RichRod honored as Pac-12 hands out year-end awards

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As Michigan gets set to make Brady Hoke its ex-head coach — a 4:30 p.m. ET press conference today has been called on that front — the man Hoke replaced is making the situation in Ann Arbor a little tougher to swallow.

Tuesday afternoon, the Pac-12 announced its year-end awards for the 2014 season, with Rich Rodriguez taking home honors as the conference’s Coach of the Year.  In his third season at Arizona, Rodriguez guided the Wildcats to a 10-2 regular season, a South division title and a spot opposite Oregon in the league title game.

In three years at UA, Rodriguez is 26-12; in his three seasons at UM, Rodriguez went 15-22.

Below are the winners of the other four major awards, with blurbs provided by the conference:

Offensive Player of the Year – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: Mariota, a junior from Honolulu, Hawaii, threw for 3,470 yards and 36 touchdowns while throwing just two interceptions, leading the Pac-12 and the nation with a 190.2 passing efficiency rating. Mariota led all Pac-12 quarterbacks in rushing yards with 636 (53.0 yards per game), accounting for 47 touchdowns in total with his 36 though the air and 11 on the ground. The Davey O’Brien Award & Maxwell Award finalist has led the ducks to wins over No. 7 Michigan State, No. 18 UCLA and No. 20 Utah, helping Oregon close the year out on a seven-game winning streak and win the Pac-12 North to earn a berth in the Pac-12 championship game. Mariota ranked second in the Conference and fifth in the nation in total offense averaging 342.2 yards per game. Mariota was selected as the Conference’s offensive Player of the Week twice this season. Mariota takes Player of the Year honors two seasons after earning honors as the Freshman of the year.

Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year – Scooby Wright III, LB, Arizona: Wright, a sophomore from Windsor, Calif., anchored an Arizona defense that captured its first-ever Pac-12 South division title, while leading the Conference in forced fumbles (6) and ranking third in the nation in sacks (14). A finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, and Rotary Lombardi Award, he led both the Conference and the nation in tackles for loss, recording 27.0 total and averaging 2.25 per game. Wright helped spearhead a defense that forced two or more turnovers and scored a defensive touchdown in each of its last four games en route to clinching the South title. Wright, who recorded 139 tackles this season (11.6 avg), helped the Wildcats to their first 10-win regular season since 1998. The sophomore was selected as the Conference’s defensive Player of the Week three times this season and earned Pac-12 honorable mention honors as a freshman last season.

Freshman Offensive Player of the Year – Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon: Freeman, a freshman from Imperial, Calif., made an immediate impact in his first season of collegiate football, leading a Ducks offense that ranked first in the Conference in rushing (232.0 ypg), total offense (539.5 ypg) and scoring (45.9 ppg). Freeman led the Conference with 16 rushing touchdowns and ranked fifth in the league in rushing yards per game (98.8 ypg). The freshman ranked fifth in the league in scoring, averaging 8.5 points per game and accounting for 17 touchdowns in total (one passing), more than any other running back in the Conference. With 1,185 yards rushing this season, he’s extended an Oregon streak of having a 1,000-yard rusher in eight consecutive seasons.

Freshman Defensive Player of the Year – Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC: Jackson, a freshman from Belleville, Ill., came in and made a difference as a three-way standout for the Trojans. Jackson alternated between being a shutdown corner on defense, an impact receiver on offense, and a threat as the Trojans’ kick return man on special teams. On defense Jackson was often called upon to matchup with opposition’s best receiver and he helped lead the team to a finish as the Conference’s second ranked defense while also limiting opposing quarterbacks to the Conference’s second lowest passing efficiency rating (118.5). Jackson ranked fourth in the nation in kickoff return average (27.7) and took one kick back 100 yards for a touchdown (at Utah 10/25) and added two receiving touchdowns. Jackson earned honors as the Conference’s special teams Player of the Week one time this season, and now becomes the third Trojan in the last four years to be named Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.

Alabama: Tua Tagovailoa to undergo hip surgery Monday in Houston

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There’s some additional clarity to what was the biggest college football storyline in Week 12 — or the entire 2019 season, for that matter.

After hours and hours worth of ofttimes ominous speculation, Alabama announced Saturday night that Tua Tagovailoa had been diagnosed with a dislocated right hip, an injury suffered in the first half of its rout of Mississippi State, and would miss the remainder of the 2019 season. At the time, the school stated that Tagovailoa “is undergoing further testing to determine the best course of treatment.”

