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The Fifth Quarter: Week 6 Rewind

Washington v Stanford 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

Still standing tall on The Farm… barely
Washington outgained Stanford 489-279, and not-so unexpectedly doubled up the Cardinal in first downs 30-14.  Keith Price threw for 350 yards, while Kevin Hogan managed just 100.  Thanks to Ty Montgomery — and a fortuitous replay booth reversal on fourth down with just over a minute left — the Cardinal still managed to escape in spite of the statistical disadvantage with a hard-fought 31-28 win.  Montgomery totaled 204 yards on four kick returns, including a 99-yarder for a touchdown on the opening kickoff.  The junior wide receiver also caught a touchdown pass, and totaled 290 all-purpose yards on the night.  It was far from pretty, but it was a quality win over an above-average and undefeated opponent that should do nothing but strengthen the Cardinal’s résumé in the eyes of the national media.  Speaking of which…

Buckeye beat goes on… barely
You can almost hear the voters licking their chops from here.  Yes, Ohio State pushed its nation’s-best winning streak to 18 games in a row with a victory over a very good and very much unbeaten Northwestern on the road.  No, the Buckeyes didn’t look their best, in large part due to the fact that they were playing a very good and very much undefeated Wildcats team on the road.  No, the game wasn’t decided until the final minute, again due in large part to the fact that they were playing a very good and very much undefeated Wildcats team on the road (noticing the theme?).  Voters will very likely devalue the win because it was “just” Northwestern; they shouldn’t.  Drop the Buckeyes if you must, but do it because you view schools behind them as the better team or teams, not because they eked by a squad that’s not your grandfather’s — hell, your father’s — Wildcats.  Doing that would be a slap in the face to what Pat Fitzgerald is building in Evanston.

Lache Seastrunk, Karl JosephBearly legal offense
I’ve been watching the game of college football for more than 30 years, and, no offense to Oregon, I’m fairly certain that I’ve never witnessed anything like what’s going on in Waco.  The devastating speed and laser-like precision in which Baylor’s offense leaves a trail of defensive carnage in its wake is awe-inspiring.  The Bears totaled 56 points and 617 yards in the first half alone against West Virginia; those totals were the fourth-most WVU has ever given up… for an entire game.  The Bears took their foot off the gas in the second half, totaling 66 points and 745 yards through three quarters and 73 points and a Big 12-record 872 yards at game’s end.  Baylor now has the three highest single-game yardage marks this season with the total last night and 781 twice (Oregon has Nos. 4 and 5, incidentally) and they’ve played just four games.  And it’s not like the Mountaineers are horrific on defense; in three games against Oklahoma, Maryland and Oklahoma State, WVU gave up an average of 24.6 points and 397 yards.  Much like with the Buckeyes, critics will sneer in the general direction of what the Bears are doing, waiting for Art Briles‘ crew to sputter against the likes of, well, Oklahoma mainly.  I, for one, am borderline giddy over the prospects of that Nov. 7 game in Norman.  You’d better believe BU is feeling the same, if for nothing more than the opportunity to silence the doubters as well as put themselves squarely in the conference driver’s seat.

Smokin’ Winston
The talent Jameis Winston possesses is unfair and should be illegal — hell, it may already be illegal in several states as it is.  His play — and the play — against Maryland further solidified the legend that continues to grow by the week: 23-of-32 for 393 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in just three quarters — plus one play in the fourth — of work.  For the season, his first as a starter, Winston is now completing 73.2 percent of his passes for 1,441 yards, 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions.  After just five games, Winston is already establishing himself as the future of the position for at least the next year and a half.  How he factors into this season’s Heisman discussion, however, should be determined in two weeks when the Seminoles travel to Death Valley to take on Clemson in a game that will be dripping with BCS implications. Speaking of which…

Boy oh Boyd
I understand that football is the ultimate team game, but the Tajh Boyd-Jameis Winston game-within-the-game will be utterly fascinating to watch play out.  In a couple of minutes of playing time less than Winston, Boyd lit up Syracuse for 455 yards and five touchdowns, although he did throw his first two interceptions of the season.  Aside from the BCS implications, the Boyd-Winston showdown could go a long way in determining a Heisman front-runner, or at the very least who deserves to be among the front-runners with less than two months until the stiff-armed trophy is awarded.

Gutsy UGA
When you consider the injuries Georgia had coming into this game… and the myriad injuries they incurred during it… and coming off a span of four games that saw them play three teams that were ranked or are currently ranked inside the Top Six, Saturday’s overtime win over Tennessee was as impressive as any they have had this season.  It was a gutsy performance in a game that, in all honesty, the Bulldogs likely deserved to lose.  They didn’t, though, and because of that UGA remains in the thick of the BCS title hunt.  Those injuries, however, could come back to haunt them and hurt them more down the road than a loss Saturday would’ve.

