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The Fifth Quarter: Week 1 Rewind

Georgia v Clemson Getty Images

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

And, yes I’m well aware of the fact that there are still games left to be played. Sorry, fans of Louisville, Florida State, et al…

WINNERS

Tajh throws Braxton a stiff-arm
Braxton Miller may have entered the season as the favorite to win the 2013 Heisman Trophy, but Tajh Boyd showed he will likely be a (big) part of the discussion all the way into December. In Clemson’s impressive 38-35 win over Georgia Saturday night, Boyd accounted for all five of the Tigers’ touchdown — three passing, two rushing. On a team level, it was one of the biggest wins of Dabo Swinney‘s tenure. On a personal level, it was Boyd shining on a national stage against a very, very, very good football team in the Bulldogs and a coming-out party for a player who, at least as far as this corner is concerned, doesn’t get the respect he deserves. After that virtuoso performance, there’s no longer an excuse for any lack of respect.

Moneybadger don’t give a %$#! either
All hail the new troll god!!! Love him or hate him, Johnny Manziel makes college football a better — and immensely more interesting — game when he’s part of it. While he wasn’t a part of it in the first-half thanks to a suspension, he returned in the second half of Texas A&M’s win over Rice, and not once but twice trolled the NCAA overlords over his recent off-field “issues.” In the first instance, Manziel seemed to indicate a Rice defender would not be getting the reigning Heisman winner’s Herbie Hancock anytime soon…

Manziel Signing GIF

 

… then seemed to make a money gesture to the sky following his first touchdown pass of the season…

Manziel Money GIF

 

Manziel, of course, was investigated by the NCAA after it was alleged that he was paid tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for his signature on photos, memorabilia, etc.

Don’t change, JFF. Don’t ever change. Well, mostly don’t change (see a little further below).

No Bret, no problem
There were some people — myself included — who felt that Wisconsin wouldn’t be the old Wisconsin we’ve become accustomed to in the first year of the post-Bret Bielema era in Madison. While that may or may not ultimately be the case, the Badgers put on one helluva ground show in the first game of the Gary Andersen era. UW had a trio of running backs — James White (11-143), Melvin Gordon (13-144), Corey Clement (16-101) — who each rushed for more than 100 yards, just the third time in school history that’s happened. Clement, incidentally, became the first true freshman at UW since P.J. Hill in 2006 to top 100 yards in his first game as a Badger. Yes, the opposition was “just” UMass, but Andersen and his Badgers showed that anyone who sleeps on UW does so at their own peril.

Butch JonesThank you, Lord
How thankful is the Tennessee fan base that Derek Dooley is no longer their head football coach? So thankful that they are offering up hallelujahs to the Big College Football Fan Upstairs for it. Literally. “Pregame prayer in Neyland [Stadium] thanked God for a new coach,” a tweet from govols247.com‘s Wes Rucker read. Butch Jones then proceeded to reward that faith as the Vols pounded overmatched Austin Peay 45-0. Yes, it was just a win over an FCS school, but it was also the Vols’ largest margin of victory since a 50-0 win over Tennessee-Martin in 2010 — the first game under Dooley, so maybe that’s not as good of omen upon further review. Still, it was a much-needed win for the fans on Rocky Top, one they will gladly take after three years of misery.

Right in his Scheelhaase
Normally when Illinois is mentioned in the Fifth Quarter, it’s part of the section right below this one. Not today, though. All Illini starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase did was throw for a career-high 416 yards — 340 in the first half — and two touchdowns in the 42-34 win over Southern Illinois. The win was satisfying for Scheelhaase personally as the quarterback has fought back from an injury-plagued 2012 season. It was also a critical one for the program. Even as the win was over an FCS opponent, it was a critical one as second-year head coach Tim Beckman has come under fire for a two-win 2012 season, with some saying this is a make-or-break season for the coach.

All hail your FCS conquerors

Scheduled as a guaranteed “W” in exchange for high six-figure or even low seven-figure payouts, most FBS teams feast on a steady early-season diet of FCS foes. Not in Week One, not this year. All told, a whopping eight FBS teams went down in flames over the past three days: No. 25 Oregon State (Eastern Washington), Kansas State (North Dakota State), San Diego State (Eastern Illinois; UConn (Towson), USF (McNeese State), Iowa State (Northern Iowa), South Alabama (Southern Utah) and Georgia State (Samford). We’ll let the latter two slide somewhat as they have just climbed from the FCS level to FBS status recently. The others? There’s no excuse for USF to lose by 32 points or San Diego State by 21. There’s no reason a ranked team like Oregon State should lose to a lower-level team, regardless of how good they are at that level. K-State? C’mon, I understand that NDSU is an FBS slayer, but there should still be no excuses in Little Manhattan. That said, and as was shown this weekend, there are some quality programs at that level. Schedule some of the upper-echelon teams at your own peril. And potential embarrassment.

