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The Fifth Quarter: Week 1 Rewind

Oklahoma State v Florida State Getty Images

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

THUMBS UP

Shaky title defense begins
Last year, Florida State rolled over, through and around its regular season opponents by an average score of 53-10, with their “closest” call being a 48-34 win over Boston College on the road in Week 5.  They did not score less than 41 points in any game, and allowed more than 17 points just once.  Based on the opener, the Seminoles won’t be steamrolling through its 2014 slate.  At first it looked as if it would be lather, rinse and repeat as the Seminoles jumped out to a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter.  Then  reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston began misfiring — two interceptions, just over 60-percent completion percentage — and the Cowboys outscored the ‘Noles 31-20 the rest of the way.  It wasn’t enough to dig out of that big early hole, however, as FSU extended its winning streak to a nation’s best 17 straight while Winston threw for 370 yards on an “off” night.  It did, though, offer some teachable moments for a coach looking to ensure his team doesn’t suffer through a post-title malaise as the ‘Noles go from being the hunter to the hunted.

Super Mario
Marcus Mariota has already been recognized as one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in Oregon history.  Now, the record books officially backup that stance.  In the Ducks’ season-opening romp over South Dakota, Mariota passed for 267 yards and three touchdowns, running for one other score — and setting or tying two school career standards and getting closer to a third in the process.  Mariota now has 82 career touchdowns (66 passing, 15 rushing, one receiving), breaking the tie he had been in with Joey Harrington. He’s also now tied with Darron Thomas for career passing touchdowns (66) and is within 22 yards (8,140 to 8,119) of breaking Bill Musgrave‘s record for total offense.  Suffice to say, Mariota, one of the preseason Heisman favorites, will break both those latter marks at some point during the Ducks’ highly-anticipated showdown with Michigan State next Saturday.

This one’s for you, bro
Early last November, Carl Pelini “resigned” as FAU’s head coach amidst drug allegations that were later recanted.  Nine months later, Pelini’s younger brother gave birth to a little bit of payback.  Saturday in Lincoln, Bo Pelini‘s Nebraska Cornhuskers pummeled FAU by the score of 55-7.  NU totaled a Big Ten-record 779 yards of offense — the most for the ‘Huskers since 1991 — and included 493 on the ground.  Ameer Abdullah ran for 227 of those yards, a career-high performance, while Tommie Armstrong passed for a personal-best 271 yards.  It won’t get the elder Pelini his job back with the Owls, but his former team’s evisceration could provide him with a little satisfaction.

Everett the Redeemer
Nearly everyone by now is aware of the Everett Golson story: led Notre Dame to the BCS title game in 2012 in his first season as a starter, then was (temporarily) kicked out of school after cheating on an exam.  Golson’s Redemption Tour commenced in earnest when he was readmitted in December, ramped up when he was officially named as the Irish’s starting quarterback earlier this month, and went into another gear thanks to his performance in the 2014 opener.  In the first half alone against Rice, Golson passed for 222 yards and accounted for all four of ND’s touchdowns — two passing, including a 75 and 53 yarders, as well as a pair on the ground.  Golson finished with 295 yards passing — second-most in his career — and five touchdowns as he added a second-half rushing score in the 31-point romp over the Owls.  If Golson can continue to shake off the rust and find his 2012 form, the Irish could be one of the teams that make noise in the postseason.

Fight or flight? No question for Trojans
It’s been, to say the least, a rough last week for the USC football program off the field, from a senior captain admitting he lied about an act of heroism to another senior calling his now-former head coach a racist.  On the field, however, the Men of Troy have found some solace.  In the first game of the Steve Sarkisian era Saturday night, the Trojans took out all of their lingering frustrations on an overmatched Fresno State squad by the score of 52-13.  Quarterback Cody Kessler passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns… in the first half alone.  The offense ultimately rolled up 704 yards of offense on 104 plays, the latter of which set a Pac-12 record.  The defense, meanwhile, held the Bulldogs to 326 yards and forced four turnovers.  It was an impressive performance all-around, especially when viewed through the prism of the storm clouds hanging over the program’s head.

No Gurley man
When healthy, Todd Gurley is the unquestioned best running back in the country.  The Georgia junior is now healthy, meaning his talents were on full display in the season opener.  In the 45-21 win over Clemson, all Gurley did was rush for a career-high 198 yards on just 15 carries, scoring three touchdowns in the process.  For good measure, he returned a kickoff 100 yards for another score, giving him a school-record 293 total yards (he caught one pass for minus-five yards).  If Gurley can stay clean medically, there’s little doubt he will be — at least, he should be — in the thick of the Heisman discussion throughout the season.

Bruin an offensive defense
In what was a first-ever occurrence, all 21 of UCLA’s first-half points came from the defense: two interception returns (Ishmael Adams 20 yards, Eric Kendricks 37 yards) and one fumble return (Randall Goforth 75 yards).  In fact, all three of those defensive touchdowns came in the second quarter, the first time that’s ever happened in a game featuring two Power-Five conference teams.  It was a good thing the defense came to play in Charlottesville, though, as the Bruins’ offense was apparently still on West Coast time, outgained by the Cavaliers 245-136 through the first two quarters.  The Bruins didn’t score its first offensive touchdown until just over a minute was left in the third quarter and held on for a 28-20 win.

Grin and Barrett
In his first game at the collegiate level, J.T. Barrett had his ups.  And his downs.  In other words, he played like your typical redshirt freshman quarterback.  In Ohio State’s closer-than-it-looked 34-17 win over Navy, Barrett was efficient as he completed 12-of-15 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns.  One of those incompletions, though, was a poorly thrown interception as the Buckeyes were driving for a score in the red zone.  On the other hand, Barrett was the team’s leading rusher (50 yards on nine carries).  Said head coach Urban Meyer, “I thought J.T. did OK. He was good. I never felt he was rattled.” Barrett appeared to grow more comfortable as the game progressed and it didn’t appear the game was bigger than him, which bodes well for an OSU team that, despite the loss of Braxton Miller, still holds playoff aspirations.

Berkeley resurrection
It’s just one game, but, after last season, it’s a cause for celebration.  Entering the 2014 season on one of the hotter coaching seats in the country, Sonny Dykes watched Saturday as his Cal Golden Bears jumped out to a big 31-7 lead on Northwestern and then hung on for a 31-24 win in Evanston.  It was Cal’s first win against an FBS team since Oct. 13, 2012 and snapped an overall nine-game losing streak.  This game could certainly be used as a measuring stick of the progress the Bears have made; last year in Berkeley, the Wildcats tripped up the Bears, who were en route to a one-win season, by two touchdowns.  Whether this portends a big turnaround for the Cal football program remains to be seen, but it certainly was a good start after the train wreck that was the 2013 season.

