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Egg Brawl in the Egg Bowl: No. 18 Mississippi State thumps rival Ole Miss in victory

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A year ago in the Egg Bowl, Nick Fitzgerald sat on a stretcher after an awful ankle injury and watched his team struggle offensively against their in-state rivals in a devastating loss. A season later and fully healthy, the senior quarterback showed just what kind of impact he can have over a full game as his No. 18 Mississippi State squad thumped — literally and figuratively it turns out — Ole Miss 35-3 on Thanksgiving night in Oxford.

Fitzgerald showcased just why he was one of the top dual-threat signal-callers in the country coming into 2018, throwing for an efficient 111 yards and a touchdown while doing most of his damage on the ground with 117 yards rushing and two more scores. His ability to tuck and run kept the Landshark defense guessing all night long and helped the tailback tandem in the backfield with him do plenty of damage of their own. Fellow senior Aeris Williams recorded 64 yards rushing and a score while back of the future Kylin Hill was even better, breaking off several impressive runs on his way to 108 yards and a touchdown.

While the MSU offense has sputtered at times this season, safe to say Joe Moorhead’s group saved one of their better performances for the end of the regular season even if the final numbers were not quite eye-popping.

Even with that said though, the Bulldogs defense also showcased why they’re one of the best units in the SEC, if not the nation. They held Ole Miss to zero third down conversions on the night and held them well below just about every season average. Add in four sacks and a trio of turnovers and it was quite the performance in front of a national audience.

The same group also was involved in one of the most bizarre moments of the game — and one that figures to be discussed in the state for weeks and years to come — when it had appeared as though Rebels wideout A.J. Brown had scored a touchdown. Safety Johnathan Abram got into a fight with him after scoring though and that spilled over into several minor skirmishes before referees and coaches were able to break things up. Every single player on both sides was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while Ole Miss’ C.J. Moore was ejected from the game along with Bulldogs Jamal Peters, Cameron Dantzler and William Gay.

And the play that caused it all didn’t even happen because they reviewed things and the third quarter clock had actually expired. Nothing like Egg Bowl theatrics, that’s for sure.

That fight will take away from the fact that the Rebels couldn’t get much done with their normally prolific offense. QB Jordan Ta’amu threw for only 87 yards and threw an interception but most notably injured his hand while fumbling early in the first half. Though he did briefly return to action a few series later, he left the game for good by the third quarter and had turned things fully over to freshman backup Matt Corral. The youngster wound up throwing for 65 yards and a pick himself but really endeared himself to the home fans by sticking up for his wideout when the fight broke out by getting right in the middle of the action.

Either way, it was probably not the way Matt Luke wanted to close out the season with the Rebels. Not only did Ole Miss fall to 5-7 overall in 2018, but they closed out their final campaign under a bowl ban with a four game losing streak.

The Egg Bowl victors, meanwhile, find themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum by winning four of their final five that included a competitive loss to Alabama. There was some questions about the Selection Committee ranking next to their name the last few weeks but MSU certainly have showcased what they’re capable of down the stretch in the rough SEC West and should be able to look forward to a pretty good bowl next month as well.

Most importantly, the team was able to hold that golden trophy up at the end of the night for the first time with their new head coach… and the last time with their stellar senior quarterback a year after he had his own bit of heartbreak in the rivalry game.

Colorado State QB Collin Hill suffers THIRD torn ACL

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If you don’t feel for Collin Hill, you are severely lacking in the soul department.

In October of 2016, the Colorado State quarterback suffered a torn ACL playing football for the Rams; in March of 2018, Hill suffered a torn ACL while playing a game of pickup basketball.  Tuesday night, CSU announced that Hill has been diagnosed with a third torn ACL that will, obviously, sideline him for the remainder of the 2019 season.

Hill suffered this latest serious knee injury in the second quarter of the Week 3 loss to Arkansas.

The redshirt junior will have another season of eligibility he can use in 2020.  It’s also possible Collins, who missed all of 2017 as he recovered from the first ACL tear, could receive a sixth year of eligibility that he could use the following season as well.

Prior to this season, Collins had started eight games for the Rams.  This season, he started all three games, setting a career-high with 374 yards passing in the opener and following that up with 367 yards in just over two quarters of play against FCS Western Illinois.

With Collins out, it’s likely Colorado State will turn to Patrick O’Brien, a transfer from Nebraska, as its starter, at least initially.

Alabama’s LaBryan Ray undergoes surgery, could return for LSU game

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On the LaBryan Ray front, there was a negative development that surfaced Wednesday as well as a potentially promising one as well.

Nick Saban confirmed earlier this week that LaBryan suffered an unspecified foot/ankle injury in Alabama’s Week 3 win over South Carolina and would be sidelined indefinitely.  A couple of days later, al.com is reporting that the junior defensive end has undergone surgery to repair the unspecified damage and will be sidelined “for a significant period of time.”

