Winnin’ with Mr. Cooper: Bama rolls Auburn, averts SEC playoff disaster

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For the better part of three quarters in Tuscaloosa Saturday night, it appeared the SEC was very likely on the verge of being shut out of a spot in the College Football Playoff.  And then Amari Cooper happened.

In yet another instant Iron Bowl classic, Cooper fueled a furious second-half comeback that pushed top-ranked Alabama to a 55-44 win over No. 15 Auburn in a game that was the highest-scoring in the history of the storied rivalry.  The 99 points scored easily surpassed the previous high of 75 in 1969, while the Tide’s 55 points tied the most points by one team in the series (Alabama, 55-0 in 1948).

Early in the third quarter, Auburn had actually stretched its lead to 33-21.  A 34-3 run to close out the game, however, set the postseason table for the Tide.

Alabama had already clinched the SEC West title before taking the field thanks to Mississippi State’s Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss; the win ensured there would be no co-champions, as well as kept its CFP hopes very much alive.

Were it not for Cooper, however, the Tide would’ve been licking their wounds over a loss that could very well have fatally wounded any shot at a playoff spot.

Trailing 33-21 midway through the third quarter, Alabama’s All-American wide receiver got behind Auburn’s secondary for a pair of scores totaling 114 yards to cut the lead to 36-34.  The mere threat of Cooper helped lead to a Blake Sims‘ 11-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that, with the two-point conversion, gave the Tide a 42-36 lead, its first since late in the first half.

Cooper finished the game with 13 receptions for 224 yards and three touchdowns, a performance that could very well have sealed a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.  The yardage, incidentally, set an Iron Bowl record, and was one yard shy of his school record set Oct. 25 of this year against Tennessee.

Blake Sims ‘ fourth touchdown pass of the game, this one to DeAndrew White, with 8:05 remaining in the fourth quarter pushed it to a two-score game.  In addition to the four touchdown passes, Sims completed just over 70 percent of his 27 attempts for 312 yards.  He did, though, become the first Nick Saban quarterback to throw three interceptions in a single game.

The Tide’s defense also deserves plaudits, as does whoever it was that made the halftime adjustments.  After getting gashed for 383 yards and 26 points in the first half, the Tigers’ high-powered offense was limited to 182 and 10 in the second half before AU’s final drive with the game in hand.  They also held on a critical fourth down late in the game, with Auburn inside the ‘Bama 15-yard line and on the verge of pulling to within five points with a touchdown.

On the ensuing possession, a pair of Derrick Henry runs — one for 49 yards, the other a 25-yard touchdown jaunt with 3:46 left on the clock — proved to be the dagger.

The Tide now turns their attention to the SEC championship game next Saturday night against Missouri.  A win there would ensure ‘Bama a spot in the playoff — something that looked less than certain just a couple of hours ago.

Walk-on UCLA TE Greg Dulcich rewarded with scholarship on his birthday

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Courtesy of UCLA football, those weary of the misery that’s engulfing our country at the moment can find a reason to smile a little in this post.

Greg Dulcich would’ve been entering his third season as a walk-on for the UCLA football team. The key phrase there, of course, is “would’ve been.” Late last week, the Bruins announced that Dulcich has been placed on scholarship.

Arguably the best part? The announcement came on the redshirt sophomore’s birthday.

Dulcich received the news from UCLA football head coach Chip Kelly. Following the phone call, the in-self-isolation tight end celebrated with family.

From the Los Angeles Times:

When I hung up the phone,” Dulcich said, “it was pretty loud in here.”

He sprinted over to the dining room to give his mom a hug before his siblings converged for what Dulcich described as “a big ol’ family hug.” They celebrated over a birthday dinner of chili cheese dogs and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, the dessert made just the way Dulcich likes it.

Kelly made it clear to Dulcich that the scholarship was not a birthday present so much as a reward for all of his hard work. Dulcich caught a 20-yard touchdown pass last season against San Diego State and has made the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll, requiring at least a 3.0 grade-point average, during every quarter since his arrival.

“He was pretty adamant about making me feel like I earned it,” Dulcich said, “and that was really cool of him to put it like that.

The past two seasons, Dulcich has appeared in 14 games for the UCLA football team. Because he played in just three games during the 2018 season, he was able to take a redshirt and save a season of eligibility.

