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No. 15 Oklahoma State survives Lubbock gut check

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Fighting to keep its Big 12 and national championship hopes alive, No. 15 Oklahoma State rolled up 32 first downs and 602 yards of total offense but still hung on to outlast Texas Tech, 41-34 in Lubbock.

It appeared early like Oklahoma State was going to run the Red Raiders off their own field. The Cowboys forced a Texas Tech three-and-out to open the game, then moved 68 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 14-yard strike from Mason Rudolph to James Washington. The Cowboys forced another punt on Texas Tech’s next touch, and then advanced the ball to the Texas Tech red zone before Damarcus Fields grabbed a Rudolph overthrow and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown to level the game at 7-7.

Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) again moved to the red zone on its third possession, but Texas Tech forced a field goal try that Matt Ammendola doinked off the right upright from 22 yards out. Given new life, Texas Tech raced 80 yards in eight snaps, taking a 14-7 lead on a 3-yard toss from Nic Shimonek to Dylan Cantrell. The Red Raiders briefly seized complete control of the game when Marcell Ateman was ruled short of the line to gain on a 3rd-and-10 completion at the Texas Tech 10-yard line, but a replay review handed him a first down, and Rudolph tied the game again one play later on a toss to running back Justice Hill.

Texas Tech (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) punted for a third time on its next possession, and Oklahoma State grabbed its second lead of the game when Rudolph closed an 88-yard drive by finding Jalen McCleskey wide open for a 4-yard touchdown toss.

The Red Raiders held serve with a field goal, although Justin Stockton appeared to cross the plane on a run with five seconds left before halftime but was ruled out of bounds.

Shimonek’s pass was batted away with two seconds left, and Michael Barden booted a 22-yard field goal as time expired.

Oklahoma State accepted the ball to open the second half and picked up where it left off, moving 75 yards in eight plays and grabbing a 28-17 lead on an 8-yard Rudolph run. The Cowboys then forced another three-and-out and had a chance to blow the game open, but failed to cash in a first-and-goal from the 9-yard line and settled for a 22-yard Ammendola chip shot.

The teams traded field goals until Texas Tech pulled back within seven on a 1-yard Stockton run, pushing the score to 34-27 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Oklahoma State was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct flag after the score, allowing Texas Tech to kickoff from midfield — and the Red Raiders took advantage by recovering an onside kick. However, Texas Tech immediately gave back that extra possession when Shimonek under-threw a screen pass that Cowboys defensive lineman Jordan Brailford easily intercepted. But the Tech defense forced a three-and-out and the first OSU punt of the night, then tied the game at 34-34 with 9:56 to play on a 1-yard Desmond Nisby plunge.

Oklahoma State rebounded from its one bad possession by putting together another good one, moving 73 yards to the Texas Tech 2-yard line, but Rudolph’s third-and-goal keeper was stuffed, and Ammendola again doinked a chip shot field goal off the same right upright.

The Red Raiders had a chance to take their first lead since 14-7 but advanced only to their own 37 before punting the ball back to Oklahoma State with 3:21 remaining. Aided by a 26-yard completion to Ateman on 3rd-and-5, Rudolph put Oklahoma State back in front with his second rushing touchdown, an untouched 16-yard scamper with 1:12 to play.

Texas Tech moved to midfield on its last-gasp drive, but Shimonek fired four straight incomplete passes to end the game.

Rudolph closed the night hitting 27-of-38 throws for 376 yards with three scores and one interception while adding 50 yards and two scores on the ground. It was Rudolph’s 17th 300-yard passing game, breaking a record previously held by Brandon Weeden. Hill ran 30 times for 164 yards, and Washington caught nine passes for 127 yards and a score.

Shimonek completed 29-of-46 passes for 330 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while the Red Raiders eeked out only 54 yards on 26 carries.

It was Oklahoma State’s ninth straight win over the Red Raiders, and evened the all-time series at 21-21-3.

CFB Hall of Fame Texas Tech defensive tackle Gabe Rivera, dubbed Señor Sack, passes away

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Former Texas Tech defensive tackle Gabe Rivera passed away on Tuesday. He suffered a perforated bowel while attending a social services function on Friday night and his family was preparing to move him to hospice care when he passed on Tuesday morning. “Gabriel went home to the Lord at 9:25,” Rivera’s wife, Nancy, told KENS-TV in San Antonio.

A San Antonio native, Rivera played defensive tackle at Texas Tech from 1979-82, where he earned All-American status after recording 62 tackles and five sacks as a senior. “He was one of the most dominating defensive lineman to ever play the game and a loyal Red Raider throughout his life,” Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said in a statement.

Selected 21st overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1983, Rivera, dubbed “Señor Sack,” recorded two sacks in his first six games, but was left paraplegic after getting in an automobile crash in October.

“From the accident in ‘83, it took maybe five, six, eight years to get control,” Rivera said in 2012. “At one time, I just changed my life and started going forward. I was mad at the world, mad at God and stuff.”

He moved home to San Antonio after the injury, where he remained and raised a family until his death. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and Texas Tech’s Ring of Honor and had his No. 69 jersey retired in 2014.

Rivera was 57 years old.

Northern Illinois, Miami (Ohio) to play for Mallory Cup

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The Mid-American Conference has a proud history of fostering future College Football Hall of Fame coaches. From legends such as Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler to modern day titans such as Nick Saban and Urban Meyer, the MAC has served as the launching pad of coaching greatness for generations. But despite all that talent, only one coach won the MAC at two different schools: Bill Mallory.

