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No. 9 Penn State tops No. 11 Washington in Fiesta Bowl as B1G sweeps Pac-12

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No. 9 Penn State burst to a 28-7 lead and held on for a 35-28 win over No. 11 Washington to take the Fiesta Bowl. The triumph clinched back-to-back 11-win seasons for Penn State for the first time since 2008-09 and moved the Nittany Lions to 7-0 all-time in the Fiesta Bowl, but it was hard to limit Saturday’s result strictly to what happened on the field.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 were both left out of the College Football Playoff this winter, and the leagues responded in completely opposite fashions. Penn State’s win lifted the Big Ten to 6-0 with two games still to go, while the Pac-12 completed its postseason with a dismal 1-8 mark, including losses in all four contests against the Big Ten. According to a tweet from ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura, the 1-8 record is the worst bowl season ever by a Power 5 conference.

The Nittany Lions accepted the ball to open the game and promptly moved 83 yards in eight plays, the final 48 on a Trace McSorley dime to DaeSean Hamilton. McSorley fired an interception in the end zone on Penn State’s next possession, but made up for that mistake by piloting an 11-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in a 2-yard Saquon Barkley rush to put the Lions up 14-0 just over a dozen minutes into the game.

Needing a score, Chris Petersen cracked open his book of trick plays. Jake Browning fired a backward pass to wide receiver Andre Baccellia, who then lofted the ball to defensive lineman Will Dissly for a 52-yard gain down to the Penn State 12. Browning put the Huskies on the board two plays later on a 1-yard keeper. 

Though Washington (10-3) was back in the game, that didn’t last long. Penn State pushed the lead back to two scores with a 7-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, then broke it open when Barkley charged for a 92-yard touchdown run to give the Nittany Lions a 28-7 lead at the 9:01 mark of the second quarter.

The Huskies cut back into the deficit with help from Penn State, thanks to a fumbled exchange between McSorley and backup running back Miles Sanders at their own 33. Myles Gaskin pulled the Huskies back within 14 with a 13-yard scoring jaunt with 4:15 to play in the half. Washington then opened the second half with a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended on a 28-yard toss from Browning to Aaron Fuller.

Their deficit shrunk to seven points for the first time since it was 7-0, Penn State responded with a 70-yard touchdown drive, culminating in Hamilton’s second touchdown catch of the game and the 212th total grab of his career, setting the Penn State career record. The Nittany Lions had a chance to push their advantage to three scores early in the fourth quarter, marching to the Washington 18, but McSorley’s 2nd-and-5 pass was tipped and intercepted.

Washington could not immediately capitalize but did on its next possession, as Gaskin burst free for a 69-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 35-28 with 6:52 to play. Penn State consumed all but 34 remaining seconds on its ensuing drive, setting up a 4th-and-1 that would have clinched the game. However, the Nittany Lions were flagged for a false start and, faced now with a 4th-and-6, Tyler Davis‘s 45-yard field goal sailed wide right, giving Washington the ball back at its own 28.

Armed with no timeouts, Washington attempted a hook-and-ladder play but, playing on the same field as the mythic 2007 Fiesta Bowl, no miracle was in order for Petersen’s team this time. Dante Pettis crossed midfield with the opportunity to go out of bounds and regroup for a Hail Mary, but his lateral attempt back toward the middle of the field was intercepted by Penn State’s Brandon Smith.

In (probably) the final game for college football’s best backfield tandem, McSorley and Barkley were as good as ever. McSorley completed 32-of-41 passes — including a perfect 12-of-12 on third down — for 342 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing 12 times for 60 yards, and Barkley rushed 18 times for 137 yards and two scores while catching seven passes for 38 yards. Hamilton added five grabs for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Facing a defense that ranked in the top five nearly across the board, Penn State gained 545 yards on 6.9 yards per play with 25 first downs and 13 third-down conversions on 17 tries.

Browning completed 18-of-28 passes for 175 yards and a score, while Gaskin led the Huskies with 14 carries for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

Colorado makes hiring of Boise State’s Ashley Ambrose official

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A familiar face has returned to the Colorado coaching staff.

Following up on reports that surfaced earlier this week, CU confirmed that Mike MacIntyre has hired Ashley Ambrose as the Buffaloes’ new cornerbacks coach.  Ambrose spent the 2008-10 seasons with the Buffaloes, first as a defensive assistant and then, after a very brief stint as wide receivers coach, he took over CU’s defensive backs.

“We’re really excited about Ashley Ambrose coming to the University of Colorado, he brings great expertise for our corners that he’ll be coaching,” MacIntyre said in a statement. “He was here before, loved it then and I am glad to have him back now. Not only does he bring great coaching experience over the last few years, but he also brings phenomenal playing experience from being in the NFL, so he’ll add a lot to our secondary.”

