Big Ten spring game wrap-ups

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Some news, notes, quotes and other assorted tidbits from the three spring games contested across the Big Ten Saturday afternoon…

MICHIGAN STATE
To say that the Spartans’ quarterbacks struggled somewhat during today’s spring game would be an understatement of mammoth proportions.

MSU quarterbacks combined to go 22 of 53 for 386 yards, two touchdown and two interceptions.  Last year’s starter and presumptive front-runner for the job this season, Andrew Maxwell, completed just nine of his 20 attempts for 120 yards and the game-winning touchdown pass.  The strong-armed Connor Cook, who has gained some ground on Maxwell this spring, threw for 217 yards and a scoring toss but also completed less than 40 percent of his passes (10-26).  Redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor completed five of six passes — three to his offensive teammates, two to his defensive teammates.

All in all, it was rough outing at a position where the Spartans may have more questions exiting spring than they did entering it.

Head coach Mark Dantonio said that the incumbent would top the depth chart entering summer, but stopped short of anointing him as the season-opening starter.

“I think you leave here at the end of spring saying that (Andrew) Maxwell comes into the summer camp number one based on knowledge and consistency in terms of performance.”

For his part, Maxwell feels as if he’s done enough to retain the job.

“I feel like I’ve done everything that I could do to make my case to the coaches to be the guy, and I feel like every day I came out and got better,” the player said. “I took a competitive mindset to every practice, and the ultimate decision is with Coach D.”

— The Spartans’ defense accounted for two touchdowns in the Green team’s 24-17 win over the White squad: a Chris Laneaux 25-yard interception return and a fumble recovery by Kyler Elsworth that was returned 41 yards.  On the other side of the ball, Aaron Burbridge caught five passes for 113 yards.

— Former MSU quarterback great Kirk Cousins, now Robert Griffin III‘s backup in Washington, returned to the East Lansing campus as color analyst for the Big Ten Network’s coverage of the game.  Based on Cousins’ comments, it doesn’t appear this will be his last rodeo in the booth.

“I want the football thing to last as long as it possibly can, but at the same time, in the offseason it makes a lot of sense to pursue other opportunities and prepare yourself for whenever football ends,” Cousins said. “And that’s why I’m here today, and it’s just a bonus I get to be back in familiar territory, watching the team that I love.”

— One of the coolest parts of the Spartans’ spring game was their helmets.  Specifically, the stickers on the back of the helmets honoring those who were killed or injured by the bombings at last Monday’s Boston Marathon.  Very classy gesture:

Michigan State Helmets

PENN STATE
If you were an individual looking for some clarity at the quarterback position coming out of the Nittany Lions’ spring game, you are likely somewhat disappointed at this point in time.

Following the game, head coach Bill O’Brien stated very firmly that neither Steven Bench nor Tyler Ferguson (pictured) had grabbed hold of the starting job and the competition would continue into the “voluntary” workouts and on into summer camp.  Both players completed nine of 15 passes, with Bench throwing for 99 yards and Ferguson 90.  Ferguson tossed two touchdown passes to Bench’s one.

As has been the case for most of the spring, the second-year coach was, for the most part, pleased with the duo’s performance.

“I thought they both (Bench and Ferguson) produced,” O’Brien said. “I thought both had some nice throws. Like everybody, coaches and players included, in every game you play, you wish you had some plays back. I’m sure they do too. I thought they both did some decent things out there today.”

In his post-game talk with reporters, O’Brien made it perfectly clear where the competition stands.

“I’d say, no, I’m not any closer as I sit here right now,” the coach said when asked about naming a starter. “Eventually, I’ll have to make a decision.”

O’Brien added that he will now go back and look at all of the spring practice tapes as they work toward naming a starter at the position.

The real competition, though, won’t begin until August; Christian Hackenberg, a five-star 2013 recruit rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in this year’s class, will join the competition this summer, with most expecting the Virginia product to make a very serious run at the starting job as a true freshman.

— In front of 28,000 or so fans who braved the rain and snow and cold, the the Blue team (defense) dropped the White squad (offense), 67-47.  It was the second straight year the defense has “won” the spring game.

