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No. 16 Auburn scores 21 straight to surge past No. 11 Oregon

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You had to know Oregon would regret its two trips inside Auburn’s 10-yard line that ended in no points, because you knew Auburn was going to rally.

Auburn rallied, and now the Ducks are flying home with an absolutely devastating loss, both for themselves and their entire conference.

Behind an inspired defensive effort and a clutch performance from their true freshman quarterback, No. 16 Auburn scored 21 straight to rally past No. 11 Oregon, 27-21 in Dallas.

Making his first career start, Bo Nix overcame two early interceptions to save Auburn’s comeback effort, first with a 3-and-one-inch scramble on a 4th-and-3, and then a game-winning 26-yard touchdown pass to Seth Williams with nine seconds left in the game.

But, before it could fall apart on Oregon, first it had to come together.

The Ducks (0-1) accepted the ball to open the game and promptly moved 74 yards in 11 plays to take an immediate 7-0 lead. The Ducks initially scored on a 3rd-and-goal Justin Herbert keeper, but replay ruled his knee down at the 1. No matter, Mario Cristobal kept his offense on the field and pounded the ball in through CJ Verdell.

The Ducks forced a three-and-out on Auburn’s first chance, then drove right back to Auburn’s doorstep. That’s where, if this game turns in the second half, Oregon will carry regret with the back to Eugene: a third-down drop in the back of the end zone by Bryan Addison, and then a missed 20-yard field goal by Camden Lewis.

Auburn (1-0) rode the chance to swing momentum for the first time, using a 38-yard completion from Nix to Will Hastings and then a 19-yard Nix run to set up a 40-yard Anders Carlson field goal, pulling the Tigers within 7-3 at the 3:17 mark of the first quarter.

Oregon immediately answered, needing only three plays to move 75 yards and push their lead to 14-3 with 2:11 left in the first.

The Ducks once again moved in position to take complete control of the game when Jevon Holland returned a punt 81 yards to the Auburn 9, but Oregon then gave it right back with another red zone disaster. This one was a fumbled exchange by Herbert, scooped up by Big Kat Bryant and returned 83 yards to Oregon’s 3.

Auburn again did not fully capitalize on this mistake, settling for a 25-yard Carlson field goal.

A third critical mistake set up Auburn’s third scoring chance, this one a 53-yard punt that was returned 41 yards by Auburn’s Christian Tutt, who was given an extra 15 when Oregon punter Blake Maimone roughed him. Given the ball at Oregon’s 26, Auburn again failed to cash in. This time, Carlson was wide right from 42 yards with eight seconds left before the break.

After forcing a three-and-out to open the second half, Oregon moved 53 yards in nine snaps to score on Darrian Felix‘s 6-yard run.

Auburn pulled back within eight thanks to two big plays by Eli Stove, a 36-yard run and an 11-yard touchdown grab on consecutive snaps and, after teetering on blowout territory for much of the first half, the Tigers were within one when backup quarterback Joey Gatewood soared over the top for a 1-yard score at the 9:48 mark of the fourth quarter.

Oregon’s next chance covered 33 yards and killed nearly half the remaining clock, but Verdell’s 4th-and-1 run, successful on the opening drive of the game, was stuffed at Auburn’s 41.

Now faced with their first deficit of the game, Oregon’s defense forced a three-and-out; however, the Ducks’ offense could not mount anything, so Auburn again took over with a chance to take the lead at its own 40 with 2:05 to play. That possession immediately found itself in a do-or-die 4th-and-3, which Nix converted by the nose of the football on a scramble, keeping Auburn’s chances alive.

Nix, who threw for 177 yards and rushed for 42, then ended the game with the already-legendary toss to Williams to complete the rally.

For Oregon, though, this is simply a catastrophic loss for themselves and a Pac-12 conference that desperately needed a marquee non-conference win. Mario Cristobal and company were close to exorcising demons of both its 2010 BCS National Championship loss to Auburn and two previous losses inside AT&T Stadium, one the 2015 CFP National Championship, but now goes to bed with those demons even larger than before.

Rocky Long returns to New Mexico as defensive coordinator

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From 1999-2008, Danny Gonzales worked on Rocky Long‘s staff at New Mexico. Now, the shoe is on the other foot.

On Monday, new Lobos head coach Gonzales announced Long as his defensive coordinator in Albuquerque.

“Look who’s back on the sideline together!!!” Gonzales tweeted. “Welcome back Coach Long DC /Linebackers Best DC in CFB!!! Let’s Do This! The goal is Conference Championship #5 Lets Gooooooo!”

