Penn State’s o-line woes finally crack in loss to Northwestern

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For four games Penn State (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) was able to get by with a shaky offensive line and a slow starting offense. That was not the case Saturday afternoon in front of a homecoming crowd over 100,000 strong. Northwestern (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten) put together a defensive game plan that took advantage of Penn State’s offensive line concerns and held the Nittany Lions out of the end zone from start to finish. Northwestern evened its record with a 29-6 victory that was every bit as dominating as the score might indicate. And it could have been worse.

Penn State had just three third-down conversions out of 17 and the Nittany Lions were held to just one fourth-down conversion out of four. That lone fourth down conversion came in the first half from Penn State’s own 30-yard line, a true gamble. With quarterback Christian Hackenberg having another rough performance, Penn State’s offense was held to just 276 yards, including just 60 yards on the ground on 25 rushing attempts. Northwestern frustrated Hackenberg and held him to just 22 of 45 passing and returned his one interception for a touchdown. On Hackenberg’s next play from scrimmage after the pick-six, he was hit and lost a fumble.

Northwestern’s quarterback, Trevor Siemian, had a much more enjoyable afternoon with 258 yards accumulated with much better protection in front of him. Dan Vitale caused problems in Penn State’s secondary for much of the game, hauling in seven passes for 113 yards. The Wildcats even managed to play some inspired football after Matt Harris had to be taken off the field on a stretcher following a collision with Hackenberg. Harris was treated on the field for a good five minutes before being carted off the field. He was taken to a nearby hospital, but early reports seem to be as positive as can be given the extend of head and neck injuries. Here’s hoping the positive reports continue.

Penn State head coach James Franklin will have plenty to work on in the bye week with his staff and players. This particular game showcased a number of concerns about this Penn State team, but it seems many of the concerns can be addressed by getting something reliable out of the offensive line. Hackenberg has been off-balanced for much of the season and has rarely had good protection in front of him. Rutgers and Northwestern excelled in bringing a pass rush, and the running game has never been effective this season outside of last weekend’s game against UMass. The impact sanctions have had on recruiting the past couple of years is showing most at offensive line. How much can be corrected or fixed in a short period of time may not be enough for Penn State the rest of the way.

Penn State will play a night game at Michigan in two weeks after a bye to prepare. Northwestern will return home for their second Big Ten game next weekend against Wisconsin. The Wildcats will be facing a much more potent running attack when the Badgers come to town.

As teammates flew, DB ejected for punching Louisville player forced to ride managers’ bus back to Clemson

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That’ll teach him.  They hope.

In the third quarter of Clemson’s 35-point win over Louisville Saturday night, Tigers cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. was involved in a punt-return kerfuffle with Cardinals defensive back Trenell Troutman that ended with Booth, after he had taken him to the ground, punching Troutman.  The fracas resulted in Booth being ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Following the game, head coach Dabo Swinney apologized to his UofL counterpart, Scott Satterfield, for what he described as unacceptable, disappointing behavior.

Sunday, Swinney stated that the punishment phase for Booth commenced almost immediately, and commenced in a very unique way.

“He had a long bus ride home last night and plenty of time to think about it,” Swinney said, confirming that Booth rode the managers’ bus back to Clemson instead of flying home with the rest of his teammates.

For those keeping score at home, it’s a roughly seven-hour drive from Louisville to Clemson via an automobile, and likely longer if you’re taking a bus.  Taking a plane, it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour and a half.

In addition to the bus ride, Swinney also stated that Booth will be subject to additional, unspecified in-house sanctions.

Alabama expects ‘full, speedy recovery’ for Tua Tagovailoa following ankle surgery

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At least publicly, Alabama is putting a positive spin on the most talked-about ankle in college football.

Late in the first half of Alabama’s win over rival Tennessee, starting quarterback and Heisman front-runner Tua Tagovailoa went down with an apparent ankle injury. After spending time in the sideline medical tent, Tagovailoa went into the locker room for further observation.

