Houston benches QB John O’Korn for versatile backup Greg Ward, Jr.

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There were a chorus of preseason whispers about Houston as a possible American Athletic Conference champion and New Year’s Six bowl representative from the Group of Five, and the man who was going to take the Cougars there – sophomore quarterback John O’Korn.

O’Korn earned AAC Rookie of the Year honors after stepping into the starting role following David Piland‘s abrupt retirement due to concussion issues by completing 58 percent of his passes for 3,117 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, aiding the Cougars to an 8-5 finish and an appearance in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Houston was pegged third in the AAC this year but that has not gone to plan – at all. Houston opened the season and brand new TDECU Stadium with a 27-7 loss to UTSA in which O’Korn tossed four interceptions, and things haven’t gotten much better from there. For the year O’Korn is completely a shade under 52 percent of his passes for 188.8 yards per game with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. After throwing a pick every 25.9 throws as a freshman, O’Korn’s interception rate has more than doubled to one oskie for every 11.1 attempts.

Head coach Tony Levine replaced O’Korn during the Cougars’ 17-12 loss to Central Florida after he connected on just 12-of-26 passes for 98 yards with no scores and two interceptions for the versatile sophomore Greg Ward, Jr. – have you ever heard a more perfect NASCAR name in your life? – who completed 10-of-17 passes for 116 yards with no interceptions in the loss.

The loss dropped Houston to 2-3 on the season.

On Sunday, Levine announced that the arrangement will continue into the Memphis game on Saturday

“This decision is more of a reflection how Greg performed in his last game,” Levine told the Houston Chronicle.

Ward switched from quarterback to wide receiver in the spring in an effort to see the field and get out from under the seemingly entrenched O’Korn, though he has had a package of plays at quarterback. Thus far in 2014 Ward has completed 11-of-20 passes for 124 yards, rushed 16 times for 53 yards and a touchdown, caught 15 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown and returned nine punts for 93 yards.

“All I’m trying to do is help my team win,” Ward told the paper. “The decision they made is what we’re all living with and we’re moving on from here.”

The move had to be made if Houston has any hope of rectifying a season rapidly moving from struggling to sinking. Houston ranks 78th nationally in scoring offense, while Saturday’s opponent Memphis places 22nd in scoring defense.

 

LSU students will go to class on Saturday to make up for national title game

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LSU students who got to skip class for the national title game (and the ensuing celebrations…) were hit with a dose of reality returning to Baton Rouge on Friday.

According to an announcement from the university, classes that were cancelled on Monday and Tuesday for the championship game have been rescheduled. As a result, students will have to go to class on Saturday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 8.

So yes, Saturdays in the fall have resulted in a few Saturdays of work in the spring.

The school had received a bit of criticism when it was announced that classes were cancelled on the dates surrounding the championship game. While the practice has happened elsewhere, the nature of the game being less than an hour from campus in New Orleans certainly made things unique for the Tigers and their large fan base.

While some students no doubt had hoped that the classes at the time were indeed cancelled, it turns out they were in fact just being rescheduled. Going to school on a Saturday probably isn’t what many had in mind when signing up for the spring semester but there’s probably not a soul in purple and gold will take issue with the change given that it comes as a result of hoisting the ultimate football trophy on Monday night in the Big Easy.

Virginia safety Chris Moore enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal has claimed another name.

As first noted by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Virginia safety Chris Moore has entered his name into the database as he explores a move out of Charlottesville.

Moore started five of his nine appearances for the Cavaliers in 2019 and wound up recording 42 tackles. While he was in line to become one of the key members in the secondary going forward, a prior  suspension for violating team rules back in November may have wound up playing a role in his departure and standing with the team.

The safety had previously missed all of the 2018 season with an injury as well.

Moore was originally a three-star recruit out of Ashburn, Va. in 2016 and, assuming the redshirt senior has a degree, likely has a season remaining as a grad transfer.

DL Jay Tufele, WR Tyler Vaughns skipping draft to stay at USC

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Clay Helton has a lot of issues to deal with at the moment. Having a talented USC football team is not one of them.

The Trojans received a rare bit of good news on Thursday evening as two key players announced they were skipping the 2020 NFL Draft. In back-to-back announcements, defensive lineman Jay Tufele and wideout Tyler Vaughns confirmed they would remain in Los Angeles for the 2020 season.

Tufele is one of USC’s best defensive players. He recorded 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season as a redshirt sophomore despite dealing with a handful of injuries. With leading sacker Drake Jackson also back, there’s a nice tandem up front for whoever the team hires as defensive coordinator to work with going forward.

Vaughns returning also makes a dangerous receiving corps that much deeper. Michael Pittman Jr. was lost to graduation but the next three top wideouts are set to be back in 2020. Add in a group of solid tailbacks and both J.T. Daniels and Kedon Slovis at QB and USC will once again have one of the top offenses in the Pac-12.

Whether it will all help save Helton’s job again remains to be seen. If nothing else though, there’s at least there’s some positive news for the cardinal and gold this offseason with Tufele and Vaughns back in the fold going forward.

Nebraska and OC Troy Walters “mutually agreed to part ways”

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A year after significantly falling short of expectations, an offseason of change has commenced at Nebraska.

In one of the first big moves since Scott Frost took over at his alma mater, the Cornhuskers and offensive coordinator Troy Walters announced on Friday that they had ‘mutually agreed to part ways.’

“Troy has been a valued member of our coaching staff for the past four years,” Frost said in a statement. “Troy is a good mentor for his players, provides great energy on and off the field, and carries himself with a presence off the field that will be missed. I want to thank him for his work on our coaching staff, and wish him and his family all the best going forward.”

The duo first came together when Frost was hired at UCF and led a number of prolific offenses, including the undefeated 2017 team for the Knights. Walters was a finalist for the Broyles Award that same season though has not called plays for either team.

Walters had a distinguished career as a player at Stanford that included All-American honors and a Biletnikoff Award in 1999. He spent several years in the NFL before going into coaching during stops at Texas A&M, N.C. State and Colorado.

The departure of Walters could interestingly lead to a reunion between Frost and a familiar name in Mark Helfrich. The latter was head coach at Oregon when Frost was elevated to offensive coordinator for the Ducks and is in search of a job after being let go by the Chicago Bears from a similar role.