Alabama overcomes fast start, leads Texas A&M at half

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Alabama is leading Texas A&M at the half, 28-14, but boy has it been a wild ride to get there.

The game had all of the hype of a mid-November clash of the titans, and Johnny Manziel came ready to unload on Alabama’s defense. After winning the coin toss, Texas A&M took the football and let Manziel drive the Aggies right down field for a touchdown. The drive took seven plays but it felt like fewer with Manziel starting the game with a 12-yard yard and completing a pair of passes over 30 yards to quickly move down close to the end zone. A short pass to Cameron Clear put Texas A&M on the board. Despite the fast start, the first half would eventually be more about Alabama’s success.

After the Aggies held Alabama to a three-and-out deep in their own end, Manziel and the offense struck quickly once more to build a 14-0 lead. Alabama would settle down, driving down field and scoring a touchdown on a pass from AJ McCarron to Kevin Norwood from 22 yards. Early in the second quarter the Crimson Tide had battled back by tying the game when McCarron completed a pass to DeAndrew White, who took it to the house for a 44-yard touchdown. Brand new ballgame.

Alabama took their first lead against Texas A&M since 1988 in the second quarter, once again using a big pass play to their advantage. McCarron found Kenny Bell for a 51-yard touchdown strike that was practically uncontested by the Aggies defense. Momentum at this point appeared to be one-sided after Manziel had been picked off in the end zone.

There was a moment when the refs made a questionable call. With Texas A&M on offense, Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was called for targeting, which was cause for an immediate ejection from the game. However, the official video review overturned the ejection and allowed Clinton-Dix to remain in the game. That would have been a huge loss for the Crimson Tide if the ejection had been upheld. In this instance it looks as though the right call was ultimately made regarding the ejection.

Alabama delivered a critical blow to Texas A&M late in the first half, eating up nearly seven minutes en route to a touchdown to build a 27-14 lead, capped by a rushing touchdown by T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon got up and gave a money sign and a throat slash with his hands, causing the refs to penalize Alabama for an excessive celebration penalty. Texas A&M eventually got to take over from their own 35-yard line but Alabama held the Aggies off the scoreboard before the end of the half.

It has been a heck of a first half, and the second half should be pretty fun as well. Alabama appears to have the momentum working in their favor right now, but this is far too close to call at the half.

Iowa LB Aaron Mends to miss extended time with injury

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Talk about a hard-luck story.

After never starting a game at Iowa, Aaron Mends (pictured, blocking punt) had earned a starting job at outside linebacker during practice this spring.  With football being the cruel mistress that it can be at times, the Hawkeyes announced Friday night that Mends “will miss an extended period of time due to injury.” The program offered no details as to the specific nature of the injury, although it’s believed to involve the knee.

According to the school’s release, the fifth-year senior suffered the injury during the final week of Iowa’s spring drills.

Mends was a three-star member of the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class.  He was the highest-rated linebacker in Iowa’s class that year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Mends has played in 38 games the past three seasons.  A baker’s dozen of those appearances came during the 2017 season.

Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, James Franklin and Clay Helton among 15 CFB coaches attending NFL Draft

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We’re less than a week away from former college players officially finding out their new homes with the start of the 2018 NFL Draft and the excitement is palpable no matter if you’re a Cleveland Browns fan or somebody who dons the cardinal and gold of USC.

Naturally this is a big deal for the players’ former programs as well and their recent head coaches will be taking full advantage of the marketing opportunity to future recruits by stopping by the draft itself at AT&T Stadium for the festivities. The NFL released a list of 14 college football coaches and one recent one on Friday as being confirmed to attend the event and there are a few notable names beyond the big ones we’re used to seeing every year:

In addition, Stanford head coach David Shaw will serve as a draft analyst on NFL Network for a seventh year in a row and even ESPN’s College GameDay is getting involved with a pregame show outside the stadium they are quite familiar with from big games over the years.

Georgia DB Mark Webb tears meniscus in practice but expected back before fall camp

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Georgia’s injury luck this spring isn’t getting much better as the defending SEC champions move toward their annual G-Day spring game over the weekend.

Head coach Kirby Smart confirmed with reporters after Thursday’s practice that sophomore defensive back Mark Webb suffered a knee injury earlier in the week and tore his meniscus. He already had the knee scoped and is expected back before fall camp after the rather minor procedure.

Webb originally landed in Athens as a wideout but made the move to the secondary just as the season was getting going. He appeared in 13 games in 2017, mostly on special teams, but was expected to challenge for one of the starting spots at cornerback heading into the upcoming campaign.

The absence of Webb in the lineup for the final week of spring adds to a growing list of injuries for the team during practice as they do a little bit of roster building toward the future. Receiver Michael Chigbu’s career may be over due to lingering injuries and defensive back Divaad Wilson tore his ACL not long after enrolling this semester.

Safe to say that G-Day on Saturday might not be as physical as Smart and the coaching staff would otherwise like as a result of trying to keep the team healthy as they prepare to head into a big offseason.

Old Dominion announces remodel, expansion plans for S.B. Ballard Stadium

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Old Dominion is making sure the first word in the school’s name is not the first thing you think of when you are playing against the Monarchs, joining a long list of their FBS peers with some significant upgrades for their home venue over the coming years. In plans approved this week by the university, ODU released renderings and an updated timeline on a $65 million remodel of S.B. Ballard Stadium that is set to begin as soon as this summer.

“We are excited to begin Phase 1 reconstruction,” said Greg DuBois, the school’s vice president for administration and finance. “Fan comfort and high-quality amenities are the primary focus of this phase. The project will help us create the type of game-day experience fans want and will set us up for future expansions.”

The stadium, some 81-years-old, will undergo a nearly complete teardown over the next two years in order to transform the place most know as Foreman Field. Both the east and west stands will be demolished and rebuilt, complete with new seating and a new press box. There will naturally be more restrooms and concession stands as part of the plan that includes plenty more bells and whistles for the Conference USA program. Seating is expected to grow beyond 21,000 or so capacity the current venue seats.

While construction will get started in the coming months, the bulk of activity will take place after the 2018 campaign is wrapped up at home and before kickoff of the opener in 2019. The Virginian-Pilot reports that funding will not utilize state funds but that the school is requesting that the legislature approve an added $10 million to the cost structure as a result of rising prices beyond the original $55 million forecasted.

2018 will be just the 10th season for the Monarchs (and fifth in FBS) since the football program was reinstated and it goes without saying that the new digs will be some of the nicest in CUSA when all is said and done. Few programs have been able to successfully navigate the transition as well as ODU has and it seems an updated stadium in the near future is the reward for head coach Bobby Wilder and others in Norfolk.