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Illini ‘part ways’ with co-offensive coordinator

Chris Beatty

A first season in Illinois that saw the Illini struggle mightily offensively has led Tim Beckman to shake up his coaching staff.

Confirming speculation that had been making the rounds in the afternoon, Beckman announced Saturday evening that co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chris Beatty was “not being retained.”  Beatty came to Illinois after one season at Vanderbilt in 2011 and three years at West Virginia prior to that.

“Chris Beatty is an outstanding person and a good coach,” Beckman said. “His family will always be a part our Illini football family. I wish him the best as he moves forward with his career.”

As if there were any doubts behind the move, the release made sure to state that Illinois averaged 16.7 points and 296.7 yards in total offense in 2012, ranking 12th in the Big Ten in both categories.  Fellow co-coordinator Billy Gonzalez remains on Beckman’s staff.

“A national search for an offensive coordinator will begin immediately,” the release stated.

(Photo credit: Illinois athletics)

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Big plays, turnovers push No. 10 TCU to 37-20 halftime lead over Texas Tech

Texas Tech v TCU

Texas Tech had done it. More than a quarter into their visit to No. 10 TCU and already trailing 24-17, the Texas Tech defense had forced its first punt.

Facing a fourth-and-7 from the Texas Tech 38, Gary Patterson pulled out a fake punt, and Red Raider defender Justis Nelson was flagged for interfering with Josh Doctson on a pass by punter Ethan Perry that may or may not have been catchable. One play later, Trevone Boykin found Deante’ Gray for a 24-yard touchdown pass and TCU grabbed a 31-17 lead.

It’s been that kind of day as the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders have combined for 84 snaps, 30 first downs, 655 yards from scrimmage and 57 points as TCU leads 37-20 at the break.

Aside from a defense that has obviously struggled to stop the Horned Frogs’ offense, Davis Webb hasn’t the cause much with one interception and two lost fumbles – on Texas Tech’s last two possessions of the half – leading to 13 TCU points.

Trevone Boykin has missed on nearly half his passes (14-of-27) but made his completions count, going for 199 yards and three touchdowns. The big play combination of Kolby Listenbee and Josh Doctson have combined for six grabs for 137 yards and two touchdowns, and Aaron Green has added six rushes for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Webb has posted good numbers, 14-of-26 passing for 286 yards and two scores, but negated much of it with his trio of giveaways. DeAndre Washington has found space in the middle of TCU’s defense, rushing eight times for 64 yards with a long of 48, while Webb’s two touchdown passes have come on plays of 57 (to Kenny Williams) and 56 (to Devin Lauderdale) yards.

After scoring 10 points in the game’s first three minutes and 12 seconds and 17 in the first quarter, the Red Raiders managed only a 38-yard Ryan Bustin field goal in the second quarter.

TCU will receive the ball to open the second half.

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No. 1 Bulldogs lead Kentucky 17-10 at halftime despite slow start

Dak Prescott

The Mississippi State Bulldogs are playing their very first game as the nation’s No. 1 overall team. How the program reacted to the pressure of being the nation’s top team would be a telling sign as the Bulldogs progressed this season.

Despite the team’s newfound success, the Bulldogs didn’t dominate the first half of Saturday’s game as expected. The Kentucky Wildcats are still within striking distance. The Bulldogs hold a 17-10 lead, and Kentucky has outplayed Mississippi State at times.

“We’re playing a little sloppy, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen told CBS before going into the locker room at halftime. “We need to clean it up. We need to play a lot better in the second half.”

Mullen built a winning program due to winning in the trenches and riding the team’s dual-threat quarterback, Dak Prescott.

Kentucky matched Mississippi State along the offensive and defensive lines. Where the Wildcats have been found lacking is at the quarterback position.

Prescott, who may be the favorite to win this year’s Heisman Trophy, was 10-of-17 passing for 111 yards and a late interception. Where he made a difference was running the football. The quarterback leads Mississippi State with 43 rushing yards and a touchdown. His ability to make big plays as a runner makes the Bulldogs dangerous even when the offense isn’t firing on all cylinders (see: below).

Mark Stoops‘ defense has done a tremendous job containing the Bulldogs for the most part. Outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Bud Sasser have proven to be thorns in the side of Prescott. The majority of Mississippi State’s 114 rushing yards have come up the middle.

Meanwhile, Mississippi State’s imposing defense surrendered 193 total yards to an erratic Wildcats offense. The big play came when Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles connected with wide receiver Demarco Robinson on a short out pattern which became a long 67-yard touchdown thanks to the senior’s ability to tiptoe down the sideline.

