Illini trailing LaTech by double digits despite doubling-up on yards

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It’s not often the case that a team that’s nearly doubled up its opposition in total offense finds itself on the wrong end of a double-digit lead.

Yet that’s the situation Illinois finds itself in Friday afternoon, trailing Louisiana Tech 21-9 despite an overwhelming 291-154 advantage in total offense.  There were three big problems for the Illini, though: penalties, turnovers and shooting themselves in the kicking foot.

On the former front, the Illini were flagged eight times for 53 yards; Tech was only penalized once for five yards.  On the latter front, it was a pair of missed field goals and an extra point as well as a botched opening kickoff that added to the Illini’s misery.  And the turnovers?  It was actually turnover, singular, but it was a huge one: with the Illini driving toward missed field-goal range, a Reilly O’Toole pass — with a blatant hold on the receiver by the defense going uncalled — was intercepted and returned 69 yards for a touchdown by Xavier Woods.

Tech came into the game leading the nation in turnovers forced, with the pick-six increasing that total to 41.  It was also the Bulldogs’ fifth defensive touchdown of the season.

Another issue for the Illini?  Tech running back Kenneth Dixon took a perfectly-executed wheel route and turned it into an 80-yard touchdown.  Dixon finished the first half with 115 yards from scrimmage.

Houston Bates, who transferred from Illinois to Tech earlier this year, had three first-half sacks.  The senior came into the game with 5.5 this season.

Two-game suspensions for Louisiana Tech’s starting QB, star WR

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Suffice to say, Louisiana Tech’s offense will be at less than full strength when it takes the field in Week 12 later on today.

Thursday night, the Tech football program announced that three players, junior wide receiver Adrian Hardy, senior outside linebacker James Jackson and quarterback J’Mar Smith, have been suspended for Friday night’s game against Marshall.  Hardy and Smith will also be suspended for next Saturday’s road game against UAB.

Per the school, all three players were slapped with their respective suspensions because of violations of unspecified athletic department policies.

“This matter is being handled internally,” the program said in a statement. “Neither [head football coach Skip] Holtz nor athletic department officials will address this further.”

Smith is in his third season as Tech’s starting quarterback and has thrown for 2,483 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2019.  Smith will be replaced in the starting lineup by Aaron Allen, who has thrown nine passes this year and will be making the first start of his collegiate career.

Hardy leads the Bulldogs in receiving yards with 482 and is second in receptions with 39.

Tech is in the midst of an eight-game winning streak that has them sitting atop the West Division of Conference USA at a perfect 5-0.  Their only loss came in the season opener against No. 19 Texas.

Report: Florida State no longer considers Bob Stoops a candidate

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It appears you can put this particular piece of drama to bed.

In the days after Willie Taggart was fired as Florida State’s head coach, Bob Stoops‘ name was connected to the opening through various levels of speculation.  At one point, FSU’s athletic director, David Coburn, publicly stated that the current head coach and general manager of the XFL’s Dallas franchise is a candidate for the job; Stoops subsequently stated that “the rumors/reports of him being a candidate for the Florida State job opening are not accurate.”

Nearly two weeks later, and citing two sources familiar with the search, the Tallahassee Democrat is reporting that “Florida State has been in contact with representatives of former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and does not consider him a candidate for its vacant football coach position.”

With the former Oklahoma coach out of the running — if he was even in the running in the first place — FSU could turn its attention to current FBS head coaches such as Memphis’ Mike Norvell, Penn State’s James Franklin and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell.  Interim head coach Odell Haggins is also drawing support from current Seminole football players to take over the job permanently.

Coburn has long maintained that the university is on track to have a replacement in place before the end of November.

Nick Saban says he suspended unnamed Alabama player for Miss. St. game for not going to class

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Let the sleuthing and/or Internet message-board speculating commence in earnest.

Thursday night on his weekly radio show, Nick Saban revealed that he had suspended one of his Alabama football players for this Saturday’s game against Mississippi State in Starkville.  The head coach even gave a specific reason for the suspension — the player didn’t go to class.

What Saban didn’t do?  Divulge the name of the player who has been suspended.

Alabama will be looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season last weekend against a Mississippi State squad that the Crimson Tide has beaten the last 11 times they have played, with the Bulldogs’ last win coming in 2007.  That, of course, was Saban’s first season in Tuscaloosa.

Robert Mathis, Erik Williams part of the Black College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020

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A handful of the greatest Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) players — and an administrator and coach as well — are set to be honored for their collegiate gridiron exploits.

The Black College Football Hall of Fame on Thursday revealed six individuals who will be a part of its Class of 2020. Four of the inductees are former players — Earl “Air” Harvey (North Carolina Central), James Hunter (Grambling State), Robert Mathis (Alabama A&M) and Erik Williams (Central State).

Joe Taylor, a former coach at FAMU, Hampton, Howard and Virginia Union,  ex-MEAC commissioner Dennis Thomas will be officially inducted next February.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we congratulate the Class of 2020,” said BCFHOF Co-Founder and 2011 Inductee Doug Williams. “Everyone that has vote to determine the next class understands how difficult it is to only choose six. The Class of 2020 is a great representation of the talent that has come from Historically Black Colleges & Universities.”

Williams, a third-round pick in the 1991 NFL Draft, spent most of his professional career with the Dallas Cowboys, earning first-team All-Pro honors three times as an offensive tackle as well as being a part of three Super Bowl-winning teams.

The year after setting an FCS record with 20 sacks, Mathis was selected in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. In his 14 seasons with the Colts, Mathis was named to the Pro Bowl five teams and owns a Super Bowl ring as well.