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Ohio State wins first game without Urban Meyer on sideline since Nov. 5, 2011

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No Urban Meyer?  No problem.  At all.

With Meyer serving the first of what will be a three-game suspension, Ohio State had little issue dragging Oregon State into the season-opening woodshed as the Midwest OSU spanked the West Coast OSU 77-31 in Columbus.  The Buckeyes jumped out to a 42-14 halftime lead and, after a weather delay that lasted nearly an hour and a half, dropped it in cruise control the remainder of the way as acting head coach Ryan Day picked up his first career win in his first-ever game as head coach.

In his first career start, and replacing the record-setting J.T. Barrett under center, quarterback Dwayne Haskins completed 14 of his 18 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns… in the first half.  Haskins finished the day with 313 yards, five touchdowns and one interception in going 22-of-30 passing.  The touchdown passes set a school record for a first-time starter, while the passing yards marked the first time in program history a quarterback had thrown for 300-plus in his first debut.

On the ground, Mike Weber, reduced to second fiddle behind Freshman All-American J.K. Dobbins last season, led both teams with a career-high 186 yards rushing (on 20 carries).  The junior also accounted for a career-high four touchdowns — three rushing, one receiving.  As for Dobbins, considered one of the preseason Heisman Trophy favorites, the sophomore put up a quiet 74 yards on 15 carries.

All told, the Buckeyes ran for 375 yards — they averaged 7.1 yards on their 53 carries — as part of an offense that rolled up 721 yards of total offense.  The 77 points matched the program record for an opener set in 2016 against Bowling Green.  It was also the most points scored in any game since they hung 83 on Iowa during  the 1950 season.

Defensively, Nick Bosa very loudly tossed his name into the Heisman hype hat as the true junior — and likely Top Five pick in the 2019 NFL draft — was credited with a pair of sacks and recovered a fumble for a touchdown for good measure.  Dre’Mont Jones matched Bosa with two sacks as the Buckeyes’ defensive front seven combined to drop Beaver quarterbacks six times.

In a losing effort, Artavis Pierce ran for 168 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just 11 carries.  Those touchdowns came on runs of 80 and 78 yards in a span of just over three minutes early in the third quarter.

The Beavers, incidentally, have now lost 11 straight games dating back to the 2017 season.  Conversely, the Buckeyes are now rising a six-game winning streak.

The win marked the first time Ohio State has won a game without Meyer on the sidelines since Nov. 5 of 2011, a 34-20 triumph over Indiana.  The head coach that day was Luke Fickell, who replaced Jim Tressel before giving way to Meyer the following year.  The Buckeyes went 6-7 that lost 2011 season; the Buckeyes have lost a total of eight games in the six-plus seasons under Meyer.

That 2011 season was also the only time since 2004 that the Buckeyes have failed to finish a season with at least 10 wins.

In addition to today’s game, Meyer will be suspended for the Week 2 matchup with Rutgers and the Week 3 showdown against TCU.  The coach will also be suspended through Sept. 2; that suspension prevented Meyer from taking part in the Buckeyes’ preparations for the season opener against the Beavers.  He will, however, be permitted to take part in all football activities leading up to the Rutgers and TCU games, including practices, player meetings, coaches meetings, etc.

That participation will begin Sunday as Meyer’s in-week suspension comes to an end tomorrow.

Florida State players take to social media to support Odell Haggins as permanent head coach

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The Florida State coaching search has seemingly gone off the rails before it’s even begun but if the players themselves have a say in the matter, there’s a pretty clear choice as to who they would like to replace Willie Taggart full-time.

And it’s not the ex-FSU star that has been thrown out in various reports either.

In what appears to be a somewhat coordinated campaign on social media, defensive linemen Cory Durden, injured DL Marvin Wilson, linebacker Jaleel McRae and cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. were among several dozen members of the current 2019 team to have Tweeted their support for interim head coach Odell Haggins getting the permanent gig.

Haggins is in his second stint as interim head coach, having taken over for Jimbo Fisher when he left for Texas A&M and now again in the wake of Taggart’s firing. He’s 3-0 in charge of the program, including an impressive victory at Boston College last weekend. The Florida native played at FSU from 1985 to 1989 and after an All-American career and brief foray into the NFL, has spent his entire coaching career in Tallahassee at his alma mater as a line coach.

While it remains to be seen if he’ll get serious play for the gig given some of the big names being tossed around, former interim head coaches do occupy the top three spots in the latest College Football Playoff rankings and Haggins is as much Mr. FSU as anybody. It’s pretty clear the players support his candidacy and can certainly help things along on that front by winning out the rest of the regular season.

Syracuse AD says 2019 football season has been frustrating but Orange on the right trajectory

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Syracuse football was one of the remarkable turnaround stories during the 2018 season and the Orange have become one of the more remarkable turnaround stories during the 2019 season… only in the opposite direction many assumed coming into the year.

Despite the program backsliding from their first 10 win season in nearly two decades to their current mark of 3-6 though, athletic director John Wildhack told a local radio station that he’s firmly behind the team and head coach Dino Babers no matter how difficult things have been on the field this year.

“This year is frustrating, no question,” Wildhack said, according to Syracuse.com. “I think this program is in a much better place than it was three or four years ago. I give Coach Babers a lot of credit. We’ll continue to work to analyze what we need to do to make the program better, to make it successful. I’m confident we’ll do that.

