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Oklahoma State rallies to stun No. 9 WVU, sends Big 12 race into chaos

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Four turnovers — three of them in their own territory — and a 31-14 halftime deficit put them in a huge hole, but Oklahoma State mounted a second half rally to stun No. 9 West Virginia, 45-41. In a battle of fifth-year senior quarterbacks, Oklahoma State’s Taylor Cornelius threw a touchdown pass with 42 seconds remaining to give the Cowboys their first — and only — lead, while Grier’s pass inside the Oklahoma State end zone that would have won the game with time expired was batted away.

The win clinches a 13th straight bowl trip for Oklahoma State (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) while eliminating West Virginia (8-2, 6-2 Big 12) from College Football Playoff contention. A West Virginia win would have set up a win-and-you’re-in showdown with No. 6 Oklahoma in Morgantown on Friday, but the Mountaineers’ loss opens the door for No. 15 Texas and No. 16 Iowa State, who play in Austin on Saturday night.

After waiting four years in the program to start and playing in his final home game, Cornelius overcame last week’s near-miss in Bedlam a week ago to out-play Grier down the stretch, throwing for 338 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 106 yards and another score.

But before Cornelius could save the game, he and his teammates first had to nearly give it away.

The first Cowboy turnover came with West Virginia already leading 14-7 late in the first quarter. Cornelius hit Wallace for a 13-yard gain to the Oklahoma State 40, but Wallace fumbled the ball over to the Mountaineers. Taking over in opponent territory, West Virginia quickly capitalized as Grier hit David Sillsfor a 22-yard touchdown pass to put WVU up 21-7.

Oklahoma State quickly answered by knifing 60 yards in five plays, scoring on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cornelius to Logan Carter. The Cowboy defense forced a West Virginia punt on the ensuing possession, allowing Oklahoma State to take over with a chance to tie the game, but Cornelius was intercepted, as Toyous Avery, Jr., punished him for forcing a 3rd-and-9 throw to Wallace.

Taking over inside Oklahoma State territory for the second time in the first half, West Virginia drove to the OSU 5-yard line but Grier was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 keeper.

Though West Virginia did not immediately score off the turnover, it did successfully allow WVU to play the game on Oklahoma State’s side of the field. After the teams traded three-and-outs over their next three chances, West Virginia pushed its lead to two touchdowns on a 3-play, 51-yard drive that was covered entirely by McKoy’s legs, racing for runs of seven, 14 and then 30 yards, the last of which crossed the goal line with 1:17 left in the first half.

Dashing to pull back within one score before the break, Oklahoma State crossed midfield into WVU territory, but Cornelius was again intercepted — while again looking for Wallace.

Taking over inside their own territory this time, West Virginia moved 39 yards in five plays and 61 seconds, setting up a 43-yard Evan Staley field goal on the final play of the first half.

On the whole, Wallace finished the half with three catches for 34 yards and a touchdown — and a total of three turnovers, either by him or to him.

Oklahoma State accepted the ball to open the second half and rolled 69 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 1-yard toss from Cornelius to Chuba Hubbard, reminiscent of the 2-point pass Cornelius missed to Wallace a week ago.

West Virginia threatened to push its lead back to 17 when the Cowboys forced WVU’s only turnover, a sack of Grier at the OSU 17 that turned into a sack upon review. Trailing 31-21 now, Oklahoma State again rushed up the field, but Hubbard was stuffed for a loss of a yard on a 3rd-and-goal from the 2, forcing a 20-yard Matt Ammendola field goal.

Continuing the theme of the third quarter, Oklahoma State forced a WVU three-and-out, setting the Cowboys up to receive the ball trailing 31-24… until Dillon Stoner fumbled the punt at his own 18, surrendering Oklahoma State’s fourth turnover of the game and third inside its own territory.

The Cowboy defense stiffened, forcing a 34-yard Staley field goal that pushed the score to 34-24 to open the fourth quarter. After a pair of punts, Cornelius pulled Oklahoma State within 34-31 with a 6-yard pass to Tyron Johnson in the back of the end zone.

After watching his lead dwindle from 31-14 to 34-31, Dana Holgorsen rolled the dice — twice. He went for a 4th-and-5 at the OSU 20 with 9:09 to play, which converted by way of a pass interference penalty in the end zone. Facing another 4th-and-medium, a 4th-and-goal from the 6, he again went for it, as Grier called his own number on an identical play to his 2-point conversion to beat No. 15 Texas two weeks ago, handing West Virginia a 41-31 lead with 7:37 remaining.

