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Bob Stoops retiring as head coach at Oklahoma, effective immediately

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This is, to say the least, the most stunning development of the 2017 offseason.

First reported by The Oklahoman‘s Berry Tramel, Bob Stoops informed his Oklahoma football team at a meeting this afternoon that, effective immediately, he has decided to step down as the Sooners’ head football coach.  While the school has yet to acknowledge anything pertaining to its long-time coach, an official announcement is expected at some point this afternoon.

It’s unclear why Stoops would wait until less than two months before the start of summer camp and less then three months before the start of the 2017 season to make such a decision.  The coaching infrastructure already in place, though, should make for an easier transition.

That brings us to a replacement, with multiple reports indicating that 33-year-old OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will be taking over for his boss.  Earlier this offseason, Riley was given a new contract that makes him one of the highest-paid coordinators in the sport.

The 56-year-old Stoops was set to enter his 19th season heading the program prior to the stunning development.  In his 18 seasons with the program, he guided the Sooners to a 190-48 record.  After a 7-5 first season, OU one 10-plus games in 14 of the next 17 seasons.  The Sooners won 11 games six times — including what turned out to be the last two seasons of Stoops’ tenure — 12 games five times and 13 games once.

Stoops won 10 Big 12 championships, including nine outright, during his time in Norman.  His 2000 squad won the lone national title of his tenure, going unbeaten in 13 games and capping the championship season with a 13-2 win over Florida State in the Orange Bowl.  That was the Sooners’ first since 1985.

Obviously, we’ll have more on this breaking story throughout the remainder of the day.

UPDATED 4:33 p.m. ET: Oklahoma has confirmed that Bob Stoops is retiring as the head football coach at OU after 18 seasons.

Below are the statements from the pertinent individuals involved in today’s shocking turn of events.

BOB STOOPS
“After 18 years at the University of Oklahoma, I’ve decided to step down as the head football coach. I understand there has been some speculation about my health. My health was not the deciding factor in this decision and I’ve had no incidents that would prevent me from coaching. I feel the timing is perfect to hand over the reins. The program is in tremendous shape. We have outstanding players and coaches and are poised to make another run at a Big 12 and national championship. We have new state-of-the-art facilities and a great start on next year’s recruiting class. The time is now because Lincoln Riley will provide a seamless transition as the new head coach, capitalizing on an excellent staff that is already in place and providing familiarity and confidence for our players. Now is simply the ideal time for me and our program to make this transition.

“The Bible says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” I’m grateful for this season of my life, and feel I’ve fulfilled my purpose here at OU as its head football coach.

“I’m thankful that my career at Oklahoma was marked with consistent leadership in President David Boren and Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione. It’s extremely rare in college athletics to have no change in these leadership positions over a nearly 20-year span. I always appreciated the way both of them supported me and our program. They both played an enormous role in all our successes.

“I have been very fortunate to have such outstanding coaches in my time at OU. Our players have always benefitted from their strong leadership, on and off the field. I was also blessed with a strong support staff — strength and conditioning, equipment, sports medicine, academics, video — every aspect of our program was staffed with very talented people who took a great deal of pride in making Oklahoma football the best.

“I’m especially thankful for being able to coach so many talented young men over my 18 years here. It has been so rewarding to see these players come to OU and mature over a four or five-year career, and not just on the field. To play a small part in their growth is what I will always cherish the most.

None of my success would have happened without the best fans in the country. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the 110 consecutive home sellouts. The passion of our fan base is unmatched, and their support has played a huge role in not only home games, but road games and all 18 of our bowl games, as well.

“Lastly, I’d like to thank my wife, Carol, and my daughter, Mackie, and my sons, Drake and Isaac. They have been a major part of this success. Being the wife or child of a coach is often tough, and they’ve all been strong through both good times and challenging times.

“The coaching life is like a relay race and I’m thankful for my turn and am confident as I pass the baton. Carol and I intend on staying in Norman — it is our home. I will be available to Coach Riley and the athletic department in any manner. Thank you all for a lifetime of memories we shared together of 10 conference championships, the 2000 national championship, strong relationships with players and coaches, and the great Oklahoma football fans. Boomer!”

OU PRESIDENT DAVID BOREN
“It was with sadness that I learned of the decision of Coach Bob Stoops to step down as head football coach at Oklahoma. Coach Stoops has made a critically important and lasting contribution to the OU football program. He has led to its restoration as one of the top programs in the nation. His success has helped provide the momentum for major new facilities like the improvements and expansion of the football stadium. Because of his unquestioned personal integrity and high standards, he is one of the most admired college football coaches in America.

“His decision to step down at this time was motivated partly by his belief that he has the right successor already in place in the program, Lincoln Riley, and he wanted to pass the leadership on at a time of strength for the program. His decision is typical of his unselfishness and always putting first the best interest of the players and program.

