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No. 7 Penn State completes comeback for the ages to claim B1G title

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On Sept. 24, Penn State was 2-2 on the season, 0-1 in Big Ten play after a 49-10 undressing by Michigan in Ann Arbor. Their Big Ten title hopes were left for dead. As we know, they managed to rally and win the Big Ten East.

And then, with 5:15 left in the second quarter, the Nittany Lions trailed 28-7 and their chances of actually winning the game were again left for dead.

But the Cardiac Cats rallied. Again. The seventh-ranked Lions closed the game on a 31-3 run to race past No. 6 Wisconsin for a 38-31 Big Ten Championship victory.

Of course, this win means much more than that. At 11-2 on the season, winners of nine in a row and winners of college football’s best conference, the question now becomes whether the College Football Playoff selection committee chooses the Lions over 11-1 Ohio State or Pac-12 champion Washington on Sunday.

But first, the comeback.

Penn State simply could not get out of its own way — or get Wisconsin out of its way… or get in Wisconsin’s way, for that matter — over the game’s first 25 minutes. The Badgers opened by forcing two three-and-outs and launching two long touchdown drives to grab a 14-0 lead a dozen minutes into the game. After a McSorley touchdown pass put Penn State on the board, the Nittany Lions allowed an errant snap to be returned for a touchdown early in the second quarter.

James Franklin elected to go for a fourth-and-short in his own territory on the ensuing possession and was rebuffed. Wisconsin again capitalized on the mistake to grab a 28-7 lead with 5:15 remaining in the first half. Penn State again failed on a fourth-and-short near midfield on the next possession, but this time the Badgers failed to cash in. And that proved costly.

Because that failure to land the death blow allowed Penn State’s Cardiac Cats persona to awaken.

The Lions’ comeback started when McSorley hit Saeed Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown catch with 58 seconds left in the half to pull within  a more manageable 28-14 deficit at the break.

After Wisconsin missed a field goal to open the second half, McSorley answered by finding Blacknall for a 70-yard scoring strike on the very next play. Then Penn State tied the game on its next touch as Saquon Barkley punched in a 1-yard score at the 4:22 mark of the third quarter.

Wisconsin re-gained the lead with a 23-yard Andrew Endicott chip shot, but only after Bart Houston missed what would have been a walk-in touchdown to tight end Troy Fumagalli on 2nd-and-8 from the 10-yard line.

Given the opportunity to take the lead, Penn State took full advantage, marching 81 yards in only four plays as Barkley hauled in an 18-yard wheel route from McSorley.

McSorley finished the game hitting 22-of-31 passes for 384 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions — against a defense that came in allowing eight touchdowns while swiping 21 interceptions. Compared to Houston’s numbers — 16-of-21 for 174 yards — quarterback play proved to be the difference in the game. McSorley’s play allowed Penn State to win a game in which it was out-rushed 241-51.

Wisconsin punted on its next touch, and Penn State missed its chance to deliver a knockout punch, instead settling for a 24-yard Tyler Davis field goal with 5:14 to play in the game.

Wisconsin would need a touchdown to force overtime, while Penn State would need a stop to complete its 21-point comeback. The Badgers moved to the Penn State 24, but, facing a 4th-and-1, Corey Clement was stuffed for no gain.

Penn State expired the final 58 seconds and secured the largest comeback ever in a Power 5 conference championship game.

Alabama expects ‘full, speedy recovery’ for Tua Tagovailoa following ankle surgery

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At least publicly, Alabama is putting a positive spin on the most talked-about ankle in college football.

Late in the first half of Alabama’s win over rival Tennessee, starting quarterback and Heisman front-runner Tua Tagovailoa went down with an apparent ankle injury. After spending time in the sideline medical tent, Tagovailoa went into the locker room for further observation.

Not long after that, Tagovailoa was seen exiting the stadium and getting into the back of an ambulance; he would ultimately return to the sidelines but not the game as Mac Jones finished out the win.  Immediately following the game, Nick Saban stated that Tagovailoa suffered a high-ankle sprain, a similar injury he worked through a season ago, and will “probably be out a week or two.” In the postgame press conference, the head coach all but ruled the junior out for next weekend’s home game against Arkansas.

In a statement Sunday, the football program confirmed that Tagovailoa underwent a surgical procedure on the ankle earlier in the day.  It was also confirmed that the junior will not play in this Saturday’s game against Arkansas.

Tua Tagovailoa suffered a high-ankle sprain last night against Tennessee. Our physicians performed a successful tight-rope procedure on his right ankle this morning. This is the same injury, but the opposite ankle that Tua injured last season. Tua will miss next week’s game against Arkansas, but we expect a full and speedy recovery.

