Penn State hands Michigan first loss in fourth overtime

30 Comments

I had to rewrite this game story a few times. You see, Michigan had a ten point lead midway through the fourth quarter and Penn State’s offense was looking to be out of steam. But then, almost out of nowhere it seemed, Penn State pulled an 80-yard touchdown drive with 50 seconds to play in regulation with no timeouts to use. The score tied the game at 34-34 but Michigan still had a chance to sneak out of State College with a win, but a 52-yard attempt by Brendan Gibbons in the final seconds of the game fell short, which ended up sending the game in to overtime. Things really started to get crazy after that.

Penn State served Michigan their first loss of the season, with Bill Belton scoring the game-winning touchdown in the fourth overtime for a 43-40 victory that 107,000 fans will not soon forget. Belton’s touchdown was the only time in four overtimes the ball crossed a goal line. Michigan had their chances to secure another tight victory this season, but a mixture of special teams failures and missed opportunities would come back to haunt the Wolverines.

In the first overtime Penn State kicker Sam Ficken missed a 40-yard attempt, but Michigan was unable to capitalize because the Nittany Lions special teams unit blocked a 40-yard attempt set up by conservative play calling. Michigan got as close as the eight yard line to open the second overtime, setting Gibbons up for a 25-yard field goal. Penn State would answer with a 36-yard kick from Ficken to force a third overtime.

The third overtime started ominously for Penn State when Allen Robinson fumbled the first play of the third overtime. On an end-around play, Robinson never gained control of a handoff from Penn State’s freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The ball dropped loose in the back field and Michigan defensive lineman Frank Clark pounced on the ball to turn the game over to Michigan’s offense with a golden opportunity to walk out of Beaver Stadium with their first win against the Nittany Lions since 2007. But from 33 yards back, Gibbons had his kick fly left of the goal post despite being set up in the middle of the field. Yes, this game would need a fourth overtime and it was becoming clear this one was not going to be decided by special teams.

the fourth overtime did not go well for Michigan’s offense. Two incomplete passes by Devin Gardner failed to move the football forward, and a delay of game put Michigan back on the 30-yard line. A seven-yard run by Gardner set Gibbons up for a 40-yard attempt, which was good for a 40-37 lead before Penn State got their chance. Penn State relied on the running game to start moving the football forward, with Belton carrying the load. Belton had taken over in the backfield as the primary rusher after Zach Zwinak‘s struggles became a problem. Belton carried the football three times to put Penn State in a fourth and one. Rather than kick and move to a fifth overtime, Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien kept his offense on the field to pick up the first down. It worked, with Belton showing patience to pick up a couple of extra yards. After a pass interference call against Michigan in the end zone gave Penn State a free first down, Belton cashed in with a run to the left side of the field and nothing but open room from two yards out. The touchdown by Belton clinched the win for Penn State and sent Michigan home regretting giving Penn State a shot at this one.

Michigan’s defense had done a good job in the second half, which started with a fumble returned for a touchdown on Penn State’s first play of the second half. The return cut Penn State’s lead to 21-17 and the Wolverines took a 27-24 lead in to the fourth quarter. A 37-yard touchdown pass from Gardner to tightend Devin Funchess caught Penn State without a safety on the field and a linebacker chasing down field well out of position. It was a play like that which seemed to show how Penn State’s depth issues were starting to hurt them. But this Penn State team found a way to bounce back when the going got tough, something that eluded them a week ago in Bloomington, Indiana. Penn State gets all sorts of credit for coming back the way they did time and time again, but there are some real concerns about Michigan going forward now.

Michigan once again struggled in a game they probably should have won without much of a problem. The road woes continued for Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, and now the Wolverines are left scratching their heads instead of celebrating a 6-0 start. Can Michigan still come back and make a run for Indianapolis, the site of the Big Ten championship game? Absolutely, because nobody in the Big Ten’s Legends Division is running away with anything. Northwestern lost to Wisconsin and Michigan still has games against the Wildcats, Michigan State and Nebraska ahead of them before getting to Ohio State.

Report: Ex-Clemson QB Kelly Bryant to announce grad transfer destination on Dec. 4

Getty Images
4 Comments

The first time Kelly Bryant was recruited, as a member of the class of 2015, he was a 4-star. A product of Wren High School in Piedmont, S.C., and the younger cousin of former Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant, Bryant chose Clemson over offers from Florida, North Carolina and Ole Miss, according to his Rivals profile.

This time around, Bryant is definitely a 5-star. Bryant led Clemson to an ACC title and a College Football Playoff berth in his lone season as Clemson’s starter, then guided the Tigers to a 4-0 mark before giving way to freshman Trevor Lawrence in September. Along the way, Bryant threw for 3,263 yards, rushed for 795 and accounted for 28 total touchdowns in leading Clemson to a 16-2 record.

