Major League Baseball

St. John’s-St. Thomas to double Div. III single-game attendance mark

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Yes, this is kind of a big deal.

St. John’s-St. Thomas is one of the best and longest-running rivalries at the Division III level of college football.  Today’s renewal will mark the 87th meeting between the two Minnesota schools, with this one being played at Target Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins.

According to the Associated Press, more than 35,000 tickets have already been sold for the game that kicks off at 2:20 ET Saturday afternoon.  That number will likely more than double the previous D-III single-game attendance record of 17,535 set in October of 2016 for UW-Oshkosh at UW-Whitewater.  The record that game broke?  The 17,327 that were in attendance for the 2015 St. Thomas-St. John’s game.

In fact, this rivalry between the two Catholic schools accounts for four of the top seven single-game attendance marks at that level of football.  From D3Football.com:

17,535: UW-Oshkosh at UW-Whitewater, 10/8/16
17,327: St. Thomas at St. John’s, 9/26/15
16,514: St. Thomas at St. John’s, 9/24/16
16,421: St. Thomas at St. John’s, 10/2/10
15,287: UW-Platteville at UW-Whitewater, 10/3/15

14,437: Randolph-Macon at Hampden-Sydney, 11/12/94 (100th meeting)
14,286: St. Thomas at St. John’s, 9/15/12
13,671: Amherst at Williams, 11/11/89 (New England small-college record)
13,627: UW-Oshkosh at UW-Whitewater, 10/25/14
13,107: Bethel at St. John’s, 11/8/03 (John Gagliardi’s 409th win)

Today’s game will also fare favorably when compared to its big football brother as, according to research undertaken by the St. Thomas sports information department, the attendance for this contest will exceed the attendance of 20 of the 40 FBS bowl games played last season.

“If we could do this every single week for the rest of my career, sign me up right now,” St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso told the AP. “It has been an absolute blast, and it would never, ever get old. Are there extra media requests? Yes. Are there extra ticket requests? Sure. But at the end of the day if you can’t get genuinely excited about this opportunity, then what are we doing coaching this sport?”

In addition to the attendance record, this matchup will also mark the first-ever college football game played at the major league park.

Troy leading North Texas halfway through an entertaining New Orleans Bowl

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Brandon Silvers hit his first 11 passes and Troy threatened to blow the game open early, but North Texas found its footing at fought its way back into the New Orleans Bowl. As it stands, Troy holds a 22-20 lead at the break.

Troy accepted the ball to open the game and promptly rolled 80 yards in nine plays, capped by a 1-yard Josh Anderson scoring run. The Trojans immediately pushed the lead to two scores when North Texas quarterback Mason Fine was sacked and fumbled at his own 14, setting up Anderson’s second touchdown run of the first half of the first quarter. Silvers hit John Johnson for a 2-point conversion to stake the Trojans to a 15-0 lead at the 9:21 mark of the opening frame.

The Mean Green went three-and-out on their next possession but, facing the prospect of getting buried for the game in just the first quarter, the North Texas defense rose up when Joshua Wheeler sacked Silvers on third down at the Troy 39. The UNT offense awoke with an 11-play, 75-yard drive culminating in a 12-yard pass from Fine to Rico Bussey, Jr.

Anderson immediately responded with a 55-yard run on the final play of the first quarter, and Silvers completed the drive four plays later with a 7-yard strike to Damion Willis at the 14:24 mark of the second quarter. North Texas attempted to return service with another touchdown, but Fine under-threw a wide open Bussey on 3rd-and-2 from the Troy 31 and his fourth down pass to Michael Lawrence was dropped.

Troy threatened to push its lead to three touchdowns on its next drive, moving to the North Texas 22, when disaster struck — a snap went over Silvers’s head and was scooped up by the Mean Green’s Colton McDonald, who returned the loose pigskin 56 yards for a touchdown. Fine’s 2-point conversion rush failed, but North Texas was still within 22-13 with 5:49 left in the first half.

