Forget wins, O’Brien’s biggest job is saving Penn State’s morale

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Support Penn State, or hate Penn State, everyone can agree they wouldn’t want to be Nittany Lions kicker Sam Ficken right now. Ficken, a sophomore, missed four field goals and had an extra point attempt blocked in a 17-16 loss to Virginia Saturday afternoon.

Penn State is now 0-2 on the season.

Bill O’Brien‘s team actually outgained Virginia in total yards and rushing yards — Virginia, for what it’s worth (nothing, obviously) had just 32 on the ground — but the most startling stat of all is the fact that the Nittany Lions could not do more with four Virginia turnovers.

Penn State’s defense is doing enough to put the team in a position to win, but things still aren’t clicking on offense the way they need to if this team is even going to get to six wins this year. The problem is Penn State just doesn’t have playmakers on offense. Or on special teams, apparently.

But what O’Brien needs to be concerned about is not who takes the field right now, but rather what goes on inside the heads of those who do. Against Ohio, there was an opening-weekend adrenaline mixed with the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky/NCAA mess that bred a mentality of “us against the world.”

Well, that didn’t work out too well. Now, the Nittany Lions are down two games that they very easily could have won. Don’t scoff, but Navy and Temple aren’t guaranteed W’s either — not now, anyway. And what about the Big Ten schedule? Teams are smelling the blood in the blood in the water.

So at what point do the players begin thinking to themselves maybe they can’t be successful this year? Maybe this is a lost cause? Don’t underestimate the amount of pressure placed on these players.

Perhaps two games is too soon to be talking about giving up, but O’Brien’s biggest job now becomes about keeping his players’ heads up before it’s too late.

Texas Tech intends to redshirt QBs Alan Bowman and Maverick McIvor

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A season that was derailed early on by injury concerns will now end with Alan Bowman redshirting the 2019 season. Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells confirmed on Monday Bowman will redshirt the remainder of the 2019 season to preserve a year of eligibility. The decision is not much of a surprise given the current status of the Red Raiders offense and Bowman’s injury history. Maverick McIvor, who has not appeared in a game this season due to an offseason foot injury, will also redshirt the remainder of the season.

In mid-September, Bowman was said to miss “several weeks” due to a shoulder injury. Although Bowman has now been medically cleared to play for the Red Raiders, the situation in Lubbock appears to be a good opportunity to protect the shoulder a little more unless absolutely needed. The decision to redshirt was Bowman’s, according to multiple reports, and Wells agreed that was in the best interest of all involved.

Bowman appeared in three games this season for the Red Raiders, leaving him one more game to play without jeopardizing a year of eligibility. Texas Tech could still play Bowman in one more game and not have this season count against his redshirt year under the NCAA’s revised redshirt rules from a year ago.

In his three games played, Bowman has completed 101 of 154 attempts for 1,020 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions. Jett Duffey has led the offense in Bowman’s absence, and he has performed admirably with 1,774 yards and 10 touchdowns to just two interceptions over seven games.

McIvor is a freshman, so he will still have four years of eligibility beginning with the 2020 season.

Houston cornerback Ka’Darian Smith charged with aggravated assault

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Houston cornerback Ka’Darian Smith has been suspended by the football program after he was charged for aggravated assault for an incident occurring last week. Smith admitted to the assault to police and was released from jail after posting bond.

“We are aware of the serious allegations regarding Ka’Darian Smith,” a UH Athletics spokesperson said, according to The Daily Cougar. “He has been suspended indefinitely from the Houston football program. We will have no further comment at this time.”

According to police records, the incident leading to the charge occurred last Wednesday, Nov. 6. The alleged victim was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for injuries to the upper body and the head.

Smith responded to a tweet from Houston Chronicle reporter Joseph Duarte, there was more to the story about the alleged victim. According to Smith, the man broke into his room and was stealing from Smith.

How long Smith remains suspended may depend on how long the legal process takes to play out, which is fairly standard for incidents like these.

Oklahoma loses Trey Sermon and Kenneth Mann to season-ending injuries

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Oklahoma had to hold their breath to escape this weekend’s game against Iowa State with a win, but the close call took a toll on the Sooners moving forward. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley announced on Monday running back Trey Sermon and defensive lineman Kenneth Mann will miss the remainder of the 2019 season with season-ending injuries.

Riley confirmed both players suffered injuries in the win over Iowa State that will require surgery. That will bring an early end to the collegiate career of Mann, a redshirt senior, but sermon will be eligible to return to the Sooners next season.

Sermon was Oklahoma’s third-leading rusher behind Jalen Hurts and Kennedy Brooks with 385 yards and four touchdowns in nine games this season. With Sermon no longer able to be a part of the running game, Oklahoma may rely more on Brooks while continuing to allow their quarterback to do what he needs with his feet. But this could also lead to some opportunities for Rhamondre Stevenson to continue increasing his role in the mix. Stevenson has 369 rushing yards and five touchdowns this season and figures to see his rushing totals see a slight bump for the remainder of the year as a result of the injury to Sermon.

“Will definitely create some opportunities for others and for us to continue to move on as a team and opportunities for other people to step up and grow, and that’s what has to happen in these moments,” Riley said when addressing how the team will move forward without their injured players, according to Sooner Scoop.

Mann played more of a reserve role and recorded five tackles, 1.5 TFL, and one sack this season.

Pat Narduzzi not happy about Pitt playing at same time as NFL’s Steelers

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Thursday night will be Pittsburgh night in the world of football, much to the chagrin of Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi. In a somewhat odd scheduling coincidence, the Pitt Panthers will be playing in primetime this Thursday night at home against North Carolina at the same time the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing on the road against the Cleveland Browns. Narduzzi, knowing not everybody has access to a second screen, is justifiably upset about having his team playing at the same time as the Steelers.

“They have to start to look and say ‘What makes sense for the city of Pittsburgh?’ and that obviously wasn’t done,” Narduzzi said when meeting with the media on Monday, according to Trib Live. Narduzzi went on to point out the Pitt football schedule was set back in January, while the NFL schedule for the Steelers was released a few months later.

“You look at it and say it’s not good for the ACC playing on the same night as an NFL franchise in your same city,” Narduzzi pointed out (again, via Trib Live). And to his point, Narduzzi is right that it does the ACC no favors to be going up head-to-head against the NFL. Ever since the NFL took on a full season’s worth of Thursday night football, college football programming and ratings has suffered and been sacrificed because it makes no business sense for a broadcast partner to attempt throwing up a college football game against the NFL. It just pours salt on the wounds when you have to go up against the NFL team you share a stadium with.

When it comes to TV ratings, the NFL will triumph over college football every day of the week, say Thursday, for example. And in a city that is in love with the Steelers, the Panthers likely will be playing in the background for most of the Pittsburgh viewing area on Thursday night. And then, of course, there is the attendance concern. The Steelers and Panthers each play in Heinz Field and Pitt struggles enough filling up the seats unless a major opponent like Penn State or Notre Dame is making a visit. Having to try convincing people to come out on a cold Thursday night to watch the Panthers when they can be in their homes watching the Steelers with some comfy pants on and a cup of hot apple cider is a tough sell for Narduzzi and the Panthers.

This would be similar to the Temple Owls playing at home the same time the Philadelphia Eagles are playing, or USF playing when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing. Unfortunately, as Narduzzi confessed, there is not a thing a coach can do about the scheduling of the games, as TV partners tend to wave the baton and conferences are reduced to following along as those TV partners wish.