Bryant is a proven, effective college player, which wasn’t enough for him to remain ahead of Lawrence on the Clemson depth chart but is plenty good enough to start at a number of other schools — and many of those other schools have courted Bryant.

Just like a high school recruit, Bryant is permitted five official visits, which he’s taken to Arkansas, Missouri and North Carolina, with future visits planned for Mississippi State this weekend and Miami on Nov. 24. He’s also taken an unofficial vis to Auburn.

According to a report from Woody Wommack of Rivals, Bryant has set a date of Dec. 4 to pick his graduate transfer destination. That’s the Tuesday after Selection Sunday.

“I’m still trying to talk to more schools and make sure I get this right,” Bryant told Rivals earlier this month. “I need to make sure I establish the right type of relationship and make the right choice.

Among those six schools, three (Mississippi State, Missouri and Auburn) have senior starting quarterbacks, and three (Arkansas, Miami and UNC) are set to return their starters.

It’s clear that Bryant plans to start at whatever school he chooses. Whether he’ll be gifted the starting spot or have to earn it remains to be seen.

Report: ‘Mutual interest’ between Kansas, Todd Graham

Getty Images
1 Comment

Kansas needs a coach. Todd Graham needs a job.

On that basis, the two sides have talked about the KU opening, according to a report Monday from Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports.

It is not known how far the discussion(s) went, nor where Graham stands on Jeff Long‘s list. But Graham does have experience building a program as the former head coach at Rice, Tulsa, Pittsburgh and Arizona State.

Coincidentally, Graham was current KU head coach David Beaty‘s boss for one season, as Beaty coached wide receivers on Graham’s Rice staff in 2006.

Graham is a Texas native and a former high school coach in the Dallas area, so he would present an opportunity to mine the Texas recruiting fields if Long opts to go that direction.

Overall, Graham is 95-61 with 10 bowl trips and four division championships in a dozen seasons as a head coach.

Long has also reportedly discussed the Kansas job with fellow out-of-work coaches Les Miles and DJ Durkin.

“KU fans, you don’t know me very well if you believe the latested [sic] speculation, I attempt to run a very confidential search and I am doing so now,” Long tweeted after the Durkin report went public. “The search is ongoing. Rock Chalk!!”

Mike Gundy rants on ‘liberalism’ and ‘the snowflake’ in question about transfers

Getty Images
15 Comments

On Sunday, Oklahoma State safety Thabo Mwaniki announced his intention to transfer. On Monday, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy was asked about his decision, and Gundy had plenty of thoughts about it.

While insisting he’s not talking about Mwaniki specifically, Gundy launched into a soliloquy about “liberalism” and “the snowflake.”

“I’m talking about every millennial young person. Generation Z, I think is what they ‘call em,” Gundy said. “It’s the world we live in because if they say, ‘Well, it’s a little bit hard,’ we say, ‘OK, well, let’s go try something else’ vs. ‘Hey, let’s bear down and let’s fight and do this.’

Here’s the full quote, via The Oklahoman‘s Nathan Ruiz:

Mwaniki is the second Cowboy to announce a transfer during this season. Wideout Jalen McCleskey left the team earlier this year.

By the way, Gundy, who is paid $5 million a year, has attempted to use his post to transfer to similar jobs at Arkansas and Tennessee in order to leverage more money out of Oklahoma State.

Alabama has spent as much time as the AP No. 1 since 2009 as the rest of college football combined

Getty Images
3 Comments

Nick Saban‘s Alabama continues to rack up milestone after milestone. The Crimson Tide are already on a record streak of 11 consecutive seasons with at least one AP No. 1 ranking. They hit win No. 900 a week ago. They’re on record streaks as favorites and wins over unranked opponents.

But on Sunday, with yet another unanimous No. 1 ranking, Alabama hit a milestone that seemed unfathomable. According to SEC Network, Alabama has spent 79 weeks as the AP No. 1 since 2009, which is equal to the number by the rest of the sport combined.

Alabama has been the AP’s No. 1 every week during the 2018 season, and collected 13 of a possible 16 No. 1 rankings. They were No. 1 all throughout the 2016 season until finishing at No. 2. In 2015, Alabama was not the AP No. 1 at all during the season — until knocking off Clemson in the title game to ascend to No. 1.

Dating back to the final poll of the 2015 season, Alabama has been the AP No. 1 in 41 of the last 45 polls.

It’s a level of consistency unmatched in college football, and one that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.