Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien addresses a news conference before his first spring practice as Penn State's head football coach, in Pennsylvania

Penn State makes Bill O’Brien’s departure for Texans official


It’s officially official: for the second time in two years, Penn State will be forced to conduct a search for a new head coach, albeit under entirely different circumstances.

Nearly two year’s to the day Bill O’Brien was officially introduced as Joe Paterno‘s successor, Penn State confirmed Thursday morning that the head coach is leaving Happy Valley to take the same job with the NFL’s Houston Texans.  In two seasons with the Nittany Lions, and working under stifling NCAA sanctions, O’Brien posted a 15-9 record.

The announcement comes a handful of days after it was reported that O’Brien and the Texans were closing in on a deal that would send the coach back to the professional ranks, a level at which he had spent the majority of his coaching career prior to coming to the Nittany Lions.

Athletic director Dave Joyner also confirmed that long-time defensive line coach Larry Johnson will serve as interim head coach while the search for a permanent replacement is conducted.

“We need to do everything we can to support the needs of our student-athletes during this period,” Joyner said. “I am very confident in Larry Johnson, the coaches and staff in maintaining continuity and working with the returning players and recruits.

“We intend to move quickly in our search to identify the next great Penn State football coach.”

At a press conference that began shortly after the release was sent out, Joyner stated that the search could be wrapped up “in a matter of days, not weeks.”

Based on recent reports, Greg Schiano appears to be Joyner’s top target.  A candidate for the job the last time it came open, Schiano was fired last month as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  While Schiano’s schtick may have worn thin at the NFL level, he showed during his time at Rutgers that he can run a successful collegiate program, even at a place not known as a traditional football power.

In addition to Schiano, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Tennessee Titans head coach — and former PSU All-American — Mike Munchak have both been prominently connected to the job over the past couple of weeks.  San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman could be an under-the-radar candidate, as could Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden, who was a potential candidate the last time around as well.

While there’s not much buzz around him at the moment, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi would be at or near the top of my to-do list were I standing in Joyner’s shoes.

There’s also the matter of Christian Hackenberg.  The Freshman All-American quarterback is rumored to be considering a move on from the Nittany Lions now that a significant reason for his signing with the school is gone; it will be up to the new head coach and his staff, particularly the position coach, to convince the talented freshman to stay.

Florida’s leading tackler a game-time decision vs. Georgia

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 03: Ross Comis #2 of the Massachusetts Minutemen passes Jarrad Davis #40 of the Florida Gators to score a touchdown during the first half of the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Whether Florida will have its leading tackler for its annual rivalry game with Georgia won’t be known (still) for another couple of days.

The good news is that, for the first time since severely spraining his ankle in the Week 7 win over Missouri, Jarrad Davis returned to practice Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis.  If the linebacker takes the field for the UGA game, it won’t be known until Saturday shortly before kickoff.

“Obviously, that will be one of those that it’s got to be right with him, got to be right with the doctors. We’ll see. Kind of game time,” head coach Jim McElwain said. “I thought he moved pretty well. One of the tackling circuits he got beat up by one of the sleds. The sled bit back, but it was good to see. The opportunity to play in this game is something that’s real special and that guy is a real big part of our team. He’ll do anything he can to help us.”

Davis currently leads the Gators in tackles with 48 and is tied for second on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss.

While the status of Davis remains up in the air, McElwain did confirm that two starting defensive linemen, end Jordan Sherit and tackle Joey Ivie, will play against the Bulldogs.  Sherit underwent arthroscopic surgery three weeks ago while Ivie had surgery performed on his thumb the week before.  Additionally, starting defensive end Bryan Cox has a chance to play despite his own thumb injury.

BYU, Utah announce ‘Holy War’ extension through 2022

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Travis Wilson #7 of the Utah Utes runs for a touchdown against defensive back Micah Hannemann #7 of the Brigham Young Cougars during the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 19, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Utah won 35-28.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Thankfully, one of the more underrated in-state rivalries isn’t going away anytime soon.

BYU and Utah announced Thursday that the schools have reached an agreement on a two-game extension of their series.  The Cougars will host the first game of the extension Sept. 11, 2021, in Provo while the Utes will return the favor Sept. 3 the following season in Salt Lake City.

The schools had previously agreed to games from 2017 through the 2020 season.

“BYU-Utah is one of the great college rivalries in the country. There’s a lot of history and tradition between the two schools and I’m glad we were able to extend the series through 2022,” said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe in a statement. “I’ve loved this rivalry as a player, coach and administrator, and look forward to the future games.”

The teams have played 91 times since the series kicked off in 1922.  The Utes hold a 56-31-4 advantage all-time, including a 20-19 win earlier this season.

Jimbo Fisher rules Derwin James out of Clemson game

ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 05:  Derwin James #3 of the Florida State Seminoles reacts after a play against the Mississippi Rebels during the Camping World Kickoff at Camping World Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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When Derwin James went down with a torn meniscus in Week 2, Florida State had the Clemson game circled as a potential date for a return.  Unfortunately for both the player and the team, that won’t be the case.

On his weekly call-in show Wednesday night, Jimbo Fisher confirmed that James and his surgically-repaired knee will not play in the Seminoles’ game this Saturday against the Tigers.  There is still no timetable for the sophomore safety’s return.

Hopefully Derwin will be back here soon,” the head coach said.

One thing apparently off the table is a redshirt for James as Fisher said if the defensive back can return at any point this season he will.

The Clemson game will mark the sixth straight missed by James.  FSU will close out the regular season against North Carolina State (Nov. 5), Boston College (Nov. 11), Syracuse (Nov. 19) and Florida Nov. 26).

In less than two full games this season, James was credited with 11 tackles and also has an interception.

As a true freshman last season, James’ 91 tackles were second only to Reggie Northrup’s 94. He was also second on the team in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (4.5).

For that, he was named a consensus freshman All-American and third-team All-ACC.  This offseason, he was named to the Bednarik AwardNagurski Trophy and Thorpe Award watch lists, and is widely considered one of the most talented players on the defensive side of the ball in the country.

FAU loses starting right tackle to season-ending injury

BOCA RATON, FL - OCTOBER 10: Head coach Charlie Partridge of the Florida Atlantic Owls looks on during the fourth quarter of the game against the Rice Owls at FAU Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Boca Raton, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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As Florida Atlantic looks to put a halt to a six-game losing streak, tied with Bowling Green, Fresno State and Kansas for the longest such streak nationally, they’ll have to do so without a starting piece of their offensive line.

Head coach Charlie Partridge announced Wednesday that Bryan Beck will miss the remainder of the 2016 season because of injury. Specifically, the right tackle has an unspecified knee injury.

Beck was pushed into the starting lineup because of a knee injury to senior Kelly Parfitt.

“We’ll attack this challenge like we have the rest of them,” Partridge said of the latest injury setback for his offensive line.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, the Owls will be using their eight different line combination this weekend. Saturday’s game against Western Kentucky will be FAU’s eighth this season.

A redshirt freshman, Beck has started four games this season. Three of those starts came in the last three games in place of the injured Parfitt.