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Ragin’ Cajuns LB dismissed after felony identity theft arrest

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After a rather quiet week or so on the arrest front, the last couple of days have made some noise.

The latest racket can be attributed to a Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns football player, with multiple media outlets reporting that Ferrod Gardner was arrested last Friday for felony identity theft.  The linebacker was released from jail after posting a $5,000 bond.

No details of what led to the arrest and charge have been released.

As a result of the felony arrest, Gardner has been dismissed from the football program for violating unspecified team rules.  UL confirmed the dismissal nearly a week after the arrest, and not long after the news of the situation became public knowledge.

Gardner was a JUCO transfer who joined the Sun Belt Conference team this past offseason.  The Daily Advertiser writes that “Gardner was slated to start at the Will inside linebacker position, but he never played a game for the Cajuns after undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a foot injured early in preseason camp.”

Johnny Unitas Award makes midseason cut to 20 QBs

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And then there were 20.

Tuesday, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award announced that its 47-player preseason watch list has been whittled down to 20. The award has been given annually since 1987 to the to the top quarterback in the country who is either a senior or fourth-year junior for his accomplishments both on and off the field.

“The Golden Arm Award considers character, citizenship, integrity, leadership, and honor – characteristics that were displayed by my father – to be every bit as important as the quarterback’s completion rate or number of touchdowns scored,” John C. Unitas, Jr., president of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation and son of the quarterbacking legend in whose honor the award is named. “Despite my Dad’s outstanding accomplishments, he never forgot his humble beginnings and that won him a permanent place in the hearts of everyone who ever knew him.”

Last year’s winner was Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Below is the complete list of the 20 players to survive the latest cut:

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
David Blough, Purdue
Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
Luke Falk, Washington State
Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Ryan Finley, NC State
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi St.
Quinton Flowers, South Florida
Justice Hansen, Arkansas St.
Kenny Hill, TCU
Stephen Johnson, Kentucky
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Trace McSorley, Penn St.
Josh Rosen, UCLA
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Brandon Silvers, Troy
Nick Stevens, Colorado St.
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
Mike White, Western Ky.
Logan Woodside, Toledo

Troy snaps No. 25 LSU’s 49-game home non-conference winning streak

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It had to end at some point, but it wasn’t supposed to end like this.

The Mighty Trojans of Troy entered Tiger Stadium as 20-point underdogs and beat No. 25 LSU, 24-21.

Troy opened the game by forcing a Nick Brossette fumble on LSU’s first play, then taking a 7-0 lead five plays later on a 1-yard Brandon Silvers plunge. The score remained there until the final play of the first half, when Evan Leggassey punched in a 37-yard field goal to give the Trojans a 10-0 lead at the break — a kick that came only after a replay review discovered two seconds remaining in the half, after both teams had already headed to their respective locker rooms.

The lead expanded to 17-0 on the opening drive of the second half as Troy moved 75 yards in six plays, culminating in a man-up 1-yard Jordan Chunn plunge on fourth-and-goal. Troy had a chance to completely close the door on LSU when it recovered an LSU fumble deep inside its own territory, but the Trojans immediately gave the ball back with a fumble of their own inside the 10-yard line, and LSU notched its first touchdown of the game two plays later.

No matter, Marcus Jones intercepted a Myles Brennan pass (he briefly replaced an injured Danny Etling, who later returned) and the Troy offense moved 64 yards, ending in the Trojans’ third rushing touchdown of the night, a 7-yard Josh Anderson burst to give Troy a 24-7 lead with 8:14 left in the fourth quarter.

It was at that point that those who assembled at Tiger Stadium decided to bail.

LSU scored quickly in response, finding pay dirt on a 34-yard strike from Etling to Russell Gage, pulling the Tigers within 10 with 7:41 to play.

Troy appeared ready to put the game away with another touchdown, but Chunn fumbled at the LSU 15-yard line, and LSU answered by moving 92 yards in 13 plays, pulling within 24-21 on a 20-yard strike from Etling to Foster Moreau with 1:59 to play. Troy expired all but the final 18 seconds off the clock after recovering an onside kick, but Etling’s last-gasp pass was intercepted at the Troy 37-yard line with five seconds left.

