With rumors swirling of Kelly’s departure, Oregon keeps its focus in Fiesta Bowl

20 Comments

The Fiesta Bowl was, in fact, treated as a party — a going away party for Oregon coach Chip Kelly.

Kelly’s name has become surgically attached to the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles in recent weeks. Both organizations are reportedly in Glendale, Ariz., for the bowl game in an attempt to steal Kelly away from Eugene and into the NFL. They’ll have Oregon’s permission to speak to Kelly too.

From the moment Kelly turned away the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a year ago, everyone — players, Oregon’s administrators, fans and media alike — knew this time was coming again. Hot coaching commodities have windows of opportunity and Kelly’s is wide open right now. The thought of Kelly departing Oregon for the pros surely weighed on those collective minds, and perhaps on Kelly most of all.

Yet through the distractions, Kelly did the one thing for which he’s best known: keeping his focus on the task at hand. “Win the day” is not just a cliché for the Ducks’ head coach. Neither is the “next man in” philosophy.  It’s what he personally practices and asks of everyone involved with the program. As a result, Oregon’s identity has been closer to that of a machine rather than a football team over Kelly’s four years as head coach of the Ducks.

The focus was apparent Thursday night when the No. 5 Ducks knocked off No. 7 Kansas State 35-17. On the opening kickoff, De’Anthony Thomas darted around defenders for a 94-yard touchdown run. Immediately, Oregon converted a two-point conversion by catching K-State off guard.

That’s focus (or, speed).

Up 22-10 heading into halftime thanks to a more Oregon-esque 45-second drive, Kelly still wasn’t satisfied. “I have to call a faster game,” Kelly said to ESPN’s Holly Rowe. “That’s on me.”

That’s focus (or, logistics).

The Ducks then made excellent halftime adjustments along the offensive line and running back Kenjon Barner finished with 143 yards after a sluggish first two quarters.

That’s focus (or, great coaching).

These are just examples of why Oregon is going to be fine if Kelly leaves for the NFL. His players don’t fear his departure. In fact, they respect that their coach seeks to win at the highest of levels because it’s a quality they all possess as competitors. It helps that the university also has a plan. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is reportedly the next-in-line to grab the reins should Kelly take his final bow. Per USA Today‘s George Schroeder, Helfrich is a pure cut from Kelly’s philosophical cloth.

He can finish Chip’s sentences,” a source told Schroeder about Helfrich. “He’s been in that environment long enough (to succeed). It’s a leap of faith but it’s very similar – I’d almost argue that it was a bigger leap (promoting) Chip than with Mark.”

If it is a leap, it’s a calculated one. Oregon has a brand and an identity on and off the field matched by few in today’s college football environment. So whether it’s Kelly leading the Ducks on to the field or Helfrich, Oregon is in a position for continued success even with a hearing with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions looming.

If it is Helfrich? Well, Chip, it’s been fun. And a little too fast in every sense of the word.

West Virginia loses ex-Alabama LB VanDarius Cowan to season-ending injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Suffice to say, VanDarius Cowan‘s second season in Morgantown after leaving Tuscaloosa hasn’t gone as planned.

In late August, it was confirmed that Cowan would have to sit out the first four games of the 2019 season because of unspecified eligibility issues.  After serving that suspension, Cowan made his WVU debut in the Oct. 5 loss to Texas; a week later, the linebacker suffered a knee injury in the loss to Iowa State.

Tuesday, first-year head coach Neal Brown announced that Cowan underwent surgery and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.  The specific nature of the injury wasn’t divulged.

Cowan was originally a four-star member of Alabama’s 2017 recruiting class.  In July of last year, he was dismissed by the Crimson Tide after being charged with misdemeanor assault.  A month later, he landed at West Virginia.

The Florida native sat out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws.

In less than two full games this season, Cowan was credited with six tackles and a sack.

Weather postpones Game 4 of Astros-Yankees, pushing Ohio State-Northwestern from FS1 to Big Ten Network

Getty Images
3 Comments

UPDATED 1:21 PM ET: Due to the weather-forced change in schedule for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, Friday night’s Ohio State-Northwestern game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

The game had originally been scheduled to air on FS1.

Kickoff time for the Big Ten clash is still set for 8:30 p.m. ET.

__________

This isn’t exactly optimal.