Villanova, the Harlem Globetrotters of the FCS level
Villanova may not have been one of the FCS teams to pull off an upset, but they did have one of the plays of the year thus far. Facing a fourth down in their game against Boston College, ‘Nova lined up in punt formation… and proceeded to perform the ol’ double-snap fake-punt trick to score a touchdown. And, yes, it was as real and as spectacular as it sounds:

Villanova

 

49ers strike winning gold quickly
Since we’re on an FCS roll, let’s turn our attention to the Eastern part of the United States. In 2008, UNC-Charlotte announced that it would, for the first time ever, field a football team. Five years later, the 49ers made their debut… and it was smashing, with the 49ers putting a 52-7 woodshedding on visiting Campbell. The 49ers nearly doubled the opposition’s offensive production — 488 to 287 — and rolled to a 35-7 halftime lead. While an FCS team at the moment, the 49ers will move to the FBS level in 2015 as a member of Conference USA. While there may be many bumps in the road ahead, congratulations to head coach Brad Lambert and his coaching staff on such a scintillating start to the program.

LOSERS

Johnny Screwball?
As much as I really, really enjoy Johnny Manziel, the on-field preening and self-aggrandizing that costs his team needs to stop. And that comes from his head coach as well. In addition to his creative ways of taunting the NCAA noted above, Manziel was also flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct following his third touchdown pass of the second half, costing the Aggies 15 yards. He was removed from the game and didn’t return. “That was just a foolish penalty at the end. … I hoped that at this point he’d have learned something,” Kevin Sumlin said afterwards. “That wasn’t very smart. That’s why he wasn’t going back in the game, no matter what happened.” A&M declined to make Manziel available to the media following the win, likely a wise decision based on the fact that Manziel appeared to take out a whole offseason of frustration in his limited time on the field Saturday.

An offensive line, literallyAlabama head coach Saban questions a call from the referee in the second half of play against Virginia Tech at the Chick-fil-A  Kick-Off college NCAA football game in Atlanta
Having to replace three talented and veteran starters, it was a given that Alabama’s offensive line might take some time to gel as a unit. The fact that the Tide’s interior struggled as much as it did against a battered and beleaguered Virginia Tech squad, though, was surprising to say the least. In the first half, the Tide carried the ball 17 times — and gained just 30 yards. Toss in a pair of holding penalties and one sack of quarterback AJ McCarron, and it was a far from stellar effort from the line. For the game, the Tide rushed for just 96 yards on 38 carries, a paltry average of 2.5 yards per carry in the 35-10 win; last season, Alabama’s 5.6 ypc was tied for fourth in the country. It’s not a time to panic, but it is a little worrisome for Nick Saban and his offensive coaching staff with a road trip to College Station looming in a couple of weeks.

TC… you blew it
OK, maybe that’s a little strong, but why would Gary Patterson decide to punt the ball back to LSU, down 10, instead of trying to convert a fourth-and-2 with five minutes left? Yes, TCU was at its own 33-yard line, but when you’re down two scores you need to take the chance; miss it, game over. Punt it, game over. Go for it and make it, you still have life and plenty of time to extend the game and find some way to get the requisite two scores to either tie or win the game. As it played out, TCU simply couldn’t stop LSU post-punt as the Tigers put together three first downs in the final five minutes to seal a 37-27 win. A head-scratching end to what was a very good football game and a huge win for the Tigers, who very well could’ve just beaten the best the Big 12 has to offer.

Boy oh Boise
This very easily could’ve gone in the Winners section for Washington… but it won’t. Coming into the game ranked No. 19 in the country, Boise State proceeded to trip, stumble and bumble all over its junk in getting blown out by the Huskies 38-6. It was the Broncos’ largest margin of defeat since the first game of the 2005 season (48-13 to Georgia) and the fewest points scored since being shutout by another Pac-12 school (Washington State) in 1997. It was also just the third time since that Wazzu whitewash that the Broncos failed to reach double digits (2005, Fresno State; 2012, BYU). So, certainly, it was an epic beatdown for The Lil’ Program That Could, even as it came at the hands of a very focused and talented Huskies squad.

FCS foe hard on the Beaver
While we touched on this briefly up above, Oregon State deserves its own special calling out. In the Beavers’ embarrassing 49-46 loss to Eastern Washington, OSU became just the fourth ranked team ever to lose to an FCS team, joining Virginia Tech (James Madison, 2010), Michigan (2007) and Penn State (Cincinnati, 1983). Expected to possess a vastly improved defense, the Beavers surrendered an astounding 625 yards of total offense — 448 passing, 177 rushing. The Beavers can’t even blame turnovers as neither team coughed up the ball via either a fumble or an interception. No, this was simply an FBS team being outplayed at home by a squad from a lower level of football. And, whatever grief comes their way, it will be well-deserved.

Stoops, there it ain’t
Since being hired as Kentucky’s new head coach, Mark Stoops has made several big splashes along the recruiting trail. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, those splashes have yet to make an impact in the here and now. In Stoops’ head-coaching debut, the Wildcats traveled to in-state “rival” Western Kentucky and dropped a 35-26 decision to the Hilltoppers. And, in reality, the game wasn’t even that close as WKU held an 18-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Eventually, the hiring of Stoops will pay big dividends on the field; for now, people around the country will simply lament the same ol’ UK football woes.

