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

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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.

Gary Pinkel undergoing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for a second time

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Former Missouri and Toledo head coach Gary Pinkel revealed in a TV interview on Sunday night that he is once again undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I’m doing good. I had to get treatment again for the first time in four years. My cancer came out of remission, and so I had treatment last month. I’m doing fine,” Pinkel told KMIZ. “With my type of lymphoma, you’ll never be healed. But that’s kind of why I retired when I did – I just wanted to not go back and regret working 85 hours a week, 35 weeks out of the year when I could be doing other things with my family and my eight grandkids.”

Pinkel was originally diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in May of 2015 and stepped down after that season. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that begins in the lymph nodes and then spreads throughout the body.

“You keep battling it. I’m going to battle it, Pinkel said. “I’ve got a very positive approach to it, and I’m around a lot of good people that are helping me. There’s a lot of people out there with a lot worse cancers than Gary Pinkel has, and so prayers to all of them.”

Since retiring, Pinkel has used his time as a fundraiser for Missouri and also running the GP M.A.D.E. Foundation, which supports children with cancer and also provides mentoring for at-need kids.

Pinkel, 63, was 191-110-3 as a head coach at two schools over 25 seasons.

 

Former Bengals offensive coordinator reportedly joining Florida support staff

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Former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese is joining Florida’s staff as an analyst, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Andy Benoit.

Zampese spent the 2016-17 seasons as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator after serving 13 seasons as Marvin Lewis‘s quarterbacks coach. Cincinnati went 13-18-1 in Zampese’s two seasons running the offense, which is why he spent 2018 as the Cleveland Browns’ quarterbacks coach and the first part of 2019 as the offensive coordinator for the AAF’s Atlanta Legends.

He is the son of former Chargers, Rams, Cowboys and Patriots offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese.

It is not immediately known what the younger Zampese’s role will be with the Gators, but his experience indicates he’ll work with Dan Mullen and coordinators John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales to develop Florida’s offensive plan and help Brian Johnson tutor the quarterbacks, or perhaps use his coordinator experience to self-scout Florida’s offense and scout Florida’s future opponents.

Arizona launched hostile workplace probe following sexual harassment claims against Wildcat football players

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Arizona launched a hostile workplace investigation into its football program following multiple claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment made by multiple female equipment managers against multiple former Wildcat football players, the program confirmed to the Tucson Daily Star.

Lawyers representing the university did not say when the probe took place, but did say it was sparked by two complaints made by female equipment mangers. From the paper:

In 2014, two UA students who worked as equipment managers separately reported incidents involving nonconsensual sex with football players. In August of that year, police were told that a 21-year-old woman working for the athletic department had sex at least twice with three UA football players while the she was heavily intoxicated. One of the players recorded at least one of the encounters and showed it to other students, the report said.

The woman told police that she lost her job after the recording was released, according to the report.

….

While investigating the woman’s claim, UA’s Title IX office approached former manager Jacquelyn Hinek, who had quit her job months before, citing pervasive sexual harassment. After speaking to UA investigators, Hinek told Tucson police that she had been sexually assaulted in April 2013 by several men associated with the football team while at an off-campus party. She said the incident was recorded on a cell phone and later shown to other students. 

“The Office of Institutional Equity conducted a thorough review of the football equipment manager program and there were no findings of sex discrimination as a result of that investigation,” UA spokesman Chris Sigurdson told the paper via email.

The probe was one of three major investigations into the football program.

Arizona is currently being sued for Title IX violations by an alleged victim of former Wildcats running back Orlando Bradford, whom the victim says hit, choked and imprisoned her over a 2-day period in September 2016. Bradford is currently serving a 5-year prison sentence, but the Title IX suit seeks to depose a number of key figures within the football program, including former head coach Rich Rodriguez, who himself was the subject of a hostile workplace investigation in 2017. Allegations of sexual harassment made by his former assistant led to his dismissal last January. Rodriguez has denied any sexual harassment claims, arguing instead they were an extortion attempt against him.

In total, Arizona said it investigated 27 athletes or athletic department employees for sexual harassment, sexual assault or domestic violence from 2012 through ’17 (the period coinciding with Rodriguez’s hiring and firing), eight of them involving the football program.

UConn reportedly looking to keep football program in FBS, not FCS

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All the reporting that came out since the bombshell reports saying Connecticut is looking to leave the American Athletic Conference to rejoin the non-football Big East have confirmed that, yes, this is really happening, likely in time for the 2020-21 athletic year. The reporting has also said that UConn’s soon-to-be-homeless football program will not drop down to FCS, but instead join a different conference or try to make it as an FBS independent.

On Saturday, Stadium’s Brett McMurphy tweeted that UConn has determined it will not return to FCS, where the program competed for most of its history before joining the then-power conference Big East in 2004.

On Sunday morning, NCAA.com’s Andy Katz followed with a note saying it looked like the Huskies will try to make a go of it as an independent, writing that UConn will attempt to schedule neighbors like UMass (a fellow independent), Boston College, Syracuse and Rutgers while honoring existing contracts for home-and-homes with Duke, Illinois, NC State and others.

For a check in with someone who might actually know something, let’s see what Huskies head coach Randy Edsall has to say.

Oh, well.

Either way, it sounds like the train is moving and we could hear something official sooner rather than later.