No. 8 Notre Dame moves to 3-0 after avoiding upset bid by Vanderbilt

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No. 8 Notre Dame (3-0) won once again, but concerns about the offense are not about to go hiding just yet. Fortunately for Notre Dame, the defense and running game remain strengths as they managed to hold off Vanderbilt (2-1) in Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, winning 22-17.

Looking to push their lead to eight points in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame called on kicker Justin Yoon for a 32-yard field goal. After knocking down his three previous attempts for nine points, Yoon saw his fourth field goal try bounce off the bar, no good. Vanderbilt took over at their 24-yard yard line, needing a touchdown to win in the final moments.

Two plays later, Vanderbilt reached midfield with a 26-yard pass from Kyle Shurmur to Jared Pinkney. But the drive stalled soon after that with a run for no gain and two straight incomplete passes to set up a fourth down with 10 yards to go. A defensive penalty on Notre Dame allowed the drive to continue after an incomplete pass on fourth down. Three plays later, it was once again fourth down for Vandy. Shurmur connected for a big play to Kalija Lipscomb, but Lipscomb was unable to maintain possession of the football as he fell to the ground on the leaping catch.

Lipscomb had 11 catches for 89 yards in the game, but it will be what could have been the 12th that will haunt him after this one. Notre Dame managed to run off a good chunk of the clock after taking over on downs.

Brandon Wimbush was 13-of-23 for 122 yards with no touchdowns thrown, although this week he avoided throwing an interception. Ian Book got some opportunities in certain situations and cashed in on one with a touchdown pass to Nic Weishar to put the Irish up 12 in the fourth quarter. The pass came at the end of a drive with Wimbush leading the offense, but it was Book who ended it with a score and took a shot at a two-point conversion (which was no good). Book was effective in extreme moderation, and it remains to be seen if Kelly will begin giving him more opportunities. Wimbush had success running the ball, however. Wimbush rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown.

Shurmur passed for 315 yards and a touchdown with one interception for Vanderbilt. Notre Dame running back Tony Jones Jr. led all players with 116 rushing yards.

Notre Dame will go on the road next week to play at Wake Forest. Games against Stanford at home and at Virginia Tech follow.

Vanderbilt opens their SEC schedule at home against South Carolina in SEC East action.

Penn State replaces special teams coordinator lost to NFL

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A week after losing his special teams boss to the NFL, James Franklin has found a replacement.

Penn State confirmed Thursday that Joe Lorig has been hired as Franklin’s new special teams coordinator.  Lorig will also serve as an unspecified defensive assistant as part of Franklin’s Nittany Lions coaching staff.

The move to hire Lorig comes after Phil Galiano, who spent two years with the Nittany Lions, left earlier this month for a job in the NFL.

“We are looking forward to having Joe join our staff,” a statement from Franklin began. “We conducted a comprehensive study of special teams coordinators across the country to find the best fit for our staff and identified Joe as the best candidate. His special teams units have a history of being among the best in the country and we know he can continue that success here. I have also known Joe for many years, dating back to when we worked together at Idaho State under Larry Lewis.”

“I am extremely excited to join the staff at Penn State University and begin working with such a storied program,” Lorig said. “Penn State is a program with outstanding players, coaches and tradition. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Franklin and his entire coaching staff. My wife, three children and I are very appreciative of the opportunity to join the Nittany Lion family, and we look forward to helping Penn State win championships!”

The past three seasons, Lorig was the special teams coordinator at Memphis.  He also served as the outside linebackers coach for the Tigers.

Ex-Texas All-American takes defensive line job at UTSA

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Rod Wright is officially returning to the state that helped launch his coaching career.

As had been speculated on over the last few days, UT-San Antonio has announced that Wright has been hired by Frank Wilson as the head coach’s new defensive line coach.  Wright played his college football for the Texas Longhorns in the mid-aughts, earning All-American and All-Big 12 honors as a defensive lineman during his time in Austin.

“We are excited to announce Rod Wright as our new defensive line coach,” Wilson said in a statement. “He was an outstanding collegiate player and he has done an exceptional job mentoring defensive linemen everywhere he’s coached. We think he’s one of the best young coaches in the country and he will be a great addition to our staff.”

This past season, Wright served as the line coach at East Carolina, his first on-field role at the FBS level.  Prior to that, he spent four seasons at FCS Sam Houston State.

Wright began his coaching career at his alma mater, working as a student assistant/defensive special assistant for three years at UT beginning in 2011.

Nation’s top 2017 recruit announces transfer to Miami

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The transfer train has made yet another stop in South Florida, and this one brought a passenger with a helluva high school pedigree with not a lot to show for yet on his college résumé.

In mid-December, it was reported that Jaelan Phillips would be transferring from UCLA.  A little over two months later, Phillips announced on Twitter that he will continue his collegiate playing career at Miami.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Phillips will likely have to sit out the 2019 season.  He would then have two years of eligibility to use beginning in 2020.

Phillips was the No. 1-rated recruit in the entire country for the Class of 2017 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Despite that lofty ranking, although in large part due to injury, his collegiate career thus far hasn’t amounted to much.

As a true freshman, Phillips started four of the seven games in which he played. Despite missing nearly half the season because of an ankle injury, he finished fourth on the Bruins in tackles for loss with seven and second in sacks with 3.5. Battling additional injuries in 2018, including concussions, Phillips played in just four games this past season.

Phillips would be at least the seventh FBS player — and sixth from a Power Five program — to transfer to Miami since Manny Diaz took over at The U, joining USC safety Bubba Bolden (HERE), Virginia Tech defensive end Trevon Hill (HERE), Auburn running back Asa Martin (HERE), Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell (HERE), Buffalo wide receiver K.J. Osborn (HERE) as well as Phillips’ former UCLA teammate, defensive tackle Chigozie Nnoruka (HERE).

Clemson 4-star LB signee suffers knee injury in basketball game

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When a clip of Trevor Lawrence getting into a scuffle during an intramural basketball game went viral earlier this week, a chorus of takes screamed into the void asking what a college football player was doing playing basketball in the first place.

Dabo Swinney has always defended his players’ intramural endeavors, reasoning that unpaid college students should not be treated as employees. “They’re just having fun and enjoying being college people and doing what college kids do,” he said.

Swinney has defended this even in light of Jordan Williams, a potential starter at defensive tackle, suffering a leg injury during an intramural basketball game that will keep him out of a crucial spring for his development.

And now the basketball injury bug has struck another Clemson player.

Bryson Constantin, a 4-star linebacker signee in Clemson’s 2019 class, suffered a knee injury while playing for Baton Rouge’s University Lab High School basketball team last week — and he believes it could be serious.

“At a basketball game last week, I came down from an alley and I felt a pop in my knee,” Constantin told TigerNet. “I went to the ER that night to make sure it wasn’t like a knee cap or anything like that. They figured out it was most likely my ACL. I went for an MRI two days ago but I had too much blood in my knee to do an MRI, so they drained all the blood out and they were like, the only way you’d have this much blood in your knee is if you did tear your ACL. I go back for an MRI this weekend or Monday, so I’ll know for sure what it is coming up soon.”

While active college players playing intramural basketball is a (somewhat) controversial practice, incoming signees playing for their high school teams is not. Many a college coach has waxed poetically about falling in love with a player’s gridiron potential while watching him compete on the hardwood.

Still, it’s a cruel bit of irony: the only place the nation’s best football team seems to suffer any sort of defeat is on the basketball court.