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Josh Jackson shines as No. 21 Virginia Tech wins thriller against Will Grier and No. 22 West Virginia

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After playing one half of defensive football, No. 21 Virginia Tech (1-0) and No. 22 West Virginia (0-1) opened up the offenses in the second half and traded touchdowns for the last 30 minutes. In the end, the Hokies held on for a nail-biter of a win, 31-24 thanks to a brilliant debut from quarterback Josh Jackson.

The freshman had some rough moments but still turned in an admirable effort against a West Virginia team that can play some decent defense as well. Jackson passed for 235 yards and a touchdown and rushed for a team-high 101 yards and another score. Justin Fuente needed his young quarterback to shine in a back-and-forth game like this on the big stage, and he got it. Jackson emerged as a star in his first game, and the Hokies overall look once again to be a top contender in the ACC Coastal Divison, and they could even be ready to make a run at the conference crown if they play like this all season long.

Not to be overlooked in the loss is the play of West Virginia quarterback Will Grier. In his first start since 2015 with the Florida Gators, Grier passed for 371 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Grier also put together 52 hard-earned yards on the ground, highlighted by a hurdle to keep a drive moving on the final drive of the game. Grier put the Mountaineers into position to tie the game, but a couple of last-ditch efforts were unable to get in the endzone.

West Virginia running back Justin Crawford also turned in a 106-yard performance, and both teams went for over 200 yards on the ground. The teams also combined for 50 first downs and had just one turnover in the game. An interception thrown by Grier led to nothing more than a Virginia Tech punt three plays later.

It was a toss-up game from start to finish, and ended with both teams having chances to grab a win. Virginia Tech just managed to find a few more plays.

There are few games you witness and feel good about both teams heading forward this early in the season. Both West Virginia and Virginia Tech look as though they will be able to have strong seasons if Sunday night was any indication of what to expect from each this fall. Both the Big 12 and ACC should be put on alert about these two teams.

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen cost his team some yardage in the second half when he crossed the line and stepped on the field. This season, officials are being more strict with coaches stepping on the playing field. Moments after chasing down a ref over a call he didn’t like, Holgorsen had a flag thrown on him for stepping on the field while West Virginia was being called for a holding penalty. The 15-yard penalty to Holgorsen helped turn a 3rd and 1 into a 3rd and 26, moving the ball from the Virginia Tech 23-yard line back to the Tech 48-yard line.

Virginia Tech will open up their home schedule next week against Delaware. West Virginia will also play at home next week, as they host East Carolina (who just lost to the top-ranked FCS team, James Madison).

NFL Network to air 10 Conference USA games each fall

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The NFL Network and Conference USA struck a deal that will see the league air 10 C-USA games, starting this fall.

“While exploring new media options for football, NFL Network stood out as an excellent opportunity for national exposure,” C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “We look forward to showcasing our conference through their tremendous platform and reach.”

The contract runs for four years, and will see NFL Network air one game a week for 10 weeks.

“We are excited to showcase the next generation of NFL athletes to our fans on a weekly basis,” said Hans Schroeder, Chief Operating Officer of NFL Media. “Our fans crave live football, and partnering with Conference USA – a conference which boasts several Hall of Fame players – provides us with an excellent opportunity to do so.”

Specific game announcements will be named at a later date. It’s an important move for C-USA, who has seen more and more of its games moved off of TV and onto streaming platforms, such as ESPN Plus, Stadium and Facebook. The league also has a TV deal with CBS Sports Network.

June Jones resurfaces as XFL Houston head coach

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The last we saw of June Jones, at least in the continental United States, he was mailing it in as SMU’s head coach. After leading the Ponies to four straight bowl trips from 2009-12, Jones watched SMU slip to 5-7 in 2013, then walked out the door after losing the first two games of the 2014 campaign by a combined score of 88-6. (That SMU team would finish the ’14 season at 1-11.) It seemed the then-61-year-old had given football all he had to give, at least on a competitive level.

Jones took 2015 off, then spent 2016 in a semi-retirement gig as the offensive coordinator at a high school in Hawaii.

But Jones must have really missed football, because he gave up the Hawaiian life to spend the past two seasons as head coach of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and now he’s back stateside as the head coach of the XFL’s Houston franchise.

“I’ve spent a few years coaching in Houston, and having a chance to return to be a head coach in the XFL is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Jones. “I had a really great time coaching in the CFL, but this new fresh opportunity to build a team from the ground up is extremely rare in this game, and I’m looking forward to working with Brian Cooper and our coaches to give football fans in Houston a team that’s truly exciting to watch and worthy of their support.”

He was formally announced in a press conference at the University of Houston, and the as-yet-unnamed club will play its games at the Cougars’ TDECU Stadium.

It will be the fourth different professional league Jones has coached in, following stints in the USFL and NFL, in addition to six-plus seasons at SMU and eight at Hawaii.

The eighth of eight head coaches to join the league, Jones will join a roster that includes Bob Stoops and former Michigan offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
 

Father of LSU CB Kelvin Joseph says he’s not entering transfer portal after all

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Well, hold all that.

It was reported Monday morning that LSU sophomore cornerback Kelvin Joseph had entered the transfer portal, but on Monday afternoon Joseph’s father, Kelvin Joseph, Sr., told the New Orleans Times Picayune his

“He’s staying,” Joseph told the paper. “He’s not going anywhere.”

Joseph, Sr., confirmed to the paper that Kelvin had put his name in the portal, doing so Thursday after a trip to Florida with Baton Rouge-native rapper NBA YoungBoy. But by the time Joseph returned to Baton Rouge, whatever issue between he and LSU had been resolved — just in time for Joseph’s name to appear in the portal.

A top-50 recruit in the class of 2018, Joseph, a Baton Rouge native, played in five games as a true freshman last fall, collecting 12 tackles with a pass breakup. He is expected to battle with 5-star recruit Derek Stingley, Jr. for a starting role opposite senior Kristian Fulton. With Fulton out for the spring game, both Stingley and Joseph earned starts, a sign that the sophomore is in line for major snaps this fall.

And it appears Joseph intends to take those snaps after all.

USC considering dropping prohibition on scheduling FCS opponents

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Since Division I split into two subdivisions in 1978, only three FBS schools have refrained from scheduling FCS opponents — Notre Dame, UCLA and USC. That number soon could drop to two.

USC senior associate AD Steve Lopes sat down for an interview with The Athletic on USC’s scheduling philosophy and said the Trojans could soon schedule games with FCS opponents.

“If you start looking at the teams that are available, it’s very limited,” Lopes said. “We’re looking at schools that might not even be FBS, which I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. We may get criticized if and when we do it, but everybody does it. …  Are you going to die on that sword? You can play very good FCS schools that are better than some of the FBS schools you’ll play, the directional schools you’ll play.”

The purists will be upset by this… but they’ll be the only ones. It won’t affect the Trojans’ College Football Playoff chances — Alabama and Georgia already play FCS opponents each year. USC faces a nine-game Pac-12 regular season, an annual game with Notre Dame and, if the Trojans prove worthy, the Pac-12 North champion in their path to the Playoff.

And it likely won’t affect the Trojans’ gate, either. How many USC fans would have stayed home had the Trojans dropped UNLV from their 2018 opener for a game with Sacramento State?

Perhaps the purists would stay home, but nobody else would.