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Oklahoma scores 35 points off five Alabama turnovers in Sugar Bowl win

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For one half it looked as though we went back in time watching some of the great Oklahoma teams from the earlier part of the Bob Stoops era. In the second half Stoops found a way to keep his Sooners in front of Nick Saban‘s Alabama Crimson Tide and held off any possible rally in the Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma shocked the two-time defending BCS champions with a 45-31 victory, Alabama’s first loss in a postseason bowl game since the 2009 Sugar Bowl upset to Utah. Alabama lost five turnovers, which turned in to 35 points for the Sooners.

Leading 31-17 at the half, Oklahoma got off to a poor start in the second half. Alabama eventually picked up the first score of the second half with a touchdown run by Derrick Henry from 43 yards midway through the third quarter to bring Alabama to within one score. Things looked to be going Alabama’s way, but the Sooners extended their lead in the fourth quarter when Trevor Knight rolled to the right side and then threw back a little to his left to find Sterling Shepard for a touchdown. The score made it a double-digit lead, 38-24. Alabama managed to score once more with AJ McCarron tossing a short pass to Henry, who then ran right up the middle of the field for a 60-yard touchdown to make it a once-score game. Once Oklahoma got their hands back on the football though, Alabama’s defense could not get off the field with enough time to work with on offense. Oklahoma punted away with 1:02 to play but without any timeouts Alabama failed to drive the length of the field to tie things up.

On the first play from scrimmage, McCarron dropped back and had the ball knocked out of his hand by Eric Striker. The loose football was picked up by Okla Geneo Grissom, who then stretched his body to reach for the goal line and one last touchdown. The 15-point underdog won by 14 as a result of the seventh sac of the night by Oklahoma’s defense.

Trevor Knight ended the night with 348 yards and four touchdowns while Alabama’s McCarron ended his collegiate career with 387 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in addition to the late fumble. The Crimson Tide actually out-gained Oklahoma 516-432 but were uncharacteristically careless with ball protection with five turnovers, which as mentioned above resulted in 35 points for Oklahoma.

Next season Oklahoma will open the season knowing Trevor Knight will be the main guy running the offense. If the Sugar Bowl and the regular season finale against Oklahoma State was any indication of what to expect from the Sooners in 2014, watch out in the Big 12. Oklahoma showed signs of improving as the season went along, so if they can carry that momentum in to the spring then they could be in store for a successful season next fall. The schedule is certainly favorable with home games against Tennessee, Baylor and Kansas State. The Sooners pen the 2014 season at home against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, August 30.

As for Alabama, it is back to the drawing board. For the first time in a few years the Crimson Tide will officially open a quarterback competition for the starting job in 2014. With McCarron moving on, Alabama will have a new starting quarterback but they could also be set to lose a running back. Fortunately the position is stocked. The focus should also be on the defense that had cracks all year and started to be beyond repair in the final games of the season. Alabama is not going anywhere though as far as the national title picture is concerned. With four spots up for grabs in the new college football playoff model starting next season, the Crimson Tide will continue to be a contender as long as Nick Saban is in charge.

Alabama opens the 2014 season in Atlanta against West Virginia on Saturday, August 30.

Local Auburn man arrested after setting Toomer’s Corner oak tree on fire

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Fans of the Auburn Tigers roll trees at Toomer's Corner after defeating the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. The Auburn Tigers defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves 51-14.(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Police have identified and arrested a 29-year-old Auburn, Ala. man after he allegedly set fire to one of the oak trees at the famous Toomer’s Corner.

Fans traditionally celebrate a Tigers victory by “rolling” the trees with toilet paper and did so once again on Saturday night following an 18-13 victory over LSU. However, video surveillance showed a suspect lighting some of the paper on fire, setting the tree ablaze as he walked away.

The Auburn city police department, in a release obtained by USA Today, stated that “witnesses at Toomer’s Corner identified a suspect, who was immediately detained and taken into custody by police on an unrelated charge of public intoxication.” Several reports identified the suspect as Jochen Wiest.

Firefighters quickly responded to the fire and extinguished the burning tree but university officials are still evaluating the damage to the oaks.

“From the ground we can easily see damage to the leaves and base of the tree. It is significant,” Professor of Horticulture Gary Keever said in a statement released by the school. “I expect the foliage will continue to drop. The full extent of damage may not be known for several weeks. The best case scenario would be to see a flush of new growth next spring, but right now it’s too early to tell how the tree will respond.”

