Michigan v Notre Dame

Notre Dame: Manti Te’o victim of a hoax

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There are bizarre stories, then there’s, well, this.

Back in mid-September it was reported that the grandmother and girlfriend of Notre Dame All-American Manti Te’o had died within hours of each other, the latter (Lennay Kekua) after a courageous battle with leukemia.  As the Irish continued what would be a stunning run to the BCS championship game, Te’o’s triumph over personal tragedy became an inspirational theme woven into the fabric of the 2012 college football season.

It was by all accounts heartbreaking and inspirational and, according to Deadspin.com, it was also a lie.

In a lengthy piece published by the website Tuesday, Deadspin declares that “Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax.”  While it would be impossible to even begin to summarize the baffling story, this paragraph fairly encapsulates what the website is claiming:

There was no Lennay Kekua. Lennay Kekua did not meet Manti Te’o after the Stanford game in 2009. Lennay Kekua did not attend Stanford. Lennay Kekua never visited Manti Te’o in Hawaii. Lennay Kekua was not in a car accident. Lennay Kekua did not talk to Manti Te’o every night on the telephone. She was not diagnosed with cancer, did not spend time in the hospital, did not engage in a lengthy battle with leukemia. She never had a bone marrow transplant. She was not released from the hospital on Sept. 10, nor did Brian Te’o congratulate her for this over the telephone. She did not insist that Manti Te’o play in the Michigan State or Michigan games, and did not request he send white flowers to her funeral. Her favorite color was not white. Her brother, Koa, did not inform Manti Te’o that she was dead. Koa did not exist. Her funeral did not take place in Carson, Calif., and her casket was not closed at 9 a.m. exactly. She was not laid to rest.

It’s a fascinatingly disturbing read, and we strongly urge you to plow through the lengthy piece in its entirety HERE.  It’s not, however, the end of the story.  Far from it, in fact.

In response to Deadspin‘s story, Notre Dame released a statement claiming that, in essence, Te’o was the victim of a hoax:

On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.

Te’o has not issued a statement on the story, which is rapidly becoming one of the most baffling and head-scratching stories of the year.

UPDATED 6:32 p.m. ET: Subsequent to the initial posting, Te’o has released a statement addressing this situation as well.  Here it is, in its entirety.

“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

“To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.

“It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.

“I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.

“In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.

“Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”

Derek Jeter leaves message in every Michigan player’s locker

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 26:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh (R) of the Michigan Wolverines  presents baseball great Derek Jeter (L) of the New York Yankees with a jersey prior to the game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Michigan Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Ahead of a huge Top 10 matchup, the Michigan football team has received a bit of inspiration from a pinstriped legend.

Derek Jeter, a Michigan high school graduate who signed with UM coming out of high school before embarking on what will end up being a Hall of Fame baseball career, has been somewhat of a fixture in and around the football program since the Wolverines became a part of Brand Jordan, a brand that Jeter also represents. Along with the brand’s namesake, His Airness Michael Jordan, Jeter was a part of the opener early this year at the Big House.  He was at a star-studded National Signing Day event this year as well.

With No. 8 Wisconsin on tap, Jeter decided to leave a gift and, more importantly, a message in the locker of every single player on the fourth-ranked team in the country.

“It is my personal challenge to you all to remain humble, yet hungry, every day along this journey to achieving greatness,” a portion of Jeter’s note read.

Suspension will sideline CB Justin Martin for Vols-UGA game

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 24: Justin Martin #8 of the Tennessee Volunteers tackles Lamical Perine #22 of the Florida Gators in the second quarter at Neyland Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Justin Martin won’t get the opportunity to atone for a rough Week 4 performance against Florida after all.

Both 247Sports.com and the Knoxville News Sentinel have reported that Martin has been suspended for No. 11 Tennessee’s game this afternoon against No. 25 Georgia.  The only reason given was an unspecified violation of team rules.

Martin had started against the Gators, but head coach Butch Jones had already announced that freshman Baylen Buchanan would get the start at cornerback against the Bulldogs.  247Sports.com writes that, in the win over UF in Week 4, Martin “twice was beaten on deep throws and committed a costly penalty on the game’s opening kickoff.”

The Vols will also be without a pair of starters, linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. and defensive back Cameron Sutton, because of injuries.  It’s also highly doubtful that All-SEC linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin plays because of a lingering shoulder injury.

The Bulldogs won’t be coming into the key SEC East clash unscathed, though, as leading rusher Nick Chubb is not expected to play because of an ankle injury.

Oklahoma State blocks three Texas PATs in defense-optional first half

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 15:  An Oklahoma State cheerleader flies the Cowboys' flag after a touchdown against the Texas Longhorns on October 15, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  Oklahoma State beat Texas 38-26.  (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
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The early slate of games has been highlighted by blocked extra-point attempts. Three of them have come in Stillwater, Oklahoma with Oklahoma State doing the job against Texas. One of those blocked attempts was returned by Oklahoma State for two points. Oklahoma State holds the halftime edge with a 37-25 lead following a back-and-forth second quarter that saw four lead changes in the second quarter. Yep. That’s the halftime score.

Oklahoma State jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Longhorns, with Justice Hill running for a 30-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game and Mason Rudolph connecting for a 54-yard touchdown pass to James Washington. Texas would settle down though and come back in the first quarter with two straight possessions with touchdowns. Tyrone Swoopes capped a six-play, 84-yard drive with a short touchdown run. One play earlier, Shane Buechele completed a 49-yard pass to Dorian Leonard.

It looked as though Texas was about to tie things up on their next possession (after an Oklahoma State three-and-out) when D'Onta Foreman ran 22 yards for a score, but special teams would help Oklahoma State keep the lead. Tre Flowers wound up returning a blocked PAT attempt to the house off a lateral for two additional points for the Cowboys.

The Longhorns did take a lead in the second quarter with a Swoopes touchdown run inside the red zone, and the lead exchanged hands twice more before the end of the first half. Rudolph capped an 80-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to regain the lead, 23-19, but Buchele launched a 42-yard pass to Beck for a 42-yard score on the ensuing possession. Four plays later on the ensuing possession, Oklahoma State was back on top with a Rudolph touchdown pass to Jalen McCleskey from 36 yards.

We could have a wild one in Stillwater in the second half.

J.T. Barrett becomes Ohio State’s all-time passing TD leader in first half vs. Rutgers

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 10:  Quarterback J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes sets up to pass in the second quarter against the Tulsa Hurricane at Ohio Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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It’s teacher vs. student this afternoon in Columbus, Ohio with Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer going head-to-head against Rutgers and head coach Chris Ash. Ash was Meyer’s c0-defensive coordinator last season. Through one half of play, the teacher holds the edge on the student, by a score of 30-0. Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett has thrown his way into school history with a four-touchdown first half.

Ohio State’s first offensive possession looked promising after starting at their nine-yard line, but J.T. Barrett was picked off by Anthony Cioffi at the Rutgers 36-yard line to kill the drive. The Rutgers offense was unable to capitalize on the ensuing possession and punted after five plays. Ohio State’s offense would respond with a six-play, 61-yard touchdown drive. Barrett made up for his prior interception by connecting with Dontre Wilson inside the red zone for an 18-yard score.

Ohio State would push their lead to 16-0 in the second quarter when Barrett completed a red zone touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin, McLaurin’s first career touchdown reception. The Buckeyes continued to tack on with Barrett’s third touchdown pass of the half. For Barrett, that was his 58th all-time touchdown pass, moving into sole possession of first-place in Ohio State program history.

Rutgers has tried a couple things to keep Ohio state on their toes, but nothing has proved successful thus far.