Oklahoma State answered, ripping off a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive in less than three minutes, scoring on a 9-yard Cornelius run with 4:47 to play.

Needing another touchdown to put the game away, West Virginia instead punted. Holgorsen actually elected to go for a 4th-and-6 from his own 49 with 2:45 left, but Sills started running his route before the rest of his teammates and forced Holgorsen’s hand, handing Oklahoma State the ball at its own 25 with a three-point deficit and 2:38 with which to work.

Oklahoma State gained 64 yards on six combined runs by Cornelius and Hubbard, throwing only once — an 11-yard scoring strike to Wallace, who carried his defender for the final five yards, putting Oklahoma State up four with 42 ticks remaining.

With the clock rolling inside of 20 seconds, Grier fired a bullet to Gary Jennings for a 33-yard gain, pushing WVU to the OSU 28. Grier then hit Sills at the 14 with two seconds remaining, setting up a do-or-die final play. After two WVU timeouts and with their College Football Playoff hopes on the line, Grier’s pass to Sills was broken up in the end zone, completing the Cowboy comeback.

Pac-12 player group ‘disappointed’ after commissioner call

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The Pac-12 players of the “WeAreUnited” movement said they were “disappointed and deeply concerned” after a recent meeting with the conference’s commissioner.

The players sent an email to Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott late Friday accusing him of not taking the issues they have raised seriously enough. The email was also shared with members of the media.

The group’s correspondence came after Scott followed their Thursday call with an email to the players that struck a very different tone, thanking them for the “passion and honesty with which you spoke yesterday evening.”

The group is pushing the conference to address their concerns about COVID-19 protocols, racial injustice in college sports and economic rights for college athletes. Players threatened opting out of practices and games if their demands aren’t addressed. Leaders of the group have said their movement has more than 400 players from around the conference supporting it.

In their email to the commissioner, the players said they were unsatisfied with Scott’s answers to question about increasing the frequency of COVID-19 testing done on athletes and the mandating of best practices across the conference.

“Without a discernible plan and mandates to ensure the health and safety of student-athletes, it is absurd, offensive, and deadly to expect a season to proceed,” they said.

When the players went public with their demands last Sunday, they reached out to the Pac-12 and requested daily meetings with conference officials. Instead, they got one call last week and a pledge from the conference for continued communication.

“You informed us we cannot have legal representation attend these meetings to assist in connection with our legal rights, nor were you willing to even have regular meetings with us to provide updates,” the players wrote to Scott.

Scott’s email addressed four topics that made up the bulk of the Thursday call with 12 players: health and safety; eligibility; COVID-19 liability waivers; and opt-out due to COVID-19 concerns.

Scott wrote the conference will attempt to provide the players an opportunity to speak with the Pac-12 medical advisory committee and keep them abreast of work being done at the NCAA level to address whether athletes who opt out of the coming season will be permitted to retain eligibility.

Scott said the conference office would ensure none of the league’s schools ask athletes to sign liability waivers and reiterated Pac-12 schools were committed to honoring scholarships of players who chose not to play this season because of COVID-19 concerns.

“We will work on gathering the information listed above and providing it to you as soon as possible,” Scott wrote.

Clemson QB Lawrence says he’s completely committed to 2020 season

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Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence said he considered opting out of this season when he was unsure what college football would look like going forward amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Lawrence said Friday once he understood he’d play an 11-game season with a chance for an Atlantic Coast Conference and national championships, he decided to play his junior season.

The Heisman Trophy hopeful said he’s completely committed to this season and confident in Clemson’s ability to keep himself and his teammates safe.

Lawrence, who is the likely No. 1 overall pick in the next NFL draft should he leave college early, was 25-0 as a starter until he and Clemson fell to LSU in the national title game last January. The 6-foot-6 junior, had perhaps his poorest performance in college in the 42-25 loss to LSU. He joked how after his freshman year when he led Clemson to a championship he heard how amazing he was and since the LSU defeat, he heard how much work he has to do improve.

Pac-12 responds to football players threatening opt-outs

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The Pac-12 responded Monday to football players who have threatened to opt-out of the season because of concerns related to health and safety, racial injustice and economic rights with a letter touting the conference’s work in those areas and an invitation to meet later this week.

A letter from Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, dated Aug. 3, was sent to 12 football players leading the #WeAreUnited movement. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press and first reported by Sports Illustrated.