Otherwise, Towles is 8-of-17 passing for only 75 yards.

As the second half approaches, Kentucky needs to maintain its intensity on defense while attempting to get more out of its running game to take pressure off Towles. But it’s far more likely Mississippi State’s superior talent will eventually take over despite coasting through the first two quarters.

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West Virginia punches first, OK State punches back; No. 22 WVU leads 14-10 at the half

Kevin White

No. 22 West Virginia looked like it was going to walk into Stillwater and come away with an easy victory. Seven minutes and 11 seconds into the game, the Mountaineers led 14-0 and quarterback Clint Trickett was making it look easy, hitting Kevin White for a 19-yard score and Mario Alford for a 79-yard catch-and-dash.

And then… it all stopped.

Oklahoma State stopped taking punches and then landed a few of its own, notching a 40-yard Ben Grogan field goal a minute into the second quarter and an eight-yard scoring strike from Daxx Garman to Teddy Johnson midway through the frame to bring us to our 14-10 halftime score.

West Virginia has been conservative, almost too conservative, carrying the ball 19 times for 85 yards while Trickett has hit 10-of-15 throws for 165 yards and those two scores. Wendell Smallwood has the bulk of West Virginia’s ground yards, carrying 11 times for 80 yards. Glenn Spencer’s defense has mostly bottled up All-America candidate White, limiting him to just one grab for four yards other than the touchdown.

Garman has completed 14-of-23 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown and a pick, while the Cowboys have accumulated 123 rushing yards through a committee of Brandon Shepard (one rush, 51 yards), Tyreek Hill (nine for 45) and Desmond Roland (nine for 34).

West Virginia will receive the ball to open the second half.

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Wolverines (somewhat) hanging with ‘little brother’ Sparty at halftime

Michigan v Michigan State

It’s not the embarrassment it’s been most of this season, but it’s still yet another first-half deficit for Michigan.

On a sun-splashed afternoon in East Lansing, Michigan State jumped out to a 7-0 first-quarter lead en route to a 14-3 lead after two quarters of play.  Jeremy Langford was responsible for both Spartan touchdowns, a two-yard run less than four minutes into the game and a one-yarder with :21 remaining in the half.

As has been the case the past couple/few seasons, though, it was the Sparty defense that set the stifling tone for the game.

Through the first 30 minutes, MSU had allowed its “big brother” to total just 37 yards of offense.  The Wolverines were held to minus-five yards rushing on its 10 attempts, an average of -0.5 yards per carry.

Conversely, and even as the scoreboard doesn’t quite indicate it, Sparty’s offense had little problem moving the ball either on the ground or through the air.  MSU was able to muster 256 yards of offense, 157 passing and 99 rushing.

Langford had 77 of those rushing yards, while quarterback Connor Cook was an efficient 110-of-17 passing.

UM has now trailed at the half in four of its previous six games; just once, against Penn State two weeks ago, were they able to come from behind to win.  Short of the kind of comeback that’s been atypical this season, the temperature underneath Brady Hoke‘s coaching seat will do nothing by rise at game’s end.

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Pitt fumbles way to deep first-quarter deficit vs. GT

Hot potato

And I mean that quite literally.

In a span of eight minutes and 30 seconds at the start of the first quarter of its game against Georgia Tech, Pitt fumbled five times… and lost all five fumbles.  Quarterback Chad Voytik and wide receiver Tyler Boyd were responsible for two apiece.

The first three lost fumbles came on the first five plays from scrimmage for the Panthers.

The five lost fumbles in a single quarter ties the FBS record set by East Carolina (1980 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette) and San Diego State (1982 vs. Cal).  Pitt has a ways to go before tying or breaking the single-game record of 10 set by Wake Forest in a 1969 game against Florida State.

The Yellow Jackets, incidentally, scored four touchdowns after the first four fumbles, and did so on just nine plays.

As of this posting, Tech is maintaining a 28-7 lead.  And, with just under nine minutes left in the second quarter, Pitt has gone nearly 11 minutes without losing a fumble, so they have that going for them, which is nice.

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Mother of Les Miles passed away Friday night

LSU v Auburn

Sadly, Les Miles will be coaching with a heavy heart Saturday night.

Friday night, a school spokesperson confirmed to Ross Dellenger of the Baton Rouge Advocate, the mother of the LSU head coach, 91-year-old Martha, has passed away.  No cause of death has been released.

Despite the loss, Miles is still in Baton Rouge and will be on the sidelines when LSU squares of against No. 3 Ole Miss.  He even appeared on ESPN‘s College GameDay pregame show this morning, but there was no mention of his mother’s passing.

