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Matt McGloin says QB rotation was a ‘killer’ for Penn State

Penn State football coach O'Brien instructs quarterback McGloin at his first spring practice as Penn State's head coach in State College AP

Right on cue with an earlier statement, Penn State coach Bill O’Brien announced last week that senior Matt McGloin would be the starting quarterback for the Nittany Lions this fall. The decision was a departure from the previous two years which saw McGloin share time with Rob Bolden, neither of whom separated themselves from the other.

Good, bad, right or wrong, O’Brien felt the need to make a decision and commit to it, at least for the time being. It’s a move that McGloin supports.

I think coach O’Brien did a great thing by announcing it early,” McGloin said, via StateCollege.com. “It lets me try to get control of the offense going into the season.”

McGloin is 5-5 as a starter and has been dreadful at times under center, but according to O’Brien, “did a very good job of being consistent” this spring. That was enough to put him ahead of Paul Jones in the QB race while Bolden slipped down to No. 3. Whatever the pecking order, McGloin says the depth chart needs to say “then” rather than “or.”

“It’s a killer to a team, in my opinion,” McGloin said of the previous QB rotation. “You have to have a clear-cut starter. The team has to believe in the quarterback. That wasn’t the case the last two years.

“If the (coaches) had put their trust into one guy, we might have been more successful.”

Fair enough, although one could argue that the previous Penn State coaching staff put their trust solely into McGloin for the 2011 Outback Bowl, which resulted in McGloin tossing five picks.

But…

“Now that everybody knows I’m the starting quarterback, I can try to earn the respect of the rest of the team, earn their trust and go from there,” McGloin said. “I can finally get my mind off of it and not worry about somebody nipping at my heels or whether I’m going to get this rep or that rep.

“I can focus on mechanics, watching film, working with the guys who are most important to me (on offense), work on becoming a leader. If I’m going to start Saturday, I can be at ease with my mind and just focus on preparing for the games and not worry about if I don’t play or practice well Tuesday or Wednesday.”

In theory, McGloin has a point. More often than not, a team is better off if they have an established quarterback. That said, I’m not sure he’s the guy to be talking about what’s good for team chemistry.

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Marcus Mariota continues to build Heisman resume against Colorado

Marcus Mariota

There have been plenty of spectacular performances by multiple players attempting to enter the race for the Heisman Trophy in recent weeks. Marcus Mariota remains the favorite for the award, though.

As the national conversation shifted this week to “game control”, Mariota and his Ducks aren’t having any trouble with the Colorado Buffaloes. The No. 2 Oregon squad leads Colorado 30-3 at halftime, while Mariota continues to pad his resume.

The junior quarterback was efficient and effective. Mariota was 14-of-20 passing for 176 yards and a touchdown. The quarterback is also the game’s leading rusher with six carries for 74 yards and another touchdown.

In fact, Mariota’s performance in the first half propelled him to elite territory in college football history:

Plenty of other Ducks got into the act as well.

Freshman running back Royce Freeman ran the ball 12 times for 59 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Mariota also connected with eight difference targets. Senior Keanon Lowe led the way with four catches for 43 yards.

Oregon’s quarterback was also helped by a spectacular catch from wide receiver Darren Carrington, who caught a tipped pass while on his back:

During the second half, Oregon should continue to overwhelm an outclassed Colorado squad. The Buffaloes can build some confidence by moving the ball and slowing the Ducks offense. While Oregon has a much bigger aspirations this season, Colorado can still earn a moral victory with better play during the third and fourth quarters.

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Ryan Broyles’ career receiving mark broken by ECU’s Justin Hardy

East Carolina v Cincinnati

Earlier this afternoon, one Oklahoma player added his name to the NCAA record books.  A short time later, a former Sooner found his name erased from the same book.,

Early in the first quarter of East Carolina’s game against Tulane, Justin Hardy hauled in a seven-yard catch from quarterback Shane Carden, the 349th of his career.  That tied the FBS record set by Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles.

The next possession for the Pirates, Hardy grabbed a 22-yarder that was No. 350 and broke the record Broyles had set from 2007-11.  Hardy added two more catches and now has 352 for his career with the rest of this half plus three more games — two in the regular season and one bowl game — to add to the record.

Hardy has been a significant weapon in ECU’s passing game from the moment he stepped on the field as a redshirt freshman.  He pulled in 64 receptions in 2011 — 11 of them in his first-ever game at this level — then grabbed 88 and 114 in 2012 and 2013, respectively.  He currently has 86 this season.