A big reason for the defensive win?  The Nittany Lions’ defense accounted for nine sacks, which counted four points apiece in the scoring system utilized by O’Brien.

— Youth was certainly served for the Nittany Lions as the school noted that all six players who ran, caught or threw a touchdown will be a freshman or sophomore this season.  Both of the front-runners for the starting QB job will be sophomores.

— Another of the young ones was running back Akeel Lynch, who led all rushers with 83 yards on his 13 carries.

— “I feel terrible because I love that city,” O’Brien said of the tragic events in Boston this past week. “I grew up 20 minutes north of that city and my brother Tommy is heavily involved in that city and so is my older brother and my dad and my mom so I feel terrible for them. … Boston is a very resilient city and we caught him last night so that was good.”

WISCONSIN
At the end of Gary Andersen‘s first spring as the Badgers’ head coach, and in the midst of a crowded quarterback competition, it was UW’s defense winning most of the plaudits in Madison Saturday afternoon.

Thanks to the “unique” scoring systems that are all the rage during spring games, the final score appears to be a high-scoring offensive affair: Cardinal 61, White 47.  The former team consisted of the Badgers’ defense, the latter the offense.

The game wasn’t a true measure of either unit, however, as Andersen lamented afterwards that “[w]e’re basically missing six starters right now on the defensive side that didn’t play a snap today, and four or five on the offensive side.”

Also, the fact that the game was televised on the Big Ten Network led Andersen to keep his team’s cards very close to his vest.

“I will say this: Defense today was very vanilla. Offensively, we were very generic, and defensively, we were very generic,” the former Utah State head coach said. “We did throw the ball, bottom line, and we did catch the ball better than we have all spring, and that was very encouraging.”

— The Cardinal team totaled 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks in the game.  As those plays were worth two points apiece, the defense scored 36 of its 61 points off those two types of plays.  They also earned 24 points off of eight three-and-outs.

— As far as the quarterback battle goes, two players, Joel Stave and Curt Phillips, received the vast majority of the reps.  Stave completed 15 of his 20 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, while Phillips went 8-of-13 for 82 yards.  The other quarterbacks on the roster, including former Maryland Terrapin Danny O’Brien, attempted just three passes each.

— Running back Melvin Gordon, who will be charged with the task of replacing Montee Ball, ran for a team-high 74 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown on the ground.  He also added three catches for 35 yards.

— “Yeah, we’re in a good spot,” Andersen said when asked if his team is where he thought it’d be at the end of the spring.  “You’re never going to get everything you want. You’re never going to have it perfect. We wanted consistency. I think we got that. We wanted effort. I think we got that.”

Two-year starting QB Isaiah Green leaves Marshall for transfer portal

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This is certainly an unexpected — and significant — loss for the Marshall football team.

According to multiple media outlets, Isaiah Green has left the Thundering Herd and entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.  The quarterback’s name is no longer listed on the Marshall football roster that’s available online.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

If the move is permanent, it’s a significant one for Marshall football.

Green was a three-star member of the Class of 2017 for the Thundering Herd.  The Fairburn, Ga., product took a redshirt as a true freshman.

The past two seasons, Green has started 22 of the 23 games in which he played.  Included in that were starts in all 13 games in 2019.  In that action, Green completed 56.5 percent of his 666 passes for 4,897 yards, 30 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.  He’s also added another 416 yards and six scores on 159 carries.

With Green apparently out of the picture, Grant Wells Will Likely take over.  Wells didn’t attempt a pass last season as a true freshman.

Marshall is coming off an 8-5 campaign in Doc Holliday‘s 10th season with the football program.  Included in that was a Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl loss that ended the Herd’s bowl winning streak at seven straight.

Florida State-Notre Dame game in 2021 moved up to Labor Day Sunday

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While all of the focus is on the 2020 season — and rightly so — Florida State and Notre Dame are peeking ahead to the following campaign.

Back in 2014, as part of the football independent’s scheduling agreement with the ACC, it was announced that Notre Dame and Florida State would square off on Sept. 6 of 2021.  That just happens to be the date on which Labor Day falls next season.

