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No. 13 Memphis sees 15-game winning streak snapped in blowout loss to Navy

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It’s been a dream season – heck, a dream calendar year – for Memphis football. Winners of all eight games this season and 15 in a row, including a massive win over Ole Miss last month, the Tigers worked their way into the College Football Playoff conversation. But Navy has a way of nullifying past success, pulling opponents into one week seasons where defending the triple option is the only thing that matters.

The 13th-ranked Tigers learned that lesson the hard way Saturday night, falling to Navy 45-20.

Memphis opened the game in vintage fashion, slicing through the Midshipmen defense with a four-play, 75-yard drive punctuated by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Paxton Lynch to Anthony Miller.

But Navy quickly gained control of the contest, immediately mounting a 16-play, 75-yard march that consumed more than nine minutes of the first quarter, tying the score while at the same time signaling the game would be played on its terms.

After a Jake Elliott 40-yard field goal gave Memphis a 10-7 lead, Navy stole the lead when Chris Swain rumbled in for his second touchdown of the game with 3:07 left in the second quarter. A late interception allowed Navy to tack on a field goal, pushing the lead to 17-10 as time expired in the second quarter.

Memphis tied the game with a one-yard Miller run at the 6:53 mark of the third quarter, but then Navy went on a run of its own, starting with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Keenan Reynolds to DeBrandon Sanders. The Middies followed that score with Swain’s third scoring dash of the night, this time from 40 yards out, pushing the lead to 31-20 after three quarters.

Calvin Crass, Jr., added to the lead with an eight-yard scoring jaunt with 10 minutes remaining, and the capper came nearly seven minutes later when Demond Brown rumbled in from one yard out with 3:20 remaining.

Reynolds entered the night needing just one rushing touchdown to snap Montee Ball‘s FBS career record and saw his quest extend one more week as he carried 17 times for 38 yards and no touchdowns to go with 3-of-5 passing for 85 yards and a score. Overall, Navy rushed 65 times for 375 yards and five touchdowns, led by Swain’s 18 carries for 108 yards and three scores. It was the most rushing yards by a Memphis opponent in eight seasons.

Lynch most likely saw his darkhorse Heisman candidacy end  with a quiet (by his standards) 26-of-42 night for 305 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Navy’s win spoils what could have been the biggest game in the short history of the American Athletic Conference, as no-longer-undefeated Memphis (8-1, 4-1 AAC) visits undefeated and 25th-ranked Houston next week.

Instead, it perhaps just prolongs it. The Midshipmen move to 7-1 overall for the first time in 11 years and 5-0 in the AAC which, with only a loss at No. 5 Notre Dame on the wrong side of their ledger, should be good enough to vault them into the rankings. The Middies face SMU and Tulsa the next two weeks before visiting Houston on Black Friday for a game that should have the AAC West title and perhaps a Group of Five bowl berth on the line.

Les Miles makes cameo in Dr. Pepper’s new college football ad campaign

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The college football offseason is a time of transition in what can be a volatile business with very little job security. That’s true for the coaches and, apparently, the commercial pitch men. Dr. Pepper, one of the leading ad buyers in college football and a lead sponsor of the College Football Playoff, shelved its concession salesman Larry Culpepper (played by Jim Connor) after four seasons.

“Larry Culpepper has been a great part of our Dr Pepper college football sponsorship for the past four years and has helped us delight fans throughout the season. With the renewal of our college football sponsorship, we’ve decided to take our football-related advertising in a new creative direction and are planning an all-new campaign this season,” a Dr. Pepper spokesperson told Ad Age in May.

The new campaign is now out, and the soft drink brand has replaced one over-the-top character with another. Exit, Larry Culpepper. Enter, Les Miles. Also making cameos are College Football Hall of Famers Brian Bosworth and Eddie George.

The former Oklahoma State and LSU head coach and current aspiring actor makes a cameo in Dr. Pepper’s new “Fanville” universe that will surely have you begging for mercy by the first of October.

If you didn’t notice the first time around, make sure you rewind to the 49-second mark and check out the bag Miles snacks out of.

Texas Tech RB Da’Leon Ward arrested on felony theft charge

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Texas Tech running back Da’Leon Ward was arrested Tuesday on a charge of theft between $2,500 and $30,000, a felony.

According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Ward was the subject of a Texas Tech Police Department investigation after three cell phones were reported stolen from Texas Tech’s student recreation center in a 20-minute period last Nov. 14. He was indicted in June, but the indictment was sealed.

Texas Tech did not have a comment on Ward’s arrest, because the Avalanche-Journal broke the news of Ward’s arrest to the Tech athletics department.

A Dallas native, Ward became the first true freshman since 1999 to lead the Red Raiders in rushing in 2016, carrying 103 times for 428 yards and three touchdowns while catching 18 passes for 131 yards. Despite playing sparingly or not at all until late October, Ward exploded late in the year. He rushed 23 times for 98 yards against TCU and rushed a combined 67 times for 272 yards against Texas, Iowa State and Baylor to close that year.

Ward, however, redshirted in 2017, to improve his “academics and maturity.”

Entering the year, Texas Tech expected Ward to pair with senior Tre King to handle the majority of the Red Raiders’ carries.

Former Texas A&M linebacker alleges recruiting, practice violations by Jimbo Fisher’s staff

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Former Texas A&M linebacker Santino Marchiol revealed in June he intended to transfer to Arizona. The Aggies had hired a new coach, Jimbo Fisher, and the coach who recruited him, Kevin Sumlin, was now in Tucson. Marichol enrolled at Texas A&M in January of 2017 and redshirted his first season in College Station, meaning to make the move to Arizona, he’d have to sacrifice a season of eligibility unless the NCAA granted him a waiver.