Mallory went 39-12 as Miami (Ohio)’s head coach from 1969-73 — he took over for Schembechler, who left for the Michigan job — and led the RedHawks to a perfect 11-0 season, a No. 15 final AP ranking and a win over Florida in the Tangerine Bowl in ’73. That success led him to Colorado, but he was let go after the 1978 season. After sitting out the ’79 campaign, Mallory got back in at Northern Illinois, guiding the Huskies to a 25-19 mark from 1980-83. His 1983 team went 10-2, beat Cal State Fullerton in the California Bowl and won the Huskies’ first of four MAC titles.

Mallory parlayed that 1983 season into the Indiana job, where he remained until his 1996 retirement. In 27 years as a head coach, Mallory went 168-129-4, including a 64-31 record in nine combined seasons in the MAC.

To honor his May 25 passing, Northern Illinois and Miami (Ohio) announced Monday they will play for the Mallory Cup moving forward. The first such game will take place on Nov. 14 in DeKalb, Ill.

“Bill Mallory was a special coach and a great man who left a lasting legacy in the Mid-American Conference and certainly at NIU and Miami,” NIU AD Sean Frazier said.  “The Mallory Cup honors a man whose impact on both programs should and will be remembered each time our teams meet on the football field.  We’re happy to work with our colleagues at Miami on this initiative and invite all fans to be here at Huskie Stadium on November 14 for the first Mallory Cup game.”

“Miami is proud to partner with Northern Illinois University in the creation of the Mallory Cup,” added Miami AD David Sayler. “It is a fitting tribute to a wonderful man and coach that has meant so much too so many. Although Miami and NIU will not play every year in football, it is good to know that when we do, Bill Mallory will be honored and remembered for the tremendous legacy he has left here in Oxford and in DeKalb.”

The Huskies and RedHawks have played 17 times in a series that dates back to 1970. NIU holds a 9-8 advantage; Miami won seven of the first nine meetings, but Northern Illinois has taken seven of the last eight, including the most recent match-up by way of a 45-12 decision on Oct. 17, 2015.

Four-star QB-turned-minor league baseball player narrows football choices to Auburn, LSU, NC State

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And then there were three.

Earlier this month, Cord Sandberg announced his retirement from baseball after a six-season career spent entirely in the minor leagues.  Simultaneously, the four-star member of Mississippi State’s 2013 recruiting class announced that he would be resuming his football career, confirming that he had received a scholarship offer from Auburn and a pair of offers to be a preferred walk-on at two other SEC schools — Florida and LSU.  The Gators are coached by Dan Mullen, who was the head coach of the Bulldogs when Sandberg signed with MSU in February of 2013.

That led to some assuming UF perhaps had the inside track for Sandberg.  That assumption turned out to be inaccurate as the quarterback confirmed to Rivals.com that he has narrowed his football to-do list to Auburn, LSU and North Carolina State.  Sandberg will take an official visit to each of those schools this month before making a decision, with the recruiting website reporting that he will make trips to NC State July 25-26, Auburn July 26-28 and LSU July 28-29.

Sandberg had previously stated that he wanted to enroll in classes no later than Aug. 20, meaning a decision on his next school should come shortly after his final visit later this month.  Given that the 23-year-old Sandberg hasn’t played the sport since high school, it’s widely expected he’ll take a redshirt this coming football season; he would then have four years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2019 season.

“I have definitely enjoyed my conversations with those coaches staffs and I feel good about those situations,” Sandberg told the site. “I can see myself enjoying going to school for 3-4 years in those towns. …

“I feel comfortable with the conversations I’ve had with all of those guys and what my role would be playing quarterback at all of those schools.”

In addition to the schools already mentioned, UCF and UCLA also expressed interest/extended offers.

Coming out of high school in Bradenton, Fla., in 2013, Sandberg was rated as the No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the country. Only three signees in MSU’s class that year were rated higher than Sandberg — defensive end Chris Jones, safety Ashton Shumpert and wide receiver Fred Ross.

In nearly 500 games at the minor league level, Sandberg, a center fielder, was a career .243 hitter with 29 home runs and 173 RBI. He finished with a slash line of .243/.298/.348.

Mike Gundy confirms QB Taylor Cornelius is ‘our guy’ heading into camp

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In the race to replace Mason Rudolph under center, there’s a clear leader in Stillwater.

Exiting spring practice, it was widely thought that Taylor Cornelius was the odds-on favorite to claim Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback job.  At the Big 12 Media Days Tuesday, Mike Gundy confirmed as much, stating that Cornelius “is our guy” heading into summer camp.

A former walk-on, Cornelius will enter the 2018 season as a fifth-year senior.

“When we came out of spring, we felt very comfortable with Taylor,” the OSU head coach said. “He’s been with us a number of years, he understands our offense. We’re confident in his abilities.”

While Cornelius is the favorite now, he will have a fight on his hands to remain the starter for OSU’s opener Aug. 30 against Missouri State.

After not taking part in spring practice, Dru Brown and Spencer Sanders will enter the fray in early August. Brown comes to OSU as a graduate transfer from Hawaii, where he was a two-year starter for the Rainbow Warriors.  Sanders was a four-star member of the Cowboys’ 2018 recruiting class, rated as the No.8 dual-threat quarterback in the country on 247Sports.com’s composite board.

During his time with the Cowboys, Cornelius has thrown for 220 yards on 15-of-24 passing.  Six of those completions, 10 of the attempts and 148 yards came during a 2017 season in which he served as Rudolph’s primary backup.