Tuesday, however, the Seminoles confirmed that the game versus the Fighting Irish has instead been shifted to Sept. 5.  That’s the Sunday before the holiday and the day after the first full weekend of the 2021 football season.  At this point, it’s unclear exactly why the date of the game was changed.

The game, which will be played in Tallahassee at Doak Campbell Stadium, is expected to be played in primetime.  A time and television network will be announced at a later date.

Florida State and Notre Dame have met nine times previously, with the first coming in 1981.  The most recent meeting was in 2018.  The most famous of the nine?  The 1993 matchup that saw No. 2 Notre Dame knock off No. 1 Florida State in South Bend.

The Seminoles have won six of the nine meetings in the series.  In four of those matchups, both teams were ranked in the Top Ten.

LSU LB Marcel Brooks is reportedly transferring to TCU

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It appears TCU has landed one of the more intriguing football transfers on the market.

Following a late-June conversation with the LSU coaching staff, Marcel Brooks entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.  It was thought at the time that the Lone Star State native would likely head back closer to home.

Tuesday, that’s close to becoming a reality as 247Sports.com is reporting that Brooks will transfer into the TCU football team. In fact, according to the website, the linebacker was on campus Tuesday and “will be able to start working out with the team as soon as he passes a physical.”

Thus far, the TCU football program has not confirmed Brooks’ addition to the roster.

It’s expected Brooks will have to sit out the 2020 season to satisfy current NCAA bylaws. That would then leave him with three years of eligibility starting in 2021 to use with the Horned Frogs.

Brooks was a five-star member of the LSU football Class of 2019.  The Flower Mound, Tex., native was rated as the No. 2 outside linebacker in the country.  He was also the No. 5 prospect regardless of position in the state of Texas.  The only two signees in the Tigers’ class that year rated higher?  Freshman All-American cornerback Derek Stingley and running back John Emery.

As a true freshman, Brooks appeared in 11 games in the run to the national championship.  He was credited with eight tackles and 1½ sacks.

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history, including a records release that showed Jim Tressel had history of compliance issues

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The sports world, including college football, had essentially screeched to a halt in the spring as countries around the world battled the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there was a dearth of college football news as the sport went into a COVID-induced hibernation.  Slowly, though, the game is coming back to life.  Hopefully.

That being said, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives that stretch back to 2009 and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on July 15, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this college football down-time, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2019

THE HEADLINE: Lincoln Riley: Jalen Hurts must win starting job at Oklahoma
THE SYNOPSIS: In a stunning turn of events, the Alabama transfer did just that.  And finished second in the voting for the 2019 Heisman Trophy.

2019

THE HEADLINE: Ryan Leaf joins ESPN’s roster of college football analysts
THE SYNOPSIS: This was the latest step in the former Washington State quarterback turning his life around.  Less than a year later, however, Leaf was arrested on a domestic battery charge.

2017

THE HEADLINE: Kentucky gets in on offering scholarship to middle schoolers in a big way
THE SYNOPSIS: I don’t care who does it, this is creepy.  Still.

2016

THE HEADLINE: USC to name starting QB two weeks before opener vs. Alabama
THE SYNOPSIS: Max Browne ultimately won the job… and held onto for all of three gamesSam Darnold took over in September of that season, and went on to be a high first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.  Browne, meanwhile, transferred to Pitt in December of 2016.

2015

THE HEADLINE: Michigan’s Nike deal easily surpasses every other public FBS school
THE SYNOPSIS: That 11-year, $169 million deal was subsequently surpassed by UCLA’s 15-year, $280 million apparel agreement with Under Armour.  That deal, though, is currently hanging by a thread.

2014

THE HEADLINE: The best lines from Steve Spurrier’s SEC media day press conference
THE SYNOPSIS: Talkin’ season always brings out the best in the Ol’ Ball Coach. To wit: “It’s a shame that Texas and Texas A&M don’t play anymore. I think that’s sad. Florida plays Florida State. We play Clemson.”

2011

THE HEADLINE: New records release shows Jim Tressel had history of compliance issues
THE SYNOPSIS: This wasn’t exactly a stunning development, given the circumstances that led up to the Sweatervest’s Memorial Day “resignation” at Ohio State two months prior.  Or Pryor, as the NCAA case may be.