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The Fifth Quarter: Week 4 Rewind

Kansas State v Texas 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.

WINNERS

Mack’s back?
At least for the time being, the Longhorn Nation mob can put away its pitchforks and torches.  After a week that saw even more speculation about his job and the confirmation of rumors that Texas was indeed very interested in Nick Saban, Mack Brown was staring square in the face of Texas’ first 1-3 start since 1954.  Instead, the Longhorn players stepped above the ineptness of the past couple of weeks and moved to 2-2 with a 31-21 win over Kansas State.  Whether it was the increased heat on their coach or just the fact that the Wildcats aren’t that good, the players seemed to play with a spark, an enthusiasm, a sense of urgency that hasn’t been seen at all in 2013  Certainly one win doesn’t change all that’s gone wrong over the past three-plus years, and K-State 2013 is not the K-State of recent years, but it’s definitely a baby step in the right direction.

Hilluva football player
Forget about whether or not Jeremy Hill should even be on a football field; that’s another argument for another day.  When he is on the playing surface, the LSU running back is one helluva football player.  Hill rushed for a career-high 151 yards… and then headed back onto the field for the start of the third quarter.  Hill finished with 183 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ 35-21 win over previously unbeaten Auburn.  The Bayou Bengals certainly have a stable full of high-quality runners, but Hill is clearly the class of the backfield and will continue to serve as an important piece of the offensive puzzle as LSU continues its run toward what should be another epic showdown with Alabama.

Johnny be good at football
If someone other than Johnny Manziel is going to win the 2013 Heisman, they’re going to have to rip it from his cold, dead hands.  Or something.  In less than three-and-a-half quarters of playing time against SMU, Manziel passed for 244 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another 102 and two more scores.  Through four games this season, Manziel has accounted for 1,483 yards of total offense (1,228 passing, 255 rushing) and 15 touchdowns; in the first four games of the 2012 season, the numbers were 1,460 (1,094 passing, 466 rushing) and 16 touchdowns.  Whether or not voters, given the Texas A&M’s rocky offseason, give him serious consideration again this December remains to be seen.  Based on his play on the field this year, though, he damn well should be given just that.

Arizona State v StanfordCardinal rules
Stanford got off to a rather ho-hum start to the 2013 season, beating San Jose State by 21 in the opener and then getting by Army by 14 in Week 2.  In its first true test of the year, however, Stanford got back to real Cardinal football in building up a 29-0 halftime lead before pushing it to 39-7 and ultimately cruising, relatively speaking, to a 42-28 win over No. 23 Arizona State.  As is ofttimes the case, the Cardinal did most of their damage on the ground in rushing for a season-high 238 yards, with three of their touchdowns on the day coming on the ground.  Stanford is nothing if not consistent as they’ve rushed for 197, 205 and now 238 yards in their first three games.  We’re still six weeks away from their colossal showdown with Oregon down on The Farm, and yes Stanford allowed ASU to make it closer than what it could’ve/should’ve been, but it appears the trajectory of both the Cardinal and the Ducks is pointing straight toward an instant classic.

Plow on, Badgers
If anyone thought Wisconsin would turn its back on its running ways under Gary Andersen, you couldn’t have been more wrong.  In the Badgers’ 41-10 win over Purdue in their Big Ten opener, UW ran for 388 yards and averaged 8.1 yards per carry.  UW came into the game fifth in the country averaging 337 yards per game, rushing for 393 and 387 yards in the first two games under Andersen; their low-water mark for the season has been 210 in the controversial loss to Arizona State last weekend.  The Badgers are now averaging eight yards per carry, a figure that’s third in the country behind a pair of teams that are in an offensive league of their own: Oregon (9.3) and Baylor (9.2).

Non-offensive fireworks
Iowa put up a season-high 59 points on the board in a romp over Western Michigan, and the offense was responsible for just 31 of them.  B.J. Lowery returned two interceptions for a touchdown, becoming the first player in Hawkeye history to perform that feat.  Not to be outdone, Kevonte Martin-Manley became the first Iowa player ever to return two punts for a touchdown in a single game.  Martin-Manley is just the third player in the long history of the Big Ten to do that.  Iowa is now 3-1 on the year, the fifth time in the last six seasons it has started a season at 3-1 or better.

Spunky punter
We here at CFT don’t normally refer to punters as “real” football players.  San Jose State’s Harrison Waid, though, might consider such a label fightin’ words… literally.  Waid took exception to being blocked by a Minnesota player following one of his punts and, in very non-punter-like fashion, went after the Gopher that laid him out.  While the SJSU coaching staff likely appreciated the fire shown by Waid, they probably didn’t like the fact that he was ejected from the game as a result of what was closer to a cat fight than actual fisticuffs.

BCS buster still alive
Thanks to losses through the first three weeks of the 2013 season by, among others, Boise State and Utah State, Fresno State was looking like the lone non-AQ school left that could crash the BCS’ postseason party.  The hopes of BCS busters across the country were looking even more dire Friday night as the Bulldogs sat at their own 13-yard line with just over seven minutes left and trailing the Broncos by six.  Five minutes and 87 yards later, Fresno State put a game-winning touchdown on the board that kept their perfect record — and BCS hopes — intact.  While there are still potential stumbling blocks along the way, such as back-to-back games against San Diego State and Nevada in a month as well as a possible conference championship game appearance — rematch with Boise? — Fresno State is looking like as good a bet as any of the non-AQ schools to finish the season unbeaten and put themselves in a position for a BCS bowl bid.

