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The Fifth Quarter: Alabama-LSU Rewind

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron celebrates after his team defeated the LSU Tigers during their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana AP

Yes, this game was so big it gets its own Rewind.  Your regularly-scheduled “The Fifth Quarter: Week 10 Rewind” will appear, in its entirety, later on in the day Sunday.

Ben did a helluva job with the post-game recap of one of the more entertaining football games you’ll see at any level, a 21-17 win for the top-ranked team in the nation.  Below is a little bit of the minutia and talking points that may or may not litter sports radio shows and water cooler conversations throughout the weekend and into the start of a new work week.

THE TURNING POINT
The first five drives of the second half, LSU’s relentlessly stifling defense had held Alabama’s offense in check, limiting the No. 1 Tide to 49 yards of total offense.  In those five series, the No. 5 Tigers forced four three-and-outs and one fumble.

And then came the sixth drive.

After a missed 38-yard field goal attempt gave the Tide the ball at their own 28-yard line with 1:34 left in the game, LSU, which had been in full-blown attack mode on defense throughout, went into full-blown soft-zone mode.  It turned out to be the worst of several questionable decisions made by Les Miles and his coaching staff throughout the game.

In three plays after taking possession, and in less than 40 seconds, the Tide gained nearly as many yards (44) as they had in the entire second half previously, moving from their own 28 to the same yard line on LSU’s side of the field.  Following an incompletion on the fourth play of what would prove to be the game-winning drive, LSU again donned their blitzing caps… and the Tide made the Tigers pay dearly, dialing up a perfectly-executed screen pass from AJ McCarron to T.J. Yeldon that saved both the game and the Tide’s title aspirations.

It’s hard to blame LSU for trying to prevent the one big play that would cost them the game.  It’s not hard to blame LSU, though, for a decision that allowed a trio of mini-big plays, ultimately leading to the big play.

THUMBS UP

Back-to-back still intact
Suffice to say, the biggest winner of the night was Alabama’s title hopes.  If last week was the Tide’s first real test of the 2012 season, tonight was their first real test of the year.  And, while they didn’t pass with the flying colors of a week ago, they passed.  At this stage of the season, that’s all that matters — for the most part.  While the Tide had walked, talked, smelled and played like an unstoppable force through eight games — so  much so, in fact, that the laughable notion of UA being able to beat an NFL team was actually taking hold — they were anything but that for a sizable chunk of the first 58 minutes.  As odd as it sounds, though, that might’ve been the second most important development of the night as it gives Nick Saban‘s coaching arsenal yet another pointed teaching tool to use on what is still, despite all of the wins and lofty rankings, a very young football team.  Complacency will likely be the Tide’s biggest enemy for the remainder of the regular season; the LSU game tape would serve as the ultimate trump card, as evidenced by Saban’s quotes following the game.

“Our players have to be aware that they can take this one way or the other,” the coach said of the hard-fought win. “This one is either going to affect them in a positive way or a negative way with what they do in the future. They can focus on the things they didn’t do and take the next challenge and continue to improve and be ready to play next week and prepare and practice next week or they can say, ‘We’re satisfied for ourselves with what we did.'”

AJ’s Heisman hopes
AJ McCarron, because of Alabama’s style of play, will simply not put up the type of numbers that other Heisman contenders do on a weekly basis, and that was never more evident than this latest Saturday night in Death Valley.  That final drive, however, was the stuff of which legends are made.  And the stuff that attracts the attention of Heisman voters regardless of the stat line for the first 58 minutes.  The raw, from-the-heart emotion McCarron displayed as the final seconds ticked off the clock and then boiled over as he met his parents beyond the end zone after the game were as epic, in a good way, as his engineering of the final drive.  I don’t know if the junior deserves to win the Heisman, but he certainly belongs in the discussion.

