Bob Stoops, welcome to the longest offseason of your career

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We’re nearing the 14-year anniversary of Bob Stoops’ only national championship at Oklahoma, and his Sooners have never been farther away – both in the literal passage of time and in the actual product on the field. A season that started with aspirations of reaching Oklahoma’s first title game since 2008 ended in humiliation, a 40-6 blowout to No. 17 Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Monday night.

The loss dropped the Sooners to an ugly 8-5 on the year – not Stoops’ first eight-or-fewer win campaign, but the only one without an excuse. He went 7-5 in 1999, but that was his first year. He went 8-4 in 2005, but that team lost Adrian Peterson for much of the year and replaced a number of players that contributed to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. He went 8-5 in 2009, but that team lost Sam Bradford for almost all the season. All of those teams got better as the season progressed. This one regressed – sharply.

The 2014 Sooners – ranked third in preseason by the coaches’ poll and fourth by the AP – went 0-4 against ranked teams. Their best win? It was probably back on Aug. 30, a 48-16 romp over a Louisiana Tech team that later played for the Conference USA title. Outside of that, there’s not much to be proud of in this wasted season.

The mystique is gone. A program that once blew its opponents off the field simply by showing up no longer intimidates anyone. The home-field advantage, once the biggest in college football, has completely evaporated. OU lost three home games for the first time since 1996, and each came wrapped in its own special box. There was the 31-30 loss to Kansas State handed away on a silver platter, the 48-14 blowout at the hands of Baylor, and the 38-35 overtime collapse to a 6-6 Oklahoma State team to close the year. Oklahoma won one home game after September, and it came against Kansas.

As for the actual proceedings on the field Monday night, Oklahoma failed to execute in every facet of the game. Trevor Knight threw two interceptions and failed to muster even three yards an attempt. Oklahoma out-rushed Clemson significantly, but lost any meaningful progress after Samaje Perine and Keith Ford both lost fumbles. Charles Tapper had a nice tipped pass-turned-pick six called back due to an offside call. Even the special teams joined in on the fun, letting Michael Hunnicutt‘s extra point get blocked. The Sooners committed eight penalties, while Clemson was flagged only twice. They lost the turnover battle, 5-0. They converted 2-of-12 first downs. They let Cole Stoudt look like Deshaun Watson, hitting 26-of-36 passes for 319 yards and four total touchdowns, including a 65-yarder to Artavis Scott on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage. Clemson scored the game’s first 40 points, meaning Oklahoma sat on the business end of a 57-0 run (dating back to the Oklahoma State collapse) until Alex Ross carried in an 11-yard touchdown run with 6:57 to play, saving Stoops the indignity of his first shutout in Norman.

And, worst of all, their longtime defensive coordinator Brent Venables stood on the opposite sideline, picking up his former colleague Josh Heupel‘s offense and slamming it on its head.

There is reason for optimism next season. Baker MayfieldDorial Green-Beckham and possibly Joe Mixon figure to be quality reinforcements for an offense that sorely needs them. But for a program without an outright conference title since 2010 and that has lost at least two regular season games for six years running, for the first time it’s fair to wonder if the coaching in Norman is good enough to harness the talent in front of it.

The good – and bad – news for Stoops? He’s got nine long months to stew on it.

Jonathan Taylor, Chuba Hubbard among semifinalists for Doak Walker Award

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Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is attempting to do something that has only been done twice before by winning the Doak Walker Award in back-to-back seasons. Taylor was one of the 10 semifinalists revealed by the Doak Walker Award on Thursday, putting last year’s top running back one step closer to pulling off the rare feat on the college football award circuit.

Taylor will have some stiff competition for the award this season. Among the other semifinalists for the award include Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s rushing leader with 1,726 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns (Taylor has 1,463 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in the same number of games as Hubbard).

Darren McFadden of Arkansas is the most recent player to win the Doak  Walker Award in back-to-back seasons, doing so in 2006 and 2007. The only other player to win the award in consecutive seasons, and the only other two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award, is Ricky Williams of Texas. Williams won the award in 1997 and 1998. Taylor joined former Wisconsin running backs Melvin Gordon (2014), Montee Ball (2012) and Ron Dayne (1999) to move Wisconsin into first place for most all-time Doak Walker Award winners. Texas also has four awards won, but by three players (Ricky Williams twice, Cedric Benson in 2004 and D’Onta Foreman in 2016).

