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No. 4 Notre Dame sneaks away from Northwestern in second half to remain undefeated

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No. 4 Notre Dame has proven to be a very good second half team this season, often turning the jets on after emerging from the locker room. That has not been the case for Northwestern on occasion in 2018, often struggling to put away teams after a good effort before the break.

Predictably in the pair’s 31-21 game on Saturday night in Evanston, it was the Irish who exploded with a trio of third quarter scoring drives to create just enough distance to hold off a Wildcats rally and remain undefeated on the year.

Ian Book led the way once again on offense for Notre Dame, overcoming that slow start to wind up throwing for 343 yards and two touchdowns to go with 56 yards on the ground and the game-sealing scoring run across the goal line. The offense really ran through his arm as the ground game was lackluster at best for most of the night. Dexter Williams ran for 56 yards and a score but it was otherwise tough sledding between the tackles. Jafar Armstrong did record 18 yards but only saw four touches.

That led to the Irish defense being on the field just a bit longer than they would have liked even though they did just fine. The linebackers in particular were quite active with Te’von Coney in particular stuffing the stat sheet with nine tackles, two sacks and a nifty pass breakup. Drue Tranquill showed few signs of that high ankle sprain he suffered last game and added several pressures to go with four tackles as well.

Still, as much as things felt like they tilted toward Brian Kelly’s team in the second half, Northwestern refused to go quietly into the night. A late blocked punt in the fourth quarter gave the team added life and Pat Fitzgerald was rewarded by going for it on fourth-and-goal from the one yard line with a touchdown off a QB sneak from Clayton Thorson. That cut it to a three point game with half of the final quarter remaining but it would be as close as the ‘Cats would come in this one.

Thorson finished with only 141 yards passing and had another touchdown through the air but it was tailback Isaiah Bowser’s 93 yards rushing that was probably the most encouraging offensive takeaway going forward for the team.

Even with the final result at home though, Northwestern still managed to capture a win on the day overall thanks to Iowa’s earlier loss in the final seconds to Purdue. The Wildcats play the Hawkeyes next week in Iowa City and would have at least two shots to sew up the division against either Illinois or Minnesota at the end of the month. While that 0-3 mark in non-conference play is not something Fitzgerald will be happy about, he’ll gladly take it if it means a trip to the conference title game with a berth in the Rose Bowl on the line.

The Irish, meanwhile, will all but assuredly move up a spot in the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s rankings come Tuesday by moving to 9-0 (to say nothing of the results of the SEC showdown in Baton Rouge between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 LSU). While there has been a tendency of playing up or down to the competition, Notre Dame has still passed all their tests so far this year and will move on unscathed heading into their game against Florida State next Saturday night on NBC.

Second App State assistant added to Eli Drinkwitz’s Mizzou staff

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For the second time Thursday, Eli Drinkwitz has added an assistant to his new Missouri coaching staff. And, for the second time, it’s a member of his old Appalachian State.

First, Charlie Harbison was announced as a defensive assistant whose specific duties will be spelled out later. Next, it’s Erik Link being the second confirmed addition as part of Drinkwitz’s 10-man on-field staff.

Unlike Harbison, though, Link’s role has already been defined — special teams coordinator. That’s the same job Link held with the Mountaineers in 2019, his first and only season with the Sun Belt Conference school.

“Erik is a man of high character with a background in teaching and coaching,” said Drinkwitz in a statement. “His special teams units are detailed and very sound, and his guys play hard. They focus on effort, execution and high energy.”

Link was the special teams coordinator at Louisiana Tech in 2018, his first season as an on-field assistant at the FBS level. In 2011-12, he was the special teams coordinator at FCS Montana State.

In two separate stints at Auburn, he served as a quality control assistant (2010) and special teams/offensive analyst (2013-15).

Lane Kiffin adds two to first Ole Miss staff, including OC Jeff Lebby

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The Lane Train is wasting little time rolling out members of his first coaching staff in Oxford.

Officially confirmed as Ole Miss’ head coach Saturday, Lane Kiffin on Thursday unveiled the first two members of his on-field staff — offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and offensive assistant Kevin Smith.

