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Saban on NFL rumors: ‘I don’t think it’s really fair to leave’

Nick Saban AP

The Nick Saban-to-Cleveland Browns rumors won’t go away even though Saban himself will deny them and we here at CFT have zero reason — none — to believe there’s a lot of truth to them. As a result, Saban’s going to continue to answer any and all questions about another possible stint in the NFL.

Appearing on The Dan LeBatard Show in Miami, Saban talked more about why he would stay at Alabama rather than why he would or wouldn’t try his fortune at the next level again.

“College football has been very good for us,” Saban said. “The positive impact that you can have on these young men as players and as people, that’s just something that we really enjoy and something that I learned about myself.

“I really enjoy what I’m doing here right now. I’m getting old now. I don’t think we’ve got too many moves left in us. You develop a lot of relationships and loyalties to the players you recruit and the players you have on the team and the people you have in the organization. I don’t think it’s really fair to leave. I regretted when I left LSU because I left a lot of relationships there. Hopefully I’ll be able to stay here for a long, long time.”

Saban has a tremendous talent for spending minutes on end talking without ever really saying anything, but I actually tend to believe most of what he said to LeBatard — to a degree. Saban has a great thing going in Tuscaloosa, and even though he’s playing for his third BCS championship in four years, I don’t get the feeling that he feels like he’s done everything he can do for the program.

If Saban wins a couple (or few, or handful) more national championships with the Tide, though? We might be talking about a different story. And, granted, reading another man’s mind is impossible and trying to gauge Saban is even harder if you can believe that. Not to mention coaches in general can be fickle. They get an idea in their head and, boom, they’re gone.

As I’m sure all of us can recall, Saban wasn’t leaving the Miami Dolphins before he was, so take what he says for what it’s worth.

Saban’s a hell of a coach and the college game is fortunate to have him. I do believe it’s a legit question to ask how long before Saban wants another crack at the NFL. I don’t, however, believe it’ll be in the next few months.

(Hat tip: al.com) 

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Santa gives Western Michigan player a scholarship (video)

This is a couple of days old, but once again this stuff never gets old.

During a recent team meeting at Western Michigan, head coach P.J. Fleck was interrupted by Santa Claus, who handed a present over to the head coach of the Broncos before leaving the room. Fleck handed the present to walk-on linebacker Grant DePalma, who opened it up for one of the best presents a walk-on football player can receive this time of year; a scholarship.

If you cannot get enough of this sort of thing, check out a similar video showing Alex Ellis of Tennessee getting a similar surprise.

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Ohio State TE compares Michigan State to Christmas Eve grocery shopping

Jeff Heuerman

You might think that Christmas is a time when battle lines and rivalries can be put aside, but if George Washington felt it was a good enough time as any to sneak up on the British troops, then nobody should fault Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman for taking a jab at Michigan State. Right?

Apparently, Heuerman made the mistake of going out to the grocery store on Christmas Eve. That can be quite the hassle for those without patience. But Heuerman is tough, and he can handle it. He also felt like it was a good time to make a comparison to Big Ten East Division rival Michigan State that could have easily been misinterpreted, which it was.

There is nothing wrong with a little trash talk, but Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook did not take too kindly to the comparison. Thinking it was a slight on Michigan State, Cook responded with a tweet that was later deleted after Heuerman clarified he was actually praising the physicality of the Spartans.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good Twitter fight!

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ACC reportedly to send Boston College and Georgia Tech to 2016 Croke Park Classic

Tyler Murphy

ACC commissioner John Swofford once flirted with the idea of taking ACC football across the Atlantic Ocean, and it appears it will become a reality. Boston College and Georgia Tech will reportedly participate in the 2016 Croke Park Classic in Dublin, Ireland.

Eurosport.com reports the two ACC schools have a deal in place to participate in the 2016 edition of the Croke Park Classic, although when that game is played has yet to be finalized. According to the report, the game may move later in the season rather than to serve as a season opener. If the game remains a part of the ACC football schedule in 2016, then an October trans-Atlantic conference game could be in play.