Kirk Ferentz, Money Fleecer Extraordinaire
This season, Kirk Ferentz will make nearly $4 million as Iowa’s head coach. He has a contract that runs through the 2020 season and would cost the university tens of millions to buy him out of. The past three seasons, the Hawkeyes win total has gone from eight to seven to four in 2012, the lowest number for a Ferentz-coached team since his second season in 2000 (3-9). So, with the heat rising from the outside, what do the Hawkeyes do? Go out and lose the opener at home to Northern Illinois on a last-second field goal, of course. Don’t fret for Ferentz, however; he possesses the type of job security that 99 percent of coaches can only dream of. Whether he deserves that type of security, though, is another matter entirely.

First-year head coaches
Just barely, new head coaches at their respective schools fall into this category. During the offseason, there were 31 coaching changes; through the first three days, 29 have already made their debuts, with 15 of them coming out sans a “W”: Cal, FIU, Georgia State, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Nevada, New Mexico State, Purdue, USF, Southern Miss, Syracuse, Temple, Utah State and Western Michigan. Of course, that also means 14 came out with the coveted “W”: Arkansas, Arkansas State, Auburn, Boston College, Cincinnati, Kent State, North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Oregon, San Jose State, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Western Kentucky and Wisconsin. Both Kentucky (WKU) and Louisiana Tech (NCSU) lost to teams in its first season under a new head coach. Colorado and UTEP can add to either side in the coming days, with the former opening the season against hated rival Colorado while the latter must wait until next weekend to open its season.

Oh, Pelini
With FAU trailing Miami 34-6 Friday and with just seconds left in the game, the Owls were facing a fourth-and-four at the Miami 25-yard line. At that point, FAU head coach Carl Pelini did, well, this:

 

[/facepalm]

Yes, Pelini called for his quarterback to spike the ball on fourth down. And, yes, Pelini was mortified upon realizing that he had called for a spike on fourth down. And, no, the gaffe had no impact on the game whatsoever, but it did add some embarrassment to a program that could use less of that, not more.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

– No. 18 Nebraska 37, Wyoming 34: Last year, the Cowboys were ranked 70th in the country in total offense (390.6 yards per game); Saturday, the Cornhuskers allowed the Cowboys to roll up 602 yards. The Huskers led this one by 16 early in the fourth quarter before the Cowboys scored a pair of touchdowns — off NU turnovers — in less than five minutes, the final coming with 1:32 left. A failed onside kick, however, kept Nebraska from suffering its first season-opening loss in 29 years.

– No. 22 Northwestern 44, Cal 30: The Wildcats didn’t grab the lead for good until the middle of the fourth quarter against a surprisingly spry Bears team playing its first game under head coach Sonny Dykes. The closeness of the contest should catch the eye of Ohio State, which travels to Berkeley two weeks from yesterday.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — The two-time defending BCS champions looked positively subpar on offense but, thanks to stellar defense and special teams, easily held off an injury-ravaged Virginia Tech. Especially along the offensive line, The Tide has some issues that need shoring up prior to the Sept. 14 road trip to College Station. (Preseason: No. 1)
Next up: bye weekend

2. Clemson — You beat a Top-Five opponent, you shoot up quite a few spots. Is this the year that Clemson (finally) stops Clemsoning itself? The win over Georgia was a solid sign it may indeed be. Or they stub their toes against The Citadel. One of the two. (Preseason: No. 8)
Next up: vs. South Carolina State

Buffalo v Ohio State3. Ohio State — A rather uninspiring 20-point win over Buffalo and Clemson’s showing drops the Buckeyes down a spot. (Preseason: No. 2)
Next up: vs. San Diego State

4. Stanford — The Cardinal sat out opening weekend and won’t open their 2013 season until next Saturday. (Preseason ranking: No. 3)
Next up: vs. San Jose State

5. Louisville — The Cardinals don’t open their season until later on today against Ohio at home. While Mark Ennis might punch me in the tentacles for doing so, I’m just going to go ahead and chalk this one up as an impressive “W” for Charlie Strong‘s charges. (Preseason: No. 4)
Next up: vs. Eastern Kentucky

HE SAID IT
“I was overcome with emotion. I think my son made me soft. I bawled my eyes out.” — Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, whose infant son was released from the hospital two days before the opener Thursday after spending the first three weeks of his life in a neonatal intensive care unit.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“That’s how he is. He’s a fiery guy and that’s what we love about him. He’s not quiet. He’s not shy. He’s going to be loud and aggressive, and that’s what makes him Johnny Football. We love it.” — A&M offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi, on the ongoing circus that is Johnny Manziel.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“I don’t care how quick the offense scores. They could score on one play every time. As long as they’re scoring, I’m all for that.” — Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, on the Buckeyes’ up-tempo offense.