The hiring concludes a strange saga for the 70-year-old Long (today is actually his birthday), who was rumored to interview for the Syracuse defensive coordinator job that later went to his own defensive coordinator in Zach Arnett. (Incidentally, Arnett has since left that job.) Two days later, on Jan. 8, Long stepped down as San Diego State’s head coach, a move the school termed as a retirement.

And now he’s back for his sixth tour of duty in Lobo colors.

Long first played defensive back at New Mexico from 1969-71, then joined the staff as a graduate assistant in 1972 while playing semi-professionally in Canada. After a stint at a New Mexico high school, he returned to UNM as a position coach in 1978, first coaching offensive backs before switching to defensive backs. After climbing the ladder as a coordinator, Long obtained his first head coaching job at New Mexico in 1998, going 65-69 with five bowl appearances in 11 seasons. He then went 81-38 with three Mountain West titles and at least a share of two division crowns from 2011-19.

Long is presumably set to take a major pay cut in the move. He earned close to $880,000 as SDSU’s head coach in 2019, while New Mexico paid then-coordinator Jordan Peterson $170,000 in 2019.

Two Rutgers players tweet decisions to transfer from Scarlet Knights

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Even as the Rutgers football program adds transfers, Greg Schiano‘s new squad is losing them through the same process.

Friday evening, wide receiver Mohamed Jabbie announced on Twitter that he has decided to transfer from the Rutgers football team.  Just a few hours later, teammate and offensive lineman Michael Maietti (pictured) used the same social-media platform to announce a similar decision.

Both Jabbie and Maietti will be leaving the Scarlet Knights as graduate transfers.  The loss of the latter, though, will likely leave the biggest mark.

The past three seasons, Maietti has started 33 games at center for the Scarlet Knights.  The New Jersey native earned Academic All-Big Ten honors each of the last three seasons.

Appearing in 27 games, Jabbie started 12 of those contests.

This past season, Jabbie set career-highs in catches (14), receiving yards (149) and receiving touchdowns (one).  He will apparently finish his Rutgers football career with 182 yards and a touchdown on 18 receptions.

CB Tony Butler posts classy, heartfelt goodbye in announcing transfer from Nebraska

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Thanks to a Nebraska football player, we won’t have to go through an entire day without a portal post.  Hurray?

Late this past week, Tony Butler announced in a very classy, heartfelt post on Twitter that he will be entering the NCAA transfer database.  The move would serve as the first step in a departure from the Nebraska football program.

The cornerback could also return to the Nebraska football team if he so desires.

That said, Butler would be leaving the Cornhuskers as a graduate transfer.  The 2020 season will be his final year of collegiate eligibility.

“In 2016, I came here as an 18-year-old kid lost and looking for a home.  Nebraska, you became my home and brought me in with open arms,” Butler wrote. “This place became very special. …

“Nebraska, you have done an incredible job at helping a lost boy become a man.  My family and I are forever grateful for this opportunity.”

A three-star 2016 signee, Butler was rated as the No. 22 player regardless of position in the state of Ohio.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman.

The past three seasons, Butler played in 27 games.  Four of those appearances came in 2019, which was likely the trigger for the decision to transfer.  Most of the games played came on special teams.

Butler is the third player to leave the Nebraska football program in a week.

Linebacker Pernell Jefferson, a three-star 2016 signee, entered the portal Wednesday.  Days before that, offensive lineman John Raridon decided to retire from football to pursue a career in architecture.

Five-star Penn State WR Justin Shorter tweets transfer to Florida

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The Florida Gators football program is the latest to benefit from Ye Olde Transfer Portal.

In late November, Justin Shorter took the initial step in transferring from Penn State by entering the NCAA database.  Two months to the day later, the wide receiver took to Twitter to announce that he has committed to continuing his collegiate playing career as part of the Florida Gators football team.

As of yet, UF has not announced Shorter’s addition to the roster.

A five-star member of the Nittany Lions’ 2018 recruiting class, Shorter was rated as the No. 1 receiver in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in the state of New Jersey; and the No. 8 recruit overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Only defensive end Micah Parsons was rated higher than Shorter in Franklin’s class that year.

Limited to four games as a true freshman in large part because of injuries, Shorter caught three passes for 20 yards in 2018.  In 11 games this season, Shorter caught 12 passes for 137 yards.

Barring the unexpected, Shorter will have to sit out the 2020 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws.  He would then have two seasons of eligibility beginning in 2021.