LOSERS

The Devin’s in the detailsMichigan v Connecticut
Devin Gardner has been in a very giving mood of late for Michigan.  Off the field, that’s a positive; on it, it’s a decidedly negative trait.  Through four games this season, the Wolverines’ starting quarterback has thrown eight interceptions in 92 attempts, including two more against UConn.  Last season, in his first year as a starter, Gardner tossed five picks in 126 attempts.  Gardner also coughed up a fumble early in the third quarter, one that was returned for a touchdown in the too-close-for-comfort win over the winless Huskies.  A bye week could be coming at the perfect time for UM in general and Gardner specifically.  As a team, the Wolverines must clean-up whatever has gone wrong in two very unimpressive and uninspiring wins the past two weeks.  As a player, Gardner needs to some how, some way extract his cranium from his rectum and start playing smart football, especially with the start of Big Ten play on the horizon.

This could leave a mark
Miami had little problem in dispatching heavy underdog Savannah State, but the cupcake win could have come at a steep cost.  In the middle of the first quarter, starting quarterback Stephen Morris suffered what was initially described as a lower-leg injury.  Morris did not return to the game, and it was later revealed that the initial diagnosis is a sprained ankle.  It’ unclear if that would be the dreaded high-ankle type of sprain, although head coach Al Golden sounded decidedly optimistic in his postgame talk.  What’s also unclear is whether Morris will be available for the USF game next week or, more importantly, the ACC opener against Georgia Tech the week after.  The only good news for the ‘Canes if Morris were to miss any playing time is that they have an experienced backup in Ryan Williams.

DOH!gorsen
What in the name of Red Bull shooters is going on in Morgantown?  While the Mountaineers started 2013 2-1, their two wins came against FCS programs, while they scored just seven points in a loss to Oklahoma.  That downward offensive trend spiraled further out of control after WVU was shutout in an embarrassing 37-point road loss to Maryland.  It was the first time a Mountaineers team had been shutout since 2001, Rich Rodriguez‘s first season at WVU.  The Mountaineers recorded the same number of turnovers (six) as first downs, and they completed a grand total of one pass to a wide receiver.  Yes, replacing a quarterback like Geno Smith and a playmaker like Tavon Austin is a tall task, but there’s no excuse for a Dana Holgorsen-coached team to get shut out.  It may not be on the national radar quite yet, but the howls from the locals around me here in the middle of WV calling for Holgorsen’s head are growing in frequency and intensity.  Holgorsen’s built his reputation on offense; his players had better start playing up to that résumé.

Marshall, Marshall, Marshall
Staying in God’s Country, what could have been for Doc Holliday‘s football program.  A pass that could’ve went the other way for a pick-six instead slipped through the hands of a Marshall defender and into the arms of a Virginia Tech receiver, tying the game at 21-all with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter.  After Tech missed a pair of field goal attempts in the first two overtimes — and after the Herd had one of its FGs blocked in the second overtime — the Herd was in position to tie the game in the third overtime — the Hokies had scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion on their third possession of extra time — only to watch a blatant pass interference in the end zone go uncalled.  Add it all up and it was a heartbreaking 29-21, triple-overtime loss for the 2-2 Herd… and a huge escape for a very average Hokies football team.

Florida International v LouisvilleFIUBAR
In December of this year, FIU stunned most college football observers by firing head coach Mario Cristobal.  At the time, athletic director Pete Garcia defended the indefensible by claiming the program had “gone backwards over the last year and a half.”  So, how have the Panthers fared in their first season under new head coach Ron Turner?  FIU has lost their first four games by a combined score of 187-23, including the 72-0 whipping Saturday at the hands of Louisville.  Even more embarrassing for the Panthers is the fact that the officiating crew ordered a running clock in the second half in an effort to speed up the embarrassment.  Excellent work, Mr. Garcia.  You’ve turned around this FBS football program in much the same way you and Butch Davis turned around my Cleveland Browns early last decade.  You should be proud.

$avannah $tate
Over the past two seasons, Savannah State has been 60-point-plus underdogs to three FBS teams: Miami (Sept. 21, 2013), Oklahoma State (Sept. 1, 2012) and Florida State (Sept. 8, 2012).  The FCS program lost those three games by a combined score of 216-7… and that was with the FSU game featuring a running clock in the second half and weather ending the game in the third quarter as well as the Miami game Saturday having the fourth quarter shortened to 12 minutes.  For that trio of eviscerations, Savannah State added $1.235 million to its athletic department’s coffers; in 2010-11, the department’s total athletic budget across all sports was $5.1 million.  Sometimes when you lose, get a beatdown even, you win and win big.

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

– No. 3 Clemson 26, North Carolina State: Thanks to some very questionable officiating, the Tigers were able to get out of Raleigh with its fourth consecutive win to start the 2013 season.

– No. 9 Georgia 45, North Texas 21: The Bulldogs may have won going away thanks to ripping off 24 unanswered points, but they were actually tied with the Conference USA program at 21-all midway through the third quarter.

– No. 15 Michigan 24, UConn 21 — For the second straight week, the Wolverines not only allowed an inferior opponent hang with them, they were actually outplay for the better part of 60 minutes.  UM may be unbeaten at 4-0, but it’s as wobbly a 4-0 that you’ll ever see.