YOU DON’T SAY?
Courtesy of the Ohio State sports information department: With 77 rushing yards, Braxton Miller eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing mark in his career and now sits at 2,063. He is now 17 yards shy of Cornelius Greene’s Ohio State record of 2,080 yards rushing by a quarterback.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– Clemson became the first non-SEC team ever to beat two Top-10 SEC teams in consecutive games, with the wins coming over No. 5 Georgia Saturday night and No. 8 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last New Year’s Eve.

– Northwestern linebacker Collin Lewis returned two interceptions for touchdowns (52, 40 yards) in the road win over Cal. Both of the pick-sixes came off deflections.

– Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams accounted for 518 yards of total offense (411 passing, 107 rushing) and six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) in the upset of Oregon State.

– McNeese State’s 53-21 win over USF was the largest margin of victory for an FCS program over an FBS program since Sam Houston State beat Louisiana-Monroe 44-12 back in 2001.

– In a wild 52-51 win over Rutgers Thursday night, Fresno State’s Derek Carr completed 52-of-73 passes for 456 yards and five touchdowns. His counterpart in that game, Gary Nova, threw for 348 yards and five touchdowns as well.

Virginia Tech v Alabama– Alabama’s Christion Jones became the first player at the FBS level since North Carolina’s Brandon Tate in 2006 to return both a punt and kickoff for a touchdown in the same game. According to the Alabama record books, which date back to 1944 the school stated, Jones is the first player in program history to accomplish that feat.

– Starting in place of ex-/future Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson. Tommy Rees passed for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the Irish’s 28-6 win over Temple.

– In Marshall’s 52-14 win over Miami (Ohio), quarterback Rakeem Cato tossed five touchdown passes to four different receivers.

– SID Stat of the Day: Wisconsin has now won 16 consecutive season openers. That is tied with USC for the third-longest active streak in the country behind only Nebraska (28) and Florida (24).

– (First half) Johnny Manziel-less Texas A&M had its streak of scoring first in 17 straight games snapped in the win against Rice.

– In its first game with Bret Bielema on the sidelines, Arkansas had two 100-yard rushers in the same game (Jonathan Williams 151, Alex Collins 131) for the first time since 2007, when Darren McFadden rushed for 321 yards and Felix Jones rushed for 163 vs. South Carolina.

– Baylor outgained Wofford 692-233 in the Bears’ 69-3 win. Running back Lache Seastrunk rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries.

– Maryland had 399 yards of total offense in the first half of their game with FIU. Last season, the Terps accounted for 400 yards or more of total offense in just two of their games.

Duke Johnson rushed for a career-high 189 yards — on just 19 carries — in Miami’s 28-point win over FAU. Miami rushed for 303 yards as a team; the Hurricanes high-water mark last season was 248.

– Speaking of Duke, the Blue Devils posted the football program’s first shutout in 24 years with its 45-0 win over North Carolina Central.

Blake Bortles passed for 314 yards and three touchdowns in UCF’s 38-7 win over Akron Thursday.

– The 73 points Indiana scored in Thursday’s win over Indiana State was the second-most in school history (76). The 45 first-half points were the most ever for the program.

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Study says football players need more time between seasons to recover from head impacts

Penn State football spring practice number 11

Football players need more than six months of no-contact to properly recover from various forms of head trauma, a study by PLOS-ONE recently determined. At a time when we are learning more and more about the long-lasting effects of head trauma in football, could this one day change the approach at the college level when it comes to spring practices?

The Verge describes the procedure for conducting the study on head trauma and football players, which determine six out of 10 players showed signs of needing more time to recover from head trauma;

To study the effect of non-concussive, repetitive head impacts, researchers put accelerometers in the helmets of 10 University of Rochester football players. The scientists used these sensors to monitor the quantity and severity of the blows that the players suffered over the course of the 2011 season. They found that each player received between 431 and 1,850 impacts to the head during the regular season. And although none of these blows resulted in a concussion, they still caused mild brain injury. Moreover, six out of the 10 players continued to exhibit these signs at the end of a six month-long resting period.

Spring football games have gone into retirement at some schools, in part because of the fear of injuries and because of the added value placed on one more practice session. This study may not lead to the removal of spring football just yet, but it could help open the door for a conversation about potentially pushing spring practices back or to restructure how some are organized. The NCAA and schools tend to take head injury precautions seriously and there are already rules in place to reduce the risks associated with contact drills, but this study may be used as a reason for future changes to spring football.

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Mark Dantonio wants more than 300 spartan fans at spring game

Mark Dantonio

Michigan State is coming off one of the most successful football seasons in quite some time, and head coach Mark Dantonio wants to see that enthusiasm continue with the upcoming spring game. Danotnio has said before he wants to see a big crowd for the Spartans’ spring game next week, and he has high hopes for a big turnout.

“I want to see 50,000 at the Green and White game,” Dantonio said according to MLive.com. “I think that’s where this program needs to go.”

Of course, weather can always be an issue. Michigan State athletics director Mark Hollis is hoping for a good turnout as well, but as with most spring games the weather can always be a concern.

