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Cal plays tough, but No. 5 USC pulls away late to stay undefeated

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USC’s annual trip to the Bay Area for what is commonly referred to as ‘The Weekender’ is typically a casual affair for the Trojans when they go to Berkeley and their team takes on overmatched Pac-12 rivals Cal. Such was not the case for most of Saturday afternoon however, as the Bears pushed and prodded their in-state rivals before the dam finally broke early in the fourth quarter for a 30-20 win by the cardinal and gold.

The closer-than-it-indicated final score may not have been all that pretty but still allowed USC to capture their 14th straight victory and run their record against Cal to 13 straight wins over nearly a decade and a half.

Part of the reason the Trojans couldn’t pull away until late was an ineffective offense that was a continuation of last week against Texas. Quarterback Sam Darnold had to carry the team at times but wasn’t quite as sharp early in the passing game, forcing several balls while throwing his seventh interception (after having just nine all last year). His numbers improved as the game went on and, in front of a bunch of NFL scouts, he still finished with 223 yards and two touchdown passes against a feisty defense.

The biggest issue for the signal-caller was the lack of a running game. Normal starter Ronald Jones II didn’t even make the trip with the team, while true freshman Stephen Carr had his moments rushing for 82 yards and a touchdown taking the bulk of the carries.

Head coach Clay Helton can once again thank his defense for bailing out the slow starting offense as they forced six turnovers and straight up took over in the final quarter to change momentum. Josh Fatu forced a fumble early in the 4th that was recovered near the goal line to kick the party off and interceptions by Ykili Ross and Jack Jones in the next few series all but sealed the deal in Strawberry Canyon.

As a result, the numbers for Cal signal-caller Ross Bowers looked dreadful on the final stat sheet (303 yards, 1 TD, four interceptions and a fumble). Still, he did help give the team a chance for most of the day and, combined with a solid run game and defensive performance, helped show that things are still looking up for Justin Wilcox’s team despite suffering their first loss of the year to move to 3-1.

That might not be the case for USC as they fly back and look over the game tape from a sloppy victory. While it does put the team up 2-0 in league play, notching another win might prove to be even more difficult if they play like that given they face a stiff test next Friday against a Washington State team that should be ranked in the top 20.

Suspended Mizzou starting S Kaleb Prewett has been dismissed

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Thanks to an off-field incident, Missouri’s defensive secondary will have a sizable on-field hole to fill.

In January, it was confirmed that Kaleb Prewett had been indefinitely suspended by Barry Odom for violating unspecified team rules. Six months later, the head coach confirmed at the SEC Media Days this week that the starting safety has been dismissed from his football program.

Just when the dismissal took place is unclear.

In February of 2016, and not long after he was arrested on an alcohol-related offense, it was confirmed that Prewett would be transferring from Kansas State; three months later, the starting defensive back for the Wildcats transferred to the Tigers. After sitting out the 2016 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Prewett began 2017 as Mizzou’s starting strongside linebacker before starting the last seven games at safety.

Prewett was fourth on the Tigers in tackles this past season with 60. He was also credited with four tackles for loss and two pass breakups.

Alabama LB Keith Holcombe giving up football for baseball

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After months of speculation, Alabama has officially lost a veteran linebacking and special teams presence. Probably.

Early last month, Nick Saban indicated it was unlikely that Keith Holcombe would return to the Alabama football team for a fourth season after playing three seasons for the Crimson Tide baseball team. In providing the latest update to the linebacker’s status moving forward, the head coach confirmed Wednesday that Holcombe had decided to forego playing football in order to focus solely on a career in baseball, although he did seem to leave the door at least slightly ajar for a future return to the gridiron.

“I think he would add a tremendous amount of experience, knowledge and diversity to our defense because he’s very smart if he decided to come back,” Saban said by way of al.com. “But that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.”

After redshirting as a true freshman in 2014, Holcombe played in 44 football games for the Tide the past three seasons. In addition to a team-high 11 special teams tackles during their run to the national championship, he was also credited with three pass breakups and two tackles for loss on defense in 2017.

On the baseball side, Holcombe started 87 of the 97 games he played, including 45 of 47 this past season as an outfielder. He was third on the team in hits with 51.

While he wasn’t drafted this past June, he was taken in the 37th round of the 2014 MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Instead of signing with that baseball organization, he headed to Tuscaloosa on a football scholarship.

Jay Norvell stays in-house to fill hole on Nevada staff

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As it turns out, Jay Norvell didn’t have to look far to find an assistant to replace one who recently and abruptly bolted.

The Nevada football program announced Wednesday that Norvell has promoted Mike Chamoures to the position of safeties coach for the Wolf Pack. Chamoures spent the 2017 season, his first with the Mountain West Conference school, as a defensive quality control coach.

This will mark Chamoures’ first on-field job at the FBS level.

“Mike is an intelligent young coach who has earned the respect of many of our players with his experience and understanding of our defensive system,” Norvell said in a statement

“I’m very grateful to Coach Norvell and [defensive coordinator Jeff] Casteel for the opportunity and look forward to playing a bigger role in building the program,” Chamoures stated in his.

Chamoures will replace Courtney Viney, who left earlier this week for an off-field job at Oklahoma.

Ex-Baylor DC Phil Bennett calls legal firm interview a fraud, says Art Briles deserves to coach again

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Former Baylor head coach Phil Bennett says an interview he did for a law firm reviewing Baylor’s response to sexual assault scandal was a fraud because he was unable to go through the interview without an attorney by his side. In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bennett took issue with the review conducted by the Pepper Hamilton law firm.

“It was somewhere in January or February after our bowl game,” Bennett said of the interview he had with representatives from the law firm. “I told (staffers) it was a fraud set up from the get-go. I wanted to bring a lawyer in and to record it. I wanted protection. They would not talk to us if we did. They didn’t have a recording of it, either. That’s what bothered me. I was in there for 4 1/2 hours. They wrote notes. I wrote notes. They looked at mine. I looked at theirs. (The two investigators) were so out of touch with the structure of college football, it was comical.”

Bennett went on to explain when he realized there was no progress he was going to make in the interview.

“I said, ‘We are bringing these kids in and we take great pride in keeping them within the lines of university procedures. That’s our jobs. We are not getting the normal student.’ I wanted to be as real as I could with them. We are trying to teach these kids how to be in college and how to react in situations. She says, ‘Judicial Affairs should have known.’ As soon as she said that, I knew this was over.”

Despite the scale of the scandal at Baylor and the fallout that ensued, Bennett remains confident Baylor was really no different from any other college football program in the country.

“We had the same issues that everybody had,” Bennett claimed at one point in the video interview. “We tried to stay on top of things. Now, were we just a hammer? Probably not.”

Previous reports have detailed how members of the Baylor coaching staff worked around the typical Title IX procedures, which is what really brought the entire situation at Baylor to a boil.

Bennett also came to the defense of former Baylor head coach Art Briles, suggesting Briles was targetted because Baylor could not successfully fire Ken Starr as university president.

“Yes. I remember when this all started, my wife told me, ‘This is the sort of thing that gets you fired.’ I don’t know if this was true, but I was told by a member of the board that Art was never the objective. They were looking to fire Ken Starr. But Starr lawyered up. And the next on the pole was Briles.”

During the course of the interview, Bennett suggested Baylor was no different from other college football programs around the country

“Every night I say a prayer for him, that he will [coach again],” Bennett said of Briles. “I think without question he deserves to.”

Briles, of course, has struggled to land a coaching job since being fired by Baylor. A job in the CFL never took off after public outcry about his hiring, and he remains a bit of a pariah around college football as the dust still settles from the impact of the scandal in Waco.