“I personally value him as a person and as a friend. I’m glad that Coach Stoops will remain an active member of our university family and will continue to serve the athletics department and be of help to our new head coach. The departure of Coach Stoops as head coach is a bittersweet time. I agree completely that we have exactly the right person already in place to take the helm. Coach Riley enjoys the complete confidence of the administration and university community. He has the talent and personal character to be a worthy successor to Coach Stoops.”

OU ATHLETIC DIRECTOR JOE CASTIGLIONE
“It is rare in today’s world that a president, athletics director and head football coach can work together for 18 successful seasons. Bob Stoops stands as one of the premier legendary figures in one of the most storied programs in college football history, yet he is still best identified by his humble nature and team approach that refused to get caught up in stature. That’s the reason Bob is such a great leader. He has great vision and great accomplishment, but it never changed who he is as a man and a coach.

“Working alongside him has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job. Few athletics directors get a coach who better combines success and cohesiveness like Bob Stoops. I can’t help but feel somewhat sad today because Bob has been such a constant in my life, and that’s why I am so thankful that he will remain with us. He will continue to do great things for OU.

“At the same time, I am thrilled that Lincoln Riley is in position to take over as the head coach. He is widely regarded as one of the brightest minds in college football and there is no question in my mind that he is the complete package. Our program is in very good hands. Lincoln and I have a great relationship and I can’t wait to embark on this new era with him. I am sure our fans share my enthusiasm. We celebrate a tremendous legacy today and because of what Bob did here and the coach we have identified, we look forward to our future with great optimism.”

Josh Rosen gets the stats, Sam Darnold the win as No. 11 USC tops crosstown rival UCLA

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UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen grabbed all the gaudy stats, but USC signal-caller Sam Darnold managed the win.

The primetime battle of potential No. 1 overall picks in next year’s NFL Draft didn’t quite live up to the hype for fans or scouts alike, but the No. 11 Trojans completed their regular season on Saturday night with a hard-fought 28-23 win over their crosstown rivals at the L.A. Coliseum in a contest that was far from the shootout that was expected coming in.

Darnold had his moments behind center and flashed several reasons why NFL front office types are so enamored with him, hitting some nice touch passes over the middle and scrambling for numerous big plays outside of the pocket. The numbers weren’t quite up to his season standards with 264 yards through the air and no touchdowns but the redshirt sophomore did find the end zone on a scramble.

That he scored on the ground probably wasn’t too surprising given that UCLA is the worst rushing defense in the country but every yard had to be earned in the chippy rivalry game between the two schools 15 miles from each other. Running back Ronald Jones didn’t see as many carries as you would expect down the stretch but managed 122 yards and two scores to keep the chains moving on a pretty consistent basis.

The best play for the cardinal and gold might have actually come on special teams, as Michael Pittman used a little misdirection on a punt return to scoot 72 yards nearly untouched for a touchdown and the game’s first points.

As good as USC was at times on the night, they didn’t runaway with the win like many expected for a team on the fringes of playoff contention. A lot of that had to do with Rosen, who again kept his side in things with a 421 yard outing with three touchdowns and a pick — numbers that could have been even better if not for a few plays here or there. That aerial attack helped open things up for a normally dormant ground game, with Soso Jamabo rushing for 62 yards and Bolo Olorunfunmi adding another 56.

It wasn’t enough to bring the Victory Bell back to Westwood however, as the annual trophy will remain just south of downtown for the eighth time in the past decade. The Bruins still have a shot at going to a bowl game if they can beat fellow in-state rival Cal next weekend but their margin for error to reach the postseason is still incredibly slim given how improved the Bears are this year.

The Trojans meanwhile, finally get some well deserved rest after capping off an 8-1 campaign in conference play and a perfect record in the division. After a week of rest — the first of the year since they had no bye week — they’ll head to the Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium for a rematch with either Stanford or Washington State. The team remains way outside looking in with regards to the College Football Playoff chase at the moment but after a third straight win over their crosstown rival, that probably is the furthest thing on their minds as another picture perfect night in Los Angeles comes to a close.

Bryce Love (mostly) quiet as No. 22 Stanford retains control of the Axe

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Baker Mayfield‘s antics in Lawrence provided Stanford’s Bryce Love a sliver of an opportunity to climb back inside the minds of Heisman voters.

Unfortunately for him, Love’s injured ankle didn’t allow him to take advantage of that opportunity.

Love struggled for much of the night, posting a quiet (by his standards) night of 14 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown, as No. 22 Stanford topped California 17-14 in Palo Alto. His final carry of the night came with 14:16 left in the fourth quarter.

That’s not to say Love was totally quiet, though. Love broke free for a 57-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, giving Stanford a 17-6 lead at the time.