The players say they have been communicating with more than 400 of their peers throughout the Pac-12. The group released a lengthy list of demands Sunday and said if they are not addressed they will not practice or play. The group said it reached out to the Pac-12 on Sunday to request a meeting. In the letter, Scott said he was eager to discuss their concerns.

“I will come back to you in the coming days following discussion with our members and student-athlete leaders to schedule a call for this week to discuss the matters that you have raised,” Scott wrote.

Also Monday night, Washington State coach Nick Rolovich said in a statemen t he regretted cautioning one of his players about being part of the #WeAreUnited movement. A recording of a conversation between Rolovich and receiver Kassidy Woods obtained by the Dallas Morning News revealed the coach seemingly warning the player that being involved with the group would hurt his standing with the team. Woods had called Rolovich to inform him he was opting out of the season for health reasons related to COVID-19.

“I spoke with Kassidy Woods in a private phone conversation last Saturday afternoon. This was before the #WeAreUnited group had released its letter of concerns,” said Rolovich, who is in his first season was Washington State coach. “Without knowing the concerns of the group, I regret that my words cautioning Kassidy have become construed as opposition. I’m proud of our players and all the Pac-12 student-athletes for using their platform, especially for matters they are passionate about. WSU football student-athletes who have expressed support for the #WeAreUnited group will continue to be welcome to all team-related activities, unless they choose to opt out for health and safety reasons.”

The #WeAreUnited players’ demands focused on four areas: health and safety protections, especially protocols related to COVID-19; guarding against the elimination of sports programs by schools during an economic downturn; ending racial injustice in college sports; and economic freedom and equity.

Scott addressed each area, highlighting the conference’s:

— Medical advisory committee working on COVID-19 protocols and webinars for student-athletes and their parents;

— Support for reforming NCAA rules regarding name, image and likeness compensation for college athletes;

— Recent initiatives to address racial inequities such as the formation of a social justice & anti-racism advisory group that includes student-athletes representatives.

Scott also listed 10 areas in which, he wrote, “The Pac-12 has been a leader in supporting student-athlete health and well-being …” Included were enhanced medical coverage post-eligibility; cost-of-attendance stipends added to the value of scholarship; mental health support; and the Pac-12′s support of reforming NCAA transfer rules to allow athletes more freedom to switch schools.

Pac-12 football teams are scheduled to begin preseason practices Aug. 17 and the league’s conference-only regular season is set to start Sept. 26.

Big 12 to allow teams to play 1 non-conference football game

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Two people involved with the decision say the Big 12 will permit its teams to play one nonconference football game this year to go along with their nine league contests as plans for the pandemic-altered season continued to fall into place.

The people spoke Monday night to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the conference was still preparing an official announcement.

The Big 12 university presidents signed off on the conference’s scheduling model, which gives schools the ability to play one nonconference game at home. The conference’s championship game is scheduled for Dec. 5, but one of the people told AP that the conference is leaving open the possibility of bumping it back a week or two.

The 10-team Big 12 already plays a nine-game, round-robin conference schedule. Unlike other Power Five conference that have switched to either exclusively (Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) or mostly (ACC) league games this season, the Big 12 could not add more conference games without teams playing each other more than once.

Several Big 12 teams have already started preseason practice, with Kansas and Oklahoma slated to play FCS teams on Aug. 29.

As conferences take steps toward a football season that seems to be in precarious shape, the NCAA is expected to weigh in Tuesday on fall sports other than major-college football.

The association’s Board of Governors is scheduled to meet and whether to cancel or postpone NCAA championship events in fall sports such as soccer, volleyball and lower-division football is expected to be a topic.

Only the Pac-12 has a full football schedule with matchups and dates in place among Power Five conferences. The Pac-12 will begin Sept. 26, along with the Southeastern Conference, which is still working on its new 10-game slate.

The Atlantic Coast Conference has opponents set for its 10-game conference schedule and will start the weekend of Sept. 12, but no specific game dates. The ACC has also said it will permit its teams to play one nonconference game.

The Big Ten, first to announce intentions to go conference-only this season, has yet to release a new schedule, but that could come later this week.

Now that the Power Five has declared its intentions the Group of Five conferences can start making plans and filling holes on their schedules.

American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco has said the AAC could stick with its eight-game conference schedule and let its members plays as many of their four nonconference games as they can salvage or replace.

The Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences are likely to take similar approach.

Early Monday, Texas State from the Sun Belt announced it was moving a nonconference game against SMU up from Sept. 5 to Aug. 29.