Associated Press

Red River Revenge: No. 5 OU moves to CFP doorstep with Big 12 title win over No. 14 Texas

20 Comments

In their 59-56 win over West Virginia last week, the Oklahoma defense gave up yards in chunks (700 of them, in fact), but made plays when they needed to be made, registering two defensive touchdowns to put the Sooners in Saturday’s Big 12 Championship.

Again on Saturday, Oklahoma got a defensive score when they needed one. This one wasn’t a touchdown but did the trick just the same, as Tre Brown sacked Sam Ehlinger in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter, turning what could have been a 34-30 Texas lead into a 32-27 OU lead and putting Kyler Murray and company back on the field.

Given a chance to salt the game, the Big 12 championship, a College Football Playoff berth and perhaps the Heisman Trophy away, Murray came through with a touchdown pass at the 2-minute mark to hand the Sooners a 39-27 win.

Murray once again dazzled, completing 25-of-34 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 39 rushing yards, making up for the 2-turnover performance that allowed Texas to earn a 48-45 win in October.

With the SEC and Big Ten championship games looming, Oklahoma (12-1) can now argue it has beaten every team it’s played on their march to their fourth straight Big 12 title and perhaps their third Playoff trip over that span.

But before Oklahoma could make its Playoff argument, the Sooners first had to emerge with another hard-fought win.

Texas opened the game by rolling 75 yards in nine plays — going 3-of-3 on third down for 64 yards, including Ehlinger’s 16-yard touchdown run. The Longhorns appeared to have OU stopped on its first possession when Caden Sterns snared a deflected interception in the end zone, but the play was erased by Kris Boyd‘s facemask penalty on Marquise Brown, his second such foul of the drive. Still, Texas kept Oklahoma out of the end zone when Gary Johnson stuffed Trey Sermon on a 3rd-and-goal run from the 1 for a loss of two yards.

After forcing a Longhorns punt, Oklahoma again marched — methodically, needing 13 plays over more than five minutes — into the Texas red zone but the defense again held when Boyd knocked the ball away from Brown’s grasp in the end zone on third down, forcing Austin Seibert‘s second short field goal.

Given a second chance to punish an OU field goal, this time Texas capitalized. Keyed by a 23-yard completion to Collin Johnson on 4th-and-4, the ‘Horns again moved 75 yards in nine snaps, and again scored on an Ehlinger keeper, giving Texas a 14-6 lead at the 11:22 mark of the second quarter.

On its third possession of the game, Oklahoma was again held out of the end zone. Murray appeared to hit Brown for a 45-yard gain over the middle on 2nd-and-9, but review showed Texas cornerback Davante Davis jostled the ball loose before Brown could secure the catch. On third down, Davis nailed Brown on a screen pass short of the line to gain, forcing an Oklahoma punt, but the OU defense answered by forcing its second punt.

Thanks to two penalties, Oklahoma had its worst field position of the day, beginning its next drive at its own 13, but for the first time the Sooners’ offense looked like the typical OU offense, knifing the required 87 yards in six plays, two of them to CeeDee Lamb — a 46-yard gain on the first play of the drive, then a 28-yard score to pull OU within 14-13 with 5:01 left before halftime. Another key play on the drive was a missed false start on right tackle Cody Ford on a 4th-and-1 from the Texas 32, which ended in a 4-yard Sermon rush.

After another Texas punt, Oklahoma rolled 80 yards in five plays and just 41 seconds, taking its first lead on a 6-yard toss from Murray to Grant Calcaterra with 18 seconds left in the first half.

Oklahoma received the ball to open the second half and picked up where it left off, moving 75 yards in eight plays to turn a 14-6 deficit into a 27-14 lead. Needing a score to stay in the game, Texas leaned on Collin Johnson, who caught passes for 25, 21 and, finally a 27-yard touchdown to end the OU run. Johnson set a Big 12 Championship record with 177 receiving yards on eight catches.

The Texas defense, which seemed lifeless in allowing three straight touchdown drives covering 242 yards in 19 plays, rallied by sacking Murray, stuffing Sermon behind the line and then forcing a Murray throw away to avoid another sack, giving the Longhorns’ offense the ball back with a chance to re-take the lead. Over an 11-play, 64-yard drive, Texas got the touchdown it needed, a 3rd-and-goal 5-yard strike to Lil'Jordan Humphrey, but the Longhorns did not take the lead because Cameron Dicker‘s PAT was blocked, leaving the score tied at 27-27 with 2:44 left in the third quarter.

Oklahoma moved into the Texas red zone to open the fourth quarter, but again the Longhorns stiffened, forcing a 31-yard Seibert field goal that bounced off the left up right and in.

On the ensuing drive, Texas converted a 3rd-and-10 when Parnell Motley interfered with Johnson but, on a 3rd-and-9, the Sooners got a stop when Tre Norwood got away with a clear pass interference on Humphrey.

Looking for a touchdown to put the game away, Oklahoma appeared in position to have it when Lamb broke free of Davis down the sideline, but Gary Johnson raced down the field to force the ball free from behind, and Jones hopped on the loose ball at the Texas 13.

Now needing to make a play of its own, the Oklahoma defense got one when Norwood screamed in touched to nail Ehlinger for a safety, stretching the OU lead to 32-27 and putting the Sooner offense back on the field with 8:27 remaining.

Given a chance to clinch the game, the best offense in college football came through with a perfect drive. On two separate third downs, Murray found high school teammate Lee Morris — playing on the same field the pair won three high school state championships — then hit Calcaterra on a 3rd-and-10 for an 18-yard touchdown drive, capping a 11-play, 65-yard drive that put the Sooners up 39-27 with exactly two minutes remaining.

Humphrey returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but the play was called back for a penalty; it was the ‘Horns 13th flag, totaling 128 yards. Ehlinger moved Texas to the red zone, but the last-gasp drive ended when Norwood picked him off at the OU 5. Battling a bum shoulder, the sophomore completed 23-of-36 passes for 349 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while rushing a team-high 15 times for 42 yards and two scores.

Former Bengals offensive coordinator reportedly joining Florida support staff

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
2 Comments

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

Getty Images
3 Comments

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.

Steve Spurrier getting into the restaurant business

Getty Images
7 Comments

Steve Spurrier hasn’t coached a college football team since 2015, but that doesn’t mean the Head Ball Coach has retired.

The former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and national championship head coach returned to his alma mater to serve as a brand ambassador in 2016, he’s appeared in commercials, and he won a self-proclaimed championship as head coach of the Orlando Apollos of the short-lived Alliance of American Football.

Now, he’s getting into the restaurant business.

On Friday, it was reported the 74-year-old Spurrier will announce that he’s seeking a partner to “operate his new American casual dining concept.”

Details are scarce at this point–that’s probably the point of the press conference–but I’m imagining Margaritaville with footballs. We’ll find out on Monday.