– No. 19 Northwestern 35, Maine 21: You beat an FCS team, even a previously unbeaten one like the Black Bears, by a mere two touchdowns when you’re ranked inside the Top 25, you deserve a mention for escaping.

– No. 22 Notre Dame 17, Michigan State 13: Were it not for an inexplicable trick play late in the third quarter by the Spartans, the Irish could’ve very easily been on the receiving end of its second loss of the season.

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.Colorado State v Alabama

1. Alabama — Call it a letdown coming off a huge win last week or having some pity on a former coordinator, but the Tide looked rather meh-ish in the 25-point win over Colorado State in their home opener.  Expect a much different Tide team as it faces a ranked SEC foe. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: vs. No. 21 Ole Miss

2. Oregon — Despite a bye week, I believe the Ducks still somehow managed to put up 56 points with just 15 minutes of time of possession. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up:  vs. Cal

3. Clemson — You could feel and almost see the Clemsoning hanging in the Raleigh air Thursday night, but it never transpired.  Is this year different for the Tigers?  It’s certainly looking that way and holy hell I just jinxed it. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: vs. Wake Forest

4. Ohio State — After four wins over creampuffs by an average score of 52-15, the Buckeyes have seen the preseason officially come to an end and will face its first real test of the regular season by opening up Big Ten play at home next Saturday. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: vs. No. 24 Wisconsin

5. Stanford — I was very tempted to put LSU here following their win over previously-unbeaten Auburn, but the Cardinal’s win over an unbeaten and ranked Arizona State was enough to trump that in my mind. (Last week: unranked)
Next up: at Washington State

(Dropped out: No. 5 Louisville)

HE SAID IT
“I can talk about our crowd today for probably an hour in terms of the energy that they brought to the game, getting in there at an earlier time I think than we usually do; staying even when the game seemed very hard at times, and as disruptive a crowd as we’ve had here probably since the 2006 Louisville game. It was deafening loud.” — Kyle Flood, following Rutgers’ come-from-behind win over Arkansas.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“Obviously, I appreciate our fans. I’ve said it and I’ll say it again. We have great fans. I think everybody involved knows that what came out is not indicative of how I felt or how I feel about them. I think our fans understand that. They’re great fans. They’ve been around me for five years. I think they know who I am as a person.” — Bo Pelini, following a rather rough week for him and his Nebraska football program.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“That was a bizarre game.” — David Cutcliffe, after watching his Duke team lose a 58-55 first-round ACC hoops tourney game to Pittsburgh.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“We exposed them at times.” — Earnest Wilson III, after watching his Savannah State team get shellacked 77-7 by Miami.

HE SAID IT, LES MILES EDITION
“If not, a stiff dew was out there.” — The LSU head coach’s response to someone who asked him if it rained in Tiger Stadium.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK
As a loyal follower of everything and anything Duck Dynasty, I’m fascinated by how far the reach of that family-centric show has grown over the past year.  The latest example?  In the run-up to their game against Louisiana-Monroe — Duck Dynasty‘s Robertson clan hails from West Monroe La., with the elder statesman Phil a former starting quarterback at Louisiana Tech — Baylor posted the following photo on their Twitter account earlier this week:

Baylor Duck Dynasty

RGIII and Art Briles — looking eerily and creepily similar to Uncle Si sans eyeglasses, incidentally — sporting a flowing and glorious redneck face mullet?  Outstanding work, Baylor.  Outstanding.

SAY WHAT?
College football teams one-upping each other when it comes to helmet designs has officially jumped the shark.  Here’s a photo (via the Roanoke TimesAndy Bitter) of a future Virginia Tech helmet that’s currently in the design stage:

Virginia Tech Helmet Design

There’s no word yet on if the Flintstones and/or the Rubbles will serve as the honorary captains when/if those things debut.

TRUE STORY
Ohio State’s 76 points in the Week 4 scrimmage against FAMU were the most for the Buckeyes since an 83-21 win over Iowa in 1950.  The 76-point margin of victory was the largest for an OSU since downing Drake, 85-7, in 1935.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– Through four weeks, there are 29 teams at the FBS level with perfect records, with six of them coming from the Pac-12 and four each from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC.  Missouri, incidentally, is the lone SEC East team with no losses.  On the opposite end, 14 teams have yet to win a game.  Three of those hail from the American Athletic Conference: Temple, UConn and USF.  Iowa State is the only team from the so-called Big Five conferences that’s yet to win a game.

Pittsburgh v DukeTom Savage‘s six touchdown passes in Pittsburgh’s wild 58-55 win over Duke was the most for a Panthers’ quarterback since Tyler Palko tossed five way back in 2004 and tied an ACC record.  It was also the most since Pete Gonzalez set a school record with seven in 1997.  The 113 points scored by both teams was the highest total ever in a game involving Pitt.

– The 98-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to Reggie Davis in the win over North Texas was not only the 100th of Murray’s career, but it was also the longest pass play in Georgia history.  It’s also tied for the third-longest passing touchdown in SEC history.  Murray’s 445 yards of offense — 408 passing, 37 rushing — moved the senior to No. 3 on the all-time SEC list for total offense with 11,352 yards.

