SEC spring game wrap-ups

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In the week leading up to South Carolina’s spring game Saturday, head coach Steve Spurrier seemed confident in regards to the state of his Gamecocks ball team, getting a little “salty” when discussing a couple of SEC rivals.

Based on the number of fans in attendance, they’re feeling the confidence as well.

In front of what the school listed as 34,513 fans in attendance, the Black team, behind the play of quarterback Connor Shaw, outscored the Garnet team 38-24 in the annual Garnet & Black game.  In limited action, Shaw completed 6-of-7 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns.  Redshirt freshman Tanner McEvoy also tossed two TD passes for the Black squad.

Effectively the game was over at the half, with the Black team holding a 35-10 advantage with two quarters to play.

In his postgame comments, the Ol’ Ball Coach said that his 2012 Gamecocks “[have] a chance to be pretty good”, but also lamented a secondary and non-existent pass rush that allowed the quarterbacks to be so successful.

We obviously threw the ball and caught it better than any spring game. Probably more passing yards and completions. I thought coverage could’ve been better. We didn’t have a pass rush. Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor didn’t play much. The quarterbacks had time and the receivers caught about everything. They had good routes. Who’s to say if our coverage is suspect or not, but I know Coach Ward wasn’t happy about some guys getting behind them. It made the offensive guys look pretty good throwing and catching. Whatever it means, I don’t know. We’ll keep working and try to improve. You can tell we have pretty good-looking, physical guys. Brandon Shell looks like a big time offensive tackle. If he gets quicker and stronger, he’ll be a big time offensive tackle. It’s encouraging. I think he played probably 50 or 60 plays today. It was good to see a lot of those guys play a bunch. Most are in pretty good shape. The defensive line got tired. Some of them played both sides of course. It’s just the spring game; just a practice game. The highlight was at halftime introducing the senior guys. Hopefully the next year we’ll do the senior guys for doing something special like the 2011 guys did.

On the successful passing day
I guess it was nice for the offensive guys. Not real nice for the defensive guys. The quarterbacks picked them out well. That was surprising. They only threw one or two errant balls today. All the quarterbacks threw well and the receivers caught most of everything. That’s encouraging.

USC was one of six SEC teams to conduct its spring game Saturday, with recaps for the rest — minus Alabama, which has its own solo post HERE — available for consumption below:

Auburn — On the same day Auburn’s quarterback of the past was one of the school’s former Heisman winners to have his statue outside Jordan-Hare Stadium unveiled, the Tigers’ QB of the future was putting on a very impressive display inside the stadium that no doubt left the coaching staff (privately) salivating over the future.

Sophomore Kiehl Frazier dazzled the 43,000-plus in attendance, completing seven of his nine passes for 92 yards in helping lead the offense to a 36-27 “win” over the defense.  Head coach Gene Chizik, however, warned not to read too much into the numbers.

“I wouldn’t pay attention to any of the stats today. I wouldn’t read into any stats you may see, good or bad,” the coach said.

In addition to Frazier’s contributions, transfer running backs Mike Blakely (Florida) and Corey Grant (Alabama) each scored a touchdown on the ground.

Georgia — The story of UGA’s spring game may have been more about who wasn’t participating than about who was.  Neither cornerback Malcolm Mitchell, moved from wide receiver to cornerback at least for the short-term, nor stud freshman running back Keith Marshall were available due to hamstring issues.

Of those who were available, 44,000 fans at the annual G-Day Game watched as the Red team stopped a late two-point conversion to hold on for a 32-31 victory.  The winning side was led by running back Ken Malcolm’s two touchdowns as well as 112 yards passing and a touchdown from starting quarterback Aaron Murray.

Regardless of the particulars, head coach Mark Richt, like just about every other coach in America following these games, was pleased with what he saw.