Penn State and UCF played in the 2014 season-opening Croke Park Classic. The game drew a crowd of 53,304, a record for most fans in an American football game in Ireland. Boston College previously played in Ireland in 1988, defeating Army 38-24 in the Emerald Isle Classic.

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CMU’s furious rally falls short as WKU claims first bowl win

UAB v Western Kentucky Getty Images

Entering the fourth quarter with a seemingly comfortable 49-14 lead, Western Kentucky appeared to be on the verge of winning the football program’s first-ever bowl game.  15 minutes of game time later?  Wow.  Just, wow.

Central Michigan scored a whopping five touchdowns in the final frame, including a multiple-lateral one with no time remaining on the clock, to pull to within one point.  An extra point would’ve improbably sent the game into overtime; much to head coach Dan Enos‘ credit, he got his full Tom Osborne on and eschewed the PAT in favor of a two-point conversion.

The Cooper Rush pass into the end zone was knocked away, however, giving the Hilltoppers a thrilling 49-48 win in the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.  But that touchdown leading up to the to the failed two-point try, the Hail Mary Hook-And-Lateralis one for the postseason history books.

 

While that was the play of the young bowl season thus far, and while Rush set an all-time bowl record with seven touchdown passes, breaking the mark of six previously held by Washington State’s Connor Halliday (2013 New Mexico Bowl), West Virginia’s Geno Smith (2012 Orange Bowl) and Iowa’s Chuck Long (1984 Freedom Bowl), it was Brandon Doughty who was named the Player of the Game.

The nation’s leading passer entering the game, Doughty passed for 486 yards and five touchdowns.  350 of those yards and all five scoring tosses came in the first half as the high-powered WKU offense hit the snooze button in the second half.

This game marks the fourth times this season Doughty has passed for 400-plus yards.  The fifth-year senior passed for 300 or more yards in 10 of WKU’s 13 games this season, and will finish 2014 with 4,830 passing yards.  Over the past three games, Doughty has thrown 18 touchdown passes, including eight in the regular-season finale against eventual Conference USA champion Marshall.

In that frenetic fourth quarter, though, Doughty and the Hilltopper offense went stagnant as they punted three times and fumbled once.  At the same time, CMU scored touchdowns on all five of its fourth-quarter possessions.

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FSU RB Dalvin Cook ‘listed as an associate’ in assault case

Dalvin Cook AP

After being on the receiving end of a copious amount of good news the past couple of days, Florida State, a week ahead of its College Football Playoff semifinal matchup with Oregon, has seen some not-so-good news.

According to a statement released by the Tallahassee Police Department Wednesday afternoon, a reporter from ESPN filed an open records request in September seeking any police records for 360 FSU student-athletes, including football players. A total of 300 police reports were returned to the reporter, with “[t]he records [including] reports in which the names of athletes were listed as either a witness, victim, suspect or reporting party,” the statement read.

There was only one Seminole football player mentioned by name: running back Dalvin Cook. Here’s the relevant Cook passage from the TPD release:

While several of the reports requested involve open and active cases, one of note, involves an aggravated assault by two men who are alleged to have brandished a firearm at a neighbor on July 17th, 2014. Dalvin Cook, a current FSU football player is listed as an associate in the case. The case is under investigation and once complete, it will be provided as an update to this release.

There was also the following, as noted by the Tallahassee Democrat.

One sexual assault case involving an FSU football player had a piece of evidence that was not immediately processed. The piece of evidence ultimately had no impact on the case, Northway said. The case was subsequently reclosed. No charges were filed after TPD consulted with the State Attorney’s Office.

FSU has not commented on the TPD release, and it’s unknown what if any impact this revelation may have on Cook’s availability for the upcoming playoffs, although the correct answer is likely “none.”  Cook, a true freshman, currently leads the Seminoles with 905 yards rushing.