The SEC
If you don’t think the SEC was privately and/or publicly rooting for an Alabama win, you might consider removing your head from the sand as it’s awfully hot and hard to breathe down there.  For the conference in general and the Tide specifically, the stakes couldn’t have been higher.  An Alabama loss would’ve left the SEC with no unbeaten teams.  When combined with three other highly-ranked teams still unbeaten — four if you want to consider Louisville as part of the mix — the SEC’s streak of six straight BcS titles would’ve been in serious jeopardy, with the conference in the uncharted territory of relying on outside help for a ticket to the title game.  Fortunately for the SEC, the Tide’s win left the conference with the inside track for one of the two spots in the BcS championship game.  Just as fortunate?  There were no controversial calls that favored Alabama and played a role in the outcome of the game…

Death Valley didn’t disappoint
Forget the fact that LSU lost just its second home game under the lights (Florida, 2009) under Les Miles.  The atmosphere at Tiger Stadium, even from my vantage point a little over 1,000 miles, is simply electric and by all accounts deafening, which makes the Tide’s triumph all the more impressive.  If you were to make a list of the greatest venues for any sport in the country, it wouldn’t take long to call roll before you got to Death Valley.  It’s a credit to the university, the football program and, most importantly, the fan base that such a spectacle exists.  Yes, the loss was certainly disappointing to those that live and die with the Bayou Bengals, but they can take heart in the knowledge that they are a big part of what makes the sport of college football so great.  And, yes, a trip to Death Valley is on my sports bucket list.  Gotta get there at some point for a night game…

Democrats
Regardless of what the polls may or may not say, the Democratic Party has to be feeling pretty good heading into Tuesday based solely on the results of a football game.  Why?  According to research conducted by FanSided.com, the winner of the Alabama-LSU has accurately predicted the results of all seven presidential elections held since 1984.  In years that Alabama won, a Democrat won the election.  In years LSU won, a Republican was sent to the White House. So, with the Tide’s win, is it hello second term for the sitting president?  Your mileage may vary greatly as to whether an eighth-consecutive accurate prediction would be a positive or negative development.

THUMBS DOWN

The Mad Hatter
Take your pick on the daffiest of the daftness of the Mad Hatter in this game.  Was it the failed fake field goal that everybody — including the Tide’s defense and my grandmother, who’s been six feet under for two decades — saw coming?  The failed onside kick, which admittedly would’ve been idiot savant-level genius were it not for a quirky bounce that resulted in an illegal touching penalty on the kicker?  The failed 54-yard field goal attempt that gave the Tide prime field position with just over a minute left in the second quarter, and which the Tide turned into a touchdown and a 14-3 lead heading into the half?  A failed fourth-and-one from the Alabama 24, one in which LSU utilized its version of the gimmicky Wildcat offense after it had been very successful running the football with the standard power game?  Individually, these plays didn’t cost LSU the game.  Collectively, they were part of the subtle flow of the game that set the table for the game-winning drive.

Oh, Copeland…
Midway through the second quarter, a fumbled punt on the part of the Tide was recovered by the Tigers at UA’s 32-yard line.  On the ensuing play, a 19-yard run by Jeremy Hill moved the Tigers down to the 13-yard line… and a post-play personal foul on J.C. Copeland moved the ball back to the 28.  While it was still first and 10 following the penalty, all the momentum gained from the previous two plays was lost as the Tigers gained just one yard the next three, leading to the failed fake field goal.  The penalty almost certainly cost the Tigers at least a field goal, if not a touchdown.  In what was a four-point loss, and even as it occurred in the first half, Copeland’s momentary lapse of reason was a significant moment in the game.

Who are you and what’d you do with the Tide’s defense?
Through the first eight games of the season, Alabama led the country by stingily giving up just a little over 57 yards per game on the ground; LSU churned out 80 rushing yards… in the first quarter alone.  For the game, the Tigers rushed for 139 yards; previously, the most the Tide had given up in a single game this season was 80 to Ole Miss in Week 5.  Add that to some very suspect play in the passing game, and we’re guessing Nick Saban will spend an inordinate amount of time tightening things up on that side of the ball as the Tide preps for the high-octane Texas A&M Aggies’ trip to Tuscaloosa this Saturday.