One tough zebra
As hard as they try, football officials sometimes inadvertently become physically involved in a play during the normal course of a game.  The latest example?  During the first half of the Southern Miss-Mississippi State game, back judge Kenny Long got up close and personal with a pair of Bulldog defensive backs:

 

Aside from a couple of nicks and cuts, Long was fine and continued officiating for the remainder of the game.

Beware the Mighty Bison!
When will FBS teams learn?  For the fifth straight season, FCS-level North Dakota State has knocked off an FBS football team, with Iowa State becoming the Bison’s latest victims thanks to a 34-14 beating in Ames.  NDSU actually trailed 14-0 early in the second quarter before ripping off 34 straight points in ISU’s humiliation.  The fact that the Bison pushed around one of the big boys from a Power Five conference is far from surprising — or at least should’ve been.  Despite losing its head coach to Wyoming, NDSU is the FCS preseason No. 1 and have won the last three championships (2011-13) at that level. The Bison have won 24 straight and 43 of their last 45, including a season-opening 24-21 win over Kansas State in 2013; a 22-7 win over Colorado State in 2012; a 2011 win over Minnesota by the score of 37-24; and, finally, a 6-3 win over Kansas in the 2010 opener. All of those wins against FBS teams, including Saturday’s, came on the road.  If FBS teams are looking for an FCS cupcake, might I suggest North Dakota instead of North Dakota State?

Idaho v Florida

Will Muschamp

THUMBS DOWN

Mother Nature
The weather did its damnedest to interrupt at least a couple of games opening weekend.  Very early in the fourth quarter of the Arkansas-Auburn game, the game was delayed after severe thunderstorms, replete with lightning, moved into the area.  That contest was delayed for more nearly an hour and a half before play resumed.  A few hundred miles east of The Plains, the start of the Idaho-Florida game was delayed for nearly three hours due to weather… and then was delayed again shortly after kickoff… and then ultimately prompted the cancellation of the game.  How significant was the rain in The Swamp?  See for yourself:

Elevator from hell
Somewhat surprisingly — OK, very surprisingly — Arkansas entered the locker room tied with Auburn 21-all at the half.  The Razorbacks were winless in SEC play last year, while the Tigers won the conference on their way to the BCS title game.  After the half, however, the game reverted to the expected form as AU scored the last 24 points to run away with the win.  So, what happened during that 15-minute break that turned the tide?

Of course, the faulty Otis wasn’t responsible for what became a blowout, but the assistants not being able to work with their position groups certainly didn’t help matters.

QB play from hell
It’s not a stretch to say that North Texas set quarterback play 50-plus years with the display it put on Saturday.  During Texas’ 38-7 win in the first game under Charlie Strong, two Mean Green quarterbacks — Andrew McNulty and Josh Greer — combined to complete 3-of-17 passes for 15 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions.  That performance works out to a minus-22.9 quarterback rating.  I don’t know if that was the worst collective rating of all-time, but I would think it wouldn’t take long to call that particular roll.

Embarrassing Orange win
Yes, Syracuse’s record stands at 1-0 on the season.  That, though, is where the highlights end.  Friday night, the Orange was taken to double overtime by Villanova before outlasting the FCS team by the count of 27-26.  The Wildcats outgained the Orange 389-320 and possessed the ball for nearly 38 of the 60 minutes in regulation.  Not only was ‘Cuse the lesser of the two teams in nearly every category — aside from the one that counts — but its starting quarterback, Terrel Hunt, was ejected late in the second quarter for throwing a punch.  Not in any way, shape or form was the game in general or that incident specifically a good look, Scott Shafer.

Rocky Mountain low
This was the year Colorado was expected to get it together under Mike MacIntyre, turning the woebegone football program around and get it headed in the right direction.  While that may ultimately be the case, you sure couldn’t tell it from the opener.  Trailing 17-14 entering the fourth quarter, Colorado State scored 17 unanswered points to upset their rivals 31-17 in the Rocky Mountain Showdown.  In fact, after CU took a 17-7 lead with almost 10 minutes left in the third quarter, CSU outscored the Buffs 24-0 the rest of the game.  It was a difficult and disappointing end for a team that entered 2014 with semi-high hopes.

Woofpack
(Waiting for the groans to subside… still waiting… and we’re good)  Entering halftime, North Carolina State trailed Georgia Southern of the Sun Belt 17-3.  The Wolfpack trailed 20-10 entering the fourth quarter.  Thanks to a pair of touchdowns, including one with 1:37 remaining in the game, NCSU was able to fend off what would’ve been an embarrassing season-opening loss to a Sun Belt school for Dave Doeren and company.  The game did, though, signal that this could be a long season for the Wolfpack if they don’t step up their level of play in a hurry as three of their first four ACC games are against Florida State, Clemson and Louisville.

FBS vs. FCS
Of the 84 games that have been or will be played during Week 1, a whopping 50 of them featured FBS vs. FCS matchups.  And, as expected, it was mainly a diet of lopsided wins for the big boys.  Aside from North Dakota State’s deconstruction of Iowa State and Bethune-Cookman’s two point win over FIU, FBS teams won 48 of those contests.  Of those 48 wins, just 11 were decided by 10 points or less.  Additionally, Power Five conferences played members of the Non-Power Five leagues in 17 games over the past three days; the Power-Five conferences have gone 14-3 thus far, with Utah State-Tennessee and SMU-Baylor still to be played Sunday.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

No. 1 Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31:  Maybe OSU should’ve been ranked in the Top 25 to start the season?  The Cowboys took the defending BCS champions to the limit, coming back from a 17-0 deficit late in the second quarter to scare the Seminoles opening weekend.

West Virginia v Alabama

West Virginia v Alabama

– No. 2 Alabama 33, West Virginia 23: Out of all of the surprising results from opening weekend, this is easily one of the most surprising.  The Tide entered this game as anywhere from 21- to 27-point favorites, but the Mountaineers hung with them throughout.  At the half, the Tide held a scant three-point lead.  UA stretched that lead to 10 early in the third quarter, with WVU never able to get closer than seven the remainder of the game.

– No. 5 Ohio State 34 , Navy 17: The final score indicated an easy romp for OSU, but it was far from it.  Playing without Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes were trailing the service academy 7-6 at the half, looking very much like an offense that had lost its linchpin.  Navy held a one-point lead until late in the third quarter when the Buckeyes scored the first of their three touchdowns in a span of 17 minutes to win going away.