Live at The MettZach Mettenberger, Conner Neighbors
While there has been a plethora of outstanding quarterback play thus far this season, there might not be a more improved player at the position than Zach Mettenberger.  The senior came into the game sixth in the country in passing efficiency (he was 67th last season), and did nothing to hurt that standing.  In the 59-26 win over Mississippi State, Mettenberger completed 25-of-29 passes for 340 yards and a pair of touchdowns, although he did throw his second interception of the season.  While a lot of the credit for Mettenberger’s astronomical rise (rightly) goes to new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the player deserves as a sizable chunk of it as he put in yeoman’s work this offseason to get better.  Why Mettenberger’s barely on the periphery of the Heisman discussion is beyond me.  A winning team plus eye-popping stats normally equates to stiff-armed talk.  Maybe one of these weeks eyes will open to what’s going on down on the Bayou.

What’s this “running the football” you speak of?
For anyone who’s a fan of passing the football, Saturday’s Washington State-Cal game was like Christmas in early October.  With strippers and booze.  In the Cougars’ 44-22 win, the two teams combined for an astounding 1,027 yards in the air, with Wazzu’s Connor Halliday accounting for 521 and Cal’s Jared Goff 489 more.  Of the 179 plays that were run in the game, 129 of them were pass attempts.  On the carries that were few and far between, relatively speaking, Cal totaled 79 yards rushing while Wazzu mustered just 49.  And, yes, somewhere Woody Hayes is rolling over in his grave at what the game has become.  And punching an angel.  Probably.

Hope on The Plains
To say that the Gus Malzahn era at Auburn has gotten off to a rousing start would be a massive understatement.  With the 30-22 win over No. 24 (for now) Ole Miss, the Tigers improved to 4-1 on the season; in the last year under Gene Chizik, AU won just three games.  Malzahn’s charges have already won two SEC games after going 0-8 in the conference in 2012.  With Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama left on the schedule, any shot at a return to the SEC championship game would appear to be nothing more than a pipe dream.  However, with four very winnable games outside of that, the Tigers should slide comfortably into bowl eligibility, which would be a helluva just — and unexpected — reward for Malzahn and his players.

No quit in SMU
June Jones may be on the losing end of a battle for his job, but if the head coach ends up on the unemployment line it won’t be because his players gave up on him.  SMU came back from not one but two 21-point deficits in their game against Rutgers to force overtime… and another… and another before finally succumbing to the Scarlet Knights 55-52 in three extra sessions.  The wild affair included an absolutely unbelievable two-point conversion with just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter to send the contest into its first overtime.

LOSERS

Not-so-merryland
Heading into an unexpected matchup of unbeatens, Maryland had lost all 11 games it had played in Tallahassee and was 2-21 all-time against Florida State, with the last win coming in October of 2006.  Suffice to say, that history doesn’t look any better for the Terps exiting Week 6.  The 63 points the Terps allowed to the Seminoles were the most since they coughed up 70 to Penn State way back in 1993.  The loss was the most lopsided by a ranked team since No. 11 Texas was taken to a 66-3 woodshed by UCLA in 1997.  Maryland’s defense entered the game having allowed four touchdowns in four games; FSU scored touchdowns on eight consecutive possessions at one point and nine total.  After winning just six games total the first two seasons of the Randy Edsall era, the Terps certainly appear to be on the right track.  After today’s derailment, however, they undoubtedly have a long way to go ahead of its move to the Big Ten in 2014.

Still Mullen change
I hate beating a deceased equine (not really), but the situation in Starkvegas bears watching.  In four-plus seasons at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen is 18-4 in non-conference games.  Counting the 33-point beatdown at the hands of LSU Saturday, Mullen is now 13-21 in SEC play, including an 0-2 mark this season.  Hey, if MSU officials are fine with 7-9 wins every season and Music City/Gator Bowl berths, have at it.  If settling for mediocrity is not what they want for their football program, they need to think long and hard about whether Mullen is the coach that can push the Bulldogs to the level of the Alabama’s and Georgia’s and LSU’s of the SEC.

Charlie WeisSorry Charlie… literally
After taking a surprising 10-0 lead on Texas Tech, Kansas allowed the Red Raiders to come back and tie the game at 10-apiece.  Facing a fourth and 13 from his own 16-yard line, Charlie Weis did what any coach with a clear head and sound mind would do in a tie game in the middle of the second quarter: he called for a fake punt.  Of course, the try came up shy as they turned the ball back over to the Red Raiders, which converted the play-calling gaffe into a touchdown as part of a 44-point run in their 54-16 romp.  If there were ever a sequence that sums up Weis’ tenure as a college coach — head, coordinator and otherwise — that was it. Just embarrassing.

Southern aMiss
Or “Southern Missery,” you pick the pun.  Anyway, we now come to the gut-punch part of the program.  Southern Miss entered its home game against winless FIU sporting a nation’s worst 16-game losing streak.  On the final play of the game, a 44-yard field goal attempt that would’ve won it for the Golden Eagles was no good, extending Southern Miss’ misery to 17 consecutive games.  Todd Monken is a good football coach, and it’s hard to see the university doing a one-and-done at the head-coaching position in back-to-back years, but it has to be awfully tempting for the administration to blow it up yet again.  Of course, that would be the absolute worst tack to take, but you never know in this win-now-or-else era.

