Washington State claws way to victory over USC

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The first step for USC is to admit it has a problem.

That problem is Lane Kiffin.

How else to explain a very talented Trojan team’s horrid performance in a 10-7 loss to Washington State on Saturday night?

A USC offense filled with elite recruits put up just 192 total yards, including 54 through the air. Mind you, this is an offense that features Marqise Lee, one of the top players in the country. But Lee managed just 27 yards on seven catches.

But it hasn’t been just this game. This is part of a longer term trend for USC under Kiffin. The Trojans have scored just five offensive touchdowns in their last four games. USC hasn’t scored a point in a third quarter since the Arizona State game of last season. It is averaging 9 points per game in its last three home games. The Trojans have lost six of their last eight games.

And USC hasn’t lost to WSU in the Coliseum since 2000, the last year a Trojan head coach was fired.  Will USC athletic director Pat Haden have the guts to pull the trigger this time around? Stay tuned.

For all the talk of USC, though, this was also the first big win for Mike Leach at WSU. The Cougars showed signs of life last week against Auburn and proved it wasn’t a fluke — their mental toughness was the difference against the Trojans.

Still, the path to a WSU win seemed problematic midway through the second quarter. The Trojans were up, 7-0, and driving. The Cougars offense was getting throttled and it looked like WSU was headed for another road loss.

But that all changed when Damante Horton stepped in front of a Cody Kessler pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, the score was 7-7 headed into the half and the game was up for grabs.

Most of the rest of the game was sloppy and it looked like it might be headed to overtime but, once again, WSU made a play. Dom Williams took a Connor Halliday pass 50 yards  down the sideline to set up Andrew Furney‘s 41-yard field goal with 3:15 left to play. The pressure shifted over to the Trojans.

But USC under Kiffin clearly doesn’t handle pressure well. Horton sat on another pass, this one from Max Wittek, and the Cougars ran out the clock. Suddenly, a bowl game seems like a possibility.

Whither USC, though? Given the embarrassing collapse to the Cougars, I’d be surprised if Kiffin lasts the season.

Certainly the fans have made up their minds.

“Fire Kiffin!” they shouted from the Coliseum stands as the seconds ticked down.

Stanford adds linebackers coach with NFL experience

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Stanford added a new coach to the program on Monday with the hiring of Eric Sanders. Sanders was named Stanford’s assistant coach for inside linebackers.

Sanders comes to Stanford following a season with the NFL’s New York Jets. Prior to his brief stint with the Jets, Sanders was a defensive assistant for three seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Sanders has also coached with the Oakland Raiders.

This is a return to Stanford for Sanders. Sanders coached with the program in 2015 as a defensive assistant.

“Eric was with us for our 2015 Rose Bowl Championship season and he was so smart, energetic and detailed that I knew someday we’d bring him back,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said in a released statement. “Eric has great comprehensive knowledge having worked with the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs throughout his career, and he’s spent the last three years with Gregg Williams who is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL.”

Sanders has also held college coaching jobs with his alma mater, UC Davis, and Utah State in addition to Stanford.

Wisconsin TE Luke Benzschawel medically retires after fourth knee surgery

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Wisconsin redshirt senior tight end Luke Benzschawel is calling it a career. The senior announced he is medically retiring from the sport of football following his fourth knee surgery.

I consider myself fortunate to have been part of the Wisconsin football program for the past four years. I have not been as fortunate when it comes to my health,” Benzschawel said in a statement shared on his Twitter account on Monday. “However, after undergoing a fourth procedure on my knee, and despite giving everything I have to get back on the field, my doctors and I have decided that the time has come for me to step away from the game.

Benzschawel played in 15 games during his injury-plagued college career with the Badgers. Benzschawel is the younger brother of former Wisconsin offensive lineman Beau Benzschawel. Benzschawel injured his knee during fall camp last August and did not see the playing field during the 2019 season as a result.

Alabama strength coach Scott Cochran leaving Tide for new on-field coaching role at Georgia

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One of Alabama’s most recognized sideline personalities appears to be heading to another SEC program. Alabama strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran, a man whose identity has become as well known as any strength coach can possibly be over the last few years, is reportedly heading to Georgia to take on a brand new role.

There have been many reasons for Alabama’s overall success with Nick Saban as the head coach. Having Cochran on his staff has certainly been one of the key reasons because he has been recognized as one of the nation’s top strength and conditioning coach (he’s won the award for top strength coach twice). And it may not be much of a coincidence that Cochran has been one of the only assistants on the staff for each of Saban’s national championship seasons between Alabama and LSU. His voice and energy seen on the field in warmups and on the sidelines has become a draw for television cameras in more recent years and he has been one of the leaders in the movement to recognize more strength and conditioning coaches during gamedays.

It should come as little surprise Cochran would be an attractive option for Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, a former Alabama defensive coordinator who worked alongside Cochran in Tuscaloosa. What role Cochran will be taking on remains to be confirmed, however, as reports say he will not be Georgia’s strength and conditioning coach. That role is currently held by Scott Sinclair in Athens.

No matter what role Cochran takes at Georgia, and how that ultimately pans out for the Bulldogs, this is a notable loss for Saban and Alabama. Granted, Alabama should be able to find a more-than-qualified strength and conditioning coach to take over the very lucrative (and high-paying) job, so it’s not like this will turn Alabama football into a doormat (much to the dismay of Alabama haters around the SEC and beyond).

UPDATE (6:38 p.m. ET): Alabama head coach Nick Saban has issued a statement regarding the departure of his longtime strength coach:

Ole Miss QB John Rhys Plumlee, RB Jerrion Early also starting for Rebels’ baseball team

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John Rhys Plumlee and Jerrion Early were two of the best athletes on Ole Miss’s football team in 2019. The pair, both true freshmen, led the club in rushing; Plumlee rushed for 1,023 yards and 12 touchdowns while also throwing for 910 yards and four touchdowns, and Early ran for 722 yards and six scores on nearly seven yards per carry.

But it’s actually an understatement to limit the backfield mates’ athletic ability to just the football team. They’re two of the best athletes at the school, period.

The Rebels’ baseball team, ranked No. 13 in the country by Baseball America, is off to a 6-1 start with both Plumlee and Early contributing.

Early, a 31st round selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Jackson Prep in Walnut Grove, Miss., has appeared in five games with three starts at center field. He’s 1-of-8 with four walks, three runs scored and three stolen bases in as many attempts.

Plumlee has appeared in four games to date, starting Saturday’s win over Xavier in left field. He’s struggled at the plate thus far, going 0-for-7 with five strikeouts, though he has scored one run and stole a base in his only attempt.

The Hattiesburg native is not only juggling college classes while playing two sports, but he’s also in the midst of a quarterback battle with fellow rising sophomore Matt Corral while learning a new offense under new head coach Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.

Both players are giving it a go on the diamond, but their new head coach has made it clear where their bread is buttered.

“We want that to be (Plumlee’s) first priority, because if you’re going to be in something, I just think you go with it, and whatever time he has left he’ll come to us,” Kiffin told OM Spirit.

“I talked about it with baseball…let’s see how it goes,. They’re (Plumlee and Ealy) all in right now on baseball, and then let’ see. If they’re having a significant role, they’ll stay in there. If they’re not, then they’ll probably come back and do more football,” said Kiffin.