Kenny Guiton set a single-game Ohio State record with six touchdown passes, and the senior did that in just the first two quarters.  It was the first time an OSU quarterback had thrown at least five scoring passes in a single game since Bobby Hoying in 1995.  Guiton has now tossed 10 touchdown passes the past two weeks; he had five career touchdown passes prior to his first career start against Cal last Saturday.

Derek Carr‘s 460 yards passing in Fresno State’s 41-40 win over Boise State Friday night was the fifth 400-yard-plus performance of his career, setting both the school and Mountain West records in the process.

– Nebraska’s Stanley-Jean Baptiste has intercepted a pass in four straight games, becoming the first Cornhusker player since Josh Bullocks in 2003 to accomplish that feat.  Baptiste’s 140 return yards on his picks are 47 shy of NU’s single-season record.

– In a losing effort to Minnesota, San Jose State’s David Fales threw for 439 yards and three TDs.  He had 296 in the first half alone.

–BYU quarterback Taysom Hill is completing just 35.1 percent (40-114) of his passes this season.   An 18-of-48 performance in the loss to Utah actually upped his completion percentage by nearly two percent.

– This is just weird: Alabama did not convert its first third-down try until there were three minutes left in the fourth quarter of their 31-6 win over Colorado State.  Up to that point, the Tide had been 0-8 on third down.

– Baylor is the first FBS team since Ohio State in 1996 to score 70-plus points in back-to-back games.  Baylor has scored 209 points through three games, the most to start a season at this level in the past 10 years.  They are also the first FBS/Div. 1-A team to score at least 60 points the first three games of the season since LSU in 1930.

– Unbelievably, Texas’ win over Kansas State was its first over the Wildcats since Oct. 3 of 2003.De'Onte Arnett

– Maryland has started a season 4-0 for the first time since 2001.  The Terps had won a total of six games in Randy Edsall‘s first two seasons at the school.

– Including the 17-14 loss to USC Saturday, Utah State’s last five losses have been by a combined total of 13 points.

– UCLA’s 692 yards of total offense in the 59-13 win over New Mexico State was a new school record.

– Kansas’ 13-10 home win over Louisiana Tech on a field goal as time expired was the Jayhawks’ first over an FBS team since Sept. 10, 2011, a streak of 21 straight games.  KU has not beaten a member of an AQ conference since dropping Colorado in November of 2010.  That was also the Jayhawks’ last Big 12 win; they haven’t beaten a current member of the Big 12, however, since defeating Iowa State in October of 2009.

– In its 35-point win over Tulane, Syracuse’s special teams blocked three kicks — two punts and a field goal attempt — and recovered a fumbled punt.

– In the first half of their pasting of Florida A&M, Ohio State ran 47 plays and scored 55 points; FAMU had fewer yards of total offense (54) than the Buckeyes had points, and was able to manage just a single first down in the first two quarters.  OSU was leading the FCS Rattlers 48-0 before FAMU was able to muster its initial first down.

– Minnesota totaled 14 rushing touchdowns in 12 games last season; after six in the 43-17 win over San Jose State, the Gophers have 16 rushing touchdowns in four games this season.

– Prior to their loss to Clemson Thursday night, North Carolina State had beaten the last three teams ranked inside the Top 20 that had ventured into Carter-Finley Stadium: No. 3 Florida State (17-16 on Oct. 6, 2012), No. 7 Clemson (37-13 on Nov. 19, 2011) and No. 16 FSU (28-24 on Oct. 28, 2010).

– The game against Rutgers in Piscataway Saturday was Arkansas’ first in the Northeast since 1940, a 27-7 loss to Fordham.

– Cincinnati and Miami (OH) were scoreless through more than 55 minutes of clock time before the Bearcats scored two touchdowns in the last 4:55 to claim the non-conference win.

Lee Corso BisonIN CLOSING…
Yes, it spoke volumes about the level of games across the country, but kudos to not only ESPN for taking their College GameDay show on the road to Fargo, but to the thousands of Fargoites in attendance who created such a tremendous atmosphere for a national television audience.  It was a great scene and great exposure for an FCS program like North Dakota State, which remains unbeaten and is coming off back-to-back national championships.  Well done by everyone involved.  Hopefully it won’t take another five years to get back to a lower-level campus.

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Penn State QB makes history in Croke Park Classic

Christian Hackenberg

Not even Kerry Collins, Todd Blackledge or Michael Robinson did what Penn State’s sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg accomplished Saturday in the Croke Park Classic against the UCF Knights.

Hackenberg is the first quarterback in Penn State history to throw for 400 yards or more in a single game as he lead the Nittany Lions to a  thrilling 26-24 victory over the Knights in Dublin, Ireland.

The sophomore finished 32-of-47 passing for 454 yards. The performance was highlighted by a game-winning drive. Hackenberg was 4-of-6 passing for 47 yards during the final 1:13 of the contest to set up the winning field goal by senior kicker Sam Ficken.

During the performance, pundits were drooling over the potential which Hackenberg represents. Hackenberg forced a couple of throws which resulted in interception, but those poor throws didn’t take away from the fact he was the best player on the field. This was simply a great performance to build upon a resume that result in Hackenberg becoming the No. 1 overall pick in 2016 or 2017 NFL draft.

And Penn State capitalized on the talent it has behind center.

