USC is not a great football team this season. Neither is UCLA. Despite that fact, the two crosstown rivals still managed to stage a pretty entertaining game on Saturday afternoon as the Bruins took home the Victory Bell following a wild 34-27 win at the Rose Bowl.
The breakout star in the battle for Los Angeles was undoubtedly Joshua Kelley, a redshirt junior tailback for the powder blues who grew up rooting for UCLA as a kid in nearby Lancaster. He nearly single-handedly carried the team’s offense on the day, rushing for two touchdowns on a remarkable 40 carries for 289 yards — the second most the Trojans’ defense has ever given up.
His performance took plenty of pressure off the Bruins throwing the ball, as Wilton Speight got the start at quarterback and had a solid (166 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) if unspectacular game. The Michigan transfer did, however, do a good job of moving the chains on third down against his new rival and added 22 yards rushing with a score to showcase his (limited) mobility.
Although there were six lead changes and several crazy special teams plays early on, it was another disappointing second half performance for the USC offense as they failed to score a touchdown after the break for the second straight week. True freshman J.T. Daniels got a rude introduction to the series against UCLA on the final scoreboard but played well enough as his team’s only consistent source of offense. He wound up throwing for a career high 337 yards and two touchdowns but also tossed a pair of interceptions, including an awful one in the fourth quarter with nobody even close to the throw that may very well have sealed the team’s fate. Tailback Vavae Malepeai did wind up with 77 yards on the ground but it was otherwise tough sledding outside of a few early scoring drives for the cardinal and gold.
The result, UCLA’s first win in the series since 2014, is surely the biggest victory yet in the young tenure for Chip Kelly in Westwood and quite the encouraging sign for the blue and gold faithful after a rocky season highlighted by up-and-down play. The Bruins have dealt with a ton of injuries and were pretty limited in terms of scholarship numbers on Saturday but still managed to take the fight to their rivals — and then some — to come out on top.
The flip side is that USC is very much in danger of missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2011 (and really is more like 2000 given that the team was on NCAA sanctions at the time) with Notre Dame coming to the Coliseum next weekend looking to cap off a 12-0 season with a trip to the College Football Playoff. It may also secure the fate of embattled head coach Clay Helton, who is certainly feeling a ton of heat from fans and boosters amid the dismal season in downtown Los Angeles.
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).
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.
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.
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.