As for that TightRope procedure, which significantly cuts the recovery time from a high-ankle sprain?

This technique is used to stabilize an ankle after injury. It can be used to repair a high-ankle sprain, which damages the soft tissue structures between the tibia and fibula and causes these bones to separate. It can also be used to stabilize a fracture of the fibula. The TightRope system anchors the ends of the tibia and fibula together with a braided polyethylene cord, rather than with a rigid surgical screw, to restore the original position of the bones and to allow for proper healing.

Following next Saturday’s game, top-ranked Alabama will be on a bye in Week 10 before its huge showdown with No. 2 LSU in Tuscaloosa Nov. 9. Tagovailoa’s availability for that game is uncertain, even as he told teammates that he’ll “be back for LSU.”

The combination of nearly three weeks from the time of the surgery to the LSU game and the TightRope procedure itself lends credence to the private optimism coming from Tuscaloosa regarding Tagovailoa being healthy enough to take the field for a game that could very well determine one of the four College Football Playoff participants.

UCF paying UConn $1 million to renew Civil ConFLiCT in 2021

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Bob Diaco may no longer be the head coach at UConn but his legacy of trying to build a rivalry with UCF lives on in the form of a seven-figure check.

The Hartford Courant reports that the soon to be independent Huskies have agreed to a 2021 game in Orlando with the Knights and that the program will receive a $1 million check as a result of the trip South for the non-conference meeting.

The two teams have played seven times since becoming fellow members of the AAC dating back to 2013, with UCF holding a 5-2 edge overall in the series. The Knights won the meeting in late September 56-21 and have dominated the Huskies the last few years.

Fans of both programs know there’s not much of a rivalry given the lopsided nature of the results but there have been attempts to stir things up, most notably by Diaco when he ran UConn and created a semi-serious (and unacknowledged in Orlando) trophy and named the game the ‘Civil ConFLiCT.’

At least things won’t end with September’s contest as the two teams continue to fill out their schedules. UConn will now have UCF on the docket in 2021 in addition to home games against FCS Holy Cross and Purdue plus road trips to UMass and Clemson. The Knights, meanwhile, host Boise State and travel to Louisville in the non-conference slate in addition to their regular rotation of AAC opponents.

CUSA fines Lane Kiffin $5K, reprimands FAU head coach for tweet

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Lane Kiffin has made headlines again and it has nothing to do with his team’s play on the field.

Conference USA announced on Sunday that they’ve fined the Florida Atlantic head coach $5,000 and publicly reprimanded him for violating the league’s sportsmanship policy after he posted a tweet on Saturday night that was critical of officials.

“Conference USA has specific rules and standards regarding sportsmanship which have been adopted by our membership,” CUSA commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement. “We have an obligation to enforce our rules including the prohibition of public criticism of officiating.”

Kiffin’s expensive tweet came in the heels of a 36-31 loss to Marshall on Friday.

The Owls and their social media-loving head coach will travel to Old Dominion on Saturday to continue conference play.

Kansas players say they were motivated by out of context Tom Herman quote

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Bulletin board material is often a constant for players in college football and that seemed to serve Kansas well prior to their near upset bid against Texas on Saturday night.

The Jayhawks came up a last second field goal short of pulling the shocker but had one of their best performances ever in Austin during an eventual 50-48 loss to the No. 15 team in the country. The biggest factor motivating them? It may just have been an off-hand remark from Tom Herman earlier in the week.

We’ll let the Kansas City Star fill in the background:

Herman spoke for 26 minutes at his Monday media availability, with much of the discussion centering around the Longhorns’ 34-27 loss to rival Oklahoma last weekend.

At the 16:55 mark of his news conference, Herman was finally asked his first question about KU. Reporters in attendance said, at that point, that the coach playfully chided writers for not asking him about the Jayhawks sooner.

“We actually play a game this week?” Herman said with a smile, referring to the previous onslaught of questions about the previous week.

That quote was apparently what Les Miles and his staff kept reiterating in the days leading up to the actual game, leading many Jayhawks players who didn’t have the time to watch the full video to take offense at Herman equating Saturday’s contest to a bye.

“We watched that probably a thousand times this week, just the disrespect that they put on us,” KU receiver Andrew Parchment told the paper. “But I hope that we showed them what we’re about.”

That they did in putting a scare into the Longhorns and probably forcing Herman to be a little more cognizant of getting taking out of context when meeting with the media.