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Hackenberg grows up in big way as Penn State tanks Wisconsin

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Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien is known for putting his quarterbacks to the test. This afternoon in Madison, Wisconsin freshman Christian Hackenberg aced his final exam for the season in a resounding way. Hackenberg passed for 339 yards and four touchdowns as Penn State (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) upset No. 15 Wisconsin (9-3, 6-2 Big Ten) in a 31-24.

Penn State had to hang on to this one though, and they responded well. After seeing a 31-14 lead whittled away to a seven-point advantage late in the fourth quarter, Penn State was faced with a 3rd and 9 after the eighth false start penalty on the offensive line. Rather than try to pass, Penn State kept it on the ground with Wisconsin out of timeouts. A draw play to Zach Zwinak worked beautifully with a 61-yard run up the middle to keep the drive alive and to run some more clock off. Penn State managed to get the game clock down to 35 seconds before asking Sam Ficken to convert a 31-yard field goal, which he missed. That left Wisconsin with just 31 seconds to drive the length of the field. The defense held on with a late stand despite the Badgers moving down field quickly. Ryan Keiser picked off a deep pass to the end zone to clinch the victory.

Penn State’s Allen Robinson turned in another fine performance with 122 yards on nine receptions. Eugene Lewis scored two touchdowns and added 91 yards to compliment Robinson’s day. Wisconsin receiver Jared Abrbederis led the Badgers with 114 yards.

Penn State did a great job holding down Wisconsin’s running game. Melvin Gordon and James White were never able to bust any big runs against a Penn State defense that figured to be vulnerable against the run. Wisconsin tried to get Joel Stave to lead the charge in the passing game but that often backfired on the Badgers.

The loss for Wisconsin takes the Badgers out of the conversation for a BCS at-large invite. Much of the week had centered on a debate between Wisconsin and Michigan State as the potential second Big Ten team in the BCS, but that debate has been silenced. Wisconsin had played in three straight Rose Bowls and had a decent argument to be considered for an at-large bid this season if there was an opening. Wisconsin will still be playing in a January 1 bowl game in the Big Ten line-up and should be a tough opponent for whatever team they get paired up with.

Penn State’s season is over of course despite a second straight winning season under O’Brien. This marks the completion of the second of four seasons serving a postseason ban for the Nittany Lions. O’Brien is now 3-2 against top 25 teams in his short coaching career. Penn State had lost eight straight games against ranked opponents prior to the hiring of O’Brien.

With another signee granted release, half of Baylor’s signing class is now gone

BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  A Baylor Bears helmet on the sidelines during the game against the Buffalo Bulls at UB Stadium on September 12, 2014 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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And another once-future Bear bites the dust.

Brandon Bowen has been granted his release from Baylor, a school spokesman confirmed to the Waco Tribune-Herald on Thursday. Bowen, a 6-foot-5, 233-pound defensive end, signed with Baylor as a four-star prospect out of Byron Nelson High School in Trophy Club, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He chose Baylor over Oklahoma and Oregon last winter.

Bowen becomes the 11th member of Baylor’s 2016 class to be granted a release from his scholarship or otherwise leave the team this summer. The previous 10 are — deep breaths — B.J. Autry, Parish Cobb, Tren'Davian Dickson, Devin Duvernay, Donovan Duvernay, Jeremy Faulk, Patrick Hudson, Kameron Martin, J.P. Urquidez and DeQuinton Osborne.

That’s 11 members of Baylor’s 22-man signing class now gone. The Bears’ 2017 class has one commitment and is ranked 113th by the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Dickson transfereed to Houston, Martin signed with Auburn, Osborne left for Oklahoma State, and Hudson, Urquidez and the Duvernay brothers all migrated to Texas.

 

Coastal Carolina officially joins the Sun Belt today, in all sports except football

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 23:  Alex Ross #4 of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers drops back to pass during their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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One of the final aftershocks of the Great Realignment from earlier this decade officially reaches the surface today.

The Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina are now officially all-sports members of the Sun Belt Conference. In every sport, that is, except football. Joe Moglia and his 41-13 football program will compete this fall as an FCS independent before making the leap in 2017.

“This is a great day for the Sun Belt Conference as we are very proud to have Coastal Carolina University officially join our membership,” Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson said in a statement. “The Sun Belt has a bright future and Coastal Carolina makes a perfect fit as it too has seen a tremendous amount of growth and success with its baseball team most recently winning the College World Series and a national championship. Under the leadership of President DeCenzo, Athletics Director Matt Hogue, and all the Chanticleer coaches and student-athletes, I expect CCU to be very competitive in the Sun Belt immediately and represent the SBC in NCAA championships in the upcoming season.”

The oddity here is that no Sun Belt member has ever won a national championship while a member of the Sun Belt (Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Louisiana-Monroe each claimed Division I-AA/FCS national championships). Meanwhile, Coastal Carolina registered its first ever national championship in baseball just yesterday, its final day as a Big South member and on the eve of moving to the Sun Belt.

That, of course, didn’t stop the Sun Belt from covering the Chanticleers’ run through Omaha like they were one of their own.

Coastal Carolina’s first football season will also mark affiliate members Idaho and New Mexico State’s final season in the Sun Belt. The sleeker, geographically cohesive 10-team Sun Belt will launch its championship game in 2018.

Jeremy Foley’s successor at Florida unlikely to come from within

GAINESVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 06:  Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley speaks on during an introductory press conference on December 6, 2014 in Gainesville, Florida. Jim McElwain has left Colorado State and replaces ex-Florida head coach Will Muschamp who was fired earlier this season.
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Jeremy Foley‘s rise up the ranks of Florida’s athletics department is a path that launched thousands of sports careers.

After obtaining a Master’s degree in sports administration from Ohio, a 22-year-old Foley took an internship in Florida’s ticket office. He was hired full-time after the internship ended. Then he was promoted to ticket manager. Then he took over all ticket and game operations. Before his 30th birthday Foley was running Florida’s business operations and by age 39 he was the Gators’ athletics director.

He remained in that position, of course, throughout the duration of his career. A career that will end in October.

Foley’s quarter-century run atop the Florida sports pyramid and four decades working within it will come to an end soon, and in the process of finding his replacement it appears the Gators will choose from a well different than they found the old boss. Foley was famously and obviously loyal to Florida, and also to his team of senior executives.

His top three executives, executive associate AD for internal affairs Chip Howard, executive associate AD for external affairs Mike Hill and executive associate AD for administration Lynda Tealer have been in Gainesville since 1989, 1993 and 2003, respectively. And each has taken their name out of the running to become Florida’s next AD.

“Each of the internal people have made a decision not to pursue the athletic director position for their own individual reasons,” Florida spokesman Steve McClain said in a statement on Thursday to the Florida Times-Union.

Georgia AD Greg McGarity, a former Foley protege in Gainesville, took his name out of the running earlier last month.

Veteran secondary starter dismissed by Colorado State

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 20:  Wide receiver Kaelin Clay #8 of the Utah Utes runs for yardage after catching a pass as defensive back Preston Hodges #24 of the Colorado State Rams hits him out of bounds during the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 20, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Utah won 45-10.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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With the start of summer camp just up the block and around the corner, Colorado State has seen its secondary take a rather significant hit.

A CSU official has confirmed to the Loveland Reporter Herald that Preston Hodges has been dismissed from Mike Bobo‘s football program.  The Reporter Herald writes that Hodges “had become academically ineligible and was dismissed from the team.”

The past three seasons, Hodges had started 28 games in the Rams’ secondary.  Eight of those starts came at cornerback last season.

Exiting the spring, the senior Hodges was listed No. 2 on the depth chart at one of the safety spots.

In addition to Hodges, offensive lineman Blake Nowland is no longer on the team’s roster.  There was no reason given for his departure.

After playing in three games as a redshirt freshman in 2014, Nowland missed the entire 2015 season because of a broken leg.