Darron Thomas

Auburn, Oregon to open 2019 season at Cowboys stadium

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Nearly a decade after their epic championship game battle, Auburn and Oregon are set to go at it again on a neutral field.

On Twitter Tuesday, AU athletic director Jay Jacobs announced that his Tigers football program will open the 2019 season against the Ducks.  The game will be played at the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex, in the annual Cowboys Classic.

Barring a matchup in a bowl or playoff between now and then, the 2019 game will be the second-ever between the programs.  The first was in the BCS title game following the 2010 season, a 22-19 AU win in Glendale, Ariz., that was decided on a Wes Byrum field goal with no time left on the clock.  Byrum’s kick came after the Ducks had tied the game with a LaMichael James touchdown reception from Darron Thomas — and two-point conversion — with 2:33 left in the fourth quarter.

Jacobs’ announcement means that the next five Cowboys Classic games are set:

  • 2015 Alabama vs. Wisconsin
  • 2016 Alabama vs. USC
  • 2017 Florida vs. Michigan
  • 2018 LSU vs. Miami
  • 2019 Auburn vs. Oregon

The Fifth Quarter: Week 2 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

THUMBS UP

Catchin’ With Mr. Cooper
Midway through the first quarter of Alabama’s blowout win over FAU, Amari Cooper already had four receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown.  The wide receiver ended up with six catches for 97 yards in the opening quarter, and finished with 13 catches for 189 yards and a 52-yard touchdown reception, with the receptions matching a single-game school record.  This season, Cooper has 25 receptions for 319 yards; the Tide’s single-season marks are 78 (Julio Jones, 2010) and 1,133 (Jones, 2010), so Cooper is well on his way to not only eclipsing but shattering both of those standards.  For his career, Cooper now has 129 receptions for 2,055 yards, and, as a true junior, could this season surpass DJ Hall‘s career marks of 194 and 2,923 set from 2004-07.  Based on his early play, Cooper could also find himself in the Heisman mix as the season progresses.

Badger McBounce-back
Putting it mildly, Tanner McEvoy had a horrendous performance in the season-opening loss to LSU.  With a statline that consisted of 8-of-22 passing for 50 yards , no touchdowns and two interceptions, the Wisconsin quarterback had nowhere to go but up.  On Saturday, up McEvoy went there as, following a very slow start, he completed 23-of-28 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns.  At one point, the converted safety completed 17 passes in a row. “I thought Tanner came on and, obviously, he caught some mojo there with 17 in a row,” head coach Gary Andersen said.  Sure, the game was against an FCS-level opponent, but, from a confidence standpoint, it was a critical and much-needed performance for McEvoy specifically and the offense in general — especially if Melvin Gordon‘s struggles over the past six-ish quarters bleed deeper into the season (see below).

Brutally efficient Hogs
In the first two quarters of Arkansas’ blowout win over Nicholls State, the Razorbacks’ offense had run 20 plays… and scored eight touchdowns.  Amazingly, five of those drives consisted of just a single play; even more amazingly, four of those drives were 33 yards or more — 90, 82, 50 and 33.  In that first half, UA outgained its FCS foe 425-55.  They averaged 21.7 yards per carry and 19.8 yards per pass completion.  That efficiency continued on into the second half as UA’s offense drove 48 yards in two plays to push the lead to 63-0 after just :52 had ticked off the third-quarter clock.  The Hogs took their hooves off the Colonels’ necks the rest of the game, though, as the final score was 73-7.

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The Fifth Quarter: Week 1 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

THUMBS UP

Shaky title defense begins
Last year, Florida State rolled over, through and around its regular season opponents by an average score of 53-10, with their “closest” call being a 48-34 win over Boston College on the road in Week 5.  They did not score less than 41 points in any game, and allowed more than 17 points just once.  Based on the opener, the Seminoles won’t be steamrolling through its 2014 slate.  At first it looked as if it would be lather, rinse and repeat as the Seminoles jumped out to a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter.  Then  reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston began misfiring — two interceptions, just over 60-percent completion percentage — and the Cowboys outscored the ‘Noles 31-20 the rest of the way.  It wasn’t enough to dig out of that big early hole, however, as FSU extended its winning streak to a nation’s best 17 straight while Winston threw for 370 yards on an “off” night.  It did, though, offer some teachable moments for a coach looking to ensure his team doesn’t suffer through a post-title malaise as the ‘Noles go from being the hunter to the hunted.

Super Mario
Marcus Mariota has already been recognized as one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in Oregon history.  Now, the record books officially backup that stance.  In the Ducks’ season-opening romp over South Dakota, Mariota passed for 267 yards and three touchdowns, running for one other score — and setting or tying two school career standards and getting closer to a third in the process.  Mariota now has 82 career touchdowns (66 passing, 15 rushing, one receiving), breaking the tie he had been in with Joey Harrington. He’s also now tied with Darron Thomas for career passing touchdowns (66) and is within 22 yards (8,140 to 8,119) of breaking Bill Musgrave‘s record for total offense.  Suffice to say, Mariota, one of the preseason Heisman favorites, will break both those latter marks at some point during the Ducks’ highly-anticipated showdown with Michigan State next Saturday.