“I know the enthusiasm’s there, I think that was reflected out in Pasadena,” Hollis said. “But if it’s pouring rain, I don’t think we’ll have 50,000, but we might. If it’s sunny, I think we have the potential to exceed a number like that.”

Getting 50,000 fans would be a very respectable crowd, and would more than double the crowd that turned out for last year’s spring game in East Lansing and the Michigan spring game earlier this month. If Dantonio gets the crowd he desires, Michigan State would have one of the larger spring crowds this season and would very likely finish the spring with at least the fourth largest spring crowd in the Big Ten.

Penn State currently leads the nation in spring game attendance with an estimated 72,000 last weekend. Nebraska recorded a crowd of 61,772 and Ohio State was just behind the Huskers with 61,058. The only other school to record at least 50,000 for the spring game has been Tennessee (68,500). That is expected to change once Alabama and Auburn hold their spring games this weekend. Both SEC West schools tend to draw very well for the spring game.

This is a relatively up-to-date record of spring game attendance this year. Some schools have not provided spring attendance numbers so there are some missing figures, but it is mostly accurate.

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Alabama 2014 defense fueled by dismal Sugar Bowl performance

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Oklahoma v Alabama

Don’t make Alabama angry. You might not like them when they are angry.

To say Alabama’s end of the 2013 did not go well is a bit of an understatement. After one of the biggest surprises in college football history knocked Alabama out of the SEC Championship Game and BCS Championship Game picture, the Crimson Tide we left for dust by Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama allowed 35 points to be scored off of five turnovers in the game, and that defensive performance has not been sitting well since January.

“It wasn’t the way we play,” linebacker Trey DePriest said to ESPN.com. “We don’t get that many points put up on us. That’s way more than what our goal is — 13 points or less. It didn’t seem like us. We were ready, we just didn’t go out and leave it on the field like it was our last game. It’s definitely been a driving force.”

The holes in Alabama’s defense were visible long before the Sugar Bowl though. Texas A&M racked up big yards and plenty of points against the two-time defending BCS champions last September in College Station as Johnny Manziel once again went wild on Alabama (although he did have a couple of turnovers as well). Alabama’s defense was able to get through most of the season on their overall talent alone last fall, but the holes were there all along. Oklahoma capitalized on it, giving Nick Saban and his program plenty to work on and fix this offseason.

Have opposing offenses found  formula that can overcome Alabama, or will the Tide rise again as they make adjustments to slow down quick-tempo offenses designed to wear down physical defenses?

Alabama will very likely be one of the top teams in the country next fall, and fine tuning on defense will be key.

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Kansas names starting QB with plenty of room to improve

Montell Cozart

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis has named his starting quarterback for the Jayhawks in 2014. That task will belong to sophomore Montell Cozart, who will look to turn around the production at the quarterback position.

Cozart is coming off an admirable spring game performance, completing six of 10 pass attempts for 58 yards, and rushing for 70 more yards and a pair of touchdowns while leading his spring team to victory. He beat out Jake Heaps and T.J. Millweard for the job. Cozart may have been the most likely starter for 2014 because he replaced Heaps under center last season.

How high is the bar of success for Kansas? Each of the past two seasons have ended with the top two quarterbacks on the roster completing fewer than 50 percent of their passes and combining for 25 interceptions to just 15 touchdowns. It may be safe to say the bar is quite low, or perhaps there is plenty of room for improvement.

Weis initially wanted to keep the quarterback competition open leading up closer to the fall, but it seems he has seen enough. This could come in handy, as now Weis and his offensive assistants can start planning to build an offense Cozart will be best suited to lead, which should give players more time to be ready for whatever the coaches put together.

Hey, why not take an optimistic spin where you can?

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Do you have any quarterbacks? Texas Tech says “Go fish!”

Texas Tech v Oklahoma

Texas Tech is down to just one quarterback on the roster as the spring comes to a close. Davis Webb was named the starting quarterback for the Red Raiders last week, but who will be there to back him up? The Dallas Morning News reports walk-on quarterbacks Tanner Tausch and Mike Richardson are both leaving the program, leaving Webb as the only quarterback left on the roster heading into the summer.

Tausch is not leaving Texas Tech, but he is leaving the football team to focus on academics. Richardson is looking for a chance to compete for more playing time that is not likely to be available at Texas Tech. In all, Texas Tech has lost five quarterbacks over the past six months. Fortuneately for Texas Tech, the future is still bright under center.

Texas Tech will be adding a quarterback through the most recent recruiting class with Patrick Mahomes, a three-star prospect according to Rivals.com, and a handful of walk-ons are expected to join the team in the coming months as well, including the son of former Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde, Vincent Testaverde. The Class of 2015 already has one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation lined up as well with four-star recruit Jarrett Stidham already committed.

All head coach Kliff Kingsbury needs to do is get through the 2014 season without any quarterback injuries before he can really get to work with the future leader of his offense.

