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Last second field goal allows No. 11 Oregon to survive Washington State’s upset attempt

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Pac-12 After Dark never fails to disappoint. Unless, perhaps, you’re commissioner Larry Scott watching the league’s hopes for a College Football Playoff bid nearly hit the skids.

No. 11 Oregon got a last second 26 yard field goal from freshman kicker Camden Lewis to stay alive in the elusive postseason chase, snapping a four-game skid to Washington State 37-35 in the kind of contest you just rarely see anywhere else except deep into Saturday night out West.

Leading the way for the Ducks was not quarterback Justin Herbert but the guy he shares the backfield with in CJ Verdell. The speedy tailback notched a career-high 257 yards on the ground as he found the end zone three times. That included breaking off an 89 yarder nearly untouched that delighted the Autzen Stadium crowd and for good measure the sophomore nearly doubled as the leading receiver (50 yards, just shy of Juwan Johnson‘s 64) to boot.

The team averaged six and a half yards per carry as a result of the rushing effort and milked the clock like an option team, not needing to rely on Herbert (21-of-30, 222 yards passing) all that much as the signal-caller’s FBS-leading streak of 35 games with a touchdown pass came to an end. The likely first round pick did turn in an efficient performance against a defense that dared him to hand the ball off and came up big in marching the team right down the field for the game-winning field goal with under a minute left.

Such positive vibes on offense were offset by the play of the UO defense, which didn’t handle Mike Leach’s Air Raid attack quite as well as they had recent Pac-12 opponents. Cougars QB Anthony Gordon tossed a pick-six and another early interception but otherwise was on point in throwing for 406 yards and three scores — including a go-ahead touchdown on fourth down with an even 60 seconds left on the clock. Shifty tailback Max Borghi was all over the field as the top weapon like usual, rushing for 54 yards and a TD while also catching eight passes for 70 yards.

It was all for not however, as Oregon netted their first win against Wazzu in Eugene since 2013 and ended an overall four-game losing streak to their division rivals. The Ducks pretty much locked up the Pac-12 North in the process too, sitting atop the standings as the conference’s only undefeated team in league play while holding tiebreakers over every other team in the division sans Civil War rival Oregon State. They can potentially clinch a trip to Santa Clara next weekend when they visit USC.

Maybe more importantly for Scott and the fans out West, they also didn’t shoot themselves in the foot with another inexplicable loss for a national contender and will continue to keep the Pac-12 in the hunt for a College Football Playoff bid into November alongside league favorite Utah. It wasn’t pretty but surviving and advancing is the name of the game at this point on the calendar in this wild and crazy sport.

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.