Due to the forecast of inclement weather, Major League Baseball announced that Game 4 of the American League Championship Series Wednesday night between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees has been moved to Thursday night.  That means Game 5 of the ALCS, originally scheduled for Thursday night, has been pushed to Friday night and will be televised on FS1, with first pitch set for 7:08 p.m. ET.

So, why is news on the postseason of a stick-and-ball sport appearing on a college football website?

Ohio State is scheduled to travel to Evanston to square off with Northwestern Friday.  On FS1. With kickoff set for 8:30 p.m. ET.

The ALCS is airing on FS1 because FOX is televising its newly-acquired WWE Friday Night Smackdown franchise, so a network broadcast won’t be possible for the Big Ten matchup.  More than likely, the game will air on either the Big Ten Network or FOX business.

As of this posting, neither the conference nor FOX has offered up exactly where the game will air.

Regardless of how it ultimately plays out, this will be a huge black eye for a league that shouldn’t be hijacking high school football’s night in the first place, regardless of how few games there are on Fridays (for now).

Wake QB Jamie Newman’s status for Week 8 to be determined

Associated Press
Leave a comment

The defense wasn’t the only side of the ball that ran into injury issues during Wake Forest’s first loss of the 2019 campaign.

An injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder knocked Jamie Newman out of the Week 7 loss to Louisville. An on-site X-ray, as well as other further testing, showed no significant structural damage to the joint.

As Wake looks to bounce back from that loss against Florida State Saturday, though, the sophomore’s status is officially to be determined.

“He’s kind of day-to-day,” head coach Dave Clawson said. “He got hurt at the end of the second quarter. We had X-Rays to try and eliminate the worst thing that could have happened to him and that was eliminated. He was able to return. He’s sore and we’ll just take it day-by-day and see how he feels later in the week. It’s been one practice and we’ll have a better feel later in the week.”

“And we won’t share that when we know it. I don’t have to,” Clawson added, presumably in a middle-school-boy-at-recess voice.

This season, Newman leads the ACC in passing yards (1,772), passing touchdowns (17) and passer rating (160.7).  He’s ninth, tied for sixth and 17th nationally in those respective categories.

Should Newman be unable to go against the Seminoles, Sam Hartman would get the nod.  In relief of Newman this past weekend, the sophomore threw two touchdown passes and ran for another as the Demon Deacons nearly pulled off a stunning comeback on the Cardinals.

Last season as a true freshman, Hartman started the first nine games before going down with an injury, opening the door for Newman to take over the job.

Big 12 admitted error in Texas Tech-Baylor game, fines AD Kirby Hocutt for publicly pointing it out

Getty Images
5 Comments

An officiating error involving what was ruled an illegal snap but shouldn’t have been during the first possession in the first overtime of Saturday’s Texas Tech-Baylor game could very well have cost the Red Raiders a win.  In a statement Sunday night, Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt revealed that the university had “been in constant communication with the Big 12 Conference office from the immediate end of the game and throughout Sunday regarding the illegal snap call in the first overtime” and that it had “been confirmed that the ruling on the field of an illegal snap was incorrect.”

Instead of an illegal snap, it should’ve been ruled a fumble that was recovered by Tech, which would’ve given the Red Raiders possession of the ball and a golden opportunity to win the game during their first drive in the initial overtime.

Also, instead of allowing the blunder to die right there, the Big 12 has kept the officiating boner in the headlines by announcing Wednesday morning that the conference has, in accordance with the league’s sportsmanship policies, fined Hocutt $25,000.  Additionally, the AD was issued a public reprimand.

For publicly acknowledging that the conference had privately admitted its officials were wrong.

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby addressed the development in a statement.

The Big 12 Conference members have developed policies governing the officiating of our contests. It is vital that senior administration officials, especially the Directors of Athletics, adhere explicitly to these policies. It is very difficult to balance support for an institution’s teams while fully complying with the imperative created by schools acting together to manage athletics competition. On this occasion, the required discipline was not exercised. Kirby Hocutt is one of the very best athletics administrators in the nation, and I am grateful for his assistance and support in resolving this matter.

It should be noted that, in an email obtained by RedRaiderSports.com, Big 12 executive associate commissioner Ed Stewart reminds Hocutt that, “[c]onsistent with past practice, we typically do not publicly address judgment issues.”