After winning just three games in 2016, Michigan State spent last winter at home dreaming of warmer climates. Thanks to an incredible turnaround during the regular season in 2017, the No. 16 Spartans spent this winter enjoying the warmer climates of San Diego as they thumped No. 18 Washington State 42-17 in the Holiday Bowl.
And things didn’t even seem anywhere as close as that final margin would indicate.
Quarterback Brian Lewerke played a big role in the reason why the game was largely uncompetitive with a performance that could earn him a place on more than a few Heisman Dark Horse lists for 2018. The sophomore had one of the best outings of the season under center and was one point with his passing on nearly every dropback in throwing for 213 yards and three touchdowns. While he may not look like a noted dual-threat at first glance, he also paced the team with his legs for most of the night and wound up with 73 yards rushing.
Tailback L.J. Scott chipped in with 110 on the ground and scored two rushing touchdowns, while Felton Davis (118 yards, one score) and Cody White (two TD’s) helped pace the skill position players in terms of effectiveness.
Though the Cougars did get the offense clicking later in the game, they were behind the chains from the opening kickoff with sophomore Tyler Hilinski making his first career start behind center. Record-setting quarterback Luke Falk was one the sidelines in street clothes for the game but couldn’t make it back in time from a wrist injury he suffered in the Apple Cup.
Hilinski did make several nice throws down the field over the course of the game but was mostly forced to dink-and-dunk all night on his way to 272 yards, an interception and a pair of touchdowns. Several three-and-outs early put his defense in a bind however and a fumble in the third quarter that was converted into another touchdown seemed to be the back-breaker. The loss puts a damper on what was still an overall successful year for the Cougs but adds to the questions about the program going forward with a number of key players gone for 2018 and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch reportedly headed to Ohio State in January.
The same could not be said of the Spartans, which capped a seven-win turnaround this year and have plenty of momentum (and returning starters) as they return to East Lansing for the new year. While we tend to over-inflate bowl victories when it comes to the preseason outlook on some teams, the way that MSU has trended this year bodes well for them in what should be a rough and tumble Big Ten in 2018 that will likely have Mark Dantonio‘s squad right back in the thick of the title race again.
Nearly four months after ostensibly being fired as athletic director, John Currie has an official severance agreement with his former employer.
Tennessee announced Thursday evening that “it has completed an amicable resolution parting ways with former… Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics John Currie.” Currie had been earning $75,000 a month during a paid suspension; the university stated in its release that Currie will be paid a sum total of $2,220,454 (and 60 cents, for accounting purposes) no later than April 1 of this year.
Additionally, the release noted that Currie “will be paid his salary through March 22, 2018.”
In the midst of a football coaching search fiasco that included a Mike Leach hire that wasn’t, Currie was ousted as the AD at UT on Dec. 1 of last year and replaced by former Vols head football coach Phillip Fulmer. Between then and today’s announcement, Currie had been technically employed but suspended with pay by the university.
Earlier this month, it was announced that Currie had been hired as an executive-in-residence at Robert Morris University.
That certainly didn’t last long.
Tuesday, after the first day of spring practice, Lane Kiffin revealed that Chris Robison had been indefinitely suspended from the Florida Atlantic football program for unspecified violations of team rules; one report had the suspension connected to skipping a mandatory tutoring session. At the time, the second-year head coach indicated that the suspension was day-to-day and could be lifted at any time.
As it turns out, Thursday was that time as the quarterback returned to the practice field with the rest of his FAU teammates.
“He came in [Wednesday] and actually thanked me for it,” Kiffin said according to the Sun-Sentinel. “He said it really kind of embarrassed him nationally and humbled him that things could kind of be taken away. It was good to see.”
A four-star member of Oklahoma’s 2017 recruiting class, Robison was arrested in April of that year for public intoxication; four months later, OU announced that Robison had been dismissed from the football program. In August of last year, Robison announced his decision to transfer to FAU and ended up taking a redshirt for the 2017 season.
Robison and De’Andre Johnson are expected to compete for the starting job vacated by Jason Driskel, who announced earlier this offseason that he was retiring from the sport. Johnson missed most of the 2017 season after blood clots were discovered in one of his arms.
In the end, it appears to be much ado about (mostly) nothing.
Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his left (throwing) hand. It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.
Wednesday, it was reported that the injury was believed to be just a sprain and that Tagovailoa could return to practice soon. That report proved prophetic as Tagovailoa was indeed back at practice Thursday, albeit on a limited basis.
The quarterback was not doing the normal drills with his teammates but was off to the side working with head athletic trainer Jeff Allen. It looked like they were testing Tagovailoa’s ability to grip the football since the injury was suffered on his throwing hand. He replicated a few play-action roll outs with the ball in his left hand. At one point, he rolled over toward where Jalen Hurts was standing and they high fived.
Until Tagovailoa is fully recovered, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.
The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are entrenched in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp. That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.
Greene is turning orange. Well, Jalen Greene is at least.
The former USC wide receiver who announced he would pursue a graduate transfer earlier this month announced on Twitter that he would be heading East to play at Illinois in 2018. He will be immediately eligible to play for the Illini.
Greene was originally recruited by the Trojans as a dual-threat quarterback but eventually made the move to receiver. He caught eight passes for 98 yards at USC last season as a partial starter and added another eight receptions for 116 yards the year prior.
Illinois has already begun spring practice and has been trying several new players at wide receiver in the process to find a good complement to Mike Dudek on the outside. It seems Greene could find himself in the mix to be one of those guys when he arrives in Champaign.