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54-yard FG as time expires sends UNC past FSU, pushes Seminoles to worst start since 2011

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At some point, there will be a referendum on the state of Florida State’s defense.  For the moment, though, all that matters is The Kick.

Down by 21 points in the first half, and by 14 entering the fourth quarter, FSU managed to put 21 points on the scoreboard in the final period to stake the Seminoles to a 35-34 lead, including Deondre Francois two-yard touchdown run with just :23 remaining.  Thanks in part to a defensive pass interference penalty on the ensuing drive, the Tar Heels moved to what appeared to be the fringe of field-goal range at the Seminole 37-yard line; as time expired, Nick Weiler, whose blocked extra point in the fourth quarter seemingly loomed large in the game, said “fringe this” as he easily cleared the crossbar from 54 yards out as time expired to give UNC a stunning 37-35 win.

The loss in Tallahassee ended the Seminoles’ home winning streak at 22 in a row, which had been the longest such streak in the nation.

The story of this game was offense — or lack of defense — as UNC, in putting up 538 yards of offense, punted just one time in the game, and that didn’t come until three minutes were gone in the fourth quarter.  One other possession ended in a missed field goal and another on a missed field goal as the FSU defense simply had no answer for quarterback Mitch Trubisky (405 yards passing, four touchdowns) or wide receiver Ryan Switzer (14-158).  UNC’s defense didn’t have much of an answer for the opposition’s offense, either, as the Seminoles rolled to 595 yards.

The game served as the second ACC loss in as many contests for the Seminoles.  The Tar Heels, meanwhile, improved to 2-0 in conference play.

On the whole, though, this game was simply about the continuation of a disturbing defensive trend for FSU.

Through one-third of the season, the Seminoles are allowing an average of 44.7 points per game to its three Power Five opponents.  Even when you factor in the Week 2 game against FCS Charleston Southern, they came into this game ranked 107th in the country in scoring defense (34.7 ppg). In those three FBS games, two of them losses, they have allowed an average of 482.7 yards per game.

Injuries have certainly played a role on that side of the ball, but miscommunications and blown assignments and missed tackles have loomed much, much larger.

The loss drops the Seminoles to 3-2 on the season. It’s FSU’s worst start to a year since 2011, when Jimbo Fisher‘s second Seminoles team went 2-3 the first five games of the season.  That team would go on to win seven of its last eight, setting the stage for four straight seasons of double-digit wins.

This latest result also sets up an interesting dynamic heading into Week 6.  With Miami sitting at 4-0, next Saturday’s game will mark the first time since 2002 that the Hurricanes have come into the in-state rivalry game with a better record than the Seminoles.

Times, they are a changin’?  Quite possibly.

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.

Michigan’s Lavert Hill apologizes for one-finger salute to Penn State crowd

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Over the weekend, Tennessee’s Rashaan Gaulden flipped a double-bird to fans at Alabama after the Vols scored a touchdown. It has quickly become one of the top images from the weekend, and Gauldin has apologized for his obscene gesture to the Alabama faithful. On Monday, another player on the road who decided to flip off the home fans has now apologized for his actions.

Michigan’s Lavert Hill was seen offering a one-finger salute to fans at Penn State after Michigan had suffered a 42-13 loss at Beaver Stadium. The image of Hill gesturing to the fans made the rounds, and now Hill has offered his own apology in a brief statement.

“I sincerely regret my inappropriate gesture at the end of Saturday’s football game. I let my emotions get the best of me and learned a valuable lesson,” Hill said in his statement. “I am truly sorry for this offensive gesture and vow that it will not happen again.”

Hill had committed to Penn State during the recruiting process before flipping to stay in state with the Wolverines. It was a rough night for former Penn State commits playing in a Michigan uniform on Saturday. Kicker Quinn Nordin, who committed to Penn State with an airplane music video but flipped to Michigan after Jim Harbaugh slept over has been rock solid with his kicking this season, but he missed his first kick Saturday night for an extra point.