Grounded Air Force
Apparently, a sizable chunk of the Air Force football program was furloughed even prior to the official government shutdown implemented earlier this week.  How else can you explain what’s happened to the Falcons?  In the first four seasons under Troy Calhoun, Air Force bookended a pair of eight-win seasons with nine-win years.  In 2011 and 2012, however, the Falcons combined to win just 13 games, dovetailing into the tailspin that the 2013 season has become: with the 28-10 loss to Navy, Air Force is now 1-5 on the season, its worst start since a 1-5 start in 1993.  The Falcons’ only win came against FCS-level Colgate, and they’ve lost their five FBS games by a combined total of 108 points.  Calhoun is so well-respected by officials at the academy in Colorado Springs that it’s doubtful his job is in jeopardy.  However, the program had better begin turning itself around in a hurry as, if it doesn’t, you might not keep Calhoun off the hot seat in 2014.

Hoosier non-hysteria
You want to know how I know the college basketball season is fast approaching?  I saw this picture of Indiana’s home “crowd” taken 10 minutes or so before the start of the game against Penn State:

Indiana Fans

Yes, I understand that the weather was not exactly optimal.  However, you live in the Midwest; the weather in that area of the country is rarely ever optimal, especially in October and beyond.  Just a bad look, Hoosiers.  A bad, bad look, especially in light of the fact that the Hoosiers went out and scored its first-ever win over the Nittany Lions a couple of hours later.

Picky beater
If there were ever an opportunity to point to an individual player in a team game and say he singlehandedly lost the contest, it would’ve been Thursday night’s UCLA-Utah matchup.  In the Utes’ loss, quarterback Travis Wilson threw a staggering total of six interceptions.  As if that weren’t bad enough, the Bruins turned those six picks into 24 of their 34 points, which included, appropriately enough, a pick-six.  Five of Wilson’s interceptions came in a second half that saw the Utes tied with the Bruins early in the fourth quarter. “Minus-five in the turnover margin pretty much says it all when you play a team the caliber of UCLA. You turn it over six times and gain one, you’re not going to win,” head coach Kyle Whittingham succinctly stated after the loss.

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

— No. 1 Alabama 45, Georgia State 3: Yes, the Tide won by 42, but they were favored by 54.5 or so.  And they allowed a newly-minted FBS program to not only cross midfield but score.  So there.

— No. 11 Oklahoma 20, TCU 17: The Horned Frogs have one of the toughest defenses in the Big 12, and it showed as the Sooners mustered a season-low 355 yards of offense.  A 76-yard touchdown run by Brennan Clay late in the fourth quarter, however, proved to be almost all of the offense needed.

— No. 12 UCLA 34, Utah 27: As noted above, nothing good happens when you commit six turnovers… unless you’re the beneficiaries of said turnovers as the Bruins were.

Kentucky v South Carolina– No. 13 South Carolina 35, Kentucky 28: The Gamecocks were cruising along with a 27-7 lead in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats exploded for 21 points to make the game closer than it should’ve been.  I’ll just chalk this one up to The Ol’ Ball Coach being bored in the fourth quarter or something.

— No. 14 Miami 45, Georgia Tech 30: This is one of those games where the final score doesn’t tell the whole story as the Yellow Jackets had pulled to within one at 24-23 with 10:38 to go in the game.  The Hurricanes, however, scored the next 21 points in a six-minute stretch to ice the game and remain unbeaten.

— No. 21 Oklahoma State 33, Kansas State 29: The Cowboys needed a touchdown with just over for four minutes remaining, and a field goal with just over two minutes left, to finally overcome four deficits in a back-and-forth affair and avoid losing its second straight game.

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 champs scrimmaged this weekend.  The outcome was expected.  Not much to see or say here, other than thank goodness that part of the Tide’s schedule has come to an end… ah crap; Chattanooga the week before the Iron Bowl. Oh well, at least a game against LSU is in the offing. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: at Kentucky

2. Oregon — Another week, another 55-plus points on the scoreboard.  This coming weekend, though, will be where we begin to learn exactly where the Ducks stand nationally as three of their next four games are against teams currently ranked in the Top 15, including a Nov. 7 trip to The Farm. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: at No. 15 Washington

Tajh Boyd,3. Clemson — After a three-point win over then-No. 5 Georgia, the Tigers have won their last four by an average of 33.7 points.  Clemson has its own date with BCS destiny in two weeks, but must avoid, well, ya know this weekend. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: vs. Boston College

4. Ohio State — The coaches and media may downgrade the Buckeyes’ win over Northwestern, but I won’t.  That was a quality W in my book, especially coming off a solid win over Wisconsin the week before. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: vs. Iowa

5. Stanford — The big win over No. 15 Washington is part of five-week stretch that includes home games against No. 12 UCLA and No. 2 Oregon, as well as a road trip to Corvallis against 4-1 Oregon State.  If The Cardinal comes through that stretch unscathed, they will vault up the rankings. (Last week: No. 5)
Next up: at Utah

HE SAID IT
“Well first of all, I want to thank our great fan base. Electric atmosphere, they definitely created a home field advantage. That’s why they’re the best in the country. I want to thank our student body. Over 12,000 students came out. I think what we learned is we need that environment. We’re going to need that. I need to challenge everyone. I need you to come to the South Carolina game. We’re on winter break and our team needs it.” — Tennessee’s Butch Jones.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“[Guys] are doing their own crap.” — Steve Spurrier, a bit perturbed at how his freelancing South Carolina defense performed in the win over Kentucky.

