Kyle Flood, Eric LeGrand

LeGrand, Taliaferro to serve as captains for Rutgers-Penn St. game


Tired of all of the off-field crap in the sport?  Here’s some pretty cool future on-field news to brighten your mood.

Tuesday, Penn State and Rutgers announced that Eric LeGrand and Adam Taliaferro will serve as honorary captains for the Sept. 13 Nittany Lions-Scarlet Knights game in Piscataway, the first-ever Big Ten meeting for the two Eastern football programs.  LeGrand and Taliaferro, a New Jersey native, will take part in the pregame coin toss.

Both of the players, of course, sustained severe spinal cord injuries during their collegiate playing days, LeGrand in 2010 and Taliaferro in 2000.  The latter — given a five percent chance by doctors of ever walking again — has made a full recovery, while LeGrand’s fight to do the same has inspired millions worldwide.

During the initial stages of LeGrand’s recovery at the Kessler Institute, Taliaferro was one of those who paid him a visit.

“For me, it’s an absolute honor to share this with Eric,” Taliaferro said in quotes distributed by the two schools. “Eric has inspired me ever since his injury and continues to do so each and every day.”

“It’s going to be pretty cool,” said LeGrand, whose No. 52 is the only retired jersey in Rutgers history. “Adam is a role model for me. From meeting him for the first time, seeing him on his feet again when doctors told him he’d never be on his feet, he has really pushed me during my recovery.

“He’s still a big inspiration to me.”

Spectacular. And well done by both schools, bringing these two inspirational figures onto the same football field, together.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian
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Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.

Starting Navy S Kwazel Bertrand undergoes surgery, likely out for season

Kwazel Bertrand, Jacobi Owens
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Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.

Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.

“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”

Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.