And as Dan Wolken of USA Today details, Marichol tried a perhaps unprecedented path to gain immediate eligibility at Arizona: by alleging NCAA violations at his old school. According to Marichol, he was handed hundreds of dollars in cash by Aggies assistant Bradley Dale Peveto to host recruits on official visits:

On two separate weekends this spring, Marchiol told USA TODAY Sports, he was given hundreds of dollars in cash by linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto to entertain prospects on unofficial visits. Those recruiting visits occurred, he said, following the April 14 spring game with Zach Edwards, a three-star linebacker from Starkville, Mississippi, and the second weekend in June with four-star linebacker Christian Harris (now a Texas A&M verbal commitment) and Nakobe Dean from Horn Lake, Mississippi, ranked as the No. 1 inside linebacker in the country by Rivals.com.

While NCAA rules at the time allowed schools to give a student host $40 a day to entertain recruits during official visits, prospects must pay their own expenses for unofficial visits, meaning any money provided by coaches would be an NCAA rules violation. Recruits are allowed to take up to five all-expenses-paid official visits each, but many also add unofficial visits to see other schools or make additional visits to a favorite school. News accounts of the visits that Marchiol discussed indicate all were unofficial.

Marchiol describes being taken aback after the spring game when Peveto pulled him into a bathroom near the coaches’ offices and handed him $300.

“There were coaches having meetings in the other office, and he said, here, come in the bathroom real quick because he’d just asked me to host the recruit,” Marchiol said. “So I went in the bathroom and it was just me and him in there, and he’s like, ‘Take this, if you need any more just text me and make sure they have a good time.’ ”

On the second occasion, Marchiol said, the money exchange took place in the bathroom at Razzoo’s Cajun Cafe in College Station, a restaurant where the team frequently takes recruits to eat. Marchiol said he received $400 in cash from Peveto and  that a teammate Marchiol identified in his waiver request was handed another $300 during the exchange.

“You know how you tip people in Vegas? He had the cash in his hand and he like handed it to us like, here (with a handshake),” Marchiol said.

But that wasn’t the only way in which current Aggies coaches have skirted NCAA rules, according to Marichol. Over this summer, Aggies defensive coordinator Mike Elko directed players to spend time at the football facility working on football activities far beyond the allowable levels as permitted by the NCAA.

When Texas A&M’s players returned after Memorial Day weekend, defensive coordinator Mike Elko brought his players into a meeting and made clear what he expected of them: “He said, ‘We’re going to have a lot of meetings and practices that aren’t technically required, but you guys have to be here because you’re way behind. We need to win,’ ” Marchiol said. 

Marichol said players were required to be at the facility from 9 a.m. until “well after” 6:30 p.m. four days a week through the summer and that coaches observed and instructed their 7-on-7 practices, with Elko demonstrating proper technique and alignment, as would be typical of a fall or spring practice but disallowed in the summer by NCAA bylaws.

Finally, Marichol said Aggies trainers mishandled an ankle injury he suffered in June.

Marchiol said he believes he was pushed to play through the injury because of a belief coaches frequently shared loudly with the players: The Aggies program had been like a country club under Sumlin. In fact, he said, everything in the message of Fisher and his assistants had been themed to demand more toughness, from the duration of workouts to the language coaches used on the field to players being told outright that highly rated recruits were coming to replace them.

Marichol is being represented by Thomas Mars, an Arkansas-based lawyer who represented Houston Nutt in his suit against Ole Miss. The NCAA does not comment on current or potential cases. A Texas A&M spokesperson said: “Texas A&M Athletics takes these allegations seriously, and we are reviewing the situation with the NCAA and the SEC Office.”

The Aggies open their first season under Fisher on Sept. 1 against Northwestern State (8:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).

South Alabama stadium effort loses Mobile city council vote

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South Alabama would like to build a new stadium. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find an FBS program in more need of a new playing facility than the Jaguars. USA plays in Ladd-Peebles Stadium, which hits the trifecta of bad stadium arrangements:

A) Too big. (Ladd-Peebles holds 45,000. South Alabama’s proposed new stadium would hold 25,000.)
B) Too old. (Ladd-Peebles opened in 1948.)
C) Too far. (Google says it’s a 20-minute drive from campus.)

The school and the city have partnered on a proposal that would require $10 million of Mobile’s dollars over the course of a 20-year period, in exchange for $2.5 million from USA to Mobile earmarked for improvements to Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Mobile’s city council held a vote on Tuesday, and the package failed by a 4-3 tally.

“I am disappointed with today’s decision. It sends a message to the NFL that the City does not support the Senior Bowl. It leaves Ladd Stadium with zero funding to create a facility that meets the needs of the neighborhood and the four high school football teams that play there. It leaves the City with no plan to solve the $33 million maintenance issue,” Mobile mayor Sandy Stimpson said in a statement. “Ladd will now have to compete with every other public facility fighting for funding. Over the course of the next 10 years, the City will accumulate $225 million in maintenance costs. This window of opportunity is gone, but we will continue to have to make tough choices on how we fund our public facilities.”

South Alabama’s stadium is expected to cost between $70 and $80 million. USA had no immediate comment on the vote. “I’m wishing South Alabama well, I’m hopeful they will be able to do what they need to do when they need to do it,” city council member Gina Gregory told AL.com.