Auburn holds off Manziel magic for 45-41 win


For the second time in as many weeks Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel had to be taken out of the game to be treated for an injury. Manziel returned to the game once again this week, and nearly pulled out a memorable victory. Instead, it was Auburn who celebrated a win in Kyle Field, hanging on for a wild 45-41 win in SEC West play.

Entering the fourth quarter trailing Texas A&M 31-24, Auburn scored three touchdowns to take a lead and the defense held on for a stop on Texas A&M’s final drive of the game. Nick Marshall‘s wheel route pass completion to Marcus Davis down the right sideline kept a drive alive and two quick plays later the Tigers took a lead after a video review overturned a play on the field and awarded a go-ahead touchdown for Auburn.

Manziel appeared to injure his right elbow or shoulder while running up the middle of the field and being tackled by a pair of Auburn defenders earlier in the quarter. He immediately came out of the game and was attended to by the Texas A&M medical staff. Cameras hovering over the field at the game caught video of Manziel getting off the bench to try tossing a pass to Mike Evans, but as he wound his arm he abruptly stopped his throwing motion, shook his head and was taken to the locker room. While he was out of the game the Aggies, with back-up quarterback Matt Joeckel leading the offense, went three-and-out. Perhaps Manziel’s brief absence cost Texas A&M a win. The way the offenses were in control, it is not hard to envision.

Auburn took a lead while Manziel was being treated, but Manziel would return in a time of need for Texas A&M. Trailing by four, Manziel completed six straight passes and took off on a short touchdown run to put the Aggies in front late in the game. Then, after Auburn capped a 75-yard drive in 13 plays under four minutes for the lead but did so unwisely using a hurry-up offense close the goal line, Manziel worked his magic one more time for a game-winning drive with 1:19 to work with, and he nearly pulled it off. Auburn’s defense had been chasing Manziel and Evans all day long, but came up with a big stop as the Aggies were knocking on the door.

Auburn and Texas A&M combined for 1,217 yards with a pretty even split. Manziel passed for 454 yards and four touchdowns and added 48 rushing yards and a touchdown for good measure. Auburn’s Tre Mason rushed for 178 yards and a touchdown and Marshall took off for 100 yards and two touchdowns as well. Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans was nearly unstoppable as well, collecting 287 receiving yards and four touchdowns as Manziel’s top target.

The win improves Auburn to 6-1 this year, with a 3-1 record in the SEC. The only loss for Auburn came on the road at LSU. Auburn should have an easier time getting to 7-1 when they host Florida Atlantic next week in a non-conference game. then will come two road games, at Arkansas and Tennessee, before closing out the regular season at home against Georgia and Alabama. Auburn’s season has all of a sudden put them in a good position in the SEC standings. To make an unexpected trip to Atlanta, Auburn will need a little bit of help (Alabama beating LSU), but Tigers fans can at least dream wildly for a day or two.

Texas A&M now has two losses in SEC play, including an earlier loss to Alabama. Their chances to play for an SEC Championship may have already been slim, but may have been  wiped out with this loss. Sure, Texas A&M may still have the best offense in the SEC, but their shortcomings on defense continue to haunt them in big spots.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa (thumb) returns to practice

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In the end, it appears to be much ado about (mostly) nothing.

Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his left (throwing) hand. It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.

Wednesday, it was reported that the injury was believed to be just a sprain and that Tagovailoa could return to practice soon. That report proved prophetic as Tagovailoa was indeed back at practice Thursday, albeit on a limited basis.


The quarterback was not doing the normal drills with his teammates but was off to the side working with head athletic trainer Jeff Allen. It looked like they were testing Tagovailoa’s ability to grip the football since the injury was suffered on his throwing hand. He replicated a few play-action roll outs with the ball in his left hand. At one point, he rolled over toward where Jalen Hurts was standing and they high fived.

Until Tagovailoa is fully recovered, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.

The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are entrenched in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp. That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.

USC graduate transfer Jalen Greene heads east to play at Illinois in 2018

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Greene is turning orange. Well, Jalen Greene is at least.

The former USC wide receiver who announced he would pursue a graduate transfer earlier this month announced on Twitter that he would be heading East to play at Illinois in 2018. He will be immediately eligible to play for the Illini.

Greene was originally recruited by the Trojans as a dual-threat quarterback but eventually made the move to receiver. He caught eight passes for 98 yards at USC last season as a partial starter and added another eight receptions for 116 yards the year prior.

Illinois has already begun spring practice and has been trying several new players at wide receiver in the process to find a good complement to Mike Dudek on the outside. It seems Greene could find himself in the mix to be one of those guys when he arrives in Champaign.

Josh Heupel keeping most of Scott Frost’s playbook at UCF as spring practice begins

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There are a ton of interesting storylines as spring practice begins across the country but one of the most intriguing programs to watch might be in Orlando as UCF looks to simultaneously follow up an undefeated season while also transitioning to a new coaching staff.

ESPN’s Andrea Adelson wrote a good story on the Knights changing some things up under head coach Josh Heupel the past few months like eating with players during meals, new strength and conditioning regiments and the usual offseason stuff you typically wind up season. However there was one interesting nugget about the team’s playbook that the coach relayed:

In other areas, player input has kept a few things unchanged. Take the offensive playbook, for example. Heupel and (Scott) Frost share enough offensive concepts that the new staff has adopted the terminology that players already know on the plays they have in common. So in theory, that should allow the offense to hit spring practice, which started Tuesday, with much more familiarity than another program that has completely changed over its staff.

As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In Heupel’s first head coaching gig, it seems he’s taking that to heart.

David Beaty elevates Cassius Sendish from GA to Kansas safeties coach

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It didn’t take long nor did David Beaty have to look far for Kansas’ new safeties coach.

The school confirmed on Thursday morning that graduate assistant Cassius Sendish, a former Jayhawks team captain and defensive back, would be taking over as the team’s new safeties coach to complete the staff for 2018.

“I am honored and proud to represent the University of Kansas football program,” said Sendish in a statement. “I hold this place near and dear to my heart and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work at my alma mater. I can’t thank Coach Beaty and the rest of the football staff enough for allowing me to come aboard and be a part of something special.”

Sendish replaces Todd Bradford on the staff after he made the rather head-turning move to leave coaching and take a new job in the oil industry. Recently hired Bill Miller will continue to coach linebackers while the newest hire will team up with defensive coordinator Clint Bowen to handle the secondary.

There will be plenty of time for everybody to settle into their new on-field roles as the Jayhawks will open up spring practice on March 31st.