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Another upset brewing in Berkeley? Cal leads No. 8 Washington State at halftime

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One top 10 team has already gone down on a freaky Friday night, could another upset be brewing in Berkeley? Based on the first half, it sure seems like it.

In smoky conditions not far from the Northern California fires, Cal came out sharp and played well on both sides of the ball to take a 17-3 lead over No. 8 Washington State into halftime and grab the inside track to their biggest conference victory in a long time.

While you would think the offense was the one powering the upset bid, it was actually Justin Wilcox’s defense that did the trick. The Bears picked off Luke Falk on the Cougars’ first drive and didn’t stop there, recording a missed field goal, forcing a fumble and managing a three-and-out on the following three possessions. Cal took advantage of that play too, going up two-scores to take a lead into the second quarter for the first time this season.

The ground game wasn’t much to write home about for the offense but signal-caller Ross Bowers did throw for 159 yards and a score despite facing constant pressure on every drop back.

His counterpart knows all about that pressure, getting sacked four times and throwing two picks on a night where Falk topped the 13,000 yard mark in his passing career. The Cougars did hold onto the ball for over 20 minutes and mounted several promising drives but the turnovers and mental mistakes kept them from making things close numerous times.

As a result, head coach Mike Leach was caught by cameras lighting into his team on a night where it seems some of them were just going through the motions. That’s part of the recipe to get upset and Cal is certainly obliging by taking their shot to make things extremely interesting on a unique Bay Area night.

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.