Gurley’s return helps Georgia hold off Florida

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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.

Suspended Michigan State staffer receives another contract extension

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Michigan State has added another one-month extension to the contract of suspended football staffer Curtis Blackwell as the school continues to investigate several sexual assaults involving the Spartans.

A schools spokesman confirmed the extension to the Detroit Free Press on Friday.

The move comes on the heels of a previous one-month contract extension for Blackwell that came at the end of March. His official title is that of the team’s director of college advancement and performance and he was hired by head coach Mark Dantonio back in 2013 after running a number of major recruiting camps in the region.

Blackwell was originally suspended back in February as the school and police began multiple investigations related to sexual assaults. According to reports, one Michigan State staff member had an arrest warrant issued for obstructing an investigation but he was never publicly identified by the school.

Probes into the matter, including a Title IX investigation, remain ongoing in East Lansing. The football team recently wrapped up practice missing over a dozen players in the spring game so it appears this wide-ranging scandal that has embroiled the Spartans is not going to be over anytime soon.

Ex-USC coach finally lands court date with NCAA over Reggie Bush case

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After years and years of meandering through the court system, former USC running backs coach Todd McNair finally has his day in court with the NCAA.

ESPN is reporting that the two parties will meet in Los Angeles County Superior Court on April 18, 2018. The trial will finally get underway next year after nearly a decade of appeals on both sides.

McNair was the Trojans’ running backs coach during the glory days under Pete Carroll and responsible for coaching or recruiting many of the team’s top players. He was one of the few links to the program that the NCAA cited when determining that former star Reggie Bush received extra benefits, later leading to brutal sanctions back in 2010. McNair was given a one-year show-cause as a result of the Committee on Infractions findings and never coached again after the school let his contract expire shortly thereafter.

That wasn’t the end of the story however, as McNair later filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA in which he accused the association of violating protocol and showing bias against himself and the program in order to level unprecedented sanctions. Documents in the case have continued to seep out that have given credence to McNair’s case and the NCAA’s lawyers have fought bitterly at every turn in order to prevent the trial from actually getting underway.

Those efforts were unsuccessful however and it appears an already nasty legal battle is still not over. It remains to be seen if the trial will even happen, as a settlement could eventually take place between now and next April. If it does indeed go in front of a jury though, it just might be one of the most fascinating insights into one of the biggest NCAA scandals of the past few decades.

Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Jonathan Giles announces transfer from Texas Tech

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Thursday may have been a high point for the Texas Tech football program upon learning that former quarterback Patrick Mahomes was taken in the top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft.

On Friday afternoon though, the Red Raiders dipped right back down as star wide receiver Jonathan Giles took to Twitter to announce that he was leaving the program and transferring out of Lubbock.

Giles was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist a season ago after catching 69 passes for 1,158 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those numbers led the team in each category despite trailing off a bit down the stretch as Tech missed out on a bowl game.

Playing time could have been a big factor in the decision to leave the program as both Cameron Batson and Keke Coutee emerged as the top receiving targets and Giles was relegated to second-team status coming out of spring practice.

Tech’s Air Raid system and NFL quarterbacks had a lot to do with Giles’ big numbers but it’s fairly rare to see such highly touted and productive wideouts hit the transfer markets. While the decision probably isn’t what some Red Raiders fans wanted to hear on Friday, the receiver probably won’t be lacking for options when it comes to his next stop.

Pitt dismisses senior defensive tackle for disciplinary reasons

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Bad news in college football is typically reserved for Friday and it appears the Pitt Panthers just got a taste of some.

Per Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Jerry DiPaola, head coach Pat Narduzzi has dismissed starting defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni for disciplinary reasons.

Taleni emerged as a starter down the stretch for the Panthers and will be a big loss up front for the team as they already have to replace the stellar production from the soon-to-be-drafted Ejuan Price.

No further comments were given when the school confirmed the news so it might be a while before we find out what led to Taleni’s dismissal and whether he plays college football at all next season.