If you recall, Hardy was also the subject of an unusual rebuke earlier this week, with the AAC’s commissioner calling out the Biletnikoff Award for not including Hardy among its 10 semifinalists

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Arkansas Razorbacks dominate first half against No. 8 Ole Miss Rebels

Brandon Allen, Alex Collins

Mississippi’s landshark defense has lost some of its bite in recent weeks.

The Arkansas Razorbacks lead the No. 8 Ole Miss Rebels 17-0 at halftime. The Razorbacks game plan has been simple. They’ve ran the football effectively and overwhelmed Ole Miss at the point of attack.

Despite the rankings, Arkansas’ lead shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The Razorbacks beat LSU by the same score last week. And Bret Bielema‘s squad is a stronger opponent than its 5-5 record indicates.

Arkansas’ running attack has proven to be too much for Ole Miss’ talented defense. The Razorbacks ran for 103 rushing yards compared to Ole Miss’ 12 yards. And Arkansas has held the ball nine minutes longer than the Rebels.

The Rebels defense also struggled to cover Arkansas’ talented tight ends. Drew Morgan and Hunter Henry combined to catch five passes for 81 yards.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss had to deal with an injury to quarterback Bo Wallace. Wallace’s ability to play and do so effectively in the second half could have a drastic effect on Ole Miss’ chances to make a comeback. Wallace left the game due to a leg injury before he returned. But a lack of mobility will severely hamper his game if he comes out of the half and continues to lead the Rebels’ offense.

With Wallace hampered and a struggling defense, Arkansas will continue to pound the ball during the second half. Another loss by Ole Miss will take them completely out of the conversation to make a New Year’s bowl game.

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Golson struggles as No. 24 Louisville leads Notre Dame 17-6 at the half

Michael Dyer

This wasn’t part of the plan when Everett Golson was training on the California beaches with George Whitfield last year. One of the best quarterbacks in the country in September, Golson has been outplayed through one half by true freshman Reggie Bonnafon as No. 24 Louisville leads Notre Dame 17-6 at a rain-soaked Notre Dame Stadium through one half.

Golson has completed 6-of-9 passes for 121 yards, but threw an interception deep inside Notre Dame territory to set up a Louisville field goal, and coughed up a fumble late in the half that the Irish recovered but killed a promising drive nonetheless as a 2nd-and-6 at the Notre Dame 44 turned into a 3rd-and-38 at the 12.

Bonnafon has completed 5-of-14 passes for 101 yards and a Hail Mary interception, but leads all rushers with 10 carries for 55 yards and the game’s only touchdowns. Michael Dyer has also rushed 10 times for 49 yards.

Louisville’s touchdown drives came on marches of 75 and 93 yards in the first quarter. The Cardinals have out-gained the Irish 215-141 and hold a 12-6 edge in first downs.

Louisville will receive the ball to open the second half.

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No. 15 Arizona Wildcats lead No. 17 Utah Utes in crucial Pac-12 South contest

Rich Rodriguez

The No. 15 Arizona Wildcats still have a chance at represent the Pac-12 South in the conference’s championship game.

A win Saturday against the No. 17 Utah Utes would be the first step for the scenario to come to fruition for Rich Rodriguez‘s squad. The Wildcats are off to a good start with a 21-7 lead over Utah.

As these two teams prepared for the contest, the matchup everyone eagerly anticipated was Arizona’s explosive offense against Utah’s stingy defense.

However, Arizona’s defense is dominating through two quarters of play.

Utah managed 154 total yards of offense. Quarterback Travis Wilson is 11-of-18 passing for 78 yards. And the Wildcats’ defense came up with the biggest play of the half when senior defensive lineman Dan Pettinato recovered a fumble and returned it for a 31-yard touchdown.

Senior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant forced the fumble. It’s the third time he’s done so this season.

On offense, Arizona running back Nick Wilson gouged Utah for 100 yards. The Wildcats have kept Utah’s impressive defensive line on its heels by effectively using the zone read. Wilson has been the primary recipient, but quarterback Anu Solomon ran for 22 yards and a touchdown. Solomon also finished the first half 8-of-17 passing for 158 yards.

Utah was finally able to muster some offense during its two-minute drill. Wilson found senior tight end Weslee Tonga open in the corner of the end zone for a 11-yard touchdown with seven seconds on the clock.

Despite the late touchdown, Arizona controlled the first half. The Wildcats’ defense kept Utah’s offense in check. The Utes need to adjust their assignments against Arizona’s zone read if they want to get back into the Pac-12 South conversation.

