Stanford stays unbeaten in OT thriller; Luck has Heisman moment

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What a remarkable game.

Stanford, unbeaten behind Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck and a No. 4 national AP ranking, needed three overtimes to beat USC, but the Cardinal finally got their first signature win of the 2011 season in dramatic fashion, topping the 20th-ranked Trojans 56-48.

To say it was a Hollywood ending with the glimmers of Tinseltown in the background is too easy, and really, largely inaccurate. Much of the game, after all, felt like something that could only come from the mind of John Carpenter or George Romero. Penalties, turnovers, and mental errors galore — all of which were committed by Luck, no less — turned Stanford’s trip to the Coliseum into something that resembled “Night of the Living Dead” — a gritty, blood-soaked scrap for survival — more than it did a classic love story with a happy ending.

Halloween is Monday, folks.

And here are some scary stats: Luck’s touchdown to interception ration is over 5-to-1. He’s thrown for over 2,000 yards already on the season and has completed over 70 percent of his passes. But it’s not just the numbers. Luck’s command of the Stanford offense, combined with his football IQ and leadership, makes him the most complete player in college football. And it’s not even close. Luck’s Heisman buzz has been prevalent all season, but with the lack of elite competition, the future first-round pick didn’t have the Heisman moment yet.

(Not that Luck cares, but we do. So there.)

That all changed tonight, and incidentally, it occurred because of a rare mistake by the best quarterback in college football. Tied at 27 with just over three minutes left in regulation, Luck threw a pass on third down to his right — a comeback route that was jumped early by USC cornerback Nickell Robey, who picked off Luck and returned it 33 yards to the house.

It was Luck’s only major mistake of the night. For someone who played so well under extraordinary pressure for the first time all season thanks to USC defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, Luck screwed up in one of the worst possible situations. It was a situation that, had it not been for an instant replay call that overturned a Cardinal first down, may not have occurred.

Luck knew it too, his hands glued to his helmet in disbelief.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

But Heisman moments come in a variety of forms. Luck’s came not because of inflated numbers or touchdowns, but because of how he responded to nearly giving away the game. Just minutes after throwing the interception, Luck navigated a 76-yard scoring drive in 2:30 exactly.

Luck’s been great all year, but there it was: the clutch game-tying drive on national TV against a team that played 57 minutes of fine defensive football. There was the separation.

Upon falling behind to USC 13-10 in the third quarter — the Cardinal’s first time trailing this season — Luck was heard saying “We need this adversity.” Guess he was talking about himself too.

As a redshirt junior, Luck’s been in this situation before. Come to think of it, USC would know a thing or two about Luck’s ability to execute a two-minute drill. Remember, it was Luck who burned the Trojans last year in Palo Alto 37-35 on a late drive that resulted in a game-winning field goal.

Yes, the Trojans know all about Luck, and coach Lane Kiffin, along with the rest of the Pac-12, will be happy to pat Luck on the back as he heads out the door and into the NFL. The Trojans gave Stanford everything they had in the fuel tank tonight. They just came up a little bit short after the Cardinal recovered a Curtis McNeal fumble in the third overtime.

Stanford, Luck included, was far from perfect tonight, but David Shaw‘s team will surely be glad to leave L.A. with a win. They survived, and in a horror movie, that’s all you can want.

Nebraska squeezes in 12th game against Bethune-Cookman

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Nebraska will play a 12-game schedule after all, as long as Mother Nature decides to cooperate for the rest of the season. Nebraska announced today it has added a home football game against Bethune-Cookman.

According to the release from Nebraska, the Huskers will host the FCS school on October 27. The game will replace a home game wiped out by lightning against Akron back in Week 1.

“Our great fans and our football student-athletes deserve a full schedule, and we are glad to be able to provide an additional game on Oct. 27 against Bethune-Cookman,” Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos said. “We appreciate the patience of our fans through this process.”

Nebraska will pay Bethune-Cookman $800,000 to make the trip to Lincoln.

Injury will sideline Cal’s Cameron Goode for remainder of the year

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Unfortunately, Cal’s worst injury fears have been realized yet again.

In the Bears’ season-opening win over North Carolina, Cameron Goode sustained what’s only been described as an unspecified lower-leg injury.  The redshirt sophomore linebacker did not play in the past two games because of the injury and won’t play again this season, Justin Wilcox confirmed Wednesday.

“I really feel for him because he puts a lot into football,” the head coach said. “He’ll go through that window of not being able to play this year. It’s a pretty short window, then he’ll start working on what’s next.”

It’s expected Goode will be fully recovered by the start of spring practice.

This marks the second-straight season his year has ended prematurely because of injury.  Last year, he started the first nine games before being sidelined for the remainder of the season.

Goode had returned an interception for a touchdown in the opener before going down with the leg injury.  He also returned a pick for a score last season in the win over Ole Miss.

Recently-retired Minnesota RT Nick Connelly loses three-month battle with cancer

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There’s incredibly sad news coming out of the Minnesota football program Thursday afternoon.

In an absolutely heartbreaking missive posted to Twitter, Chuck Connelly, the father of former Minnesota offensive lineman Nick Connelly, revealed that his son lost his three-month battle with cancer Wednesday.  Or, as the elder Connelly put it, “[o]n Wednesday Sept. 19, 2018 Heaven needed a right tackle and Nick Connelly got the call.”

Connelly was just 22 years old.

The younger Connelly was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma in June of this year.  A very rare form of cancer — WebMD states just that just 1,200 cases are diagnosed annually in the United States, with nearly 60 percent of those coming in patients over the age of 40 — and is recognized as the fastest growing human tumor.

In late October of last year, Connelly, who had started the first five games of the 2017 season at right tackle for the Gophers, announced that he was retiring from football because of the effects of multiple concussions.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to Connelly’s family, friends and former teammates for their loss.

Western Kentucky losing RB Marquez Trigg to transfer

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Another day, another FBS player has made an in-season move away from their now-former program.

Marquez Trigg wrote on his personal Twitter account this week that he has decided to transfer from Western Kentucky. “I will graduate in December and transfer to pursue other opportunities for my 5th year of college football,” the running back wrote.

While the redshirt junior gave no specific reason for the departure, a steep drop in opportunities this season likely played a significant role.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman in 2015, Trigg ran for 465 yards combined in 2016 (298) and 2017 (167) on 122 carries. This season, his nine carries in three games netted him just 12 yards.

Trigg totaled four rushing touchdowns during his time with the Hilltoppers, two each during the last two seasons. He also caught 12 passes for 59 yards out of the backfield last season.