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No. 19 Ole Miss blows 21-point lead in shootout loss to No. 1 Alabama


Hugh Freeze has accomplished a lot of things in his four-plus seasons at Ole Miss. He’s the only Rebels coach to beat Alabama two years in a row. Last year he became the first coach since Houston Nutt in 1998 to beat Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the same season. Today, he became the first SEC coach to build a 21-point lead over a Nick Saban-led Alabama team.

Those were nice moments, but that’s all they were. Moments. The back-to-back ‘Bama bashings failed to translate into a single SEC West title, and Saturday’s 21-point edge was erased as quickly as it came as Freeze’s 19th-ranked Rebels watched a 24-3 second quarter lead turn into a 48-43 loss to No. 1 Alabama.

After racing 75 yards in their first possession for a touchdown, Ole Miss nursed a 10-3 lead when Chad Kelly found Evan Engram for a 63-yard touchdown to push the lead to 14 with 4:40 to play in the first half. The Rebels’ defense ended the ensuing possession when Breeland Speaks sacked and stripped Jalen Hurts, and John Youngblood grabbed the loose ball and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown. The score stood despite Speaks hitting Hurts in the targeting area and blocking an Alabama player in the back before Youngblood crossed the goal line.

Rather than knock out Hurts, however, the fumble seemed to ignite Hurts — and the rest of Alabama’s roster. Hurts guided the Tide on a 3-play, 50-yard touchdown drive to pull within 24-10 just 30 seconds after Ole Miss pushed the lead to 21 points and, after a three-and-out, Eddie Jackson returned a punt 85 yards for a deficit-halving touchdown just a minute and five seconds later.

Alabama opened the scoring in the second half when Ryan Anderson sacked Kelly at his own 6-yard line and Da’Ron Payne recovered the loose pigskin for a touchdown. Hurts, who played like a true freshman for the majority of the first half, passed and threw for most of Alabama’s 51-yard field goal drive on the Tide’s next possession, but Ole Miss knotted the score with an 18-yard Gary Wunderlich field goal at the 1:47 mark of the third quarter.

Damien Harris, quiet for most of the season to that point, burst for a 67-yard rush on Alabama’s next possession, and Bo Scarborough gave Alabama the lead on a 1-yard plunge with 16 ticks left in the third.

Another Wunderlich field goal pulled the Rebels within 34-30, but Hurts (158 passing yards and a game-high 146 rushing) again engineered a touchdown drive, starting with a 41-yard run on the first play of the possession. Leading now 41-30, Alabama allowed the Rebels to push to their own 20-yard line when defensive end Jonathan Allen turned a quarterback pressure into a 75-yard pick-six, giving Alabama a 48-30 lead with 5:28 to play.

Ole Miss, though, responded. The Rebels moved 78 yards in 12 plays, capped by a five-yard strike from Kelly to Damore'ea Stringfellow, to pull within 48-37 with 2:59 remaining, and scored one play later when, after recovering an onside kick, Kelly (421 passing yards, three touchdowns) found A.J. Brown for a 37-yard touchdown. A 48-30 runaway had morphed into a 48-43 thriller — the Rebels’ two-point try failed after a bad shotgun snap sent the play off kilter — in two-and-a-half minutes.

The game would not flip completely, however, as Ole Miss could not force Alabama to surrender the ball over the final 2:51.

For Alabama (3-0), the win provides some actual adversity after Saban spent a week trying to create his own following wins by a combined 90-16 in the Tide’s first two games. Ironically, the win marks Alabama’s first victorious 21-point rally since Oct. 7, 1989, when the Tide turned a 21-0 hole into a 62-27 defeat of Ole Miss.

Ole Miss (1-2) saw its second loss follow a near identical script to the first. The Rebels opened the season by watching a 28-6 lead turn into a 45-34 loss to Florida State and now, two weeks later, witnessed a 24-3 edge turn into a 48-43 defeat.

Reports: Bob Diaco finalizes deal with Oklahoma

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It appears Lincoln Riley has all but officially gotten his man.

Earlier this month, reports surfaced that Bob Diaco was expected to take a job on Riley’s Oklahoma football staff. Friday, Pete Thamel of SI.com tweeted that Diaco has finalized a deal to join the football program. ESPN.com‘s Adam Rittenberg subsequently confirmed the initial report.

