Report: Paterno family set to counter Freeh report

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Ahead of the airing of Sue Paterno‘s interview with Katie Couric Monday, the family of Joe Paterno will issue a response to a Penn State-commissioned report that ultimately resulted in historic sanctions being slapped on the football program.

Citing a source close to the case, the Centre Daily Times writes that “[t]he family of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno will release a report countering the Freeh Report, which claimed Paterno covered up allegations of child sex abuse against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.”  The family’s report, which is expected to be upwards of 180 pages — the Freeh report was in the neighborhood of 150 pages — will be released and discussed on ESPN’s Outside the Lines program at 9 ET Sunday morning.

Announced in July of last year, the family’s report was compiled by a “prominent national team of experts,” the paper notes.

While the details of what will actually be contained in what’s being called an “extremely comprehensive” report are not known, it’s expected to center on the tactics utilized by the Freeh group, which “conducted over 430 interviews and reviewed over 3.5 million documents” during a probe that began in November of 2011.  Coach Paterno was not one of those interviewed.  Neither was Mike McQueary, the then-grad assistant who witnessed Sandusky raping a young boy in a shower located in the football program’s on-campus building in 2001.  How school officials, including Paterno, handled that incident was a central theme in the Freeh report.

The independent investigation into the Sandusky child-sex scandal, headed by former FBI director Louis Freeh, has come under tremendous fire since its release in July of 2012, six months following Paterno’s death and eight months after Sandusky’s indictment on dozens of charges that led to the legendary coach’s dismissal.  The most damning accusation in the Freeh report alleged that Paterno, along with other top-level university officials, “concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the university community and authorities.”

The Paterno family has long maintained their patriarch’s innocence, even as Paterno acknowledged publicly that the Sandusky scandal was “one of the great sorrows of my life… I wish I had done more.”

On the basis of the Freeh report, the NCAA levied significant sanctions against the university last year, including a $60 million fine, stripping dozens of scholarship from the football program as well as a four-year bowl ban.  A federal antitrust lawsuit, headed by governor Tom Corbett, has been filed seeking to have the sanctions reversed, while the NCAA is looking to have the case dismissed.

UPDATED 1:51 p.m. ET: Sue Paterno has penned a letter and sent it to the Penn State lettermen who played under her husband, which can be read in its entirety HERE.  A very big thanks to former Nittany Lions quarterback Michael Robinson (@RealMikeRob) for giving us a heads up to the letter.

LOOK: Arizona State to wear Pat Tillman-themed uniforms

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Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.

The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.

Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.

Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

Jim McElwain says family, players have received death threats over 3-3 start

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Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.

How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.

“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”

In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger, C Zach Shackelford in concussion protocol

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Texas has lost two straight upset bids in strikingly similar fashion: true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger leads a potential-game winning drive, scrambles, hits his head on the turf and ends the possession in a puzzling throw.

The first came in last week’s loss to No. 10 Oklahoma. Trailing 29-24 late in the fourth quarter, scrambled for two yards to the Texas-48 yard line but hit his head on the Cotton Bowl turf and was forced to leave the game for five plays. Shane Buechele pushed the Longhorns to the Oklahoma 31, but he was replaced after a sack and Ehlinger ended up throwing the ball away on 4th-and-13 from the OU 34 with two minutes to play. That, as they say, was that.

Fast forward to Saturday and Texas was trailing No. 11 Oklahoma State 13-10 in overtime when Ehlinger opened the possession with a scramble that again saw the back of his head bang against the Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium turf. He stayed in the game this time, but ended the game on a puzzling (to say the least) interception to absolutely no one on 3rd-and-4 from the OSU 6.

While Ehlinger was not evaluated for a concussion during the game, he did not practice Sunday and head coach Tom Herman said Monday that Ehlinger and center Zach Shackelford are in concussion protocol.

Complicating matters for Texas is that sophomore back-up Shane Buechele is playing on a gimpy ankle that kept him out against San Jose State and Kansas State that Herman said will not improve as the season goes on.

No matter, Texas will face a hungry Baylor team on Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU) that nearly completed a comeback against No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday night.