Once the team couldn’t establish the run earlier, the onus fell on Hackenberg to carry the team. Clearly, he was able to do so. The young signal caller was able to evade pressure in the pocket, make throws on the move and manipulate UCF’s secondary to complete a beautiful 79-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Geno Lewis to give the Nittany Lions a 20-10 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Lewis was one of two receivers which finished with 173 receiving yards. Redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton was nearly as good with 11 reception for 165 yards.

For UCF, head coach George O’Leary waited far too long to make a crucial change at quarterback.

Redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo started the game and struggled mightly. DiNovo was a paltry 3-of-8 passing for 18 yards. O’Leary then inserted Justin Holman into the lineup, and the sophomore brought instant energy into the lineup. Holman led the Knights to 21 points in the second half with 204 passing yards. He added a pair of touchdowns, one passing and one running. Holman had his team in a position to win with 1:13 remaining. The Knights’ defense simply couldn’t hold as the Nittany Lions leave Ireland with the victory.

Despite the outcome the two teams learned something equally important about their quarterbacks.

Penn State quickly came to the realization they must ride Hackenberg this season as the offensive line continues to gel and the running game struggles. UCF, meanwhile, will almost certainly move forward with Holman behind center, and it will be a better team for it.

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Michigan WR Funchess looks to carry on new uniform tradition

Devin Funchess

Michigan football has a relatively new history of suiting up key players with historic uniform numbers for players. Wide receiver Devin Funchess, playing tight end last season, wore the number 87 jersey, which is the number previously worn by one of the all-time greats in Michigan football history, Ron Kramer. With Funchess moving to wide receiver this season, the Wolverine decided it was best to leave that uniform number to the tight end position.

“It was an incredible honor to be selected to wear the number 87 Legends jersey in honor of Ron Kramer,” Funchess said in a statement shared by Michigan. “I spoke with his son, Kurt, and many of my teammates before I decided to change my number and they were all unbelievably supportive. Ron Kramer was the best tight end in Michigan history, and I think his number should be worn by someone playing that position.”

Funchess will now wear the number one on his uniform. The inspiration to wear that uniform number came from watching former Michigan receivers make big plays wearing the number.

“I watched a lot of Michigan greats over the offseason and kept seeing receivers wearing number one making plays, from Anthony Carter to Derrick Alexander, David Terrell and Braylon Edwards, and I wanted to carry on another Michigan tradition this season.”

Funchess gives Michigan a big target at receiver and it should help boost the quality of receivers for Michigan at what might be a bit of a question mark at the start of the new season. Michigan opens the seaosn at home against Appalachian State.

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Ohio State’s Heuerman will wear Braxton’s No. 5

Braxton Miller

Ohio State opens the news season in Baltimore this afternoon against Navy. The Buckeyes were dealt a major blow to the roster, and thus their lofty expectations, with the loss of quarterback Braxton Miller to a shoulder injury before the season started. Though Miller will not be playing on the field, his presence will be recognized.

Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman, a co-captain for the Buckeyes, will wear Miller’s uniform number as a tribute to the injured quarterback.

A classy move, for sure.

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Halftime: Penn State QB is the difference in Croke Park Classic

Christian Hackenberg

Quarterback play is what currently separates the Penn State Nittany Lions from the UCF Knights in the Croke Park Classic in Dublin, Ireland. The Nittany Lions lead the Knights 10-3 thanks to the play of sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

Early in the contest, the Knights were winning at the line of scrimmage. The Nittany Lions running game was shut down, and Hackenberg was under duress when he dropped back to pass. The 11 yards on the ground Penn State did accumulate came courtesy of Hackenberg scrambling from the pocket.

Penn State adjusted by moving the pocket and allowed Hackenberg to take over in the passing game. The sophomore was able to complete multiple passes on third down to extend drives which eventually resulted in points. At the half, Hackenberg is 17-of-26 passing for 218 yards. Redshirt freshman wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton was the biggest beneficiary of Hackenberg’s play with 107 receiving yards through two quarters.

Hackenberg was allowed to get on track after a roughing the punter penalty granted the Nittany Lions a first down during their initial drive. Hackenberg connected with Hamilton for a 44-yard gain, which eventually resulted in a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Zach Zwinak. The score held up as the difference going into halftime.

Pete DiNovo, meanwhile, struggled during his first start as UCF’s quarterback. DiNovo was 3-of-7 passing for 18 yards. The quarterback’s inability to connect in the passing game allowed Penn State to load the box and shut down the Knights’ running game. The Knights only had 17 yards via the ground game.

Due to DiNovo’s ineffectiveness, UCF head coach George O’Leary replaced him just before halftime with sophomore Justin Holman, who served as Blake Bortles‘ backup last season.

O’Leary now has a decision to make coming out of halftime. Will he allow Holman to continue at quarterback, or will the coach go back to DiNovo?

The answer will decide UCF’s fate during the second half of play.

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CFB after dark: Houston falls to in-state underdog, Arizona’s offense still rolling

Larry Coker

Saturday may be the first full day of college football, but quality games were being played into the wee hours Friday night.

The biggest surprise on the night came from UTSA’s stunning 27-7 upset of the Houston Cougars. The Roadrunners are in their fourth season as a program and are led by head coach Larry Coker (remember him?). The program enters its first season as a full-fledged FBS member. Yet, UTSA dominated a Cougars squad that was expected to compete for an American Athletic Conference championship this year and features one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation in John O’Korn.