Miles’ father, Bubba, died in 2000.  A car accident in April of 2011 claimed the life of Miles’ 54-year-old sister Ann Hope Browne.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to Miles for his loss.

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No. 25 UCLA jumps out early, but Colorado making things interesting

Paul Perkins, Caleb Benenoch

UCLA wasted no time in taking a lead on Colorado. Paul Perkins got the scoring started early in the first quarter with a 92-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage for the Bruins offense, following an offensive holding penalty.From there, the race was on for the Bruins, who lead Colorado 24-14 at the halftime break.

Brett Hundley has thrown for 105 yards and a touchdown so far, including a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Payton in the first quarter. Perkins would add a 24-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to help keep UCLA in front with a double-digit lead at the break. Colorado has made things a little interesting by finding success against the UCLA defense though. Tony Jones and Michael Adkins II each has a rushing touchdown for Colorado, and both have combined for 98 rushing yards so far.

UCLA snuck back into the top 25 this week, but may have to put together a stronger second half in order to convince enough voters to keep them there tomorrow.

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Illinois hands Minnesota first Big Ten loss

Illinois (4-4, 1-3 Big Ten) may want to wear their gray alternate uniforms more often after today. The Illini rallied in the second half after it appeared the game had slipped away from them to hand Minnesota (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) its first loss in conference play this season. V’Angelo Bentley returned a Minnesota fumble 12 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown to give Illinois a 28-24 lead. It proved to be the game-winning score.

Minnesota outscored Illinois 21-7 in the third quarter to take a 24-21 lead on the Illini, but the Gophers proved incapable of holding on to the narrow lead. After taking its first lead late in the third quarter, Minnesota missed a field goal, had a lost fumble returned for a touchdown, punted, and lost another fumble on their following offensive drive sin the fourth quarter. All of this while forcing Illinois to punt on five straight possessions in the second half.

The final punt from Illinois came in the final seconds, which appeared to end with time running off the clock on the return. This led to a celebration by the Illini on the field, but the Big Ten refs threw a flag for defensive holding on the return. This gave Minnesota one untimed down to run a play, but it resulted in a deep pass falling out of play to end the game.

Minnesota let this one get away from them. The Gophers out-gained Illinois in total offensive yards, 411-263. The Gophers had three turnovers, with the one being returned for a touchdown. It took far too long for Minnesota to get the running game going with David Cobb not hitting his stride until it may have been too late. Cobb rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns, but was stymied for much of the game before getting going. Quarterback Mitch LeidnerL was not particularly sharp either, completing just 12 of his 30 pass attempts for 240 yards and a touchdown and interception.

With the loss, Minnesota drops into a first-place tie with Nebraska in the Big Ten West with identical 3-1 conference records. Minnesota will play at Nebraska on November 22. Minnesota is already eligible for postseason play, which is good. The last leg of the season could be brutal for Minnesota, and a loss to Illinois was not necessarily in the plans.

Illinois is two wins shy of clinching postseason eligibility as well. Next week Illinois plays at Ohio State.

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Abdullah runs for 225 yards and 3 TDs as No. 16 Huskers pound Rutgers

Rutgers v Nebraska

Nebraska and Rutgers playing a Big Ten conference game was weird to see. Watching Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah run wild over an overpowered defense was nothing out of the ordinary though. Abdullah added to his Heisman Trophy profile by rushing for 225 yards and three touchdowns as No. 16 Nebraska (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) blew away Rutgers (5-3, 1-3 Big Ten) by a final score of 42-24.

Nebraska’s victory over Rutgers was fueled by Abdullah, but he had a supporting cast doing its part as well. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong passed for 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kenny Bell led Nebraska with 63 receiving yards. Abdullah was the story of the game though, turning in the second highest rushing total of his career. Abdullah rushed for a career-high 232 yards in week one of the season against Florida Atlantic. His 225 yards Saturday afternoon tied the second-highest mark of his career.

Rutgers put up a fight early on. A Gary Nova completion over the middle to Leonte Carroo turned a medium gain for a first down into a 71-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 late in the first quarter. Nebraska responded in a big way by scoring two touchdowns off big runs by Abdullah to take a 21-7 lead into the half. Nebraska would later take a 35-17 lead to the fourth quarter, keeping the visiting Scarlet Knights at arm’s length the rest fo the way.

Nebraska only had three more rushing attempts than Rutgers, but Nebraska averaged 7.1 yards per rushing attempt to the 3.8 averaged by Rutgers. Nebraska also ended the game with 149 more rushing yards. Abdullah rushing for touchdowns from 53, 48 and 23 yards certainly helps inflate those numbers. Abdullah was quite the difference-maker.

