The theme for Saturday, Sept. 1 in Happy Valley: change, to the fullest extent.
For the first time in over four decades, Joe Paterno wasn’t roaming the home sideline at Beaver Stadium. The Jerry Sandusky scandal changed everything in at Penn State all the way down to the decision to put names on the backs of the classic blue and white uniforms.
The NCAA sanctions, the departures by running back Silas Redd (among others) — it wasn’t what Bill O’Brien envisioned when he took over the program.
But things actually started out promising enough for the Nittany Lions against Ohio. Though just a touchdown favorite, Penn State’s offense immediately looked like an improved unit from a year ago despite losing Redd and not having a proven quarterback. Then, halftime came and everything changed. PSU’s 14-3 lead slipped away. The Nittany Lions offense stalled and everything began looking like a reincarnation of 2011.
Penn State never scored another point and lost to a good Ohio team 24-14. It was truly a story of one half going in the exact opposite direction of the other.
And that was against Ohio — again, a good team, but a beatable one. Penn State travels to Virginia next before facing Navy and Temple. PSU might earn a couple of wins there before Big Ten conference play begins later this month. This has the potential to be a long and difficult season for the Nittany Lions.
The defensive front seven is good, but they can’t be on the field for over half the game. If the offense can execute like it did in the first half, Penn State can go over .500 this year. If the offense plays like it did in the second half, this team will struggle to win five games.
I have little Doubt O’Brien can get things done at Penn State over the long haul — there were flashes early — but consistency already looks like it’s going to be a problem for this team.
A third former Vanderbilt football player will spend a sizable portion of his adult life behind bars.
In June of this year, Brandon Banks was found guilty on one count each of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery related to a 2013 gang rape of an unconscious woman. Friday, Banks was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
In July of last year, one of Banks’ former teammates, Cory Batey, was sentenced to 15 years after being found guilty of aggravated rape. Four months later, another former Vandy football player, Brandon Vandenburg, was sentenced to 17 years after being found guilty of the same charge as Batey. The judge gave Vandenburg a longer sentence than Batey because the former was the leader in the attack and betrayed the woman’s trust.
Banks, Vandenburg, Batey and another ex-Vandy football player, Jaborian ‘Tip’ McKenzie, were initially charged Aug. 9, 2013, with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery each after a police investigation determined that the four had raped an unconscious woman.
On June 28 of 2013, Vanderbilt announced that four unnamed players had been indefinitely suspended amid reports that the players were connected to an alleged sex crimes case. The next day, Vandy officials further clarified the players’ statuses, releasing a statement announcing the dismissals of the four. That release further added that none of the four will be permitted to return to campus without permission from the office of student conduct and academic integrity.
McKenzie has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. He has agreed to testify against his former teammates in exchange for what he hopes is a lighter sentence.
I believe this one would qualify as a significant development.
In a very brief press release, Georgia Tech announced Friday afternoon that Dedrick Mills has been dismissed by Paul Johnson from the football team. The only reason given was an unspecified violation of Tech athletics department rules.
The head coach is expected to meet with the media following practice later on this afternoon.
Regardless of the specific reason for the dismissal, Mills’ departure serves as yet another blow for the run-heavy Yellow Jackets.
Last season, Mills’ 771 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns led all Tech ball carriers. 169 of those yards came in the bowl win over Kentucky. Mills put up all of those numbers as a true freshman despite being suspended on two different occasions for a total of three games.
Mills’ dismissal is the second huge blow to their 2017 running game as Marcus Marshall, who was second on the team last season with 624 yards, announced in late November that he would be transferring from Tech. Less than a month later, he moved on to James Madison.
With those twin departures, Clinton Lynch‘s 415 yards last season makes him the team’s leading returning rusher.
As you may know, I’m hardly a fan of the alternate uniform craze. These, though, I can very easily get behind.
Notre Dame on Friday released images of new uniforms the Fighting Irish will wear for their Nov. 18 game against Navy. From helmet to shoes, the new duds will serve as a head-to-toe tribute to the legendary Knute Rockne.
The players will all have the name “ROCKNE” emblazoned on the backs of their jerseys, while the helmets replicate the leather ones of Rockne’s era. The cleats also will pay homage to the era in which Rockne, also a former player at the school, coached the Fighting Irish to five national championships from 1918-1930. In those 13 seasons, the Irish lost just 12 games under Rockne.
Additionally, the sleeves will be adorned with the words from one of Rockne’s most famous speeches.
James Franklin is now in some very heady financial company.
Friday morning, Penn State’s Board of Trustees Committee on Compensation, as expected, unanimously approved an amended contract for their head football coach. While no details were released — that’s expected to happen later today — it’s believed the amended deal will extend through the 2023 season. Franklin’s old contract ran through 2019.
Additionally, Bruce Feldman of SI.com is reporting that the new six-year deal will average $5.8 million annually. What Franklin’s compensation for 2017 and beyond will, again, be divulged later on today.
The average of $5.8 million a year would make him the fourth-highest-paid coach in college football, behind only Alabama’s Nick Saban and a pair of fellow Big Ten coaches — Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.
Set to enter his fourth season with the Nittany Lions, Franklin has an overall record of 25-15 at the school. After a pair of 7-6 seasons to begin his tenure, 2016 was a breakout one for the program as they went 11-3 and won the Big Ten championship for the first time since 2008.
Expectations are extremely high coming off that breakout season as the Nittany Lions are ranked sixth in the preseason coaches’ poll.