USC survives scare from Utah State

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There was a time when a 17-14 win by USC over Utah State would’ve been greeted with cries of panic by those who follow Trojan football.

But expectations have fallen so much at USC, any win these days over any level of opponent is seen as something to be taken without reservation.

And so, Lane Kiffin survived another week — barely — as his Trojans squeaked out a 3-point win over out-manned Utah State in the Coliseum.

If not for the resiliency of the USC defense, Kiffin might already be on the outskirts of town, run out ignominiously on a rail. The new 5-2 scheme under defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast suffocated Utah State’s brilliant quarterback, Chuckie Keeton, holding him to just 179 yards passing and negative 15 yards rushing. Meanwhile, the USC offense continued to look like something out of the stone age.

The Trojans put up 282 yards of offense, went 3 of 13 on third down conversions and were held to just 3 yards per carry. USC managed just 17 total points despite spending most of the game inside Utah State territory. But mistakes, dropped balls, penalties, poor play calling and a scrappy Aggies defense handicapped the Trojan attack all day.

Utah State had a chance to win this one. Beating the Trojans would’ve been a landmark win for the program, but Keeton couldn’t get it done and the usually-slippery quarterback seemed out of sorts most of the day. The Aggies now stand at 2-2 after dropping its second close game to a Pac-12 opponent.

For USC, things do not get any easier. The Trojans travel to Arizona State next week and, based on how they’ve looked in the first four games, things could get ugly in the desert.

But USC is not Florida. Despite this narrow win, it’s still a novice at winning ugly. Unless the Trojans get better quick, playing ugly will just mean losing ugly.

Illinois adds UCF grad transfer QB Pete DiNovo

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Illinois has an immediate addition to its quarterback room.  Or its wide receivers room, depending on how things play out.

Pete DiNovo confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times Monday that he has decided to transfer to the Illini.  The acknowledgment comes a month after DiNovo decided to transfer from Central Florida.

As a graduate transfer, DiNovo would be eligible to play immediately this season.  Per the player, a former high school teammate and former high school coach currently at Illinois played a role in his decision.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way everything turned out,” DiNovo told the Times. “I can come up here and learn from Lovie (Smith) and everyone else on the coaching staff.”

DiNovo began his Knights career as a quarterback — he replaced Blake Bortles as UCF’s starter before being quickly replaced himself — before being moved to wide receiver before being moved back under center this offseason.  How the Illini will use DiNovo, who has an eye on a career in coaching after his playing days are over, remains to be seen.

UTEP stays in-house to replace fired OC Brent Pease

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Not surprisingly, UTEP will stay in-house following its in-season dismissal of one of its coordinators.

The Miners confirmed Sunday that offensive coordinator Brent Pease had been fired.  A day later, the football program announced that Brian Natkin has been given the keys to the offense by Sean Kugler and will call the plays moving forward.

Natkin began the season as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.  He was an All-American tight end at UTEP a decade-and-a-half ago and became a full-time assistant at his alma mater in 2011.

Through three games, UTEP ranks second-to-last nationally in total offense at 204.7 yards per game and in yards per play (3.89). The Miners are also 125th (out of 130 teams) in scoring at 13 points per game.

The promotion of Natkin also means there will be some additional adjustments to Kugler’s staff.  Wide receivers coach Chuck Veliz will take over Pease’s other role as quarterbacks coach, while safeties coach Don Yanowsky assume Natkin’s duties as special teams coordinator.

Natkin will continue in his role as tight ends coach.

Oregon State QB Jake Luton discharged from hospital after leaving Wazzu game on a stretcher

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Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton was taken away on a stretcher after a tackle left him motionless on the Reser Stadium turf on Saturday.

Family members were called to the field, where medical professionals stabilized an apparently unconscious Luton and removed his face mask. The game continued, of course, as Oregon State lost to Washington State 52-23 despite Luton’s 179 passing yards and 22 rushing yards.

Luton tweeted on Saturday night that he’ll “be back.”

Luton has since been discharged from the hospital, according to The Oregonian, though his father posted a message stating Luton was probably dealing with a “thoracic spine fracture.”

Oregon State is off Saturday before hosting Washington on Sept. 30.

Tennessee LB Cortez McDowell, WR Jauan Jennings to miss the rest of the season

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A pair of wrist injuries will cost two Tennessee players the rest of their respective seasons.

Wide receiver Juaun Jennings and linebacker Cortez McDowell will miss the rest of the season, head coach Butch Jones announced Monday.

Jennings left Tennessee’s Labor Day victory over Georgia Tech in the second quarter after absorbing as he collected a catch over the middle, his third of the game. Jennings did not return to the game and will not for the rest of the season, forcing the 2-1 Volunteers to move forward without their top returning pass-catcher.

Additionally, McDowell was lost during the Vols loss to Florida on Saturday.

The McDowell injury is particularly brutal for Tennessee because it leaves Big Orange without all three of its protected starters at linebacker. Middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland, Jr., has already undergone season-ending surgery, and strongside linebacker Austin Smith injured his knee during the final week of fall camp.

On top of that, safety Todd Kelly, Jr., did not make the trip to Gainesville and could be lost for the season. Kick returner Evan Berry did not play against Florida either.

Oh, and Tennessee lost to Florida on a Hail Mary after having a first-and-goal inside the final minute.

Other than that, though, everything’s going great in Knoxville.