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.
Alabama took advantage of a staff opening on its coaching staff this week to promote Mike Locksley to a full-time offensive assistant’s role. Now, his role appears to be a bit more defined. According to a report from Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, Locksley will be taking on the role of co-offensive coordinator.
Locksley has previous offensive coordinator experience, of course. Locksley coached the offense at Maryland and Illinois prior to arriving at Alabama. Feldman reports Locksley turned down “several coaching offers” so he could remain a part of the Alabama coaching staff for the 2017 season.
Locksley was previously added to the Alabama football staff as an analyst. Now he will share the offensive coordinator duties with another recently promoted analyst, Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian was promoted to offensive coordinator in the week leading up to the College Football Playoff national championship game after Nick Saban made the decision to force Lane Kiffin out of the position and send his offensive coordinator to take on the full-time work of being the new head coach of FAU.
Michigan’s spring break trip to conduct spring practices at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida will be its last. An NCAA proposal to ban such trips outside of the college football season passed by a count of 58-22 on Friday.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh caught a lot of criticism for his decision to take Michigan’s spring practices down to Florida over Michigan’s spring break. The move was a bold strategy for Harbaugh and the Michigan program, but it ruffled the feathers of coaches from the ACC and SEC, leading to a move to ban such practice plans in the future. The debate over such a move was debated with similar intensity that satellite camps received, and now we await to see just how Harbuagh will respond, because he is known to chime in when something like this happens.
So no more trips to Florida for Michigan football players over spring break. That means Harbaugh will just have to go to the drawing board to find a new idea to find an edge.
Washington State coach Mike Leach is known across the country as one of college football’s most interesting characters, rambling on from time-to-time about everything from pirates to the history of Geronimo. The latest subject the quirky head coach has turned his sights on? The big ol’ SEC.
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger spoke to Leach recently as part of a profile on new Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo, and let’s just say the Air Raid guru of the Palouse didn’t hold back when discussing the state of offenses in the league widely considered to be the best in the sport.
“I’ve got bad news for all these levels people,” Leach said. “Your level isn’t special, your conference isn’t special. All this different level this, different level that. That’s crazy.
“This is a great time to be in the SEC, everybody’s got the same offense: run right, run left, play action. And they tease themselves and say we threw it four more times a game this year than we did last year.”
Leach, who coached in the league at Kentucky, also added some other, more colorful language to describe his impression of the SEC and the offenses teams run. While he did play at Auburn with the Cougars a few years ago, he clearly hasn’t kept up with the way things are trending down south as even pro-style stalwarts like Alabama and Arkansas are using more and more tempo and spread principles on a weekly basis.
Either way, let’s hope the Washington State athletic director is already making calls to schedule an SEC opponent in the coming years. If nothing else, any future appearance by Leach on the Paul Finebaum Show should be must-see entertainment.
It probably took a little longer than most to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, but Willie Taggart has completed his coaching staff at Oregon and the latest addition is a familiar face.
The school announced Thursday afternoon that Raymond Woodie would be taking over as the Ducks’ new special teams coordinator, having previously spent the past four seasons at USF with Taggart and three more before that together at Western Kentucky.
Woodie most recently served as the Bulls’ defensive coordinator this past season but has been a linebackers coach dating back to 2012. He is regarded by many to be a quality recruiter with good ties to the state of Florida in particular and has also coached the defensive line. While his title makes him responsible for the third phase of the game for Oregon, he figures to also help out new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt in some fashion as well.
The announcement is a bit of positive news for Taggart and the Ducks this week after a considerable bit of bad press for the program stemming from the revelation that multiple Oregon players wound up in the hospital following offseason workouts. New strength coach Irele Oderinde (who also came over from USF) was eventually suspended for one month without pay by the school as a result..