Michigan v Penn State

Penn State hands Michigan first loss in fourth overtime

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I had to rewrite this game story a few times. You see, Michigan had a ten point lead midway through the fourth quarter and Penn State’s offense was looking to be out of steam. But then, almost out of nowhere it seemed, Penn State pulled an 80-yard touchdown drive with 50 seconds to play in regulation with no timeouts to use. The score tied the game at 34-34 but Michigan still had a chance to sneak out of State College with a win, but a 52-yard attempt by Brendan Gibbons in the final seconds of the game fell short, which ended up sending the game in to overtime. Things really started to get crazy after that.

Penn State served Michigan their first loss of the season, with Bill Belton scoring the game-winning touchdown in the fourth overtime for a 43-40 victory that 107,000 fans will not soon forget. Belton’s touchdown was the only time in four overtimes the ball crossed a goal line. Michigan had their chances to secure another tight victory this season, but a mixture of special teams failures and missed opportunities would come back to haunt the Wolverines.

In the first overtime Penn State kicker Sam Ficken missed a 40-yard attempt, but Michigan was unable to capitalize because the Nittany Lions special teams unit blocked a 40-yard attempt set up by conservative play calling. Michigan got as close as the eight yard line to open the second overtime, setting Gibbons up for a 25-yard field goal. Penn State would answer with a 36-yard kick from Ficken to force a third overtime.

The third overtime started ominously for Penn State when Allen Robinson fumbled the first play of the third overtime. On an end-around play, Robinson never gained control of a handoff from Penn State’s freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The ball dropped loose in the back field and Michigan defensive lineman Frank Clark pounced on the ball to turn the game over to Michigan’s offense with a golden opportunity to walk out of Beaver Stadium with their first win against the Nittany Lions since 2007. But from 33 yards back, Gibbons had his kick fly left of the goal post despite being set up in the middle of the field. Yes, this game would need a fourth overtime and it was becoming clear this one was not going to be decided by special teams.

the fourth overtime did not go well for Michigan’s offense. Two incomplete passes by Devin Gardner failed to move the football forward, and a delay of game put Michigan back on the 30-yard line. A seven-yard run by Gardner set Gibbons up for a 40-yard attempt, which was good for a 40-37 lead before Penn State got their chance. Penn State relied on the running game to start moving the football forward, with Belton carrying the load. Belton had taken over in the backfield as the primary rusher after Zach Zwinak‘s struggles became a problem. Belton carried the football three times to put Penn State in a fourth and one. Rather than kick and move to a fifth overtime, Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien kept his offense on the field to pick up the first down. It worked, with Belton showing patience to pick up a couple of extra yards. After a pass interference call against Michigan in the end zone gave Penn State a free first down, Belton cashed in with a run to the left side of the field and nothing but open room from two yards out. The touchdown by Belton clinched the win for Penn State and sent Michigan home regretting giving Penn State a shot at this one.

Michigan’s defense had done a good job in the second half, which started with a fumble returned for a touchdown on Penn State’s first play of the second half. The return cut Penn State’s lead to 21-17 and the Wolverines took a 27-24 lead in to the fourth quarter. A 37-yard touchdown pass from Gardner to tightend Devin Funchess caught Penn State without a safety on the field and a linebacker chasing down field well out of position. It was a play like that which seemed to show how Penn State’s depth issues were starting to hurt them. But this Penn State team found a way to bounce back when the going got tough, something that eluded them a week ago in Bloomington, Indiana. Penn State gets all sorts of credit for coming back the way they did time and time again, but there are some real concerns about Michigan going forward now.

Michigan once again struggled in a game they probably should have won without much of a problem. The road woes continued for Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, and now the Wolverines are left scratching their heads instead of celebrating a 6-0 start. Can Michigan still come back and make a run for Indianapolis, the site of the Big Ten championship game? Absolutely, because nobody in the Big Ten’s Legends Division is running away with anything. Northwestern lost to Wisconsin and Michigan still has games against the Wildcats, Michigan State and Nebraska ahead of them before getting to Ohio State.