“It was a great day for Georgia,” Coach Mark Richt said. “I feel like everyone enjoyed the game. I thought there were a lot of offensive plays that were made today. When you look at it, the defense was scoring points, too. I thought both sides of the ball played well. It was exciting.”

Missouri — With starter James Franklin out indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder, backups Corbin Berkstresser and Ashton Glaser combined to throw for 400 yards and three touchdowns in Mizzou’s first Black & Gold Game as a semi-official member of the SEC.  The game feature two distinct scoring systems: the first half pitted the starting offenses and defenses against the backups — the reserves won those two periods 34-10 — while the second half featured the starting offense vs. the starting defense — the latter trumped the former 5-3.  Linebacker Donovan Bonner led a solid defensive effort against a Franklin-less offense, returning an interception 65 yards for a touchdown and totaling six tackles.

Vanderbilt — In the Commodores’ annual Black & Gold spring game, the Black team was composed mainly of starters on both sides of the ball.  So, as logic would dictate, the Black team dominated the Gold team, coming out on the good side of a 30-0 whitewashing.  The duo of junior wide receiver Jordan Matthews and redshirt freshman wide receiver Josh Grady combined to score three touchdowns, including one that saw Grady take a direct snap and throw it to Matthews for the final score of the game.  Oddly enough, Grady did not catch a pass but still accounted for two TDs — one on the ground and the previously mentioned one through the air.

(Photo credit: South Carolina athletics)

Jim Harbaugh advises President Trump to ‘check the Constitution’

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The latest controversy surrounding President Donald Trump has reached college football.  And, of course, it’s Jim Harbaugh doing the reacting.

At a campaign rally in Alabama earlier this past week, the POTUS let loose on those NFL players who have decided to use the National Anthem as a vehicle for protesting social injustice.  In essence, Trump called for those who participate in the demonstrations to be summarily dismissed.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!'” Trump was quoted as saying. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.'”

Suffice to say, that hasn’t even remotely happened as condemnation of the fiery rhetoric has been far and wide from the NFL community and beyond.  It was also condemned by a former member of the NFL community as Harbaugh, whose former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, played a significant role in a story that’s enveloped professional football over the past year, had some choice words on this latest kerfuffle.

“No, I don’t agree with the president,” Harbaugh said following Michigan’s win over Purdue. “Listen, that’s ridiculous. Check the Constitution.”

Harbaugh, who was already at odds with Trump over the slashing of one particular program, also stated initially that he didn’t respect Kaepernick sitting out the anthem before apologizing for misspeaking shortly thereafter.  In the spring, Harbaugh referred to the still-unsigned quarterback as a hero.

Notre Dame has no trouble with mistake-prone Michigan State

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Notre Dame probably would’ve beaten Michigan State on Saturday night if the Spartans pitched a perfect game. But instead the Spartans hit three batters, tossed a handful of wild pitches, aiding the Irish in a 38-18 blowout in Spartan Stadium.

The 20-point margin represents Notre Dame’s largest victory over Michigan State since a 36-14 whipping on Sept. 18, 1993 and the largest win by either team since a 45-23 Spartans win on Sept. 12, 1998. The Irish have now won four of the last five in a series that dates back to 1897.

The Irish (3-1) opened the game with a 7-play, 78-yard touchdown drive punctuated by a 16-yard Brandon Wimbush run, then immediately capitalized on a Michigan State (2-1) mistake as Julian Love returned a Brian Lewerke interception 59 yards for a touchdown.

Michigan State rebounded with its best drive of the night, knifing 75 yards in seven snaps for a touchdown. But another Lewerke turnover, this time a fumble in his own territory, set up Notre Dame with a short field, which Wimbush turned into an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dexter Williams. The Spartans threatened to pull within 21-14 until their third and costliest turnover of the first half, an L.J. Scott fumble at the goal line that took six points off the board and handed Notre Dame the ball at the 20-yard line. Notre Dame needed only five plays to push its lead to 28-7, where it would remain until halftime.

