Mike Davis,Byron Moore

Tennessee clocks Gamecocks in SEC East upset


Steve Spurrier got a little too cute in the fourth quarter, and it may have cost the Gamecocks a win. Tennessee upset South Carolina with a short field goal by Michael Palardy as time expired for a 23-21 victory.

South Carolina was stuck in a fourth down  with two yards needed for a first down from South Carolina’s 26-yard line. Perhaps taking some extra time to contemplate an unorthodox decision to go for a first down with a one-point lead with 2:55 to play, Spurrier kept his offense on the field instead of sending the punt team out. After taking one timeout Spurrier once again sent his offense out. After a second timeout, Spurrier came to his senses and punted the football.

We will never know if the game’s outcome may have changed if Spurrier had those two timeouts left to use on Tennessee’s final possession. The Vols took over on their 35-yard line and strategically moved in to position for the final field goal, but a top-play worthy 39-yard pass from Justin Worley to Marquez North on third down helped any of it become a reality. Once inside the red zone the Vols kept the football on the ground through the running game, knowing South Carolina would have to hold on to their final timeout.

The win was the first in SEC play for Butch Jones and the result opens up the SEC East for Missouri, who was on track to pick up another win, this time against Florida. South Carolina travels to Missouri next week, and they could potentially do so without their starting quarterback.

Connor Shaw was taken down by Tennessee’s Marlon Walls in the fourth quarter and needed to be helped off the field with an apparent left knee injury. Shaw suffered a left knee strain but was not taken to the locker room. Dylan Thompson took over at quarterback for one play before the Gamecocks had to punt.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.

Starting Navy S Kwazel Bertrand undergoes surgery, likely out for season

Kwazel Bertrand, Jacobi Owens
Associated Press
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Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.

Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.

“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”

Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.