Tyler Ferguson

Big Ten spring game wrap-ups

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Some news, notes, quotes and other assorted tidbits from the three spring games contested across the Big Ten Saturday afternoon…

MICHIGAN STATE
To say that the Spartans’ quarterbacks struggled somewhat during today’s spring game would be an understatement of mammoth proportions.

MSU quarterbacks combined to go 22 of 53 for 386 yards, two touchdown and two interceptions.  Last year’s starter and presumptive front-runner for the job this season, Andrew Maxwell, completed just nine of his 20 attempts for 120 yards and the game-winning touchdown pass.  The strong-armed Connor Cook, who has gained some ground on Maxwell this spring, threw for 217 yards and a scoring toss but also completed less than 40 percent of his passes (10-26).  Redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor completed five of six passes — three to his offensive teammates, two to his defensive teammates.

All in all, it was rough outing at a position where the Spartans may have more questions exiting spring than they did entering it.

Head coach Mark Dantonio said that the incumbent would top the depth chart entering summer, but stopped short of anointing him as the season-opening starter.

“I think you leave here at the end of spring saying that (Andrew) Maxwell comes into the summer camp number one based on knowledge and consistency in terms of performance.”

For his part, Maxwell feels as if he’s done enough to retain the job.

“I feel like I’ve done everything that I could do to make my case to the coaches to be the guy, and I feel like every day I came out and got better,” the player said. “I took a competitive mindset to every practice, and the ultimate decision is with Coach D.”

— The Spartans’ defense accounted for two touchdowns in the Green team’s 24-17 win over the White squad: a Chris Laneaux 25-yard interception return and a fumble recovery by Kyler Elsworth that was returned 41 yards.  On the other side of the ball, Aaron Burbridge caught five passes for 113 yards.

— Former MSU quarterback great Kirk Cousins, now Robert Griffin III‘s backup in Washington, returned to the East Lansing campus as color analyst for the Big Ten Network’s coverage of the game.  Based on Cousins’ comments, it doesn’t appear this will be his last rodeo in the booth.

“I want the football thing to last as long as it possibly can, but at the same time, in the offseason it makes a lot of sense to pursue other opportunities and prepare yourself for whenever football ends,” Cousins said. “And that’s why I’m here today, and it’s just a bonus I get to be back in familiar territory, watching the team that I love.”

— One of the coolest parts of the Spartans’ spring game was their helmets.  Specifically, the stickers on the back of the helmets honoring those who were killed or injured by the bombings at last Monday’s Boston Marathon.  Very classy gesture:

Michigan State Helmets

PENN STATE
If you were an individual looking for some clarity at the quarterback position coming out of the Nittany Lions’ spring game, you are likely somewhat disappointed at this point in time.

Following the game, head coach Bill O’Brien stated very firmly that neither Steven Bench nor Tyler Ferguson (pictured) had grabbed hold of the starting job and the competition would continue into the “voluntary” workouts and on into summer camp.  Both players completed nine of 15 passes, with Bench throwing for 99 yards and Ferguson 90.  Ferguson tossed two touchdown passes to Bench’s one.

As has been the case for most of the spring, the second-year coach was, for the most part, pleased with the duo’s performance.

“I thought they both (Bench and Ferguson) produced,” O’Brien said. “I thought both had some nice throws. Like everybody, coaches and players included, in every game you play, you wish you had some plays back. I’m sure they do too. I thought they both did some decent things out there today.”

In his post-game talk with reporters, O’Brien made it perfectly clear where the competition stands.

“I’d say, no, I’m not any closer as I sit here right now,” the coach said when asked about naming a starter. “Eventually, I’ll have to make a decision.”

O’Brien added that he will now go back and look at all of the spring practice tapes as they work toward naming a starter at the position.

The real competition, though, won’t begin until August; Christian Hackenberg, a five-star 2013 recruit rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in this year’s class, will join the competition this summer, with most expecting the Virginia product to make a very serious run at the starting job as a true freshman.