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Breaking Bad: Brady Hoke likes Michigan’s chemistry

Brady Hoke

Michigan has not been bad since Brady Hoke took over as head coach, but the Wolverines have been traveling on a downward trend as far as wins are concerned. Will the 2014 season see things turn around in Ann Arbor? Hoke seems to like his chances, suggesting the chemistry cooking this spring was something he has not seen in years.

“This team has a chemistry that I think we haven’t had in a while,” Hoke said Wednesday during an interview on SiriusXM Radio, according to MLive.com. “When you look at the different groups and the leadership, we have really a team that’s back-loaded on the freshman and sophomore class. But we’ve got some really good guys in that senior class. Jake Ryan and Frank Clark. Devin Gardner. Desmond Morgan. We’ve got some really good leadership there.”

This is a pretty important year for Hoke. As MLive.com makes note of and as I have said before, this is finally Hoke’s team. Every player who signed with Michigan did so knowing Hoke would be the head coach of the Wolverines. Now it is time to show Hoke can develop that talent — Michigan has signed top three classes in the Big Ten according to Rivals.com in three of the last four years — he has brought in and make Michigan a contender in the Big Ten. Up until now he has fallen short of the high bar he set in his debut season when he took what was left from the Rich Rodriguez all the way to a Sugar Bowl victory. Since then, the Wolverines have stumbled to a mediocre 7-6 season capped with a loss in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

“We’re better mentally, and that’s a big part of it,” Hoke said earlier this week, according to MLive.com. “We’re not exactly where we want to be yet, but I like the way our team has reacted (to last season) and how we’ve gone about our business.”

If Hoke is right, Michigan could be in the winning business. It’s basic chemistry, yo.

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Northwestern alums say players being pushed to vote against union

Kain Colter

A meeting of former Northwestern football players Wednesday night brought attention to concerns that current players were being pressured to vote no on an upcoming vote to determine if Northwestern football players will form a union. Some Northwestern alums suggested current players on the football team have been receiving phone calls from alumni pushing them to vote no on the union next week.

The biggest problem right now is a state of confusion over the impact of players at Northwestern forming a union could potentially mean. The NCAA and the university will lead you to think it could be the beginning of the dismantling of many other sports at the division one level, but that could just be an extreme worst-case scenario. The biggest push right now by this players union movement is to have a seat at the table with Northwestern leaders and have their voices heard.

“We want the facts to be the facts,” said Kevin Brown, a former Northwestern football player from the 1980s. Brown did not take stance for or against the union vote, at least not in front of the media attending the meeting Wednesday night, but his message seemed pretty clear. Get out as much information as possible so the players can make an informed decision when they cast their ballot.

Some alumni believe the players should voice their concerns directly to the head coach, Pat Fitzgerald.

“They could have taken these issues straight to Coach Fitz and Northwestern,” former Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa said. “It’s frustrating to see your coach and your school come under fire like this.”

Fitzgerald has been on record speaking against the union idea and he has said he wants his players to think long and hard before voting on unionization. If it were up to Fitzgerald, Northwestern players would vote no. There is no indication Fitzgerald is applying pressure on players to vote no, but he will not shy away from voicing his concerns for the best interest of his players.

“We want to make sure that they have all the information, so that’s a process we’re starting to work through right now,” Fitzgerald said earlier this month. “I’m honored to have that opportunity with our guys and we’ll work through it day by day.”

A regional office of the National Labor Relations Board empowered players to hold such a vote, recognizing the football players as employees of Northwestern University. The players are set to vote on forming a union next week, although there are mixed emotions when it comes to whether or not it is a good idea. Now former quarterback Kain Colter has become the face of the union movement at Northwestern but earlier this month it was his replacement under center, Trevor Siemian who voiced his concerns about the formation of a union. Northwestern is prepared to contest the ruling all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary, which has been expected from the start.

When it comes time to vote on forming a union, will there be enough votes to take the next step?

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Report: Sooners’ leading tackler facing sexual assault accusations

.J. Yeldon, Frank Shannon AP

While no charges have been filed as of yet, an Oklahoma football player is the target of some very serious accusations, the Daily Oklahoman is reporting.

According to the paper, linebacker Frank Shannon has been accused of sexually assaulting a female student at his off-campus apartment Jan. 20.  The accusation comes in the form of a Title IX sexual misconduct allegation report obtained from the university.

From the paper, relating to that report:

…the woman alleges that after a party, she intended to walk home. Shannon offered her a ride, but said he first needed to drop off friends near his apartment.

Shannon allegedly took the woman into his bedroom. According to the complaint, he came up behind her, pulled down her pants and attempted to have sex with her.

The complainant said Shannon became frustrated when she wouldn’t cooperate.

Shannon allegedly asked if she was menstruating, and when she said yes, he went to the bathroom. At that time, she left and met a friend in the parking lot, whom the woman had texted to come get her. The friend called the police.

For those unaware, Title IX is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities. Under Title IX, the U.S. Department of Education website states, “discrimination on the basis of sex can include sexual harassment or sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion.” All incidents of alleged sexual misconduct involving students must be reported when the university becomes aware of such an allegation.

