Auburn returns field goal for SEC West clinching TD, hands Alabama first loss


Auburn is getting used to these wild endings. What’s next?

This may have been the craziest ending to an Iron Bowl ever. Alabama’s last-second 57-yard field goal attempt fell short and was returned by Auburn’s Chris Davis from the back of the end zone down the left side of the field and Alabama’s lack of athleticism on the field goal team was unable to catch him. Davis might as well keep running all the way to Atlanta, because the Auburn Tigers are going to play for the SEC Championship after claiming the SEC West Division title with the win over Alabama.

Auburn needed a touchdown to make overtime a possibility, and they got it by fooling Alabama’s secondary in to closing in on a mobile Nick Marshall. Marshall switched hands and tossed to a wide open Sammie Coates, who sprinted down the field for a 39-yard score to tie the game at 28-28. Alabama still had time to work with though with two timeouts and they started to move down field. The game appeared to end in regulation when Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon ran out-of-bounds on a 23-yard run. The clock appeared to expire but officials took another look and decided to add one more second on to the clock, ruling Yeldon stepped out-of-bounds with that much time on the clock. The extra second turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Auburn fans, who were initially not happy with the call.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban then made what turned out to be a poor decision, opting to try a 57-yard field goal with Adam Griffith. The Tide had been 0-3 on field goal attempts by Cade Foster earlier in the game. The decision not to take one more chance with McCarron on the field may have cost Alabama the win, an SEC title and perhaps a shot at a BCS title. Going for a 57-yard field goal given Alabama’s kicking production this season was certainly questionable, without hindsight. Considering the way a game was won at Auburn two weeks ago, Saban should have taken a chance letting McCarron toss one deep.

The longest play in Alabama history appeared to have saved the season’s ultimate goal for the Crimson Tide earlier in the quarter. Pinned inside their own one-yard line, AJ McCarron heaved a deep ball to Amari Cooper down the left side line, and Auburn’s defenders could not make the tackle to allow Cooper to run uncontested the length of the field for a 99-yard touchdown play in the fourth quarter. It gave Alabama a 28-21 lead before Marshall completed the pass to Coates to tie the game.

Auburn will take on either Missouri or South Carolina in next week’s SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. If Missouri defeats Texas A&M Saturday night it will be Missouri representing the SEC East in the conference championship game.


North Carolina formally announces hiring of ex-Tennessee RBs coach Robert Gillespie

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The latest addition to Larry Fedora‘s North Carolina coaching staff has been confirmed.

Following up on reports that surfaced earlier this month. UNC announced Wednesday that Fedora has hired Robert Gillespie. While not confirmed by the football program in the release, it’s expected Gillespie will serve as the Tar Heels running backs coach, a position he’s held for most of his coaching career.

“We are excited to welcome Robert and his family to Chapel Hill,” Fedora said in a statement. “He has a well-earned reputation as a great offensive coach and recruiter, and he has a wealth of experience working with running backs at a very high level. We are happy to have him join our staff as we get into the bulk of spring practice.”

Gillespie fills the hole created by the departure of Gunter Brewer, who left as the Tar Heels’ wide receivers coach for a job with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this month. It’s expected that Luke Paschall, currently the running backs coach, will assume Brewer’s role with receivers.

Gillespie, a former Florida running back, spent the past five seasons as the running backs coach at Tennessee. He was originally retained by new UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt before parting ways with the football program shortly after National Signing Day.

In addition to UT, Gillespie has spent time on coaching staffs at South Carolina (2006-08), Oklahoma State (2009-10) and West Virginia (2011-12). He was the running backs coach at each of those stops.

Report: Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa’s thumb injury ‘just a sprain’

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It appears Alabama can breathe a sigh of relief on the injury front.

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.

While there’s been nothing official yet from the football program or head coach,, citing unnamed sources, writes that the injury “is believed to just be a sprain and he should be able to return to practice in at least a limited capacity at some point soon.”

Until then, 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 engaged 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.

John Calipari takes page out of Nick Saban’s playbook by warning of (rat) poison

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One’s a dot, two’s a line and three’s a trend as the old adage go and it appears rat poison for college players is now a burgeoning trend.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday ahead of Kentucky’s NCAA tournament game against Kansas State, Wildcats coach John Calipari took a page straight out of Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin’s playbook by warning his team of drinking the media “poison” the past few days.

“My challenge is making sure these kids don’t drink that poison. That poison being we have an easy road. There are no easy roads in this tournament,” said Calipari. “If they drink that poison, we’ll be done Thursday. If they don’t drink the poison, it’ll be a dog fight Thursday — let’s see what happens. Sometimes you wonder why they’re (the media) trying to paint that picture with my team — probably because they’re young and they know they don’t know better.”

Ok then.

At least the term Calipari is using isn’t out of thin air given that Saban infamously ranted on his team buying into the media’s discussion of being a good team as “rat poison” last season. For the record though, the rant by the basketball coach was prompted by a question that didn’t at all involve Kentucky having an easy path to the Final Four but was rather about team and individual goals.

It’s not often you think of Saban as a trendsetter but it seems he was certainly ahead of the curve when it came to labeling media talk as poison.

Harbaugh hits primetime again as Michigan announces spring game under the lights

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Jim Harbaugh is already getting a series on Amazon Prime but now the Michigan head coach is also getting the primetime treatment.

The Wolverines announced on Tuesday that the annual spring game would take place under the lights at Michigan Stadium this year and would be televised live in primetime on the Big Ten Network.

Gates will open to the game two hours prior to kickoff and the maize and blue faithful may try to do their best to get to Ann Arbor early because the school is going to screen an episode of the Amazon series  “All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines” prior to the game. This will be the second time in three years that the school will go under the lights to play their spring game at night but obviously the first time there’s a documentary series that will be screened prior to the Wolverines taking the field.

The game may be worth tuning in for to see Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson in action with his new team after arriving in the offseason. The NCAA still has not ruled on whether he will be immediately eligible in 2018 but he is expected to go through spring drills with the team either way, starting this week when practices begin on Friday.