BYU v Notre Dame

BYU pulls away from streaking Aztecs, claims Poinsettia Bowl


San Diego State entered the 2012 bowl season tied with Arkansas State for the fourth-longest winning streak in the country at seven games in a row, behind a trio of teams (Notre Dame, Ohio State and Northern Illinois) with 12-game streaks.

In rather ugly fashion, that streak has come to a screeching halt.

Thanks in large part to a dazzling and dominating defensive performance from Kyle Van Noy, BYU pulled away late to stake its claim to a 23-6 win over the Aztecs in the (deep breath) San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.  The game, the third of the 2012-13 bowl season, featured nearly as many combined turnovers/punts (eight/15) as points.

It was, though, the fourth straight bowl win and sixth overall for the Cougars under head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

The latest postseason victory for Mendenhall was tied directly to both Van Noy and a wild 17-second sequence early in the fourth quarter.  With BYU trailing 6-3 and its offense showing no signs of life, Van Noy strip-sacked Aztecs quarterback Adam Dingwell in the end zone and, for good measure, recovered the fumble for a touchdown and a 10-6 lead with 12:37 left in the game.  On SDSU’s first play from scrimmage following that turnover, Van Noy forced another Dingwell fumble that was recovered by teammate Jordan Johnson.

One play later, a Jamaal Williams‘ 14-yard touchdown run — the extra point was missed — pushed the lead to 16-6 with 12:20 remaining.

As if to rub more salt in the Aztecs’ gaping wound, Van Noy intercepted a Dingwell pass six minutes later and returned it 17 yards for his second defensive touchdown of the quarter.  For the game, the junior linebacker was credited with nine tackles, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one blocked punt to go along with his two scores.

Suffice to say, Van Noy was the overwhelming choice for game MVP honors for the Cougars, which finished their eighth season under Mendenhall at 8-5.

The loss kept San Diego State from the football program’s first 10-win season since 1977 as the Aztecs finished their final season in the Mountain West at 9-4.  Next season, the Aztecs, along with fellow MWC member Boise State and a handful of Conference USA teams, will join the Big East.  Probably.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian
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Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.

Starting Navy S Kwazel Bertrand undergoes surgery, likely out for season

Kwazel Bertrand, Jacobi Owens
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Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.

Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.

“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”

Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.