The Norman Police Department is currently investigating the accusations, but, again, no charges have been filed. It should be noted, however, that the matter is not completely out of the university’s hands as, according to Title IX guidelines, “[a] criminal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment or sexual violence does not relieve the school of its duty under Title IX to resolve complaints promptly and equitably.”

As a redshirt sophomore in 2013, Shannon started all 13 games and led the Sooners in tackles with 92. He neither practiced last Thursday nor played in Saturday’s spring game due to what head coach Bob Stoops described as personal reasons.

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Three Texas A&M Aggies were arrested last week

Howard Matthews, Charles Ross

It has been a whole ten days since the last time we wrote about a Texas A&M player being arrested, so let’s do some catching up. Three Texas A&M players – defensive back Howard Matthews, wide receiver Edward Pope and defensive lineman Gavin Stansbury — were arrested last Thursday according to multiple reports citing police records. All three were suspended by the university from team activities, although Stansbury has since returned.

“We are continuing to gather information,” a Texas A&M statement reads. “Gavin Stansbury was initially suspended from all athletic activities, but has since been reinstated to the team. Howard Matthews and Ed Pope were not suspended and are still members of the football team.”

Matthews was arrested and charged for speeding and failure to provide a driver’s licence after being pulled over for an expired registration. Pope and Stansbury were in the car at the time. Matthews and Pope both face a charge for failure to appear, although Pope’s charge stemmed from an earlier failure to comply on an unrelated incident. Warrants for all three players were discovered once the police officer pulling the car over ran the licenses of the players.

Stansbury is facing a misdemeanor charge for assault after being accused of pouring a can of beer on a person and then struck the person with a closed fist at Rice University.

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Is Chad Kelly’s apology to Clemson too little, too late?

South Carolina State v Clemson Getty Images

Former Clemson quarterback Chad Kelly shared his apology to his coaches, teammates and family after being dismissed by the program earlier this week. The nephew of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly said he let his family down.

”I let down not only my coaches, and teammates, but also Clemson University and all of our fans,” Kelly said. ”Most importantly, I’ve let down myself and my family.”

Kelly was booted from the team following an apparent meltdown during the spring game last weekend, but it was a pattern of poor behavior that ultimately cost him his spot on the Clemson roster. Head coach Dabo Swinney stated a pattern of behavior as the reasoning behind the roster cut after it was reported Kelly was arguing with coaches over play calling in the spring game.

”He has had a pattern of behavior that is not consistent with the values of our program,” Swinney said earlier this week. ”I hope he will mature and grow from this and become the man and player I know he can be. I wish him nothing but the best in the future academically and athletically.”

Kelly understands and agrees with that thought as well.

”I let my emotions get the best of me, culminating in this unfortunate situation with coach Swinney and the Clemson Tigers,” Kelly said. ”What’s most important now is that I use this experience to grow as a student, as an athlete and most importantly, as a man.”

The apology may be too little, too late as far as his position with Clemson is concerned. Clemson named Cole Stoudt as the starting quarterback to replace Tajh Boyd this upcoming season soon after the dismissal of Kelly.

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James Madison will pass on Sun Belt and FBS move

Stony Brook James Madison Football

With a number of programs making the move from the FCS to the FBS in recent years, James Madison will hold firm with their place in the Colonial Athletic Association at the FCS level.

“Consistent with these values and principles and the ongoing issue of conference alignment, JMU will not pursue or accept an invitation from a conference that does not meet our criteria,” James Madison president Jonthan Alger said in a statement released on the school’s athletics website this week. “If we do receive an offer consistent with our established values, we are prepared to review it and make a recommendation to the Board of Visitors. This process is ongoing and will require continued support on the part of the university, students, faculty, staff, coaches, alumni, and fans.”

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson told reporters the powerhouse FCS program was under consideration for an invite to join the conference, which will add Appalachian State and Georgia Southern this season.

“We never offered an invitation,“ Benson said, but “[t]hey were under consideration.”

If James Madison was to move up, Conference USA would look to be the most attractive and realistic option for the Dukes. Conference USA has added Old Dominion, another school from Virginia, and is adding Charlotte in football in 2015. There is no indication Conference USA is looking to add any other future members after Charlotte, which makes for a rough spot for James Madison and any FBS plans. As Massachusetts can prove, making the move for the sake of making the move can sometimes backfire on a school. If Conference USA is not coming to James Madison, the best situation for the Dukes may be to sit still, because it is not likely the ACC or SEC will come calling anytime soon.

The Sun Belt has been exploring expansion possibilities for a while now. James Madison may have been removed from the conversation, but that will not stop the conference from looking at all possibilities for future consideration. Liberty appears to be one of the consistent names in the mix to be the next FCS school to make the move up to the FBS ranks, and the Sun Belt Conference would appear to be a good fit with the latest additions to the conference (Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State). The Sun Belt will have 12 football members including the additions of Idaho and New Mexico this season, so the football membership is even without any further expansions.

