Can Nebraska’s next coach turn back the clock?

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Nebraska has a lot going for it: A dedicated and large fanbase, excellent facilities, a storied history and membership in a Power Five conference. This is a program that, only a couple years ago, sent Ndamukong Suh to Detroit to wreak havoc on the NFL.

In one sense, Bo Pelini’s tenure in Lincoln was a success: No fewer than nine wins in each of his seven seasons, three conference championship appearances (and one fraction of a second away from knocking off Texas and winning the Big 12 in 2009) and four AP top 25 finishes. Plenty of programs around the country would kill for that success.

But in the lens of Nebraska’s history, Pelini didn’t live up to the expectations set 20 years ago by Tom Osborne’s championship-winning sides. This is a program that fired Frank Solich after 7-7 and 9-3 seasons followed AP finishes of No. 3, No. 8 and No. 8.

The goal of firing Pelini was to get Nebraska back to the national relevancy it had under Osborne from 1973-1997. But is that possible?

Let’s start with Nebraska’s recruiting class rankings in the Rivals era (2002-present).

2015: 35
2014: 32
2013: 17
2012: 25
2011: 15
2010: 22
2009: 28 (Pelini’s first full recruiting class)
2008: 30 (Bill Callahan fired after 2007 season)
2007: 13
2006: 20
2005: 5 (Callahan’s first full recruiting class)
2004: 58 (Solich fired after 2003 season)
2003: 42
2002: 40

That’s one top-10 recruiting class in 14 years and an average ranking of 27th.

In 2005, Nebraska pulled from California two four-star recruits (DT Ola Dagunduro, OL Rodney Picou) and one five-star recruit (RB Marlon Lucky). It grabbed four-star QB Harrison Beck from Fort Lauderdale, five-star CB Zackary Bowman from New Mexico and a four-star Suh from Oregon.

Compare that to Nebraska’s top-ranked recruiting class under Pelini, 2011: Four four-star players from Texas, one from California and one from Florida (Ameer Abdullah, an Alabama native) was a three-star prospect in this class). That’s not bad, but it’s not the California pipeline that once existed.

In Pelini’s final recruiting class, he signed just four four-star players: Two from Illinois, one from Missouri and one from Las Vegas.

It’s fair to wonder if Nebraska leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten hurt recruiting as the program’s main base became decidedly more Midwest/Great Plains without annual games in Texas. Compare to that to fellow Big 12 defector Missouri — a school that notoriously out-performs its recruiting rankings — which, in moving to the SEC, lost some of its Texas reach but gained footholds in talent-rich states like Georgia and Florida.

From 2012-2014 the Huskers signed nine Texas natives, only one of whom earned a four-star ranking. From 2009-2011, Nebraska signed 18 players from Texas, seven of whom were four-star recruits.

So what can Nebraska do? Pelini was relatively successful at recruiting the Midwest/Great Plains, but there’s not a wealth of talent there. Bringing in a coach with strong connections in California, Texas or Florida could be a good starting point, though that’s easier said than done.

Getting Nebraska back to being an annual championship contender will be a tough task for whoever gets the job, though. It’s not the 1990’s anymore, no matter how badly Nebraska wants to turn back the clock.

LSU QB Joe Burrow wins Heisman Trophy for 2019

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LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has won the Heisman Trophy for the 2019 college football season. Burrow was officially named this year’s Heisman Trophy winner at a ceremony in New York City Saturday night.

The quarterback of the LSU Tigers has had a monster season. While leading LSU to a No. 1 ranking and seed in the College Football Playoff with an unblemished 13-0 record that includes a victory in the SEC Championship Game, Burrow passed for 4,715 yards and 48 touchdowns. Both numbers easily led the SEC as Burrow rewrote a handful of LSU and SEC passing records as the season unfolded. No other passer in the SEC threw for more than 2,850 yards, and the next closest in passing touchdowns was Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa with 33 touchdowns in nine games. Burrow also led the nation in completion percentage (77.9). That is currently on pace to be the highest season-long completion percentage since at least 2009, according to CFBStats.com (the college football stats website only goes back as far as 2009). Colt McCoy of Texas came close in 2008 with a 76.7 completion percentage.

Burrow is the second Heisman Trophy winner in LSU history. The only other Heisman Trophy winner for the Tigers was Billy Cannon in 1959. Burrow has already collected a good amount fo hardware this week as the winner of the Walter Camp Player of the Year, Maxwell Award, AP Player of the Year, and the Davey O’Brien Award.

Burrow beat out three other finalists for the award; Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Chase Young, and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts. The final vote count showed Burrow won this one in a landslide.

A quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy in each of the last four seasons with Lamar Jackson of Louisville, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray of Oklahoma. A quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy in 16 of the 19 seasons it has been awarded since 2000. Burrow is the first quarterback from the SEC to win the Heisman Trophy since Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M won the award in 2012. He is joined by Auburn’s Cam Newton and Florida’s Tim Tebow as the only quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy since 1997, a year after Florida’s Danny Wuerffel ended the SEC QB Heisman drought since Auburn’s Pat Sullivan won the award in 1971.