— In front of 28,000 or so fans who braved the rain and snow and cold, the the Blue team (defense) dropped the White squad (offense), 67-47.  It was the second straight year the defense has “won” the spring game.

A big reason for the defensive win?  The Nittany Lions’ defense accounted for nine sacks, which counted four points apiece in the scoring system utilized by O’Brien.

— Youth was certainly served for the Nittany Lions as the school noted that all six players who ran, caught or threw a touchdown will be a freshman or sophomore this season.  Both of the front-runners for the starting QB job will be sophomores.

— Another of the young ones was running back Akeel Lynch, who led all rushers with 83 yards on his 13 carries.

— “I feel terrible because I love that city,” O’Brien said of the tragic events in Boston this past week. “I grew up 20 minutes north of that city and my brother Tommy is heavily involved in that city and so is my older brother and my dad and my mom so I feel terrible for them. … Boston is a very resilient city and we caught him last night so that was good.”

WISCONSIN
At the end of Gary Andersen‘s first spring as the Badgers’ head coach, and in the midst of a crowded quarterback competition, it was UW’s defense winning most of the plaudits in Madison Saturday afternoon.

Thanks to the “unique” scoring systems that are all the rage during spring games, the final score appears to be a high-scoring offensive affair: Cardinal 61, White 47.  The former team consisted of the Badgers’ defense, the latter the offense.

The game wasn’t a true measure of either unit, however, as Andersen lamented afterwards that “[w]e’re basically missing six starters right now on the defensive side that didn’t play a snap today, and four or five on the offensive side.”

Also, the fact that the game was televised on the Big Ten Network led Andersen to keep his team’s cards very close to his vest.

“I will say this: Defense today was very vanilla. Offensively, we were very generic, and defensively, we were very generic,” the former Utah State head coach said. “We did throw the ball, bottom line, and we did catch the ball better than we have all spring, and that was very encouraging.”

— The Cardinal team totaled 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks in the game.  As those plays were worth two points apiece, the defense scored 36 of its 61 points off those two types of plays.  They also earned 24 points off of eight three-and-outs.

— As far as the quarterback battle goes, two players, Joel Stave and Curt Phillips, received the vast majority of the reps.  Stave completed 15 of his 20 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, while Phillips went 8-of-13 for 82 yards.  The other quarterbacks on the roster, including former Maryland Terrapin Danny O’Brien, attempted just three passes each.

— Running back Melvin Gordon, who will be charged with the task of replacing Montee Ball, ran for a team-high 74 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown on the ground.  He also added three catches for 35 yards.

— “Yeah, we’re in a good spot,” Andersen said when asked if his team is where he thought it’d be at the end of the spring.  “You’re never going to get everything you want. You’re never going to have it perfect. We wanted consistency. I think we got that. We wanted effort. I think we got that.”

UCLA takes advantage of Stanford miscues to lead 10-3 at halftime

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Head coach Jim Mora of the UCLA Bruins greets his players after a fourth quarter touchdown against the UNLV Rebels at the Rose Bowl on September 10, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 42-21.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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UCLA did their best to battle their demons when facing off against league rival Stanford in the first half on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.

The Bruins took advantage of two Cardinal turnovers and converted both into scores as they took a 10-3 lead into the locker room.

Quarterback Josh Rosen was 7-of-11 for 77 yards for UCLA and tossed a beautiful strike into the hands of Nate Iese for the game’s only touchdown.

Stanford superstar Christian McCaffrey was mostly held in check by his standards: 13 yards receiving and just 59 yards rushing on 10 carries. The story of the Stanford offense came at quarterback however, as starter Ryan Burns tossed an interception and was replaced on the next series by backup Keller Chryst. Burns later returned to action but it could be a short leash for the signal-caller if things don’t pick up in the second half.

