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Smelling roses: No. 11 Washington clinches trip to Pasadena by beating No. 17 Utah in Pac-12 title game


Use whatever adjective you want to describe the 2018 Pac-12 Championship Game but chances are it will be a synonym of ugly.

And it won’t matter one bit to fans of No. 11 Washington as they topped No. 17 Utah by a very indicative 10-3 score on Friday night to capture the league title for a second time in three years and book their trip to the Rose Bowl Game for the first time since 2001.

As one would expect in a game featuring two of the best defenses West of the Mississippi, offense was hard to come by in this one — both because of what defenders were doing and want offensive skill players were not. Huskies quarterback Jake Browning was again a bit of a liability as a passer with one interception (and several others that could have been picked) but did wind up making a few key plays to move the sticks in the second half and finished the game with 187 yards and a few key scrambles as well. He combined with Myles Gaskin (71 yards rushing) and Salvon Ahmed (28 on the ground) to help Washington dominate time of possession nearly 2-to-1 in the game however, certainly a winning formula given they could lean on their defense pretty much all night.

And what a defensive performance it was.

The Huskies held the Utes to only 188 yards in the game and recorded three turnovers to go with two sacks and numerous pressures. Defensive back Byron Murphy also all but won UW the game in the third quarter with one of the most remarkable pick-sixes you’ll ever see as he snatched the ball off an opposing wideout to return it 66 yards for the game’s only touchdown.

While many in purple will note how good the team is on that side of the ball, there was also plenty of issues getting anything going for the team in red as a 53 yard Matt Gay field goal that barely cleared the crossbar was the only bright spot of the game for the Utes. Quarterback Jason Shelley must have used up all his second half magic last week against BYU as it was rough from start to finish for the youngster in throwing for 137 yards and a trio of interceptions all on consecutive drives across the third and fourth quarters.

Tailback Armand Shyne chipped in with 37 yards rushing to barely outpace receiver Britain Covey and his 14 yards on the ground. Crazy as all those numbers were, the team still had a chance to tie things up in the final few minutes before turning the ball over on downs.

While the ending wasn’t quite what Utah wanted at Levi’s Stadium, it was still a remarkable campaign for Kyle Whittingham as he guided his team to their first South Division title, a victory over their in-state rival and a 9-4 record in the regular season despite losing their entire starting backfield down the stretch.

Washington will wind up with the ultimate prize in the end however, doing just enough on offense to eek out the victory and capture the school’s second Pac-12 championship under head coach Chris Petersen. While the league was knocked out of the College Football Playoff weeks ago, a trip to Pasadena is nothing for any of these schools to overlook and will be a very welcome sight at the beginning of next year when the Huskies take the field at the Rose Bowl for the first time in 18 years.

Let’s just hope UW can figure out an offense between now and taking the field against Northwestern, Ohio State or Michigan in January…

Reports: a candidate for Temple job, Mike Elko to remain at Texas A&M

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It appears as though Jimbo Fisher won’t have a vacancy on his Texas A&M coaching staff to fill this postseason.

In the days after Geoff Collins left Temple to take the head job at Georgia Tech, Mike Elko has been mentioned prominently as a potential replacement.  Wednesday, however, multiple reports have surfaced that Elko has decided to remain in College Station as the Aggies’ defensive coordinator.

Elko just completed his first season as Fisher’s coordinator after spending the 2017 season in the same job at Notre Dame.

In 2018, Elko was paid $1.8 million, making him the fourth-highest-paid assistant coach in the country.  While it’s not listed in the USA Today coaching salary database, it’s believed that Collins was working under a five-year, $10 million contract while the head coach of the Owls.

With Elko now out of the mix, a new report has surfaced that puts Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown squarely in the mix.  Another defensive coordinator, Miami’s Manny Diaz, has also been mentioned as a possibility at the AAC school and has already interviewed for the job.