Sunday night, the football program confirmed in a statement attributed to Dr. Lyle Cain, the team’s orthopedic surgeon, that the junior quarterback will undergo surgery on his injured hip in Houston Monday.

For the past 24 hours our medical team has consulted with multiple orthopedic experts across the country, who specialize in hip injuries and surgeries. Based on that research, Tua is being flown to Houston tonight to be evaluated and is scheduled to have hip surgery Monday. As previously stated, we anticipate a full recovery. The main focus has been, and will remain, on Tua, his family, and making sure we are providing them the best medical care possible.

It’s long been expected that Tagovailoa would forego his remaining year of collegiate eligibility and make himself available for the 2020 NFL Draft. At this point, it’s unclear how the injury will impact Tagovailoa’s decision.

Ed Orgeron did not stick to sports in Louisiana governor race

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There were two major events on Saturday in the state of Louisiana: LSU’s closer than expected win at Ole Miss and the hotly contested gubernatorial race that saw incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards win reelection.

And yes, those events are in order of importance to most.

It seems there’s quite the sports angle to the latter too and it not surprisingly involves the former. You can start on Wednesday where Edwards, calling himself ‘John B.’ from Amite, called into Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron’s weekly radio show ahead of the polls opening over the weekend.

“It is an easier state to govern when the Saints and LSU are winning,” Edwards also told the New York Times. “People are just in a better mood.”

While we will leave the political analysis of Edwards’ victory to others, it’s worth noting that the result was also a personal win for Orgeron, who endorsed the Democrat back in the spring and has enjoyed a good relationship with those in and around the statehouse ever since taking over the program as head coach.  It is pretty rare for a head coach to ever wander into political waters nowadays (especially in a non-presidential election cycle) it seems that’s not the case for the Louisiana-loving Cajun in charge of No. 1 LSU.

Also a quick kudos to the governor himself, who said earlier in the week on Orgeron’s radio show that the Tigers shouldn’t overlook the Rebels in Oxford. Given the fight that Matt Luke’s team put up, that was certainly spot on in big sandwich game after beating Alabama and taking on Texas A&M.

45,161 fans see Ithaca beat SUNY Cortland to set D3 attendance record at MetLife Stadium

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MetLife Stadium has been home to some awful NFL football this season but this past Saturday fans in the Tri-State region were at least treated to a far more interesting product on the field..

As we noted back in early October, this year’s Battle for the Cortaga Jug was going to be extra special because it was going to take place in the Meadowlands as Ithaca College and SUNY Cortland attempted to set a new Division III record for attendance. According to the Ithaca Journal, the pair did just that with 45,161 fans showed up to the game as the Bombers (that’s Ithaca) won their third straight Jug, 32-20.

“The electricity was unreal,” Cortland senior running back Zach Tripodi told the paper, “… When I scored, I don’t think I’ve ever felt something like that. You really felt the crowd.”

The final tally broke the previous D3 mark of 37,355 (from a 2017 matchup between St. Thomas and St. John’s at Minneapolis’ Target Field) by a considerable margin.

For what it’s worth, the D3 game at MetLife also had a bigger crowd than the ones that watched some of the FBS programs in New York, including the 16,286 down in Durham, N.C. that saw Syracuse thump Duke, the 8,450 that saw Buffalo lose at Kent State or the 25,747 in West Point that saw Army beat Virginia Military Institute.

Good football, it seems, is hard to come by in the Empire State but fans will come out for quality play no matter what level.

Louisville AD dons a bird mask, breaks out Pappy van Winkle to celebrate bowl berth

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For some teams, reaching a bowl game — even those obscure dot com-sponsored ones — is quite meaningful. Such is the case at Louisville as they have embarked on one of the better turnarounds in the country this season under new head coach Scott Satterfield. 

Following up a 2-10 disaster at the hands of Bobby Petrino last year, the new staff has revitalized the program and secured bowl eligibility on Saturday by beating N.C. State 34-20. That’s a cause worth celebrating around the city and Cardinals AD Vince Tyra certainly did not short himself on that front after the sixth victory of 2019 by donning a rather comical mask in the locker room and breaking out some very expensive whiskey to share with the head coach.

Tyra and Satterfield may indeed be the only ones to drink Pappy out of a Gatorade cup but it probably tasted even sweeter than it normally does given the accomplishment it’s celebrating. While some fans may scoff at reaching six wins in a season, the jubilation in Louisville is a good reminder that benchmarks like that have plenty of meaning for programs who sat at home in disarray last year.