SAY WHAT?
In Week Six of the 2013 season, three teams fell from the ranks of the unbeaten, and all three losses came against fellow unbeatens: Maryland (to Florida State), Northwestern (to Ohio State) and Washington (to Stanford).  There are now 17 teams at the FBS level that have yet to lose a game.  The ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 each have three undefeated teams apiece, while the AAC, Big Ten and SEC have two each.  The other two unbeatens come from the MAC (Northern Illinois) and MWC (Fresno State).

On the flip side, both FIU and USF picked up their first wins of the year, dropping the total of winless teams from 11 to nine.  UConn (0-4) and Temple (0-5) are the only winless teams from an automatic qualifying conference, and both of those are from the AAC.

TRUE STORY
The last 12 games Wisconsin has lost, going back more than three years, have been by a combined total of 53 points, none by more than seven points.  Included in that total are a pair of two-point losses and four more by a field goal.  A full quarter of those 12 losses came in overtime.  The last loss by more than a touchdown?  A 34-21 defeat at the hands of Michigan State Oct. 2, 2010, in East Lansing.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— With a 24-yard pass in the second quarter, Georgia’s Aaron Murray became the SEC’s all-time leader in career passing yards with 11,548.  He surpassed the previous record of 11,528 set by former Bulldog David Greene.

Marcus Mariota totaled 398 yards of offense (355 passing, 43 rushing) and seven touchdowns (five passing, two rushing) in Oregon’s 57-16 win over Colorado.  Mariota is a big reason why the Ducks have scored at least 55 points in all five games this season.

Fresno State v Idaho– Fresno State’s Derek Carr passed for 390 yards and five touchdowns… in the first half.  The Bulldogs as a team put up 557 yards of total offense in jumping out to a 47-0 halftime lead.  Carr finished with 419 yards and the same five touchdowns in the 61-14 win over Idaho.

Garrett Gilbert accounted for five touchdowns passing and another two on the ground in SMU’s triple-overtime loss to Rutgers.

— In the 38-24 win over Kent State, and on his birthday, Northern Illinois running back Cameron Stingily ran 37 times for 269 yards.

Logan Thomas threw for 293 yards in Virginia Tech’s 10-point win over North Carolina; it was the quarterback’s highest total in a winning effort since he threw for 310 yards in an Oct. 8, 2011, game against Miami.  He also tied a career-high with three touchdown passes, which he also did twice in 2011.

Ameer Abdullah ran for a career-high 225 yards on just 20 carries in Nebraska’s easy 39-19 romp over Illinois.

— In 26 minutes of play in Alabama’s scrimmage against Georgia State, AJ McCarron tied a career-high with four first-half touchdown passes.  He also completed 12 straight passes at one point, which is tied for the third-longest such streak in school history.  All told, Tide quarterbacks completed passes to a whopping 15 different players.

— In Iowa State’s controversial loss to Texas, wide receiver Quenton Bundrage caught five passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.  Bundrage’s score was a 97-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter.  And, before you ask, yes, I included this note just so I could type the name “Bundrage” a couple of times.

— Ohio State has now won 29 of its last 30 games against Northwestern, with the Wildcats’ last win coming in 2004.  It’s also been 54 years since NU has beaten a Top-Five team (Iowa, 1959), a streak of 37 straight losses.

— The state of Florida was 7-0 in FBS play Saturday, with FIU and USF picking up its first wins of the season.  The prefect record for the Sunshine State squads is the first time that’s ever happened on the same weekend.

— Thanks to a pair of interceptions each by Clemson and Oregon, New Mexico is the only team at the FBS level that has not thrown a pick this season.

— Colorado (four games) and Southern Miss (five) are the only two teams at the FBS level that has not scored a rushing touchdown this season.

— West Virginia wide receivers caught one pass in a loss a couple of weeks ago; Syracuse went one better as its receivers had zero catches in the blowout loss to Clemson.

— Temple is the only FBS team that has not intercepted a pass this season.

Butch Jones– With the heartbreaking, punch-in-the-gut loss to Georgia, the Vols have now lost 19 straight games against teams that were ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.  Their last win against a Top-25 team came Oct. 31, 2009, against No. 22 South Carolina.

— It’s been 1,065 days since Kansas’ last Big 12 win (Nov. 6, 2010 vs. Colorado) and 1,456 days since the Jayhawks’ last conference win over a team still in the league (Oct. 10, 2009 against Iowa State).

— Speaking of conference losing streaks, Illinois’ blowout loss at the hands of Nebraska was the Illini’s 15th straight in Big Ten play.  Their last league victory came against Indiana Oct. 8, 2011.

— TCU was unable to earn a first down until there was 8:35 left in the third quarter of its loss to Oklahoma.

— Navy’s win over Air Force bodes well for the Midshipmen as the last 13 winners of the Navy-Air Force games has gone on to claim the Commander-In-Chief Trophy.

— Boston College’s eight penalties through four game was the lowest total in the country entering Week 6.  In the 48-27 win over Army, the Eagles were flagged six times.

— Miami of Ohio came into their game with Central Michigan with just five third-down conversions in four games; in their 21-9 loss, they converted 5-of-15.

