Pair of pick sixes helps Herd thunder past Purdue

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Say this for Austin Appleby: outside those times he was intercepted, the Purdue quarterback played a pretty good game. Problem is, he was intercepted four times and two of them went back for touchdowns, providing the margin necessary for Marshall to register a come-from-behind 41-31 victory on Sunday afternoon.

After accepting the opening kickoff, Purdue’s very first snap from scrimmage was an Appleby pass immediately snared by Tiquan Lang and returned 30 yards for a touchdown. Appleby settled down from there – for the most part – over the course of the first half, tossing a nine-yard touchdown to Danny Anthrop (while in the process of stiff-arming a Marshall defender) and plunging in for a one-yard score, allowing the Boilermakers to take a 21-17 lead to the locker room.

Marshall’s Michael Birdsong put the Herd back on top to open the second half, firing a one-yard scoring strike to Ryan Yuracheck as the punctuator to a nine-play, 71-yard drive. Purdue regained the lead midway through the third on a 36-yard Markell Jones jaunt and held that edge until the game’s final three minutes. Trailing 31-27, Birdsong led Marshall on an efficient 11-play, 84-yard march, handling most of the drive himself before handing to Devon Johnson for a twisting six-yard score to give Marshall a 34-31 edge with 2:50 to go.

On the ensuing drive, Appleby led Purdue to its own 40 before a downfield toss was intercepted by Lang, again, who raced the rock 55 yards for the clinching score with 1:20 remaining. Appleby was intercepted again for good measure just five plays later, ending any delusion of a comeback with 27 ticks remaining.

For the day, Appleby was 31-of-48 for 270 yards (plus 12 rushing) for those two touchdowns to go with his four interceptions. The Boilermakers moved the ball more effectively than Marshall, edging the Thundering Herd on the ground (D.J. Knox and Jones combined for 174 yards and two scores on 34 attempts) and through the air while maintaing a 28-20 edge in first downs and a 10-4 advantage in third down conversions. The Purdue defense even forced three turnovers of its own. But it’s hard to win, especially on the road, while handing the opponent 17 points in the forms of two pick sixes and a missed field goal.

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For Doc Holliday and company, Sunday’s win was a grand way to begin the post-Rakeem Cato era. Birdsong connected on 23-of-36 throws for 234 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Johnson added 11 carries for 89 yards and a score. Before a sellout crowd of 38,000-plus, the Herd recorded their 20th win in 22 tries dating back to November of 2013 – and first ever over a Big Ten opponent.

The loss sends Purdue careening on an opposite trajectory. The program has now lost 21 of 25 games under head coach Darrell Hazell. Sunday’s loss was also Purdue’s sixth straight road non-conference setback, a streak dating back to 2007.

Ole Mis AD: Hugh Freeze would’ve been fired for cause if he hadn’t resigned

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In the end, regardless of how he chose to play it out, Hugh Freeze‘s time in Oxford would’ve come to an end.

Thursday night brought the stunning news that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  Freeze, to Yahoo! Sports, blamed the call on a misdial; Freeze’s now-former boss, athletic director Ross Bjork, led the same website to write that “further vetting of Freeze’s phone records disclosed a ‘pattern of conduct’ that led the school administration to confront Freeze this week.”

After meeting with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, the die had been cast for the coach.

Bjork said that if Freeze had not offered his resignation he would have been fired for cause, citing the “moral turpitude” clause in Freeze’s contract. Bjork said there was no buyout of the contract and no settlement.

“He admitted that conduct to us,” Bjork said. “None of us are perfect. Nobody in this room is perfect. I think we need to respect how he resigned and respect his privacy.

The infamous call in question — it lasted one minute, which gives at least some credence to Freeze’s claim that this one was a misdial — came to light as a result of Houston Nutt’s recently-filed lawsuit against Freeze, the university and other high-ranking school officials.  No other calls to that specific phone number were found in a review of an estimated 39,000 calls made from Freeze’s school-issued phone; “[h]owever, the school kept digging through the records and must have found additional troubling information,” the website wrote

Freeze’s admission to “that conduct” according to Bjork says as much.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze resigns after discovery of phone calls to escort service

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Forget about Hugh Freeze being on the hot seat in Oxford. He won’t even be coaching a single game for the Rebels this fall.

Hugh Freeze resigned from his position as head coach at Ole Miss suddenly on Thursday evening, just a week after SEC Media Days. The resignation is effective immediately, and the school has announced co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Luke will take over the head coaching responsibilities for the upcoming season as the interim head coach. It should be expected Ole Miss will conduct a search for a new full-time head coach as soon as possible, but an official hire being made before the start of the season remains in question.