No. 7 UCLA 28, Virginia 20: As noted above, it’s a good thing the Bruins’ defense showed up as the offense managed just seven points and 358 yards against the woeful Cavaliers, winners of just two games last season and six the previous two.

– No. 18 Ole Miss 35, Boise State 13: The Rebels exited the third quarter with a scant 7-6 lead… and then pulled away with 28 fourth-quarter points, with three of the scores coming on touchdown passes from quarterback Bo Wallace.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Sunday if I, ya know, had a real vote.

1. Florida State — Yes, a six-point win after rolling through every regular-season opponent by at least 14 points last year pales in comparison.  This, though, was arguably the toughest team on FSU’s schedule, which means the Seminoles, as they were at the start of the season, the heavy favorite to repeat as champs in the first year of the CFP.
Next up: vs. the Citadel Sept. 6

2. Oregon —  How much can you learn from what essentially amounted to a season-opening scrimmage in which the Ducks pounded FCS-level South Dakota 62-13?  Not a whole heck of a lot actually, so let’s move on.
Next up: vs. Michigan State Sept. 6

3. Texas A&M — Based on that 52-28 beating of South Carolina in Columbia Thursday night, how can A&M not be rated among the five best teams in college football after the first weekend?  CFT may have snubbed the Aggies in our preseason Top 25, but that won’t happen here.  For a team to be able to say “Johnny Football who?” after just one game, it seems destined for what most would consider a surprise season based on all of the attrition the past several months.
Next up: vs. Lamar Sept. 6

4. Alabama — It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win is a win.  The offense did rack up 538 yards of offense, while the defense limited West Virginia to just 28 yards on the ground in 24 carries.  There were, however, issues in the secondary yet again that must be corrected if the Tide is planning on making the expected postseason noise.
Next up: vs. FAU Sept. 6

5. Oklahoma — With Ohio State struggling with Navy for most of the game, the Sooners slide into the inaugural Top Five.  While it’s hard to judge OU based on one performance against overmatched Louisiana Tech, and unlike OSU, the Sooners did exactly what they’re supposed to do: stepped on an inferior opponent’s neck and didn’t let up until the last second ticked off the fourth-quarter clock.
Next up: at Tulsa Sept. 6

Jordan Westerkamp, Christian Milstead

Jordan Westerkamp

HE SAID IT
“I’ve coached a lot of football, but I’ve never seen that one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. That one’s hard to explain. To even have the wherewithal to put your hands back there, it’s amazing. I’ve always said, he catches everything that’s near him. He showed that right there.” — Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, on Jordan Westerkamp‘s behind-the-back catch (see below).

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I told him, ‘Do you. Don’t try to go out there and do nothing that you don’t do and try to be like (Braxton Miller) or anything. Just go out there and do you.’ When you do you, that’s when you’re the most comfortable so that’s what I told him.” — Ohio State running back Dontre Wilson, on his message to first-time starting quarterback J.T. Barrett.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“It’s a huge win. I can’t tell you how happy I am for the people of Colorado State University. Those kids in that locker room prepared to go win a football game like a good team should. There wasn’t any talking or any of that stuff; they just went out and played good football the way Colorado State Rams should.” — Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain, after watching his CSU Rams embarrass in-state rival Colorado.

HE SAID IT. THE QUADQUEL
“The guy’s a really good coach, now. Y’all need to fess up to that.” — Alabama head coach Nick Saban, on much-maligned offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“I would say we played better than them. I don’t know if we’re the better team but if you looked at this game, I thought we played better. … The best team doesn’t always win in overtime.” — Villanova head coach Andy Talley said following his team’s double-overtime loss to Syracuse.

CATCH OF THE DAY
Forget Catch of the Day; this beauty from Nebraska’s Jordan Westerkamp may end up being the Catch of the Year after just one week.

 

“It was a crazy play,” the player said in quotes distributed by the school. “I ran a corner route and I saw the ball get tipped, so I put my hands back and the ball just landed perfectly.”

You, Mr. Westerkamp, are officially ridiculous.  What, the Hail Mary last year wasn’t enough?

HELMET OF THE DAY
They may be reminiscent of something Ponch and Jon wore, but these Navy helmets the Midshipmen wore for their season opener against Ohio State were a gorgeous display of headgear:

Navy Helmet

GIF OF THE DAY
Behold, the glory of the elusive and mysterious “Ass Punt”:

Butt Punt

Bless you, Youngstown State’s Joey Cejudo. Bless you.

The only thing that could’ve made that play better? If a fat guy picked up the “blocked” punt and returned it for a touchdown.

SID NOTE OF THE DAY
Alabama quarterback Blake Sims had a record-breaking debut vs. West Virginia. Sims, who finished the game by connecting on 24-of-33 passed for 250 yards, secured the school record for most completions and attempts of any quarterback in a debut game at Alabama. The former completions record was held by John David Phillips, who connected on 17 passes in his debut vs. BYU in 1998. The former attempts record was 30, held by three different Tide quarterbacks. In addition, Sims’ 250 yards passing ranks third among Alabama quarterbacks in their debut. The record of 285 passing yards is held by Brody Croyle vs. Arkansas in 2002, followed by John Parker Wilson’s 253 yards passing in 2006 vs. Hawai’i.

SAY WHAT?
With their first-ever game on a Friday in Week 1, the Colorado-Colorado State rivalry has now been contested every single day of the week except Tuesday.

Monday (1900)
Wednesday (1923)
Thursday (1916-18 and 46)
Friday (2014)
Saturday (75 times)
Sunday (1899, 2008-09 and 13)

SAY WHAT? PART II
There are 12 current FBS head coaches who are coaching at the same school at which they played their college football. The dozen coaches are listed below:

Air Force: Troy Calhoun (1985-88)
Boise State: Bryan Harsin (1995-99 )
East Carolina: Ruffin McNeill (1976-80)
Kent State: Paul Haynes (1987-91)
Northwestern: Pat Fitzgerald (1993-96)
Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy (1986-89)
Stanford: David Shaw (1991-94)
Texas Tech: Kliff Kingsbury (1999-2002)
Tulsa: Bill Blankenship (1975-79)
Utah State: Matt Wells (1994-96)
UTEP: Sean Kugler (1985-88)
Virginia Tech: Frank Beamer (1966-68)

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– Not only was Christian Hackenberg‘s 454 yards passing a career high for the true sophomore, it was the first time in Penn State history that a quarterback had thrown for more than 400 yards in a single game.  The record-setting effort — besting the mark of 399 set by Zach Mills in 2002 — was punctuated by a late drive that culminated in Sam Ficken‘s game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock as the Nittany Lions upended UCF 26-24.