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No. 3 Florida State leading Boston College 17-10 through one half

Nick O'Leary

Well, this certainly isn’t going to help Florida State in the all-important game control metrics. At a rain-soaked (what else is new?) Doak Campbell Stadium, the third-ranked Seminoles lead Boston College 17-10 at the half.

Florida State opened the game with a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by a three-yard Karlos Williams run, that ate 6:24 off the clock, and Boston College responded with a 14-play, 50-yard drive that consumed 8:22 to pull within 7-3.

Roberto Aguayo field goal put the Seminoles up 10-3, but Boston College clawed back into it with an interception of Jameis Winston on a tipped pass and a 49-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Murphy to Shakim Phillips.

Florida State responded immediately with a 75-yard scoring drive, capped by a 30-yard pass from Winston to Nick O’Leary.

Winston has completed 14-of-20 passes for 193 yards with a touchdown and an interception while Murphy, a former Gator, has hit four of his five passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Boston College holds a 95-36 rushing advantage.

Rashad Greene was taken to the locker room with an apparent arm injury, but returned to the field just before the half.

Boston College will receive the ball to open the second half.

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OU’s Samaje Perine breaks Melvin Gordon’s week-old rushing mark

Samaje Perine, Ty Darlington AP

Well that certainly didn’t take long.

Last week, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon broke LaDainian Tomlinson‘s single-game record of 406 yards rushing, one that had lasted 15 years, with a 408-yard effort against Nebraska.  The new record, as it turned out, lasted exactly seven days.

In the first half of what will be an Oklahoma win over Kansas, Samaje Perine totaled a whopping 222 yards, putting everyone on alert that Gordon’s mark could be in serious jeopardy.  Early in the fourth quarter, a 42-yard run pushed the true freshman to 427 yards for the game, shattering Gordon’s week-old standard.

That will likely be Perine’s total for the game as he was taken out prior to the next play and is not expected to return to what’s now a 44-7 game in favor of the Sooners.  Perine’s 427 yards also topped the highest total ever for a freshman, breaking the mark of 386 yards of San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk in 1991, as well as the Big 12 record of 378 by Iowa State’s Troy Davis in 1996.

For those who want to compare and/or split hairs, Gordon only needed 25 carries to set his record and averaged 16.3 yards per carry; Perine averaged “only” 12.6 yards on his 34 attempts.  Additionally, Gordon accomplished his feat in only three quarters of play, while Perine played into the fourth quarter.

Regardless, it was a stunning performance by one of the most talented young backs in the country.  The scariest part of it for the Big 12?  He’s only going to get better.

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Hokies hit new low with 6-3 OT loss at Wake Forest

Frank Beamer

Wake Forest and Virginia Tech played an ACC game this afternoon. I watched it so you didn’t have to. With neither team bringing any offense to the field, the Hokies and Demon Deacons needed to play an overtime before either team could put a point on the scoreboard. In the second overtime, Wake Forest kicker Mike Weaver connected on his second field goal of  post-regulation time, from 39 yards, to win the game for the home team, 6-3. It was Wake Forest’s first ACC win since October 19, 2013 against Maryland.

Wake Forest and Virginia Tech combined to convert eight third down conversions out of 35 attempts. Virginia Tech put together 254 yards and held Wake Forest to 234 yards of total offense. The Hokies also had three turnovers and the teams combined for 18 punts. Wake FOrest also missed three field goal attempts in regulation. Perhaps there is something to be said about the grittiness of each team’s defense to refuse to give the opposing offense a spark, but there was some poor offensive play to go along with respected defensive play. This is typically a bad combination for all watching, but Wake Forest will not care. A win is a win for Dave Clawson’s team right now.

Virginia Tech will end the regular season next weekend against in-state rival Virginia. The Hokies will have to win the game in order to go to a bowl game this season. Virginia will need a win at home tonight against Miami to set-up a winner-goes-bowling game with the Hokies next week.

This may be viewed as one of the worst losses for Virginia Tech in some time, and perhaps is a new low for Frank Beamer as head coach. Not being able to score any points on Wake Forest, a team allowing an average of 27.3 points per game, is never a good sign. The Hokies were playing through some depth challenges, but Saturday’s loss may be another example of how far Virginia Tech has fallen as the season has progressed, and where the program is situated overall today.

