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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…

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.