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Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State bounce back with win over No. 16 Texas A&M

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Mississippi State’s offense is Nick Fitzgerald, the 6-foot-5 jeep of a quarterback that’s the best short yardage back in the SEC. But it doesn’t work if Fitzgerald can’t throw the ball, and we saw how bad things can get when Mississippi State can’t throw the ball in last week’s loss to No. 4 LSU. Despite an excellent defensive performance, the Bulldogs lost 19-3 in large part because Fitzgerald was 8-of-24 for 59 yards with four interceptions.

But Fitzgerald bounced back in a big way on Saturday night, and as a result the Bulldogs bounced back, upending No. 16 Texas A&M 28-13 in Starkville.

The good vibes started for Fitzgerald and Mississippi State early. The Bulldogs moved 79 yards in 12 plays over six and a half minutes on their first possession, ending with Fitzgerald hooking up with Stephen Guidry for a 25-yard touchdown on a 3rd-and-12 to put the home team on the board.

Texas A&M put together two 40-plus yard drives over its next few chances but saw them both come up empty, one on a missed Seth Small field goal from 49 yards and another on a punt off a drive that began on their own goal line.

The Aggies’ third such drive finally resulted in points, a 34-yard Small field goal.

Mississippi State (5-3, 2-3 SEC) figured to take a 7-3 lead to the locker room but, after a curious decision by Joe Moorhead to throw deep on a 4th-and-3 inside the final minute of the first half, Texas A&M took over on its own 36 with 44 seconds and two timeouts. Kellen Mond‘s first three passes of the drive were incomplete, but the Aggies still moved 30 yards thanks to a facemask and a pass interference call on the Bulldogs. Finally, Mond found Quartney Davis on a screen pass, who raced 34 yards to the end zone to put the Aggies on top at the break.

Mississippi State opened the second half the same way it opened the first — a long drive punctuated by a beautiful Fitzgerald throw. The drive went 75 yards, the final 38 on a lob to Osirus Mitchell.

A 33-yard Roshauud Paul punt return gave Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2 SEC) the ball at the Mississippi State 28 late in the third quarter, but the Aggies could not find pay dirt, forcing a 41-yard Small field goal.

The Bulldogs immediately responded, again moving 75 yards. This drive ended in a more conventional way, a 1-yard Fitzgerald rush.

Trailing 21-13 with 7:44 left in the game, Texas A&M took over at its own 38. The Aggies eventually moved into a 1st-and-goal at the 10, but an 8-yard sack by Cory Thomas took the series off schedule. A&M eventually moved back to the 11 on fourth-and-goal, and with 2:36 left Jimbo Fisher had no choice but to go for it. Mond’s end zone heave was intercepted by Erroll Thompson.

Fitzgerald then put the capper on the evening, breaking free for a 76-yard touchdown run, which tied a school record with his 42nd career score.

The senior finished the game hitting 14-of-22 for 241 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 16 times for 88 yards and two scores.

Interim USC president sidesteps questions about AD Lynn Swann’s job security in wake of scandal

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News that USC was involved in yet another improbable athletics scandal was not a surprise to a lot of folks who had been following the Trojans in recent years but it seems that the school’s efforts to clean things up in the athletic department might mean nobody is safe. Even those at the very top of the org chart.

In a rare interview this week since several school officials were indicted several days ago, USC’s interim president Wanda Austin sidestepped questions about athletic director Lynn Swann’s job security in the wake of several calls for his resignation.

“My comments would be that we certainly are doing a complete investigation around athletics because of the admission scandal and concern,” Austin told Annenberg Media. “After we complete that review and find out the facts of who knew what and/or who should have known what. That obviously will be something that will be reviewed with the board.”

That’s… not exactly a vote of confidence in the AD. In fact, it’s a sidestepping of a question that would impress even the most seasoned of politicians.

While it should be noted that the university is expected to name a new, full-time president at some point in the near future that will ultimately have say in personnel matters like this, Austin definitely didn’t douse any hot seat talk surrounding the Hall of Famer turned administrator. Swann said last week that he would like to remain in his position for a total of 10 years but it seems that having three people in one’s department caught up in FBI investigations the past two years might mean nobody is actually safe in Los Angeles after all.