The incident is all the more emotional for Auburn fans given that the tradition had just been revived this season following a three-year absence as a result of an Alabama fan poisoning the oaks. Hopefully the area around Toomer’s Corner can recover in time for the Tigers’ next win, which might be as soon as Saturday when they host Louisiana-Monroe.

Notre Dame officially parts ways with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder

FILE - In an Aug. 29, 2014 file photo, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, right, talks with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder during practice during media day for a NCAA football team in South Bend, Ind. It was announced Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder following a 1-3 start. The school tweeted a new release saying VanGorder is being replaced by defensive analyst Greg Hudson.(AP Photo/Joe Raymond, File)
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Notre Dame has officially parted ways with embattled defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

“This is a difficult decision,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for Brian as both a person and football coach, but our defense simply isn’t where it should be and I believe this change is necessary for the best interest of our program and our student-athletes.”

Notre Dame has allowed 134 points through their first four games and are just 1-3 after extremely high preseason expectations. This was VanGorder’s third season in South Bend but the Irish have regressed significantly and ranked 101st in FBS scoring defense after Saturday’s home loss to Duke.

Defensive analyst Greg Hudson, a former Notre Dame linebacker who has served as defensive coordinator at Purdue, East Carolina and Minnesota, was elevated to fill VanGorder’s role.

“It’s never easy to make a change on your staff, but I’m confident in Greg’s ability to lead our defense,” Kelly added. “As a former player at Notre Dame and an experienced defensive coordinator, he not only understands the expectations necessary to compete at the highest level, but he’ll bring a fresh perspective to our sideline, practice field and meeting rooms.”

The move to make staff changes on the defensive side of the ball isn’t exactly surprising to Irish fans who have seen the team play this year but the timing is notable. Kelly remarked that the coaching was not the problem on defense after the loss to the Blue Devils but still opted to make a change on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if a very young defense will respond, and perhaps even rally, now that a big message has been sent.

Notre Dame plays Syracuse on Saturday at noon ET.

Florida International fires head coach Ron Turner after 10-30 run

HADLEY, MA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Head coach Ron Turner of the FIU Golden Panthers looks on during the game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Hadley, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
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The firing season in college football is getting started earlier and earlier. Just ask Ron Turner.

The Florida International head coach was fired early Sunday in a move that was hardly surprising aside from its timing.

“I want to thank Coach Turner for his contributions to the FIU football program, most importantly his commitment to academics and community service,” athletic director Pete Garcia said in a short statement. “At this time Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Ron Cooper has been named interim head coach.”

Turner went 10-30 over four years at the school but was 0-4 to begin the season after a 53-14 loss to Central Florida last week. While he is far from the first coach fired in 2016, Turner did become the first head coach to be fired after the season got underway.

Cooper had a 45–55 record in nine seasons as a head coach at Eastern Michigan, Louisville and Alabama A&M. He was elevated to FIU’s defensive coordinator prior to the season and notably served as LSU’s defensive backs coach when Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu starred in Baton Rouge.

The Panthers are set to play local rival Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

LSU head coach Les Miles, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron fired

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers looks on during the game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The Mad Hatter is looking for a new gig.

LSU has fired head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the school announced on Sunday. The news was first reported by the Baton Rouge Advocate.

“Decisions like this are never easy ones to make,” athletic director Joe Alleva said in a statement. “Coach Miles has done a tremendous job here and he’s been a great ambassador for our University, which makes this even more difficult.

“However, it’s apparent in evaluating the program through the first month of the season that a change has to be made. Our commitment to excellence and competing at the highest level is unwavering, and our goals for the remainder of this season haven’t changed. We have an obligation to our student-athletes to put them in the best position to have success on the football field each week and we have great confidence that coach Orgeron will do just that.”

The move comes just hours after the Tigers lost to Auburn in the final seconds to drop to 2-2 after beginning the year as a trendy national championship pick and top five team in the polls.

Miles has been in Baton Rouge since 2005 and posted a 114–34 record at the school, including a national title in 2007 and a pair of SEC championships. He was nearly let go after the 2015 season but was retained following a huge wave of public support and potential implications with a large buyout.

Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron was named the interim head coach for the rest of the season. Former LSU quarterback and current tight ends coach Steve Ensminger is slated to become the new offensive coordinator, according to Fox Sports.