Hackenberg leads Penn State to overtime win over Boston College in Pinstripe Bowl

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It’s only fitting that a bowl game in Yankee Stadium ended with a walk-off in extra innings. Christian Hackenberg engineered a fourth-quarter comeback, his third this season and the fifth of his career, to lead Penn State past Boston College 31-30 in overtime in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

In a game that saw each team’s quarterbacks trade punches down the stretch, the deciding play came down to a missed extra point. Boston College accepted the ball to open overtime and scored in three plays after Tyler Murphy found David Dudek for a 21-yard touchdown pass – his first catch of the game – but kicker Mike Knoll pushed the extra point wide right. Knowing a touchdown and an extra point wins the game and a field goal does them no good, Hackenberg threw on five of Penn State’s six overtime plays, including a key 17-yard completion to Jesse James on 3rd and 15. He hit Kyle Carter for a 10-yard score to tie the game, and Sam Ficken‘s extra point won it.

Penn State opened the scoring with a 72-yard touchdown pass from Hackenberg to Chris Godwin, but Boston College seized control over the next two quarters and change with a string of three touchdowns. The first came two plays after Penn State’s score on a 49-yard run by Jon Hillman to knot the score at 7-7. The Eagles opened the third quarter with an 11-play, 60-yard drive that ate nearly half the frame and was punctuated by a pretty 19-yard pass from Murphy to Shakim Phillips. Murphy then ripped off a 40-yard touchdown dash on Boston College’s ensuing possession to push the Eagles’ lead to 21-7 with 2:12 to go in the third quarter.

Then Penn State responded. The Nittany Lions immediately raced 63 yards in six plays, and Hackenberg found Geno Lewis for a seven-yard score on the final play of the frame. Hackenberg tied the game again with his third touchdown pass of the day, a 16-yarder to DaeSean Hamilton (which came on second-and-goal after a personal foul flag).

Boston College moved 69 yards to set Knoll up for a 20-yard field goal, giving Boston College the lead again at 24-21 with 2:10 remaining. Hackenberg held serve again, rushing or passing on seven of the Nittany Lions’ eight plays in a 49-yard drive to set Ficken up with a game-tying 45-yard field goal with 20 seconds left on the clock.

Hackenberg earned MVP honors by completing 34-of-50 throws for 371 yards with four touchdowns and no picks, while Akeel Lynch carved out 75 yards on 14 carries. For the nation’s 120th-ranked rushing offense, 75 yards is an outstanding day. The three other Nittany Lions to tote the ball were credited with seven yards on 12 carries.

Murphy led the way for Boston College, hitting 11-of-19 passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns and rushing 11 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Hillman added 25 carries for 148 yards and a score.

Penn State lost two fumbles while gaining no takeaways of their own, committed two more penalties and got out-rushed 285-82, but managed to string more drives together (24-16 first downs edge) by being better on third down, converting 9-of-17 tries compared to BC’s 5-of-16.

The result squares both teams at 7-6 records to finish the season – though each team will spend the next nine months with opposite feelings of how they got there. With Hackenberg set to return next season and a scholarship reinforcements on the way – James Franklin said the Nittany Lions entered Saturday’s game with 41 scholarship players – Penn State can use its Bronx comeback as a springboard into 2015.

NCAA cites Pat Narduzzi, Pitt football for violations

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The NCAA announced Thursday that they’ve hit Pitt with several penalties related to violations for both their football and men’s basketball programs.

While hoops is the primary focus of the case, head coach Pat Narduzzi and the folks on the gridiron were not left untouched. Though the Panthers were certainly not hammered, they did receive a little more than a slap on the wrist as a result of some minor violations.

At the heart of the matter? Some coaches who were coaching when they were not supposed to be:

According to the agreement, the head football coach instructed or was present at the practice facility when three former quality control staff members performed coaching duties, resulting in the program exceeding the allowable number of permissible coaches. The university conducted adequate spot checks of the program, but the agreement said the violations were undetected in part due to the program’s practice of playing music to indicate when outside parties were present at the practice facility. Football quality control staff members reported that they would make sure they were not near student-athletes when hearing the music.

We’re guessing the fact that they had a scheme sophisticated enough to be changing music when people came in to the building during practice is why there were Level II penalties in the case instead of something even more under the radar. 

As a result, Narduzzi was hit with a show-cause order that will see him miss two days of practices in during the team’s upcoming preseason camp in August. He also already missed one week of off-campus recruiting prior to the most recent signing day. 

The program is also being forced to cut the number of coaches they have for a few hours and days during the spring.

All in all, nothing that will hamper the upcoming 2020 campaign that much but still more than just sending the coaches to a compliance meeting as you often see in similar cases. Pitt holds their annual Blue-Gold spring game on April 11 and begins the season on Sept. 5 against Miami (OH) at Heinz Field.

