Late rally falls short as No. 10 Michigan State survives No. 19 Nebraska

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As the fourth quarter began in East Lansing, Nebraska looked like it was cooked and ready to be served on a platter. The Cornhuskers trailed 27-3 and hadn’t accomplished much of anything offensively. The ABC broadcast team moved on to blowout talk, half the Spartan Stadium crowd went home to catch the end of Nats-Giants, and the Spartans’ minds apparently started wondering where they’d be in the polls on Sunday morning.

And then Ameer Abudullah punched in a two-yard touchdown with 12:49 remaining to pull Nebraska to within 18. Then he scored again with 4:10 to go to make it 27-16. Then Nebraska forced a punt, and De’Mornay Pierson-El returned it 62 yards to make the score 27-22 with 3:22 remaining.

Michigan State, by now aware Nebraska had not consented to an easy ending, recovered the ensuing onside kick and moved the ball to Nebraska’s 19, but Michael Geiger missed a 37-yard field goal that would have ensured Nebraska could do no more than force overtime. Suddenly the Cornhuskers had the ball with a chance to win the game, and 67 seconds to make it happen.

After an incompletion on first down, Tommy Armstrong, Jr. found Alonzo Moore down the sideline for 43 yards, putting the ball at the Michigan State 37. Alas, after a first-down incompletion, Armstrong was intercepted by Trae Waynes at the 17-yard line, ending what would have been the cherry on top of a crazy Saturday in college football.

Final score: No. 10 Michigan State 27, No. 19 Nebraska 22.

The 19-0 fourth-quarter rally by Bo Pelini’s bunch makes you wonder what could have happened had Nebraska produced zero points on three first half Michigan State turnovers inside its own territory.

Michigan State’s defense was, obviously, dominant for most of the night, temporarily suspending Abdullah’s Heisman Trophy campaign by limiting the runner to just 45 yards on 24 carries. Armstrong completed 20-0f-43 throws for 273 yards with two interceptions while being credited for seven rushing yards on 11 attempts.

Jeremy Langford and Tony Lippett carried the day for Michigan State, producing all three of the Spartans’ touchdowns on the night. The former rushed 29 times for 111 yards and a touchdown, while the latter caught three passes for 104 yards and a touchdown while rushing once for a 32-yard score.

While the battle of talented running backs did not live up to billing, each of the All-America candidates at defensive end made their respective presences felt. Nebraska’s Randy Gregory intercepted Connor Cook on the second play of the game, while Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun scooped up an Abdullah fumble and returned it 38 yards, sparking an exchange that could have seen Nebraska pull within 14-7 to a Michigan State extending its lead to 17-0.

The loss denies Nebraska its chance to start 6-0 for the first time since 2001, but the Huskers still appear to be the class of the Big Ten West following Wisconsin’s loss to Northwestern earlier Saturday. Nebraska will get a week off before traveling to Evanston to face those Wildcats on Oct. 18.

Michigan State, meanwhile, visits Purdue on Saturday and will presumably play all 60 minutes of that game.

Air Force and Boise State reach halftime knotted at 10-10

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A matchup of undefeated Mountain West Conference teams has been everything it was supposed to be. Air Force is giving Boise State a good battle on the strength of their running game. The two teams are tied 10-10 at the break.

After a scoreless first quarter, Air Force and Boise State exchanged touchdown drives in the second quarter. The Falcons opened the scoring with Donald Hammond III running eight yards for a score. Boise State answered with Hank Bachmeier tossing a 36-yard pass to CT Thomas for a score.

After forcing Air Force to punt on the ensuing possession, the Broncos took their first lead of the game minutes later. Eric Sachse booted a 40-yard field goal to give the home team a 10-7 lead.

As expected, Air Force has thrived by chewing up yards on the ground, but a pass completion from Hammond III to Ben Peterson late in the second quarter moved the football to the Boise State 13-yard line and a first down. That late drive ended with a field goal by Jake Koehnke to send the teams to the locker rooms all squared up.

We should have a good finish coming up on the blue turf in the second half.