Connor Halliday‘s 532 yards passing in the 41-38 loss to Rutgers Thursday were the second-most in school history, 25 yards behind his record set last October in a 62-38 loss to Oregon.  He needed 89 throws to set that mark, however, while he needed “just” 56 for his second 500-yard passing game.  Also, Halliday’s five touchdown passes gives him 63 for his career, passing Ryan Leaf for third-most all-time at Wazzu.

Brandon Doughty scoffs in the general direction of Halliday’s performance as the Western Kentucky quarterback passed for 569 yards and six touchdowns in the season-opening 59-31 win over Bowling Green. Those two totals were school records, as were his 46 completions.

– Texas Tech’s Davis Webb passed for 452 yards and four touchdowns in the Red Raiders’ surprisingly close 42-35 win over Central Arkansas.

– In his first career start, Kentucky’s Patrick Towles passed for 377 yards in leading the Wildcats to a win over UT-Martin.

– Thursday night, Kenny Hill‘s 511 yards broke Johnny Manziel‘s school record in Texas A&M’s romp over South Carolina.

Clint Trickett passed for more than 300 yards in West Virginia’s loss to Alabama, making it the first time a Nick Saban-coached Tide team has allowed more than 300 yards passing in back-to-back games.  In the Sugar Bowl, Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight passed for 348 yards.

Taysom Hill scored a career-high five touchdowns, three passing and two rushing, as a depleted BYU squad strolled past UConn 35-10.

– USF true freshman running back Marlon Mack set an AAC record with 275 yards against Western Carolina.  The old record of 215 yards by Tulane’s Sherman Badie was set just two days ago.

– Colorado State running backs Dee Hart (139) and Treyous Jarrells (121) combined for 260 yard rushing in the win over Colorado, becoming the first pair of Ram rushers to run for 100-plus yards in the same game since 1996.

– Not to be outdone, Michigan’s Derrick Green (170) and De’Veon Smith (115) combined for 285 yards in the Wolverines’ 52-14 payback waxing of Appalachian State.

– In Indiana’s 21-10 win over Indiana State, Tevin Coleman ran for a Memorial Stadium-record 247 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 20 carries.

– In the first game of his collegiate career, Western Michigan true freshman Jarvion Franklin ran for 169 yards and three touchdowns in the loss to Purdue.

– Playing in his first game at Air Force, Jacobi Owens ran for 233 yards as the Falcons rolled over Nicholls State 44-16.

– Alabama’s Amari Cooper caught a career-high 12 passes for 130 yards in the win over West Virginia.

– Oregon State’s Garrett Owens attempted a school-record seven field goals in Oregon State’s 29-14 win over Portland State.  Smelter connected on five of those attempts, missing from 25 and 50 yards.  All of his made field goals came from 31 yards and closer.

– Defending national champion Florida State currently owns the nation’s longest winning streak at 17 straight. Michigan State (11) is the only other FCS programs in double digits. Conversely, Miami (OH)  lost 17 straight, the longest such streaks in the country. Purdue has lost 11 straight, while Arkansas and Virginia have lost 10 in a row.

– Georgia State would’ve been on the wrong end of that list, but the Panthers were able to outlast Sam Houston State of the FCS 38-37 to end its 16-game losing streak.  It was GSU’s first win since Oct. 13, 2012 (41-17 over Rhode Island).  In the four-year history of the football program, GSU has never beaten a team that was an FBS school at the time the game was played (they beat South Alabama in Oct. of 2011, but the Jaguars were still in the last year of their transitional phase to the FBS level).

– For the first time in school history, two true freshman offensive lineman, Toa Lobendahn and Damien Mama, started for USC in a season opener.

– Purdue’s Corey Clement is, per the school, the biggest player in college football, with the offensive guard listed at 6-8, 400 pounds.

– With the loss to North Dakota State, Iowa State has now lost to an FCS program in back-to-back seasons — 28-20 to Northern Iowa in last year’s opener included.

– With the win over South Dakota State, Missouri is now 13-1 in season openers under Gary Pinkel. The lone loss came in Pinkel’s first season in 2001 (20-13 to Bowling Green), meaning the Tigers have ripped off 13 straight opening-day wins since.

Getty Images - Chris Graythen

Getty Images – Chris Graythen

– LSU currently has the nation’s longest regular-season non-conference winning streak at 46 straight games. Les Miles is 35-0 in non-conference regular-season games as head coach of the Tigers.

– The Badgers had won 16 consecutive season openers dating back to 1998, which was tied for the third-longest streak in the nation with USC and behind only Nebraska (29) and Florida (24). LSU, with the win over UW, has now won 12 straight games to open a season, a streak that dates to 2003.

– On the flip side, Western Michigan has now lost 10 straight openers after its loss to Purdue.

– With West Virginia’s 3-0 lead early in the first quarter, Alabama trailed in a season opener for the first time since 2009 (down 17-16 to Virginia Tech late in the third quarter).

– With the win over Stephen F. Austin, Kansas State is now 21-2 all-time in openers under Bill Snyder. Just six of those 23 games have come against Power Five conference schools (Texas Tech, Arizona State, Iowa, USC, Cal, UCLA) while 13 have, like Saturday’s opponent, come against FCS programs. The two losses were to Arizona State in 1989, Snyder’s first season with the Wildcats and, infamously, North Dakota State last season.

– With the win over Kent State, Ohio’s Frank Solich moved out of a tie with the Golden Flashes’ Trevor Rees and into sole possession of sixth place for most wins in MAC history (67). Next up? Former Toledo and current Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel in fifth with 73. And, for those who are curious: Central Michigan’s Herb Deromedi and his 110 wins make him the winningest MAC coach of all-time.

– In its 62-0 win over Delaware, Pittsburgh outgained the FCS team 506-71.  407 of those yards came on the ground, with eight Panther players credited with at least one carry.  James Conner led all rushers with 145 yards on 13 carries.

– Ohio State has been ranked in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 for each the past 26 years, the most of any college football program. Next closest? Oklahoma’s 15 years.

– Speaking of OU, the Sooners have won at least 10 games in a season 12 times since 2000, the most of any program at the FBS level.

– UCLA’s trip to Charlottesville to take on Virginia was the Bruins first trip to the stadium of an ACC school since they traveled to Maryland to face the Terrapins in 1969.

– With the loss Saturday, Clemson has not beaten Georgia in Athens since 1986. Just four games in that rivalry have been played Between the Hedges during that stretch, however.

Arkansas v Auburn

Melvin Ray

– Both Arkansas and Auburn have seven teams currently ranked in the Associated Press preseason poll on their 2014 schedules, the most in the nation. All seven of the Razorbacks’ games against Top 25 teams come against SEC programs, including the season-opening loss to the Tigers.

