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Pitt officially loses football staffer to Virginia Tech

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Pitt’s on-field rivalry with Virginia Tech has now bled over to the off-field personnel side of the equation.

Following up on chatter that surfaced earlier in the week, Tech confirmed Wednesday that it has hired Mark Diethorn as the football program’s new Director of Player Personnel. The hiring marks a homecoming for Diethorn as he’s a 2007 graduate of the university.

Diethorn had spent the past six seasons at Pitt, serving as the Panthers’ Director of Recruiting since Pat Narduzzi was hired in 2015.

“Mark will serve in a key role for us as our director of player personnel,” Hokies head coach Justin Fuente said in a statement. “His longstanding relationships with coaches across our region and his passion for Virginia Tech are just some of the qualities that made him the right person for us. Mark is very bright and talented, but it also became very apparent he shares a vision for the type of young men who will fit at Virginia Tech, in terms of work ethic, talent and their commitment to being successful academically.

“We’re excited to have him join our team and what we’re building in Blacksburg.”

As members of the ACC Coastal Division, the Hokies and Panthers have squared off each of the past six seasons. Prior to that, they met 11 times as members of the now-defunct Big East from 1991-2003.

Tech leads the all-time series 10-7.

Mistakes bury Tennessee as Florida tops Vols for 13th time in 14 tries

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They honored Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night. And why wouldn’t they pick tonight of all nights? It’s been 20 years, after all, and the Tennessee-Florida game was almost always the game of the year in the SEC in the 1990’s. Remember, it was a 20-17 overtime win for the No. 6 Volunteers over No. 2 Florida that set Phillip FulmerTee MartinPeerless Price and company on their way to the first BCS crown.

But the fact that the ’98 Vols were in the house quickly became kind of a macabre joke, because Tennessee has never looked further away from a national title than it did on Saturday night.

Five turnovers did the Vols in, as unranked Florida cruised to a 47-21 win over unranked-and-going-to-stay-that-way-for-a-while Tennessee.

The mistakes started immediately for Tennessee. On the Vols’ first drive of the game, Jarrett Guarantano was sacked and fumbled, which Florida’s David Reese II recovered and returned to the UT 21. Felepie Franks put the Gators up 7-0 four plays later when he hit R.J. Raymond for a 1-yard toss.

On Tennessee’s next possession, Guarantano was intercepted by Luke Ancrum at his own 12, which he returned to the 7. Franks rushed in from one yard out two plays later, handing Florida a 14-0 lead.

Dear reader, this was just the beginning.

A safety handed Florida (3-1, 1-1 SEC) a 16-3 lead and, after the free kick, Franks found Freddie Swan for a 65-yard score, effectively ending the game at 23-3 with 10:42 to play in the second quarter.

Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) appeared to be in position to pull back within two scores when, on a 4th-and-1 from their own 45, Guarantano found a wide open tight end Austin Pope for a 51-yard connection. But as Pope leaped to avoid a tackle near the goal line, he lost control of the ball, which then rolled out of the end zone, turning a 1st-and-goal into a touchback.

Florida punted on the ensuing possession and Tennessee again moved into scoring territory, facing a 3rd-and-11 at the Florida 23, but a botched shotgun snap ended a second straight promising drive in a fumble.

Florida drove 66 yards at the close of the half to add a 25-yard Evan McPherson field goal to close the first half with a 26-3 lead.

Tennessee accepted the ball to open the second half, and Shawn Shamburger fumbled the return, handing Florida its fifth takeaway of the game. Jordan Scarlett punched in a 19-yard touchdown run one play later.

After a field goal, Guarantano tossed his second of two interceptions — and Tennessee’s sixth turnover — but Florida didn’t cash in this time.

The Gators didn’t need to, though. The score was 33-6 at that point, and Tennessee never pulled within 19 points in the second half.

Florida beat Tennessee for the 13th time in the pair’s last 14 games, and moved its all-time lead to 28-20. Florida is 26-7 against Tennessee since 1976.

Franks closed the night hitting 10-of-19 passes for 172 yards with three touchdowns, while Scarlett’s 11 carries for 77 yards led all runners.

Guarantano, meanwhile, completed 7-of-18 passes for 163 yards with no touchdowns and three turnovers.

It would be comforting to say the road gets easier for Tennessee, but it would be wrong. The Vols’ next three games: at No. 2 Georgia, at No. 9 Auburn and vs. No. 1 Alabama.

Nick Saban asks media to write something not-so-positive about his top-ranked Alabama team

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The infamous rat poison is back in Tuscaloosa, albeit wrapped in slightly different packaging this year.

Through four games, top-ranked and defending national champion Alabama hasn’t even remotely been tested.  They have outscored their four opponents 215-51, including a 45-23 win over No. 22 Texas A&M earlier today that didn’t feel as close as the 22-point final margin.

