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Sixth-ranked Auburn survives OT scare against FCS Jax State

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With Jacksonville State leading at the half, I wrote that “[i]t’s highly doubtful Auburn loses this game.”  In the end, they damn-near proved me wrong.

Taken to the limit by a squad from the FCS, Auburn managed to overcome poor performances all across the board and rally late for a 27-20 overtime win over Jacksonville State at Jordan-Hare Stadium.  Were it not for a couple of JSU gaffes, though, Appalachian State would’ve been moving over.  And Michigan would’ve had a bit of company.

Trailing 13-10, the Gamecocks used a field goal then a touchdown to take a 20-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter.  With AU driving for a potential game-tying score on the ensuing possession, a fumble gave the ball back to JSU, after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was stepped off, at their own seven-yard line.  A minute later, the Gamecocks (first gaffe) shanked a punt, giving the Tigers the ball back at the JSU 32-yard line with two minutes or so remaining.  Five plays later, a 10-yard touchdown pass knotted the score at 20-all.

Then, following the kickoff, JSU (second gaffe) inexplicably took a knee instead of at least attempting to get the ball down the field and into field goal range.  In overtime, Auburn scored a touchdown on its first possession.  A first down gave JSU the ball at AU’s eight-yard line on its first possession.  On third down from the five (third gaffe), quarterback Eli Jenkins was sacked for a 16-yard loss instead of throwing it away and living to fight on fourth down.  A desperation fourth-down heaved subsequently sailed out of bounds, taking with it the 41-point underdog’s hopes of a historic upset.

That said, the escape does nothing to erase the myriad questions raised throughout the course of the 60 minutes-plus for the Tigers.

First and foremost, Jeremy Johnson.  The beleaguered quarterback, who had been dubbed as Cam Newton 2.0 heading into the season, has instead turned into Thandie Newton 1.1 the first two games, tossing a total of five interceptions and generally looking lost and clueless.   Toss in a defense, which brought in Will Muschamp in the offseason to revamp a squalid 2014 squad, that gave up 438 yards to an FCS team –one week after giving up 405 to Louisville, which lost to Houston this afternoon — and you have to wonder whether AU even deserves to be ranked, let alone deep inside the Top 10 where they currently reside.

In any event, any preseason projection of AU being a bona-fide playoff contender may very well have been premature speculation at its finest.  And, yes, I’m as guilty as anyone on that front.

Georgia OL signee D’Antne Demery arrested for allegedly choking girlfriend

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Georgia offensive line signee D’Antne Demery was arrested Saturday night in Athens for allegedly battering his girlfriend.

In the hours after Georgia’s G-Day spring game, officers were called to an Athens Waffle House where witnesses saw Demery place hands on a woman. Police arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, and tracked the victim down at a different establishment.

The Macon Telegraph obtained the police’s account of the incident:

“Upon arrival, both individuals had left the area. Moments later, the victim called 911; advising that she wished to press charges against D’Antne Demery for hitting her. Contact was made with the victim in front of Boars Head (sic). She stated that she and Demery got into an argument; he began to get loud, she started to walk off, he told her ‘walk off again, and Imma show you’. She began to walk away again, at which point, Demery came from behind her; grabbing her on the back of her neck; pushing her against the wall, and also grabbing her by the hair.”

After the first assault, Demery again attacked the victim:

“able to reconnect with the victim, in which he threw her; causing her glasses to fall off, and her phone fell out of her hand; causing it to hit the ground which resulted in a crack to the screen.”

Demery admitted to placing his hands on the woman, and the victim said this wasn’t the first time he had been violent with her. The couple shares a 1-year-old child.

Demery was booked into the Clarke County Jail at 10:52 p.m. Saturday night, where he remains at press time on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass and simple battery.

Demery was a consensus 4-star recruit hailing from Brunswick, Ga. Kirby Smart has not offered comment on the arrest as of press time.

QB controversy in Tuscaloosa? Freshman Tua Tagovailoa impresses at Alabama spring game

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Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and those tuning in to the Crimson team’s last minute 27-24 win over the White team had to be especially impressed with the Tide’s explosive offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In particular that comes at the quarterback position, where there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.

The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You could normally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.

Tagovailoa did throw a pick-six in the second quarter but that was mostly because linebacker Terrell Hall made an unbelievable play on a swing pass to snatch the ball out of the air and run it all the way back to the opposite end zone. Freshman tailback Najee Harris (70 yards rushing) as well as stud wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy (134 yards, two scores) also stood out on Saturday.

In all, offense ruled the day as the two quarterbacks combined for over 600 yards through the air. That probably won’t make reviewing film with Nick Saban all that pleasant for members of the secondary next week but was probably good news to most fans after lackluster performances down the stretch to end last season.

Either way, everybody should probably start brushing up on how to pronounce Tagovailoa even if he doesn’t ultimately unseat Hurts as the starter because the young QB has lived up to the early billing by recruiting analysts.

Baylor freshman tailback Abram Smith out for the season with spring ACL tear

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Baylor kicked off the first spring game of the Matt Rhule era on Saturday and wrapped things up with a 65-39 Gold team victory over the Green squad that included a pretty impressive touchdown catch from former basketball player Ish Wainright.

The news wasn’t all rosy in Waco however as after the game Rhule announced that freshman running back Abram Smith would be lost for the 2017 season after suffering an ACL tear in the Bears’ first spring practice.

Smith wasn’t being counted on as being a starter this season but his loss is a fairly big blow to the team’s depth at the position. Returnees JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams already missed parts of the spring game due to injuries on Saturday, leaving just senior Wyatt Schrepfer to take most of the carries late in the contest.

All three figure to be good to go by the time fall camp rolls around but there’s not much behind them with Smith being lost for the year. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, the early enrollee likely would have seen some snaps in 2017 but will instead have to spend it redshirting on the bench.

Brian Kelly takes the blame for Notre Dame’s struggles last season

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Notre Dame wrapped up spring football with the Irish’s annual spring game on NBC Sports Network on Saturday afternoon in South Bend and front and center was not surprisingly head coach Brian Kelly.

While fans of the team were probably most interested in how quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked, Kelly did go into detail about what the offseason has been like after last year’s disappointing 4-8 campaign. While the coach has been known to be a bit defensive when it comes to the team’s struggles, he did open up during a sit-down interview and was transparent in taking the blame for the way 2016 went.

“When you have a losing season, you have to look at yourself first,” Kelly told NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth. “I’ve always felt like there isn’t a bad football team but there is bad leadership and I don’t think I provided the kind of leadership (last year). It starts with yourself.”

Kelly goes on to discuss the significant changes to the Irish coaching staff, how this team is very much a work in progress and how Wimbush is handling taking over as the starting signal-caller.

The Gold team ended up winning the spring game 27-14 over the Blue team behind a strong defensive performance. If Saturday’s outing was any indication, Notre Dame should be much improved this upcoming season and that seems to start from the top on down.