Alabama Spring Game

Myriad turnovers the theme of Tide’s spring game

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And by “myriad” we mean “thiiis close to double digits” in the two-time defending BCS champion Alabama’s annual A-Day game.

Just over 78,000 fans Saturday — there were a school-record 87,000 in attendance for Auburn’s spring game, for what it’s worth — witnessed the Tide turn the ball over a whopping nine times as the White team edged the Crimson team 17-14.  The White squad, which consisted of the first-team offense, was responsible for four of the turnovers — two interceptions, two fumbles — while Team Crimson coughed it up five times — four interceptions, one fumble.

AJ McCarron, who will be entering his third year as the Tide’s starter, tossed both of the White team’s interceptions in his 19-for-30, 223-yard effort, and had a third pick called back because of defensive offsides.  He also led his side on the game-winning drive, with a 50-yard bomb to Christion Jones setting up T.J. Yeldon‘s seven-yard touchdown run late in the game.

Yeldon, incidentally, was named the Dixie Howell Award winner (game’s most valuable player) after combining for 129 yards of offense — 69 rushing, 60 receiving.  The rising sophomore led all players in both categories.  It’s also the second straight year the back has staked his claim as the spring game MVP.

McCarron’s backup, Blake Sims, also tossed two interceptions, as did early enrollee and fellow Team Crimson teammate Cooper Bateman.

Suffice to say, the offensive effort — both literally and figuratively — did not sit well with the detail-oriented Nick Saban.

“The biggest thing I was concerned about was how the team would go out there and what would be their energy, their enthusiasm, and their attention to detail,” the head coach said in quotes distributed by the team. “I don’t think that there were enough guys that answered that question in a positive way to my liking. But I’m never satisfied.”

That said, Saban made sure that everyone listening knows he’s not disappointed with his squad at this point in the offseason.  Rather, he’s merely not satisfied with where they are right now — a trait that even the head coach himself readily acknowledges is an annual occurrence.

“I spoke to a bunch of alumni groups today, and they all want me to make a comparison between this year’s team and last year’s team and the team before that, and the team before that, and the team before that,” Saban said. “And I wasn’t happy with any of those teams at this point. If I was happy with them, we wouldn’t have summer conditioning, we would not have fall camp, and we wouldn’t have thirty practices to get ready for our first game against Virginia Tech. We’d just pack it in and say, ‘Alright, let’s go to Atlanta and play the game.’

“We’re not there yet. That’s why we have all these practices, that’s why we have all the work we need to do.

McCarron, though, pretty much summed up quite well most everyone’s feelings on a game that’s nothing more than a glorified scrimmage.

“This is like playing in an all-star game. You don’t get in a rhythm. It’s not a real game, but it’s fun to go out there and try to make plays happen, and do some trick plays,” the senior said.

The attendance total of 78,315 was the sixth-largest in the storied program’s history, with the five highest coming in the first five years of Saban’s run in Tuscaloosa.  The largest crowd ever to witness an A-Day game was 92,310 in 2011.

As the school wrote in its press release, “[m]ore than 592,000 fans have attended the seven A-Day games during Saban’s tenure as head coach, including 90,000 plus in three of the seven years.”

Ex-USC QB one of two transferring from Arkansas

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 26:  Arkansas Razorbacks flag girl during the Southwest Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Maybe the third time will be a charm for Ricky Town.

Bret Bielema has confirmed that Town and another Arkansas player, running back Damon Mitchell, have decided to transfer from the Razorbacks. According to the head coach, the quarterback’s decision to transfer stems from a desire for a better shot at playing time.

“He’s expressed he wants to find some place next year that can get him on the field and let him showcase his skills,” Bielema said of the redshirt freshman, who didn’t attempt a pass this season.

That some place is expected to be a junior college for the 2017 season. If Town takes that tack, he would then have two seasons of eligibility remaining at the FBS level starting in 2018.

Originally a USC signee, Town announced in mid-August of last year that he would be transferring from the Trojans. Less than a week later, after considering Florida as well, Town landed in Fayetteville.

Town was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the country; the No. 20 player at any position in the state of California; and the No. 127 player overall according to Rivals.com.  In January of 2014, Town pulled his verbal commitment from Alabama and gave it to USC.

With Cody Kessler firmly entrenched as the starter, Town was widely expected to take a redshirt as a true freshman. He was an early enrollee who took part in spring practice, but had fallen behind fellow 2015 signee Sam Darnold in the signal-calling pecking order. Darnold, of course, eventually took over the starting job this year and has the Trojans riding an eight-game winning streak heading into their Rose Bowl matchup with Big Ten champion Penn State.