— Wake Forest and North Carolina played for the 104th straight year Saturday, the fourth-longest such streak in college football.

— In their overtime game Friday night, Nevada and San Diego State combined for 95 points, 1,111 yards and 55 first downs.  The Aztecs were able to escape with a 51-44 win thanks to a 13-yard touchdown pass from Quinn Kaehler in the first overtime.

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Kam Lott transferring from Rutgers to be closer to Fla. home

Kam Lott

After a couple of positives Saturday, Rutgers was due for a little bit of a downer.

Friday, reports surfaced that Kam Lott had decided to take his leave of the Scarlet Knights football program.  A day later, the cornerback took to social media to confirm as much.

In a missive posted to his Twitter account late Saturday morning, Lott explained that he had decided to transfer out in order to be closer to be closer to his family in Jacksonville. Fla.

Lott was a three-star member of RU’s 2014 recruiting class.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman.

If Lott transfers to another FBS institution, he’ll be forced to sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA bylaws.

(Photo credit: Rutgers athletics)

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Notre Dame catches USC in Pro Football Hall of Famers

Hawaii v USC

Saturday night, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its eight-man class that will be enshrined in Canton later this year.  Not so unexpectedly, the two most-represented colleges in that prestigious club coming in added to its respective totals.

Running back Jerome Bettis and wide receiver Tim Brown, from Notre Dame, as well as the late linebacker Junior Seau, from USC, are a part of the to-be-inducted octet.  Entering this weekend, the Trojans led all college football teams with 11 Hall of Famers; after today, the Men of Troy are tied with the Irish at 12 apiece.

The other 2015 first-year eligible inductees include former Dallas Cowboy and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Charles Haley (James Madison) and former Kansas City Chiefs guard Will Shields (Nebraska). Seniors nominee Mick Tingelhoff (Nebraska) and contributors Bill Polian (New York University) and Ron Wolf (played college baseball at Maryville (Tenn.) College) are part of the newest class as well.

Behind the even dozen from ND and USC, Ohio State has nine Pro Football Hall of Famers, followed by Michigan and Pittsburgh (eight each) and Alabama and Syracuse (seven each).

The inclusion of Shields and Tingelhoff pushes Nebraska’s total to five, which ties them for 13th all-time with Arizona State, SMU and UCLA.

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D-III champs Wisconsin-Whitewater stays in-house for new coach

Kevin Bullis

In replacing a living legend, the most dominant program at the Division III level over the last decade didn’t have to look very far.

Friday, Wisconsin-Whitewater announced that Kevin Bullis has been promoted to the position of head coach.  Bullis has spent the past seven seasons with the Warhawks as a defensive assistant, most recently as defensive line coach.

Including Bullis, there were five finalists for the job.  The other four, who came from outside the program, were three head coaches — Wabash College’s Erick Raeburn, Urbana’s Dave Taynor, Ohio Northern’s Dean Paul — and one defensive coordinator — UW-Platteville’s Rob Erickson.

“We are thrilled to promote Kevin to the position of head football coach at UW-Whitewater,” athletic director Amy Edmonds said. “His passion, integrity and understanding of the holistic student-athlete experience stood out during the search and screen process. Kevin understands the rich history of Warhawk football and the entire university, and we are confident in his ability to continue our tradition of excellence both on and off the field.”

Bullis becomes the 21st head coach in the program’s history, but just the fourth in the last 60 years. He replaces Lance Leipold, who left to take the head-coaching job at Buffalo of the MAC.

During Leipold’s eight seasons at UW-W, the Warhawks went an astounding 109-6, which includes a current 32-game winning streak. The Warhawks also won six national championships in Leipold’s tenure, and lost in the championship game in another.

UW-W has claimed the last two titles, including a 42-34 Stagg Bowl win over fellow Div. III power Mount Union last month.

(Photo credit: Wisconsin-Whitewater athletics)

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Utah DC target Pendergast reportedly headed to NFL

Clancy Pendergast AP

Friday a report surfaced that Clancy Pendergast was the front-runner for the defensive coordinator position at Utah.  A day later, it appears the Pac-12 program will have to look elsewhere.

Instead of the Utes coordinator job, it’s being reported by FOXSports.com‘s Alex Marvez that Pendergast will be named as the inside linebacker coach for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.  Marvez did confirm, though, that Pendergast interviewed for the Utah job.

If the move to the NFL comes to fruition, it’ll put Pendergast back at the level in which he’s spent the majority of his coaching career.

Pendergast was last on the sidelines as the coordinator at USC in 2013, his lone season with the Trojans.  He wasn’t retained as part of Steve Sarkisian‘s new coaching staff.  For the three years before that, he served in the same position at Cal.

Prior to that, Pendergast had spent 15 seasons as an assistant at the NFL level.  During his stint as coordinator with Arizona (2004-08), the Cardinals earned the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl berth following the 2008 season.

The Utes have been without a coordinator on the defensive side of the ball for well over a month after Kalani Sitake left for the same post at Oregon State.

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Rutgers’ Sam Bergen granted sixth season of eligibility

Sam Bergen

It’s good news aplenty for Rutgers football this Saturday.