Washington State coach Mike Leach fires a shot at the SEC

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 19: Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Washington State coach Mike Leach is known across the country as one of college football’s most interesting characters, rambling on from time-to-time about everything from pirates to the history of Geronimo. The latest subject the quirky head coach has turned his sights on? The big ol’ SEC.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger spoke to Leach recently as part of a profile on new Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo, and let’s just say the Air Raid guru of the Palouse didn’t hold back when discussing the state of offenses in the league widely considered to be the best in the sport.

“I’ve got bad news for all these levels people,” Leach said. “Your level isn’t special, your conference isn’t special. All this different level this, different level that. That’s crazy.

 

“This is a great time to be in the SEC, everybody’s got the same offense: run right, run left, play action. And they tease themselves  and say we threw it four more times a game this year than we did last year.”

Leach, who coached in the league at Kentucky, also added some other, more colorful language to describe his impression of the SEC and the offenses teams run. While he did play at Auburn with the Cougars a few years ago, he clearly hasn’t kept up with the way things are trending down south as even pro-style stalwarts like Alabama and Arkansas are using more and more tempo and spread principles on a weekly basis.

Either way, let’s hope the Washington State athletic director is already making calls to schedule an SEC opponent in the coming years. If nothing else, any future appearance by Leach on the Paul Finebaum Show should be must-see entertainment.

Willie Taggart completes Oregon coaching staff with familiar face from USF

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 26: South Florida Bulls head coach Willie Taggart during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images)
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It probably took a little longer than most to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, but Willie Taggart has completed his coaching staff at Oregon and the latest addition is a familiar face.

The school announced Thursday afternoon that Raymond Woodie would be taking over as the Ducks’ new special teams coordinator, having previously spent the past four seasons at USF with Taggart and three more before that together at Western Kentucky.

Woodie most recently served as the Bulls’ defensive coordinator this past season but has been a linebackers coach dating back to 2012. He is regarded by many to be a quality recruiter with good ties to the state of Florida in particular and has also coached the defensive line. While his title makes him responsible for the third phase of the game for Oregon, he figures to also help out new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt in some fashion as well.

The announcement is a bit of positive news for Taggart and the Ducks this week after a considerable bit of bad press for the program stemming from the revelation that multiple Oregon players wound up in the hospital following offseason workouts. New strength coach Irele Oderinde (who also came over from USF) was eventually suspended for one month without pay by the school as a result..

Despite Auburn interest, Texas A&M OC Noel Mazzone staying put in College Station

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 14:  The Texas A&M Aggies offense huddles against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on October 14, 2006 in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M won 25-19. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Gus Malzahn’s quest to find a new offensive coordinator has zigged and zagged in the past few days since the surprising departure of Rhett Lashlee to UConn. One place it will not be going however, is to a fellow SEC West school.

Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle reports that despite some interest in Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the Aggies’ coach is staying put in College Station.

Mazzone arrived at A&M prior to this past season from UCLA and found early success with the Aggies and transfer quarterback Trevor Knight before a late slide in 2016. Travis Haney of 247Sports reported earlier Thursday that he could be considered the leader in the search to replace Lashlee, but it appears that will not be the case.

The longtime coaching veteran’s name being linked to Auburn isn’t too surprising considering he was the OC there from 1999-2001 but Mazzone’s hefty salary and likely high buyout figure provided some big obstacles if he wanted to reunite with the school.

Instead, it’s on to the next one for Malzahn and company.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan coaches ride go-karts with five-star recruit in Georgia

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 17:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts during the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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National Signing Day is just around the corner and that means a flurry of in-home visits by coaches across the country trying to lock up the next class of impact players for their program.

We’ve seen plenty of unique attempts by coaches to impress prospects over the years as a result, from often used cookie cakes to sleepovers and limo rides. When it comes to this subject though, few have been as creative as Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. This week, he certainly cemented that reputation.

According to the Detroit News, Harbaugh and several Wolverines coaches took an in-home visit with five-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon out of Leesburg, Georgia and went bowling with the recruit’s family before finally racing go-karts together.

And even better, there’s video via ESPN:

Solomon is also strongly considering Alabama and Georgia in addition to Michigan, but something says neither Nick Saban or Kirby Smart will be heading to the race track with the big defensive tackle on their visit. You have to love recruiting either way.