Blood clot in C.J. Fuller’s lung caused ex-Clemson RB’s death

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C.J. Fuller died suddenly the afternoon of Oct. 3 after the former Clemson running back suffered chest pains as well as a suspected seizure.  Nearly 10 weeks later, a cause of the 22-year-old’s death has been released.

According to the Charleston Post & Courier, the Pickens County (SC) Coroner’s Office has determined that Fuller died as the result of a pulmonary thromboembolism and deep vein thrombosis stemming from a football injury.  A pulmonary thromboembolism is essentially a blood clot that breaks free and ultimately becomes lodged in the lungs.

Fuller had suffered a knee injury playing flag football in August of this year and underwent surgery the following month.  On the day of his death, he attended his first physical therapy session, one that reportedly went off without an issue.

“Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies are with C.J.’s family,” Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement at the time of Fuller’s death. “I’ve known C.J. a long time and watched him grow up through the Easley rec leagues all the way through Easley High School. I’m proud of what he accomplished as a Clemson Tiger, most of all, his accomplishment of being a Clemson graduate. Our deepest condolences and the thoughts of our program are with his family this evening. May he rest in peace.”

Following the 2017 season, Fuller left the team as a would-be graduate transfer. In late March, Fuller, who was expected to continue his collegiate playing career at another program, was one of three individuals charged in connection to an alleged armed robbery in downtown Clemson.

In 2017, Fuller, who began that season as the starter, was fifth on the Tigers with a career-high 217 yards and three touchdowns. He finished the Tigers portion of his playing career with 599 yards and four touchdowns on 147 carries, as well as 18 receptions for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

One of those touchdown catches came in the College Football Playoff semifinal win over Ohio State in 2016. The Tigers went on to win the national championship that season.

Fuller earned a degree in sociology from Clemson in August, the same month in which he sustained the injury that preceded his death.

Auburn transfer TE Jalen Harris lists Georgia, Colorado among five potential landing spots

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It’s unclear at this point to where Jalen Harris will ultimately transfer, but the list of potential landing spots has been significantly whittled down.

In mid-September, Harris announced that he would be transferring from Auburn.  On Twitter Tuesday, the tight end revealed his list of five finalists that will serve as possible transfer destinations, including a pair of SEC schools in Georgia and Vanderbilt.

The other three schools include a pair of Power Five programs (Colorado, Kansas State) as well as one from the Group of Five (Troy).

A decision from Harris is expected at some point next week.

Harris did not play in more than four games this season, meaning he preserved a year of eligibility under the new redshirt rule.  He will also head to his new college football home as a graduate transfer, meaning he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2019.

As a fourth-year senior this past season, the 6-4, 257-pound Harris played in three games before opting to transfer.  The previous three seasons, the Montgomery, Ala., native played in 39 games, with most of that action coming on special teams and as a blocking tight end.

Harris did, though, catch a pair of touchdown passes among his four career receptions.  Both touchdowns came during the 2016 season.

Richmond confirms death of DB Augustus Lee

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Sadly, tragedy has yet again struck the college football community.

Tuesday, Richmond confirmed that Spiders football player Augustus “Gus” Lee had passed away earlier in the day.  According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Virginia Department of Health’s Central District Office of the Chief Medical Examiner declined to provide details on the cause of the redshirt freshman defensive back’s death.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Augustus Lee,” Richmond head football coach Russ Huesman said in a statement sent out by the FCS program. “Gus was a terrific young man and a great member of our Richmond family. His loss is a true tragedy to those who knew and loved him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Gus’ family. This is a very difficult time for everyone in the Richmond Spider family.”

“I have been in touch with Gus’s family to express our deepest condolences on behalf of the entire University,” a statement from president Ronald Crutcher began. “Gus was a sophomore from Fairfax, Virginia, who played on our football team. He was an undeclared pre-business major and a good friend, especially to his teammates and his fellow student-athletes. We extend our deepest sympathies to Gus’s family, his teammates, professors, and many friends on our campus.”

Lee played in 11 games this past season, with most of that action coming on special teams.  He was named Defensive MVP of the Spiders’ spring game earlier this year.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Lee’s passing.