Nick Marshall

Auburn holds off Manziel magic for 45-41 win

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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.

Ohio State Buckeye first to make some Super Bowl history

Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman celebrates his two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Purdue, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State 29-22 in overtime. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
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The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl on Sunday, which means tight end Jeff Heuerman is now the answer to a fun little trivia question for years to come. Heuerman became the first football player to win both a College Football Playoff national championship and a Super Bowl.

Heuerman was a senior tight end for Ohio State in the 2014 season, catching 207 yards and two touchdowns for the Buckeyes, who captured the first College Football Playoff national championship under the new postseason championship structure. He went on to be a third-round draft pick of the Broncos in the 2015 NFL Draft, but he tore his ACL in Denver’s rookie camp in May 2015. He was subsequently ruled out for the entire 2015 season, so his place in history comes with a tiny caveat. But he still will get a Super Bowl ring to go with his national championship ring from a year ago.

The search will go on now for the first player to both play in and win a College Football Playoff national championship and a Super Bowl. Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was unable to make his own history with a Super Bowl win, but he may get another crack at that again before his career is done.

Helmet sticker to Reddit.

Ex-Houston coach Tony Levine reportedly finds new home at WKU

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 11:  Head coach Tony Levine of the Houston Cougars during a game against the BYU Cougars on September 11, 2014 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Jay Drowns/Getty Images)
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Former Houston coach Tony Levine — the guy who was fired after winning 21 games in three years and replaced by Tom Herman — will join Western Kentucky’s staff as an offensive assistant, according to Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman.

Levine was fired in December 2014 after coaching Houston to a 7-5 season, but the general feeling around the program appeared to be that he wasn’t keeping it on the same upward trajectory forged by Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin before him. There was some staff instability — he fired offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt two days into the 2012 season — as well as a few embarrassing losses for a program trying to assure its foothold in the ultra-competitive football state of Texas.

At Western Kentucky, Levine will work under third-year-coach-to-be Jeff Brohm, who just steered the Hilltoppers to a 12-2 season. Not only has Western Kentucky made back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history under Brohm, they’ve won both of them. While Levine’s tenure at Houston ended abruptly, he still took the Cougars to two bowl games and should be a nice addition to a coaching staff that has to deal with plenty of personnel turnover from last season.

Gone is 5,000-yard quarterback Brandon Doughty, as well as the team’s third-, fourth- and fifth-leading pass-catchers in receiver Jared Dangerfield (82 REC, 844 yards, 8 TDs), receiver Antwane Grant (55 REC, 701 yards, 7 TDs) and tight end Tyler Higbee (38 REC, 563 yards, 8 TDs).

Pat Narduzzi believes Pitt RB James Conner will play in 2016

In this photo taken Nov. 21, 2015, Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi, right, applauds a touchdown by his team next to James Conner in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Louisville in Pittsburgh. Conner spent the last three months weighing whether to return next fall or head to the NFL after a torn knee ligament ended his junior season before it really began. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP) MAGAZINES OUT; NO SALES; MONESSEN OUT; KITTANNING OUT; CONNELLSVILLE OUT; GREENSBURG OUT; TARENTUM OUT; NORTH HILLS NEWS RECORD OUT; BUTLER OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
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The college football world was stunned when Pittsburgh running back James Conner, who missed the bulk of the 2015 season due to a knee injury, announced he is battling cancer. Despite his ongoing bout with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his neck and chest, Conner is said to be in great physical shape and looks he could even be ready to play for the Panthers this fall once he beats cancer.

“I saw him yesterday in the hallway and he’s been working out with our kids to keep his sanity and he’s having fun doing it,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said recently to ESPN.com reporter James Shanker. “That’s the key is he’s having fun beating cancer and he’s got a great attitude and he looks good right now. He’s doing well and looks well. Doesn’t look like he lost weight. Looks like he could still play. He doesn’t look like he has cancer.”

Conner declared his intention to play football again when he announced his cancer to the world last December.

“I will play football again,” Conner said in early December. “I will be at Heinz Field again. I have the best coaches and teammates in the country. I thank God I chose Pitt because now I also have the best doctors in the country and together we will win. I know this city has my back.”

The former ACC Player of the Year is receiving financial support from Pitt to handle the costs of the treatments, which is allowed by the NCAA for special circumstances. This is certainly a special circumstance. Per NCAA rules, Conner and his family are required to have personal insurance but schools may pick up the tab for remaining costs not covered by the student’s insurance coverage. Pitt is able to lend its support because cancer is affecting Conner’s ability to play football.

The college football world will continue to root for Conner as he works his way back to the football field.

Cost of attendance not having negative recruiting impact on Group of Five (yet)

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1) runs for a first down against Temple during the second half of the American Athletic Conference championship football game, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Houston. Houston won 24-13. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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The outlook on the impact cost of attendance has on non-power conference institutions may not be known for another year or so, but after one recruiting cycle since the power conferences were granted autonomy powers, cost of attendance stipends have not been seen to be a major difference in the game as one might have thought originally.

Underdog Dynasty took a look at the issue and how Group of Five schools have fared. The initial findings suggest Group of Five programs are not struggling nearly as much as once suspected when it comes to cost of attendance stipends, although it is something that not every program has jumped into providing just yet. And yes, the topic of stipends does pop up on the recruiting trail, which suggests the Group of Five programs that can provide a little extra money as part of a player’s enrollment do figure to have some sort of advantage. However, stipends do not appear to be a game changer on a massive enough scale.

From Underdog Dynasty;

Another fear from last season was that smaller athletic departments couldn’t afford it. Those may have been overblown as well. My Google search turned up news of South Dakota State phasing in COA stipends for all student-athletes, something North Dakota and North Dakota State already have done.

All three are FCS schools. If they can afford the stipends, albeit funding 63 football scholarships rather than 85, G5 schools should as well. Even the Sun Belt distributes more than $1 million per school in College Football Playoff payouts.

Houston, of the American Athletic Conference, just landed a recruiting class that would make a good number of power conference programs jealous, although the Cougars were the only Group of Five program to finish ranked in the top 50 in the final team rankings compiled by Rivals (BYU finished No. 48). Boise State, UCF and Temple fell in the upper half of the FBS mix as well.

Just as one year of the College Football Playoff system did not provide enough empirical evidence to suggest the Big 12 should expand to 12 just to get a conference championship game, one year of cost of attendance stipends is not nearly enough to suggest it has a devastating or minimal impact on the recruiting game in college football. This is just something that will have to be watched for a few more years in order to gather more evidence to evaluate.