Vic Enwere

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No. 5 USC opens flat against Cal and it’s all tied up in Berkeley at halftime

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Imagine telling somebody before the season that No. 5 USC would dominate Stanford in the trenches during a blowout, but struggle against the other Bay Area team in a nail-bitter. Up is down, down is up in the Pac-12 apparently.

The Trojans came out flat to start their annual weekend trip to the Bay Area and needed a few defensive stands to keep the score locked at 13-all on a warm California day between the two in-state rivals.

Quarterback Sam Darnold (157 yards, one touchdown) did his Heisman campaign no favors, tossing his seventh interception of the season (after just nine in all of 2016). Things could have been worse for the signal-caller and his inexperienced receiving corps too as the Golden Bears nearly grabbed two others. Part of the issue could be that his terrific tailback Ronald Jones II failed to make the trip up for the game with an injury and true freshman Stephen Carr (36 yards) was forced to carry much of the load.

Cal’s offense had its own moments but was just 2-of-8 on third down conversions to help stall some early momentum. QB Ross Bowers threw for 124 yards but it was big running back Vic Enwere who was the star of the show with 42 yards on the ground and a touchdown he punched in on 4th and goal. The real story for the home team was the continued play of their defense however, pressuring Darnold on a number of snaps, forcing two turnovers and covering exceptionally well downfield to limit big plays.

The performance through two quarters will lead many to question whether USC really should be ranked in the top five and considered the Pac-12 favorite but the cardinal and gold could turn things around with a trip to the locker room and some adjustments. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed with Justin Wilcox’s squad giving everything they can to another big name opponent in Berkeley this month.

College football players continue to drop footballs voluntarily before crossing the goal line

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There are some things in this world I have grown to accept I may never fully understand. While I may slowly be getting the hang of Snapchat, one thing I feel confident in saying I will never understand is the allure of dropping a football as close to the goal line as one possibly can, which has happened far too often in the world of football, especially college football. It happened twice last night. Fortunately for the guilty parties involved.

Last night, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon returned a kickoff against Ohio State 97 yards for a touchdown. Of course, the return should have only counted for 96 yards at the most, because video replays showed Mixon dropped the football just before crossing the goal line.

I am a strong advocate for goal-line cameras in every college football game, but you do not even need that to tell Mixon let go of the football before scoring a touchdown. Maybe the refs on the field missed it because they were too slow to keep up with the pace of the kickoff return. Maybe there should always be some sort of official on the goal line to spot these incidents as they occur on long plays. Or maybe the instant replay booth should be taking a look at this. The Big 12 admitted to messing up in the replay booth last week at Oklahoma State. The replay booth at Oklahoma messed this one up too.

But wait! There’s more. If you stayed up for the west coast action last night, you may have seen Cal running back Vic Enwere ran his way for a 54-yard touchdown right up the middle of the Texas defense, seemingly putting the nail in the coffin for the Longhorns in a wildly entertaining offensive shootout in Berkley.  Enwere also dropped the football right before crossing the goal line. This time, however, Texas was aware of the situation and Dylan Haines picked up the loose ball in the end zone, which should have resulted in a touchback for the Longhorns, thus giving Texas an opportunity to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. However, the officials determined there was no immediate recovery and the play had been ruled dead at the one-yard line. Cal was given the football at the one-yard line and the Bears took a knee to run out the clock rather than punch it in for one more score.

Just last week we had another one of these plays happen. Clemson wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud drop the football right before crossing the goal line against Troy

Somebody please explain to me why football players continue to do this. What is the reason behind it? Has anyone ever given a reason why a player wants to drop the football as soon as they can? I think these players that continue to do this should have a football duct taped to their hands for a week the next time they do it, regardless of whether it hurts their team’s chances at winning or not. Maybe then it will begin to sink in that this just isn’t cool. It could be argued the team should be penalized for a premature celebration by the officials, but no official has gone that far. Maybe they should.

Here is a brief memo to all football players. Scoring touchdowns is cool. Dropping the football before scoring a touchdown is not cool. Stop that. Now.

That said, I look forward to ripping the next college football player who chooses to drop the football before he scores a touchdown in the next week or so.

Cal drops Texas in a wild game to put Big 12 playoff hopes in peril

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Just three weeks into the season and the Big 12’s chances of putting a team into the College Football Playoff are suddenly in peril. After Saturday night, one probably wouldn’t be all that wrong in saying they’re hanging on by a thread.

That’s the case after the conference’s top-ranked team Texas fell to California 50-43 in just about the wildest way possible.

After a back-and-forth shootout of a first half gave way to a scoreless third quarter, the two teams traded scores once again in the final 15 minutes before Cal quarterback (and Texas Tech transfer) Davis Webb marched the Bears down the field on a seven play, 65 yard touchdown drive. That gave the Bears the lead for what turned out to be for good with 3:41 left in the game but it wasn’t quite that easy for either squad.

Texas ended up getting the ball back needing a score to tie but promptly went three and out. Head coach Charlie Strong bizarrely punted the ball away with the Longhorns on their own 21 yard line and just under two minutes left on the clock. That was the only opening the Bears needed to salt away the game but not before some strange Pac-12 after dark magic popped up in Berkeley.

Needing just a yard to ice the game away for good on third down, Cal tailback Vic Enwere busted through the UT defense for what appeared to be a 55 yard touchdown run. But in a move that was appropriate for the alma mater of DeSean Jackson, Enwere actually dropped the ball before crossing the goal line.

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Despite a Texas player picking up the ball as it rolled on the ground in the end zone, officials ruled that there was “no immediate recovery” and Cal was allowed to keep the ball. Two kneel-downs later and the Bears had bizarrely concluded a two-year sweep of the Lone Star State school.

Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele played solidly in his first road start (196 yards, one TD, one INT) for the Longhorns but missed time early after suffering an injury. The night was his counterpart’s in blue and gold though, with Webb throwing for 396 yards and four scores. Receiver Chad Hansen went off against a shaky Texas secondary to the tune of 196 yards and two touchdowns as the primary target in the passing game.

As big of a win as it was for Sonny Dykes’ Golden Bears though, it was a crusher for Strong’s young Longhorns and in particular the Big 12. The loss gives the league just two undefeated teams after three weeks and likely none in the top 15 of the polls after Oklahoma was crushed by Ohio State on Saturday night.

The Big 12 isn’t completely out of the running to place a team in the final four but the result in Berkeley coupled with the one in Norman certainly makes it an uphill battle in 2016 for a conference that has already been left out of the playoff once before.