McCarron’s Heisman hopes
As great as the final drive was, the first 58:26 was as choppy of a game McCarron has played in his one-plus seasons as the Tide’s starting quarterback.  On that final drive, McCarron was 4-5 for 72 yards and a touchdown; prior to that, he was 10-22 for 93 yards and one rushing touchdown.  On what will be his second-biggest stage before votes are cast — the SEC championship being the biggest, provided the Tide can navigate games against A&M and Auburn — the question will become what voters give the most weight to when it comes to McCarron’s stiff-armed candidacy: the first 58, or final two.

QUOTABLE

“I’ve never been prouder of a bunch of guys to overcome adversity. … It’s something I’ll never forget.” — Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

“It was a very hard game. We needed a hard game.” — Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.

“You’ll remember this one forever.  It hurts worse than the [loss to Alabama] in the national championship game.” — LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING

— From the UA Sports Information Department: AJ McCarron continues to build his school record of passes without an interception. McCarron ends the LSU game with an active streak of 289 passing attempts without an interception.

— Speaking of McCarron, the junior is one touchdown pass away from tying and two away from breaking Greg McElroy‘s single-season mark of 20 set in 2010.  He’s also 10 touchdown passes away from breaking John Parker Wilson‘s career mark of 47.

— Despite the loss, quarterback Zach Mettenberger came of age for the Tigers.  In unquestionably his finest performance in his first season as a starter, Mettenberger completed 24-of-35 passes for 298 yards, one touchdown and, most impressively considering the opposition’s defense, no interceptions.

— Until late in the third quarter, LSU had gone 169:38 without scoring a touchdown against Alabama, a span that stretched back to 8:13 left in the fourth quarter of the Nov. 6, 2010, win over the Tide and which covered two-plus games.  Then, in a span of 5:37, the Tigers exploded for a pair of touchdowns.

— The 435 yards of total offense by the Tigers was the most surrendered by a Tide defense since a loss to the same team in November of 2007, Saban’s first season in Tuscaloosa.

— The attendance of 93,374 is a new Tiger Stadium record.

— Alabama leads the all-time series with LSU, 47-25-5.

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TE P.J. Gallo leaving Terps after 2015… for Wall Street

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The 2015 season hasn’t even kicked off yet and Maryland already knows one player is set to leave College Park with eligibility on the table — and not for the NFL draft, either.

Instead of working out with his teammates this past summer getting prepped for the upcoming season, Gallo worked out alone while serving a 10-week internship at Goldman Sachs in New York City.  The internship led to a job offer from the Wall Street staple, and also a choice for Gallo: pass on the job to play his final season of college football in 2016, or give up the sport and embark on his post-football career.

In the end, and after talking with head coach Randy Edsall, Gallo decided to leave the playing field early and get a head-start on the financial field.

“It was actually an easier conversation than I thought it was going to be because he was very supportive of it,” said Gallo to the Washington Post regarding his talk with Edsall. “I made the right decision for myself, for my future. Hopefully, five years from now, I can still look back and say it was the right decision.”

Gallo is on track to graduate from Maryland this spring and move to the Big Apple this summer, starting his new life in July.

In the fall, though, he’ll resume his role as mainly a blocking tight end for the Terps. Gallo has played in all 26 games the past two seasons, starting two of those contests. He has caught two passes in his career, including his first touchdown reception in an early-November win over Penn State last season.

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Holy Stitt! Montana stuns four-time defending FCS champ ND State

Bob Stitt AP

#StittHappens has always been a kind of cute and sorta naughty Twitter hashtag. Now, the man behind that expression has put some D-I meat on the marketing bone.

Two-touchdown underdogs entering the regular season and home opener, No. 12 Montana dropped a stunning 38-35 loss on FCS powerhouse and top-ranked North Dakota State Saturday evening. The Bison had entered the opener as back-to-back-to-back-to-back champions of the Football Championship Series, with this defeat marking just their fourth regular-season loss since the end of the 2010 season.

This game, though, was all about #StittHappening.

