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Rough start hampers Penn State as USC holds halftime lead in the Rose Bowl

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PASADENA, Calif. — Everything that could go wrong in the opening minutes of Penn State’s return to the Rose Bowl, did.

It all could have been much worse for the Nittany Lions though, and an amazing late rally by the Big Ten champions managed to keep them in the Granddaddy of Them All as USC took a 27-21 lead into halftime.

Penn State’s opening sequence was straight from a coach’s nightmare, as the team muffed the initial kickoff to start at three and then Trojans corner Iman Marshall pulled down an interception on the very first offensive play after a horrible mixup had quarterback Trace McSorley throwing it right to the waiting cornerback.

USC failed to capitalize on that incredible start by going three-and-out and missing a field goal from 51 yards out. Do-everything star Adoree’ Jackson bailed the team out again however, picking off a pass tipped by the hands of wideout DeAndre Thompkins on McSorley’s second pass of the game.

Things went a little better for fellow quarterback Sam Darnold (251 yards, three scores in the half) on the next series, moving around in the pocket and firing a strike to an awaiting Deontay Burnett in the end zone for a 26 yard touchdown pass and the game’s first points. They would later tack on a pair of field goals to extend their lead in a dominant first quarter for what amounted to the home team in a sold out Rose Bowl.

The Nittany Lions were down but they certainly weren’t out despite all that. McSorley found his first completion on final play of the first quarter and, shortly thereafter, terrific tailback Saquon Barkley avoided the blitz and scampered 24 yards nearly untouched for a touchdown and some much needed life on the PSU sideline.

USC would match them score-for-score as that run turned the final minutes of the second quarter into a shootout. McSorley forgot about his early troubles on the next drive, scrambling out of the pocket and then launching a laser to the end zone that receiver Chris Goodwin hauled in for the team’s second touchdown. Darnold marched the Trojans right down the field yet again on the next drive, tossing a lovely touchdown pass that Darreus Rogers out-muscled a defensive back for in the end zone. PSU tight end Mike Gesicki responded right back with a wild touchdown in the back of the end zone on the next drive.

After a number of blowouts this bowl season, it certainly appeared we were well on our way to another one given the way Penn State started the game. But a nice finishing flourish helped this one from getting too out of hand in a game that has been wildly entertaining — even if a bit one-sided in favor of the Trojans in their home away from home.

Texas QB Shane Buechele undergoes hip surgery, expected back for spring practice

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A postseason injury has forced Shane Buechele to undergo an offseason medical procedure.

Buechele suffered a torn abductor muscle in his hip/abdomen in the first half of Texas’ Texas Bowl win over Missouri and didn’t return in the second half.  Nearly a month later, the football program has announced that the quarterback will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair the damage.

If rehab goes as planned, Buechele is expected to be on the field when the Longhorns kick off spring practice March 5.

As a true freshman in 2016, Buechele started all 12 games for the Longhorns.  This past season was one marred by various injuries.

Buechele started the season opener for Texas, but ceded the job to Sam Ehlinger the next two games because of a bruised throwing shoulder.  Returning to the starting lineup in Week 5, Buechele suffered an ankle injury in the win over Iowa State that allowed Ehlinger to start the next three games.  In the last of those three games, Ehlinger suffered a head injury that left him in concussion protocol and opened the door for Buechele to start five of the last six games of the season.

Buechele and Ehlinger will be the two veterans battling for the starting job once spring practice kicks off in March.

NCAA tables discussions on limiting staff size

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It is going to take some more time to dive deep into the pros and cons of limiting the size of a football staff before the NCAA Division 1 Council decides what to do. In a statement released on Wednesday, the Division 1 Council has decided to table a legislative proposal focusing on setting parameters on the size of a football staff, meaning this topic should pop up again a year from now.

The proposal aims to cap the size of any football staff at 30 people and determine who may be eligible to participate in on-campus recruiting efforts. Those assigned recruiting duties, including head and assistant coaches, would then be required to pass an annual test on recruiting practices. At this time, however, there appears to be too much confusion and uncertainty about how the proposal would impact programs now. With so many questions about the proposal, it was best to put this one on the table and spend the next year examining how it could impact college football programs.

“I went to the American Football Coaches Association meeting, and there were a lot of questions about how this was going to work,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, the chair of the oversight committee, said in a release shared by the NCAA. “The coaches wanted to know who was going to be included, how they would be certified and who was exempted.”

This topic has already been floating out there since last spring, and with recent adjustments from the NCAA to allow for a 10th full-time assistant coach, it appears this will be the next step in the evolution of ruling how large a football staff can be.

Miami’s home winning streak is officially over after Orange Bowl loss

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The Miami Hurricanes opened the new year with a loss in the Orange Bowl in their home stadium, but the Hurricanes marked the bowl game down in their records as a neutral site game. Not so fast, says the NCAA. That loss to the Badgers will go down as a home loss for the Hurricanes.

Because the NCAA officially records the Orange Bowl as a home game for Miami any time the Hurricanes happen to play in the bowl game hosted in their home stadium, the wins and losses are reflected on Miami’s home record. This is true for any team playing a bowl game in their home stadium, including any time UCLA appears in the Rose Bowl or San Diego State in the Holiday Bowl or Poinsettia Bowl.

Prior to losing to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl this past season, Miami was riding nine-game winning streak in Hard Rock Stadium dating back to November 5, 2016. Miami will get a chance to hit the reset button on their home winning streak on September 8 with a home game against Savannah State.

Report: LSU to add former RB Kevin Faulk to staff if SEC gives the green light

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Former LSU running back Kevin Faulk could be set to return to the Tigers program in a new role if the SEC will allow it. According to a report from The Advocate, Faulk is being lined up to join the LSU football support staff, but his addition must be thoroughly vetted first.

Because Faulk is a high school coach, LSU and the SEC must be certain he has no direct ties to any LSU football players on the roster. This is to ensure the staff change complies with a new NCAA rule prohibiting schools from hiring high school coaches for a two-year period when any player from that associated high school enrolls at the university. As long as there are no players on LSU’s roster with any ties to Faulk’s high school coaching within the past two years, the staff change should become official.

Having Faulk associated with the program would be good to see considering how much Faulk meant to LSU during his college career. Faulk rushed for a school-record 4,557 yards and 46 rushing touchdowns. Both are records that stand today despite some extremely talented running backs over the years. Since Faulk’s final season at LSU in 1998, Leonard Fournette has come the closest to Faulk’s career rushing total with 3,830 yards in three years. Fournette is also the closest to Faulk since Faulk played to the school record for career rushing touchdowns, with 40.

Supposing the staff addition does go through, Faulk will not be involved with any off-campus recruiting efforts or on-field coaching assignments, but he will assist with player development.