– In its narrow eight-point escape against Northern Iowa, Iowa’s defense recorded 13 tackles for loss.  That was the Hawkeyes’ highest total since 2007.

– Houston entered Week 1 with 74 forced turnovers the past two seasons, the most for an FBS program.  In the opener against UT-San Antonio, however, UH lost the turnover battle 6-1 and, as a result, was “upset” by UTSA 27-7.  Speaking of the Roadrunners…

– UT-San Antonio returns 21 starters (9 offense/10 defense/2 kickers) this season, the most of any FBS program in the country.

– In its 45-0 loss to Stanford, UC Davis finally managed to cross midfield on the last play of the game.  The FCS team managed just 115 yards of offense — 61 rushing, 54 passing — for the entire game.

– During its three-point loss to Ohio, Kent State’s defense forced fumbles on four consecutive possessions. All four of the fumbles were recovered by the Golden Flashes, but the offense could only turn the turnovers into seven points.

– Louisiana Tech will open the 2014 season with three games in 13 days, with all three of those coming on the road against teams that played in bowl games last season: Oklahoma, Louisiana-Lafayette and North Texas. Those three teams combined to go 29-10 in 2013; Tech finished at just 4-8.

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UPDATE: SMU ‘floating $4 million annually’ to entice Mack Brown

Mack Brown

If SMU fails to land Mack Brown as its next head coach, it won’t be for lack of trying.  Or financial incentive.

In a piece detailing just who may emerge as legitimate candidates for the Mustangs job opened by June Jones’ abrupt retirement two games into the 2014 season, Dallas Morning News writer Bill Nichols dropped the intriguing nugget below a handful of paragraphs into the article:

And basketball’s quick ascension under Larry Brown seems to have galvanized the school’s football commitment.

Thus, it’s not shocking that SMU officials have already had preliminary discussions with former Texas coach Mack Brown, floating $4 million annually over eight years, sources say. Brown, 63, fits the Larry Brown model — a national championship winner who can land star prospects on name alone.

A $4 million-per-year commitment would more than double Jones’ 2013 salary of $1.9 million. The healthiest salary for an AAC head coach in 2013 was the $3.7 million earned by Louisville’s Charlie Strong, who, oddly enough, replaced Brown in Austin. Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville made $3.1 million at Cincinnati last season, while Strong’s successor at the UofL, Bobby Petrino, will average $3.5 million annually on a seven-year contract.

In his final season at Texas, Brown pulled in just over $5.4 million.

All of the discussion involving Brown, SMU and salary, though, is wholly dependent on whether the coach wants to return to the sidelines.

Earlier this month, the former UT head coach’s attorney confirmed that SMU had approached his client about a return to the sidelines. While acknowledging that Brown misses coaching, the attorney, Joe Jamail, flatly stated that “he’s not interested in coaching anywhere right now.”

Brown, currently serving as a college football analyst on ESPN, himself said a week earlier that he will decide in December if his coaching career is done.

Should Brown decide to take over the reins at SMU, he’d be stepping into an on-field mess.  The Mustangs’ offense has scored 39 points in six games this season; 14 teams are averaging at least that many points per per game.  UConn is the second-lowest scoring team in the country, and they’ve nearly doubled up SMU’s output (77 points in seven games).

To add insult to offensive injury, the Mustangs rank dead last in points allowed at 48 per game.  Not so unexpectedly, they are 125th out of 125 teams in total defense (548.8 ypg) and next-to-last in total offense (249.2 ypg, ahead of only Wake Forest’s 206.7).

On the flip side, the Mustangs qualified for four straight bowl games from 2009-12 before missing out with a 5-7 record in 2013, so there is a recent track record of both some modicum of talent and success.  Still, it’s a significant rebuilding effort for anyone who takes over, let alone an individual who will turn 64 prior to the start of the 2015 season.

UPDATE (11:50 p.m.): The SMU Mustangs may or may not have contacted Mack Brown. While the university may be committed to improving its football program, the first step is actually talking with those candidates who might be interested in the current opening.

USA TODAY‘s Dan Wolken tweeted that there has yet to be any contact between Brown and SMU:

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Ground and pound: Hurricanes establish identity during 30-6 victory over Hokies

Al Golden, Duke Johnson

The Miami Hurricanes made a statement Thursday against the Virginia Tech Hokies.

While the program may never return to the winning ways it once experienced while Al Golden is at the helm, the program finally gravitated toward an identity that’s long been forgotten. The vaunted Miami teams from the 1980’s and the early 2000’s used to physically dominate opponents. They did that Thursday night in Blacksburg.

Miami (5-2) captured a dominant 30-6 victory over Virginia Tech (4-4).

When Golden was the head coach of Temple from 2006-10, the Owls climbed their way out of football purgatory by running the football effectively week in and week out. The talent level at Miami supersedes anything Golden had at Temple, but the team’s approach against the Hokies was reminiscent of those Owls.

There was nothing fancy about what Miami did to Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes lined up and jammed the ball down the Hokies’ collective throat. Two running backs combined to run for an impressive 364 yards.

Junior running back Duke Johnson ran like a man possessed. Johnson set a career high with 249 rushing yards on 29 carries.

Sophomore Gus Edwards took over in the second half and managed 115 yards.

The Hurricanes were so dominant in the trenches, freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya was only asked to throw the ball 16 teams. He completed seven of those passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.

Plus, Miami played well on the defensive side of the football.

The Hurricanes shut out the Hokies through the first half of play, before Virginia Tech decided to ride freshman running back Marshawn Williams. Willams carried the ball 21 times for 100 yards. The young back also fumbled twice.

With the ACC Coastal division being wide open, the Hurricanes may have found its identity at the right time. At 2-2 in the division, Miami is now a half game behind the Duke Blue Devils going into this weekend’s games. But Miami holds the head-to-head edge.

If Miami plans to make a run in their division, its ball-control offense will be needed over the next two weeks against the North Carolina Tar Heels and No. 2 Florida State Seminoles.

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No. 18 ECU Pirates may stumble in polls despite 31-21 victory over UConn

Ruffin Mc Neill

The No. 18 East Carolina Pirates secured a 31-21 victory over the Connecticut Huskies Thursday. But was it enough for the Pirates to remain the top non-Power Five program and the favorite to claim an appearance in a contract bowl?

Sometimes a win can be viewed as a loss.

The Pirates struggled against a Huskies squad that entered the game 1-5 and didn’t have a victory against a single FBS opponent this season. It wasn’t until six minutes left in the game that East Carolina finally pulled away from UConn.

When a non-power conference team trying to impress the College Football Playoff gets an opportunity to add style points to their resume on national television, it has to do so. East Carolina didn’t.