With Love hobbled, Stanford handed the keys of the offense over to quarterback K.J. Costello and backup running back Cameron Scarlett. Costello hit 17-of-26 passes for 185 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His touchdown, a 17-yarder to Kaden Smith, broke a 3-3 tie with 8:17 left in the first half and put Stanford up for good.

Scarlett carried 14 times for 61 yards, which doesn’t seem like much until you realize he toted the ball on 11 consecutive plays, which allowed the Cardinal to expire all of Cal’s timeouts and kill the final 7:25 remaining in a 3-point game.

Cal had chances to win the game, though. Matt Anderson had a 47-yard field goal doink off the upright in the second quarter, and Ross Bowers drove Cal into Stanford territory at the midway point of the fourth quarter before he was intercepted by Stanford’s Ben Edwards. Bowers finished the night hitting 20-of-29 passes for 182 yards, and Patrick Laird led all runners with 20 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown.

The win gives Stanford eight straight wins in The Big Game, the longest winning streak by either side in a rivalry that dates back to 1892.

The win means Stanford (8-3, 7-2 Pac-12) can clinch the Pac-12 North if No. 14 Washington State beats No. 18 Washington in the Apple Cup on Saturday on Saturday. (Stanford completed Pac-12 play early in order to host No. 8 Notre Dame.) Cal (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12) must win at UCLA on Friday to reach a bowl game in head coach Justin Wilcox‘s first season.

WVU QB Will Grier reportedly out several weeks with broken finger

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If you saw it live, or even on replay, you could sense this was coming.

In the first quarter of Saturday’s loss to Texas, Will Grier dove toward the left pylon in an attempt to get West Virginia on the scoreboard.  What was initially thought to be a touchdown was instead determined to be a fumble out of the end zone resulting in a touchback, giving the ball back to UT.  That was the least-distressing development on the play as, somehow, Grier got up from a dive with a finger on his right (throwing) hand pointing in a direction God never intended.

Asa result of that gruesome injury, Grier has been ruled out for several weeks, ESPN.com reported.  The same website is also reporting that Grier flew to Charlotte after the game and is expected to have surgery in that city Sunday.

A WVU official told CFT that a determination on Grier’s availability for a bowl game will likely be determined by when the game is played, meaning an official decision isn’t expected until next weekend at the earliest.

Grier, who has one more season of eligibility remaining, came into Week 12 second in the country in touchdown passes with 34.  With the Florida transfer sidelined for the foreseeable future, sophomore Chris Chugunov will get the start against fourth-ranked Oklahoma in the regular-season finale next Saturday.

After replacing Grier, Chugunov completed 14-of-26 passes for 189 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in the 28-14 loss.

QB Justin Herbert returns to lineup for Oregon as Ducks bottle up Khalil Tate and Arizona

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Oregon has been listless offensively the past few weeks without starting quarterback Justin Herbert but his return to the lineup injected plenty of life into Willie Taggart’s team in a 48-28 win over Arizona that also made the Ducks bowl eligible at the same time.

Herbert’s numbers were not flashy or spectacular given the offense he plays in but they were a huge boost given how poorly backups played in his absence after breaking his collarbone early in the year. He finished the night with just 235 yards through the air (along with an interception) and a touchdown pass while also making an impact with his wheels, surprising nearly everybody in Autzen Stadium with a 40 yard scramble for a touchdown in the first quarter.

As nice as it was to have the signal-caller back, his teammate Royce Freeman did most of the heavy lifting as he no longer faced a loaded box full of defenders. The senior made his first trip to the end zone since September (coinciding with Herbert’s injury) to move past LaMichael James as Oregon’s all-time leader in total touchdowns. He also passed TCU legend LaDainian Tomlinson for 10th on the FBS career rushing yards list early in the game and managed to end the night with 134 on the ground and a total of four scores. Backup Tony Brooks-James added another 124 yards as the Ducks’ rushing attack was humming like days of old.

Perhaps the more eye-opening aspect of the victory was the UO defense though. The bottled up dynamic Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate better than just about any Pac-12 defense has this year and held him to only 32 yards rushing. Forcing the dual-threat star to become a passer was the game plan and the Ducks executed it at a high level, limiting him to 159 yards passing with a score and a pair of interceptions.

Running back Nick Wilson rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns but it wasn’t enough for the Wildcats, whose most notable play was probably a pick-six by Dane Cruikshank that was negated by a taunting penalty in the first half as he finger-waged his way to the end zone. The offense later punched it in but it was emblematic of a frustrating night for Rich Rodriguez and his coaching staff.

Both teams have gone through their up’s and down’s this season and while it looked as though Arizona was on the upswing entering Saturday night, perhaps it’s Oregon who can claim the same thanks to their starting quarterback looking healthy and as back in business.