In addition to the three turnovers, Michigan State also committed nine penalties, dropped a handful of passes and lost a possession to a turnover on downs.

Michigan State opened the second half with a Matt Coghlin field goal, but Notre Dame answered that field goal and then some with a 9-yard Deon McIntosh touchdown run. Justin Yoon pushed the lead to 28 with a 46-yard field goal with 4:51 to play.

Michigan State completed the scoring with a cosmetic touchdown — a 25-yard toss from Lewerke to Gerald Holmes — and 2-point conversion with 3:09 remaining.

Wimbush was the star for Notre Dame, hitting 14-of-20 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown with eight carries for 52 yards and a touchdown. Lewerke carried the load for Michigan State, connecting on 31-of-51 passes for 340 yards — many of them junk — with a touchdown and an interception with nine carries for 56 yards and a fumble.

Michigan State will remain in East Lansing next week to host hard luck loser Iowa, while Notre Dame returns home to face Miami (Ohio).

Disaster averted as walk-off TD pushes No. 4 Penn State past Iowa

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Entering Week 4, the last three teams ranked in the Top Five entering Kinnick Stadium had exited with a loss.  In dramatic fashion, No. 4 Penn State flipped that script.

Trailing 15-13, Iowa scored on a 35-yard touchdown run by Akrum Wadley that put Iowa up, after a failed two-point conversion, 19-15 with 1:42 left in the game.  Penn State then proceeded to go 65 yards in 12 plays and 1:42 of game time, with Trace McSorley connecting with Juwan Johnson on a seven-yard touchdown pass with zero ticks left on the clock to secure a wild 21-19 win.

That fourth quarter also featured Penn State blocking a field goal… only to see Iowa return the favor 10 minutes later to set up what would’ve been the game-winning touchdown by Wadley.

If you simply looked at the box score, however, you would’ve thought this was a blowout that swung heavily toward the visitor.

The Nittany Lions outgained the Hawkeyes 579-273.  In fact, Penn State had more yards rushing (295) than Iowa had total offense. First downs?  PSU 29, Iowa 11.  The Nittany Lions held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game for good measure.

In the end, however, it was Penn State that came out on top on both the scoreboard as well as the stat sheet as the Nittany Lions kept their perfect season afloat as, after games against Indiana and Northwestern the next two weeks, they get set for season-defining games against No. 8 Michigan (Oct. 21) and No. 10 Ohio State (Oct. 28).  And Saquon Barkley, who set a single-game school record for all-purpose yards — 211 rushing, 94 receiving, 53 returns — will get to continue to state his case as the best football player in the country and one of a handful of Heisman Trophy front-runners.

No. 7 Washington holds slim three point halftime lead at rainy Colorado

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Colorado was anxious to extract some revenge against No. 7 Washington for their blowout loss to the Huskies in last season’s Pac-12 Championship Game and certainly went toe-to-toe against them in rainy conditions Saturday night in Boulder.

It wasn’t enough to take the lead into the locker room at halftime for the Buffs but they certainly looked like they wouldn’t be going anywhere as Washington held on to a 10-7 advantage at the break.

Jake Browning threw for just 89 yards and tossed an interception as he was forced to move around quite a bit while also dealing with the nasty weather that swirled things up on the flat irons. Counterpart Steven Montez also threw two interceptions but posted a more respectable 129 yards on 15/19 passing, most of which were short and intermediate throws.

The flip side to the signal-callers struggling at times was that the ground game was the focal point for the offenses. Myles Gaskin carried the load for the Huskies with his backup out with an injury and scored a touchdown to go along with 64 yards. Buffs’ tailback Phillip Lindsay has a tough time going against that big front seven UW trots out but still managed 46 yards and a score.

While it certainly wasn’t the sharpest half of football in Pac-12 play this season, the two teams gave every indication things would be very interesting in the second half and not the blowout we saw the last time they met down in Santa Clara.