“I honestly believe, and I deeply believe, that we are on the right trajectory to where we can be consistently good every year. That’s what we want.”

The Orange being consistently good every year is obviously a great goal to have but something the school has struggled to do for many years on the gridiron. There was hope that Babers was the guy to help raise the floor, so to speak, of the program when hired and he put together a remarkable 2018 season that was a great indication of that — leading to a lucrative contract extension last December designed to keep bigger programs from plucking their head coach.

But the followup has not gone as well with the team struggling to protect their quarterback and the defense give up so many points that they fired coordinator Brian Ward, a long time assistant under the head coach, after a loss to Boston College.

Syracuse football is 21-25 overall under Babers but there is hope that this is simply a bump in the road with the bulk of the two-deep at the moment made up of underclassmen and only a handful of seniors in the starting lineup. The Orange will try to keep their bowl possibilities alive on Saturday when they play at Duke in ACC action.

Contradicting Mark Dantonio, Michigan State says QB Brian Lewerke was checked for concussion vs. Illinois

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It’s not often that a school comes out firing to directly contradict their head coach on a subject but we’ve long since passed normal at Michigan State this season.

In the wake of the team’s dreadful collapse against Illinois last week, starting QB Brian Lewerke took a knee to the head from a defender and then subsequently was planted on the turf while trying to make a tackle the next play — after he threw an interception that was eventually turned into a momentum-swinging pick-six. The signal-caller told reporters after the game that he got his bell rung but he still stayed in the game.

While that sequence should have prompted Lewerke to go through the standard concussion protocol, head coach Mark Dantonio said at his Tuesday press conference that neither trainers nor coaches thought about pulling him from the game to do that because the player himself said he was fine despite the hits.

“Just I asked him and he said he’s good, and he motioned that to our trainers, as well, so he just went on with it,” Dantonio said.

That, however, is not exactly what happened and the general disregard seemingly shown over putting Lewerke through proper protocols prompted the university to issue a statement later on Tuesday clarifying the situation.

“The safety of student-athletes at Michigan State University is our No. 1 priority. Decisions on whether a player returns to competition after potentially suffering an injury are made by our medical staff, which does not report to our coaching staff or through the Athletics Department,” Michigan State health care chief medical officer and interim director of athletic medicine Dr. Anthony M. Avellino said in a statement released by the school. “Upon returning to the sideline late in the fourth quarter with under five minutes remaining in the game, Brian Lewerke was given a symptom assessment by our medical staff. After not showing signs of a concussion, he was cleared to play.

“As a precautionary measure, Brian was given further testing the following day, and was once again determined not to have a concussion.”

It’s good to know that the signal-caller didn’t get a concussion on the sequence in question but it was still a little bizarre to hear the head coach of the team imply that standard procedures were skipped simply because Lewerke said he was good. Almost all college football programs have a spotter in the press box to keep an eye on hits that may lead to players going through the protocol in addition to trainers on the sidelines.

It sounds like the Spartans did follow through with doing everything they should have but it does appear as though the head coach was the last to find out about it. It’s understandable that Dantonio might have gotten caught up in the heat of the moment of an epic collapse against the Illini but to not have his story straight three days later is a bit concerning.

At least the head coach knows his job isn’t in jeopardy from the incident (or others) because more than a few others in his position would not get quite the kind of pass that Dantonio gets on such a serious subject in college football nowadays.

Nebraska AD calls for patience amid Cornhuskers struggles, believes Scott Frost needs 3-4 recruiting classes to get things turned around

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When you try to come up with the most disappointing teams in the country for the 2019 season, one program that is bound to find its way onto the list is undoubtedly Nebraska. The Cornhuskers started the year as a trendy pick to win the Big Ten West and were ranked in the top 25 preseason as a result.

Reality has turned into a different animal entirely however, as the team has struggled in nearly every game on the docket and currently need to win two of their last three just to make a bowl game after being upset by Purdue two weeks ago to fall to 4-5. Despite the issues in nearly every phase, NU athletic director Bill Moos is confident that the ship will eventually get righted and preached that things might take a bit longer than the fan base would like.

“We need to be patient and let these programs take their course, especially the most visible ones, because that’s how we’re being judged around the country,” Moos said on KLIN’s Sports Nightly, according to the Omaha World-Herald. “I’m here to tell you, I didn’t come in to Nebraska to finish in 8th and 9th place. We’ve got a project here, we got the right people in the right place, we got good leadership on campus, we have a lot of things going in our favor. And we need to be patient.”

Moos gave a little insight as to just how long that patience might take in also saying that he believes that head coach Scott Frost could need as many as “three to four more” recruiting classes to get the program turned around and back to where it wants to be.

That is… not exactly what the message was when the native son was brought back to Lincoln to restore his alma mater to glory nor was it what Frost himself was saying in the lead up to the 2019 season. The team’s on field play though, suggests they’re behind schedule in this rebuild and so maybe that estimate isn’t too far off — especially with fellow division foes like Minnesota rapidly turning into contenders.

Supporters of the Cornhuskers might not like to hear it but perhaps patience is indeed something that needs to be practiced as Big Red tries to get back in the black in 2019 and beyond.