Not long after that, Tagovailoa was seen exiting the stadium and getting into the back of an ambulance; he would ultimately return to the sidelines but not the game as Mac Jones finished out the win.  Immediately following the game, Nick Saban stated that Tagovailoa suffered a high-ankle sprain, a similar injury he worked through a season ago, and will “probably be out a week or two.” In the postgame press conference, the head coach all but ruled the junior out for next weekend’s home game against Arkansas.

In a statement Sunday, the football program confirmed that Tagovailoa underwent a surgical procedure on the ankle earlier in the day.  It was also confirmed that the junior will not play in this Saturday’s game against Arkansas.

Tua Tagovailoa suffered a high-ankle sprain last night against Tennessee. Our physicians performed a successful tight-rope procedure on his right ankle this morning. This is the same injury, but the opposite ankle that Tua injured last season. Tua will miss next week’s game against Arkansas, but we expect a full and speedy recovery.

As for that TightRope procedure, which significantly cuts the recovery time from a high-ankle sprain?

This technique is used to stabilize an ankle after injury. It can be used to repair a high-ankle sprain, which damages the soft tissue structures between the tibia and fibula and causes these bones to separate. It can also be used to stabilize a fracture of the fibula. The TightRope system anchors the ends of the tibia and fibula together with a braided polyethylene cord, rather than with a rigid surgical screw, to restore the original position of the bones and to allow for proper healing.

Following next Saturday’s game, top-ranked Alabama will be on a bye in Week 10 before its huge showdown with No. 2 LSU in Tuscaloosa Nov. 9. Tagovailoa’s availability for that game is uncertain, even as he told teammates that he’ll “be back for LSU.”

The combination of nearly three weeks from the time of the surgery to the LSU game and the TightRope procedure itself lends credence to the private optimism coming from Tuscaloosa regarding Tagovailoa being healthy enough to take the field for a game that could very well determine one of the four College Football Playoff participants.

UCF paying UConn $1 million to renew Civil ConFLiCT in 2021

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Bob Diaco may no longer be the head coach at UConn but his legacy of trying to build a rivalry with UCF lives on in the form of a seven-figure check.

The Hartford Courant reports that the soon to be independent Huskies have agreed to a 2021 game in Orlando with the Knights and that the program will receive a $1 million check as a result of the trip South for the non-conference meeting.

The two teams have played seven times since becoming fellow members of the AAC dating back to 2013, with UCF holding a 5-2 edge overall in the series. The Knights won the meeting in late September 56-21 and have dominated the Huskies the last few years.

Fans of both programs know there’s not much of a rivalry given the lopsided nature of the results but there have been attempts to stir things up, most notably by Diaco when he ran UConn and created a semi-serious (and unacknowledged in Orlando) trophy and named the game the ‘Civil ConFLiCT.’

At least things won’t end with September’s contest as the two teams continue to fill out their schedules. UConn will now have UCF on the docket in 2021 in addition to home games against FCS Holy Cross and Purdue plus road trips to UMass and Clemson. The Knights, meanwhile, host Boise State and travel to Louisville in the non-conference slate in addition to their regular rotation of AAC opponents.

CUSA fines Lane Kiffin $5K, reprimands FAU head coach for tweet

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Lane Kiffin has made headlines again and it has nothing to do with his team’s play on the field.

Conference USA announced on Sunday that they’ve fined the Florida Atlantic head coach $5,000 and publicly reprimanded him for violating the league’s sportsmanship policy after he posted a tweet on Saturday night that was critical of officials.

“Conference USA has specific rules and standards regarding sportsmanship which have been adopted by our membership,” CUSA commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement. “We have an obligation to enforce our rules including the prohibition of public criticism of officiating.”

Kiffin’s expensive tweet came in the heels of a 36-31 loss to Marshall on Friday.

The Owls and their social media-loving head coach will travel to Old Dominion on Saturday to continue conference play.