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Pat Narduzzi to be introduced as Pitt’s new head coach Friday

Pat Narduzzi AP

Exactly one week after officially losing its head coach to Wisconsin, Pittsburgh is set to officially introduce his replacement.

While the school has not yet confirmed it, ESPN.com‘s Joe Schad reported earlier Wednesday that Pitt and Pat Narduzzi have finalized a deal that would make the Michigan State defensive coordinator the Panthers’ new head coach.  The school did announce a short time ago that it will conduct a 3:30 p.m. ET press conference Friday to “address its head football coaching vacancy.”

It was reported Tuesday that Narduzzi had emerged as Pitt’s top target to replace Paul Chryst.

Narduzzi has spent the past 11 seasons on Mark Dantonio-led coaching staffs, three coming at Cincinnati (2004-06) and eight at Michigan State (2007-present).  This will be Narduzzi’s first head-coaching job at the FBS level.

Additionally, Narduzzi would become the first current defensive coordinator to land a head-coaching job during the current spinning of the coaching carousel.

Of the 12 coaching hires made at the FBS level in 2014, five have been current FBS coordinators while a wide receivers coach (David Beaty, Kansas) landed a sixth.  Four others were current FBS head coaches, and the other two were head coaches at Div. III (Lance Leipold, Buffalo) and high school programs (Tony Sanchez, UNLV).

Once Pittsburgh makes Narduzzi’s hiring official, Michigan will be the lone remaining FBS program without a head coach.

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Gators officially hire Doug Nussmeier as OC

Indiana v Michigan

Less than 24 hours after it was reported as a very likely possibility, a key hiring for Jim McElwain‘s first Florida coaching staff has officially come to fruition.

In a press release Wednesday, UF announced that McElwain has hired Doug Nussmeier as his offensive coordinator.  Nussmeier, who will also serve as quarterbacks coach, spent the 2014 season as the coordinator at Michigan.

McElwain and Nussmeier are very familiar with one another, having worked together on the same coaching staff at Michigan State from 2003-05.  Twice, Nussmeier has replaced McElwain as offensive coordinator, first when McElwain left Fresno State to become the coordinator at Alabama in 2008 and then again when McElwain left Alabama for the head coaching job at Colorado State in December of 2011.

Nussmeier was the coordinator at Alabama in 2012 and 2013 before leaving for the same job at Michigan in January of this season.

“Doug and I have worked together on the same staff and I’ve known him for years,” McElwain said in a statement. “We are like thinkers in that he will adapt to the players we have in the program and develop them as we continue to evolve.”

During his lone season in Ann Arbor, Nussmeier’s offense struggled due to a combination of poor quarterback play and a shaky offensive line.

In 2014, the Wolverines finished 114th in yards per game (333) and 111th in points per game (20.9).  During his two seasons at Alabama, though, the Tide finished 18th (38.2 ppg, 2013) and 12th (38.7 ppg) in scoring offense.

“I’m excited to reunite with Coach Mac — we obviously have a long history and share similar philosophies,” Nussmeier said. “I’m honored to join The Gator Nation and work for one of the most storied programs in all of college football.”

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Doughty’s five first-half TD passes has WKU rolling over CMU

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwnknjmxnzeyowvlmmfiztkznme0nwmzymvhztq0ymu1 AP

At least based on the first 30 minutes of play, it appears Central Michigan’s defense was unable to secure its passports and make the trip to the islands.

In the first-ever Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, and with CMU offering precious little resistance, Western Kentucky has passed its way to a very comfortable 42-14 halftime lead.  This game marks the first college football bowl game outside of the United States since the 2010 International Bowl (following the 2009 season) and the first played in the Caribbean islands since the 1946 Bacardi Bowl in Havana, Cuba.

This game also marked the continuation of a season-long trend of offensive fireworks for the Hilltoppers.

