Lobo fans raise money for Aggie fan/war vet who lost out on $2K

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While rivalries in college football are among the most heated in all of sports on the field — and before and after the games — the hatred tends to subside off the field, especially when real life interrupts.

Case in point?  New Mexico-New Mexico State.

First, though, the back story.

In an attempt to drum up interest in what’s a really bad football team, New Mexico State announced a couple of weeks ago that they would select a random student as the winner of a $2,000 cash prize if he/she were in the stands after the third quarter of the late-September game against San Diego State.  The student whose name happened to be called that day, Matthew Zajac, wasn’t in attendance and therefore forfeited the money.  His reason for not being at the game?  He has been caring for his 87-year-old grandmother since his father died and his “priorities were elsewhere.”

One more thing you should know about Zajac: he is a double amputee, having lost both of his legs in a 2007 IED explosion while serving our country in Iraq.

The fact that NMSU did not honor the $2K prize in spite of Zajac’s circumstances did not sit well with a large segment of the population, including a certain slice of their hated rivals’ fan base.

Upon hearing Zajac’s story, Lobo Lair, a New Mexico fan message board, took up the cause.  Specifically, the curator of that board, Mark Chavez, took up the cause by posting that would be personally pledging the first $100 in an attempt to help Zajac “recoup” the $2000 on which he missed out.  Other fans responded and, by late afternoon Wednesday, the site had raised more than  $2,200 for Zajac.

“There’s definitely no love between Lobo fans and Aggie fans, other than the whole New Mexico connection,” Chavez told Deadspin by phone. “While we love to kick each other’s teeth in on the field, we still respect each other as New Mexicans. This wasn’t about cherry and silver vs. whatever colors they are. It’s more about New Mexicans helping New Mexicans.”

While the money was raised for Zajac, Deadspin writes that the war veteran “told Chavez he’d split the proceeds with the Fisher House Foundation, a charity that supports military families.”

Kudos to all involved for the heartfelt gestures on both sides.

And, to NMSU: you see what’s happening here, right?  It’s time for you, like the Lobo fan base, to step up and do the right thing.

LOOK: Jim Harbaugh hooks Pope Francis up with Michigan helmet, pair of Jordans

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There’s a series of words I’d never imagined I’d string together in a headline.

As you may have heard, Jim Harbaugh has taken his Michigan football team to Italy for an offseason European vacation.  As part of the trip, the team is in the Vatican City today and took in the Pope’s Wednesday address to the masses in St. Peter’s Square — the players and athletic director Warde Manuel sat amongst the crowd while the head coach and his wife were seated on the same stage as Pope Francis.

Following the address, and after a wait of nearly a half-hour, Harbaugh was able to meet with and speak to His Holiness.  The coach didn’t come empty-handed, either, as Pope Francis was gifted with a Michigan football helmet and a pair of Air Jordans.  Michigan-themed, of course.

“This is as good as it gets,” Harbaugh said according to mlive.com after his meeting with the pope. “This has been the experience of my lifetime.”

Tulane turns to Jonathan Banks as starter at QB

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Last season, there was just one FBS team — Army and its triple-option (967) — that passed for fewer yards than Tulane’s 1,360.  Tulane’s team passing efficiency rating of 93.12 was 128th of the 128 teams at this level of football.  Their completion percentage of 42.2 was, again, 128th in the FBS.  Their 5.3 yards per attempt was… 127th.

This season, the Green Wave’s passing hopes in a run-heavy offense will likely land on the shoulders of a junior college transfer.

Throughout the spring, Jonathan Banks had taken the majority of reps with the first-team offense.  Tuesday, Willie Fritz confirmed that Banks will be his starter under center heading into summer camp and, presumably, for the program’s season opener against Grambling at home Sept. 2.

At least for now, Banks has staked his claim to the job after a competition that included Glen Cuiellette and Jonathan Brantley, the starter and backup, respectively, last season.

“He did a good job this spring picking things up,” the head coach said according to nola.com. “We evaluated practices 1 through 15 and I thought, for a guy coming into a new situation, he did a very good job. He provides us with both a passing and a running threat, which in our offense you need to have.

“We’re excited about his development.”

Drew O’Bryan leaves Western Kentucky, drops down to FCS level

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Another day, another FBS player has transitioned away from his first college football home.

On his personal Twitter account recently, Drew O’Bryan acknowledged his decision to transfer from Western Kentucky. Additionally, he announced his next destination for good measure — Eastern Kentucky.

The linebacker said he made the decision “[a]fter talking with my family and many prayers.”

As EKU plays at the Football Championship Subdivision level, O’Bryan will be eligible to play immediately for the Colonels in 2017.

O’Bryan was a two-star member of WKU’s 2016 recruiting class, rated as the No. 18 player at any position in the state of Kentucky. He took a redshirt as a true freshman.

Pair of Alabama defenders undergo surgery after Tide’s spring game

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Alabama’s spring game wrapped up on Saturday and with it, the last of the Crimson Tide’s spring practices. While that means the coaching staff is free to fly across the country to visit recruits during the evaluation period, it also results in several players going under the knife to correct injuries in order to be back by fall camp.

Two of those players are starting cornerback Anthony Averett and (likely starting) linebacker Christian Miller, both of whom underwent sports hernia surgery this week according to AL.com.

The report states that Averett played with the hernia most of last season while the Tide marched their way to the national title game. Miller was one of the stars of the show on Saturday during Alabama’s spring game, recording two sacks while dealing with the injury.

Both are expected to be fully healthy for camp in August as Nick Saban and company vie for yet another conference title and berth in the College Football Playoff.