USC QB Kedon Slovis injured on second play of game vs. Utah

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USC quarterback Kedon Slovis started Friday night’s game against Utah, but he may have been knocked out of the game after just two plays. Matt Fink has replaced Slovis, at least for now, after Slovis headed to the USC locker room early in the first quarter. According to a sideline report on the telecast, Slovis was being treated for a possible head injury.

Utah defensive tackle Leki Fatu came charging at Slovis on a 2nd-and-1 play on the second snap of the game. After Fink got the ball away, Fatu finished off a clean play in the college game (FS1 analyst Brock Huard correctly noted the follow-through to take the quarterback to the ground would be flagged in the NFL). Slovis struggled to get back on his feet as he attempted to get off the ground.

Fink, USC’s third-string quarterback behind Slovis and J.T. Daniels (who was injured and out for the year after the season opener), got right to work to finish off the opening drive. Fink missed on his first throw but then connected on his next three attempts, including a 29-yard pass to Tyler Vaughns for the early lead. Utah cruised down the field on the ensuing possession to tie it up.

This post will be updated with more information on Slovis once it becomes available.

Conference championship Saturday now locked in with confirmed kickoff times

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Feel free to update your planner accordingly, because the ACC and Big 12 championship games now have confirmed start times.

The Big 12 Championship Game will kick off Championship Saturday on Dec. 7 with a noon eastern kickoff. The game will be televised on ABC and will share a time slot with the MAC Championship Game (on ESPN or ESPN2).

The ACC Championship Game will once again be played in primetime with a 7:30 p.m. eastern start time scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7 on ABC. It will once again go opposite the Big Ten Championship Game on FOX, although the ACC will get a half-hour jump on the Big Ten title game.

With the ACC and Big 12 now on the schedule, here is the updated look at the conference championship game schedule:

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6

  • Pac-12: 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC (Santa Clara, CA)

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7

  • Big 12: 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC (Arlington, TX)
  • MAC: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN or ESPN 2 (Detroit, MI)
  • Sun Belt: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN or ESPN2 (TBD*)
  • Conference USA: 1:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network (TBD*)
  • American: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC (TBD*)
  • Mountain West: 4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN (TBD*)
  • SEC: 4:00 p.m. ET, CBS (Atlanta, GA)
  • ACC: 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC (Charlotte, NC)
  • Big Ten: 8:00 p.m. ET, FOX (Indianapolis, IN)

* = The highest-seeded team in the conference hosts the conference championship game

Mark Dantonio responds to accusation made by former staffer

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A day after an alarming story accused Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio of recruiting a player he was warned could be a potential problem, Dantonio has responded alongside his lawyer. Dantonio defended himself against the claims of former assistant Curtis Blackwell and re-directed to previous comments Dantonio made regarding the player in question.

“The fact that Mr. Blackwell’s contract was not renewed has nothing to do with Auston Robertson,” Dantonio said in a statement on Friday. “Two years ago, I spoke at length about Auston Robertson when he was dismissed from the team in 2017. Rather than engage in a public argument with a former staffer, I refer you to those previous statements. Further, there have been multiple investigations into the program’s handling of sexual assaults, including Jones Day in 2017 and the NCAA in 2018, and they concluded that the program and myself committed no violations.”

Blackwell, a former Michigan State recruiting director, claimed he and multiple coaches asked Dantonio not to continue recruiting Robertson, who was guilty of misdemeanor battery in high school and later was arrested and charged with assault to his girlfriend just after his freshman season in East Lansing. Robertson was later removed from the program.

Dantonio concluded his statement by saying he will have no further comment due to ongoing litigation.

“Mr. Blackwell’s lawsuit concerns his allegations that his contract was not renewed because he refused to co-operate with investigations being conducted by the MSUPD and a law firm hired to evaluate the MSU football program’s compliance with sexual assault reporting policies,” Dantonio’s lawyer, Tom Kienbaum, said in a separate statement. “The lawsuit has nothing to do with the recruitment or actions of any student athletes, including Auston Robertson.”