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No. 11 Washington, No. 17 Utah locked into low-scoring affair as Pac-12 title game hits halftime


Pac-12 After Dark?

Well, the lights are certainly out on offense as a low-scoring Pac-12 Championship hit halftime with No. 11 Washington leading No. 17 Utah by a paltry 3-0 score.

Though both programs sport two of the conference’s best defenses, the first two quarters from Levi’s Stadium was an awful lot about two offenses not being able to get out of their own way, much less move the ball on a consistent basis.

Huskies quarterback Jake Browning did have 94 yards through the air but threw an interception off a deflection and nearly had two other passes picked off in a bit of a hectic performance for the veteran leader. His inability to be a consistent downfield threat hampered the run game as a result, with Myles Gaskin often facing a loaded box while he clawed his way to 50 yards rushing. Normally speedy backup Salvon Ahmed was also unable to get much going either with a total of 17 yards of offense on four touches.

As lackluster as some of those numbers are, the Utes would love to change places. Their offense recorded a trio of three-and-outs, managed just 2.4 yards/per play in the first half and picked up just two first downs. The end result was Kyle Whittingham’s squad badly losing the time of possession battle and looking like they were unaware of what the stakes in the game were.

Signal-caller Jason Shelley, fresh off a wild rally against BYU last week, was unable to find much at all beyond running out of bounds on third down and threw for only 37 yards while taking one sack in the half. Wideout Britain Covey was the team’s leading rusher with 14 yards on the ground, which was indicative of just how hard it was to move the ball on the ground. Utah does get the ball to start the second half and will be hoping for some magic out of the locker room once again as they look to add the conference championship trophy to their first Pac-12 South title this season.

A Rose Bowl berth is on the line for the victor in this one and you can bet that will be emphasized quite a bit by the coaching staffs on each side in hopes of injecting a little life into the conference championship race on Friday night.

Kentucky’s Josh Allen adds fourth national trophy honor

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When it’s all said and done, Josh Allen is going to need a bigger trophy cabinet — or at least significantly expand his current one.

Monday, it was announced that the Kentucky senior was named as the 2018 recipient of the Jack Lambert Award. That trophy is handed out annually by the Touchdown Club of Columbus (OH) and given to the national linebacker of the year.

Previously this awards season, Allen had been named as the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Award (HERE) and Chuck Bednarik Award (HERE) as well as the recipient of the Ronnie Lott IMPACT Trophy (HERE). He also earned unanimous first-team All-American honors.

Allen’s 14 sacks this season set the football program’s single-season record, while his 28.5 career sacks are the most ever for a member of the Wildcats.

Utah State OC Troy Taylor named head coach at FCS Sacramento State

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For the second time since the 2018 regular season came to an end, Kyle Whittingham has seen one of his assistant coaches leave for a head-coaching job.

Exactly a week ago, Utah State announced that Utah associate head coach Gary Andersen was returning to again lead the Aggies.  Monday, Sacramento State announced that Troy Taylor has been hired as the FCS program’s next head football coach.

Taylor, who spent two seasons as Whittingham’s offensive coordinator, was the starting quarterback at Cal in the late eighties after playing his high school football in the state of California.  He also began his coaching career at the high school level near Sacramento.

“I am thrilled to be the new head football coach at Sacramento State,” Taylor said in a statement. “My family and I are excited to move back home and take on the challenge of building the Hornet Football program into something the city can be very proud. I want to thank President Nelsen, Mark Orr and the rest of the search committee for giving me this opportunity.”

With bowl season left, Utah is sixth in the Pac-12 and 67th nationally in scoring 28.7 points per game.  In Taylor’s first season in charge of the offense, they averaged 29.5 ppg.

Whittingham has already replaced Andersen with former Ute football player Sione Po’uha.

Nick Saban says Tua Tagovailoa ‘probably ahead of schedule’ in recovery from ankle surgery

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One of the biggest storylines leading into the 2018 College Football Playoff is the health of this year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up.  With Alabama’s date with Oklahoma less than two weeks away, the signs are pointing in a positive direction for Tua Tagovailoa.

The sophomore quarterback suffered a high-ankle sprain in Alabama’s SEC championship game win over Georgia two weeks ago and underwent surgery shortly thereafter to help aid the healing process.  Monday, Nick Saban sounded decidedly optimistic in giving an update on the status of his starter, who has participated at least partly in all four of the Crimson Tide’s practice session since the title game.

“He’s doing well,” the head coach said by way of “I think he’s probably ahead of schedule. He’s been able to take a lot of reps. He’s been able to throw the ball from the pocket. He can run. …

“I don’t think he’s 100 percent in terms of change of direction yet. But he’s already going 100 percent on the gravity treadmill. So he’s been able to practice and he’s made really, really good progress. So we’re encouraged by that.”

Tagovailoa had been bothered by knee issues for a sizable chunk of the regular season before hurting his left ankle earlier this month.

Top-ranked Alabama will face Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray and Oklahoma in the Dec. 29 Orange Bowl, which this season is serving as one of the two playoff semifinals.  The winner of that game will face the Notre Dame-Clemson in the national championship game next month.

Justin Fields’ family says QB ‘hasn’t made a decision’ to transfer from Georgia

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Maybe the future quarterback situation in Athens isn’t as straightforward and black and white as it seemed earlier in the evening.

Monday night, it was reported that Justin Fields has notified Georgia of his intent to transfer.  Subsequent to that, reported that “Fields is exploring the possibility of transferring, though he hasn’t yet told the Bulldogs’ coaching staff that he’s leaving.”

Additionally, at least one member of Fields’ family told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a decision hasn’t been made one way or the other.

Asked if she could confirm reports that her son intends to transfer from Georgia, Fields’ stepmother said she could not. But she also didn’t deny them.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss anything,” Jo Ann Claudrick Fields said via telephone Monday night. “We’re not confirming or denying anything. We haven’t made a decision.

Fields’ mother also told the Journal-Constitution to talk to the quarterback’s father, Ivant Fields, as “[h]e handles everything involving football.”

If the transfer were to come to fruition, ESPN reported that Florida State, Ohio State and Oklahoma would be potential landing spots.  That website also reports that Fields is expected to play in the Sugar Bowl for the Bulldogs.

Fields was rated by as the No. 1 player regardless of position in the Class of 2018.  He spent his true freshman season as the primary backup to sophomore starter Jake Fromm.