Associated Press

No. 2 Penn State exacts revenge on No. 19 Michigan, advances to showdown vs. No. 6 Ohio State

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The trajectory of Penn State’s program changed with last season’s loss to Michigan. That 49-10 drubbing in Ann Arbor dropped the Nittany Lions to 2-2 on the season and 2-6 dating back to the close of the 2015 season and furthered the narrative that James Franklin couldn’t compete against the elite of the Big Ten.

Penn State is now the elite of the Big Ten. The No. 2 Nittany Lions entered Saturday night 15-1 since that blowout loss to Michigan, and improved to 16-1 with a 42-13 defeat of No. 19 Michigan.

Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead pulled out a wrinkle on the Nittany Lions’ second play from scrimmage, and it worked to perfection. Quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley shifted pre-snap, and Barkley took the direct snap and raced 69 yards untouched for a touchdown.

After forcing a three-and-out, Penn State moved 78 yards in four plays, keyed by a 35-yard rainbow heave from McSorley to tight end Mike Gesicki. Barkley scored his second touchdown of the first quarter one play later, a 15-yard burst around the right side. 

But Penn State’s offense stalled from there. The Lions’ next possession ended in a McSorley interception, and the possession after that was a three-and-out that lost nine yards. Penn State penetrated Michigan territory midway through the second quarter, but Barkley dropped a wheel route that would’ve put the Lions inside the red zone. Penn State turned the ball over on downs two plays later.

Meanwhile, Michigan turned McSorley’s interception into an 11-play, 59-yard touchdown drive capped by a 1-yard Karan Higdon run on fourth-and-goal. Quinn Nordin missed the ensuing PAT.

After the turnover on downs, Michigan marched 67 yards on a series of John O’Korn plays — a 14-yard rush, an 18-yard strike to Donovan Peoples-Jones, and 23 yards to Kekoa CrawfordTy Isaac powered in from six yards out to pull the Wolverines within one with 1:45 to play before the half. 

Threatened for the first time of the evening, Penn State ended its streak of three straight unsuccessful drives with a 7-play, 75-yard march that consumed only 52 seconds. McSorley accounted for 68 yards on the drive, including a 3-yard rush to put the home team back up eight.

That momentum continued into the second half. The Lions opened the second half with a 9-play, 80-yard march that closed with McSorley’s second touchdown run and, after a three-and-out, Penn State’s backfield battery put the game out of reach with a 42-yard touchdown connection from McSorley to Barkley. McSorley closed the night hitting 17-of-26 throws for 282 yards with a touchdown and an interception and 11 carries for 76 yards and three scores. Barkley rushed 15 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns with three grabs for 53 yards and a touchdown. As a team, Penn State racked up 506 yards of total offense, more than double the 223.8 yards per game Michigan’s FBS-leading defense entered the night surrendering — and Franklin allowed the clock to expire with Penn State inside the Michigan 10-yard line and three timeouts in his pocket, so it could have been worse.

Trailing 35-13 early in the fourth quarter, Jim Harbaugh put together a last-chance drive to claw back in the game, but O’Korn was sacked on fourth down near midfield. McSorley’s third touchdown run of the night, a 9-yarder with 7:53 to play, added the exclamation point.

The win pushed Penn State to 7-0 on the season (4-0 Big Ten) and advanced the Nittany Lions into the game of the year in the Big Ten and perhaps the entire college football regular season: a visit to No. 6 Ohio State next Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox).

Michigan dropped to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in Big Ten play. Trailing Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State by two games and ceding the tie-breaker to the first two, the 2017 season officially takes on “rebuilding year” status as the Wolverines are now playing for positioning among the Tampa-Orlando-Jacksonville bowl games and 2018 preparation.

The Nittany Lions, though, are playing for much more, and they have Michigan to thank for that.

Former Arizona head coach Dick Tomey being treated for lung cancer

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Sad news out of Tucson this week as Dick Tomey and his family has issued a statement that the former  Hawaii, San Jose State and Arizona head coach was undergoing treatment for lung cancer.

“Coach Dick Tomey was recently diagnosed with a type of lung cancer at Tucson Medical Center and is currently undergoing further tests this week at MD Anderson Medical Center in Houston, Texas,” the statement, obtained by the Arizona Daily Star, read. “We (Coach and his family) greatly appreciate all the people who have reached out to help in so many ways and all the expressions of love and well-wishes being sent our way from so many people. Following Coach Tomey’s example, our family is feeling very grateful and hopeful for a positive outcome.”

Tomey, now 80 years old, had an impressive resume after several stops out West, including a long stint at UCLA as an assistant before taking over as head coach of the Rainbow Warriors. He eventually became Hawaii’s winningest head coach by the time he left for Arizona, where he revived the program and became famed for being the architect of the ‘Desert Swarm’ defense. His best season with the Wildcats resulted in a 12-1 mark that included a top five finish in 1998.