This is a Virginia Tech team that won at Ohio State, before the Buckeyes really found their stride with an inexperienced J.T. Barrett under center. This is a Hokies team that was blown out at home by Miami. There were close losses to Georgia Tech and Boston College and Pittsburgh, and they did beat Duke. But going into the final week of the season, Virginia Tech is in an ultimate struggle to play a 13th game. Virginia Tech has played in a bowl game every season since 1993.

Wake Forest will play on the road in Durham next week against Duke. Duke let the ACC Coastal slip away from them earlier this week with a Thursday night loss to North Carolina. The Duke loss gave Georgia Tech the division crown, but Duke will look to go out with a rebound win at home before preparing for the bowl season. Wake Forest, of course, will not be playing in a bowl game this season, but will at least look to build on a win against Virginia Tech moving forward.

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No. 23 Nebraska fumbles away a win against No. 25 Gophers

Mitch Leidner, Lincoln Plsek, Zaire Anderson

Sometimes it can be a little too cliché to say a team let a game slip through their fingers, but no other phrase may explain how No. 23 Nebraska (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten) lost to No. 25 Minnesota (8-3, 5-2 Big Ten) better than such a phrase. Nebraska fumbled away two balls around the Minnesota end zone and the Gophers managed to escape Lincoln with a 28-24 victory to remain in the running for the Big Ten West Division.

With Nebraska leading 21-7, De’Mornay Pierson-El caught a pass for a 25-yard gain inside the red zone before fumbling away the football in the second quarter. Minnesota recovered the loose football and returned it 24 yards. Minnesota was unable to do anything with it late in the first half, but it prevented Nebraska for tacking on a few more points. Pierson-El again lost control of the football in the fourth quarter, this time at the two-yard line with Nebraska trailing 28-24. The fumble was again recovered by Minnesota, and one first down later the Gophers were able to run the clock out on Nebraska.

Those fumbles were the only two turnovers in the game, and it proved costly for the Huskers, who now once again are starting to stare right in the face of another nine-win season to keep some pressure on Bo Pelini as head coach. Nebraska was unable to keep wraps on Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner, who had a terrific afternoon. Leidner was not particularly accurate, but he passed for 135 yards and led the team running for 110 yards and two touchdowns. David Cobb added 80 rushing yards and a touchdown. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown. Abdullah and a handful of Huskers had to be treated for medical attention at various points during the game. It was a rough afternoon for Nebraska.

Now, Minnesota is in a winner-take-all situation next week against rival Wisconsin. Minnesota will hit the road once more to take on the Badgers for Paul Bunyan’s Ax and a share of the Big Ten West championship. Wisconsin still has a game to play, but the result of that game will not matter, at least in terms of the Big Ten West. No matter how next week plays out, Jerry Kill has to be gaining some consideration for coach of the year recognition.

Nebraska will play its final game of the regular season next Friday, after Thanksgiving, at Iowa. The Huskers cannot win the Big Ten West, but Iowa is still alive with a win over Wisconsin.

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The Marshall Plan: Buckeyes regroup, stake claim to B1G East title

Indiana v Ohio State Getty Images

It was far from pretty, and featured very little (ahem) “game control” on the favorite’s part throughout most of it, but a win is a win is a win.

Thanks in large part to an embattled and beleaguered special teams until, No. 6 Ohio State, anywhere from 32- to 35-point favorites coming in, was able to flip momentum midway through the third quarter and rode it to a closer-than-expected 42-27 win over 3-8 Indiana in Columbus.  IU now has a 22-game winless streak against OSU dating back to 1988.

The win clinches the Big Ten East for the 10-1 Buckeyes, and sends them to the Big Ten championship game next month.  Were it not for a pair of plays from the special teams, however, OSU very well could’ve been forced to wait until Week 14 to clinch.

Trailing 14-13 at the half, the Hoosiers stunned the Ohio Stadium crowd with 7:17 left in the third quarter as Tevin Coleman raced 90 yards for a touchdown to put IU up 20-14.  While the Buckeyes were forced to punt on the ensuing possession, Ray Guy Award candidate Cameron Johnson pinned the Hoosiers on their own one-yard line.  The Buckeyes’ defense stiffened in forcing a three-and-out and a punt, which was promptly returned 54 yards for a touchdown by Jalin Marshall.

Up 21-20 with just over two minutes left in the third, OSU gradually pulled away as Marshall scored a second touchdown — a six-yard touchdown pass from J.T. Barrett that was the quarterback’s 31st of the season, breaking Troy Smith school record — very early in the fourth quarter… and then a third, a one-handed scoring catch from 15 yards out… and then a fourth on a short “pass” he took 54 yards to the end zone to account for the final score on the OSU side of the ledger.