The other semi-finalists for the Doak Walker Award this year include LeVante Bellamy of Western Michigan (21 touchdowns leads the nation), AJ Dillon of Boston College, JK Dobbins of Ohio State, Clyde Edwards-Helaire of LSU, Travis Etienne of Clemson, Kenneth Gainwell of Memphis, Xavier Jones of SMU, Zack Moss of Utah.

Boise State’s second-leading rusher arrested for failure to appear

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Were it not for its demise, it’d once again be time for the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker to shine.

The latest college football player with an off-field dustup is Boise State’s Robert Mahone, with KTIK‘s Mike Prater reporting that the running back was arrested earlier this week for misdemeanor failure to appear.  The arrest stemmed from a speeding ticket that went unpaid.

That ticket has since been taken care of, and it’s not expected to impact Mahone’s availability for this weekend’s key Mountain West Conference matchup with Utah State.

A junior, Mahone is second on the Broncos with 411 yards rushing and is tied for the team lead with five rushing touchdowns.  He’s also caught seven passes for another 62 yards coming out of the backfield.

At a perfect 6-0, Boise State leads the MWC Mountain division by one game over USU (5-1) and Air Force (5-1).  Boise is ranked 20th in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, third behind No. 18 Memphis and No. 19 Cincinnati among Group of Five schools.

With Ralphie V’s retirement, PETA calls on Colorado to end live mascot program

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They’re at it.  Again.

Earlier this month, Colorado announced that its live buffalo mascot since 2008, Ralphie V, will be retired after this weekend’s home finale Washington.  In that same announcement, the university confirmed that it is searching for a successor, which will make its debut in 2020.

If it’s up to the individuals at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, though, the live mascot program at CU will end with Ralphie V.

In a letter posted on its website and addressed to CU System President Mark Kennedy — and as they have done in the past when it comes to the likes of Texas (HERE), Georgia (HERE), LSU (HERE), Mississippi State (HERE), among others — PETA “respectfully request[ed] that you agree not to replace this individual with another animal but rather forgo their use from now on.”

From the letter, which you can read in full HERE:

Using live animals as mascots is often a recipe for disaster. For example, at this year’s Sugar Bowl, Bevo, the longhorn steer used by the University of Texas, broke out of an enclosure and charged the University of Georgia’s bulldog mascot, Uga, nearly trampling him. Then just last month, an Auburn University football player collided with Mississippi State University’s mascot, Bully. Mascots from falcons to big cats have sustained physical injuries because they were being used as living props.

Even if animals aren’t physically harmed, it’s hard to imagine that they enjoy being paraded before raucous crowds, entirely out of their element, and treated as if they were toys rather than living, feeling beings with interests, personalities, and needs of their own. Being forced into a stadium full of bright lights, exuberantly screaming fans, and loud noises is stressful—and can be terrifying—for animals who have no idea what’s going on or why.

Fortunately for those who appreciate the beloved tradition, Ralphie isn’t going anywhere, a university official has confirmed..

Alabama fan charged with murder of LSU fan after shooting during LSU-Alabama game

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Sadly, this has become a ghoulish tradition of late when it comes to the LSU-Alabama game.

Last year, an Alabama fan was fatally injured after a verbal altercation with two LSU fans during the annual SEC West clash turned physical.  This year, an LSU fan, 29-year-old James Michael Roland “Mikie” Merritt, was shot with a pistol by 31-year-old David Allen Fulkerson, an Alabama fan, during the game.  After spending nearly a week on life support, Merritt died last Friday after the family decided to pull the plug.

Fulkerson was originally charged with attempted murder; that charge has since been upgraded to murder.

“They just got into it over the ball game,” Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson said by way of the Baton Rouge Advocate. “They’d been jawing at each other all day. Alcohol played a big part in it.”

Williamson said that Fulkerson’s and Merritt’s girlfriends are sisters and that the fight broke out at Fulkerson’s residence in Littleville, Alabama. People had gathered there to watch the game in which LSU beat Alabama 46-41.

Court records obtained by AL.com say that Fulkerson, a 31-year-old from Tuscumbia, Alabama, was cheering for Alabama and Merritt was cheering for LSU. When Merritt called a football player an expletive, Fulkerson thought he had said it to him and grabbed his gun.

Fulkerson’s defense attorney has claimed that the shooting was in self-defense, evidenced by a black eye he suffered. However, one witness told authorities that she watched Fulkerson hit himself in the face.