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Auburn throttles Paxton Lynch, exits disappointing season with win

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Auburn’s defense disappointed and underwhelmed for most of the 2015 season, but it was that unit that played a pivotal role in sending the Tigers into the offseason on a high note.

Facing one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the country, Auburn (7-6) almost completely shut down Paxton Lynch in claiming a 31-10 win over Memphis (9-4) in the Birmingham Bowl Wednesday afternoon.  The win snapped a mini two-game bowl losing streak for the SEC Tigers and gave them their first postseason win since the Chick-fil-A Bowl following the 2011 season.

Lynch, projected by many observers to be the first quarterback selected in the next NFL draft if he leaves the Tigers early as expected, came into the game in the top 15 nationally in both passing yards and passing touchdowns; against AU, Lynch completed just 17-of-38 passes for 104 yards, zero touchdowns and a critical end-zone interception early in the third quarter on a drive that could’ve given the Tigers their first lead of the game.  Shut out of a touchdown or even a field goal on that drive, the U of M watched as AU scored on three straight possessions to break open what had been a tie ballgame.

The passing yards by Lynch were his worst against an FBS team this season, with the previous low of 156 coming in a loss to Temple Nov. 21.  The junior had thrown for more than 300 yards in eight games this season — AU came into the game 73rd in pass defense, giving up an average of 232.2 yards per game — and topped 400 yards twice.  What might most alarm NFL scouts is the fact that Lynch completed just 44.7 percent of his passes on the day.  His previous low was 61.9, and he had a completion percentage of exactly 69 in the regular season.  The SEC Tigers had allowed quarterbacks to complete 62 percent of their passes the first 12 games of the season.

AU managed a double-digit win despite losing the turnover battle 3-1.  The U of M converted the three turnovers — a trio of interceptions — into 10 points, seven coming on a pick-six by Reggis Ball.  Ball, incidentally, had two of the interceptions for the Tigers, his team-leading fourth and fifth on the season.  All of those turnovers came in the first half, but AU managed to head into the locker room knotted up at 10-all.

Auburn, despite the score, didn’t put up a pile of yards, although they did outgain their football feline counterparts 403-206.  A big reason for that, though, was Marcus Davis giving them a shortish field on a handful of occasions, averaging 15.5 yards on six punt returns.

Jovon Robinson did top the 100-yard mark for the SEC Tigers, leading all rushers with 121 yards.  Peyton Barber, meanwhile, rushed for 44, pushing him over 1,000 yards on the year (1,020) and giving AU back-to-back 1,000-yard rushers.

While the win gives Auburn some much-needed momentum heading into what will be a pivotal — and perhaps final — offseason for Gus Malzahn on The Plains, the loss for Memphis was one final punch in the gut in a season that began with much promise.

The Tigers started 2015 by ripping off eight straight wins, with a 13-point triumph over Ole Miss — one month after the Rebels beat Alabama — bringing the word “playoff” into the conversation for the U of M.  However, the Tigers lost their first three games in the month of November to not only extinguish any playoff talk, but also put the kibosh on an expected New Year’s Six bid.

Add in the fact that they lost their head coach, Justin Fuente, to Virginia Tech, and 2015 will end on a decidedly down note for the AAC program.

FCS team suspends head coach amid probe into ‘alleged violations of university policy’

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We don’t normally do much with the FCS level of football here at CFT; when we do, though, it normally doesn’t trend toward the positive.

Such is the case in this instance, with Stephen F. Austin announcing Monday night that head coach Clint Conque has been suspended.  In its statement, the university wrote that the suspension is “pending an investigation into alleged violations of university policy.”

The alleged violations weren’t detailed.

“The investigation is expected to take several weeks,” the school’s statement read, in part. “No comments will be made by the university until the investigation is complete.”

The Magnolia Reporter wrote that “Conque’s suspension comes two weeks after SFA appointed Ryan Ivey as the new director of Athletics – a position he is set to officially assume on July 1.”

Conque has been the head coach at SFA the past four seasons.  In that span, he went 21-25 overall and 17-18 in Southland Conference play.  Since going 8-5 and qualifying for the FCS playoffs his first season, the football program has gone 4-7, 5-5, 4-7 the last three years.

Prior to that, Conque was the head coach at Central Arkansas from 2000-13, with the last seven of those years spent in the Southland Conference.  During his time with the Bears, he went 105-59.

In a statement released by that university in July of 2010, prior to the start of his 11th season with that FCS team, Conque admitted to what he described as “an inappropriate relationship” that stemmed from “some poor personal decisions.”

During a period of time in my life I made some poor personal decisions. I had an inappropriate relationship in the past that I regret and these mistakes and missteps have hurt the ones that I love the most. While we have been dealing with these issues privately, I regret that we must now deal with this in a public manner.