Earlier today we noted that a talented wide receiver has been reinstated to the football program.  Now comes word that Sam Bergen has received a sixth season of eligibility and will play for the Scarlet Knights in 2015, which the school announced in a press release.

A pair of knee surgeries sidelined the fullback for the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons, while yet another knee injury in the 2013 opener cost him the remainder of that season as well.

“I love it here. I love playing football. I love the offseason program, the camaraderie in the locker room. I just love everything about it,” Bergen said in quotes distributed by the school. “I can’t understand why someone would turn that down if they could potentially have one more year of it. Maybe I’m crazy but that’s the way I feel about it. I love Rutgers. The people here are great. It’s a great program. We played against the best competition in the country and if you love football it’s a no-brainer to me.

“I first started playing football in seventh grade. It’s been a huge part of my life for a while. I’m not ready to put down the helmet just yet.”

Bergen will become the fourth Scarlet Knight to play six seasons at the school, joining Brian Duffy, Edmond Laryea and Mason Robinson.

In the two seasons in which Bergen was healthy, 2012 and 2014, he played in 26 games. Bergen will be expected to continue to contribute on special teams, while also being looked at as a short-yardage/goal-line option.

With Michael Burton graduating, Bergen sees an opportunity to grab significant playing time in 2015.

“There’s definitely a void to be filled at the fullback position and I feel like I can be the guy for us who can step in and hopefully do whatever needs to be done,” he said. “There’s an opportunity there and I’m going to do everything in my power to take advantage of it.”

(Photo credit: Rutgers athletics)

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Second long-time college assistant lands with NFL’s Browns

Kurt Roper

For the second time this week, an out-of-work college assistant has landed a job at the same NFL stop.

While nothing is official, Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com is reporting that Kurt Roper will be hired by the Cleveland Browns as a senior offensive assistant.  Roper had been swept out as part of Florida’s post-2014 coaching housecleaning, and hadn’t yet latched on elsewhere.

Roper had, though, been rumored to be a candidate for the vacant offensive coordinator position.

This will mark Roper’s first foray into the professional ranks as he had spent every one of his 19 seasons as a coach at the collegiate level.  Roper served as the Gators’ offensive coordinator for just one season, not retained after Will Muschamp was fired and Jim McElwain was hired.

Prior to that, he spent six very successful seasons as the coordinator at Duke.  Prior to his time with the Blue Devils, Roper had served as an assistant on coaching staffs at Tennessee (2005; 1996-98), Kentucky (2002-04) and Ole Miss (1998-2004).

Earlier this week, the Browns confirmed that former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips had been hired as wide receivers coach.

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Vols QB Nathan Peterman considering transfer to Pitt

Alabama v Tennessee

Three weeks ago, Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian stated that there was no indication that Nathan Peterman was considering a transfer, even as the speculation suggested otherwise.

Since then, Bajakian has left for an NFL job.  And now, it appears, Peterman is seriously considering a move away from Rocky Top as well.

Citing an unnamed source, Panther-Lair.com is reporting that Peterman is visiting Pittsburgh this weekend as he looks for a new spot to continue his playing career.  The interest would make sense on multiple levels, and for both sides.

First, the Panthers are woefully lacking in depth behind starter Chad Voytik.  In fact, Peterman could come in and challenge the incumbent immediately for the starting job as he would be a graduate transfer and thus eligible to play in 2015.

Secondly, Pitt’s new offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney, served as the Vols’ coordinator from 2009-12 and helped recruit Peterman to UT.  Chaney abruptly left as Arkansas’ OC earlier this month to take the same job at Pitt.

A four-star member of UT’s 2012 recruiting class, Peterman was rated as the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the country coming out of high school in Florida.  After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Peterman started one game in 2013, breaking his hand in that loss to Florida, incidentally, and one game in 2014.

With true sophomore Josh Dobbs the future for the Vols at the position, it would likely be a wise move for Peterman to get out and use his remaining two seasons of eligibility elsewhere.

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Starting DE among four leaving Fresno State

Ikaika Woolsey, Maurice Poyadue

The attrition train has hit Fresno State hard, especially along the defensive line.

In a press release Friday night, the Bulldogs announced that four players — quarterback-turned-wide receiver Myles Carr, defensive end Maurice Poyadue, running back/defensive back/wide receiver Dillon Root and running back-turned-linebacker-turned running back T.J. Thomas — have left the football program. No reason was given for the quartet’s departure.

In the release, the school stated that Poyadue and Root will remain on scholarship this spring as they are both close to graduating, while Carr and Thomas are no longer enrolled at the university.

“We are grateful to the student-athletes for their contributions to the program and wish them the best with their future endeavors,” head coach Tim DeRuyter said in a statement.

The most notable of the departures is that of Poyadue as he had started the past seven games of the 2014 regular season.  He played in all 13 games this past season as well after playing in 12 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2013.

Poyadue, along with Carr, was one of four suspended for Fresno State’s Hawaii Bowl matchup with Rice for violating unspecified team rules.

Root’s absence will also be noticed, especially on special teams.  In 2014, Root, who was suspended for the 2014 opener, led the Bulldogs with 25 kick returns for 483 yards, while his 19.3 yards per return were second on the team.  In 2013, Root led all Bulldogs in kick returns (28) return yards (601) and yards per return (21.5).