Mitchell, meanwhile, will be leaving the Hogs as a graduate transfer. Bielema says the junior already knows where he will continue his playing career, but will allow the player to make the announcement when he’s ready.

This season, Mitchell gained 18 yards on seven carries. He totaled 17 carries for 105 yards in his career. Last season, he caught six passes for 84 yards and a touchdown.

Oklahoma Supreme Court orders Joe Mixon punch video released

NORMAN, OK - DECEMBER 3: Running back Joe Mixon #25 of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates a touchdown against the Oklahoma State Cowboys December 3, 2016 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Oklahoma State 38-20 to become Big XII champions. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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A lengthy and protracted legal battle has seen yet another development.

Tuesday morning, The Oklahoman writes, “[t]he Oklahoma Supreme Court… ruled a surveillance video of Sooner running back Joe Mixon‘s punch must be released.” The Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters had sued for the video’s release.

In mid-August of 2014, Mixon was suspended by Oklahoma for the entire 2014 season, a punitive measure that meant the running back would be excluded from any and all team activities.  The one-year suspension came about after Mixon was accused of punching a woman in a late-July confrontation, breaking four bones in her face and leaving her unconscious.  Media covering OU viewed a copy of the security tape that caught the exchange, including the knockout punch, between the woman and Mixon; Mixon’s attorney had previously claimed the altercation was preceded by racial slurs.

The OU hierarchy, including president David Boren, athletic director Joe Castiglione and head football coach Bob Stoops, viewed a copy of the video prior to suspending Mixon.

In late October, a plea deal was reached in the case that helped Mixon avoid a trial. As part of that deal, Mixon was given a one-year deferred sentence, 100 hours of community service and will be required to attend cognitive behavior counseling.  In February of last year, Mixon was welcomed back to the Sooners.

Five months ago, the victim of the punch, Amelia Molitor, sued Mixon.  Shortly after two-thirds of her lawsuit, Mixon penned a letter of apology to Molitor.

This season, Mixon leads the Sooners in rushing yards (1,183) and is second in receptions (32) and receiving yards (449).  His 15 total touchdowns (eight rushing, five receiving, one kick return, one passing) were second on the team.

President-elect Donald Trump to attend Army-Navy game

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09:   Republican president-elect Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to the crowd during his acceptance speech at his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Given its one-sidedness of late, maybe he can make the rivalry great again?

A spokesperson for Donald Trump‘s transition team has confirmed that the President-elect of the United States will attend this Saturday’s Army-Navy game in Baltimore, the 117th meeting between the service academies.  Trump will follow tradition and sit on the Army side of the field for the first half, the Navy side the second.

Outgoing President Barack Obama attended the rivalry game once during his two-term presidency, in 2011.  His predecessor, George W. Bush, attended games in 2001, 2004 and 2008.

Those who never attended the game, first played in 1890, includes Lyndon Johnson, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Dwight Eisenhower.  Carter was a graduate of the Naval Academy, while Eisenhower, then a West Point cadet, actually played in the 1912 rivalry game.

Navy holds a 60-49-7 dge in the series, and has won 14 in a row.  Army’s last win came came in 2001 at Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia.

NFL calls, Mich. St.’s Malik McDowell answers

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 02:  Malik McDowell #4 of the Michigan State Spartans works against Harrison Monk #71 of the Furman Paladins during the first half of a game at Spartan Stadium on September 2, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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When it comes to college players taking the early cannonball leap into the NFL draft pool, there will be at least a couple of surprises and/or headscratchers.  This one would be neither.

In a statement on his personal Twitter account as well as a press release through Michigan State, Malik McDowell confirmed that he will be foregoing his senior season in East Lansing in order to enter the 2017 NFL draft.  While describing it as “very difficult,” it’s been a decision that has been expected.

Despite missing the last three games this season with an injury, McDowell led all Spartans in tackles for loss with seven. The 6-6, 275-pound defensive lineman was named first-team All-Big Ten by The Associated Press and earned second-team honors from the league’s coaches and media.

In 36 career games (23 starts), McDowell has been credited with 24.5 for losses and 7.5 sacks.

He’s currently projected as a likely first-round pick in the draft.  Back in August, McDowell stated he wouldn’t leave early if he wasn’t projected as a top three selection.

“Malik McDowell is an extremely gifted player who has demonstrated the ability and mindset to succeed at the next level,” said MSU head coach Mark Dantonio in a statement. “His pre-draft numbers project him as a likely first-round selection. We are thankful for his contributions to the program that significantly impacted our recent success, culminating with last year’s Big Ten Championship and an appearance in the College Football Playoff. We wish him the best and are excited for the opportunity in the next chapter of his life as he pursues his dream to play in the NFL.”