Bob Stitt became a cult hero in the game of college football thanks to his stint as the innovative — and flat-out unconventional — head coach at the Colorado School of Mines. After 15 seasons at the Div. II school, Stitt jumped into his first-ever head-coaching job at the Div. I level, and made an immediate impact.

Trailing 35-28 and facing a fourth and goal from the 11-yard line with roughly 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, Stitt opted for a field goal that cut the lead to four. Needing a defensive stand, the Grizzlies got just that on the ensuing drive in forcing a three and out, handing the ball back to the offense with just under two minutes remaining and 80 yards away from the winning score.

Facing a fourth and 10 from the NDSU 44-yard line, Brady Gustafson completed a beautiful pass over the middle to Reese Carlson that went for 33 yards to set the Grizz up in the red zone. Five plays later, on a fourth and goal from the one, Joey Counts powered over through the left side of the line for the game-winning score with just two ticks of the clock remaining.

Don’t fret, though, Bison fan; I get the feeling that, in the end, NDSU will be right back where they’ve been the last handful of years.

Holy Stitt, though, that was a fun way to open the 2015 Div. I season.

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No sir! Kevin Sumlin tweets, deletes ‘Sark After Dark’ crack

Kevin Sumlin AP

That uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach when, nanoseconds after sending what you thought was a direct message on Twitter to one of your friends/family members/close associates, you realize had instead been sent out for all 71,000-plus of your followers to see and digest?  Yeah, Kevin Sumlin suddenly knows that feeling all too well.

As you may have heard by now, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian essentially made an inebriated fool of himself at a school-sponsored event last weekend.  The second-year coach apologized in a statement for his behavior shortly thereafter and then offered up another apology in his first meeting in front of reporters, acknowledging that he will seek treatment to see if he has some type of drinking problem.

Fast-forward to Saturday afternoon, and the Texas A&M coach (accidentally), well, went here:

The tweet, obviously meant as a private missive to someone, was very quickly deleted.

Let this serve as a message to all of the youngsters in the audience: Twitter’s for sharing your public thoughts, and any thoughts that you think should be DM’d should instead be sent in the form of a text message.  On an untraceable burner phone.

Unless you have a fall guy, then all bets are off and just do whatever the hell you want.

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Arizona loses versatile LB Cody Ippolito to torn ACL

Arizona v UCLA Getty Images

For the second time the last three years, Cody Ippolito will be sidelined for the season with a knee injury.

Rich Rodriguez confirmed Friday evening the severity of the latest injury sustained by the linebacker, announcing that Ippolito tore an ACL in practice earlier in the week. Obviously, the redshirt junior will miss the entire 2015 season.

“Cody was having a really good camp and he’s a tough, hard-nosed football player,” Rodriguez said. “He loves to compete and loves to practice, so I was really disappointed for him. He’ll rehab like crazy after surgery, and hopefully we’ll get him back for another year or two playing at a high level.”

The “good” news that comes out of this, as the Wildcats head coach intimated, is that Ippolito is a prime candidate for fifth and sixth seasons of eligibility due to the fact that he missed complete seasons because of injury.

Last season, coming off his first collegiate knee injury in 2013, Ippolito started six of the 14 games in which he played. Ippolito had been in a battle with Derrick Turituri for the strongside ‘backer spot before the injury claimed him. He was also to serve as All-American Scooby Wright‘s primary backup at middle linebacker.

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Injured Hogs RB received handwritten note from new SEC commish

Greg Sankey AP

Departed SEC commissioner was widely known in college football circles as a man of integrity and class.  It appears his successor is cut from the same cloth.

Initially diagnosed with a foot injury that was expected to sideline him for an extended period of time, Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams was subsequently ruled out for the entire season because of the issue.  Even as Williams will likely never play a down under his stewardship, new SEC commissioner Greg Sankey decided to reach out to the injured Razorback.

And not only did the new conference boss reach out, he did it in an old-school style that would make the likes of Bill Snyder proud: a handwritten note.

That’s just class right there.  And yet another sign that the conference will remain in good hands for the foreseeable future.