Brandon Doughty, the nation’s leading passer yardage-wise entering the game, threw for 350 yards and five touchdowns in the first two quarters of play, and .  Doughty, who recently received a sixth season of eligibility as well as garnering Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year honors, completed passes to eight different receivers.  His five touchdown passes went to five different players as well.

And, along the way, Doughty and running back Leon Allen, who scored the game’s lone rushing touchdown, made a little history.

All told, WKU totaled 441 yards of first-half offense.  Of that output, 229 total yards, 157 which were passing, came in a first quarter that saw the Hilltoppers jump out to a 21-7 lead.  Two of the Hilltoppers’ six touchdowns came in the final 1:41 of the half.

WKU scored on all six of its first-half possessions, completing six of its seven third-down attempts along the way.  The Hilltoppers’ six drives averaged almost eight plays each and a little over 74 yards in length.

It’s not as if WKU’s defense has played the role of world-beaters, though, as CMU managed 259 yards of offense.  Quarterback Cooper Rush passed for 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the last of which was a 30-yarder late in the second quarter on a fourth-and-15 play.

The first punt of the game by either team didn’t come until there was less than a minute left in the second quarter.

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TCU’s Gary Patterson named AP Coach of the Year

TCU v Texas Getty Images

Coming into the 2014 regular season, Alabama’s Nick Saban was the only two-time winner of the Associated Press‘ Coach of the Year award.  Exiting it, Saban now has company.

Wednesday, the AP announced that TCU’s Gary Patterson has been named as its 2014 Coach of the Year.  Patterson, in his 15th season as the Horned Frogs head coach, previously earned the honor in 2009.

Saban, incidentally, was the AP Coach of the Year in 2003 when he was with LSU and in 2008 at Alabama.

This year, Patterson received 27 of the 54 AP votes. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer was next with 14, followed by Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen with six. Saban and Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez received two votes each, while Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Baylor’s Art Briles and Memphis’ Justin Fuente had one apiece.

In addition to the AP award, Patterson has been named Big 12 Coach of the Year by both the media and coaches as well as pulling in Walter Camp and Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year honors.

Last season, TCU went 4-8. This season, the Horned Frogs went 11-1 in claiming a share of the Big 12 title and a berth in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Ole Miss.  A week or so ago, it was confirmed that Patterson and TCU had reached an agreement on a new contract that will include both an extension and a raise.

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CMU won’t have leading rusher for Bahamas Bowl vs. WKU

Rawls AP

Central Michigan’s task of keeping pace with Western Kentucky’s high-octane offense has gotten a bit tougher.

Earlier this week, the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun reported that Thomas Rawls will not play in Wednesday’s Bahamas Bowl matchup with WKU.  An academic issue is behind the running back not even being permitted to make the trip to the island.

As Rawls is a senior and in his final season of eligibility, his collegiate playing career has come to an end.

Despite playing in just nine games this season, Rawls led the Chips with 1,103 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.  His 122.6 yards rushing per game is currently good for 16th in the country.

Rawls missed two games in September after being charged with three felonies stemming from an April incident at the Soaring Eagle Casino.  He ultimately reached a plea deal and returned to the team.

This was Rawls’ first season at CMU as he transferred into the football program from Michigan in early July.

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Frank Beamer to coach Hokies in bowl, but from the booth

Frank Beamer

Virginia Tech will indeed have its sideline boss for its postseason game, although his bossing will be done from up above this time around.

Tech announced Tuesday that Frank Beamer will coach the Hokies in their Military Bowl matchup with Cincinnati. The long-time coach, though, will direct his squad from the press box at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.

Earlier this month, Beamer underwent what was described as a minor surgical procedure on his throat.

“The doctors stress that they really don’t want me exposed to a lot of people right now because of the risks of viruses and infection,” Beamer said in a statement. “I’m anxious for them to clear me for full activities, but at the same time, I respect their orders.

