Special teams leads No. 23 Northwestern to win at Duke, 19-10

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No. 23 Northwestern (3-0) had its offense shut down by Duke (2-1), so it was up to the special teams to turn things around after halftime, and boy did it. Solomon Vault returned the opening kickoff of the second half 98 yards for a touchdown, giving the plucky Big Ten academic overachievers a 9-7 lead, of which the Wildcats never relinquished in a 19-10 road victory in ACC country.

Northwestern running back Warren Long had the other big play of the game for the Wildcats in the win. Long essentially sealed the game with a 55-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, giving Northwestern a 19-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. the defense did the rest from there. Duke’s offense was forced to punt on their next two possessions. Duke also fumbled away a punt in the fourth quarter.

Northwestern needed the special teams in a big way to get this win. Quarterback Clayton Thorson was intercepted twice and completed just  nine of his 23 pass attempts. Running back Justin Jackson ended up carrying the offense with 120 rushing yards, but it was the big run from Long that was the highlight of the day on offense.

But the biggest surprise that has continued for Northwestern is the steady play of the defense. Of course, this should not be a huge shock considering the numbers returning this season for the Wildcats. Northwestern’s defense entered the year overlooked in the Big Ten, but with wins against Stanford and now Duke under their belts, these Wildcats should not be shocking anyone else moving in to Big Ten play.

Before that happens, Northwestern wraps up its non-conference portion of the schedule next week at home against Ball State. A win would move Northwestern to 4-0 heading into Big Ten play against Minnesota. Don’t look now, but Northwestern could realistically be 6-0 when they head to the Big house in Ann Arbor in October (but Minnesota will be no easy game for the Wildcats).

As for Duke, the Blue Devils came up short on behalf of the ACC. It gets no easier next week for the Blue Devils as Duke will play host to Georgia Tech in what should be one of many key battles within the ACC Coastal Division. Duke and Georgia Tech have been the division’s representatives in the last few ACC title games, and each could make a run again this season in what could be a wide-open division (or Georgia Tech could run away with it).

Star Clemson WR Justyn Ross will miss entire 2020 season because of neck issue; Dabo Swinney says there’s no guarantee he can play football again

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One member of the Clemson football program has been dealt a very significant blow.  Whether it’s a blow that costs him the remainder of his career remains to be seen.

Justyn Ross was very limited as Clemson worked its way through spring football practice that was ultimately scuttled because of the coronavirus pandemic.  In lieu of an official explanation from the program, rumors of the seriousness of Ross’ health issues have been bouncing off the vast expanses of the Internet.

In mid-March, Dabo Swinney attempted to clear the air, saying that the standout wide receiver is “perfectly fine” even as he’s dealing with what’s being described as “stinger symptoms.” Late last month, however, it was reported that Ross will undergo surgery in June.  A Clemson football official subsequently confirmed that a medical procedure is in the offing.

Monday, Swinney confirmed that Ross will undergo surgery this month.  In doing so, Swinney also confirmed that the receiver will miss the entire 2020 season.  And, it’s an issue that could end his playing career.

Ross was the No. 1 player in the state of Alabama in the Class of 2018, and he has more than lived up to the recruiting hype.

His first two seasons with the Clemson football program, Ross has totaled 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns on 112 receptions.  This past season, caught 66 passes for 865 yards and eight touchdowns.

In four career College Football Playoff games, Ross has a statline of 23-424-3. for the Tigers

Texas kicker/punter Chris Naggar reportedly transfers to SMU

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SMU is once again on the positive side of the football transfer portal.

Earlier this offseason, Chris Naggar entered the NCAA transfer database.  This weekend, 247Sports.com indicated that the kicking specialist has transferred into the SMU football program.

As of yet, neither the player nor the school has confirmed the development.

Naggar would be heading to the Mustangs as a graduate transfer.  The upcoming season would serve as his final year of eligibility.

Naggar joined the Texas Longhorns as part of its Class of 2016.  His first three years in Austin, the Arlington, Tex., native didn’t see the field.

This past season, Naggar appeared in seven games for the Longhorns.  He punted the ball 25 times in 2019, averaging 39.3 yards per punt.  He also kicked off three times in his seven appearances.

This offseason, SMU has added a pair of Power Five transfers to its football roster.  Stanford offensive lineman Mike Williams joined the AAC team in February.  Arkansas wide receiver TQ Jackson did the same three months later.  Additionally, starting linebacker Richard Moore was granted a sixth season of eligibility.

The Mustangs are coming off a 10-3 campaign, the program’s most wins since the pre-death penalty season of 1984.  In December, SMU announced it had reached an agreement on a contract extension with head football coach Sonny Dykes.

Tom Allen addresses ‘devastating’ shooting death of former Indiana defensive lineman Chris Beaty

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A tragedy that struck the Indiana football program has drawn a response from its head coach.

It was reported Monday that Chris Beaty “was one of two men shot and killed in separate incidents over the weekend as violence erupted in Downtown Indianapolis.” The 38-year-old Beaty was shot multiple times shortly before midnight local time Saturday and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Beaty was a defensive lineman for the Indiana Hoosiers football team from 2000-04.

Monday afternoon, Tom Allen addressed the tragic development.

“I am at a loss for words. The news of the passing of Chris Beaty is just devastating. Since I returned home to coach at Indiana, Chris embraced me, encouraged me and supported me! His passion for life and Indiana Football energized me every time we were together. He was one of our first alumni that displayed his unwavering support for what we are building here at Indiana and how we are building it. I am so heartbroken for his family and he will be deeply missed by all those that were blessed to call him a friend! LEO”

Despite being away from the Indiana football program for nearly two decades, Beaty remained close to it.

HoosierHuddle.com wrote that “Beaty was still actively involved with IU football. He tweeted on April 26th a screenshot of head coach Tom AllenMark Deal and several other Indiana football alumni. He thanked Allen for checking in with the former players and said that IU football was in good hands.”

Included was a tweet from Beaty’s personal Twitter account.

College Football Hall of Famer Pat Dye dies at 80

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In Pat Dye, Auburn has lost one of its most storied head coaches.

Last month, Dye was hospitalized for kidney-related issues.  During that hospital stay, Dye tested positive for COVID-19.  At the time, his son, NFL agent Pat Dye Jr., stated that “[w]e fully anticipate his release from the hospital in the next few days once his kidney function is stable.

Sadly, 247Sports.com is now reporting that Dye died on Monday at 80.  A cause of death has not been released.

The website wrote that “Dye, who was moved to Bethany House in Auburn following a stay at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, listened to phone calls on Monday morning from family, friends and former players on Monday morning.”

A Georgia native, Dye played his college football at the University of Georgia.  He began his coaching career as linebackers coach at Alabama from 1965-73.  From there he became the head coach at East Carolina from 1974-79, then at Wyoming for one season in 1980.

Most famously, though, Pat Dye spent a dozen seasons as the head coach at Auburn.  From 1981-92, Dye went 99-39-4 with the Tigers.  Included in that was a 6-6 record in the Iron Bowl.  And a national championship in 1983.

Under a cloud of NCAA controversy, it was announced on the eve of the 1992 Alabama game that Dye would be resigning at season’s end.  There was also the Condoleeza Rice playoff committee flap.

All told, though, Dye went 153-62-5 as a head coach.  In 2005, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.