Who says rabid interest in spring football is limited to just the SEC and Deep South?
With a spring game slate featuring a whopping nine schools from the 12-team (for now) conference, Penn State stood head and shoulders above every other Big Ten program as slightly more than 72,000 fans took in the Nittany Lions’ spring closer. The school came within a few thousand of breaking the program’s spring-game record of 76,500, set in 2009.
A big reason behind the turnout is the enthusiasm generated by new head coach James Franklin and his PSU coaching staff. After just a handful of months on the job after replacing Bill O’Brien, Franklin and his staff have already been credited with “breathing new life into a program still in recovery mode” from the you-know-who scandal. Recruiting has picked up to a very brisk pace and, as evidenced by the turnout Saturday, enthusiasm from the fan base appears to be growing at roughly the same clip.
Yes, it’s the spring, but the energy Franklin has brought to Happy Valley is refreshing to see — and well-deserved for a community that’s been doubled over the last couple of years by the one-two hook of the scandal and subsequent NCAA sanctions.
In other Big Ten attendance news, both Nebraska and Ohio State saw crowds in excess of 61,000 for their respective spring games. The former had an exact total of 61,772 — 61,773 if you count the cat — while the latter was announced at just over the 61,000-fan mark. The total for the Buckeyes may be a bit of a disappointment to head coach Urban Meyer, who had been hoping to see 85,000-plus pack the Horseshoe and put on a show for recruits; OSU didn’t help that cause by initially charging $20 for what amounts to nothing more than a glorified practice session with referees.
While the school ultimately dropped the price to $5 a head, it was seemingly too little, too late to get to the number for which Meyer had hoped.
A rather serious-sounding situation is the latest to trigger a resetting of the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker.
According to the Lafayette Journal & Courier, Martesse Patterson was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of battery resulting in serious bodily injury. That charge is a felony.
Even more noteworthy is the fact that the charge stems from an altercation with a former teammate, ex-Boilermaker walk-on Alex Hilger. From the Journal & Courier:
Hilger alleged that on Sept. 7, Patterson entered Hilger’s room at their residence in the 800 block of Hayes Street in West Lafayette “to borrow some property.” Hilger told Patterson he was not allowed to borrow the property, but Patterson took it anyway and returned to his room.
According to the affidavit, when Hilger approached Patterson to retrieve his possession, Patterson punched him in the face. Hilger sought treatment at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after sustaining a broken jaw requiring a two-day hospital stay. The affidavit cites medical records showing Hilger suffered a “displaced fracture of the left mandible and a non-displaced fracture of the right mandible.
Hilger, who played in 12 games last season but is not a member of the team this year, obtained a no-contact order against Patterson, who admitted to police that he both took the property and punched Hilger.
Darrell Hazell is aware of the situation, with a statement saying that the head coach “respects that there is a legal process that he will allow to evolve before further commenting.”
Patterson started the first two games of the season before being demoted for what Hazell described as a “personal matter.” The demotion came shortly after the incident that led to the charge.
Nearly two months after his tragic passing, a cause of death for Zach Hemmila has been confirmed.
Based on the autopsy report filed by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, the Arizona Republic is reporting that the 22-year-old Hemmila’s death was the result of the combined toxic effects of two different prescription drugs. The two drugs, the Republic noted, were oxymorphone, an opiate painkiller, and alprazolam, an anxiety medication.
From the newspaper’s report:
Chewing tobacco was found in Hemmila’s mouth, according to the autopsy report. No intact pills were discovered in his gastrointestinal system. His lungs were “markedly congested,” per the report.
Hemmila passed away either very late on the night of Aug. 7 or early in the morning Aug. 8. A cousin discovered Hemmila’s body at the Arizona offensive lineman’s residence.
His death has officially been ruled an accident.
“Arizona Athletics continues to mourn the passing of Zach Hemmila,” a statement from the university said in response to the report. “We will honor the family’s request for privacy and support them in any way we can.”
Hemmila started six games last season. He was slated to start at center for the Wildcats this season.
The Wildcats will continue to wear a sticker the No. 65 to honor Hemmila for the remainder of the season.
LSU received some good news and not so good news ahead of its first game without Les Miles on the sidelines in more than a decade.
On the latter news front, star running back Leonard Fournette is listed as a game-day decision for Saturday’s contest against Missouri because of a lingering ankle issue. The All-American initially injured the ankle during a mid-August summer camp practice; then aggravated it against Wisconsin in the opener; sat out the Week 2 game against an FCS foe; and then aggravated it again in Week 4 against Auburn.
After leading the country in yards per game last season with nearly 163 yards per game, Fournette is currently 10th at 128.7. That total still tops the SEC.
On a more positive tip for the Tigers, interim head coach Ed Orgeron confirmed that starting defensive lineman Davon Godchaux has been reinstated to the program and will be permitted to practice with his teammates. Whether he plays this Saturday remains to be seen. Godchaux had been arrested on a pair of charges stemming from a domestic incident over the weekend, but the prosecutor in the case announced Tuesday that he would not be filing formal charges.
Godchaux has started all four games this season (26 in his career) and is fifth on the team in tackles.
Three playing members of the Nebraska football program who knelt in protest during the playing of the national anthem Saturday faced significant — and some racially-charged — criticism for their actions, including one NU regent who wants the players removed from the program. The state’s governor, Pete Ricketts (pictured, right), was highly critical as well.
“Generations of men and women have died to give them that right to protest,” Ricketts said. “I think the way they chose to protest was disgraceful and disrespectful.”
One of the NU kneelers, senior linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, took to Twitter to ask the governor to met with him and discuss the issues that led he and his teammates, freshmen Mohamed Barry and DaiShon Neal, to kneel in protest.
Late Tuesday night, Ricketts responded.
Imagine that, discussion, not rhetoric, on both sides of an issue. What a revolutionary concept.