The loss is LSU’s first non-conference loss in Tiger Stadium since falling 13-10 to UAB on Sept. 23, 2000, Nick Saban‘s first season in Baton Rouge. It was Troy’s first win over an SEC opponent since toppling Mississippi State 21-9 on Oct. 13, 2001, ending an 18-game losing streak, and its first win over a ranked team since upending then-No. 17 Missouri on Sept. 9, 2004. But they weren’t in the SEC (at least not then). And while Troy is a solid team at 4-1, this is a team that beat Akron by five points at home a week ago — and LSU just lost to them.

Simply put, it’s the type of loss that would have gotten Les Miles fired — except that happened a year ago, and it would cost LSU $12 million to do the same to Ed Orgeron.

Doug Martin, New Mexico State agree to three-year contract extension

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At least when it comes to on-field results, this is, well, interesting to say the least. Off the field and in the classroom, however, it makes sense for the university.

Thursday night, New Mexico State announced that it had reached an agreement with Doug Martin on a three-year contract extension. With the new deal, the fifth-year head coach is now signed through the 2020 season.

After taking over a program that won just one game in 2012, Martin’s Aggies proceed to win two, two, three, three games in his first four seasons. This season, however, NMSU is 2-2 after four games, with those wins coming against in-state rival New Mexico and its biggest out-of-state rival in UTEP.

Those wins are kind of a big deal for the program as they haven’t beaten those two teams in the same season since 2002. Furthermore, the Aggies haven’t beaten the Lobos on the road and the Miners at home in the same season since 1976.

Aside from that on-field progress, the school in its press release highlighted what’s been going on off the field under Martin. And rightfully so as it’s fairly impressive what Martin and the program have done academically.

When Coach Martin accepted this job in 2013, there were significant hurdles the program faced such as APR scores, budget and on-field performance,” [atheltic director Mario] Moccia stated. “Since then, Doug and his staff have worked tirelessly to improve our APR score. While our budget remains to be a challenge, we’ve made efforts to stabilize that the best we can and put a focus towards football. From a performance standpoint, specifically this year, it’s evident to not only me but many others that there have been significant improvements from a competitive standpoint, which has culminated in us beating UNM and UTEP in the same season for the first time since 2002.”

Martin inherited a football program that had never met the NCAA Academic Progress Report standards. NM State’s APR multi-year score when he took over stood at 915, which was second to last in the league and led to the Aggies losing one day of practice a week. Fast forward to today and football’s 972 APR score in 2015-16 was one of the best in the Sun Belt Conference, ranking it only second to Troy – who’s score was just two points higher than NM State at 974.

“Four years ago we had a vision of building a football program at New Mexico State that would have great academic integrity and great players winning on and off the field,” Martin said. “The academic side has been accomplished as we are the only coaching staff in NM State history to achieve the NCAA APR score for football and have now done it four-straight years. What people are now seeing is the on field performance starting to take shape thanks to our talented players and coaches.

Jerry Falwell Jr. believes college presidents were “plain religious bigots” to keep Liberty out of FBS conference

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One of the biggest upsets of the season happened back in Week 1 when Liberty beat Baylor to spoil the debut of new Bears coach Matt Rhule. While many thought the outcome was a sign of how far things have fallen on the gridiron in Waco, the victory by the FCS-transitioning team on the other side was an eye-opener for those that didn’t know much about the Flames.

If you can get past the fact that the religious school hired ex-Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw to run their department despite the scandal he left behind, the fact is Liberty has spent a considerable sum of money to make football not only a viable sport, but a regional powerhouse. Part of that effort includes moving up to the FBS ranks full-time but it’s no secret that the team would love to find a home in a conference instead of going the independent program route for the foreseeable future. While reports have surfaced that the university has offered $20+ million to join a league, so far there’s been no takers.

Which brings us to Jerry Falwell Jr., the chancellor at Liberty who sent several Tweets recently on the subject and the fact that religious discrimination is playing a part in the Flames being unable to find a conference. USA Today followed up on the comments and… you might be able to guess where things went from there.

“Most college presidents are open-minded, most of them supported us, but there are some who are just plain religious bigots,” Falwell said in a phone interview with Dan Wolken. “And when somebody like me has a political opinion they don’t support, they can’t hide or contain that bigotry, and it’s just sad.”

There’s a lot more in the USA Today article where that came from too. Conference USA didn’t provide a comment on the reports and the Sun Belt cited geography as a reason why their expansion favored Coastal Carolina over Liberty.

Based on those recent comments from Falwell Jr. — no stranger when it comes to political controversy — though, it might be a while before any FBS league comes around to the idea of Liberty joining no matter how good their football team might be.