However, the same website, citing sources, writes that “there is a chance the junior could return later in the season and maybe even in time for the Crimson Tide’s game against LSU in early November.”

Such a timeline would mean LaBryan would miss, at the very least, the next five games.  That stretch includes conference home dates against Ole Miss (Sept. 28), Tennessee (Oct. 19) and Arkansas (Oct. 26) as well as a road trip to College Station Oct. 12 to face No. 17 Texas A&M.  Following a bye weekend after the Arkansas game, Alabama plays host to No. 4 LSU Nov. 9.

Obviously, he’ll miss this weekend’ game against Southern Miss as well.

Ray, a five-star 2017 signee, saw his true freshman season truncated by a foot injury.  After being named third-team preseason All-SEC over the summer, Ray had nine tackles and a sack prior to his injury.

Bob Davie expects to return to sidelines for New Mexico-Liberty game

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He’s not there quite yet, but Bob Davie is nearing a return to the sidelines.

Tuesday, New Mexico confirmed that offensive line coach/running-game coordinator Saga Tuitele will once again serve as acting head coach and be in charge of game management for this weekend’s matchup with in-state rival New Mexico State. Separately, head coach Bob Davie revealed that, barring an unexpected setback, he should resume coaching duties for the Sept. 28 game against Liberty, whose head football coach went through his own health issues over the past month as well.

Shortly after New Mexico beat Sam Houston State in its season opener, it was reported that Davie had experienced some type of “heart trouble” and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.  Shortly thereafter, UNM athletic director Eddie Nunez released a statement in which he confirmed that Davie “was taken to the hospital as a result of what appeared to be a serious medical incident” and asked “that you keep the Davie family in your prayers.”

Subsequent updates from the school indicated that Davie was doing well and is expected to make a full recovery, although not well enough to make the trip back to South Bend for the Week 3 game against Notre Dame.

Earlier this month, Davie stated that he was “not being too dramatic by saying [medical personnel] saved my life and my family will forever be appreciative.”

The 64-year-old Davie is in his eighth season as the head coach at New Mexico. He was also the head coach at Notre Dame from 1997-2001 before taking what turned out to be a decade-long sabbatical from the coaching profession. The Fighting Irish went 35-25 during Davie’s tenure, including losses in all three bowl appearances.

Davie served as the Irish’s defensive coordinator from 1994-96 before taking over for the retiring Lou Holtz.

At UNM, Davie has gone 34-55 in seven-plus seasons.

Nick Saban: ‘If there was one thing professionally that I would do over again, it would’ve been not to leave LSU’

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It was announced Tuesday that Alabama head coach Nick Saban has been selected as one of eight 2020 inductees into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Saban, of course, coached at LSU for five seasons, the minimum number of years to make either a coach or player eligible for the state’s Hall of Fame.

Suffice to say, Saban’s departure from LSU to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins following the 2004 season wasn’t exactly well-received and left many in the Pelican State none too pleased with the coach — his first return to Baton Rouge, Saban’s image was burned in effigy in November of 2008.

Despite such venting, Glenn Guilbeau of the USA Today Network writes, Saban has claimed that his biggest professional regret is leaving LSU for the NFL.

“As it turns out, what I learned from that experience in hindsight was, it was a huge mistake to leave college football,” Saban told Guilbeau during an interview earlier this year. “And I know a lot of LSU fans think I left for whatever reasons, but I left because I wanted to be a pro coach, or thought I wanted to be a pro coach. We loved LSU. We worked hard to build the program. If there was one thing professionally that I would do over again, it would’ve been not to leave LSU.”

During his two seasons in the NFL, the Dolphins went 15-17 under Saban. There has been a school of thought over the years, although it’s subsided of late, that Saban, who’ll turn 68 in late October, would want to return to the NFL to clean up some unfinished business and attempt to erase what’s the only blight on a Hall of Fame coaching career.

Based on the comments already posted above and these below, I think it’s (still) safe to say that professional football door is unofficially closed.

Saban said then-athletic director Skip Bertman, who was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, tried to convince him to stay, and he has never forgotten what he said.

“I remember Richard Gill and Skip and I meeting in Skip’s office,” Saban said. “And I was really torn about it. And Skip said, ‘You’ve just got to decide what you want your legacy to be. You want it to be as a college coach? Or do you want to try to make a name for yourself as a NFL coach?’ And I really wanted to be a college coach, but I had it in the back of my mind all the time that the ultimate thing that you could accomplish in the profession was to be a head coach in the NFL. Don’t ask me why. But that was just kind of there. And I thought, probably because of Wayne Huizenga (the late Dolphins’ owner) that was the right one. He was a pretty good recruiter.

Saban will officially be inducted into the state’s Hall of Fame June 27 of next year, for those looking to mark their calendars.