O’Korn and the Cougars couldn’t get on track on offense. Houston only managed 206 total yards. The Cougars were held to minus-26 yards rushing. The Roadrunners also intercepted O’Korn four times.

The Roadrunners, meanwhile, relied on a strong running game. UTSA accumulated 146 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns.

Coker is now 20-15 overall as he continues to build the Roadrunners program. Despite being 60-15 during his six seasons as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes and a national championship, Coker couldn’t be happier than he is today.

“It’s probably the most rewarding thing I’ve been involved with as far as coaching is concerned,” Coker told SI.com’s Pete Thamel.

In Las Vegas, the underdog UNLV Rebels didn’t have a chance against the Arizona Wildcats.

UNLV ran into a buzzsaw Friday night during a 58-13 loss to the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona’s redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon starred during his first start. Solomon threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns as the offense rolled up a school record 787 total yards. The performance was stunning after Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez waited until earlier in the week to finally name Solomon the starting quarterback.

During the Wildcats’ impressive offensive effort, two running backs, Terris Jones-Grigsby and Nick Wilson, as well as two receivers, Austin Hill and Samajie Grant, accumulated 100 yards on the ground and in the air.

The Wildcats added an exclamation point to start of their season. Arizona’s next opponent? The UTSA Roadrunners.

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Auburn’s Robenson Therezie ruled eligible to play against Arkansas

Robenson Therezie, Brett Bartolone

One the eve of college football’s first Saturday of the season, the Auburn Tigers received very good news. The team’s “star” on defense, Robenson Therezie, will be eligible to play against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The news was announced Friday night on twitter by the school’s sports information director, Kirk Sampson.

There were concerns Therezie wouldn’t be able to play at the start of the season. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said two weeks ago Therezie was “working through some eligibility issues.”

The school never specified the issues, but Therezie was cleared just in time. The senior is a key cog in Ellis Johnson‘s defense. Not only is Therezie an opportunistic pass defender, but he is also a strong run defender. Last season, Therezie finished sixth on the team with 57 total tackles and led the team with four interceptions. His leadership in the secondary only adds to the team’s most experienced unit. Four of the five starters among the Tigers’ defensive backs are seniors. This level of experience will only help as the team attempts to repeat as SEC champions.

The addition of Therezie also helps build depth along the Tigers’ secondary. The senior isn’t guaranteed to start against the Razorbacks, though. The coaching staff prepared junior Justin Garrett to start over the course of two weeks. Garrett can now be counted upon when needed to provide quality reps in the defense. It will be up to Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn to decide whether or not Therezie starts.

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Access denied: FIU doesn’t provide credential for only beat writer

Ron Turner, FIU

Exposure is everything in today’s college football landscape. Unfortunately for the players at Florida International University, the school’s decision makers don’t feel the same way.

FIU and the Miami Herald are caught in a little tiff.

The Herald is the only news agency in the area which employs a beat writer to cover FIU athletics. In the infinite wisdom of those making decisions at FIU, they denied access to the Herald’s beat writer, David J. Neal, for the Panthers’ season-opener against Bethune-Cookman.

“It’s unprecedented for any local team to refuse to credential our beat reporter without reason,” Miami Herald Executive Editor Aminda Marqués Gonzalez said. “The team does not get to choose who covers the program.”

The newspaper decided not cover the game at all after FIU denied the credential.

“We’re very disappointed the Herald has decided on this course,” Sandra Gonzalez-Levy, FIU’s senior vice president for external relations, said. “Credentials were given to other reporters. We regret that this is the Herald’s choice.”

FIU never provided a reason why Neal’s credential was denied.

It’s simply another misstep for a football program has been in a downward spiral since it fired Mario Cristobal. During Cristobal’s tenure the coach led the Panthers to two bowl games before he was unceremoniously dismissed. The team then struggled to find any coaching candidates that were interested in the vacant position. The team eventually hired Ron Turner, who finished with an 1-11 record during his first season.

Furthermore, the people hurt by this decision are the players. They don’t get the exposure they deserve for the work they’ve done. And the community doesn’t have the opportunity to read about a program the newspaper is willing to support.

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Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury receives contract extension

Kliff Kingsbury

An 8-5 record for a first-time coach was impressive enough for Texas Tech’s brass to pony up more cash. On the eve of the college football season, Texas Tech announced a three-year contract extenstion with head coach Kliff Kingsbury. 

“The new deal, which will run through the 2020 season, has a guaranteed total base of $24.2 million. Including this season Tech will pay Kingsbury an average of $3.5 million per year,” sources told FOX Sports‘ Bruce Feldman.

Kingsbury’s original contract was slated to end in 2017.

According to Feldman, Kingsbury signed the deal Friday, and it makes him the fourth highest-paid head coach in the Big 12 Conference behind Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Baylor’s Art Briles and Texas’ Charlie Strong.

“The deal also affords the charismatic 35-year-old to earn as much as an extra $1.5 million in bonuses each year,” Feldman reported. “Kingsbury can max $34.7 million over the length of the contract.”

Bottom line:  This is a preventative measure by Texas Tech.

The school is investing heavily in Kingsbury to keep him in Lubbock long term. Kingsbury is one of the youngest and most exciting coaches in college football. Despite graduating from Texas Tech, there was continued whispers Kingsbury would eventually leave the program for a higher profile program or the NFL. But Kingsbury put those rumors to rest.

