Myriad turnovers the theme of Tide’s spring game

8 Comments

And by “myriad” we mean “thiiis close to double digits” in the two-time defending BCS champion Alabama’s annual A-Day game.

Just over 78,000 fans Saturday — there were a school-record 87,000 in attendance for Auburn’s spring game, for what it’s worth — witnessed the Tide turn the ball over a whopping nine times as the White team edged the Crimson team 17-14.  The White squad, which consisted of the first-team offense, was responsible for four of the turnovers — two interceptions, two fumbles — while Team Crimson coughed it up five times — four interceptions, one fumble.

AJ McCarron, who will be entering his third year as the Tide’s starter, tossed both of the White team’s interceptions in his 19-for-30, 223-yard effort, and had a third pick called back because of defensive offsides.  He also led his side on the game-winning drive, with a 50-yard bomb to Christion Jones setting up T.J. Yeldon‘s seven-yard touchdown run late in the game.

Yeldon, incidentally, was named the Dixie Howell Award winner (game’s most valuable player) after combining for 129 yards of offense — 69 rushing, 60 receiving.  The rising sophomore led all players in both categories.  It’s also the second straight year the back has staked his claim as the spring game MVP.

McCarron’s backup, Blake Sims, also tossed two interceptions, as did early enrollee and fellow Team Crimson teammate Cooper Bateman.

Suffice to say, the offensive effort — both literally and figuratively — did not sit well with the detail-oriented Nick Saban.

“The biggest thing I was concerned about was how the team would go out there and what would be their energy, their enthusiasm, and their attention to detail,” the head coach said in quotes distributed by the team. “I don’t think that there were enough guys that answered that question in a positive way to my liking. But I’m never satisfied.”

That said, Saban made sure that everyone listening knows he’s not disappointed with his squad at this point in the offseason.  Rather, he’s merely not satisfied with where they are right now — a trait that even the head coach himself readily acknowledges is an annual occurrence.

“I spoke to a bunch of alumni groups today, and they all want me to make a comparison between this year’s team and last year’s team and the team before that, and the team before that, and the team before that,” Saban said. “And I wasn’t happy with any of those teams at this point. If I was happy with them, we wouldn’t have summer conditioning, we would not have fall camp, and we wouldn’t have thirty practices to get ready for our first game against Virginia Tech. We’d just pack it in and say, ‘Alright, let’s go to Atlanta and play the game.’

“We’re not there yet. That’s why we have all these practices, that’s why we have all the work we need to do.

McCarron, though, pretty much summed up quite well most everyone’s feelings on a game that’s nothing more than a glorified scrimmage.

“This is like playing in an all-star game. You don’t get in a rhythm. It’s not a real game, but it’s fun to go out there and try to make plays happen, and do some trick plays,” the senior said.

The attendance total of 78,315 was the sixth-largest in the storied program’s history, with the five highest coming in the first five years of Saban’s run in Tuscaloosa.  The largest crowd ever to witness an A-Day game was 92,310 in 2011.

As the school wrote in its press release, “[m]ore than 592,000 fans have attended the seven A-Day games during Saban’s tenure as head coach, including 90,000 plus in three of the seven years.”

Report: Mike Sanford’s fate at WKU directly tied to last two games

Getty Images
2 Comments

There are already four openings (maybe five) at the FBS level. Depending on how things play out over the rest of this month, one Conference USA program could throw its name into the 2018-19 coaching carousel mix.

According to the Bowling Green Daily News, “Mike Sanford’s future as Western Kentucky’s coach hinges largely on the outcomes of his team’s final two games.” The Daily News reports that, if WKU wins its last two games — vs. UTEP, at Louisiana Tech — Sanford will be retained.

However, if the Hilltoppers drop both of those contests, Sanford is expected to be fired.

“Sanford’s future if the Hilltoppers split those two contests is unclear,” the newspaper added.

Sanford, the former offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, took over a WKU program in 2017 that had won 23 games the previous two seasons under Jeff Brohm before he left for Purdue. In his first season in Bowling Green, Sanford’s 6-7 record was the program’s worst since 2009; the Hilltoppers are currently 1-9, which even if they win out would be WKU’s worst since that winless 2009 season.