In that action, the California native has caught nine passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. Eight of catches, 105 of the yards and the lone score came this past season.

Tulane shows off fresh new turf for football season

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We don’t know, officially, when college football will return to our lives. When it does, Tulane will have a brand new playing surface waiting to be broken in.

Tulane shared a look at the updated turf in Tulane’s Yulman Stadium, complete with the signature fighting green wave logo sitting at midfield. But the most noticeable update is a consistent green pattern as opposed to the alternating shades of green on the previous turf. The ends zones also have a fresh coat of paint, doing away with the white checkerboard pattern and replacing it with a light blue backdrop with “Green Wave” painted in green and outlined in white in each end zone.

The loss of the checkerboard end zones is slightly upsetting, but overall this is a worthy upgrade. Keeping the midfield logo was essential, and the blue end zones are certainly a pleasant upgrade.

Tulane is coming off a 7-6 season capped by a victory in the Armed Forces Bowl. After back-to-back winning seasons and bowl victories, Tulane and head coach Willie Fritz will hope to take advantage of their new turf and take the next step toward playing for the American Athletic Conference championship in 2020.

Despite New York shutting down construction, work on Syracuse’s Carrier Dome continues

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Like many states around the country, New York has issued a state-wide shutdown of all non-essential businesses. The updated order from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has included a ban on non-essential construction projects, which is notable to Syracuse University. Just weeks after deflating the roof of the Carrier Dome for the final time as renovations were underway, whether or not the Carrier Dome classifies as essential construction or not is still being debated.

As noted by Syracuse.com, stadiums did not fall under the list of construction projects that could be considered essential. Essential projects have included those on roads, bridges, transit, utilities, hospitals and affordable housing, just to name a few. Clearly, the Carrier Dome does not fall under any of those categories. But, of course, that has not stopped some officials from stating the construction on the Carrier Dome should be allowed to continue.

The Dome project should be exempt,” Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said recently, according to Syracuse.com. “I already had a call with the state on this. Regardless on the Dome project, it has to be exempt because that big metal structure on the Dome isn’t secure. They’re still putting it up. We’re not going to stop construction and have 50 mph winds present another public health challenge. I called the state and just put everybody on notice on that. I talked to the contractor.”

Syracuse will be replacing the roof after a new railing support system is in place. The renovations to the Carrier Dome are priced at $118 million and the original plans were to have the project completed in full by 2022, although some parts of the renovations were likely to be completed in time for the 2020 college football season. Whether that will remain the case or not remains to be seen as the entire sports world and beyond has been put on ice amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Minnesota coach PJ Fleck has encouraging words for everyone during COVID-19 pandemic

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If there is one coach in college football that can be trusted to find the silver lining in times like these, it has to be Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck. Always one of the most uplifting and positive-thinking coaches sin the game, Fleck shared a message to everyone that may help you feel at least a little better about everything going on right now with the COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on our lives.

In an interview last week with Pat Mcafee on his YouTube show, (The Pat McAfee Show), Fleck was asked what his message would be to people if they need a little bit of encouragement. Naturally, Fleck was up to the task;

“[There] are no problems, only situations, and from a situation creates opportunity,” Fleck said. “So for us, it’s about how we’re going to be able to respond to this, how are we going to be able to get back to this norm? everybody wants to keep chasing this norm. When’s normal coming back? I got news for you. Normal’s not coming back!”

Even as someone who is optimistic that things will return to “normal,” I can’t help but think Fleck is probably correct in this line of thought. He continued.

“Whatever your view of normal is, it’s not coming back. There are going to be ways and things that we implement that becomes the new norm,” Fleck explained. “But if you’re afraid of that, who says the new norm can’t be better? Why can’t our world be better? Why can’t our nation be better? Why can’t we continue to grow? Why can’t we be intentional with our intentions to make this a better world after we get through this? Who’s to say it has to be worse?”

“We all have a role in this, and we can all row the boat together,” Fleck said, working in his own personal motto that has worked so well for him over the years for good measure. “We can all look at our problems, look at them as situations and create these opportunities that make this world better. Here’s the one thing. We all affect this. every single one of us have an impact of how we actually change the future of this nation.”

I don’t know about you, but I feel a little better moving forward. Maybe we need to hear from Fleck every day until things do return to whatever the newly established “normal” shall be.

Here is the video clip of Fleck’s interview, via McAfee’s Twitter account;