Outback Bowl - Michigan State Spartans v Georiga Bulldogs

Cook quarterbacks Spartans through spring game scare

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With the projected starter at quarterback, Andrew Maxwell, sidelined due to injury for Michigan State’s spring game, all eyes were on backup Connor Cook and whether he could chip into the presumptive frontrunner’s lead coming out of the spring.

It was another player, however, who was front and center in the headlines, albeit for a hold-your-breath reason.

William Gholston (pictured), the Spartans’ talented but “feisty” defensive lineman, threw a scare into MSU’s coaching staff and fans after limping off the third quarter with a knee injury and did not return.  Those anxious moments aside, it appears the initial prognosis is very positive; the Big Ten Network reported that it was merely a bruised right knee.

As of this posting, there was no official word from the team on the extent or severity of Gholston’s injury.

Prior to his injury, Gholston was credited with two tackles for a loss.  All told, there were 14 tackles for loss and four sacks in the game for both defenses.  One of Gholston’s tackles for loss resulted in a safety, which were the only points the Green team scored in a 14-2 “loss” to the White squad.

As for Cook?  He put up solid numbers with 294 yards passing and a touchdown, but offset that somewhat by completing less than 50 percent of his passes (20-of-45) and an interception.  Based solely on the statistical numbers in a meaningless exhibition game, it’s hard to believe that anyone but Maxwell will head into summer camp with a decided edge at the position.

Regardless of whether Cook chipped into Maxwell’s “lead” or not — and the coaches weren’t saying yea or nay on that front — the experience the redshirt freshman received both in the game and in the practice sessions leading up to the spring finale was unanimously viewed as very much a positive.

“What is great about the game is that it allowed someone like Connor (Cook) to see a lot of action,” wide receivers coach and White team head coach Terrence Samuel said in quotes distributed by the team. “He was able to jump on both sides and each team had their tricks. The last week has been invaluable to him because he has been able to work on processing the offense. It has been really nice to see his decision making. He has great command of the huddle. I think our players realize that too and respect him for it. Today was also important for Connor to get a feel for a real game in Spartan Stadium.”

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian
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Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.

Starting Navy S Kwazel Bertrand undergoes surgery, likely out for season

Kwazel Bertrand, Jacobi Owens
Associated Press
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Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.

Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.

“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”

Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.