Florida v Georgia

Gurley’s return helps Georgia hold off Florida


Tailback Todd Gurley returned from injury to lead Georgia in both rushing and receiving as the Bulldogs (5-3) held on to beat rival Florida (4-4), 23-20, in Jacksonville on Saturday.

Gurley, out since late September with a high ankle sprain, totaled 122 yards and two touchdowns on his first five touches to help spark the Bulldogs to a 23-3 halftime lead. He finished with 100 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and also added 87 yards and a score on three catches.

Aaron Murray joined Buck Belue and Johnny Rauch as the only Bulldog quarterbacks to beat Florida three times. The senior went 16 of 25 for 258 yards and one touchdown as he completed passes to seven different receivers.

What looked like a possible blowout in the early going turned into a nailbiter, as the Gators owned the second half.

A key sequence in the third quarter helped Florida on its comeback. After Austin Hardin missed a 47-yard field goal, Murray’s lateral was muffed by Arthur Lynch (who seemed to think it was a forward pass) and Leon Orr pounced on the ball for the Gators and returned it to the Georgia 13-yard line. A review upheld the call and Mack Brown punched it in for a touchdown two plays later to make the score 23-10 with a little under seven minutes to play in the third.

The teams then traded punts after ineffective possessions, only Florida’s punt pinned the Bulldogs down on their own three yard line. That’s when Louchiez Purifoy sacked Murray on a corner blitz for a safety to make the score 23-12 with the third quarter winding down.

Georgia free kicked it and the Gators took over on their own 50 and drove in for a touchdown in five plays, with Tyler Murphy‘s 14-yard TD run being the capper. Murphy found tight end Clay Burton for the two point conversion and, suddenly, UGA’s lead was just 23-20. The roof seemed to cave in for the Bulldogs when Gurley was stopped on fourth and one from the UGA 39 yard line on its next possession.

But while Florida got the ball back in good field position, Neiron Ball‘s personal foul penalty pushed it back to its own 46. The Gators advanced as far as the UGA 41, but Corey Moore sacked Murphy for a loss of 14 yards on third and 12 and Florida was forced to punt.

Georgia then took over on its own 17-yard line with 8:17 to play. It held the ball the rest of the way, running 15 plays while benefitting from another ill-timed Florida penalty that kept the drive alive. Game over.

This was a hard-fought, physical battle that got fairly sloppy at times.  The Bulldogs won the first half, the Gators won the second and, in the end, the better team won.

Could this be the beginning of the end for Will Muschamp at Florida? The third year coach is now 22-12 overall, but Ron Zook was fired for going 23-14 in his three seasons in Gainesville. With games against South Carolina, Georgia Southern and Florida State left to play, do the math. Muschamp and Zook might end up having a lot more in common than a blustery sideline demeanor.

USC’s Max Tuerk already questionable for Notre Dame game

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Center Max Tuerk #75 of the USC Trojans prepares to snap the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Trojans defeatred the Wildcats 28-26.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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As if the questions about the head coach’s future aren’t enough, now USC could have a rather significant issue in the middle of its offensive line to deal with as well.

Early in the first quarter of what would turn out to be an embarrassing loss to Washington Thursday night, Max Tuerk sustained a sprained knee. Upon further examination, it was determined that the veteran center would be unable to return to the game.

Not only that, Tuerk, who was wearing a brace on his right knee following the loss, is already labeled as questionable for what it in every sense of the phrase a must-win game for Steve Sarkisian against Notre Dame eight days from now.

With Tuerk sidelined for the remainder of the game, he was replaced by Toa Lobendahn. It’s unclear which direction the Trojans would go if Tuerk is a no-go this weekend, although Khaliel Rodgers, who had been dealing with a personal issue, has been Tuerk’s backup.

Tuerk has started 38 games in his Trojan career — 18 at center, 14 at left guard, five at left tackle, one at right tackle. Lobendahn started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, the first eight at left guard and then five at right tackle.

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.