The Pirates moved the ball and racked up 580 total yards, but they weren’t able to complete drives most of the evening. UConn employed a bend-but-don’t-break, and the scheme worked.

If East Carolina isn’t putting up big scoring and yardage numbers, the team is nowhere near as impressive.

East Carolina’s primary competition as the top non-Power Five program is the Marshall Thundering Herd. Marshall is currently ranked 23rd overall in the AP Top 25. The Thundering Herd’s underwhelming schedule has prevented them from legitimately entering the national conversation. Yet, Marshall’s schedule doesn’t feature a team ranked lower than Connecticut.

Despite the lackluster effort, East Carolina did win the game. Ruffin McNeill‘s squad overcame adversity and was able to win a close contest even though everything didn’t go in their favor. The program still holds victories over the Virginia Tech Hokies and the No. 25 North Carolina Tar Heels.

Plus, very few teams feature a dynamic duo like quarterback Shane Carden and Justin Hardy. Carden was 38-of-64 passing Thursday for 445 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hardy, meanwhile, grabbed 14 passes for 186 yards. The impressive effort moved Hardy into second place among the FBS’ all-time receptions list.

The Huskies deserve some credit for knocking down the Pirates a notch. First-year head coach Bob Diaco has his team playing hard, and they seem to be figuring some things out. The defense plays sound football, while the offense was finally able to move the ball in stretches against East Carolina.

In the end, East Carolina is still the top non-Power Five program in college football, but the margin between the top team and the second team is much closer after Thursday night’s effort.

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Miami RB Duke Johnson explodes as Miami leads Virginia Tech 24-0 at halftime

Brad Kaaya, Duke Johnson

Welcome to the Duke Johnson show.

The Virginia Tech Hokies simply had no answer for Miami’s running back. Johnson accumulated 185 total yards through two quarters of play as the Hurricanes lead the Hokies 24-0 at halftime.

Miami came into Thursday night’s contest with the intention of establishing the run game, and Al Golden‘s squad did so in spectacular fashion.

As the Hurricanes dominated an undersized Virginia Tech defensive front, Johnson continued to churn out yardage. The junior running back accumulated 148 rushing yards on 19 carries.

The dagger at the end of the first half also came from the running back.

Already leading 17-0, Miami drove the ball to Virginia Tech’s 22-yard line with the clocking ticking within 15 seconds remaining before the horn for halftime blew. With the clock still running, the Hurricanes snapped the ball and freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya found Johnson open out of the backfield for his second touchdown in the half.

While the Hurricanes’ offense running all over the Hokies, Miami’s defense completely shut down the Hokies’ rushing attack. Virginia Tech ran the ball eight times for minus-13 yards.

Because of the Hokies’ inept running game, quarterback Michael Brewer suffered. When forced to throw, Brewer couldn’t step up and make a play. Virginia Tech’s signal-caller finished the half 7-of-12 passing for 49 yards.

The Hokies should expect the same approach from the Hurricanes in the second half. Golden may decide to lighten Johnson’s load (after he establishes a new career high), but Virginia Tech will then get a steady dose of sophomore Gus Edwards.

If Frank Beamer‘s squad has any chance of coming back in tonight’s game, Brewer must take his game to another level. That may be asking too much of the junior quarterback.

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No. 18 ECU Pirates lead UConn 14-7 as Carden, Hardy post memorable halves

Shane Carden

The first half of Thursday’s meeting with the Connecticut Huskies had it all for East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden.

Carden already threw the ball 39 times as the No. 18 East Carolina Pirates built a 14-7 over the Huskies at halftime. Carden is well on his way to eclipsing his season high of 48 passes.

The quarterback also doubled his season total for interceptions by throwing an ill-advised pass into the end zone. UConn senior cornerback Byron Jones came down with the ball.

The senior signal-caller also threw a pair of touchdowns. The first of which was a highlight reel reception by senior wide receiver Justin Hardy. Hardy dove in the end zone and bobbled the ball before he finally came down with the 13-yard touchdown reception (see: below).

The catch wasn’t Hardy’s only memorable moment of the evening. The prolific pass-catcher also climbed another rung on NCAA’s all time receptions ladder. Hardy became the NCAA’s third all-time leader in receptions during the first half. The talented wide receiver already made six receptions for 90 yards.

While the Pirates continued to throw the ball over the field, the Huskies prevented the big play. Despite surrendering 302 yards of total offense through two quarters, Connecticut is within striking distance due to Easter Carolina’s miscues.

Connecticut has been able to throw the ball better than expected. Senior quarterback Chandler Whitmer is 7-of-10 passing for 96 yards. But the Huskies stalled on offense numerous times due to penalties and an inability to run the ball.

For the Huskies to remain in the game, they’ll need to shorten the second half. Carden can’t be allowed to throw the ball 25 times in one quarter like he did in the opening frame. A commitment to the running game will help keep the Pirates offense off the field, while the Huskies try to to muster enough offense to garner their first win over an FBS opponent this season.

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Marshall hires PR firm to help with possible College Football Playoff berth

Marshall v Florida International

A year ago, the Marshall Thundering Herd would be known as a “BCS Buster.” Instead, Doc Holliday‘s squad is attempting to be this year’s dark horse choice to become one of four teams invited to the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The Thundering Herd (7-0) is one of three undefeated teams, and the program is currently ranked 23rd overall in the AP Top 25. With only five games left on the regular season schedule, Marshall has plenty to overcome to be named one of college football’s Top 4 teams.

But the university and Conference USA won’t go down without a fight.

“Marshall University and Conference USA have hired an LA-based public relations firm to assist with their case to be selected to the first College Football Playoff,” Tess Quinlan of USA TODAY Sports reported.

“Brener Zwikel & Associates, which counts the Rose Bowl, Los Angeles Dodgers and Speedo as clients, sent out a release Thursday highlighting the Thundering Herd’s undefeated record, standing in the Amway Coaches Poll and their non-Power Five conference affiliation.”

The Thundering Herd’s schedule is expected to hold the program back despite a potential undefeated campaign. Marshall won’t face a single ranked opponent this season and their biggest win could eventually come in the Conference USA Championship Game.

However, the school features one of college football’s most exciting offenses and an electric quarterback.

Marshall’s offense is ranked second overall behind the Baylor Bears. The Bears only average 4.1 more yards per game than the Thundering Herd. And senior quarterback Rakeem Cato accumulated 2,135 total yards and 24 total touchdowns through seven games.

While it’s unlikely a strong public relations effort will be enough to push the Thundering Herd into this year’s College Football Playoff, the hire won’t be for naught. Marshall still trails the No. 18 East Carolina Pirates as the top program not affiliated with a Power Five conference. The highest-rated team outside of the Power Five automatically receives a bid to one of the remaining contract bowls.