“They allowed me to work with the staff, and perform office duties, then I was cleared to return to the field for practices in Blacksburg. It felt great to be back with our players. So it’s a bit of a process, and so far the process is going well. I appreciate all of the thoughts and prayers and look forward to being with Hokie Nation in Annapolis.”

Thanks to its regular-season ending win over Virginia, the Hokies extended its consecutive streak of bowl appearances to 22 straight. That’s the second-longest such streak in the country.

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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 24 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

Brandon Doughty, Joe Manley, Jared Singletary

Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 24 bowl menu, which features two teams from Conference USA and one each from the MAC and Mountain West.

WHO: Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Western Kentucky (7-5)
WHAT: The inaugural Popeyes Bahama Bowl
WHERE: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
WHEN: Noon ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: This game serves as a rematch of the 2012 Little Caesars, won by Central Michigan 24-21.  That’s of little import to this game, however, as the head coaches are different, the quarterbacks are different, etc.  What is of import is that Western Kentucky comes into this game with a ton of confidence, riding a four-game winning streak that includes a win over Conference USA champ Marshall in the regular-season finale that knocked the Herd from the ranks of the unbeaten and out of a potential New Year’s Eve/Day bowl appearance.  Even better for WKU?  Central Michigan is a middling 45th in passing yards allowed and T-69th in touchdown passes given up, while Brandon Doughty leads the nation in yards passing (4,544) and touchdown passes (44).  The Chips gave up more than 17 points in their seven wins just once (27, Miami of Ohio) and only gave up more than 27 points in four games total; conversely, the Hilltoppers scored fewer than 34 points in a game this season one time (59-10 loss to Louisiana Tech).  When it comes to WKU’s scoring offense and CMU’s scoring defense, something has to give.
THE LINE: Central Michigan, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 51, Central Michigan 34

__________

WHO: Fresno State (6-7) vs. Rice (7-5)
WHAT: The 13th Hawaii Bowl
WHERE: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Much to the dismay of some, I’m sure, this bowl game has the distinction of being the only one of the 38 postseason games on the 2014-15 slate to feature a team with a losing record (Fresno State, courtesy of a 14-point loss to Boise State in the Mountain West championship game earlier this month).  Rice actually had a very real shot at earning a 13th game in Week 14, but a humiliating 76-31 loss to Louisiana Tech kept the Owls out of the Conference USA championship game.  Not only are the Bulldogs looking to avoid the ignominy of an eighth loss in a bowl season (last accomplished: UCLA, 2011), but they are looking to snap a five-game bowl losing streak that stretches back to a loss in the 2008 New Mexico Bowl.  In their last nine games, the Owls’ only losses were to the two teams that played for the league title (Marshall, LaTech).  Two of their other losses came on the road to Notre Dame and Texas A&M the first two weeks of the season.  Then again, three of the Bulldogs’ losses came against Power Five schools USC, Utah and Nebraska, with two others coming at the hands of MWC champion Boise State.  A bad omen for Fresno?  They are 113th in stopping the run (206.9 ypg) while Rice has rushed for 150-plus yards in seven of the last eight games.  If the game is close, keep it out of the hands — or feet — of the kickers as both the Owls (63.1%) and Bulldogs (63.6%) struggled on field goal attempts this season.
THE LINE: Fresno State, +2
THE PREDICTION: Rice 34, Fresno State 31

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Navy escapes with a victory over SDSU in mistake-filled Poinsettia Bowl

Keenan Reynolds

America’s service academies are prime examples of hard work and perseverance.

Navy’s performance during the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl exemplified those qualities. The Midshipmen held on to claim a 17-16 victory over the San Diego State Aztecs despite an uncharacteristic performance by the team.

The game was filled with mistakes on both sides of the ball. Despite four turnovers, the Midshipmen were still able to overcome their mistakes. Mistakes that were likely a direct result of a lack of proper preparation.

Navy played an emotional and hard-fought contest against their rival, the Army Black Knights, only 10 days ago. Between that time, the academy conducted exams, which prevented the Midshipmen from utilizing their full allotment of bowl practices.

