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Sparty clips Ducks, shows it’s firmly entrenched in playoff discussion

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If this game was a litmus test for Michigan State’s national stage worthiness, Sparty passed — by the skin of its teeth, some would say.  And notwithstanding some quizzical late-game playcalling, others would add.

Last year in Eugene, Oregon took a six-point halftime deficit and turned it into a 19-point runaway win.  A dozen months later, the Spartans took a seven-point halftime lead in East Lansing and turned it into a proclamation of sorts, with their 31-28 win vividly announcing that MSU will be in the College Football Playoff talk for the duration.

Sure, there are potential potholes along the way — like at Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State in the coming weeks and months — but Sparty showed Saturday night that it can stand toe-to-toe with one of the best college football has to offer and not blink (much).  In fact, it can throw some knockout haymakers of its own — especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Leading 14-7 at the half, MSU pushed the lead out to 10 points twice in the second half, the second coming with 10:51 remaining in the fourth quarter.  The Ducks then pulled to within three at 31-28 with 3:25 remaining on a 15-yards touchdown pass from FCS transfer Vernon Adams to Byron Marshall.  Then came the quizzical, and on both sides.

On the first play of the ensuing possession and starting at their own 22-yard line, a five-yard loss was followed by two inexplicable Connor Cook pass attempts and two incompletions that stopped the clock.  The Spartans were only able to run a little over a minute off the clock, giving the ball back to the Ducks with just over two minutes remaining and just shy of midfield.  After getting the ball down to the MSU 33 and into field-goal range, and facing a third-and-six, Adams did something you simply can’t do in that situation, even in the face of the blitz: he took a sack.  Adams’ pass on fourth-and-16 fell incomplete, essentially icing the game for the Spartans.

Regardless of how it ended, it was a huge win for Mark Dantonio and his football program, one that should resonate with voters — and, more importantly, the playoff committee — when it comes to both squads.  Sparty in particular, though, showed the kind of resilience and resolve and talent that will serve them well as they face some stiff road trips on down the road.

All is not lost for the Ducks, mind you.  Should UO run the table and claim the Pac-12 title, they would certainly be deep in the discussion for a playoff spot — especially if MSU were to be able to run the table as well.

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.