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NCAA approves new roughing the passer penalty for hits below knees

Tennessee v Florida Getty Images

Hitting a quarterback below the knees in passing situations will result in a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer according to a new rule approved by the NCAA’s Playing Rules Oversight Panel. The new rule will go into effect this fall around the country.

One of the first questions that may come to mind is just what qualifies as a passing situation in a game where passing has become more and more frequent? Will every pass play by considered a passing situation, or just plays that come on third and long or perhaps even second and long? Fortunately the NCAA laid out the basics for when this penalty will come into play.

According to the NCAA, “the rule specifically covers a scenario in which a quarterback is in a passing posture with one or both feet on the ground.” When in this situation, no defensive player rushing unabated can hit the quarterback at the knees or below the knees. In addition, a defensive player may not roll or lunge and forcibly hit the quarterback in the knee or below. So a defender already on the ground may not roll into the quarterback.

There are exceptions to the rule though. A quarterback who takes off to run, no matter where located on the field, is no longer considered in a passing situation so he would be vulnerable. If a defender is already engaging in wrapping up the quarterback for a tackle, the passing situation is considered over. Any defender blocked into a passer is also in the clear as far as a penalty is concerned, but this means officials will have to keep a close eye on the entire play to determine if a player hitting below the knee was pushed into the passer or if the dive or lunge was initiated by the defender.

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Florida State expresses disappointment in New York Times story

Florida State Spring Game Getty Images

Florida State University issued a statement in response to a story published by the New York Times on Wednesday. The university expressed disappointment in the story that profiles the timeline of the response taken by the university and Tallahassee police in an investigation for an alleged sexual assault committed by quarterback Jameis Winston.

According to the statement released by Florida State, many of the responses provided during the process of writing the story were not included in the final copy that was released. Among the many points made by the university in an outline of issues with the story include is a statement that Florida State does not tolerate sexual assault, state and federal privacy laws restrict what the university can do on certain student matters, and the university must balance the duty to investigate with the general welfare of the alleged victim. By leaving out information Florida State feels were justified to include in telling what it believes to be the full story, the New York Times has done a disservice to its readers and the Florida State community, the statement says.

“Like all other colleges and universities, FSU is faced with a balancing act when following the “Dear Colleague” letter,” the statement by Florida State opens.

“Given the inherent tension within the “Dear Colleague” letter, FSU seeks to empower victims by giving great weight to their wishes when it comes to counseling, academic accommodations and supporting them through criminal or university proceedings,” the statement continues. “In a great number of cases, the victims make it quite clear that they don’t want to file a police report or pursue a Code of Conduct process.”

You can read the full statement released by Florida State as well as the full outline of points the university feels were missing from the New York Times story.

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‘Cuse confirms Terrel Hunt will remain QB starter

Terrel Hunt AP

Not that there was much mystery involved to begin with, but the question marks surrounding the quarterback position at Syracuse have been answered.

As expected, offensive coordinator George McDonald has confirmed to ESPN.com that Terrell Hunt will remain the Orange’s man under center.  While Hunt ended last season in that position, the competition was open once again this spring.

McDonald said Hunt’s growth throughout the spring locked down the job once again for the player.

“He’s had a really good spring,” McDonald said of the incumbent. “He’s doing a lot of things he wasn’t able to do last spring. For him, the game that made him a lot more comfortable was the Minnesota game. He’s really built off that game. He’s playing at a different level this spring.”

Hunt ultimately started the final 10 games of the 2013 season after Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen, who started the first three, was benched for poor performance.  In addition to throwing for over 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns, Hunt was also second on the team with 500 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on the ground.

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LSU, ‘Cuse officially set future home-and-home

1965 Sugar Bowl

After a month or more of speculation, the long wait for official word on a future series between programs from the ACC and SEC is finally, thankfully over.

Syracuse confirmed via a release Wednesday that it will play a future home-and-home series against LSU.  The Orange will host the Tigers Sept. 26, 2015, in the Carrier Dome, while ‘Cuse gets the “pleasure” of traveling to Death Valley to face the Bayou Bengals Sept. 9, 2017.

“We are thrilled to enter into this home-and-home agreement with a premiere program like LSU. Student-athletes come to Syracuse to play on the biggest stage possible, and this gives our coaches and young men the chance to battle one of the standard-bearers of the SEC on our home turf,” said athletic director Dr. Daryl Gross in a statement. “It is a complicated process to arrange games of this magnitude, and I couldn’t be happier for our fans and for all who will be involved in this upcoming series.”

The two football programs have never met during the regular season, but have squared off twice in the postseason. The first meeting came in the 1965 Sugar Bowl (LSU, 13-10) and the second and last came in the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl (Syracuse, 23-10).

And, while I’m here, Syracuse introduced some new uniforms this afternoon as well.  So, instead of wasting any additional space on uniform news, here they are. Enjoy:

Syracuse Unis

(Program photo credit: Allstate Sugar Bowl)

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