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USC QB Sam Darnold declares for NFL Draft

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USC quarterback Sam Darnold is joining the list of early entrants to the NFL after declaring his intention to enter the 2018 NFL Draft. A Rose Bowl champion and the former Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year a year ago, Darnold could potentially be one of the top draft picks in the 2018 NFL Draft even after a bumpy 2017 season.

Darnold led the Pac-12 in passing in 2017 with 4,143 yards, with the conference’s third-highest passing yards per game (205.9 ypg). Darnold passed for 26 touchdowns with 13 interceptions in a bit of a roller coaster season that still ended up with USC in the Cotton Bowl as the Pac-12 champion. Despite some off moments and sub-par performances from one of the hottest quarterbacks coming into the season, pro scouts still see plenty of upside to Darnold at the next level. Darnold’s decision to turn pro likely is influenced by the confidence he will not have to wait very long to hear his name called this spring at the NFL Draft.

Darnold was a key player in USC’s second-half turnaround in the 2016 season. After a rough start to the season, Clay Helton opted to make a quarterback change and gave Darnold the chance to start. After a close loss to Utah, USC went on a roll and ended the 2016 season as one of the best-looking teams. Although the hot finish couldn’t quite wiggle USC into the Pac-12 championship game, Darnold delivered in the Rose Bowl as the Trojans rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat Saquon Barkley and Big Ten champion Penn State. With expectations incredibly high for the 2017 season, Darbnold and USC had to settle for a Pac-12 championship and a spot in the Cotton Bowl. Darnold had a rough performance in the bowl game against the Buckeyes, but that is not enough to suggest his draft stock plummeted. Darnold will be one of the top quarterbacks, if not one of the top players, selected in the NFL Draft as long as he has a solid scouting combine and draft-prep experience.

As for USC, the door is open for Matt Fink to start getting ready for the starting job this spring. Jack Sears, a four-star recruit in USC’s Class of 2017 could also start to lobby for the job in the spring.

Darnold’s announcement comes on the same day UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen announced his intention to enter the NFL Draft. Rosen and Darnold may be battling for the top spot in the draft.

Alabama: Tua Tagovailoa to undergo hip surgery Monday in Houston

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There’s some additional clarity to what was the biggest college football storyline in Week 12 — or the entire 2019 season, for that matter.

After hours and hours worth of ofttimes ominous speculation, Alabama announced Saturday night that Tua Tagovailoa had been diagnosed with a dislocated right hip, an injury suffered in the first half of its rout of Mississippi State, and would miss the remainder of the 2019 season. At the time, the school stated that Tagovailoa “is undergoing further testing to determine the best course of treatment.”

Sunday night, the football program confirmed in a statement attributed to Dr. Lyle Cain, the team’s orthopedic surgeon, that the junior quarterback will undergo surgery on his injured hip in Houston Monday.

For the past 24 hours our medical team has consulted with multiple orthopedic experts across the country, who specialize in hip injuries and surgeries. Based on that research, Tua is being flown to Houston tonight to be evaluated and is scheduled to have hip surgery Monday. As previously stated, we anticipate a full recovery. The main focus has been, and will remain, on Tua, his family, and making sure we are providing them the best medical care possible.

It’s long been expected that Tagovailoa would forego his remaining year of collegiate eligibility and make himself available for the 2020 NFL Draft. At this point, it’s unclear how the injury will impact Tagovailoa’s decision.

Ed Orgeron did not stick to sports in Louisiana governor race

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There were two major events on Saturday in the state of Louisiana: LSU’s closer than expected win at Ole Miss and the hotly contested gubernatorial race that saw incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards win reelection.

And yes, those events are in order of importance to most.

It seems there’s quite the sports angle to the latter too and it not surprisingly involves the former. You can start on Wednesday where Edwards, calling himself ‘John B.’ from Amite, called into Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron’s weekly radio show ahead of the polls opening over the weekend.

“It is an easier state to govern when the Saints and LSU are winning,” Edwards also told the New York Times. “People are just in a better mood.”

While we will leave the political analysis of Edwards’ victory to others, it’s worth noting that the result was also a personal win for Orgeron, who endorsed the Democrat back in the spring and has enjoyed a good relationship with those in and around the statehouse ever since taking over the program as head coach.  It is pretty rare for a head coach to ever wander into political waters nowadays (especially in a non-presidential election cycle) it seems that’s not the case for the Louisiana-loving Cajun in charge of No. 1 LSU.

Also a quick kudos to the governor himself, who said earlier in the week on Orgeron’s radio show that the Tigers shouldn’t overlook the Rebels in Oxford. Given the fight that Matt Luke’s team put up, that was certainly spot on in big sandwich game after beating Alabama and taking on Texas A&M.

45,161 fans see Ithaca beat SUNY Cortland to set D3 attendance record at MetLife Stadium

Keenan Slusher
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MetLife Stadium has been home to some awful NFL football this season but this past Saturday fans in the Tri-State region were at least treated to a far more interesting product on the field..

As we noted back in early October, this year’s Battle for the Cortaga Jug was going to be extra special because it was going to take place in the Meadowlands as Ithaca College and SUNY Cortland attempted to set a new Division III record for attendance. According to the Ithaca Journal, the pair did just that with 45,161 fans showed up to the game as the Bombers (that’s Ithaca) won their third straight Jug, 32-20.

“The electricity was unreal,” Cortland senior running back Zach Tripodi told the paper, “… When I scored, I don’t think I’ve ever felt something like that. You really felt the crowd.”

The final tally broke the previous D3 mark of 37,355 (from a 2017 matchup between St. Thomas and St. John’s at Minneapolis’ Target Field) by a considerable margin.

For what it’s worth, the D3 game at MetLife also had a bigger crowd than the ones that watched some of the FBS programs in New York, including the 16,286 down in Durham, N.C. that saw Syracuse thump Duke, the 8,450 that saw Buffalo lose at Kent State or the 25,747 in West Point that saw Army beat Virginia Military Institute.

Good football, it seems, is hard to come by in the Empire State but fans will come out for quality play no matter what level.

Louisville AD dons a bird mask, breaks out Pappy van Winkle to celebrate bowl berth

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For some teams, reaching a bowl game — even those obscure dot com-sponsored ones — is quite meaningful. Such is the case at Louisville as they have embarked on one of the better turnarounds in the country this season under new head coach Scott Satterfield. 

Following up a 2-10 disaster at the hands of Bobby Petrino last year, the new staff has revitalized the program and secured bowl eligibility on Saturday by beating N.C. State 34-20. That’s a cause worth celebrating around the city and Cardinals AD Vince Tyra certainly did not short himself on that front after the sixth victory of 2019 by donning a rather comical mask in the locker room and breaking out some very expensive whiskey to share with the head coach.

Tyra and Satterfield may indeed be the only ones to drink Pappy out of a Gatorade cup but it probably tasted even sweeter than it normally does given the accomplishment it’s celebrating. While some fans may scoff at reaching six wins in a season, the jubilation in Louisville is a good reminder that benchmarks like that have plenty of meaning for programs who sat at home in disarray last year.