Ken Niumatalolo‘s squad didn’t use it as an excuse and overcame the obstacle despite the obvious advantage San Diego State held.

San Diego State wasn’t without its faults.

The Aztecs turned the ball over three times, which allowed Navy to stay withing striking distance. San Diego State quarterback Quinn Kaehler couldn’t make the Midshipmen pay for their mistakes. The senior was only 11-of-27 passing with a pair of interceptions.

Navy’s Keenan Reynolds wasn’t much better. The 1,000-yard rusher only managed 26 yards of total offense. The junior signal-caller couldn’t get the ground game going or connect with his receivers.

In the end, a missed 34-yard by junior kicker Donny Hageman with 20 seconds remaining proved to be the difference.

With the victory, Navy finished the season 8-5 and built some momentum for the academy’s inclusion into the American Athletic Conference next season.

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Gary Patterson rules RB B.J. Catalon out for Peach Bowl

B.J. Catalon, Doug Rigg

Despite not playing in the final four games of the season for the TCU Horned Frogs, running back B.J. Catalon still leads the team with 10 rushing touchdowns. It’s a total Catalon won’t be able to increase at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

TCU head coach Gary Patterson stated Catalon won’t play in the bowl game due to an inability to get him fully ready for the contest.

Prior to Catalon’s injury, the running back gained 493 yards through the team’s first eight games. Since his departure from the lineup, junior Aaron Green effectively took over as the team’s top rusher. During those final four games, Green ran for over 100 yards three times and averaged 119 yards per game.

With Catalon out of the lineup, Green’s contributions during the bowl game will be vital to TCU’s success.

Ole Miss owns one of the nation’s most aggressive defensive fronts. TCU’s ability to run the ball effectively will take pressure off of quarterback Trevone Boykin. If the Rebels can effectively slow Green then they’ll be able to pin their ears back to rush the passer, which is where their defensive line truly excels.

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San Diego State grounds Navy in first half of the Poinsettia Bowl

Rocky Long

The Navy Midshipmen claim the nation’s No. 1 rushing offense. The team’s triple option attack averages 345.1 rushing yards per game.

Ken Niumatalolo‘s squad is well behind its average after the San Diego Aztecs built a 13-7 lead in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

Through two quarters of play, the Midshipmen only managed 74 rushing yards and 82 total yards of offense. San Diego State has done a good job dictating which ball carrier Navy chooses to run the football.

“I don’t think we’re stopping the run,” San Diego State head coach Rocky Long told ESPN as he headed to the locker room for halftime. “I think we’re deciding who is going to get it. They got some good plays off the pitch that we didn’t support very well. We have a long way to go. It’s the type of game we thought it was going to be.”

San Diego State decided to keep the ball out of the hands of Navy’s dynamic quarterback, Keenan Reynolds. Long’s defense held Reynolds, who leads all quarterbacks with 1,182 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns, to minus-five rushing yards in the first half.

Over half of Navy’s yardage (42 yards) came on the team’s first drive, which resulted in a touchdown. The Middies only gained 32 yards after that point.

The Aztecs have only been marginally better on offense.

Donnel Pumphrey, the nation’s third-leading rusher, managed 66 yards on 11 carries, while quarterback Quinn Kaehler was terribly inaccurate. San Diego State’s signal-caller was only 5-of-11 passing for 56 yards and an interception.

The difference in the contest was a poor pitch from Reynolds that resulted in a fumble San Diego State recovered. Five plays and 39 yards later, The Aztecs scored their only touchdown of the first half courtesy of five-yard run by Pumphrey.

Long said during his interview that he expects both teams to establish the run in the second half. Neither have been effective dropping back to pass. Navy, in particular, will likely sprinkle in some new wrinkles in the second half, while San Diego State’s 3-3-5 defense should continue to move and shift to present problems for the Midshipmen.

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