In early October of last year, following a win over A&M ironically enough, Nick Saban was lamenting “[a]ll that stuff you [in the media] write about how good we are,” likening it to “rat poison” for his players.  Nearly a year later, the head coach is asking the media to, in essence, find something negative about his team and write about it “so I can show it to the players and say, ‘Look here, man. Here’s something you can do better.'”

Seriously.

From ESPN.com:

I don’t want to get into the rat poison again. We have a good team, but our team needs to do a lot of things to improve, all right?

“If what our team has accomplished to this point makes them in any way not take into account the kind of teams that we have to play in the future, and they underestimate what we need to do to improve so that we can become a better team and don’t just take things for granted, all right, that we’re going to show up because we have an Alabama uniform on and win the game, it’s not going to happen that way, and it’s going to be everyone’s choice in the organization.

“So I would appreciate it if you would sort of look at some of the things we didn’t do so well, all right, and write about that so I can show it to the players and say, ‘Look here, man. Here’s something you can do better.’

One, Saban is simply the best.  Ever.  Two, It’s really, really, really difficult, at least statistically, to find much of anything negative to say about what could be his best-ever Crimson Tide team.

In the 45 statistical categories on NCAA.com, Alabama headed into the weekend in the top third in a full 34 of them; they were in the top half in another three.  There were, however, some areas that Saban could sound the alarm to his troops:

  • T-80th in red zone defense
  • T-87th in fewest penalties
  • T-93rd in fewest penalty yards per game
  • T-92nd in fumbles lost
  • T-80th in fumbles recovered
  • 90th in net punting

And then there’s this: Alabama is one of a select few teams that have yet to block a kick or a punt this season.

So, there ya go, coach.  That’s all I got at the moment.

Iowa and Wisconsin staging an old fashioned B1G slobberknocker

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Through one half in Iowa City, Iowa and No. 18 Wisconsin are knotted in a 7-7 tie.

In a game without many scoring opportunities, Kirk Ferentz made a very un-Ferentz like decision and it immediately came back to bite him.

After forcing a Wisconsin punt to open the game, Iowa marched from its own 15 to the Wisconsin 12 when Nate Stanley hit running back Ivory Kelly-Martin for a 7-yard completion on 3rd-and-8, taking the ball to the Badgers’ 5, setting up a 4th-and-1. The Iowa offense hurried to the line, but a pair of false starts by Iowa’s guards were wiped out when the replay official stopped play to review the spot. Given the chance to think it over, Ferentz chose to go for it again, and Stanley’s sneak was stuffed.

Wisconsin immediately took advantage, moving 95 yards in 11 plays, scoring on a 6-yard Alex Hornibrook pass to Jake Ferguson at the 14:31 mark of the second quarter.

The teams traded punts on their next possessions and Iowa seemed primed to punt again when Stanley loaded up to throw on a 3rd-and-9 from his own 34, but his rainbow found T.J. Hockenson for a 46-yard gain, which he hauled in despite defensive pass interference on the play. Stanley put Iowa on the board with a 20-yard scoring strike to Noah Fant on the next play, evening the game at the 5:15 mark of the first half.

Iowa forced another Wisconsin punt on the ensuing possession, but the Hawkeyes’ momentum was wiped out when Kyle Groeneweg‘s 23-yard punt return to midfield ended in a fumble forced and recovered by Wisconsin’s D’Cota Dixon.

Still, Iowa’s defense forced another punt, and the Hawkeyes expired the final minute to send the game to the half.

QB Justin Herbert, No. 20 Oregon sharp in jumping out to halftime lead against No. 7 Stanford

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After playing three lackluster opponents to open the season, just about everybody in the country was wondering just how good undefeated and No. 20 Oregon was this season. Turns out, pretty good.

The Ducks struck early and never looked back in their huge Pac-12 showdown against No. 7 Stanford, taking a 24-7 lead into the halftime break and looking every bit like the better team on both sides of the ball so far at Autzen Stadium.

In his first big impression for Heisman voters this year, Oregon QB Justin Herbert was nearly perfect through the air with 170 yards, a touchdown and just a single incompletion. He hit several big plays between the hashes and also chipped in by showing off his mobility with 42 yards on the ground as well. Dillon Mitchell hauled in a 53-yard pass on his way to triple figures (126) receiving while tight end Jacob Breeland found the end zone on one of his two catches. CJ Verdell chipped in with 75 yards and a score running the ball too.

The Cardinal offense was not nearly as explosive in the first half. Tailback Bryce Love was mostly held in check with just 41 yards rushing while K.J. Costello powered offense down the field with several big throws on his way to 114 yards. He also tossed a touchdown pass which came, not surprisingly, on a jump ball in the end zone to JJ Arcega-Whiteside from 13 yards out.

We’ll see how this one will play out but the two Pac-12 North rivals have staged some incredible second half battles over the years and that could be the case once again. Defensive adjustments for Stanford will prove key to making things interesting because the Ducks are certainly proving to be better than advertised just two quarters into their season actually getting underway.