Barrett, in the running for a mid-December road trip to New York City for the Heisman ceremony, rebounded from a miserable two-pick first half to put together a solid albeit unspectacular game, at least based on the high standards he’s set for himself since the Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech.  In completing 25-of-35 passes, Barrett threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns.  He’s now tied with Purdue’s Drew Brees for the Big Ten record of total touchdowns in a season (42) as the redshirt freshman now has 33 passing and nine rushing scores in his first year as a starter.

The breakout star of the game, however, was Marshall.  He accounted for four touchdowns, all in the last two quarters, after entering the game with four touchdowns in the first 42 quarters of the season.  The most remarkable aspect of Marshall’s scoring outburst?  He only touched the ball seven times all game, and ended up with 151 all-purpose yards.

Ezekiel Elliott paced the Buckeyes’ running attack with 107 yards, his fifth 100-yard effort of the season.  Coleman, one of the most underrated backs in the country, gashed the Buckeyes’ defense for 228 yards on 27 carries, his fourth 200-yard game of the season.  The last two weeks, both losses, Coleman totaled 535 yards on the ground.

Coleman also accounted for all three of the Hoosiers’ touchdowns, with two of them coming on runs of 90 yards and 52 in the second half to close out the scoring.

As stated earlier a win is a win is a win, but it’s a win that could very well spell trouble for the Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff rankings.

After struggling on the road against woeful Kansas last week, TCU was dropped to No. 5 in the most recent rankings by the CFP committee.  OSU, sitting at No. 6 in those rankings, could very well suffer a similar fate and be leapfrogged by the likes of Baylor come Tuesday.  One thing is all but certain: barring upsets later today and even as the win over Minnesota last week looks even better today, the sixth-ranked Buckeyes won’t be moving up when the Top 25 is released in three days.

Another known is that OSU, which closes out the 2014 regular season next week in The Game against Michigan, will be playing in its second consecutive conference championship game.  Just who its opponent will be won’t be decided until next week as the winner of the Wisconsin-Minnesota game — in Madison — will claim the Big Ten West and a spot opposite OSU in Indianapolis.

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Spartans start and finish strong in efficient win over Rutgers

Jeremy Langford, Delon Stephenson

If you needed to see No. 11 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) play a complete game to remind you how good they can be, you got it. Connor Cook passed for 254 yards and two touchdowns and Jeremy Langford rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns as the Spartans finished up the home portion of its schedule with a 45-3 drubbing of Rutgers (6-5, 2-5 Big Ten).

Michigan State rolled out to a 35-0 lead in the first half before Rutgers could put three points on the board late in the third quarter. The Spartans were excellent on third down conversion attempts and were two-for-two on fourth downs. Michigan State piled up over 500 yards of offense and held Rutgers to roughly half of that total. It was just complete domination from start to finish for Michigan State.

Michigan State will play its final game of the regular season next week on the road at Penn State. The winner of the game will receive the Land Grant Trophy, which is currently possessed by the Spartans. One more win by Michigan State could very well make the Spartans an attractive at-large option, but that may only come into play if Ohio State is not in the College Football Playoff.

Rutgers will end the season on the road against Maryland. Both Rutgers and Maryland are already bowl eligible, but positioniong in the Big Ten East standings could be on the line.

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Michigan’s interim AD expects to make decision on Brady Hoke’s future

Jim Hackett

Jim Hackett‘s first major decision as interim athletic director at the University of Michigan may be to hire Brady Hoke‘s replacement.

Hackett was officially appointed the school’s interim athletic director Thursday, and he met with the media for the first time Saturday.

According to ESPN.com’s Dan Murphy, Hackett stated the school doesn’t plan on hiring a permanent athletic director before making a decision on Hoke’s future or potentially finding a replacement.

Hackett wouldn’t discuss Hoke’s status, though.

“We have a football coach who has had a long history of being a good coach,” Hackett said. “He knows we’re not where we need to be right now.”

With two regular season games remaining, including today’s contest against the Maryland Terrapins, the acting athletic director won’t make a snap judgement. He expects to let the regular season play itself out before a decision is made.

“I watch how people behave in adversity,” Hackett said. “These guys have shown up every week and played hard. I’m also proud of the coaches’ ability to work extremely hard during that situation.”