Marshall’s ability to pass East Carolina in the rankings is far more important and achievable than chasing a spot in the College Football Playoff.

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Report: Syracuse football is under NCAA investigation

Scott Shafer

Syracuse is the latest football program to find itself in the clutches of the NCAA.

While the Orange’s basketball team was believed to be the focus of an ongoing investigation, there are concerns regarding the football program, too.

Syracuse.com’s Nate Mink reported the investigation could affect multiple areas within the school’s athletic department.

“The Syracuse football program is part of the wide-ranging NCAA investigation into the school’s athletic department,” sources told Mink.

“The information shows that the NCAA inquiry that has swirled around the basketball team for two years is more involved, and that the football team is part of the investigation and potentially exposed to penalties. It’s unclear if other teams are involved.”

If the Orange football team was to receive any type of sanctions, possible infractions apparently didn’t occur during Doug Marrone‘s tenure. Marrone served as the Orange’s head coach from 2009-12. The current head coach of the Buffalo Bills spoke with Fink about possible reasons behind the investigation.

“There’s nothing that I know about that we did that wasn’t either punished or put forth,” Marrone said.

“One thing I did, if we made a mistake, an incidental contact or something, I just always reported it. It’s not worth it. This way I can sleep at night.”

Syracuse officials are expected to meet with the NCAA in Indianapolis at some point before the end of the month.

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Michigan lowers student-ticket prices for 2015 season

Minnesota v Michigan

The Big House’s student section should be completely full during every game next season.

After recent complaints by the student body, the University of Michigan decided its in the school’s best interests to decrease the prices of student tickets for the 2015 campaign.

This season, a season ticket purchased by a student was $280. Next season, the prices will be dropped to $175 per season ticket.

“We’ve been listening,” Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told The Michigan Daily Thursday. “We really learned that two really important components to re-engaging with our students in trying to create a more robust, more enthusiastic and larger student section for next year’s football season was price and strength of schedule.

“A nearly 40-percent reduction in ticket prices is, I think it’s fair to say, unprecedented.”

However, it’s not quite to the price level demanded by the president of Michigan’s central student government, Bobby Dishell, a week earlier at Michigan’s Board of Regents meeting.

During’s Dishell’s address to the board, he said Michigan’s “athletic department has broken its trust” with students. Another student representative respectfully asked for Brandon’s resignation.

Dishell appears happy with the change, though.

“It’s been great working together,”  Dishell told The Michigan Daily. “We realized that the University takes need into account when you’re coming here, so your experiences here should also take that into account.”

As the future of the football program remains in turmoil, it appears to have regained the trust of its students and may avoid seeing empty seats at Michigan Stadium.

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Hackenberg, other Nittany Lions deliver pizzas to ‘Nittanyville’

Christian Hackenberg AP

Christian Hackenberg may not be delivering on the field the way he did as a true freshman last season, but he sure is off of it.

(Waiting for the groaning to die down… waiting… still waiting… and we’re good)

This week, students at Penn State have set up camp in “Nittanyville” ahead of Saturday’s primetime showdown with Ohio State in Happy Valley.  And by “this week” I mean “several days ahead of the contest.”

As is ofttimes the case with individuals in that age group, they came down with a serious case of the munchies.  And, thanks to the Nittany Lions’ starting quarterback and some of his teammates, said craving was sated Wednesday night.

Before you ask, I have no idea who paid for the pizzas.  And, for video of the special delivery that we can’t embed here, click HERE.

The Nittany Lions, incidentally, will be looking to snap a two-game Big Ten losing streak when they host the 13th-ranked Buckeyes.  And Hackenberg will be looking to bounce back from both a rough first half of the 2014 season (five touchdowns, seven interceptions compared to 20-10 a year ago) and his worst day yardage-wise a year ago (112 in a 63-14 thrashing by OSU in Columbus).

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Butch Jones playing coy with Justin Worley’s availability for ‘Bama

Justin Worley, Robert Nkemdiche AP

Earlier this week, Butch Jones seemed to indicate that there was little doubt his starting quarterback would be healthy enough to play this weekend.

With the Alabama game getting closer on the horizon?  Yeah, not so much.

Justin Worley was knocked out of the Week 8 loss to Ole Miss with a shoulder injury.  While Worley has practiced since, the Vols’ head coach intimated during his radio show Wednesday night that it’s up in the air whether or not Worley plays in the rivalry game.

It’s ongoing right now,” Jones said when asked for an update on Worley’s status. “We’ll have to make a decision here later in the week with Justin’s status. The great thing for us is the way we practice all of our quarterback get equal reps in practice.”

That said, it’s widely expected Worley will be on the field and under center when the Vols square off with the Tide in Neyland Stadium.  Should the unexpected happen and Worley is shelved, either Josh Dobbs or Nathan Peterman would assume the position.

Regardless of just who is under center, though, the UT offensive line, with all new starters from last year’s unit, needs to do a better job of protecting the quarterback.  The 30 sacks surrendered by the Vols is second only to SMU’s 35 as the most at the FBS level this season.

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Northwestern CB retires… after learning he has one kidney?

Alonzo Moore, Dwight White AP

This is something you don’t hear or read about every day.

In a press release Thursday, Northwestern announce that Dwight White has decided to retire from the game of football.  No specific reason, injury, medical or otherwise, was given, although the cornerback said in a statement that the “decision I’ve had to make [is] for my long-term health.”

According to InsideNU.com, however, the reason for the decision is that the player has one less significant organ than most.

OK then.

“We love Dwight and we’re proud to have him as a part of the Wildcats football family,” head coach Pat Fitzgerald said in a statement. “It’s disappointing to lose a great teammate from the field but I’m excited he’s able to remain involved in the program, and I’m looking forward to his continuing development as a student, a leader and a professional at Northwestern.”

After starting six of the 12 games in which he played in 2013, White was being looked upon as a significant contributor to the Wildcats’ secondary this season. After playing in the season opener, White was subsequently announced the following week as being out with an undisclosed injury. He hadn’t seen the field since.

“I would like to thank my family, friends, coaches, teammates and especially the Northwestern Sports Medicine staff for all of their support,” the final portion of White’s statement read.

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Five-person committee to steer SEC search for Slive replacement

Mike Slive

Just a little over a week after Mike Slive not-so-unexpectedly announced he would be stepping down as the commissioner of the SEC next year, the conference has taken the next expected step in securing a replacement.