“This is where I want to be and I couldn’t be happier,” Kingsbury said in the statement.  “I can’t wait to take this thing to the next level.”

A potential departure will be difficult anyhow.

Texas Tech isn’t simply investing to keep a popular young coach in town. The university is setting up the athletic department for success in the future.

Earlier Friday, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt updated numbers to promote the school’s “Campaign for Fearless Champions.” The school has already raised $75 million, but the number is far short of its goal of $185 million.

The school also unveiled plans Friday to continue to fund improvements in 17 sports.

“We want to move as quickly as we can, but we are dependent upon having the funding streams and revenue in place,” Hocutt told the Lubbock Avalanche’s Don Williams. “We will continue to visit with folks about investing into these facilities, and as the opportunity presents itself — from a funding mechanism, from fundraising success — we will move forward.”

As part of the campaign, Texas Tech plans to build onto Jones AT&T Stadium by adding a “three-level south end zone building that can house 30 suites — 15 each on levels two and three — and a Hall of Fame, stadium club and athlete dining hall on the lower level.”

In order to make money, a program has to spend money.

An investment in a talented young coach like Kingsbury is a legitimate step in the school realizing its vision. Kingsbury, meanwhile, must continue to prepare his team for Saturday’s opponent, Central Arkansas. Kingsbury’s extension is certainly a good start to the Reds Raiders’ season.

“There has never been a more exciting time within our football program than now,” Hocutt said. “I am very proud of the program Coach Kingsbury is building and I know our fans are as well. We can’t wait to kick off the season tomorrow night at Jones AT&T Stadium and are looking forward to a bright future.”

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Report: Les Miles picks Anthony Jennings to start at QB

Anthony Jennings

The LSU Tigers have a difficult match-up against the Wisconsin Badgers to open the season, and sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings will be the man responsible to lead the Tigers onto the field.

“… Jennings will start at quarterback for the Tigers in their season opening game against Wisconsin here Saturday,” a source told The Times-Picayune‘s Jim Kleinpeter.

Jennings is in a competition with fellow sophomore Brandon Harris to earn the spot vacated by Zach Mettenberger. Last season, Jennings served as Mettenberger’s backup. Jennings played in nine games and started the Outback Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes. In limited playing time, Jennings was 13-of-29 passing for 181 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Due to his role last year, Jennings was projected as the favorite to win the starting position. However, he struggled mightily in the bowl game. LSU won the contest despite his play. And Harris was a highly-regarded four-star recruit.

While Jennings is on the verge of opening the season as the Tigers’ starting quarterback, this competition likely isn’t over. LSU head coach Les Miles has been very secretive of the play of his quarterbacks during fall practice. Jennings might have the slight edge due to experience, but a slight dip in his play may cause Miles to go in a different direction at quarterback.

Miles said earlier this month he would name a starter when “it’s appropriate or when it’s right or two quarterbacks aren’t going to play, we’ll name a starter.”

The head coach has yet to officially name Jennings the starter, which means Harris may even have a chance of playing at some point against the Badgers.

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Suspended LB claims Oklahoma made him a ‘scapegoat’

Texas v Oklahoma

Oklahoma linebacker Frank Shannon isn’t pulling any punches after being suspended by the university for a year due to an accusation of sexual assault.

Shannon’s attorney, Aletia Timmons, spoke with the media Friday. Timmons painted a completely different picture than the one that was originally given regarding Shannon’s status.

The most pertinent statement made to the media was Shannon’s claim of innocence.

Shannon and his representation took the linebacker’s claims a step further.

The university reportedly conducted an internal investigation before it handed down it’s punishment. In doing so, Shannon claims the school “failed” him and made him into a “scapegoat.” Shannon even submitted to a polygraph test to clear his name.

Shannon never considered the possibility of transferring from the University of Oklahoma.

“I’m not running,” Shannon told Timmons during their initial meeting, according to The Oklahoman. “I’m not going to be branded as a rapist.”

Instead, Shannon plans to publicly protest the university’s decision to have him suspended.

Shannon’s adamant views make this a compelling case. The university and its football team have to err on the side of caution. Whereas, Shannon obviously feels like his name is being dragged through the mud.

The only thing that bring some finality to this case is the results of the ongoing investigation by the police department. The university can’t budge on its current stance after stating it “takes very seriously its obligation in cases like this.” And Shannon shouldn’t back down if he’s innocent.

Shannon, who was Oklahoma’s leading tackler a year ago, still has the “ability to appeal any decision reached by the University to a district court.” Until then, he’ll have to wait on the sidelines until some type of decision is made.

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UCF unveils new helmet for Croke Park Classic

George O'Leary

Head coach George O’Leary and the UCF Knights are fully immersing themselves into the pageantry which comes along with playing the team’s first game in Dublin, Ireland against the Penn State Nittany Lions.

The team is taking in the culture and loving the cooler temperatures of the Emerald Isle.

“This is football weather,” O’Leary told the Orlando Sentinel.

We can’t forget about the tweak to the uniforms. The Knights will have a little bit of luck on their side with their logo for the special game.

Penn State, of course, won’t be making any changes to their classic uniforms.

It also appears Ireland readily accepted O’Leary and his Knights.

Reminder: The game begins 8:30 a.m. EST to kick off the first Saturday of college football with the right combination of rolling green field and talented football teams.