Per the Daily Star, Tomey had moved back to Tucson in recent years to live full-time in retirement.

Count school presidents on board with renewing Texas-Texas A&M rivalry game

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Do you hear that? Could it actually be the start of détente in the Cold War between Texas and Texas A&M after realignment split the two bitter rivals apart?

Well, as usual in these cases, it’s best to be very cautiously optimistic about the most recent series of words coming out of both Austin and College Station. But make no mistake about it, there is at least some optimism that the Aggies and Longhorns could meet once again on the gridiron.

“It’s a storied rivalry of a hundred years or so,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves told the Austin American-Statesman. “We’ve told our ADs (athletic directors) to figure out a plan and bring it to us.”

“We’re supportive’ of renewing it.” A&M President Michael K. Young said. “Absolutely. We have been from Day One.”

The talk is good but it did come with some demurs about scheduling, such as the fact that both have games already on the non-conference docket for most of the next decade and other issues related to when they could actually get onto the field.

Young and Fenves are far from the only ones to call for the historic rivalry to be renewed in recent years. We’ve seen state legislators get involved, regents from both sides, head coaches like Tom Herman, both athletic directors and even the Texas governor call for the two teams to play each other again… mostly to no avail.

The Longhorns have a major opponent already on the schedule through 2029, including A&M’s fellow SEC opponents LSU, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia (plus Ohio State and Michigan). The Aggies, meanwhile, have an extra non-conference slot available but also have big names on the docket until 2027, including Colorado, Miami, Notre Dame and Arizona State.

As is typically the case, these two old rivals could renew their series if they really wanted to no matter what either side wants to say. They can claim scheduling conflicts all they want but it seems like it will still be another generation before the burnt orange clashes with the maroon white once again.

Despite taking big pay cut from being head coach, Urban Meyer still making six-figures with Ohio State going forward

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We’re approaching a month into Ryan Day’s tenure as the new head coach at Ohio State but the guy he  replaced just can’t seem to stay out of the headlines.

That would be one Urban Meyer, who is officially known by another title nowadays by being the Buckeyes’ “Assistant AD, Athletics Initiatives and Relations.” What exactly does that entail? Well Eleven Warriors put in an open records request to find out more and discovered it’s mostly a fundraising/public relations/development role that comes with a lovely $100,000 per year salary.

“The Assistant AD, Athletics Initiatives and Relations is responsible for fundraising and community relations initiatives and is committed to excellence and advancing Department of Athletics through its strategic plan,” a statement to the site said. “In alignment with the department’s mission and values, and in conjunction with the Executive Associate Athletics Director for Development, this position provides leadership and supports fundraising strategies for the Department of Athletics.  The Assistant AD, Athletics Initiatives and Relations will serve as an ambassador through numerous speaking engagements, service events, donor events, corporate events and engagements.”

While the $100k is notable, it’s a far cry from the over $7 million Meyer was supposed to make in 2019 had he remained in charge of OSU football. The six-figure salary isn’t all that he’ll be taking home either, as Meyer is reportedly signing on with Fox Sports to be a TV analyst for the network going forward.

Tennessee confirms Tee Martin is officially back on Rocky Top as an assistant

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Who says you can’t go home again? Tee Martin is certainly glad you can.

Tennessee confirmed reports on Saturday afternoon that the former Vols legend was indeed returning to Rocky Top as an assistant coach, set to fill an unspecified role on the offensive staff.

“I’m excited to welcome back Tee Martin as one of our assistant coaches,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said in a statement. “He coordinated some of the nation’s top offenses at USC, and he develops and identifies players as well as any coach in the country. He’s an excellent recruiter, and he is terrific at building relationships with his players. He cares about developing young men on and off the field. Tee was the quarterback on one of the greatest teams in school history, winning a national championship. He knows what it take to win here, and I’m excited to have him on our staff.”

Martin was an assistant at New Mexico and Kentucky before spending the past seven years at USC, rising all the way up to become the Trojans’ offensive coordinator. However he was first stripped of play-calling duties this past season by head coach Clay Helton and then not retained after the team failed to make a bowl game in 2018.

It’s not known what specific position group he will handle under new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney but Martin was highly regarded for his time as a recruiter and for developing wide receivers. However he could be going back to his roots to handle quarterbacks at Tennessee given that Brian Niedermeyer is on staff and coaches tight ends while David Johnson handles the Vols’ receivers.

Either way, the homecoming is a welcome one for many fans in orange and white who have to feel a bit like the band is getting back together to lead the program back into contention. Phillip Fulmer is of course athletic director and now Martin is back in the fold, returning to the place where he has a street named after him for his heroics in leading UT to the national championship some 20 years ago.