USC managed to have a record-setting day yesterday against Arizona. Receiver Marqise Lee hauled in 16 receptions for 345 yards and a pair of touchdowns, good enough to break school and Pac-12 records. Matt Barkley threw for almost 500 yards. And, yet, the Trojans lost to the Wildcats 39-36.
Seeing as there’s an explanation for just about everything, not entirely. There are some things that immediately stick out looking at the preseason No. 1 team now sitting at 6-2 and in the middle of an unexpectedly scrappy battle for a Pac-12 South championship. Depth has been and will be a concern for USC because of NCAA sanctions. Matt Barkley has three games this season where he’s thrown multiple interceptions. If all else fails, blame Lane Kiffin, right?
But there’s one stat that continues to haunt the Trojans with Halloween quickly approaching: USC is dead last in the country in penalties per game with 82 total for 677 yards. That’s just over 10 penalties a game for 85 yards a game. Against Arizona, USC had 13 for 117 yards, though it should be pointed out that the Wildcats had 14 of their own for 129 yards. In USC’s loss to Stanford earlier this season, the Trojans had seven penalties for 73 yards (Stanford had eight penalties for 68 yards).
Yeah, ugly. That’s not something you expect from a team with that much talent and that much experience in key areas. Blame Kiffin for play calling all you want, but a lack of discipline like that is definitely on his shoulders. In games decided by more than one touchdown, USC is 6-0. In games decided by a touchdown or less — you guessed it, 0-2.
Mistakes are magnified in close games, so it’s no wonder that the Trojans have dropped a pair when they needed to play more fundamentally sound even though their opponents have played mistake-prone football as well. If USC was able to cut those penalties in half, perhaps the Trojans would still be undefeated and in the BCS championship discussion.
Interestingly enough, USC’s next game is against Oregon, a team that also ranks among the worst in penalties per game. But giving the Ducks any sort of help has already proven lethal to eight opponents this season.
The Willie Taggart era at Oregon is barely a month old, and already the first crisis has arrived.
A report from The Oregonian uncovered that at least three Ducks football players have been sent to the hospital after undergoing grueling workouts administered by new strength coach Irele Oderinde, who followed Taggart from South Florida. Offensive linemen Doug Brenner and Sam Poutasi and tight end Cam McCormick are in “fair condition” at Springfield’s PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend, where they have remained since late last week.
Poutasi has reportedly been diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a soft tissue condition triggered by overwork that can lead to kidney damage.
While those three players remained hospitalized, The Oregonian reports the rest of the team was required to complete the same workouts this week:
The sources said that some players “passed out” and others later complained of discolored urine, which is a common symptom of rhabdomyolysis. After testing, others were found to have highly elevated levels of creatine kinase, an indicator of the syndrome.
“The safety and welfare of all of our student-athletes is paramount in all that we do,” Oregon said in a statement to The Oregonian. “While we cannot comment on the health of our individual students, we have implemented modifications as we transition back into full training to prevent further occurrences.
“We thank our medical staff and trainers for their continued monitoring of the students and we will continue to support our young men as they recover.”
Taggart visited the players in Riverbend before leaving the state to recruit, the paper reported.
Brenner is entering his senior season, while Poutasi and McCormick redshirted last fall.
Tennessee is still in search of its next athletics director, which has become a point of contention lately — and especially over the past 24 hours.
Alabama hired Greg Byrne away from Arizona without ever letting the job hit the open market, which begs the question, just what the heck are they doing in Knoxville? Outgoing AD Dave Hart has been outgoing since before football season started. Getting outmaneuvered by their rivals to the south — their immensely more successful rivals to the south, at least in the sport that matters in Tennessee — has created turmoil for an athletics department that majors in it.
As an apparent slice of red meet to the fans, the Vols let it be known Monday Phillip Fulmer is a serious candidate for their AD job.
“Fulmer has grown close to Tennessee President Joe DiPietro and a group of influential boosters have been working behind the scenes to help install him as Dave Hart’s replacement, according to people close to the situation,” Wolken writes.
Fulmer has exactly zero athletics director experience, but he is a harken back to the glory days of yonder for the Volunteers. He went 152-52 in 17 seasons with six top-10 finishes, three SEC titles, six SEC East crowns and a national championship in 1998.
In fact, even the “bad” Fulmer seasons — a .531 SEC winning percentage with one top-15 finish and one SEC East championship from 2005-08 — compare favorably with the marks of his three successors. Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and Butch Jones have collectively posted a .349 SEC winning percentage with zero top-15 finishes and zero SEC East championships in the eight seasons since Fulmer’s dumping.
It’s not clear what Fulmer brings to the department beyond a familiar face and a living, breathing link to the glory days, but perhaps those attributes are good enough at Tennessee.
Missouri State running back Richard Nelson was fatally shot in the back while attempting to break up a fight on Saturday night. He was 18 years old.
According to a description of the altercation from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nelson was at his home in his native Las Vegas when he attempted to break up a fight between his older sister and “several individuals” when one of the individuals shot Nelson multiple times. Officers responded to a call and transported him to Sunrise Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“I saw blood and everything,” Nelson’s girlfriend Christina Martinez told the Review-Journal. “The next thing I know, I look at him in the eyes. I touch his head and his eyes are closed. I heard his last breath and I just cried and cried,” she said Sunday. “I knew at that moment that I should have done something more. I wish I could have hugged him one last time. I wish I could have kissed him and said goodbye.”
Nelson planned to fly back to Missouri on Sunday to begin preparations for his redshirt freshman season in 2017.
“Our Missouri State football family is in shock and mourning at the loss of one of our family members,” Missouri State coach Dave Steckel said in a statement. “Richard is like a son and a brother. It is a tragedy that he lost his life defending what is right. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family in Las Vegas, and we know he is in a good place with God. We ask everyone to respect the privacy of our football family at this time as we begin the healing process.”
“Richard is like a son and a brother,” added Missouri State AD Kyle Moats. “It is a tragedy that he lost his life defending what is right. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family in Las Vegas, and we know he is in a good place with God.”
The average college football team topped 30 points per game for the first time in the game’s history, according to data compiled and released by the NCAA.
The typical team scored 30.04 points per game this fall, busting the record of 29.7 points per game per team set last fall. The Big 12 led all conferences with an average of 33.58 points per game. Western Kentucky led all teams with 45.5 points per game.
Consequently, the 2016 season also set the record for the longest average game time in FBS history.
As Dennis Dodd for CBS Sports notes, this is the seventh time since 2000 the average scoring record has been broken. That same record was broken 19 times in the previous 63 seasons.
This season also saw records broken for average total offense (417.5 yards per game), yards per play (5.83), yards per pass attempt (7.39) and touchdowns per game (3.82).
However, teams did average 182.99 rushing yards per game, the highest number since 1979.