UNC gives Mack Brown one-year extension on contract

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It appears North Carolina was satisfied with the return of the Mack. Mack Brown and UNC have agreed on a one-year contract extension, the school announced Saturday evening.

Brown is now under contract with UNC through the 2024 season as a result of this contract extension.

“Mack’s return has had an outstanding impact — not just in Kenan Stadium, but throughout the Carolina community,” UNC AD Bubba Cunningham said in a released statement. “Our students are winning on the field and doing well in the classroom, our fan base is energized, and we are all excited about building on the great successes of this season.”

“I want to thank the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Guskiewicz, Bubba and the athletics department for their great support,” Brown said. “You could really see things come together. Our fans have stepped up filling the stadium each week. I love what we’ve been able to do with our facilities and the excitement around the program has given us the opportunity to have one of the top recruiting classes in the country. North Carolina is a wonderful place and everyone can tell we’re building something special here. I’m having a great time.”

Brown coached UNC to a record of 6-6 this season, his first back on the sidelines since last coaching at Texas in 2013 and his first season back at UNC since 1997. Brown’s Tar Heels were the only team to give Clemson much of a battle this season as well, and UNC is heading to the Military Bowl to face the Temple Owls later this month. UNC has now won a bowl game since the 2013 season. Brown’s last bowl victory with the program came in the 1996 season with a win in the Gator Bowl (UNC played in the Gator Bowl game the following season but Brown left the program prior to the bowl game to take over at Texas).

 

Malcolm Perry powers No. 23 Navy past Army in Army-Navy Game

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After three consecutive years of having to endure the agony of singing its alma mater first, No. 23 Navy (10-2, 7-1 AAC) once again beamed with joy and the thrill of victory over rival Army (5-8). Malcolm Perry carried the Midshipmen to a 31-7 victory on Saturday in Philadelphia.

Perry, the game’s MVP, had big runs all game long for Navy as he broke record after record in the Army-Navy Game. Perry set a school record for most rushing yards in a single Army-Navy Game and set the new all-time Navy record for most career rushing yards in the Army-Navy Game after going off for 304 yards and two touchdowns. Perry’s first touchdown run of 55 yards tied the game at 7-7 in the second quarter, and it was all Navy from there.

Army had a 78-yard touchdown drive led by first-time starter Christian Anderson (who became the first Army quarterback to make his first career start in the Army-Navy Game), but Navy out-gained Army from that point 388-70. For the first time in a number of years, Navy looked like the bigger, stronger, and faster team compared to Army, which was a big part of the reason Navy turned a 3-10 season last year into a 10-2 season this year going into the bowl season.

Navy had just one passing yard in the game. It was thrown by wide receiver Chance Warren to fullback Jamale Carothers for a touchdown. Only in the Army-Navy Game does that stuff happen.

The win by Navy also awards the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy to the program, seizing control of the three-team trophy (between Army, Navy and Air Force) from Army for the first time since  2015.

Navy will now enter bowl mode as they prepare for their upcoming bowl game. The Midshipmen will take on Kansas State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31 in Memphis, TN. Navy is 5-4 all-time in bowl games under head coach Ken Niumatallo. No head coach has won more bowl games at Navy.

Army will begin its 2020 season on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020 at home against Bucknell.

Following pregame speeches from President Trump, Navy leads Army at halftime

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For the second consecutive year, President Donald Trump is taking in the annual Army-Navy Game in person in Philadelphia. And, as is typically the case in this storied rivalry, it’s been a tight contest after 30 minutes of play in Lincoln Financial Field with Navy leading Army 14-7 at halftime.

Army quarterback Christian Anderson became the first quarterback to make his first career start for Army in the Army-Navy Game since T.D. Baker did so in 1979. It sure didn’t take long for the freshman to have an impact. After going three-and-out to open the game, Anderson rattled off a 21-yard gain on the ground on the first play of Army’s second possession. 17 plays later (yes, 17 plays later), Anderson finished off the drive with a five-yard run to the right edge of the field for a touchdown, the first score of the game.

Malcolm Perry provided a jolt to the Navy offense on the second offensive series for the Midshipmen, although in much quicker fashion compared to the lengthy Army drive. Perry took off to the right side and juked a defender en route to a 55-yard touchdown that tied the game up early in the second quarter. The 55-yard touchdown run also moved Perry into first place in the Navy record books for most single-season total offensive yards. He later became Navy’s all-time single-season rushing leader as he continued to rewrite the record books in Annapolis.

Perry provided another juke move in a very similar play on a 44-yard run late in the first half. That run setup the go-ahead score. Naturally, a play similar to the Philly Special run by the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl two seasons ago, Navy took the lead with a fake play that saw receiver Chance Warren complete a pass to fullback Jamale Carothers. It wasn’t exactly a Philly Special, but this gam,e being played in the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, it felt appropriate.

President Trump took a few minutes to address each team in the locker room prior to walking on the field for the national anthem and coin flip. A video message from Trump was also played in the stadium during the pregame routine.

Army has won each of the last three meetings and is looking for a long-awaited four-game winning streak.