With all 10 of Riley’s on-field assistant slots filled, Diaco will serve as a defensive analyst for the Sooners.

Diaco spent the 2017 season as the defensive coordinator at Nebraska, let go after that one year following the firing of head coach Mike Riley.  Prior to that brief stint in Lincoln, he was the head coach at UConn for three seasons before being fired after going 11-26 during his time with the Huskies.

Prior to that, he was the coordinator at Notre Dame for four seasons from 2010-13.

Florida’s athletics facilities upgrade scheduled to be completed in 2021

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Dan Mullen is just breaking in his new office chair, but it will be a few more years until the new head coach to truly be able to get comfortable in his new digs. The University of Florida is scheduled to begin a complete overhaul of the athletics facilities in Gainesville this summer. When it is complete, a brand new state-of-the-art football training facility will be among the highlights of the $130 million project.

The new football facility is planned to occupy a space currently used by Florida’s baseball stadium. WOrk on the football facility will have to wait until the baseball program can move into its new stadium that is part of the renovation plans at Florida.

“With the change in facility locations for both baseball and football, we will now adjust the sequencing for these projects,” Florida AD Scott Stricklin said in a press release, according to Gridiron Now. “Baseball will need to be built first, which will allow us to repurpose the current baseball site and put the stand-alone football complex in that space.”

The new football training facility will take up a good chunk of the renovation costs with an estimated price tag of $65 million for a 130,000 square foot structure. Florida won’t have to wait until 2021 to use the facility, however, as the Gators should be expected to be able to start using the new complex as early as 2019 while the construction and renovation continues.

Michigan high school coach shuts doors to EMU football following shutting down of athletic programs

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Eastern Michigan University made some tough decisions this week when it cut four athletic programs. Although cutting football was not deemed to be an option by AD Scott Wetherbee, the decision is already having some ramifications for the football program moving forward as one high school in the state of Michigan says the Eagles are no longer welcome on their premises.

Noel Dean, who coaches both the football and wrestling programs at Lowell High School, stated in a public letter addressed to EMU head coach Chris Creighton that he will no longer welcome Creighton or anyone else associated with EMU to his high school for recruiting purposes if the university goes through with cutting the wrestling program. Dean also issues a warning to Creighton in the letter, suggesting it may not be long before the university takes another hard look at the value of the football program.

“I can’t stand by and not take a stand against what is happening at EMU with the wrestling program,” Dean wrote in his letter, which was shared by Michigan Grappler. “Wrestling contributes too much to the fabric of our schools systems in Michigan (a guy from South Dakota might not get it), but if I stick to the facts on this. wrestling is only a bone to keep people happy FOR NOW. They are coming for you next.

“If this goes through, you and your staff will not be allowed in any one of our buildings.”

That is most certainly a hard line in the sand putting EMU on notice. If one school in the state of Michigan decides to close its doors to EMU and this message spreads throughout the high school coaching community in the state of Michigan, EMU would be in some serious trouble.

Helmet sticker to The Detroit Free Press.


Ed Warinner goes from $250K Michigan analyst to $525K U-M line coach

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Ed Warinner‘s bank account might want to consider sending Jim McElwain a thank-you note.

In January of this year, Warinner left Minnesota to take a job as a senior offensive analyst at Michigan. However, a month later, McElwain was added as U-M’s wide receivers coach; in an unsurprising twist to that move, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Tim Drevno officially stepped down from his twin posts eight days after McElwain’s hiring and ultimately ended up back at USC.

McElwain, as had been widely expected before he was officially added to Jim Harbaugh‘s coaching staff, took over Drevno’s coordinating duties. Warinner, meanwhile, was officially named as Drevno’s replacement as line coach earlier this month.

According to mlive.com, Warinner has signed a two-year contract that will pay him $525,000 in 2018 and $550,000 in 2019. His scheduled salary for his role as an analyst with the football program? A “measly” $250,000.

Warinner spent the 2017 season as the offensive line coach and running-game coordinator at Minnesota. Prior to that, He was the line coach at Ohio State from 2012-16. In 2015, he added the title of co-offensive coordinator.