Then past two seasons, Ambrose was the defensive backs coach at Boise State.  He’s also had collegiate stops at Cal (2011-12), Idaho (2014), Texas State (2015).

Ambrose, a second-round pick in the 1992 NFL draft, spent 13 seasons at that level of football.

Report: Oklahoma State adding Bob Stitt as offensive analyst

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Bob Stitt, who has become a bit of a cult hero in the college football coaching world over the last few years, is moving on up. Oklahoma State will reportedly add Stitt as an offensive analyst, according to a report from Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter.

Stitt was fired by Montana after this past season after missing the FCS playoffs for a second consecutive season and a second-round exit in his first season with the program in 2015. Stitt had become a rising star in the lower levels of college football after reshaping the offensive strategies with Colorado Mines in Division 2. The Nebraska native has coached a Harlon Hill Trophy winner (Division 2’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy) and has coached Colorado Mines to three conference championships. Stitt gained notoriety after being given credit for his offensive strategies by West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.

Stitt being let go by Montana came as a bit of a surprise after just three seasons with the program. Offensively speaking, Oklahoma State rarely needs any assistance in moving the football and scoring, but Mike Gundy is wise to bring in a mind like Stitt to add to the expanding of the offensive schemes in Stillwater.

As an offensive analyst, Stitt will be prevented from doing any on-field coaching and instead will focus on prepping the game plan and breaking down film. However, having Stitt on the staff in some capacity leaves a door open for a future position on the 10-man coaching staff should a position open at some point.

Jeff Banks looks to make Alabama’s special teams a strength

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If there is any crack in Alabama’s championship foundation, it may be on special teams. Looking to patch things up with the special teams, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has brought on new special teams coordinator Jeff Banks. The former Texas A&M special teams coordinator was officially announced as Alabama’s new special teams coach on Thursday.

“We are pleased to be able to add a coach the caliber of Jeff Banks to our staff as special teams coordinator,” Saban said in a released statement. “Jeff is well-respected across the country for his knowledge of the game and his ability to recruit. He is a great teacher and someone who will help our football team be successful.”

Banks comes to Alabama after five years at Texas A&M under former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who was recently hired by Arizona. Special teams was one of the more consistently reliable aspects of the Aggies program under his watch, so Alabama hopes that can carry over to Tuscaloosa.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join Coach Saban’s staff at The University of Alabama and work with such a talented group of student-athletes,” Banks said. “Coach Saban has built an unbelievable program that has a long tradition of success. I’m really excited to get out on the road recruiting, and I look forward to doing my part to help continue the success this program has enjoyed.”

Alabama ranked 90th in the nation last season in field goal percentage and 50th in the nation in punting average. Obviously, this has not hurt Alabama’s chances of competing for and winning national titles over the course of Saban’s time at Alabama, but it is somewhat remarkable just how many times special teams seems to make things just a little more difficult for the Crimson Tide. I suppose something has to at some point, right? In the recent College Football Playoff national championship, Alabama had to beat Georgia in overtime after a last-second field goal attempt at the end of the fourth quarter was missed.

The rich just keep getting richer at Alabama.

Temple prepares for next step in quest for new on-campus football stadium

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With time running out on the current lease at Lincoln Financial Field appearing on the horizon, Temple University continues to move forward with exploring their plans for a potential multipurpose facility that could be used to host Temple football on Temple’s campus. The school is now preparing to take the next step forward with the idea by presenting the plans to the City Planning Commission with the hope of being given the approval to continue pushing toward breaking ground on a new facility on Temple’s campus.

“We have said from the start that our first priority has been to engage with our neighbors and local leaders to determine the potential for, and impact of, this facility,” Temple president Richard Englert said in a released statement. “After more than two years of these discussions, and in light of the project’s tremendous value for Temple and North Philadelphia, I have concluded that the time is right to take this step.”

One of the biggest concerns about any on-campus football stadium is the reaction from the neighboring community that has been reluctant to embrace a football stadium being dropped right in the neighborhood.

Englert said in a released statement the university “will continue our conversations with neighbors to address concerns over the impact of the project.”

The football stadium would, in theory, be able to serve multiple purposes in addition to football and will be designed with surrounding economic opportunities in mind. Space for retail locations will be a part of the master plans to help inject some revenue into the surrounding area, and educational facilities will be included in the plans as well.

In all, the plan is currently estimated to cost roughly $130 million. Temple recently negotiated a short-term extension on their lease to use Lincoln Financial Field through 2019. If Temple is given the approval to move forward with their stadium plan, they could theoretically be able to play a true home game on their campus beginning in 2020.