Disastrous beginning leaves UVa. in two-score hole vs. Boise

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It was about as disastrous a start as you can have in a football game, but Virginia still managed to bounce back a bit — only to stumble right back into the hole they’d dug in the first place.  And then began the climb out of it late, albeit maybe too late as far as their faithful are concerned.

Looking strong to start and (mostly) finish the half, Boise State had its way with UVa. en route to a 29-14 halftime lead on the reeling Cavaliers. The Broncos’ defense was especially stout, showing its strength from the get-go and then continuing to put points on the scoreboard.

On the first play from scrimmage, UVa. quarterback Matt Johns — the same one who beat out record-setting Georgia starter Grayson Lambert in spring practice — threw an ill-advised pass under pressure that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by BSU defensive tackle Justin Taimatuia for a 21-yard touchdown. A three-and-out on the Cavs’ next possession was quickly followed by a six-play, 80-yard touchdown drive for the Broncos. Another Johns interception on the third possession led to a 51-yard field goal.

Before their fans could even settle in, the Cavaliers trailed 17-0 less than halfway through the first quarter. A minute later, though, North Carolina transfer T.J. Thorpe, in his initial action of the season, caught his first pass as a Cavalier and turned it into a 75-yard touchdown reception that sliced the lead to 17-7 and gave renewed energy to the rain-soaked crowd.

The score remained the same until midway through the second quarter when first-time starter Brett Rypien, nephew of former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien, hit Jeremy McNichols from 10 yards for his first career touchdown pass and a 26-7 lead. An end-zone penalty called on Johns — intentional grounding — a minute later and a 30-yard field goal with 5:11 remaining in the half pushed the Broncos’ lead to 29-7.

A 45-yard touchdown pass from Johns with three minutes remaining, though, cut the lead to 26-14 and seemingly gave the Cavaliers some momentum heading to the half, even as they were booed off the field by their own fans heading into the locker room.

Rypien completed 17-of-23 passes for 206 yards, while his counterpart, Johns, completed half of his 18 passes for 182 yards.  McNichols led all rushers with 57 yards on the ground, while the Cavaliers were limited to 24 yards rushing on 17 carries.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger, C Zach Shackelford in concussion protocol

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Texas has lost two straight upset bids in strikingly similar fashion: true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger leads a potential-game winning drive, scrambles, hits his head on the turf and ends the possession in a puzzling throw.

The first came in last week’s loss to No. 10 Oklahoma. Trailing 29-24 late in the fourth quarter, scrambled for two yards to the Texas-48 yard line but hit his head on the Cotton Bowl turf and was forced to leave the game for five plays. Shane Buechele pushed the Longhorns to the Oklahoma 31, but he was replaced after a sack and Ehlinger ended up throwing the ball away on 4th-and-13 from the OU 34 with two minutes to play. That, as they say, was that.

Fast forward to Saturday and Texas was trailing No. 11 Oklahoma State 13-10 in overtime when Ehlinger opened the possession with a scramble that again saw the back of his head bang against the Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium turf. He stayed in the game this time, but ended the game on a puzzling (to say the least) interception to absolutely no one on 3rd-and-4 from the OSU 6.

While Ehlinger was not evaluated for a concussion during the game, he did not practice Sunday and head coach Tom Herman said Monday that Ehlinger and center Zach Shackelford are in concussion protocol.

Complicating matters for Texas is that sophomore back-up Shane Buechele is playing on a gimpy ankle that kept him out against San Jose State and Kansas State that Herman said will not improve as the season goes on.

No matter, Texas will face a hungry Baylor team on Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU) that nearly completed a comeback against No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday night.

Tennessee OG Jack Jones retires due to neck injury

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The playing career of Tennessee offensive guard Jack Jones has come to an unfortunate end. On Monday, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones announced Jones was stepping away from football as injury concerns with his neck continue to interfere with playing.

Jones played in the season opener against Georgia Tech in Atlanta but has essentially been out of action for the entire season after that. After consulting with doctors, Jones came to the decision to step away from football as it became clear playing football would only put his long-term health in jeopardy.

The loss of Jones leaves Tennessee’s offensive line depth thin down the stretch. It could be quite a bumpy finish to what has already been a turbulent season in Knoxville.

Urban Meyer may have successfully talked his way out of a night trap at Iowa

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Sitting from his office in Columbus, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has been able to see just how dangerous a night game at Iowa can be. Last season, Iowa upset Michigan with the first loss suffered by the Wolverines setting off a wild finale to the Big Ten season. Earlier this season, a night game at Iowa nearly caught Penn State before the Nittany Lions managed to get out of Kinnick Stadium with a last-second victory. Knowing the history of Kinnick Stadium at night, Meyer may have managed to successfully lobby himself from having to play a night game at Iowa.

Big Ten kickoff times for Week 10 have started to come together on Monday, with Minnesota announcing it will host Michigan in primetime on FOX. The decision to have the Gophers and Wolverines in primetime was a tad puzzling considering two of the other game son the Big Ten schedule that day. Penn State is playing at Michigan State and Ohio State is playing — you guessed it — at Iowa.

The Buckeyes will be playing at either noon or 3:30 p.m. eastern on November 4, with the Nittany Lions and Spartans likely to be slotted in the other timeslot. The speculation is the 3:30 p.m. ET slot will be reserved for the winner of this week’s Ohio State-Penn State matchup, as the game will likely begin to take more weight in the College Football Playoff picture on top of the Big Ten championship hunt.

Meyer addressed concerns about playing so many road games at night this season, and perhaps the conference is responding to his concerns. Ohio State has already played four primetime games, including three on the road (Indiana, Rutgers, Nebraska). If not for the World Series coverage this weekend, odds are good the home game against Penn State would have been a lock for primetime as well. Ohio State also played a primetime game earlier this year against Oklahoma. But Meyer’s chief concern was playing so many night games on the road, as it becomes quite tiresome for players.

Was Meyer looking forward all along to prevent Ohio State from having to play a night game at Iowa? Regardless of the motive, the Buckeyes will not have to test the fates under the lights at Kinnick Stadium in two weeks.