The SEC announced in a press release Thursday that it is set to launch its search for Slive’s successor.  As part of that search, Vanderbilt chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos, current chair of the SEC’s presidents and chancellors, has appointed a five-person committee charged with the task of hiring the eighth commissioner in the conference’s history. The Fab Search Five are:

  • Dr. David Gearhart, Arkansas chancellor
  • Dr. Judith Bonner, Alabama president
  • Dr. Eli Capilouto, Kentucky president
  • Dr. Mark Keenum, Mississippi State president
  • Dr. R. Bowen Loftin, Missouri chancellor.

Dr. Gearhart’s will serve as the committee’s chairperson.

“The SEC has enjoyed an era of unprecedented success under Mike Slive and at the same time has been a leader in dramatic change in the landscape of college athletics under his direction,” Zeppos said in the statement. “It is critical to have an efficient transition of leadership in order to continue our success on the fields of play as well as to identify a staunch advocate for academic achievement, integrity and sportsmanship. Our objective is to seamlessly maintain our conference’s participation in shaping the future of intercollegiate athletics.”

It’s widely believed that the SEC’s current chief operating officer, Greg Sankey, is the current favorite to take over for Slive.  Before what many assume to be the inevitable happens, though, the committee will undertake a search that’s national in scope.

As for a timeline, there’s not one specific in nature.  The release, though, stated that “the presidents and chancellors hope to select the new commissioner in a timely manner to allow a transition period before Slive’s retirement on July 31, 2015.”

By most accounts, the conference would like to have the successor in place around the first couple of months of the new year to allow for as smooth a transition as possible.

“The SEC has enjoyed an era of unprecedented success under Mike Slive and at the same time has been a leader in dramatic change in the landscape of college athletics under his direction,” Zeppos said. “It is critical to have an efficient transition of leadership in order to continue our success on the fields of play as well as to identify a staunch advocate for academic achievement, integrity and sportsmanship. Our objective is to seamlessly maintain our conference’s participation in shaping the future of intercollegiate athletics.”

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Texas OC, Okla. St. trade lawsuits over play-calling duties

Joe Wickline AP

Just who is calling plays for Texas in 2014 is at the heart of a pair of lawsuits that have begun their journeys through the legal system.

Oklahoma State filed a lawsuit Oct. 17 (case summary HERE) against former OSU assistant and current Texas co-offensive coordinator Joe Wickline in which the university essentially accuses Wickline of lying about the duties his new position entails.  Wickline left the Cowboys in January to become the Longhorns’ co-offensive coordinator along alongside Shawn Watson; in that role, Wickline would reportedly hold play-calling responsibilities.

That latter aspect is key as, the Austin American-Statesman wrote, “Wickline would owe OSU the balance of his contract unless he was named offensive coordinator ‘with play-calling duties’ or went to the NFL.” The balance of that contract is nearly $600,000, which OSU is seeking in its lawsuit.

The impetus for this legal back and forth appears to have been triggered, in part, by Wickline’s new boss. Back in mid-March, ESPN.com wrote, “[UT head coach Charlie] Strong changed course publicly, clarifying that Watson and Wickline would share play-calling duties and that ‘the one final voice will be Shawn.'”

Six days later, Wickline was sent a letter from OSU athletic director Mike Holder that contained the following passage.

“Further, it has now come to our attention that you do not have ‘play-calling duties,'” Holder wrote in a letter dated March 24. “Instead, it appears that your head coach has confirmed that Shawn Watson, not you, will be calling the plays. Thus, in reality it appears you unilaterally and voluntarily terminated the Contract to make a lateral move and as such a waiver of the liquidated damages clause of the Contract is not triggered.

“While OSU wishes you every success in your endeavors and burgeoning career, it is paramount to OSU that contract terms be taken seriously and that they be strictly enforced in the interest of professionalism. Accordingly, OSU will insist upon payment of the liquidated damages clause of the Contract.

It’s readily apparent that Wickline does not hold sole play-calling duties at UT. Based on multiple media accounts, Wickline’s OSU contract also didn’t specify that he must maintain sole play-calling responsibilities or be liable for damages. It’s that distinction that will likely be the crux of the battle should the lawsuits ever see the light of day in a courtroom.

Wickline’s lawsuit, meanwhile, was filed Monday and claims “tortuous interference” on the part of OSU. The coach’s suit makes the claim that his former school’s action “is baseless and its sole purpose is to interfere with coach Wickline’s ongoing employment relationship with UT and the UT contract.”

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Pac-12 paces Lott IMPACT quarterfinalists

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

You know you how you can tell another season is quickly beginning to wind down?  Awards begin to whittle their lengthy preseason watch lists down to quarterfinalists or semifinalists.

The first to get down to its quarterfinalists was the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which announced its group of 20 Wednesday.  There were two quarterfinalists from a year ago that made the cut this time around: Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks.

The Pac-12 led all conferences with seven players selected.  The ACC and SEC had four players apiece, while the Big Ten and Big 12 had two each.  There were no players from the Non-Power Five conferences as Notre Dame claims the remaining player.

Washington was the only school with two players included.

Linebackers and defensive ends had the most players for positions with eight and six, respectively.  Cornerbacks, safeties and defensive tackles accounted for two apiece.

The Lott Trophy, named after Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, is presented annually to the player who best embodies the award’s six tenets — Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity. Last year’s winner was UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.

Eight semifinalists for the award will be announced Nov. 11. In a release, the award states that “four finalists will fly to Newport Beach for a black-tie gala at the Pacific Club on Dec. 14 where the winner will be announced.”

Below is the complete list of 20 Lott IMPACT quarterfinalists.

Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Henry Coley, LB, Virginia
Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
Michael Doctor, LB, Oregon State
Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
David Helton, LB, Duke
A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee
Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Hau’oli Kikaha, DE, Washington
Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State
Jordan Richards, S, Stanford
Deterrian Shackelford, LB, Ole Miss
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Leonard Williams, DT, USC

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‘Extremely doubtful’ Wyoming’s injured leading tackler returns in ’14

Mark Nzeocha, Taylor Graham

Wyoming’s defense will likely have to play the remainder of the 2014 season without one of its leaders on that side of the ball.

Mark Nzeocha suffered what appeared to be a knee injury during last Saturday’s overtime loss to San Jose State. While head coach Craig Bohl wouldn’t specify the exact nature of the injury, he was decidedly pessimistic about the senior linebacker’s availability moving forward.

“The outlook for him to be playing the rest of the year would be extremely doubtful,” the coach said.

Nzeocha currently leads the Cowboys in both tackles (59) and passes broken up (five). He’s tied for the team lead with two sacks and he’s second in tackles for loss with three.

With Nzeocha sidelined, seniors Devyn Harris or Jordan Stanton will likely serve as his replacement.

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