North Texas had a golden opportunity to pull within one score of the Trojans when Kishawn McClain intercepted Silvers at the UNT 46 on Troy’s first play of the ensuing possession, but the Mean Green were forced to punt after just one first down.

But North Texas forced its third straight stop, this drive ended by another Wheeler sack, and Fine capitalized with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Lawrence with 49 seconds left before the break to pull the Mean Green within two. Fine completed 13-of-23 passes in the half for 146 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Mean Green have mustered just 15 yards on 14 carries.

Silvers closed the half hitting 16-of-21 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown and a pick, and Anderson led all rushers with 13 carries for 90 yards and two touchdowns.

North Texas will receive to open the second half.

Colorado State suspends three ahead of New Mexico Bowl matchup with Marshall

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Especially in the backfield, Colorado State will be at less than full strength for half of its postseason game.

CSU announced Saturday afternoon that it has suspended three players — running backs Rashaad Boddie (pictured, being tackled) and Marvin Kinsey and defensive back Robert Awunganyi — for the first half of today’s New Mexico Bowl matchup with Marshall.  The only reason given was an unspecified violation of team rules.

The most noteworthy name in the trio is Boddie, whose 254 yards rushing are third on the Rams while his four rushing touchdowns are third as well.  Kinsey’s 124 yards rushing are fifth on the team.

Awunganyi has not played a down this season.

As noted by the Denver Post, CSU will also be without linebacker Josh Watson for the first half as well.  The redshirt junior currently leads the Rams in tackles with 103.

Ninth player has left Lovie Smith’s Illinois team since end of season

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a Power Five program harder hit when it comes to roster attrition than Illinois.

The latest departure from Lovie Smith‘s football program is Dominic Thieman, with the wide receiver taking to Twitter to announce that he has decided to transfer from the Fighting Illini. As a true sophomore, Thieman will have two years of eligibility remaining at another FBS school after he sits out the 2018 season.

Thieman, a three-star 2016 signee, was fifth on the team in receptions this past season with 11 and sixth in receiving yards with 144. He’ll finish the Illini portion of his collegiate playing career with 17 catches for 176 yards.

According to the Chicago Tribune‘s Shannon Ryan, Thieman is the ninth player on scholarship to leave Smith’s program since the end of the 2017 regular season. Among those who have been confirmed as departees are the highest-rated signee in the Illini’s 2015 recruiting class and one of its most talented players on the defensive side of the ball.

Georgia’s Natrez Patrick has court date to answer for failed drug test

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It appears Natrez Patrick‘s off-field issues will linger on into the New Year.

Earlier this past week, a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge Patrick was facing was dropped by the Barrow County (Ga.) district attorney’s office.  Because he was already on probation following an October arrest for marijuana possession, however, he was subject to a drug test in Athens-Clarke County.

And, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Patrick failed that drug test, which was administered just a few days after the Dec. 2 arrest in Barrow County.  As a result, Patrick has a court hearing scheduled for Jan. 11 in which he can contest the results. “He has a right to deny the allegation and go forward with the hearing,” the Journal-Constitution quoted the Athens-Clarke County solicitor, C.R. Chisholm, as saying.

Patrick’s attorney seemed none too pleased that the report of a failed drug test is now public knowledge.

“I am certainly not going to confirm that Natrez took a probation test or failed a probation test,” Billy Healan said according to the AJC. “None of that should be public record regardless.”

Patrick served a four-game suspension stemming from the October arrest. In November of 2015, Patrick was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor marijuana possession and suspended for one game per university policy.  A year later, Patrick and a teammate, Roquan Smith, were investigated by police for alleged pot use although no charges were ever filed.

Despite the fact that the charges in the December incident, which happened shortly after the Bulldogs won the SEC championship, were dropped, it’s unclear whether the linebacker will be available for Georgia’s playoff game against Oklahoma.  Per university policy, three drug-related offenses are grounds for dismissal from the football team.

Patrick started seven of the nine games in which he played at inside linebacker this season.  Even as he missed nearly one-third of the regular season, Patrick is still sixth on the Bulldogs in tackles with 35.