the greatest in the history of the university. We understand that there are those who do not and will never agree with this decision.

“In considering Mr. Vick’s nomination to our sports Hall of Fame, the criminal activities in which he engaged, his subsequent conviction and time he served for his crime were also considered, and it was informed by the remorse he has shown since that conviction, the work he is currently engaged in to advance animal welfare issues, as well as his efforts to help our current student athletes, based on lessons he’s learned in his own life, make positive choices as they begin their adult lives. This in no way condones the actions for which he was convicted. The university remains dedicated to the protection of animal health and welfare and embodies great care and compassion for all living animals.

Vick’s third-place finish in the voting for the 1999 Heisman Trophy is the highest ever for a Hokie.

The 2017 class, including Vick (for now), are scheduled to be inducted at a Sept. 22 ceremony. A day later, the same group will be honored at halftime of the football game vs. Old Dominion.

6-5, 287-pound 8th grader Jaheim Otis holds offers from Alabama, other SEC schools

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You may want to pay attention to Jaheim Oatis as he’s a rather big deal, literally and figuratively, on the recruiting trail.

Otis hails from Columbia, Mississippi, and will be in the eighth grade this school year.  What makes Oatis unique from other football recruits is that, not long after finishing up the seventh grade, he says he stands 6-4 and weighs in at 284 pounds; Scout.com lists him at 6-5, 287 pounds.

Even more unique?  Late last week, he revealed via his personal Twitter account that he has already received offers from Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

Oatis isn’t all size, either, as evidenced by his running a 40-yard dash at Ole Miss earlier this year.

Oatis also plays baseball — he claims to have been clocked pitching at 84 mph — as well as basketball — he was the MVP at an AAU tournament this summer.  When it comes football, he plays offensive line along with tight end.

Bowling Green lands Cincinnati grad transfer John Kurtz

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Just ahead of the start of summer camp, Bowling Green has further solidified its depth and experience along its offensive line.

Appearing at the MAC football preview Wednesday, Mike Jinks confirmed that John Kurtz has been added to his Bowling Green football roster.  Kurtz comes to the Falcons as a graduate transfer, which would technically give him immediate eligibility.

“He played spring football for Cincinnati and was in the rotation for playing time on the offensive line,” Jinks said according to the Toledo Blade. “He’s a kid who has a chance to have an impact right away.

“The opportunity is there for him to play right away for us. This is a big ‘get’ for us.”

Jinks also hinted that Kurtz, who has two years of eligibility remaining, could be a redshirt candidate for the 2017 season as well.

Despite being just a two-star 2014 recruit, he was rated as the No. 12 player at any position in the state of Kentucky.  During his time with the Bearcats, Kurtz played sparingly.