He also caught 10 passes for 85 yards and averaged 5.6 yards on five carries in 2014.  His 596 all-purpose yards were fourth on the team.

Thomas ran for 71 yards on 11 carries last season.  Carr, who moved from quarterback after spring practice last year, did not record a reception.

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Real grass played role in LaDainian Tomlinson picking TCU

LaDainian Tomlinson AP

You hear all kinds of reasons why a recruit picks a certain school or crosses others off his list, and you’ll certainly hear more with National Signing Day right around the corner.  Never once can I recall having heard of a playing surface being a significant factor… until now.

In an interview with KTCK-AM 1310 The Ticket, LaDainian Tomlinson was asked about the recruiting process and how he ended up at TCU. First, Tomlinson explained how Texas A&M never offering him a scholarship even as they wanted him to visit led him to very nearly sign with North Texas.

He didn’t land at UNT, obviously, as he ultimately signed with TCU. What exactly, in part, led him to the Horned Frogs over the Mean Green, and Baylor too? Allow Tomlinson to explain, as transcribed by the Dallas Morning News.

“TCU was a place that allowed me to stay close to my family. My mother was in Fort Worth at the time. I really needed to stay close to home, so it really came down to TCU, North Texas and Baylor, honestly. At the end of the day, TCU was probably the best place for me because they played on grass. Even in high school, I thought about this stuff. … I said, ‘Grass would be better than turf.’ North Texas had turf and even Baylor had turf.”

So there you have it: mom plus real grass equaled TCU in Tomlinson’s equation.  It takes all kinds, as the saying goes.

Whatever the ultimate trigger was, it was a boon for TCU football.

In the 31 years prior to Tomlinson’s arrival in 1997, TCU played in two bowl games.  During Tomlinson’s four seasons with the Horned Frogs, they played in three.  In 2000, Tomlinson’s last season as well as the program’s last without Gary Patterson as head coach, the Horned Frogs won 10 games, the first time that had happened since 1938.

Individually, Tomlinson set the FBS single-game rushing record with a 406-yard performance in a 1999 game against UTEP, a mark that stood until Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon broke it with 408 yards in November of last year.  One week later, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine shattered that record with his 427-yard effort.

A decade and half finishing off a career with 5,387 yards and 56 touchdowns, Tomlinson was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2014.

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Knee surgery likely won’t keep Michigan’s Jake Butt out of spring ball

Jake Butt

For the second time in less than a year, Jake Butt has undergone a surgical procedure.  This one, though, is decidedly less significant than the first.

A team spokesperson confirmed to mlive.com that the tight end underwent microscopic surgery on his knee earlier this month.  It’s the same knee in which Butt suffered a torn ACL last February.

The procedure, which was deemed minor, is not expected to keep Butt out (get it?) of spring practice a month or two down the road.

The ACL injury cost him the first two games of the 2014 season, while a suspension cost him another.  In the nine games in which he did play, Butt caught nine passes for 211 yards, totals that were both third on the team.  His two touchdown receptions were tied for second.

As a true freshman in 2013, Butt finished third on the team in receptions (20), yards (235) and touchdowns (two). Butt, a four-star member of UM’s 2013 recruiting class rated as the No. 5 tight end in the country, is expected to play a significant role in new head coach Jim Harbaugh‘s offense, which, at least at Stanford, had a tendency to feature the tight end position.

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Reports: Rutgers reinstates receiver Ruhann Peele

Ruhann Peele, Andrew Adams

(Alliteration, it’s fun for the whole family, especially in the offseason!)

In early November, Rutgers suspended Ruhann Peele for the remainder of the 2014 season following an off-field incident.  Nearly three months later, he’s back.

According to both nj.com and ScarletScuttlebutt.com, the wide receiver has been reinstated to the football program and can now resume participating in team activities.  RU has yet to announce public Peele’s status with the team.

In late August, Peele was arrested and charged with simple assault after it was alleged that he had pulled the hair of a female accuser and scratched her face.  That charge was dismissed in December after the alleged victim failed to show for a court appearance, which helped pave the way for Peele’s return.

Peele had not played the first nine games of the 2014 season because of an unspecified upper-body injury.  He was medically cleared prior to the 10th game, which triggered the suspension.

In 2013, Peele finished fifth on the team with 28 catches for 478 yards. He was third on the team that season when, due to injuries, he was moved from receiver to cornerback in late October for a handful of games.

Entering spring practice back in the good graces of the football program, the redshirt sophomore is expected to be a significant contributor in the passing game in 2014.

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Bret Bielema, Russell Wilson and a Dolphins interview

Penn State v Wisconsin Getty Images

I don’t even know where to start with this, but, well, let’s just dive right in.

Bret Bielema interviewed for the head-coaching job with the Miami Dolphins a couple of years ago. He has now confirmed as much publicly and willingly and openly, too. Guess that’s one place to start.

Unbeknownst to the public in general and the media specifically, Bielema interviewed in “the winter of 2012,” as ESPN.com put it, for that open South Florida NFL gig. At the time, Bielema was the head coach at Wisconsin and was coming off a Rose Bowl appearance following the 2011 college football season with transfer Russell Wilson as his starting quarterback.