The resignation comes after the school discovered a phone call to an escort service coming from his school-issued cell phone. And it apparently was not an accidental wrong number either.

According to a report from Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, Ole Miss reviewed phone records tied to Freeze as far back as 2012. Earlier in the day, USA Today reporter Dan Wolken reported Freeze had made a phone call to the number associated with a female escort service. The phone call in the report occurred in January of 2016. How many phone calls were discovered by Ole Miss is at this time unknown. Once confronted with the phone numbers by Bjork, Freeze is said to have offered his resignation. Whether he voluntarily offered to resign or if he was pushed to resign by the school may never be known for sure, but given the heat on Freeze already following recent headlines it may be pretty easy to see how this all played out behind closed doors.

It has been a troublesome summer for Freeze. Just last week, he was targetted in a lawsuit filed by former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, and Freeze has had to deny any members of his staff knowingly violated any NCAA rules following an investigation into the program. Freeze was previously targeted in a lawsuit filed by the stepdad of former Ole Miss player Laremy Tunsil just months after the NCAA discovered 13 violations against the Ole Miss program under the leadership of Freeze last year.

In five seasons at Ole Miss, Freeze was 39-25 and coached Ole Miss to a 2-1 record in postseason bowl games. Along the way, he recruited some of the best classes in school history, although how he and his staff managed to do so has been the subject of plenty of scrutinies and the findings continue to come together to suggest foul play was used. Calls to escort services will not help that look at all. Before being hired at Ole Miss, Freeze coached Arkansas State to a 19-3 record in 2011.

Luke, an Ole Miss alum from the Class of 2000, joined the Ole Miss coaching staff in 2012 with Freeze.

Todd Graham subtly names Manny Wilkins starting QB at ASU, says Barnett will have to win the job

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Arizona State picked up a nice addition to the depth chart with the addition of quarterback Blake Barnett this past winter. Barnett was given the chance to be immediately eligible to play for Arizona State this season rather than have to sit out a season, but he will have to get to work in order to win the starting job with the Sun Devils if Todd Graham‘s latest comments are accurate.

Speaking to media today at a facilities tour, Graham was asked about the quarterback competition. Graham not-so-subtly named Manny Wilkins the team’s starter for the 2017 season, barring any other changes between now and the start of the season.

“I didn’t make an announcement, I just didn’t want our opponent know who was going to play but I thought our opponent knew, I think everybody knew,” Graham said, referring to a season-opening game against New Mexico State. “We have a returning starter and he’s the starting quarterback until someone beats him out.”

Perhaps most notably, one of the quarterbacks who will look to knock Wilkins off the top of the depth chart will be Barnett, the transfer from Alabama who was a major recruit for the Crimson Tide not so long ago. Barnett started the  2016 season as Alabama’s official starter but lost the full-time job to Jalen Hurts right out of the gate with a shaky performance in the season opener while Hurts put on a show (and led Alabama to the national championship game). Barnett then opted to leave the program in search of a new opportunity to compete for the starting job.

“Right now, we have a starting quarterback and Blake knows he has to beat him out,” Graham said. “I’m looking forward to see that competition and a very physical, Sun Devil tough training camp.”

Report: Alabama RB B.J. Emmons, CB Aaron Robinson leaving program

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The Alabama Crimson Tide may not be hurting on the depth chart as a result, but two players are leaving the program in search of other opportunities. Running back B.J. Emmons and cornerback Aaron Robinson are both leaving Tuscaloosa, according to a report from AL.com.

As the news was breaking, multiple reports say Emmons has enrolled at Hutchinson Community College. Emmons missed some games last season due to a foot injury, but he is expected to be back to 100 percent health this fall. Of course, at Alabama, the running back position is stacked and difficult to get much playing time to begin with. Robinson was also expected to be a backup for Alabama this fall after working with the second team unit in the spring.

Emmons was Alabama’s fifth-leading rusher in 2016 with 173 yards and a touchdown in seven games. Robinson appeared in 13 games and recorded five total tackles as a freshman.

Both Emmons and Robinson will be eligible to play for another FBS program starting in 2018 after sitting out the 2017 season, due to NCAA transfer rules. They are eligible to play at a lower division school this fall, whether it is an FCS or lower program or a junior college. The junior college route appears to be the path Emmons is taking by enrolling at a community college.