While Smith wasn’t given an official title, he spent the past three seasons as Kiffin’s running backs coach at FAU. That was the 43-year-old Smith’s first on-field role at any level of football as he had spent the previous three seasons at his alma mater UCF as both a coaching intern and quality control coach.

Smith, a consensus All-American as a running back at UCF, played five years for the NFL’s Detroit Lions and one season in the Canadian Football League.

Lebby, coincidentally enough, spent the past two seasons at UCF, the first as quarterbacks coach before being promoted to coordinator following the 2018 season. Prior to that, he was an assistant at Baylor for five years, primarily as running backs coach.

Lebby’s father-in-law is disgraced former Baylor head coach Art Briles. His brother-in-law is Kendal Briles, who was Kiffin’s offensive coordinator at FAU for one season before leaving for the same job at Houston and then, ultimately, Florida State.

In addition to those on-field hires, Wilson Love was announced as the Rebels’ head strength & conditioning coach. Like Smith, Love was a part of Kiffin’s Owls program the past three years.

LSU, Ohio State headline 130th Walter Camp All-American team

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Both No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Ohio State showed out well during the Home Depot College Football Awards Show Thursday night. Not surprisingly, both football programs did the same on one of the most prestigious teams in the sport as well.

Earlier tonight, the Walter Camp Football Foundation released its 2019 All-American teams, the 130th such squad recognized by the organization. LSU and Wisconsin led all schools with three first-team selections, while Ohio State led the way overall with five first- and second-team honorees (two on the first team, three on the second). LSU ended up with four overall, while Clemson had three (two first team, one second).

LSU and OSU were also one-two at the quarterback position, with Joe Burrow, also named the Camp Player of the Year, earning first-team honors and Justin Fields being the second-team selection.

Conference-wise, the Big Ten’s 15 selections on both teams led the way, followed by the SEC’s 13 and Pac-12’s seven. All told, eight of the 10 FBS conferences are represented — the Sun Belt’s Arkansas State (wide receiver Omar Bayless) claimed its first-ever Camp All-American — while 32 different schools claimed spots on one of the two teams. Two of those schools, Florida Atlantic (tight end Harrison Bryant) and Boise State (defensive end Curtis Weaver), had their first-ever first-team Camp All-Americans.

The AAC and MAC were the only FBS conferences without a player selected.

Individually, two players repeated as first-team All-Americans — Wisconsin running back and Doak Walker Award winner Jonathan Taylor, LSU safety and Jim Thorpe Award winner Grant Delpit. Taylor is actually a three-time Camp All-American as he was named to the second team as a true freshman in 2017.

Delpit’s teammate, defensive back Derek Stingley Jr., is the only freshman among the 51 All-Americans.

Mike Norvell brings Memphis DC Adam Fuller to Florida State

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Wednesday, Mike Norvell confirmed the identity of his offensive coordinator at Florida State. A day later, it was the coordinator on the other side of the ball who was identified.

In what amounts to a reunion after a very brief time apart, Norvell announced Thursday that, as had been speculated, Adam Fuller has been hired as Florida State’s defensive coordinator. Fuller spent the 2019 season in the same position for Norvell at Memphis.

“We are so very excited about the addition of Adam Fuller to the Florida State football family,” Norvell said. “Adam is one of the top defensive minds in college football and has been a part of developing some of the most productive defensive units in the nation throughout his career. Coach Fuller will bring an aggressive and detailed approach to our Seminole defense. It will put our great student-athletes in a position to showcase all their skills and talents while being developed at the highest level.

“Adam has recruited the state of Florida, specifically the Tampa area, throughout his career, which will assist in fostering relationships throughout the state. I am excited to see him elevate our Florida State defense back to one of the nation’s elite.”

Memphis was Fuller’s second coordinating job at the FBS level. The first came at Marshall the year before.

“My family and I are very excited to join the Seminole program,” Fuller said. “The history and tradition of Florida State’s defense brings a major responsibility. I look forward to embracing the pride that comes along with that.”

Fuller and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham are the second and third FSU staff additions for Norvell. The first was Odell Haggins, who served as the Seminoles’ interim head coach after Willie Taggart was fired and was quickly retained by the new head coach.