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No. 15 Auburn wins Iron Bowl thriller, knocks No. 5 Alabama out of CFP race

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Two pick-sixes. A kickoff return touchdown. A controversial field goal with 1-second left on the clock. A 48-point quarter that saw 21 points scored in 84 seconds. The 84th Iron Bowl had just about everything, and in the end it had an Auburn victory, as a late missed field goal allowed the No. 15 Tigers to preserve a 48-45 win over No. 5 Alabama, officially knocking the Crimson Tide out of the College Football Playoff for the first time in the 6-year history of the series.

Alabama (10-2, 6-2 SEC) will now enter December out of the national championship picture for just the second time since 2011 — with the other coming in 2013, when Auburn dealt Alabama a death blow with the Kick Six.

Playing without Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

got 335 yards and four touchdowns from Mac Jones, 146 yards and a touchdown from Najee Harris and four lead-changing touchdowns from Jaylen Waddle, but two pick-sixes by Jones and a controversial field goal gave Auburn 17 needed points. Playing in his first Iron Bowl, Bo Nix completed 15-of-30 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 44 yards and a score and, most importantly, played turnover free football.

The game started slowly — an Alabama field goal and three punts in the first four possessions — but then took off to warp speed, starting with a 37-yard Christian Tutt punt return that set Auburn up at the Crimson Tide’s 32-yard line. A 15-yard Boobee Whitlow run and a face mask penalty later, Nix put the Tigers up 7-3 with an untouched 7-yard keeper at the 2:07 mark of the first quarter.

Alabama immediately answered with a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown run capped by a 6-yard Harris run, as the junior running back carried the entire Tide offense while Jones worked his way to game speed (his first 14 passes covered just 40 yards). Harris lead all runners with 94 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

Auburn then tied the game with a 43-yard Anders Carlson field goal, then took the lead when Smoke Monday snared a Jones overthrow and raced 29 yards for a score, putting the Tigers up 17-10 with 5:36 left in the first half. The lead lasted 14 seconds, as Waddle raced the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. Then, Whitlow fumbled at his own 37, and 84 seconds after leading 17-10, Auburn trailed 24-17 when Jones found Henry Ruggs III for a 3-yard score at the 4:12 mark of the second quarter.

Stunned to silence after that turn of events, Auburn appeared to be trying to simply run out the final four minutes of the half and lick its wounds at halftime, until Nix hit Seth Williams on a 37-yard heave on 3rd-and-8, taking the ball from his own 38 to Alabama’s 25. Nix then found Will Hastings for an 11-yard gain on a throwaway, and then Sal Canella, using his 6-foot-5 frame to keep his toes in bounds while reaching far out of bounds, snared a game-tying touchdown pass with 1:06 left in the first half.

The Tigers left too much time.

After a 24-yard Diggs kick return and a 4-yard completion to Jerry Jeudy, Waddle did the rest, catching the ball shy of the Auburn 45 and then weaved through the secondary for his second touchdown of the quarter, putting Alabama back ahead 31-24 with 33 seconds left in the first half. Waddle touched the ball four times in the half, and two of them turned into touchdowns totaling 156 yards.

Out of timeouts, Auburn maneuvered from its own 35 to the Alabama 34 when Whitlow was tackled as time expired in the half. But, because Whitlow surged forward until time expired rather than going down with, say, three seconds left in the half, Gus Malzahn demanded a review of the timing. The review worked as a de facto timeout, allowing Auburn to get off a field goal when one second was put back on the clock. History did not repeat itself, as Carlson’s 52-yard field goal sailed through the uprights, not for a 109-yard return the other way.

Carlson’s third field goal, a 43-yarder, pulled Auburn within 31-30, and then the Tigers took their second lead of the day with their second pick six of the day, as Zakoby McClain caught a deflection off Harris’s back and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown, putting War Eagle back in front 37-31.

Once again, though, the lead did not last, thanks to Waddle. This time, he hauled in a 12-yard touchdown grab, and Joseph Bulovas‘s extra point lodged the game’s 75th point at the 4:57 mark of the third quarter.

