Lucky bounce gives Auburn wild finish, next up Alabama


It was fourth an 18. Georgia had just sucked all of the momentum out of the stadium. Or so it seemed. Nick Marshall dropped back to pass and launched a deep ball out of as much desperation as he had hope. It was deflected by a Georgia defender and for a split second it looked as though Alabama would be one step closer to wrapping up the SEC West tonight. But then, as fate would have it, the ball landed in the hands of Ricardo Louis, who ran uncontested to the end zone to capture a 43-38 lead that seemed improbable just two seconds before. But this seesaw battle would not end without one last effort from Aaron Murray and Georgia, but Murray’s final pass was hopeless as he was hit as he threw. This time the ball fell to the ground instead of one lucky receiver’s hands with nothing but daylight in front of him.

Auburn 45, Georgia 38. Whew!

After holding off Georgia (6-3, 4-2 SEC) Saturday, Auburn (10-1, 5-1 SEC) is now in control of their SEC West fate. All that is standing in the way is the top-ranked team in the country, the two-time defending BCS champions and the biggest rival of them all for Auburn; Alabama. Oh, is that all?

The stage for a monumental Iron Bowl match-up in two weeks is now halfway set. Auburn will get a week off to rest and prepare for Alabama, who likely will come to Auburn with an undefeated record as the top-ranked team in the country (assuming the Tide win Saturday night). The way Auburn has been playing of late under head coach Gus Malzahn, the Tigers look to be the biggest threat to Alabama on their quest for a third straight BCS title. As it turns out, Auburn could still figure in to the BCS Championship equation. A win over Alabama would send Auburn in to the SEC championship game. Would a one-loss SEC champion be passed by an undefeated Ohio State or Baylor, or perhaps a one-loss Pac 12 champion (Stanford or Oregon)? The debates would be fascinating, but you could make a very strong case for Auburn given the national perception of the SEC.

But none of that will come in t play if Auburn does not beat Alabama at home for the first time since 2007.

On Saturday, Auburn looked about as worthy of a challenge to Alabama as any. The Tigers rolled up over 500 yards of offense, highlighted by a 100-yard rushing performance from Tre Mason and the dual-threat play of quarterback Marshall. Eight different players caught a pass for Auburn and the offense avoided a turnover.

Auburn also needed to dig deep and hold off a furious rally by Georgia. Trailing 37-17 in the fourth quarter, Aaron Murray threw two touchdowns to trim a 20-point deficit to a one-score game, and his controversial touchdown run gave Georgia a brief lead. Video replay showed Murray’s knee may have touched the ground before getting the ball across the goal line but there was not enough indisputable evidence to overturn the original touchdown call. It seemed as though Georgia had managed to escape with a win against all odds and set themselves up for a potential rematch with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

They were one bounce away from that scenario being possible.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa (thumb) returns to practice

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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

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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

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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

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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.