This one’s for you, bro
Early last November, Carl Pelini “resigned” as FAU’s head coach amidst drug allegations that were later recanted.  Nine months later, Pelini’s younger brother gave birth to a little bit of payback.  Saturday in Lincoln, Bo Pelini‘s Nebraska Cornhuskers pummeled FAU by the score of 55-7.  NU totaled a Big Ten-record 779 yards of offense — the most for the ‘Huskers since 1991 — and included 493 on the ground.  Ameer Abdullah ran for 227 of those yards, a career-high performance, while Tommie Armstrong passed for a personal-best 271 yards.  It won’t get the elder Pelini his job back with the Owls, but his former team’s evisceration could provide him with a little satisfaction.

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What if Chip Kelly got Johnny Manziel at Oregon?

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Johnny Manziel helped put the Texas A&M football program on the map. Would he have had the same impact if he had gone to Oregon? Probably not.

As we lead up to the NFL Draft we are seeing NFL writers scramble to fill more time with draft preview content. Players are moving up and down draft boards for no real reason, but that is all a part of the game. In Philadelphia the idea of former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly drafting Manziel has picked up some steam for one reason or another. By now the story of how Kelly once tried to get Manziel to attend Oregon has been documented so well even the most casual of Eagles fan in the Delaware Valley can probably fill you in on the details. To this day, Kelly says Manziel would have been perfect for Oregon.

“When I coached at Oregon he was tailor made for it,” Kelly said in a story by CSN Philly. “He broke my heart. I love the kid. I think he’s a hell of a football player.”

Kelly has a chance to finally get Manziel on his team, although the reigning NFC East champions have needs on defense they should probably focus on first. But it is one of those things that makes you wonder what would have happened if Manziel had gone to play at Oregon instead of Texas A&M? A lot, probably.

Manziel was a three-star quarterback when he was recruited according to Rivals. Manziel signed with Texas A&M in the Class of 2011. Oregon wound up with Marcus Mariota, who committed to the Ducks before Manziel’s verbal commitment to the Aggies. If Manziel had gone to Oregon, he likely would have backed up junior starter Darron Thomas, who put together 33 touchdown passes as Oregon won a Pac-12 title and defeated Wisconsin in a back-and-forth Rose Bowl. The competition to start would start in 2012 between Manziel and Mariota, assuming both ended up in Eugene. Would Manziel have won that competition? Manziel and Mariota each won starting jobs at their respective schools that season, but Manziel may have been the player to keep Oregon’s BCS title dreams alive. If you remember what Manziel and Texas A&M did to Alabama that season, do you think Manziel could have led Oregon past a defensively sound Stanford? Mariota and the Ducks lost to Stanford, 17-14, in mid-November.

Imagine if Manziel had led the Ducks past Stanford to stay in the BCS championship mix. Oregon would have gone on to play in the BCS Championship Game, against either undefeated Notre Dame or, perhaps, an undefeated Alabama. Oregon and Alabama would have likely been the BCS championship match-up, which means Manziel would have had a chance to topple Alabama anyway.

Bryan Bennett to transfer from Ducks after all

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(Reportedly)

Less than two weeks ago, a report surfaced that, after much consideration, Bryan Bennett had decided to remain at Oregon.  That report came after Bennett was all but out the door in August before staying, as well as late last month that he was once again strongly considering a transfer.

According to DuckTerritory.com, and confirmed through two sources close to the situation, Bennett has decided once again to leave the Ducks.  Bennett will transfer to Southeastern Louisiana, the website says, where he will enroll as early as this week.

As Southeastern Louisiana is an FCS program, Bennett will be eligible to play immediately — provided the decision to transfer sticks of course.  At his new school, Bennett will get the opportunity to play the quarterback position; the website notes that Bennett would likely have been moved permanently to the defensive side of the ball had he stayed at Oregon, probably as a linebacker.

Oregon has yet to comment on Bennett’s future with the football program.

Bennett had been considered the heir apparent at the quarterback position after Darron Thomas inexplicably left UO early for the NFL.  However, Marcus Mariota performed well during spring practice last year and was officially named the starter toward the end of camp last August.  Given the fact that Mariota was a first-team All-Pac-12 performer and is just a redshirt freshman, the path back to a starting job was all but blocked for Bennett.

The redshirt sophomore Bennett attempted just 83 passes the past two seasons, including 37 in 2012.  A four-star member of UO’s 2010 recruiting class, Bennett was rated as the No. 15 pro-style quarterback in the country.

UPDATED 2:44 p.m. ET: Oregon confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Bennett has decided to transfer from the Ducks.