Mike MacIntyre reportedly out at Colorado at season’s end

Getty Images
4 Comments

It appears yet another head coach will hit the unemployment line in the not-too-distant future.

Citing multiple unnamed sources, the ABC affiliate in Boulder is reporting that “Colorado will part ways with football coach Mike MacIntyre effective at the end of this season.” School officials have thus far declined to comment on MacIntyre’s future with the football program.

Based on a new deal agreed to in January of last year and approved five months later, CU would owe MacIntyre a buyout in excess of $10 million if he’s fired without cause.

In five-plus seasons with the Buffaloes, MacIntyre has posted a 30-43 record overall and 14-38 in Pac-12 play.  Coming off a 5-7 season in 2017, the Buffs won their first five games of the season and climbed to 19th in the Associated Press Top 25.  However, they’ve dropped five straight since then, with three of the five losses coming by 10 or more points.

Colorado will play its home finale this weekend against Pac-12 South leader Utah before closing out the regular season at Cal a week later.  The Buffaloes need to win at least one of those games to reach bowl eligibility.

Right now, there are officially four openings at the FBS level: Bowling Green (HERE), Kansas (HERE), Louisville (HERE) and Maryland (HERE).  Last year, 20 FBS jobs came open for one reason or another during the 2017-18 spinning of the coaching carousel.

Nick Saban bristles at suggestion to sit Tua Tagovailoa vs. FCS team this weekend

Getty Images
5 Comments

A few days before a final, final decision needs to be made, it doesn’t appear that Nick Saban is inclined to err on the side of extreme caution when it comes to the triggerman of his high-octane offense.

Late in the third quarter of top-ranked Alabama’s shutout win over Mississippi State, Tua Tagovailoa took a shot to his right knee, the same knee that gave him issues earlier this season, and didn’t return. As a Week 12 date with FCS Citadel looms, conventional wisdom had Saban sitting the Heisman Trophy front-runner and saving him for the annual Iron Bowl grudge match in the regular-season finale.

Essentially, the head coach scoffed in the general direction of that wisdom, stating he has no plans to sit Tagovailoa and that the true sophomore, as well as his teammates, need to do a better job of limiting the quarterback’s exposure to hits.

From al.com:

No,” Nick Saban responded when asked if sitting Tagovailoa is a consideration. “Why would we do that? To say that this is not an important game or he doesn’t need to play? I think we need to do a better job of the people playing around him doing what they’re supposed to do so he doesn’t get hit. And he needs to do a better job of stepping up in the pocket and getting rid of the ball, which he had several opportunities to do. Some of these hits can be avoided just by better execution, and I think that’s what we’re going to focus on, not trying to take a guy out of a game so he can’t improve or do what he needs to do to get better or do what we need to do to get better as a team and develop some confidence in each other.

While Tagovailoa is expected to start — provided, of course, he doesn’t suffer a setback in practice during the days leading up to what’s essentially a scrimmage that counts in the standings — it’s highly likely that his day will consist of, at most, a couple of quarters worth of work.

The Crimson Tide should make short work of Bulldogs as they have beaten FBS teams this season by an average score of 49-13. Against ranked teams, that average is 33-8.

Safety who started first four games transferring from Oklahoma State

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A one-time starting member of Oklahoma State’s secondary has opted to take his leave of Mike Gundy‘s football program.

On his personal Twitter account over the weekend, Thabo Mwaniki announced that, after “thoughtful consideration,” he has decided to transfer from the Cowboys. The defensive back gave no specific reason for his decision to transfer.

The fact that the Denton, Texas, native lost his starting job a third of the way through the 2018 season, however, would likely be a good place to start in looking for his reasoning.

Mwaniki, a three-star member of OSU’s 2017 recruiting class, started the first four games of this year. However, the safety was replaced after Week 4 and never returned to the starting lineup. All told, he played in seven games this season, none of which came the last three weeks.

Last season, Mwaniki started two games for the Cowboys; he was the only true freshman on either side of the ball to start a game for OSU in 2018.