Getty Images

Colorado storms back to ruin Scott Frost’s debut at Nebraska as QB Adrian Martinez injured

7 Comments

Nebraska fans had to wait an extra week for the start of the Scott Frost era at the school. They’ll have to wait at least one more to see a win.

Steven Montez lofted a perfectly thrown ball into the arms of Laviska Shenault along the sidelines for a 40 yard score with the clock ticking down in the final quarter as Colorado stunned the crowd at Memorial Stadium to escape with a 33-28 win against their old rival in Lincoln.

The Buffs struck first on the scoreboard and had briefly stunned Big Red after capitalizing on a pair of fumble recoveries to quickly take a two-score lead before Nebraska was even able to really get going. Montez was quite the playmaker in throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns despite an iffy offensive line and carried the team at times during the game. Shenault remains a nice revelation for the CU offense and caught 10 passes for 177 yards — none bigger than the final reception that he caught over a defender and took into the end zone. The dynamic threat was also effective on the ground, carrying the ball twice for five yards and a touchdown.

The late heroics took the load off 31-year-old (yep) kicker James Stefanou, who missed two field goals that would have given the team the lead down the stretch but wasn’t needed in the end.

Such an ending certainly put a damper on the homecoming for Frost in his first game in charge of his alma mater and was a double blow for Big Red considering the emergence of true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez. The electric Californian dazzled with the ball in his hands, throwing for 187 yards and a touchdown (one interception late) while rushing for 117 more on the ground and adding two more scores. He scored the first points of the season after the team had their opener cancelled, keeping it on the option and scampering 41 yards around the edge before vaulting into the end zone to ignite the crowd.

As great as Martinez was though, there was concern throughout Nebraska’s program after he suffered a knee injury in the final few minutes of the game while running the ball. He failed to put much weight on his leg and needed to be helped off the field. Thanks to transfers over the past few weeks, there’s zero depth behind the freshman as Andrew Bunch, a sophomore walk-on, took reps trying to close the game out but couldn’t quite find the end zone on a final play Hail Mary.

All told, the team still racked up 565 yards of offense and averaged nearly seven yards a play — numbers rarely seen under Frost’s predecessor Mike Riley. Greg Bell flashed on some big runs and recorded 104 yards rushing while fellow tailback Devine Ozigbo chipped in with 60 more and scored an eight yard touchdown.

Maybe more encouraging for the team moving forward was also the reemergence of the Blackshirt defense. The group stepped up with several critical stops as the game went on and had seven sacks on the day as they looked as swarming as ever.

As entertaining as the back-and-forth game was, it was even nicer to see the two teams play each other again between the lines. The last time Colorado and Nebraska met on the gridiron, Frost was the wide receivers coach at Oregon, Mike MacIntyre was just finishing his first season leading San Jose State, and the two schools were going head-to-head in the now-defunct Big 12 North division. Things have changed quite a bit since, with both head coaches moving on to their current jobs and each side having joined a new conference.

The two proved that fun things happen when two rival hook up again in the non-conference schedule and certainly raise the bar for next year’s edition in Boulder.

Houston adding pair of P5 safeties via transfers

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

New Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen is busy compiling his first football roster with the Cougars. Two new additions to the roster will come from a pair of power conference programs with the additions of safeties Thabo Mwaniki and Jordan Moore.

According to a report from Tulsa World, Mwaniki is heading to Houston after making his decision to leave Oklahoma State last November. After starting the first four games for the Cowboys, Mwaniki was reduced to a backup role in the Cowboys defense.

Moore, who previously played at Texas A&M, announced his decision to transfer to Houston on Sunday night with an image on his Twitter account. The image of Moore in a Houston football uniform included the message “New chapter,” thus noting he was ready to start with a clean slate with the Cougars. Moore announced his decision to transfer from the Aggies just before Christmas.

Moore will be required to sit out the 2019 season and will be eligible to play again beginning in 2020 due to NCAA transfer rules. However, because he only appeared in four games for Texas A&M in 2018, he can preserve a year of eligibility under the NCAA’s redshirt rule. That would make him a redshirt sophomore in 2020.

Mwaniki still has a redshirt option to use as well. Mwaniki appeared in seven games for Oklahoma State last season so he would have to use his redshirt year for the 2019 season, which he would have to sit out anyway due to NCAA transfer rules. Mwaniki will have two years of eligibility to use at Houston.

Taulia Tagovailoa jokes about taking starting job from older brother Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
1 Comment

Despite how the 2018 season ended for Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, there is absolutely no reason to suspect he is in any jeopardy of not being Alabama’s starting quarterback next season when Alabama opens the 2019 season in Atlanta against Duke. But perhaps there is something to be said about sibling rivalry?

