Service academy football OK to play through October

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Air Force, Army and Navy football will once again go on as scheduled this weekend starting with Thursday night’ game between Air Force and San Diego State. The ongoing government shutdown initially threatened games involving the service academy programs, but all three played last weekend as scheduled. Now it appears football will go on as planned through the end of the month regardless of the status of the shutdown.

On Thursday Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made a decision that will allow football and other sports to continue this weekend and through the end of October. At some point later this month the situation will be re-evaluated if necessary to determine what will happen to athletic activities moving in to November. According to a report by the Associated Press, Pentagon lawyers and military leaders could have issued fines if games were cancelled.

The issue regarding the service academy football programs and their ability to play games despite the shutdown is focused on the use of government funds. Because none of the academies use government funds to play their football games, they are allowed to continue playing. Much of the funding to support the athletics department, and thus football operations, comes from outside of government sources.

Surely this all provides for headaches those involved with managing the football programs at our nation’s service academies. That means the people behind the scenes, such as athletic directors, anyone involved with game day management or travel plans and more. All of this is not likely to have much of an impact on the players, who for the most part are going about their routines when it concerns football. The coaches may have a little bit of an adjustment to their routines, but ultimately this is all out of their hands as well. While this does provide a real world economic angle to what is going on this season at Army, Air Force and Navy, it continues to have little impact to football until a point comes where games are being scratched.

Having contracts to games actually helps the cause for the games to continue to be played. Backing out of games could add up in cancellation fees for all three programs. The last thing anyone in the Pentagon would want to do is cause any further deficits by preventing these football games from being played. If the shutdown lingers though, it would not be unrealistic to see a discussion over whether or not the annual Army-Navy Game should be postponed. But even that is far from a likely scenario. The last time the rivalry game was not played was in 1928 and 1929 and that was because the two academies could not agree on player eligibility rules for the game. Not even World War II prevented the Army-Navy Game from being played, although the first World War did.

In addition to Air Force’s Thursday night game, Army will host Eastern Michigan and Navy travels to Duke this weekend.

Maryland down to No. 3 QB as Kasim Hill exits UCF game with injury

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As was the case a few years ago, Maryland might want to consider bubble-wrapping their quarterbacks.

In the second half of Maryland’s season-opening 51-41 upset of Texas Saturday, Tyrrell Pigrome went down with what was later diagnosed as a torn ACL, ending his 2017 season.  Quarterback No. 2, Kasim Hill, took over for the starter and guided the Terrapins to an easy 46-point win over FCS Towson the following weekend.

Coming off a bye, Hill started the Week 4 game against UCF, and promptly went down with what looked to be a very serious-looking injury to his right leg.  Hill put no weight on the leg as he left the field with assistance from the team’s training staff, and was ultimately taken via cart into the locker room for further evaluation.

The true freshman has been ruled out of returning to the non-conference contest.

Hill was replaced by No. 3 quarterback Max Bortenschlager, who started one game last season for the Terps. Trailing the Knights 21-10 late in the third quarter, Bortenschlager has completed 9-of-16 passes for 83 yards, one touchdown and one interception in relief.

No. 5 USC opens flat against Cal and it’s all tied up in Berkeley at halftime

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Imagine telling somebody before the season that No. 5 USC would dominate Stanford in the trenches during a blowout, but struggle against the other Bay Area team in a nail-bitter. Up is down, down is up in the Pac-12 apparently.

The Trojans came out flat to start their annual weekend trip to the Bay Area and needed a few defensive stands to keep the score locked at 13-all on a warm California day between the two in-state rivals.

Quarterback Sam Darnold (157 yards, one touchdown) did his Heisman campaign no favors, tossing his seventh interception of the season (after just nine in all of 2016). Things could have been worse for the signal-caller and his inexperienced receiving corps too as the Golden Bears nearly grabbed two others. Part of the issue could be that his terrific tailback Ronald Jones II failed to make the trip up for the game with an injury and true freshman Stephen Carr (36 yards) was forced to carry much of the load.

Cal’s offense had its own moments but was just 2-of-8 on third down conversions to help stall some early momentum. QB Ross Bowers threw for 124 yards but it was big running back Vic Enwere who was the star of the show with 42 yards on the ground and a touchdown he punched in on 4th and goal. The real story for the home team was the continued play of their defense however, pressuring Darnold on a number of snaps, forcing two turnovers and covering exceptionally well downfield to limit big plays.

The performance through two quarters will lead many to question whether USC really should be ranked in the top five and considered the Pac-12 favorite but the cardinal and gold could turn things around with a trip to the locker room and some adjustments. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed with Justin Wilcox’s squad giving everything they can to another big name opponent in Berkeley this month.

Alabama dropping anchor on Vandy’s upset dream, leads 31-0 at half

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Vanderbilt came into the afternoon with the SEC’s top-ranked scoring defense. Yeah, about that…

No. 1 Alabama scored touchdowns on three straight offensive possessions to build a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and the Crimson Tide lead the Commodores 31-0 at halftime in Nashville. Bo Scarbrough was responsible for two of the Alabama touchdowns, and Damien Harris has take credit for the other two. Jalen Hurts has even gotten in on the running game a little bit while not having the pressure to perform through the air in this one.

On defense, Alabama has held Vanderbilt down quite well too. The Commodores converted just one of six third down situations and the Vandy offense has lost the football twice by way of a fumble.

If you had hoped Vanderbilt could maybe keep this one interesting for at least a half, you were out of luck. Alabama is about to cruise its way to a 4-0 record.

Michigan starting QB Wilton Speight knocked out game by Purdue

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Given the offensive struggles through three weeks of the season, there were a growing number of fans and media calling for Michigan to make a change at quarterback.  Unintentionally, that wish was granted Saturday afternoon.

In the first quarter of UM’s Big Ten opener against Purdue, Wilton Speight was sacked by Markus Bailey for an 11-yard loss on a third-and-five play.  Speight left the game and, ultimately, the stadium entirely as he was taken to a local West Lafayette hospital for further evaluation.

At least for the moment, it appears doubtful he’ll return to the game.

Prior to the injury, Speight was 2-4 passing for 10 yards.  His replacement, backup John O’Korn, is currently 5-5 for 61 yards.  O’Korn has the game’s lone score as well, a 12-yard pass to Zach Gentry early in the second quarter.

Entering the game, Speight had led the Wolverines to just one touchdown on 10 drives into the red zone.  That was O’Korn’s first red-zone trip of the season.

Through the first 19 minutes of game time, the two teams have combined for 154 yards of offense.  The Boilermakers have been held to just a pair of first downs with 11 minutes left in the second quarter.

UPDATED 5:22 p.m. ET: Of course, almost as soon as I hit publish, the Boilermakers tied the score at seven-all.