It’s that Bielema/Wilson/Dolphin dynamic that’s so utterly fascinating, if for nothing more than, based on Beilema’s own words, he’d possibly be in the NFL right now if the pro folks in Miami had just heeded his sage draft plan.  The following is prefaced by the ESPN writer herself noting that “Bielema insists this is true,” so there’s that.  And this:

He is a day and a half into his meetings, and is mapping out his plans with the Dolphins’ brass. He promises them a Super Bowl ring within five years if they pick Wilson, his quarterback at Wisconsin, in the upcoming draft.

The idea of selecting a 5-10 quarterback in the second round, which is where Bielema thinks they need to, does not go over well. They think he’s crazy.

“One hundred percent,” Bielema says.

“They all looked at me like, ‘You can’t say that. That’s the difference between college and pro. He’s undersized. He can’t throw.’ I was like, ‘OK, all right,’ and I honestly, that day, kind of pulled myself out of it.”

Pulling out that time, Bielema remained at UW for one more season, after which he pulled up stakes in Madison and headed to Fayetteville for the head coaching job at Arkansas.

The lesson here? Bielema, as is the case with pretty much every other coach, is more than willing to listen to overtures. Oh, he’ll listen, as the 2014-15 coaching rumor mill hinted atvery strongly hinted at — when it came to the opening at Nebraska.  Talking publicly about being “right” on a Super Bowl-winning quarterback like Wilson just sets up NFL options for the future, too.

Just something to keep in mind on down the road, when the next few coaching carousels are spinning.

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LSU plans to pursue John Chavis’ buyout

John Chavis

When John Chavis left the LSU Tigers to become the defensive coordinator of the Texas A&M Aggies, he walked away from a $1.3 million contract.

Chavis reportedly wanted his annual salary increased to $1.7 million to make him, along with Auburn’s Will Muschamp, the nation’s highest paid defensive coordinator.

When LSU brass decided that wasn’t going to happen, Chavis refused to sign a new contract. Instead, Texas A&M stepped up to the plate and lured him away to College Station.

Whether or not Texas A&M matched Chavis’ asking price, the assistant coach won’t see the full amount of his contract next season due to a buyout in his previous contract with LSU.

Chavis owes LSU $400,00 as part of the provision, according to The Shreveport Times‘ Glenn Guilbeau. The school intends to pursue the money it is owed.

“I’m not sure if we’ll get it, but we’re going to try to get it,” LSU board member Ronald Anderson told Guilbeau. “That was part of his contract. It’s his obligation.”

Whether or not LSU receives the payment may determine the future of former defensive line coach Brick Haley. Haley is currently on staff, but he was replaced by Ed Orgeron. Unlike Chavis, Haley signed a new contract offered after the season. However, his status along with the $450,000 contract remain uncertain until Chavis’ situation is finalized.

Haley is currently serving as a staff “intern.”

“I’m told that by June, if he decides to stay, they’ll decide what he’ll be doing and that title would change,” Anderson said.

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Former Crimson Tide safety takes shot at LSU’s new defensive coordinator

HaHa Clinton-Dix

You can take the football player out of Alabama, but you can’t take the Crimson Tide out of the football player.

Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix left Alabama as a highly decorated safety before becoming the 21st pick by the Green Bay Packers in the 2014 NFL draft.

The safety didn’t take to Twitter Friday to rip the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions or even the Minnesota Vikings, though.

Clinton-Dix’s contempt for the rival LSU Tigers remains strong, and he made sure to point out what type of hire the program made when Kevin Steele was named its new offensive coordinator.

The game Clinton-Dix referred to was the 2012 Orange Bowl. Steele was the defensive coordinator of the Clemson Tigers at the time. His defense surrendered 595 total yards to the West Virginia Mountaineers on their way to scoring 70 points.

The embarrassing performance eventually cost Steele his job.

Despite the pitiful performance and being a few years removed from defensive coordinator duties, LSU head coach Les Miles was excited about Steele’s inclusion to his coaching staff.

“He has a great defensive mind and he’s an outstanding recruiter,” Miles said when the hire was officially announced, per ESPN. “He knows our players and our system and his knowledge of the SEC and the SEC Western Division makes him a great fit. We are very excited the Kevin will be joining our staff.”

Miles and LSU might be excited about the hire, but Clinton-Dix obviously thinks it’s a joke.

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Texas Tech cancels spring game, caters schedule to QB Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes

The spring game is an annual tradition in college football.

However, Kliff Kingsbury and his Texas Tech Red Raiders were forced to change up their spring schedule due to a couple of factors.

First, the Red Raiders won’t hold a spring game this year, according to the team’s official site.

“Due to the replacement of seating inside Jones AT&T Stadium, the annual Spring Game has been cancelled and there will be no other open practice opportunities for fans in Lubbock,” the statement read.

Also, the team will accommodate its projected starter at quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who is also a member of the baseball team.

“Individual practices dates will be determined on a week-by-week basis in order to accommodate sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ baseball schedule, the school announced. “Mahomes will pitch and play in the outfield for the preseason No. 5 Texas Tech Baseball team this spring.”

Mahomes started the final four games of the 2014 campaign, and the freshman’s performance was impressive. The two-sport star passed for 1,428 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions during that stretch.

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