Nebraska could very well be the favorite in the Big Ten West Division the rest of the way. Minnesota got a test on the road at Illinois today, but the Gophers remain in first place in the division with an uphill battle to climb the rest of the way. Nebraska will still have to play road games at Wisconsin and Iowa as well as a home game against Minnesota. Wisconsin and Iowa are still in the mix as well. Nebraska has a habit of winning nine games per year lately, so the Huskers are either going to break that trend this season or come stumbling down the finish line to the season in spectacular fashion. As long as Abdullah stays healthy and Nebraska keeps feeding his Heisman campaign, these Huskers could be rolling to the Big Ten championship game with double digits in the win column.

Rutgers is still one win shy of becoming bowl eligible in its first season in the Big Ten. Next is a home game against Wisconsin, with the Badgers coming off a pounding of Maryland in Madison. Rutgers will also host Indiana and finish the season on the road against Michigan State and Maryland. There could very well be a win to be had in there for Rutgers.

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No. 11 Kansas State does enough to stay perfect in Big 12

Jake Waters

When the sun comes up on Sunday, No. 11 Kansas State (6-1, 4-0 Big 12) will remain in first place in the Big 12. The Wildcats remain in control of the Big 12 after holding off Texas (3-5, 2-3 Big 12) on Saturday afternoon with a 23-0 victory over the Longhorns.

Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters put together a workmanlike performance, which is to be expected when discussing Kansas State in general. Waters completed 18 of 29 pass attempts for 219 yards. The numbers will not impress much, but the majority of those yards came in key third-down situations. Kansas State converted eight of 15 third-down conversion attempts in the game. This helped to milk as much clock as possible for Kansas State, with the Wildcats controlling the football for over 38 minutes. Everything about the way this game played out is what has made head coach Bill Snyder a College Football Hall of Fame candidate. The Wildcats will not dazzle with flashy play, but there are few teams that are as fundamentally well-rounded as Kansas State right now. The recipe may not work against programs like Florida State, Auburn or Oregon, but it works for Kansas State in the Big 12. This is all that will ultimately matter.

Kansas State also played a very clean game as well. The Wildcats were flagged just three times in the game and the offense did not lose the football. It also helped to have a dependable kicker with Matthew McCrane successfully sending all three of his field goal attempts through the goal posts. Early on, this came in handy as Kansas State was stopped by Texas inside the red zone. Kansas State’s defense held Texas to just 198 yards of total offense too. This is Kansas State football.

Kansas State will host Oklahoma State next weekend before heading to TCU for what could be a pivotal match-up in the Big 12 race coming down the stretch. The Wildcats also have a road trip to West Virginia and a season-ending road trip to Baylor to come as well. It is still premature to suggest Kansas State is the favorite to win the Big 12 at this point. The conference is very much up for grabs for a few teams right now, including TCU, West Virginia and Baylor.

Texas is, without question, far from being in the hunt for the Big 12 championship. This afternoon’s loss drops the Longhorns to 2-3 in Big 12 play with four games to play. The goal now should be to scratch together three more wins to become bowl-eligible. Texas has played in a postseason bowl game every season but two since the formation of the Big 12 in 1997. Charlie Strong is in danger of becoming just the second Texas coach since Edwin Price in 1951 not to lead Texas to a bowl game in his first year on the job. Texas plays at Texas Tech next week and still has West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU on the schedule. Two losses and Texas will be staying home this offseason.

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Kentucky’s Stanley Williams not cleared to play against No. 1 Mississippi State

Kentucky v LSU

The Kentucky Wildcats will face the No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs this afternoon without one of their most potent offensive weapons.

Freshman running back Stanley Williams suffered a concussion last Saturday against the LSU Tigers. He didn’t return to the game nor did he practice all week.

Williams announced on twitter that he won’t be available for today’s contest:

The 5-9, 200-pound running back was third on the team with 222 rushing yards. The talented freshman averaged 7.4 yards each time he ran the ball, though.

Williams was Kentucky’s best all-around threat. The running back already had eight catches for 90 yards this season. He is also the team’s primary kick returner and averages 30 yards per return.

With Williams out of the lineup, the Wildcats have three capable running back that already split time in the backfield. Sophomore JoJo Kemp, junior Braylon Heard and freshman Mikel Horton will continue to rotate at running back against the Bulldogs’ talented defensive front.

