Getty Images

Northern Illinois caps remarkable second half rally to beat Buffalo and capture MAC title

1 Comment

Northern Illinois was out of it. Down 29-10, the Huskies had just thrown an interception and looked like they were about to get run out of Ford Field by Buffalo in the MAC Championship Game.

Never say never when it comes to #MACtion however.

The Huskies used a 35 yard touchdown pass to D.J. Brown in the final 70 seconds to cap off a remarkable second half rally to beat the Bulls 30-29 on Friday night in a thrilling start to conference championship weekend in college football.

After a lackluster first half in the school’s seventh title game appearance in the last nine years, QB Marcus Childers and company eventually found their groove on offense to turn a likely loss into a wild win. The signal-caller wound up throwing for an even 300 yards and four touchdowns, moving past an absolute arm punt of an interception early on to find Brown deep for the game-winning score and leading the team in rushing with 58 yards for good measure.

Not to be out done, Huskies star pass rusher Sutton Smith also flashed plenty in the game with numerous quarterback hurries and added two sacks in an impact performance down the stretch from the conference’s player of the year.

The rally stunned many on the Buffalo sidelines given their big early lead and the possibility of securing the school’s second conference title ever and first in a full decade. Quarterback Tyree Jackson threw for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the big stage, but was harassed quite a bit by Smith in the second half and failed to move the sticks much after emerging from halftime. He did make several impressive throws in tight windows while hooking up with star receiver Anthony Johnson (124 yards, two scores) but the two just couldn’t get in position for a late field goal to nab the win in a game they controlled for much of the night.

Bulls tailback Jaret Patterson did set a school freshman record for rushing yards in a season after recording 72 on the ground in the game and found the end zone once (teammate Kevin Marks added another 72 yards and also had a TD) as the program set a single-season record for points scored and yards rushing in coming up just short of an 11th win.

As a result, NIU remains Buffalo’s boogeyman as the Huskies are the only program in the MAC the Bulls have not beaten since joining the conference — dropping to 0-11 overall since moving to the FBS level. A berth in either the Camellia Bowl or Dollar General Bowl likely awaits the team, which will no doubt be wondering what could have been despite reaching double-digit wins for the first time ever.

Rod Carey’s group may also be left wondering how that game came about but won’t argue with the final score, which gives the program their fifth MAC title overall and second with their head coach. The team had started slow to begin the year, ran off six straight wins and then were slumping coming into the weekend but used a little bit of magic when it mattered most to wind up as top dogs yet again as college football’s first championship trophy was handed out this season in Detroit.

WVU wideout Dillon Spalding transfers to James Madison, will play against old team in Week 1

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In the NFL, you’ll often see teams sign a player who was just cut off another team the week or two before they wind up playing that opponent. We could sort of have a college football version of that scenario in the case of wide receiver Dillon Spalding.

The former West Virginia redshirt freshman announced on Twitter that he had committed to James Madison and would be transferring to join the team in 2019. The team’s opponent in Week 1? None other than the Mountaineers in Morgantown.

Of course any knowledge Spalding might bring with him is limited given that both JMU and WVU have new coaching staffs in place this year. The former three-star recruit is moving a little closer to his Lorton, Va. hometown and will have all four years of eligibility remaining between redshirting last season due to an injury and the drop down to the FCS level.

The Dukes have added a solid amount of FBS talent recently for new coach Curt Cignetti. In addition to Spalding, former Penn State wide receiver Brandon Polk joined the program this offseason and both will catch passes from ex-Pitt QB Ben DiNucci.

Wildcats see attendance spike after allowing beer and wine sales at Arizona Stadium in 2018

Getty Images
2 Comments

Arizona posted a disappointing 5-7 campaign in Kevin Sumlin’s first season in Tucson but Arizona fans still came out and enjoyed themselves thanks, in part, to the school allowing beer and alcohol sales for the first time.

As the Arizona Daily Star reports, attendance for the Wildcats home football games actually ticked up last year an average of 2,804 people while incidents of ejections at the stadium did the same — though were below historic averages.

“We’ve been very pleased with the rollout across the board in Arizona Stadium and McKale,” athletic director Dave Heeke said. “This was really focused around a number of things that we’ve done in the area of fan amenities and food service, and beverage selection was a key component.”

Some 43 people were kicked out of seven home games at UA, which is double the 21 from 2017 but well below the numbers the school reported for seasons when they played in-state rival Arizona State. It seems that Territorial Cup contest was the biggest indicator of above-average ejections in a year though game-by-game data was not given.

“I really haven’t noticed an increase in any type of criminal behavior due to beer and wine sales,” UAPD spokesman Sgt. Sean Shields told the paper. “Obviously from year to year the ejections and different numbers change and they fluctuate, but it’s very hard to pinpoint the reason why those happen.”

The amount of revenue generated by beer and alcohol sales wasn’t detailed by the school but Heeke noted it covered the additional costs on game days and the profit overall wasn’t hugely significant. Still, it seems the atmosphere at Arizona Stadium was still enough to lure fans into their seats despite plenty of late starts and a football team that was largely up-and-down in 2018.

Ex-FAU defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro joins Kansas staff in off-the-field role

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Not many people can say they worked for the very different styles of head coaches Lane Kiffin and Les Miles back-to-back but Tony Pecoraro certainly can.

The recently let go Florida Atlantic defensive coordinator has apparently landed a new gig in Lawrence as a senior defensive analyst, primarily serving under Jayhawks DC D.J. Eliott.

Pecoraro took over the Owls defense in 2018 after spending the previous two seasons running things on that side of the ball for Southern Miss. Things didn’t quite work out in Boca however as FAU couldn’t get off the field like they did in Kiffin’s first year and allowed 31.8 points per game.

The veteran coordinator, who has Power Five assistant experience from a stint at Florida State, was replaced at FAU by longtime Oklahoma State DC Glenn Spencer back in December.

Wisconsin unlikely to join trend of selling beer and alcohol at football games anytime soon

Getty Images
1 Comment

Wisconsin fans are known to hold more than their own when it comes to enjoying an adult beverage or two before, during and after Badgers football games but they apparently will have to keep waiting for the opportunity to buy a cold one at Camp Randall on game days.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, a decision on whether or not to allow beer/alcohol sales in the general seating sections of the stadium rests with school chancellor Rebecca Blank and that she is not inclined to change the status quo on such prohibition anytime soon.

“The university believes that there is already an atmosphere of energy and excitement around Badger game days,” a school statement to the paper read. “The addition of alcohol to general seating areas isn’t needed to improve that experience and could detract from it for our students and fans.”

Just in the last two months, Indiana, Rutgers and Illinois have turned on the taps for football games in 2019. That will result in fully half of Big Ten schools allowing such sales in general seating areas as a result this season and it’s turned into yet another lucrative revenue stream for those that have too.

Wisconsin appears resistant to the idea however, doing so in the face of declining attendance for games too. While it is certainly too early to remark ‘never say never’ when it comes to the Badgers, it’s pretty clear this trend isn’t making its way to Madison anytime soon.