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Playoff ticket punched: No. 3 Notre Dame rallies to beat USC and cap off 12-0 regular season

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LOS ANGELES — They never said it was going to be easy, but the wins all count the same.

No. 3 Notre Dame trailed by double-digits for the first time all year but completed a second half comeback against rival USC 24-17 to cap off an undefeated regular season for the first time since 2012.

The Irish, who trailed by 10 early in the second quarter, slowly but surely chipped away at their deficit as the game wore on despite not really firing on all cylinders on either side of the ball. Though the defense allowed just 10 points, they were shredded in the first half by a short passing game that allowed true freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels to throw for 349 yards (one TD) while completing over 70% of his passes. The group did force two key turnovers (all fumbles) to keep the team in it with the offense not finding a groove until well after halftime.

That said, when Notre Dame needed a big play, they found one as they have all season long during this remarkable run. Dexter Williams recorded over half of 97 yards rushing on a 52-yard burst up the seam to give the visitors from South Bend their first lead of the game. After a few up-and-down drives, Justin Yoon tacked on a 46 yard field goal late in the third quarter while Tony Jones Jr. put the exclamation point on the season with a weaving 51 yard catch and run touchdown that clinched the game.

Irish signal-caller Ian Book was far from his best on the night but still finished with 352 yards and two scores (one interception) while picking up another 16 on the ground.

Though Williams was able to break that big run, neither side could do much at all running the football. Aca’Cedric Ware led the way for the Trojans with 68 yards but it was other wise too little, too late for the cardinal and gold as they miss a bowl game for the first time since 2000 at 5-7 overall.

That final record will also lead to plenty of speculation over the future of USC head coach Clay Helton, whose team was almost shutout in the second half and faces an extremely unhappy fan base that even flew a pre-game banner from an airplane over the Coliseum urging athletic director Lynn Syann to fire him.

Opposite number Brian Kelly won’t have to worry about that at all as he completed his second undefeated regular season in seven years. The Irish, who came into the night ranked No. 3 behind No. Alabama and No. 2 Clemson, will assuredly be in a College Football Playoff semifinal next month and will await who they might play on Selection Sunday next week.

There will be plenty to clean up between now and then for the Irish coaches but, deep into a perfect Southern California night, first will come just a little celebrating from the golden domers.

Western Kentucky’s leading tackler taking grad transfer to Purdue

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A significant loss for Western Kentucky’s defense could prove to be a boon for Purdue on that side of the ball.

In an email to the West Lafayette Journal & Courier, Ben Holt confirmed that he has decided to transfer from Western Kentucky to Purdue and continue his collegiate playing career with the Boilermakers.  As he is expected to graduate from WKU in May, the linebacker will be eligible to play immediately in 2019 for the Big Ten school.

Holt is the son of Nick Holt, who has spent the past two seasons as the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Purdue.  Ben Holt’s head coach his first two seasons with the Hilltoppers was Jeff Brohm, who is entering his third year in the same job with the Boilermakers.

This past season, Holt started all 12 games for the Hilltoppers.  He led the team in tackles with 116, tackles for losses with 11½ and quarterback hurries with nine.  His five pass breakups were good for third on the squad in 2018.

All told, Holt played in 38 games his past three seasons in Bowling Green.

Holt becomes the third former Hilltopper to transfer to the Boilermakers since Brohm came to West Lafayette.  Starting linebacker T.J. McCollum followed the coach in February of 2017, with starting offensive lineman Dennis Edwards following McCollum a year later.

Alabama LB Chris Allen undergoes surgery, per report

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The near-complete revamping of Nick Saban‘s coaching staff wasn’t the only football news coming out of Tuscaloosa late this past week.

According to al.com, outside linebacker Chris Allen underwent what was described as a minor surgical procedure on his knee Thursday.  The specific nature of the injury wasn’t detailed.

Allen, who missed the entire 2018 season after tearing an ACL, is expected to be healthy enough to participate in spring practice, which kicks off next month.

A four-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2017 recruiting class, Allen was rated as the No. 4 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Alabama.  As a true freshman, the Baton Rouge native played in seven games.

As noted by the website, Allen is set to be one of the Tide’s top backup linebackers on the outside this coming season.

Minnesota dismisses TE who allegedly punched cop in the face

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Yeah, that’ll do it.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Minnesota tight end Max Janes is facing felony charges after allegedly assaulting a police officer very early in the morning of Feb. 8.  It’s alleged that an intoxicated Janes was in the process of breaking into a post office when police officers responded, with the football player ultimately turning violent and allegedly punching one of the cops in the face.

From the Star Tribune‘s report:

According to the criminal complaint: Officers were dispatched to a welfare check on reports of an individual improperly dressed for the cold weather loitering outside the post office. They located Janes just as he gained unlawful entry into the building’s loading dock. Officers placed Janes in their squad car, but opened the rear door after he informed them that he needed to vomit.

Instead, Janes got out and punched an officer — causing demonstrable bodily harm, the complaint says. He was eventually restrained and booked at Hennepin County jail, where he was charged with fourth-degree assault of a peace officer and obstructing the legal process.

As a result of the off-field incident, Janes was dismissed from the football team.

“We have extremely high standards for members of our team and when those standards are not met there are consequences,” head coach P.J. Fleck said in a statement. “Law enforcement officers speak to our team and educate them multiple times a year, and we greatly appreciate those who protect and serve us on a daily basis.”

A preferred walk-on, Janes played in 13 games as a true freshman this past season.  The vast majority of his action came on special teams.

Wyoming’s OL coach shuffle continues with hiring of Ohio assistant

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Maybe the third time will be a charm?

Following the end of the 2018 season, Craig Bohl parted ways with his long-time offensive line coach Scott Fuchs and embarked on a search for a replacement. That search ended with Wyoming’s hiring of Klayton Adams; less than a month later, another search for a line coach was launched as Adams took a job as the assistant offensive line coach for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

A little over a week later, and while there’s nothing official yet from the Cowboys, Frank Solich confirmed to the Athens Messenger this past week that Ohio’s offensive line coach, Bart Miller, has taken the same job at Wyoming.

“Our coaches loved working with him, our players loved working with him. We appreciate what he was all about and how he helped our team be what it was last year,” the head coach told the Messenger.

Last season was Miller’s first with the Bobcats. As the newspaper noted, this will mark Miller’s fourth different school in as many years as he was on the coaching staffs at Minnesota and Air Force in 2016 and 2017, respectively.