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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.

Western Michigan’s leading tackler granted release, will transfer

KALAMAZOO, MI - NOVEMBER 19:  Robert Spillane #10 of the Western Michigan Broncos sacks Grant Rohach #19 of the Buffalo Bulls in the third quarter at Waldo Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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The most productive player on the defensive side of the ball during Western Michigan’s breakout 2016 season is moving on.

The football program announced via its official Twitter account that Robert Spillane has asked for and been granted a release from his scholarship. A rising true senior, it’s unclear if the linebacker will be leaving WMU as a graduate transfer.

If he is, he’ll be eligible to play at another FBS program in 2017. If not, he’d have to sit out the upcoming season before using his final season of eligibility in 2018.

Last season, Spillane led the Broncos in tackles with 111 — next closest was Asantay Brown‘s 95 — while he was second in tackles for loss with 10.5 and tied for third in sacks with three. His three interceptions were tied for second as well. The last of those three picks came at the end of the MAC championship game that helped seal WMU’s win over Ohio.

The past three seasons, Spillane started 28 games for the Broncos. He started all 14 games last season.

Surgery knocks out MTSU starting QB Brent Stockstill for the spring

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 10:  Quarterback Brent Stockstill #12 of the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders throws a pass during the first half at Vanderbilt Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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In early November, a right shoulder injury knocked Brent Stockstill out for the remainder of Middle Tennessee State’s season.  Four months later, a procedure on the other side of the same area has sidelined the starting quarterback yet again.

MTSU announced Tuesday that Stockstill will miss the whole of spring practice, which is set to kick off March 15.  The rising junior recently underwent surgery on his left (throwing) shoulder.

The procedure is not expected to have any impact on his availability for the upcoming season.

“The doctors just went in and cleaned some stuff up in his shoulder but he should be ready to go this summer,” Rick Stockstill, MTSU’s head coach and the player’s father, said in a statement. “He will be held out of spring drills.”

After just two seasons as the starter, Stockstill already owns school records in touchdown passes (61), 300-yard passing games (14), 400-yard passing games (2) and passing yards per game (303.3).

Idaho suspends LB Charles Akanno after shoplifting arrest

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Head coach Paul Petrino of the Idaho Vandals signals in the game against the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 12, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Idaho may be bolting for the FCS after this coming season but they’re still in the FBS for now, which makes them the latest to trigger a resetting of the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker to double zeroes.

According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, redshirt freshman Charles Akanno was arrested Sunday on a charge of receiving/possessing stolen property. The charge stems from an alleged Feb. 20 shoplifting incident involving two other males, including a former Vandals football player.

As a result, the linebacker has been indefinitely suspended from the football program.

“We have high expectations for every member of our program,” head coach Paul Petrino said in a statement. “It is an honor and a privilege to represent the University of Idaho. Until this matter is resolved by the courts, Charles will be suspended from all team activities.”

A three-star 2016 signee, only three other members of that year’s class for the Vandals were rated higher.

Akanno took a redshirt as a true freshman. He has been expected to compete for a starting job in 2017.

LSU hoops player might make move to Tigers football

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 13:  Craig McFerrin #15 of the McNeese State Cowboys shoots over Darcy Malone #22 and Brian Bridgewater #20 of the LSU Tigers during the second half of a game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on November 13, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Brian Bridgewater appears willing to attempt to become the latest student-athlete to make the transition from the hardwood to the gridiron.

A basketball player at LSU, Bridgewater (pictured, No. 20) confirmed Monday that he will look to make the transition to football for the Tigers this fall. While Bridgewater, who is scheduled to graduate in August, has spoken to unnamed LSU staffers about the transition, he has yet to speak to head coach Ed Orgeron regarding any move.

Based on his comments, it appears he might look to another football program if LSU falls through.

“That’s a possibility, if things go according to how they’re supposed to,” Bridgewater said of joining the Tigers football team. “Hopefully that’s an option. If not I’ll have to see what door opens for me.”

A 6-5, 282-pound power forward in basketball, Bridgewater would likely make his football hay as a tight end. He last played football in 2012 at the high school level.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune writes that “[d]espite only playing one season of high school ball, Bridgewater was ranked as the No. 27 tight end in the country by 247 Sports.”

Bridgewater is expected to finish out the 2016-17 college basketball season before turning his focus to football.