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.

USC the media’s choice to win 2017 Pac-12 title

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Thanks to how they finished the 2016 season, USC is getting substantial preseason love heading into the 2017 season.  Not surprisingly, that affection continued Wednesday.

At the Pac-12 Media Days Wednesday, 28 of the 52 media members covering the conference picked USC to win the league’s title this season.  Another 22 picked reigning champion Washington to defend its title, while there was one vote each for Oregon and Utah.

Both USC and UW received 49 first-place votes when it comes to winning the South and North divisions, respectively.  Oregon, Stanford and Washington State received one first-place vote each to win the North Division, while Colorado, UCLA and Utah received the same for the South crown.

Also of note from the opening of media days:

  • The Pac-12 Championship Game will remain at Levi’s Stadium through the 2019 season, with an option for 2020 as well.  The home of the San Francisco 49ers has been the venue for the conference’s last two title games.  New NFL stadiums in Inglewood and Las Vegas will be options beyond that.
  • Halftime of games broadcasted on Pac-12 Networks will be reduced from 20 minutes to 15.  In an attempt to further shorten the length of games, commercial breaks during those games will be reduced as well. “We are trying to be progressive and experiment with ways to manage the game presentation through a reduction of TV timeouts and some of the 30-second commercial spots,” commissioner Larry Scott said as the league targets three hours as the ideal game time.
  • The conference has centralized its replay reviews for all 12 teams this season after experimenting with centralization for two teams in 2016.

USC confirms K Matt Boermeester won’t return to Trojans

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What was rumored a few months ago has been confirmed.

In early February, USC announced that an unspecified code of conduct issue had led the football program to indefinitely suspend Matt Boermeester.  At the time, reports had an incident involving the placekicker’s ex-girlfriend as the trigger for the suspension, although no details surrounding that situation were released.

Fast-forward to late July, and the school officially confirmed that Boermeester is no longer a Trojan.

“Boermeester… won’t return because of a student code of conduct issue,” the football program wrote in its preseason notes package.

In his first season as USC’s starting kicker last year, Boermeester connected on 75 percent of his 25 field goal attempts and all but one of his 54 point afters.  His 46-yard field goal with no time left on the clock pushed USC past Penn State in an epic comeback win in the Rose Bowl.

The 18 field goals on which Boermeester connected in 2016 were one shy of tying the school’s single-season record.

Michael Brown is the only other kicker currently listed on USC’s online roster.  Brown has yet to attempt a kick at the collegiate level.

Report: Ole Miss wants NCAA to require two Miss. St. players to attend hearing

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Thanks to off-field events, the Egg Bowl rivalry has ratcheted up a notch or 12 in the last week or so — after ratcheting up several levels the previous months.

Monday, ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach reported that it was a lifelong Mississippi State fan who discovered the infamous call to a number connected to an escort service and led to Hugh Freeze being forcefully ousted at Ole Miss.  Two days later, Schlabach is reporting that attorneys representing the university and former coaches accused of wrongdoing are asking the NCAA that it require two Mississippi State football players, Leo Lewis and Kobe Jones, to appear at their hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions later this year.

At this point in time, it’s unclear whether either player has received a notice to appear.

Jones, a four-star 2016 signee, has alleged that an Ole Miss booster paid him upwards of $15,000 as an inducement to go to the Rebels before he signed with the rival Bulldogs. “Lewis also accused Rebels boosters and former coaches of arranging for him to receive free transportation, lodging, food and meals and memorabilia and clothing from Rebel Rags, a retail store in Oxford,” Schlabach wrote Wednesday.

The Oxford retailer filed a lawsuit last month against, among others, Jones and Lewis alleging “defamation, slander, conspiracy and commercial disparagement stemming from false statements made to the NCAA.” On at least three occasions, the Bulldog duo spoke to the NCAA and its investigators regarding their allegations made against the rival program.

From Schlabach’s latest report:

The NCAA previously denied Ole Miss lawyers’ requests to interview Jones and Lewis about allegations they made during the NCAA’s investigation of the Rebels. In fact, Lewis’ attorneys stopped the second of three interviews with NCAA investigators after Ole Miss’ lawyers attempted to cross-examine him. Ole Miss wasn’t allowed to have an attorney at his third interview.

Jones and Lewis were provided partial immunity by NCAA investigators before they were interviewed.

The NCAA has accused the Ole Miss football program of 21 violations, 15 of which are the most serious under The Association’s penalty structure.  Ole Miss self-imposed a bowl ban for the 2017 season as well as stripped itself of seven scholarships.  Additionally, they will forfeit all postseason revenues for the upcoming season, a number in excess of $7 million.  It’s expected the NCAA will add to those self-imposed sanctions.

The university received its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA back in February, releasing its response to the NOA early last month.

Former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt and his attorney filed a lawsuit earlier this month as well, alleging that Freeze and other Ole Miss officials engaged in a clandestine smear campaign to pin the NCAA investigation into the Rebels’ football program in large part on Nutt. The lawsuit levied some rather serious allegations, including Freeze allegedly conducting off-the-record conversations with prominent journalists and recruits to falsely spread the narrative that the lion’s share of NCAA recruiting violations occurred under Nutt’s watch.

4-star 2018 QB with offers from Tennessee, Washington commits to… Princeton

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I have no clue how long this commitment will last, but it’s patently awesome.  And spectacular.

Brevin White is a 2018 recruit who 247Sports.com has pegged as a four-star prospect.  The same recruiting website rates the California high school product as the No. 11 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 39 player at any position in the state.

White, the younger brother of redshirt sophomore Arizona State quarterback Brady White, currently holds scholarship offers from, among others, Arizona State, Oregon State, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Washington State.  Tuesday night, the younger White signal-caller took to Twitter to announce his program of choice, and revealed that he would be playing his college football at… Princeton.

Selfishly, I hope this verbal holds.  To see a young man with Power Five options go, at least for now, the Ivy League route is utterly refreshing on multiple levels.

And the fact that the P5s involved have to be borderline beside themselves?  Priceless.