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Report: Josh Shaw being investigated for possible domestic violence

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl - Fresno State v USC Getty Images

The Josh Shaw story has taken a turn for the worse.

Not only did Shaw fabricate a story about saving his drowning nephew, which made the USC cornerback appear to be a hero, the reality of the situation may be more unfortunate than initially believed.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed Friday it is investigating a potential domestic abuse situation between Shaw and his girlfriend. The incident in question occurred last weekend.

In the earlier police report, officers responded to a call in an downtown Los Angeles apartment building after a “a report of a woman’s screams from a third-floor unit.”

“A neighbor reported seeing a man run across or scale a balcony, and gave a general description of the individual.”

The man fit the Shaw’s description, but he hasn’t been identified as the one exiting the building through a pried window.

The police would like to question Shaw further, but his attorney has declined the opportunity to do so.

“We would have like to hear from Mr. Shaw to provide some clarity about the situation, but that is not going to happen,” Capt. John McMahon, head of Central Division patrol, said. “In light of that, our investigation into a possible domestic dispute will continue.”

Donald Etra, Shaw’s attorney, said his client “has already spoken to the LAPD twice. We believe that is enough. The matter is over and there is no need to talk to them further. … Enough is enough.”

Shaw is indefinitely suspended from USC’s football. A return this season will likely depend on the outcome of the investigation and whether or not his teammates will accept him back. USC head coach Steve Sarkisian released a statement upon making the decision to suspend Shaw.

“We are extremely disappointed in Josh,” Sarkisian said in a statement. “He let us all down.  As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story.”

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Both BYU starting CBS don’t make trip, won’t play vs. UConn

Georgia Tech v BYU Getty Images

Heading into his first full season as the starting quarterback, Casey Cochran’s opening-day task may have just gotten a tad bit less difficult.

According to the Deseret News, senior cornerbacks Jordan Johnson and Robertson Daniel (picturedhave both been suspended for the season opener against UConn Friday night. The two players didn’t even make the trip with the their teammates to Storrs.

No reason for the disciplinary measures were given.

The losses, though, would serve as significant blows to the Cougars’ secondary as each was listed as a starter on the most recent depth chart. Instead of the two veterans, redshirt freshman Jordan Preator and sophomore Michael Davis will likely get the starting nods.

After starting 12 games in 2012, Johnson missed all of the 2013 season with an ACL injury.  Daniel started 12 games last season after transferring to the Cougars from the JUCO ranks.

The two become the third and fourth Cougar players to be suspended for the opener, joining star running back Jamaal Williams (underage drinking arrest) and backup wide receiver Devon Blackmon (earrings).

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Report: starting LSU CB Rashard Robinson won’t play vs. Badgers

Florida v LSU

When LSU takes to the field for its season opener Saturday, it’ll do so without the services of one its top players in the defensive secondary.

Citing a source close to the situation, the Daily Reveille is reporting that Rashard Robinson is not making the trip with his Tiger teammates to Houston and will not play in tomorrow night’s game against Wisconsin.  The source declined to confirm why the starting cornerback would not be playing or even traveling with the team.

The football program has not yet addressed Robinson’s status for the game, although head coach Les Miles is expected to do so prior to the non-conference matchup with the Badgers.

Robinson, a four-star member of the Tigers’ 2013 recruiting class, started two of the 12 games in which he played as a true freshman last season.  With Robinson apparently out, he’ll likely be replaced by junior Jalen Collins in the starting lineup.

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Kevin Sumlin looks like he’s worth the money for Texas A&M

Kevin Sumlin AP

Kevin Sumlin is one of a handful of college football coaches being paid a $5 million annual salary — and based on Thursday night’s thrashing of South Carolina he’s worth the money.

Texas A&M ran 99 plays — 99! — in its 52-28 win, and did so with a first-time starter in Kenny Hill at quarterback. But, as Yahoo’s Pat Forde argues, maybe last night’s win was just as much about Hill as it was about Sumlin’s system:

Clearly, the pony has plenty of tricks. Sumlin acknowledged a “chip on the shoulder” after reading media predictions calling for the Aggies’ demise.

“Let’s see if they can coach now that the best player in college football is gone,” he said. “… Probably had some coaches, including myself, who took some comments personal in the offseason.”

Sumlin knew what his offense had done before Manziel – when Case Keenum became the NCAA’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns and completions at Houston. So he knew what his offense could do after Manziel as well.

Namely, churn out yards and put up points with spectacular ease. And speed. The Aggies clicked off a staggering 99 plays Thursday, exhausting and bewildering the Gamecocks.

This isn’t to say Texas A&M can win with any quarterback in there. But Sumlin has found three quarterbacks in Case Keenum, Johnny Manziel and Hill who can run his offense to perfection.

Armed with the right quarterback, Sumlin’s offense is incredibly difficult to stop. And make no mistake, Hill deserves a ton of credit for going into Columbia and playing as well as he did in his first career start. He completed 44 of 60 passes for 511 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

But if Sumlin can get that kind of game out of a first-time starter in a hostile environment…then yeah, maybe that $5 million price tag is worth it.

It’s the same $5 million price tag Spurrier poked fun at over the summer.

“A&M has recruited well, I know that. I read those rankings every year,” Spurrier said. “Kevin Sumlin has an excellent record as a coach. He’s a good negotiator, we know that also.”

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