USC ‘in final stages’ of canceling UC-Davis game, allowing them to rejoin Notre Dame, UCLA as only FBS teams to never play FCS school

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Fans of the USC football program, one source of pride has officially returned.

In July of last year, USC football angered a sizable portion of its fan base as well as former players by announcing that it had scheduled a 2021 game against UC-Davis.  The Trojans had been one of three FBS programs that had never scheduled a game against an FCS team.

Wednesday, however, new athletic director Mike Bohn confirmed that USC is on the verge of canceling that football game and replacing it with another.  Bohn revealed the development during a podcast appearance, as transcribed by 247Sports.com:

Well, I’m happy to tell you that we have informed UC Davis that we intended to cancel that game. We are in the final stages of formalizing an agreement with another FBS opponent to replace UC Davis, and I have to give our donors and fans a lot of the credit. When I arrived, I committed to listening and learning; and the feedback from our fans was clear. Preserving our history is critically important to us and to our fans, so we worked to make that happen.

Our fans didn’t like it and our fans recognize that we’re one of only three institutions to have never played a team at that level, and I think that says a lot about ‘SC and our commitment to wanting to make sure that our fans see viable games and ensure that they have a great experience watching those games. So, they were really clear about it and, to be honest with you, I think there were a lot of people on campus that encouraged us to ensure that we could fix that as well.

Unofficially, USC football rejoins Notre Dame and UCLA as the only FBS schools that have never played a game against an FCS team.

USC will reportedly be forced to pay UC-Davis for canceling the game.

Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian has reportedly interviewed for Colorado opening

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Very late in the churning of the 2019-20 coaching carousel, Nick Saban could find himself with a significant opening on his Alabama Crimson Tide football coaching staff.  Maybe.

When Mel Tucker left for the Michigan State head job earlier this month, it triggered an unexpected coaching search at Colorado.  Current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator and former Colorado running back Eric Bieniemy was immediately considered the front-runner, although it’s now expected that he’ll stay in the NFL.  Air Force’s Troy Calhoun has now taken that front-runner mantle in some corners — he interviewed for the CU job this week — while former Arkansas and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is in the mix as well.

Steve Sarkisian‘s name has been connected to the Colorado opening as well.  It was reported by CBS Sports that the Alabama Crimson Tide football assistant interviewed for the job Wednesday, with ESPN.com confirming that development Thursday morning.

Sarkisian, of course, has experience as a head coach in the Pac-12.  His unceremonious exit from his last job in the conference, though, could make him a hard sell to the Buff faithful.

In mid-October of 2015, USC announced that Sarkisian had been dismissed as the Trojans’ head football coach, one day after he was given an indefinite leave of absence because of alleged and ongoing alcohol issues.  It was alleged that USC had instituted a zero-tolerance policy when it came to Sarkisian and alcohol use.  Leading up to his dismissal, Sarkisian allegedly showed up to meetings intoxicated.

From 2009-15, Sarkisian was a head coach in the Pac-12 — at Washington (2009-13) and USC (2014-15).  He went 46-35 during his time in that league.  He also spent two separate stints totaling seven seasons (2001-03, 2005-08) as an assistant at USC.

Following his ugly exit from USC, Sarkisian joined the Alabama Crimson Tide football program as an offensive analyst for the 2016 season. When Lane Kiffin took the head job at FAU prior to the national championship game that year, Sarkisian served as the play-caller in the loss to Clemson.

Expected to take over as the Crimson Tide’s coordinator, and after reports that his relationship with Saban had deteriorated surfaced, Sarkisian instead left a month after the title game for a job in the NFL as the coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.  Sarkisian lasted two years in that job before he was fired in December of 2018.

A month later, he rejoined the Tide as offensive coordinator.

Florida State DB A.J. Lytton ‘has been removed from the team’

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Florida State football has seen its roster pared as we dive deeper into the offseason.

Wednesday, 247Sports.com reported that A.J. Lytton is no longer consider a member of the Seminoles program.  A Florida State football official confirmed that the defensive back “has been removed from the team.”

No specific reason, including whether it was voluntary or involuntary, was given for Lytton’s removal.

A four-star 2018 signee, Lytton was rated as the No. 3 recruit regardless of position in the state of Maryland.  He was also the No. 7 cornerback in the country.  Only one signee in FSU’s class that year, fellow defensive back Jaiden Woodbey, was rated higher than Lytton.

Over two seasons, Lytton played in a total of 22 games.  A dozen of those appearances came during the 2019 campaign.  He started one of those appearances, with that lone start coming this past season.

With two-year starter Stanford Samuels III leaving the Seminoles early for the NFL, Lytton had been expected to compete for a starting corner job.

Lytton’s departure continues the expected Florida State football roster churn since Willie Taggart‘s firing and Mike Norvell‘s hiring.  Norvell will be taking over a program that has gone 11-14 the past two seasons.  That two-year stretch is the worst for the school since they went 8-14 in 1975-76.