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Unable to enroll at UVa., 2015 signee T.J. Griffin headed to Herd

T.J. Griffin

On the same day Virginia confirmed the murky status of one of its 2015 signees, said signee has reportedly already found a new home.

Head coach Mike London revealed in a statement that the university has granted T.J. Griffin a release from his U.Va. National Letter of Intent signed this past February. Griffin was denied admission at UVa., but the football program wanted the defensive back to go the prep school route and return to Charlottesville next year.

Instead, Griffin decided to leave for an FBS opportunity elsewhere.

“We have granted T.J. Griffin a release from his letter of intent to allow him to enroll at another institution this fall,” London’s statement began. “He contacted me with the request and explained his reasons for not wanting to enroll at a prep school this fall. I understand his personal situation and want to do what is best for this young man and his family. We wish him the best in the future.”

And, reportedly, Griffin’s immediate future will include joining a team that plays in Conference USA.

Marshall has yet to officially announce Griffin’s addition to the roster, although that appears to be a mere formality as other media outlets are reporting that’s where he’ll land as well.

Griffin was a three-star member of the Cavaliers’ 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 70 cornerback in the country and the No. 26 player at any position in the state of Virginia. As noted in the embedded tweet, Griffin will be eligible to play immediately for the Herd in 2015.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Daxx Garman buried third on Terps’ QB depth chart

West Virginia v Oklahoma State Getty Images

When Daxx Garman transferred into Maryland from Oklahoma State, many, perhaps most, assumed the quarterback would be sitting atop the depth chart entering the 2015 season. Instead, he’s buried on it.

Friday, the Terps released a depth chart ahead of the opener with Richmond and, in what some might consider an upset, Perry Hills was listed as the starter. Caleb Rowe sits in the prime backup spot behind Hills, which means Garman will enter the upcoming season No. 3 in the quarterback pecking order.

The positioning likely serves as a bitter pill for Garman to swallow as this is his final season of eligibility.

Last season, Garman, who began his collegiate career at Arizona, started eight games for Oklahoma State before going down with a concussion in mid-November. Mason Rudolph, Garman’s replacement, showed more than enough promise in his three starts that he was the unquestioned starter in spring practice, triggering Garman’s transfer to the Terps in May.

Garman, and even Rowe were considered by many to be the favorites entering summer camp, but it was Hills who’ll exit it with the starting job. Hills won the job as a true freshman in 2012 and started the first seven games that season before missing the final five due to a torn ACL. He took a redshirt the following season, then played in three games last year.

Rowe, meanwhile, tore the ACL in his left knee during a practice this past October, the same knee he suffered the same injury in the same month back in 2012, and sat out the spring. Rowe, who will entered spring as the favorite to win the starting job, was granted another season of eligibility earlier this year that allow him to play again in 2016.

Hills, Garman and Rowe were listed as co-starters entering summer camp this year.

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Sun Belt reportedly down to Eastern Kentucky and Coastal Carolina for 12th spot

Karl Benson

Who’s ready for some conference realignment news! Anybody? Nobody? Bueller?

The Sun Belt is looking for a 12th member and has zeroed in on either Eastern Kentucky or Coastal Carolina for that coveted final spot, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today.

“They have enough votes,” an unnamed source told Wolken. “They have already visited the campuses.”

Commissioner Karl Benson declined to speak for the piece, but he has acknowledged conversing with both schools previously.

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Adding either school would allow the Sun Belt to immediately schedule a conference championship game, though conference title games are expected to be deregulated by the NCAA in 2016.

Eastern Kentucky is said to be more FBS-ready on Day 1 (Coastal’s football stadium seats less than 10,000 people, for starters), but Coastal Carolina is coached by billionaire former Ameritrade CEO Joe Moglia and, if the last five years have taught us anything about conference realignment, the prospect of future money tends to send common sense waiting at the door in these scenarios.

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Ohio State lists J.T. Barrett, not Cardale Jones, as team captain

barrettclose Getty Images

It may mean absolutely nothing. It may mean everything.

Either way, the only thing it really means is that one will walk out for the opening coin toss and one will not.

