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A&M on the ropes, but late punt return TD gives Aggies life

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Texas A&M is well on its way to giving those who questioned their positioning in the initial playoff rankings some serious ammunition — although not as far down that path as it looked late in the half.

Last Tuesday, the Aggies came in a surprising, to some, fourth in the first College Football Playoff rankings. A mere four days later, A&M has found itself on the short end of a 28-14 halftime score against Mississippi State (3-5, 1-3) in Starkville.

Symbolic of the first half for A&M was MSU’s first play from scrimmage as quarterback Nick Fitzgerald raced 74 yards for a touchdown less than three minutes into the first quarter.  Perhaps most embarrassing for the Aggies’ defense was the fact that Fitzgerald scampered untouched into the end zone.

The Bulldogs went on to more than double-up the Aggies in total offense, 372-146.  It was the most yards the Aggies have given up in a half this season.

Fitzgerald accounted for 277 yards of that production — 145 passing, 132 rushing.  The sophomore signal-caller was also responsible for three of the four touchdowns (two passing, one rushing).

Adding to the concern of the Aggies is the health of Trevor Knight.  The starting quarterback went down with an injury to what appeared to be his right shoulder area in the second quarter. While returned the following series, he appeared to aggravate whatever the issue is. Knight didn’t take the field for the Aggies’ final possession of the half.

Were it not for a special teams play — and the officiating — things could’ve been exponentially worse.

With less than a minute left in the second, Christian Kirk returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown to cut the Aggies’ deficit from 21 to 14 points.  Replay, however, seemed to show a block in the back on the play that took out not one but two Bulldog players; no flag was thrown on the play, and the touchdown — and momentum swing — stood.

MSU will get the ball first to start the second half.

Suspended Michigan State staffer receives another contract extension

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Michigan State has added another one-month extension to the contract of suspended football staffer Curtis Blackwell as the school continues to investigate several sexual assaults involving the Spartans.

A schools spokesman confirmed the extension to the Detroit Free Press on Friday.

The move comes on the heels of a previous one-month contract extension for Blackwell that came at the end of March. His official title is that of the team’s director of college advancement and performance and he was hired by head coach Mark Dantonio back in 2013 after running a number of major recruiting camps in the region.

Blackwell was originally suspended back in February as the school and police began multiple investigations related to sexual assaults. According to reports, one Michigan State staff member had an arrest warrant issued for obstructing an investigation but he was never publicly identified by the school.

Probes into the matter, including a Title IX investigation, remain ongoing in East Lansing. The football team recently wrapped up practice missing over a dozen players in the spring game so it appears this wide-ranging scandal that has embroiled the Spartans is not going to be over anytime soon.

Ex-USC coach finally lands court date with NCAA over Reggie Bush case

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After years and years of meandering through the court system, former USC running backs coach Todd McNair finally has his day in court with the NCAA.

ESPN is reporting that the two parties will meet in Los Angeles County Superior Court on April 18, 2018. The trial will finally get underway next year after nearly a decade of appeals on both sides.

McNair was the Trojans’ running backs coach during the glory days under Pete Carroll and responsible for coaching or recruiting many of the team’s top players. He was one of the few links to the program that the NCAA cited when determining that former star Reggie Bush received extra benefits, later leading to brutal sanctions back in 2010. McNair was given a one-year show-cause as a result of the Committee on Infractions findings and never coached again after the school let his contract expire shortly thereafter.

That wasn’t the end of the story however, as McNair later filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA in which he accused the association of violating protocol and showing bias against himself and the program in order to level unprecedented sanctions. Documents in the case have continued to seep out that have given credence to McNair’s case and the NCAA’s lawyers have fought bitterly at every turn in order to prevent the trial from actually getting underway.

Those efforts were unsuccessful however and it appears an already nasty legal battle is still not over. It remains to be seen if the trial will even happen, as a settlement could eventually take place between now and next April. If it does indeed go in front of a jury though, it just might be one of the most fascinating insights into one of the biggest NCAA scandals of the past few decades.

Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Jonathan Giles announces transfer from Texas Tech

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Thursday may have been a high point for the Texas Tech football program upon learning that former quarterback Patrick Mahomes was taken in the top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft.

On Friday afternoon though, the Red Raiders dipped right back down as star wide receiver Jonathan Giles took to Twitter to announce that he was leaving the program and transferring out of Lubbock.

Giles was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist a season ago after catching 69 passes for 1,158 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those numbers led the team in each category despite trailing off a bit down the stretch as Tech missed out on a bowl game.

Playing time could have been a big factor in the decision to leave the program as both Cameron Batson and Keke Coutee emerged as the top receiving targets and Giles was relegated to second-team status coming out of spring practice.

Tech’s Air Raid system and NFL quarterbacks had a lot to do with Giles’ big numbers but it’s fairly rare to see such highly touted and productive wideouts hit the transfer markets. While the decision probably isn’t what some Red Raiders fans wanted to hear on Friday, the receiver probably won’t be lacking for options when it comes to his next stop.

Pitt dismisses senior defensive tackle for disciplinary reasons

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Bad news in college football is typically reserved for Friday and it appears the Pitt Panthers just got a taste of some.

Per Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Jerry DiPaola, head coach Pat Narduzzi has dismissed starting defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni for disciplinary reasons.

Taleni emerged as a starter down the stretch for the Panthers and will be a big loss up front for the team as they already have to replace the stellar production from the soon-to-be-drafted Ejuan Price.

No further comments were given when the school confirmed the news so it might be a while before we find out what led to Taleni’s dismissal and whether he plays college football at all next season.