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.

Indiana TE Peyton Hendershot arrested in domestic violence incident

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Indiana tight end Peyton Hendershot was arrested late Saturday night in connection to an ugly alleged domestic violence incident.

According to the Indianapolis Star, Bloomington police picked up the redshirt sophomore on multiple charges and he will remain in a local jail for at least 24 hours as a result.

Some of the details of the incident in question are quite awful. Per the Star:

A Bloomington Police Department news release says Hendershot went to a former girlfriend’s apartment in the 2300 block of South Brandon Court and entered the apartment without permission, accusing the woman of infidelity. He reportedly took her cellphone from her to look at calls and texts and when she tried to retrieve the phone, Hendershot — who is 6-4 — “grabbed her by the neck and shoved her against the wall.”

She said Hendershot threw her phone into the kitchen as he left the apartment, breaking the screen. She called 911, and police then went to Hendershot’s residence and arrested him there.

Hendershot was eventually charged with felony residential entry, domestic battery, criminal mischief and criminal conversion.

The school released a short statement in response to the paper’s inquiry about the tight end.

“Indiana University Athletics is aware of the arrest of redshirt sophomore Peyton Hendershot,” a department spokesperson said. “IU Athletics will continue to gather facts, cooperate with and monitor the legal and administrative processes, and take further action as the evolving situation warrants.”

While they didn’t confirm that he was suspended from the team, that is an action that appears likely in the coming days.

Hendershot was a big part of the Hoosiers’ passing game last season. He earned third-team All-Big Ten honors and set school records for receptions and yards by a tight end. Now his future at the program seems very much in doubt going forward in the wake of this alleged domestic violence incident.

State legislators looking to wipe New Mexico, NMSU debt in hopes of decreasing ‘money games’

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Politics and football are colliding in the state of New Mexico. Luckily for the two FBS programs in the region, that could wind up working out quite well.

As detailed by the Albuquerque Journal, lawmakers recently made a few changes to their annual state budget. One item that made it into the lengthy bill this year? A measure that could result in millions of debt being wiped from New Mexico and New Mexico State’s ledgers.

Per the Journal:

The language in the budget prohibits the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University from using any state money – which includes money appropriated from the Legislature as well as any other state money that ends up in the athletics departments’ coffers – to pay back the accumulated deficits.

At UNM, that totals a nearly $4.4 million debt the Athletics Department has run up with the main campus through years of overspending.

At NMSU, the debt is $3 million.

The heart of the matter? Not just making sure the universities take proper accounting steps with their athletic departments but the play of both the Lobos and Aggies on the field.

Namely, their reliance on so-called ‘money games.’ Also termed ‘buy games’ or ‘guarantee games,’ these are when Group of Five programs get paid millions to essentially be fodder for larger Power Five programs during the non-conference slate.

While there have been cases of the ones getting the checks still emerging with a surprise victory or two, typically these are pretty lopsided affairs. They happen a lot and have turned into a way of life at programs like in the state.

Now there’s hope that by cancelling some debt, the two teams won’t have to take on such games as often.

“I’m sick and tired of both universities having to take money games. We’re not competitive, and we’re getting crushed, but they’ve got to play those games to get enough money for their athletics departments,” State Sen. John Arthur Smith told the paper.

Both teams lost games by over 50 points on the road in such games last season. Their future schedules also contain plenty more. UNM will travel to USC and Mississippi State in 2020 for example. FBS independent NMSU starts the season off at UCLA and concludes it by going to Florida in late November.

There’s still plenty of work left to be done before things change on the field and with the state budget but perhaps this is the start of some interesting financial relief for two programs that have some of the toughest roads to wins in all of major college football.

Clemson linebacker tears ACL for a third time

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Clemson coaches will hope that the third time really is the charm for unlucky linebacker Bryton Constantin. 

The redshirt freshman was just recently set to return to the football field this spring. Instead, he will apparently head back under the knife after injuring his knee for a third time. He confirmed the diagnosis on Twitter late last week.

Constantin was one of the nation’s top recruits at his position coming out of Baton Rouge, La. and picked the Tigers as part of the class of 2019. However, he never made it onto the field. He originally tore his ACL playing basketball in high school last February. Then he re-injured it in September after getting on campus.

The former four-star was expected to be eased into spring practice next month at Clemson but obviously those plans are out the door. Given the timetable for such injuries plus his history, the 2020 season could be too. 

This is a Dabo Swinney and Brent Venables defense however so there’s at least enough depth at the position to lean on for a team likely ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls. James Skalski is a returning starter in the middle while Mike Jones Jr., Jake Venables and Baylon Spector all have experience on the outside. The team does need to replace likely top five pick Isaiah Simmons but do add several talented freshmen to the group that is coming back from a disappointing loss in the national title game. 

Still, just about everybody on the roster would have loved if Constantin could have worked his way in the mix given his earlier knee injuries. That won’t be the case though as the youngster hopefully undergoes ACL surgery for a third and final time in the coming weeks.

Texas reportedly suspends WR Kennedy Lewis for spring practice

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Texas head coach Tom Herman has been busy this offseason remaking his coaching staff. That doesn’t mean he’s kept an eye on what his players have been doing however.

According to Orangebloods.com’s Anwar Richardson, the program has suspended wideout Kennedy Lewis. The redshirt freshman will miss spring practice with the team but appears to be in line to return in time for summer workouts. 

Provided, of course, he does what he needs to in order to get back in the graces of Herman and company. There was no word on what Lewis did to get the (temporary) boot. 

Either way, it’s a missed chance for Lewis to make an impression for Texas’ rich new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. The Longhorns are also looking for several new targets for QB Sam Ehlingher this spring given that seniors Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay both are off to the NFL. The youngster was expected to be one of those in the mix behind the likes of Jake Smith and Brennan Eagle to see some serious playing time.

Now that’s not longer the case.

Lewis arrived on the 40 Acres as a three-star recruit prior to last season. He made it into two games and took a redshirt, recording just a single catch against Rice for 37 yards.

Now, others like Josh Moore and Marcus Washington figure to get extra reps when the ‘Horns opens their 15 practice slate next month.