Tar Heels lose Giovani Bernard to the NFL

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Dozens of eligible underclassmen have or will announce in the coming weeks that they are leaving early for the NFL, with each carrying various degrees of impact on their respective team’s prospects for the 2013 season.

This one will likely have as big of an impact as any other.

Largely overlooked and undervalued outside of Chapel Hill specifically and the ACC in general over the past two seasons, Giovani Bernard announced that he has decided to leave North Carolina and enter the 2013 NFL draft.  The running back, who likely would’ve been included in the preseason Heisman mix, is foregoing his final two years of eligibility to make the leap.

A press conference has been scheduled for 2 p.m. ET today for Bernard to discuss the decision.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my three years in Chapel Hill and coming to UNC was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” said Bernard in a statement released ahead of the press conference.  “I feel like the best decision for my future is to enter the NFL draft this year.  I want to thank Coach Fedora, this coaching staff and the previous coaching staff for putting me in a position to succeed.  I am on track to graduate and I plan on coming back to earn my degree in the Spring of 2014.”

A torn ACL suffered during summer camp cost Bernard all of his true freshman season in 2010, but the redshirt sophomore came back to earn All-ACC first-team honors the past two seasons.  He led the conference in rushing, scoring and all-purpose yardage in 2012, and led the nation in punt returns average (16.4 yards per).

He accomplished all of that this season despite missing two games with a left knee issue.

“Gio is a special player and an even better person,” said UNC head coach Larry Fedora.  “He flourished in our offense and was an outstanding leader for our program.  After the season was over, we helped him gather as much information as possible so he and his family could make the best decision for his future.  We support his decision and wish him nothing but success as he takes the next step in his football career.  He is a tremendous ambassador for this program.”

Depending on which direction other players at his position take before the mid-January deadline, the 5-10, 205-pound Bernard could be the first running back selected in the upcoming draft.

Syracuse fans looking to help fellow fan who broke both legs celebrating upset of Clemson

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For one fan, his college football team’s win last Saturday came at an extremely steep cost. And now, some fellow fans are hoping to defray those costs.

Ranked No. 2 in the nation heading in, Clemson was stunned by unranked Syracuse in a monumental Week 7 upset in the Carrier Dome last Friday. Predictably, those in attendance went wild over the football program’s biggest win in more than a decade and stormed the field.

One of those fans was Justin Heath, who jumped over a railing to join his fellow fans and promptly injured himself. Specifically, he broke both of his legs, sustained what was described as a crushed right ankle and his left kneecap was displaced.

The injuries, which have already resulted in two surgeries that included having rods, plates and pins inserted in his injured limbs, are expected to keep Heath out of work for at least three months and possibly as long as six.

Other Orange fans have set up a GoFundMe page “to raise funds to help offset medical bills and lost time from work for one of ‘Cuse’s biggest fans.” If you so desire, you can donate by clicking HERE.

The initial goal was to raise $4,400; as of this posting, $5,162 has been raised.

Louisville CB Jaire Alexander ruled out of FSU game after aggravating knee injury in practice

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Florida State will be without two of its top wide receivers for Saturday’s ACC Atlantic showdown with Louisville.  Now, the Cardinals will be without one of the top members of its defensive secondary.

Ahead of its noon kickoff with FSU, the U of L announced that Jaire Alexander will be sidelined because of an injury this afternoon.  Per the school’s release, the cornerback suffered a setback with his knee in practice this week.

Alexander originally injured the knee in the season-opening win against Purdue, and has only played in three games this year because of it.

The junior defensive back started all 13 games for the Cardinals last season.  He earned second-team All-ACC honors for his play in the secondary, and was also a highly productive return man in the punt game.

At 2-3, the Seminoles will be looking to avoid its worst start to a season since Bobby Bowden‘s last season in 2009, while the Cardinals are trying to snap a two-game losing streak.

Bronx Bombers’ postseason success pushes Maryland-Rutgers game out of Yankee Stadium

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One baseball team’s unexpected postseason run will have a significant effect on a college football game.

After winning a play-in game, the New York Yankees beat the team with the best record in the American League in the divisional series and is currently tied 3-all in the league’s championship series with the team that had the second-best record in the AL. Because of that professional stick-and-ball success, Rutgers announced Friday that its Nov. 4 football game against Maryland at Yankee Stadium will not be played at its scheduled venue.

Instead, the game will be played at the Scarlet Knights’ home in Piscataway.

“We were looking forward to staging this historic event at Yankee Stadium,” RU athletic director Pat Hobbs said in a statement. “With two weeks until the date, it was important for us to finalize details that help ensure our fans and our student-athletes have a one-of-a-kind experience. As a result of the Yankees’ amazing postseason run, there were operational concerns that called for us to make a decision at this time. It was agreed that moving the game to High Point Solutions Stadium was the best option under the circumstances.

“We value our continuing partnership with the New York Yankees and will be cheering them on this weekend and hopefully in the World Series.”

If the Yankees make it to the World Series, they would host games Games 3 and 4 Oct. 27 and 28 and potentially a Game 5 Oct. 29.

RU has previously played three games in Yankee Stadium. They played in the Pinstripe Bowl following the 2011 and 2013 season, while they were the road team for a 2011 regular-season game against Army.

Wyoming to honor late Joe Tiller during Homecoming Game

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Earlier this month, Purdue honored Joe Tiller. Later this month, the program that propelled him to West Lafayette will do the same.

Tiller passed away Sept. 30 at the age of 74 at his home in Buffalo, Wyoming. From 1991-96, Tiller served as the head coach at Wyoming, guiding the Cowboys to a 39-30-1 record during his six years with the football program.

For UW’s Oct. 28 Homecoming game against New Mexico, the Cowboys will wear helmet decals with Tiller’s initials to honor their former head coach.

His last season in Laramie, the Cowboys went 10-2. The school hasn’t won more than eight games in a season since he left to take over at Purdue after that 1996 season.