“I take sole and complete responsibility for my actions as my family and I continue the process of healing and rebuilding. I want to once again sincerely apologize first to my family, also to the university community, the administration, the university’s athletic staff, and to our football staff and team. I will emerge from this a better man, husband, father and coach. I appreciate the support that I have received from the Board of Trustees, President (Allen) Meadors, (Athletic Director) Dr. (Brad) Teague, and the university during this extremely difficult time.

“I would genuinely appreciate everyone extending Angele and my three sons the privacy and compassion needed to move forward in our personal lives. I look forward to the 2010 football season and the beginning of fall practice.

Conque remained on as the head coach at Central Arkansas for four more seasons, going 32-16 in that post-admission span and qualifying for the FCS playoffs twice for good measure.

Notre Dame football to have all-new radio team in 2018

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When it comes to Notre Dame’s radio booth on football gamedays, it’ll apparently be out with the old and in with the new.

Earlier this offseason, it was announced that JMI Sports had taken over as Notre Dame’s multimedia partner.  As part of that partnership, JMI Sports would have control over, among other entities, the football program’s national radio broadcasts.

Since 2006, there’s been a two-man radio booth consisting of play-by-play voice Don Criqui and color analyst Allen Pinkett.  Come the 2018 football season, the latter confirmed, there will be a complete makeover of the Fighting Irish’s radio broadcasts.

“Their plan is they want someone more local — like ‘live in South Bend’ local — because they want to do some packages during the week, and they wanted somebody who was there,” Pinkett told the South Bend Tribune. “So it was a good run. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to do it since 2001, but this thing comes to an end, so I just wish whoever’s going to do it next the best of luck.”

The “whoever” Pinkett mentioned is still in question as the radio replacements have yet to be announced.

The 54-year-old Pinkett was a star running back at Notre Dame in the eighties, twice earning All-American honors.  He was the first Fighting Irish player to ever rush for 1,000-plus yards in three straight seasons.

The 78-year-old Criqui is a Notre Dame graduate as well.  Prior to this 2006-17 stint, he was also the play-by-play voice of the Fighting Irish from 1974-76.

Lincoln Riley will (barely) make more than his starting QB in 2018

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One running joke that’s made numerous laps around the college football world this month has officially run its course.

After being taken ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in the June Major League Baseball draft, Kyler Murray reached an agreement on a contract with the stick-and-ball club that will not only allow him to play football for Oklahoma in 2018, but will pay him a signing bonus of nearly $4.7 million for good measure.  As Lincoln Riley was paid $3.1 million in 2017, there was a very real possibility that the Sooners’ starting quarterback would earn more in 2018 than OU’s head football coach.

Tuesday, however, that particular plotline was put to bed as the university’s Board of Regents confirmed a long-expected revised contract for Riley.  The coach’s 2018 salary?  $4.8 million (plus bonuses).

Take that, Kyler Murray.

The new salary figure would’ve made Riley the third-highest paid head coach in the Big 12 last season, behind only Texas’ Tom Herman ($5.5 million) and TCU’s Gary Patterson ($5.1 million).  His actual salary last year was seventh in the conference.

In his first season at the helm for the Sooners, the 34-year-old Riley guided OU to a 12-2 record, a Big 12 championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff. In addition to a raise coming off that wildly successful year, Riley also had his contract extended through January of 2023.

New Mexico LB Rayshawn Boyce arrested, suspended after May incident with ex-girlfriend

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Not surprisingly at this point in the offseason, it’s once again time to push the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker back to double zeroes.

The latest to trigger a reset is New Mexico’s Rayshawn Boyce, with KOB-TV in Albuquerque reporting that the linebacker was arrested over the weekend on multiple charges stemming from an incident involving an ex-girlfriend last month. Specifically, Boyce has been charged with one count each of aggravated battery, battery of a household member, criminal damage to private property and negligent use of a deadly weapon.

From the television station’s report:

According to a criminal complaint, he attacked a man inside his ex-girlfriend’s home back in May and then hit his ex-girlfriend in the face. Boyce then left the house and fired shots at her vehicle.

Police interviewed Boyce, who admitted to being at the home but says he never went inside. He claims he fought the man outside of his ex-girlfriend’s apartment.

As a result of the incident, Boyce has been indefinitely suspended from the Lobos football by head coach Bob Davie, who’s had his own off-field issues this offseason.

“I want to emphasize that we have standards and expectations of conduct for all UNM student-athletes that include civility and mutual respect,” UNM athletic director Eddie Nunez said in a statement. “We cannot, and will not, accept anything less.”

After transferring in from a California junior college, Boyce played in eight games for the Lobos this past season. He was credited with 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack.