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North Dakota State tops defending champ James Madison to claim sixth FCS crown in seven years

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Once again, North Dakota State is the champion of the Football Championship Subdivision. And this time, the Bison had to beat the defending champions to do it. After their 5-year run of FCS national championships was ended by James Madison in a stunning 27-17 FCS semifinals defeat in the Fargodome last year, North Dakota State took its revenge with a 17-13 win over the Dukes on Saturday in Frisco, Texas.

North Dakota State (14-1) led this one throughout. After forcing a three-and-out to open the game, the Bison migrated down the field, moving 66 yards in 11 plays and six and a half minutes before scoring on a 3-yard Bruce Anderson run, grabbing a lead North Dakota State would not relinquish.

Trailing 7-3, James Madison had a golden chance to take a first quarter lead after recovering a fumble by NDSU quarterback Eason Stick at the Bison 28, but JMU quarterback Bryan Schor gave the ball right back with an interception. North Dakota State took a 14-3 lead on a 50-yard strike from Stick to Darrius Shepherd with 4:14 left in the second quarter, then carried a 17-6 lead into halftime.

The Dukes pulled within 17-13 thanks to a 33-yard punt return by D’Angelo Amos and then a 33-yard touchdown drive, culminating in a 1-yard Marcus Marshall run that cut the deficit to four with 9:26 to play in the third.

James Madison would climb no closer, though it wasn’t for a lack of chances. The Dukes committed a season-high three turnovers, failed to protect Schor (he was sacked four times) despite facing 4-man rushes, gagged away numerous drops (including one that would have given JMU a 1st-and-10 at the NDSU 30 with under 10 minutes to play) and also missed a field goal.

Even still, James Madison (14-1) had a chance to win at the end. Facing a 4th-and-9 at his own 47 with 3:06 to play and all three timeouts in his pocket, Dukes head coach Mike Houston appeared to elect to punt and trust his defense rather than go for it; instead, he chose neither, as punter Harry O’Kelly scampered down the left side for a 24-yard gain to the NDSU 29. James Madison would eventually reached the North Dakota State 18 but only went backward from there. Schor threw for a loss of two yards on 2nd-and-9, he was harassed into a hurried incompletion on 3rd-and-11 and, after a false start, could not complete a blind Hail Mary heave on 4th-and-16 with 1:10 to play.

North Dakota State took over on downs and expired the final 58 seconds to complete its march to a sixth national championship.

The win pulls North Dakota State into a tie with Georgia Southern — now a member of the FBS Sun Belt Conference — for the most FCS titles; however, the Eagles won their six in eight tries, while the Bison are a perfect 6-for-6. Georgia Southern also racked up its six titles in a 16-season stretch, while North Dakota State has done so in just seven.

And in only one of those six trips to Frisco has North Dakota State surrendered more than 13 points.

For James Madison, the loss denies the Dukes a chance to tie Appalachian State for fourth all-time with three FCS titles.

For a game that pitted two of the top three defenses nationally, this one was played as expected. Both teams combined to gain 31 first downs, the defenses won 20 of the 31 third down attempts, and neither hit 270 yards of total offense. North Dakota State won the ground game, 134-93, and Stick completed 13-of-22 passes for 130 yards with a touchdown while Schor hit just 14-of-32 for 148 yards with two interceptions. Despite snapping the ball just eight more times, North Dakota State managed a 15-minute advantage in time of possession, chewing up 37:41 in its 70 snaps compared to just 22:19 in 62 plays for James Madison.

Former five-star WR Demetris Robertson tweets transfer from Cal

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One of the top players in the Class of 2016 is on the move.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday afternoon, Demetris Robertson announced that he has “decided not to continue my education and football career at UC Berkeley.” The Cal wide receiver said he made his decision to leave the football program because of unspecified personal matters.

Robertson will have to sit out the 2018 season if/when he transfers to another FBS program.  He would then have two years of eligibility at his disposal beginning with the 2019 season.

A five-star member of the Golden Bears’ 2016 recruiting class, Robertson was rated as the No. 1 receiver in the country; the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Georgia; and the No. 13 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Robertson’s initial recruitment was an unusual one as he didn’t sign until May 1, nearly three months after National Signing Day, and then stunned the college football recruiting world by picking Cal over Notre Dame and home-state Georgia.

Given the fact that he’s from the state and described “personal matters” as his reason for leaving the Golden Bears, the Bulldogs will likely be viewed as the initial favorite to land one of the fastest players in college football.

At Cal, Robertson, at least initially, lived up to the recruiting hype as he was second on the team as a true freshman with 50 receptions for 767 yards and seven touchdowns.  His 15.3 yards per catch were tops on the team.  After catching seven passes for 70 yards the first two games of the 2017 season, however, he was sidelined for the remainder of the year by what turned out to be a season-ending lower-body injury.

Lane Kiffin pushed back against wearing bulletproof vest in return to Tennessee as Alabama OC

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College football, y’all.

Suffice to say, Lane Kiffin‘s departure from Rocky Top after one season as head coach at Tennessee for the same job at USC left a bad taste in the mouth of many members of Vols Nation.  How bad of a taste?  From ESPN.com in January of 2010:

But the real trick for Kiffin was figuring out a way to leave the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center late Tuesday night in one piece.

Groups of angry students and fans began surrounding the football complex after the news leaked that Kiffin had taken the USC job. Eventually, it evolved into a mob-like scene, with police moving in and barricading Johnny Majors Drive in front of the football complex.

Every time a car moved anywhere in the vicinity of the complex, the mob ran in that direction, shouting and chanting, “F— you Kiffin!

Fast-forward nearly five years, and Kiffin made his return — a triumphant, winning return as it turned out — to Neyland Stadium as the offensive coordinator at rival Alabama in October of 2014.  Ahead of that return, security was fearful for Kiffin’s life.  So fearful, in fact, that they wanted the former Volunteers head coach to wear a bulletproof vest into the famed stadium.

At least that’s what the current Florida Atlantic head coach claimed on Marty Smith‘s podcast, by way of 247Sports.com:

It’s crazy. They were literally talking about like — from the bus in — a bulletproof vest. I’m like, ‘Come on, guys. This is football.’ They said, ‘No, really.’ They had security with me the whole way, even walking on the field and stuff like that,” Kiffin said. “I’m just like ‘I’m not wearing a vest, guys. All right?’ That’s a little bit over the top. It was all in fun. There was a lot of mean words said — four-letter words. That speaks of Tennessee’s fans, just how passionate they are. I think Phillip Fulmer said it the other day, ‘We have the most passionate fans in the country.

Of course, all that angst and anger had waned by the time UT’s next search for a head coach kicked off as a small but very vocal portion of the fanbase actually wanted the one-time Knoxville pariah to replace Butch Jones late last year.  Hell, it was even reported that, in the midst of what was a circus of a search, “Lane is definitely on board if Tennessee gives him a call” about returning as head coach.

Ah, what could’ve been…

Nebraska transfer QB Patrick O’Brien officially lands at Colorado State

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In mid-April, Patrick O’Brien took to social media to announce his decision to transfer from Nebraska.  Earlier this month, the quarterback announced his new college football home.  Wednesday, said new college football home confirmed O’Brien’s addition.

In a press release, Colorado State acknowledged that O’Brien has indeed joined Mike Bobo‘s football program.  Because of NCAA transfer rules, the 6-4, 230-pound O’Brien will be forced to sit out the 2018 season.

However, beginning with the 2019 season, he will have two years of eligibility that he can use moving forward.

A four-star member of the Cornhuskers’ 2016 recruiting class, O’Brien was rated as the No. 10 pro-style quarterback that year.  It’s that pro-style of play that led him to transfer away from Scott Frost and Nebraska after the new regime’s first spring practice came to an end earlier this offseason.

As the primary backup to Tanner Lee last season, and after redshirting his true freshman season, O’Brien completed 18-of-30 passes for 192 yards and an interception.  He also ran for four yards on 14 carries.

Oregon student charged in death of former Ducks LB Fotu Leiato

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An arrest has been made in connection to the death of a former Oregon football player, the Eugene Register-Guard and The Oregonian are reporting.

Ex-Ducks linebacker Fotu Leiato was found dead early Friday morning as the result of what was described as a single-car accident. Pedro Chavarin Jr. was the driver of a vehicle that rolled over and crashed in Eugene; at the time, the 22-year-old UO student told police that he was the only occupant of the vehicle.

While Chavarin was initially charged with DUII, one count of first-degree manslaughter has since been added as Leiato’s body was found hours after the crash.  According to police, the 21-year-old Leiato had been a passenger in Chavarin’s Kia sedan at the time of the wreck.

According to The Oregonian, Chavarin faces a minimum of 10 years in prison if convicted of first-degree manslaughter.

Leiato played in 37 games the past three seasons for the Ducks.  He was dismissed from the football program in April after the second of his two arrests this offseason.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Fotu, and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time,” a statement from the university at the time of Leiato’s passing began. “He will be remembered and missed by all who knew him.”