Amid a newsy Friday evening, Ohio State announced J.T. Barrett will represent the quarterback room among the Buckeyes’ six 2015 captains.

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“This was the most players I’ve seen receive votes for captains,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “We had 14 players receive votes, but these six separated themselves. This is one of the great accomplishments these young men will experience, to be elected by their peers. And it is very well deserved.”

For the “it means nothing” camp: Connor Cook is not one of Michigan State’s captains this season, which will clearly not stop him from starting at quarterback this fall.

For the “it means everything” camp: How many teams really choose their backup quarterback as team captain?

Either way, Meyer will likely keep his actual starting quarterback decision under wraps until the Buckeyes take the field at Lane Stadium on Labor Day evening. Or maybe he told us all we need to know tonight. It’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma, I tell you.

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LSU OC Cam Cameron diagnosed with prostate cancer, plans to coach in 2015

Sam Houston State v LSU

LSU offensive coordinator has been diagnosed with prostate cancer but plans to coach in 2015, it was revealed Friday night. Ross Dellenger of the (Baton Rouge) Advocate was the first to report the news.

Cameron has already undergone treatment for the disease, saying only “minor limitations” have gotten between him and the job, but painted a picture that his diagnosis was already in the rearview mirror.

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The Tigers, unfortunately, experienced a very similar bit of bad news at this time just four years ago.

Just weeks before the 2011 season, then-offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He vacated his offensive coordinator post to offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and remained on as quarterbacks coach. Following the 2012 season, Kragthorpe moved off the field and into a special assistant to the head coach/chief of staff role, where he’s remained ever since.

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LSU opens the 2015 season at home versus McNeese State next Saturday.

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Tim Beckman responds to Illinois firing, calls allegations “utterly false”

Tim Beckman

Illinois athletics director Mike Thomas felt strongly enough about the results of an investigation into his head football coach’s performance to fire him months before the study was even complete. Thomas said Friday investigators had spoken with more than 90 witnesses and reviewed more than 200,000 documents.

Tim Beckman thinks it’s all a pack of lies.

The now former Illinois head coach released a statement Friday evening.

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While nothing he can say at this point will get him his job back, it’s obvious what Beckman is doing here: setting the stage for a lawsuit in which he comes for the $3.1 million due on the final two years of his contract and (however futilely) attempts to clear his name in pursuit of other coaching jobs.

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Oregon lists EWU transfer Vernon Adams as starting QB

Eastern Washington v Washington Getty Images

It didn’t come with a grand proclamation (at least not yet) or a trumpeting of horns, just a line on a depth chart, mixed in with dozens others like it. Yet it is significant all the same: Oregon has listed Vernon Adams as its starting quarterback for the Eastern Washington game next Saturday.

Adams, of course, just arrived from Eastern Washington. As in, two weeks ago.

Oregon announced the addition of the record-setting EWU quarterback as a graduate transfer on Feb. 11, but Adams couldn’t join the Ducks’ roster until he completed his undergraduate coursework. That didn’t happen until Aug. 13.

Adams needed all of two weeks to beat Jeff Lockie out for Oregon’s QB1 job.

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In 37 career games at Eastern Washington, Adams threw for 10,438 yards with 110 touchdowns against only 31 interceptions while adding 1,232 yards and 11 scores on the ground. A 6-foot powder keg of extreme confidence, Adams has a knack for saving his best performances for the biggest of stages. He threw for 425 yards and three touchdowns (with two picks) in a loss to eventual FCS runner-up Illinois State in the FCS playoffs last December, a performance only surpassed by his spotless 475-yard, seven-touchdown effort in a 59-52 loss to Washington in September.

In a game only surpassed by Washington at Boise State in terms of awkward Week 1 reunions, Adams’ first game as Oregon’s quarterback will be against Eastern Washington next Saturday in Eugene.

Adams’ former head coach, Beau Baldwin, spoke out against the graduate transfer rule that allowed Adams to leave and play immediately at Oregon. “It’s not what the rule is intended for,” Baldwin said. “… Ultimately we feel like, you know what, we were also the ones who developed [Adams] from a level where obviously out of high school he wasn’t at that level.”