On special teams, sophomore cornerback J.D. Harmon is Williams’ likely replacement as the team’s top kicker returner. Harmon returned two kicks this season for 53 yards.

Anytime the No. 1 team in the country comes to town, the underdog needs all the help it can get to potentially pull off an upset. Unfortunately for Kentucky, one of the Wildcats’ most explosive players isn’t available, and they’ll have to adjust.

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Iowa suspends starting LB after alcohol-related incident

Indiana v Iowa

Iowa’s on a bye this weekend, but the Hawkeyes still managed to find a way to make headlines.

In a press release, UI announced that Reggie Spearman has been suspended from the football program for at least one game.  The release stated that the linebacker was cited for an alcohol-related offense early Saturday morning.

Just what the specific citation was wasn’t detailed.

“I was disappointed to hear of the charges against Reggie,” said head coach Kirk Ferentz in a statement. “Reggie will face a minimum one-game suspension, as well as other consequences within the program. We will work with authorities in gathering all the facts. Reggie will go through the UI Student Athlete Code of Conduct process and we will move forward from there.”

The suspension means Spearman will miss at least the Nov. 1 game against Northwestern.

Spearman has started all seven games for the 5-2 Hawkeyes this season. He’s currently tied for seventh in tackles with 34.

UPDATED 2:13 p.m. ET: According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Spearman was charged with operating while intoxicated after being pulled over shortly after midnight local time.

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Fat guy TD pass to long-snapper? God bless Arkansas

Bret Bielema

I can now, officially, die a happy and contented man.

In the second quarter of Arkansas’ game against UAB this afternoon, arguably the greatest touchdown in the history of college football — or any level of football for that matter — was scored as Sebastian Tretola tossed a six-yard “strike” to Alan D’Appollonio.  The greatness lies in the particulars: Tretola is a 350-pound offensive guard, while D’Appollonio is a long-snapper by trade.

Perhaps the best part?  Tretola was lined up in the shotgun.  The second-best part?  Tretola striking the Heisman pose after the catch.

Below is the video.  Soak in its greatness in and enjoy.

 

God bless Tretola.  And God bless Bret Bielema for bringing that play into our collective lives.  We’re all forever in your debt.

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Kansas State ahead but letting Texas hang around

DeMarcus Robinson

Kansas State played a clean half of football, but has struggled to bury Texas in the first half. With some tough defense pulling through in key situations, Texas has managed to get to halftime only trailing 13-0 on the road.

Texas was called for six penalties in the first half, while Kansas State avoided giving officials a reason to throw a penalty flag. There have been no turnovers in the game as well. This all seems to play in Kansas State’s favor as they try to stay in first place in Big 12 play. The offense could use a little more in the second half though, just to deliver a knockout punch to the visiting Longhorns.

Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has completed just six of 16 pass attempts for 40 yards. Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray each have 18 rushing yards for the Longhorns, and Swoops has added 16 more yards on the ground. Texas just cannot get an edge in the field position game. Texas went three-and-out three times in the first half and has had to punt the ball away each of their six first-half possessions.

Kansas State has been mildly better for much of the half. Both of the first two possessions for Kansas State had to settle for field goals inside the red zone, and then the Wildcats had to punt on their next two possessions after losing a total of 14 yards combined. Kansas State did break through with a touchdown before the half with a 12-play drive ending with DeMarcus Robinson scoring from three yards out for a 13-0 lead.

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Minnesota playing like they’ve seen a ghost vs. Illinois

Illinois v Wisconsin

Minnesota entered this weekend unbeaten in Big Ten play, but perhaps the image of gray uniforms staring them down was too much to handle in the first half. Illinois, wearing specially designed uniforms to honor Illini legend Red Grange, has taken a 14-3 lead into halftime Saturday afternoon.

Illinois scored both touchdowns of the half in the first quarter. Quarterback Reilly O’Toole tossed a short pass to Jon Davis for the first score of the game. He would later run for the game’s second touchdown as Illinois took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Minnesota finally got on the scoreboard in the second quarter with a 44-yard field goal by Ryan Santoso.

Illinois had been struggling against the run this season, but the Gophers have failed to get on track on the ground. David Cobb has been stuffed for just 24 yards on 12 attempts. Illinois has held Minnesota to just 86 yards of total offense after one half. The Illini offense has recorded 165 yards of offense.

Despite O’Toole playing well early on, Illinois head coach Tim Beckman replaced him under center with Aaron Bailey to mix things up after jumping out to a 14-0 lead. This was probably part of the game plan going in, but it was a bit of a questionable decision when things were going well. O’Toole did return to lead the offense soon enough though.

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