New Miami QB Tate Martell’s eligibility wavier reportedly received Ohio State support

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This normally dreary stretch of the offseason in college football was perked up quite a bit on Tuesday when Miami announced that Ohio State transfer Tate Martell’s waiver with the NCAA to play immediately was granted and that he would suit up for the Hurricanes in 2019. While many though this was a great example of free agency coming to the sport, that’s not truly the case given the byzantine process the NCAA typically goes through in cases like this.

However, there were some unique factors that went into the decision according to the Miami Herald and that included some serious weight given to the fact that the Buckeyes were not standing in the way of Martell leaving nor becoming eligible in South Florida right away.

“I think what you had here is a situation where the request was made in a way that Ohio State did not oppose what we put in our request and they were cooperative with Miami,” attorney Travis Leach told the paper. “That ultimately was helpful to us.”

While Miami sources did describe things as a bit of a divorce between signal-caller and OSU after ex-Georgia QB Justin Fields transferred in, it’s interesting that the story noted that the change from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day at head coach didn’t really play a factor. That was something that a lot of folks seemed to hang their hats on in this case but it seems that the NCAA listened closer to the circumstances surrounding Martell leaving Columbus and what the football program was doing in terms of roster management and not who was doing the managing.

Either way, it seems like everybody — sans perhaps some Michigan and Florida State fans — came out a winner from this whole player shuffle. It’s probably a lot more encouraging for the next high-profile quarterback thinking about transferring out for greener pastures too.

WWE “scout” showed up at Penn State Pro Day for second straight year

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‘We are’ is really channelling their ‘Woooo’ now a days.

If you’re too young to get that reference or never did follow wrestling back in the day, don’t worry. Just know that some sort of pipeline is being apparently developed at Penn State by the WWE.

At least it seems that way judging by the organization’s Pro Day attendance.

You will notice that the school separates out the WWE from the WWE-backed XFL spring football league that is being launched next year. That’s a notable distinction given that the wrestling company has shown up to Happy Valley two years in a row now for Pro Day. While one wouldn’t have had a big issue with them turning up to see the Saquon Barkley freak show last year, it seems that this is now becoming a bit of a trend with James Franklin’s program.

While you can bet that this will be a nice recruiting tool for the Nittany Lions to connect with a few recruits down the road, things might get a little strange if the WWE decides to recreate a ‘White Out’ for the next Wrestlemania or plucks a few lineman from the school to form the next tag team at the event.

Mizzou reportedly tore less than 25,000 tickets per game in 2018

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The SEC is the home of the most fanatical college football fans in the sport, they tell us. It’s the place where they’d draw 80,000 fans to watch walk-ons practice catching punts. It really does just mean more.

So what does it say about the conference, and the sport as a whole, when one of its members tore less than 25,000 tickets per game?

That’s the case at Missouri, where, according to a report Tuesday from Columbia Missourian, the Tigers scanned an average of 24,377 tickets over the course of the team’s seven-game home schedule.

Now, there are some mitigating factors here. The school says the number is a far cry from the actual paid attendance because the stadium’s electronic ticket scanners did not work on a number of occasions, thereby allowing untold thousands of paying customers to enter the stadium without being counted. And, no doubt, that was a factor — though how big a factor, no one can say.

But it’s still a far cry from the 51,865 fans Missouri says attended each game, which itself is a far cry from Faurot Field’s listed capacity of 71,168.

Another mitigating factor: the home schedule. Tiger fans did get to see Georgia come to Faurot Field. Their other opponents, though: UT-Martin, Wyoming, Memphis, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Arkansas. Not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents Mizzou fans grew up learning to hate. And as the article says, weather and timing didn’t help the Arkansas gate.

However, it’s not as if a poor attendance number can be blamed on poor performance. Mizzou went 5-2 at home in 2018.

And then there’s this: the 2018 schedule is more or less Mizzou’s home schedule every year. In 2019, Missouri plays host to West Virginia, Southeast Missouri State, South Carolina, Troy, Ole Miss, Florida and Tennessee.

Let’s see if Missouri can tear more than 25,000 tickets per game this time around.