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Arkansas TE C.J. O’Grady arrested on DWI charge

Dennis Johnson

In his entertaining and insightful profile of Bret Bielema‘s Arkansas program, Sports Illustrated‘s Pete Thamel noted that Razorbacks players found themselves in handcuffs only once every 483 days since Bielema’s arrival. Time to reset the clock.

Hogs tight end C.J. O’Grady was stopped early Friday morning for the lack of a working taillight on his scooter and subsequently arrested for driving while intoxicated and being a minor in possession of alcohol, according to the Associated Press.

O’Grady, speaking through slurred speech and emitting an odor of alcohol, reportedly registered a blood alcohol content of 0.099, topping the legal limit of 0.08 and well above Arkansas’s 0.02 limit for minors.

A native of Fayetteville, O’Grady is a freshman hailing from Fayetteville High School. He was released from jail and is due back in court Sept. 28, the Monday after Arkansas’s date with Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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Purdue puts two-game cap on Gelen Robinson’s suspension

Gelen Robinson, C.J. Beathard AP

Earlier this month, Darrell Hazell confirmed Gelen Robinson would miss at least two games and up to four following an offseason arrest.  In the end, the punishment meted it is at the lower end of the spectrum.

The Purdue head coach revealed Thursday that Robinson will be suspended for the two-game minimum.  Purdue begins the 2015 season with a road trip to defending Conference USA champion Marshall and follows that up with a home game against FCS Indiana State.  The defensive end will be eligible to return for the Sept. 19 game against Virginia Tech in West Lafayette.

In late June, Robinson was arrested on charges of operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or more and illegal possession of an alcoholic beverage.  The charges triggered a violation of a prior diversion agreement with the courts.

As a true freshman last season, Robinson played in 10 games. His four tackles for loss were sixth on the team, while his two sacks were good for fourth.

Entering summer camp, Robinson, the son of Boilermaker basketball great Glenn Robinson, was viewed as a likely starter at end.

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A week before opener, Tim Beckman fired as Illini’s head coach

Tim Beckman AP

In the end, Tim Beckman‘s hot seat turned into an electric chair before the season even kicked off.

In a surprising move given only its timing, Illinois announced that Beckman has been dismissed as its head football coach.  The move comes exactly one week before the Illini open the 2015 season against Kent State.

The firing also comes more than three months after a former player accused the coach of “misuse and abuse of power,” while another stated shortly thereafter that Beckman “takes the cake as the worst coach I ever met.”  Athletic director Mike Thomas initially supported the beleaguered head coach, but the preliminary results of an external review into the accusations forced Thomas into pulling the trigger now instead of later.

“The preliminary information external reviewers shared with me does not reflect our values or our commitment to the welfare of our student-athletes, and I’ve chosen to act accordingly,” Thomas said in a statement. “During the review, we have asked people not to rush to judgment, but I now have enough information to make this decision in assessing the status and direction of the football program.”

The results, while preliminary, are damning, and show exactly why Thomas and the university had to make the move in the here and now. From the release:

During a preliminary briefing from the external reviewers, Thomas said he learned of efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries. He also said in some instances student-athletes were treated inappropriately with respect to whether they could remain on scholarship during the spring semester of their senior year if they weren’t on the team.

“Both of those findings are unsettling violations of University policy and practice and do not reflect the culture that we wish to create in athletic programs for our young people,” Thomas said. “I expect my coaches to protect players and foster their success on and off the field.”

Beckman has been fired for cause, meaning he will not receive the $3.1 million remaining on the last two years of his original five-year contract or the $743,000 called for if his contract had been bought out.

Replacing Beckman on an interim basis for the entire 2015 season is offensive coordinator Bill Cubit.  The release stated that “the external review did not indicate any findings related to Coach Cubit.”

In three seasons with the Illini, Beckman compiled a 12-25 overall record and a 4-20 mark in Big Ten play. He likely would’ve been fired after the 2014 season, but the Illini managed to win their final two games to earn a bowl bid.

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