After the conclusion of the Polynesian Bowl this weekend, incoming Alabama quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Tua, joked about the possibility of taking down his older brother for the starting job in Tuscaloosa.

In front of a camera, a teammate from the high school all-star game asked if Taulia was “going to beat your brother out for the spot?” Staring into the camera for a brief moment, Taulia responded “Tune in” with a smile as he walked away from the interview among laughter.

The remark was clearly in good fun and who would expect anything else from a little sibling rivalry like this? You have to love it.

Taulia is a four-star dual-threat quarterback in Alabama’s Class of 2019 and many expect he will be the successor to his brother once Tua Tagovailoa moves on. That could happen as soon as next year with Tua coming up on his junior season. With Jalen Hurts transferring to Oklahoma, it might be possible we see some of the younger Tagovailoa in a backup role in 2019, especially with the new redshirt rule allowing players to appear in four games while still preserving a year of redshirt eligibility.

The jokes are surely fun, but there will be no quarterback competition in Tuscaloosa.

Nebraska’s Super Bowl streak hits 26 and Georgia leads all schools in Super Bowl players

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Los Angeles Rams captured the NFC championship yesterday with an overtime victory on the road against the New Orleans Saints. With the win, the Nebraska Cornhuskers saw their record of consecutive Super Bowls with at least one former Husker playing in the game extended to 26.

Former Nebraska standout Ndamukong Suh kept the streak alive for the Huskers as a fixture on the defensive line for the Rams. But even if the Rams had lost the game, Nebraska still would have seen their streak extended to 26 later in the day when the New England Patriots clinched the AFC Championship with their own road overtime victory against the Kansas City Chiefs. Patriots running back Rex Burkhead, a former Nebraska running back, had four catches for 64 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Patriots’ AFC title game victory.

While Nebraska maintains their impressive streak of Super Bowl participants, a number of colleges will be represented by more players in this year’s Super Bowl between the Patriots and Rams. Georgia has a total of five players in the game, edging out Cal, Florida, Miami, and Rutgers for the most players in this year’s Super Bowl. A total of 19 FBS programs will have at least two players in the Super Bowl this season.

As noted by the college football community on Reddit, Georgia could become the second school to have two starting running backs in a Super Bowl if the Patriots start Sony Michel (the Rams would have Todd Gurley). The last team to do that was Cal a few years ago when the Patriots (Shane Vereen) faced off with the Seattle Seahawks (Marshawn Lynch). Cal is also making some Super Bowl history as the Golden Bears will be the first school to have a total of five quarterbacks play in a Super Bowl with Jared Goff. Goff joined former Golden Bear quarterbacks Joe Kapp, Craig Morten, Vince Ferragamo and Aaron Rodgers in that Super Bowl QB lineage.

Goff could also be the second-straight Pac-12 quarterback to win a Super Bowl, following Arizona’s Nick Foles last season. Goff would be the third Pac-10/12 quarterback to win the Super Bowl since 2000, joining Foles and Rodgers.

Lincoln Riley finalizes defensive staff for 2019

Getty Images
4 Comments

Oklahoma’s defense was flat-out awful in 2018, as we know. The Sooners were 114th in total defense (453.8 yards per game), 102nd in yards per play (6.13) and 101st in scoring (33.3 points per game). Their ineptitude indirectly handed Kyler Murray the Heisman Trophy as the Sooners’ signal caller had to pull his rabbit out of a hat on a weekly basis throughout the fall, but without Murray’s exploits Oklahoma might’ve been a 7- or 8-win team in 2018.

Murray is gone, so the defense has to improve or Oklahoma will take a significant fall in 2019.

Lincoln Riley has spent the past three weeks reshaping his defensive staff, and on Sunday he finalized his staff and their assignments.

New hire Alex Grinch will coach safeties while coordinating the defense. He spent 2018 as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Ohio State. (The Buckeyes’ pass efficiency defense slipped from 13th to 42nd in Grinch’s one season on staff, but Riley hired him for his success coordinating Mike Leach‘s defenses at Washington State.)

Assisting Grinch in the secondary will be cornerbacks coach Roy Manning. He spent 2018 as the outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at UCLA but worked with Grinch at Wazzu from 2015-17.

Brian Odom was hired away from Missouri to coach the Sooners’ inside linebackers, where he’ll team with new outside linebackers coach Ruffin McNeill. Riley’s mentor, McNeill is one of two holdovers from the 2018 staff. He was hired upon Riley’s promotion to head coach as assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach but took over the entire defense following Mike Stoops‘ midseason firing.

The only Oklahoma defensive coach to coach the same position from 2018 to ’19 will be defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux. The OU graduate has been on staff since 2016, when he returned to Norman as defensive ends coach.