At 5-5 overall, Hoke still has an opportunity in front of him to make an impression. A win against Maryland will make the team bowl eligible. If the Wolverines can upset the rival Ohio State Buckeyes a week later, Hoke could be in position to retain his job.

It doesn’t seem likely, but Hackett appears willing to give Hoke a chance before he makes an official decision.

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Washington State overcomes late surge for halftime lead at ASU

Luke Falk

Arizona State looked to be in a great position to win the Pac-12 South and wiggle into the College Football Playoff with a couple of things going their way. Now the Sun Devils are just looking to find a way out of a home game against Washington State to stay alive in the Pac-12 South title hunt. The visiting Cougars looked to be dominating the game in the first half, but two turnovers have led to Arizona State storming back to tie things up at 21-21. A late field goal gave the Cougars a 24-21 lead at the break.

Washington State quarterback Luke Falk has passed for 256 yards and two touchdowns, with both touchdown scores coming in the second quarter. Falk also scored the first touchdown of the game with a one-yard run in the first quarter. But the quarterback has been picked off twice, and each time Arizona State has reached the end zone on the ensuing possession.

Arizona State may have picked up some life late in the first half with Taylor Kelly leading the offense downfield for a late touchdown. A 42-yard pass to Cameron Smith went for a touchdown and made it a one-score game. Perhaps that will be the play that changes the momentum of this game in the second half for the Sun Devils. Before the close of the half, Arizona State’s Marcus Hardison picked off a Falk pass at returned it 12 yards for a great scoring opportunity from the Washington State 13-yard line. Two plays later, Kelly connected with Frederick Gammage for a 10-yard touchdown pass.

Here is something else to keep in mind as you figure out this Pac-12 South situation. If Arizona State does lose this game, USC can clinch the division later tonight with a win against UCLA.

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Virginia Tech and Wake Forest fail to dent scoreboard in first half

Michael Brewer

In what has been one of the ugliest games of the early Saturday afternoon slate, Virgina Tech and Wake Forest are locked in quite a defensive battle. Or rather, neither offense has looked particularly good in this ACC bout. At the half, we are still awaiting the first points of the game.

At the half, the Hokes and Demon Deacons have combined to convert three out of 15 third down conversions for first downs. Virginia Tech has put together 132 yards of offense, while Wake Forest has mustered just 79 yards. Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer has completed 12 of 17 passes for 99 yards, and the running game has struggled with a lack of depth this week. J.C. Coleman leads the team with seven rushes for 20 yards.

Wake Forest had a chance to put a dent on the scoreboard, but Mike Weaver‘s 42-yard field goal attempt was no good.

Wake Forest has been ineligible for postseason play for a few weeks now, but Virginia Tech’s postseason fate is still on the line coming down the stretch this season. The Hokies are one win shy of clinching bowl eligibility with today’s game and next week’s regular-season finale against Virginia left to play.

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Nebraska special teams comes up with big play for first half cushion

Tommy Armstrong Jr.

Nebraska football players may be struggling to stay on the field, but the Huskers are looking to bounce back after a bad loss at Wisconsin to remain in the Big Ten west title hunt. Minnesota is also looking to rebound off a loss to Ohio State, and the Gophers have done well in slowing down the Nebraska running game. But the Huskers own the 21-7 lead at the half, and they have the special teams to thank for padding the lead.

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah has not had much of an impact on the game so far, looking to be playing at under 100 percent. He did, however, open the scoring with a short touchdown run to finish off a quick five-play, 84-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter. Minnesota responded later in the first quarter when Mitch Leidner picked up a short touchdown run from one yard out to cap a nine-play, 71-yard answer.

Nebraska took a lead on a catch by De’Mornay Pierson-El. Pierson-El caught a pass from Armstrong just shy of the end zone, reached for the goal line and barely got the ball to break the goal line before losing control of the football. Minnesota pounced on the loose ball, but Big Ten officials ruled the touchdown good and instant replay upheld the call on the field.

Minnesota had a chance to cut into the lead later in the second quarter, but a 30-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Nebraska’s Randy Gregory and returned by Nate Gerry for a touchdown. The play turned out to be a 10-point swing and turned a potential four-point game into a 14-point game. Adding to the impact of the play was the fact

Nebraska wide receiver Kenny Bell had to be taken off the field by medical trainers in the first quarter. Bell appeared to leave for a head injury at the end of a 73-yard pass play. Late in the first half, Abdullah needed assistance as well. Given his recent history, the concern has to be pretty high at the half.

Randy Gregory walked off the field with medical trainers late in the first quarter. He did return in the second quarter.

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