Auburn can’t find the end zone but does pull off the upset over No. 18 LSU

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Danny Etling #16 of the LSU Tigers is pressured by Jeff Holland #4 of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Heading into Saturday’s matchup between the Tigers of Auburn and the Tigers of LSU, all anybody in SEC country could talk about was job status of the two head coaches and if — or when — they would be fired.

Call it the Buyout Bowl or the Hot Seat Shootout if you must, but it was Auburn’s Gus Malzahn who emerged victorious in a 18-13 win that was the furthest thing from an offensive showcase but perfectly encapsulated the whacky careers of both coaches in the final seconds.

LSU had a chance to win the game in the final seconds after mounting an impressive drive 60 yard drive into the red zone. After quarterback Danny Etling got off a pass to Malachi Dupre on the 10 yard line on third and 16, the Tigers hustled up to the line but were called for an illegal shift on the ensuing play.

With just one second left on the clock after officials reviewed things, Etling appeared to throw a remarkable game-winning touchdown pass to the back of the end zone. That set off a crazy celebration on the LSU sideline given that they had apparently won the game in the most Les Miles-esque of fashions.

But it was not meant to be.

Officials reviewed the play and said LSU did not in fact get the play off and Auburn escaped with the win thanks to six Daniel Carlson field goals. It was the Tigers first home win in seven tries over a Power Five opponent and snapped a streak of six straight losses at home to SEC teams.

The win certainly buys Malzhan a bit of a cooler hot seat come Sunday morning but does no favors to that of Miles’ seat. The veteran LSU head coach was nearly axed after last season but returned, and then promptly lost the team’s opener to Wisconsin to hear even more calls for his firing.

Those calls will surely intensify again after Saturday’s wild night on the Plains in what could prove to be the beginning of the end for at least one head coach in the SEC West.

Jim Harbaugh thinks Jeremy Clark’s injury is ‘a season-ender’

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 25: Jarrod Wilson #22 and Jeremy Clark #34 of the Michigan Wolverines watch the action from the sidelines during the fourth quarter of the game at Spartan Stadium on October 25 , 2014 in East Lansing, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 35-11. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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Jeremy Clark started the first three games of the 2016 season for Michigan because All-American Jourdan Lewis was battling through some nagging injuries.

Lewis (pictured, No. 34) returned to the lineup Saturday against Penn State, but, unfortunately, it appears his replacement has been lost for a substantial period of time.  In fact, after the beatdown of the Nittany Lions, head coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t shy away from the fact that the senior cornerback is likely gone for the remainder of the year with a torn ACL.

“Sad right now about Jeremy Clark, I don’t think we’re going to be able to dodge a bullet on that one. That’s got everyone in the locker room a little sad right now,” Harbaugh said. “We think it’s a season-ender, we think it’s an ACL. We’ll know more tonight.”

A fifth-year senior, whether Clark would qualify for a sixth season is decidedly unclear.

While Clark stepped aside for the return of Lewis, he would’ve been a consideration for the starter at the corner position opposite the All=Big Ten performer.  At the very least, he likely would’ve served as the nickel corner.

Prior to this season, Clark had made 13 starts for the Wolverines.

WATCH: Woman blocks football with her face at LSU-Auburn game

AUBURN, AL - AUGUST 30:  Nova the eagle buzzes the crowd while flying into Jordan Hare Stadium before the game between the Auburn Tigers and the Arkansas Razorbacks on August 30, 2014 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
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They say that a picture is worth a 1,000 words.  This vine, then, is worth 1,000 times a picture.  Or a million.

I. Can’t. Stop. Laughing.

Must.  Stop.  Watching.

Can’t.

And, for those like myself concerned about the women’s well-being, she took to Twitter on a couple of occasions to confirm that, yes, she is indeed alright.

One more thing, for those who question my laughing at another’s misfortune: I laugh, and will continue to laugh way too much and way too hard at the video below every single time I see it. The cute little girl doing the face plant? My then-six-year-old daughter.