The week leading up to Texas’ trip back to Los Angeles to play USC has been filled with highlights galore of the Longhorns’ triumph over the Trojans in the 2006 BCS National Championship Game. While the stars of that memorable college football game were out in force at the Coliseum for the rematch on Saturday — Vince Young, Matt Leinart and even Matthew McConaughey included — this year’s edition paid homage to that classic… by laying an egg in the first half.
Third and fourth down stops thanks to bad play designs? You got it. Turnovers? Check. Lackluster run games? Definitely. Mental mistakes? Tons.
As a result, No. 4 USC didn’t quite look like the College Football Playoff contender they were seven days ago after a sloppy 14-7 first half that saw them up just a touchdown on Texas at the midway point.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the fact that the Horns’ defense showed up in a way that Stanford could not in the same situation last week. The Longhorns stout front four were active for the first two quarters and helped clog USC’s running lanes, limiting star tailback Ronald Jones to just 33 yards on 13 carries. Heisman favorite Sam Darnold had to shoulder the load for the most part and put up solid numbers (173 yards passing on 12 completions and the only two scores on a pair of nifty touchdown throws) but was not helped by his young receivers dropping passes on nearly every drive.
Opposite number Sam Ehlinger, making his first road start under center as just a true freshman, was fairly uneven on the night. He threw an ill-advised interception from his own end zone and was on the run for most of the first two quarters of action when he dropped back to pass. Had it not been for the impressive defensive effort though, including a pick-six with 19 seconds left by DeShon Elliott to knot things up on the scoreboard, things could have been a lot worse for Tom Herman coming out of the locker room as a big underdog.
What will the second half have in store? Hopefully less of what we saw Saturday evening and more of that magic from a decade ago in the Rose Bowl. Perhaps the pair of touchdowns in the final 20 seconds will be a sign of things to come from the Coliseum.
Over the past several days, it appeared that Florida had zeroed in on Chip Kelly as its next head coach. On Black Friday, that appears to no longer be the case.
Earlier this afternoon, FootballScoop.com reported that coaches they’ve spoken to expect Kelly to choose UCLA as his destination for a return to college football. Not long after, Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports reported that “Florida has moved on from Kelly” as its potential head coach and will move on to other, unnamed candidates. Forde adds that “UCLA is the increasingly likely new destination for the former coach of the Oregon Ducks.”
Whether Florida moved on because Kelly informed them he was headed to UCLA or because they simply couldn’t reach an agreement is unknown at this time.
These reports come a couple of days after it was reported that UF was prepared to move on from Kelly if he didn’t make a decision in short order.
With Kelly apparently out of the picture in Gainesville, the Gators will very likely turn their attention to UCF’s Scott Frost and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.
If Frost is the target, UF will likely have some competition in the form of Frost’s alma mater Nebraska, which is expected to part ways with Mike Riley after the Cornhuskers’ regular-season finale. MSU, meanwhile, is prepared to “go all in” to retain Mullen.
The rumor mill is set to make yet another coach a much richer man. Again.
While it appears that, at least for the moment, Florida is focused on Chip Kelly as its next head football coach, Dan Mullen‘s name has been mentioned as another realistic possibility to replace the dismissed Jim McElwain. The connection makes sense as Mullen spent four seasons as UF’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Urban Meyer before leaving for Mississippi State, where he’s spent the past nine seasons as head coach. Also, UF’s athletic director, Scott Stricklin, served in the same role in Starkville during a portion of Mullen’s time with the Bulldogs.
In addition to Florida, Tennessee is believed to maintain an interest in prying Mullen away as well.
In that vein, Bruce Feldman of SI.com is reporting that MSU is prepared to “go all in” in an attempt to keep Mullen. How all in is the university? “The 45-year-old Mullen is already getting paid $4.5 million, but word is the school is willing to bump him up to around $6 million and also making an even stronger financial commitment to his staff,” Feldman wrote.
In his nine seasons, Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to a record of 69-46 overall and 33-39 in SEC play. With the exception of 2014 (second), they’ve finished either fourth (2009, 2012) or fifth (2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016) in the SEC West the last eight seasons; at 4-4, the best they’ll finish this season is tied for fourth.
Feldman’s report comes less than 24 hours after MSU, thanks in very large part to a gruesome first-half injury to its starting quarterback, lost its annual Egg Bowl matchup to Ole Miss. That loss dropped Mullen’s record in that rivalry game to 5-4. Prior to Mullen’s arrival in 2009, though, the Rebels had won five of the previous seven meetings in the series.
For Miami, it’s deja vu all over again.
For the first quarter and half Black Friday afternoon, it was looking as if unbeaten and second-ranked Miami would be facing its fifth halftime deficit of the season as 4-7 Pitt was leading the Hurricanes 3-0 midway through the second quarter. However, a 23-yard touchdown pass from Malik Rosier to Ahmmon Richards, which featured some nifty footwork from the latter to get into the end zone, gave the ‘Canes their first lead of the game with just over eight minutes remaining in the half.
However, a late Pitt touchdown at the end of freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett‘s six-yard scamper gave the Panthers a 10-7 lead heading into the halftime locker room. Four times previously, UM has trailed at the half — Toledo (16-10), Florida State (3-0), Georgia Tech 14-13) and Virginia (21-14); each time, the Hurricanes came from behind to win.
As the score hints at, neither offense could muster much production, with the Panthers holding a 175-108 edge in yards. The U’s much-discussed and mega-hyped turnover chain made a pair of appearances, but the Hurricanes couldn’t convert either turnover into points; in fact, the Pitt defense forced three-and-outs on each occasion.
If the Hurricanes can come from behind yet again, they will finish off a perfect 12-0 regular season for the first time since 2002. That team made it to the BCS title game but lost to Ohio State.
Miami will get the ball to start the second half.
The Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t an especially positive one for one member of the Iowa State football program.
According to the Des Moines Register, Brian Peavy was arrested Thursday evening on one count of fourth-degree criminal mischief. The starting cornerback was subsequently released from the county jail a short time later after posting an unspecified bond.
From the Register‘s report:
Ames Police Department Sgt. Christine Crippen said police responded to a call around 5:06 p.m. regarding possible vandalism taking place in a skate park in Ames.
Police discovered Peavy and another male spray-painting underneath a bridge near the park. Peavy and the other male ran when approached by police. Peavy was caught while the other male escaped.
WHO-TV reports that an ISU spokesperson confirmed that Peavy remains in good standing with the team and will play in Saturday’s game against Kansas State. ISU heads into the weekend with an outside shot at clinching a berth in the Big 12 championship game, pending the result of today’s Baylor-TCU game.
Peavy currently leads the Cyclones in pass breakups with seven; is tied for second in interceptions with two, and is third in tackles with 75. The redshirt junior has been an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection each of the past two seasons.