After a pair of punts, Auburn nudged back ahead with a 44-yard Carlson field goal — his fourth of the day — and once again Waddle erased an Alabama deficit, as his 28-yard touchdown grab completed a 6-play, 90-yard drive that saw the Crimson Tide take a 45-40 lead with 13:44 left in the game.

Malzahn then leaned on Whitlow and Nix’s legs to slice through a tired Alabama defense, and Shaun Shivers surged Auburn back in front with an emphatic 11-yard end-around on 3rd-and-5. Nix’s pass to Shedrick Jackson gave Auburn its fourth lead, 48-45, with 8:08 to play.

Faced with a 4th-and-7 at the Auburn 37 with 5:13 to go, Nick Saban kept his offense on the field and was rewarded when Jones scrambled for an 18-yard gain. Jones converted a 3rd-and-1 with a sneak to the 10 and then, facing a 3rd-and-goal with 2:11 remaining, Jones’s pass was knocked down by Derrick Brown, straight into Jones’s arms, who did not come close to scoring the touchdown but did force Malzahn to use his second timeout.

Bulovas could tie the game with a 30-yard field goal, but the Achilles heel of Saban’s crimson dynasty reared its ugly head again, as the kick smacked off the left upright.

Auburn could win the game with a first down, but the Tigers gained only six yards on three runs. However, Auburn kept its offense on the field, baiting Alabama into a game-ending illegal substitution penalty. The five penalty yards were enough to convert the first down, handing Auburn (9-3, 5-3 SEC) its second Iron Bowl win in three years.

The win moved Auburn to 19-0 under Malzahn when scoring a non-offensive touchdown, and dropped Alabama to 0-7 in games of ranked teams at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It also marks Malzahn’s third win over Saban, tying Les Miles for the most among SEC coaches. The loss also means Saban is still winless against 9-win Auburn teams during his tenures at LSU and Alabama.

Utah State hires ex-Washington State assistant Roc Bellantoni

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Utah State is the latest football program to make a late-offseason addition to its coaching staff.  Or an early-fall addition.  Whichever verbiage you prefer.

That being said, Utah State announced this week that Roc Bellantoni has been added to Gary Andersen‘s Utah State football staff. Bellantoni will serve not only as the special teams coordinator for the Aggies but as tight ends coach as well.

Bellantoni spent the 2019 season at Washington State.  After Tracy Claeys stepped down as defensive coordinator in October of last year, Bellantoni, the linebackers coach at the time, and cornerbacks coach Darcel McBath served as interim co-defensive coordinators for the rest of the season.

Bellantoni spent the two seasons prior to his time at Wazzu at Buffalo as defensive ends coach and special teams coordinator.  In 2018, he also served as the Bulls’ special teams coordinator.

Prior to that, Bellantoni was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Florida Atlantic for three years. That marked Bellantoni’s first job at the FBS level.

All told, Bellantoni has spent 25 seasons as an assistant at the collegiate level.  The Iona graduate also spent time on coaching staffs at Villanova, Eastern Illinois and Drake.  At Villanova, Bellantoni was special teams coordinator as well as defensive line coach.

Oklahoma beats out LSU, Maryland for Caleb Williams, the highest-rated quarterback in the Class of 2021

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LSU handed it to Oklahoma in the 2019 College Football Playoff.  On the Fourth of July a few months later, the Sooners returned the favor on the recruiting trail.

Last month, Caleb Williams, one of the top prospects in the Class of 2021, announced that he had whittled his recruiting to-do list down to three schools: LSU, Maryland and Oklahoma.  As expected, Williams announced his verbal commitment on the holiday weekend.  And, as expected, the quarterback gave that verbal to Oklahoma football.  Or, the new QBU if you will.

Lincoln Riley acknowledged the commitment on Twitter.

Williams is a five-star 2021 prospect.  The Washington D.C. high schooler is rated as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country — and the No. 1 quarterback overall.  On the 247Sports.com composite, Williams is rated as the No. 4 recruit in the country.

Suffice to say, recruiting observers are high on Williams’ future.  Very high.

“There’s nothing this kid can’t do,” former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said last month. “I’ve been doing this a long time, he has very few limitations if any. He’s uber-competitive. Very focused when he walked in. He’s really clean, he’s consistent, clean usually means consistent.

“Every throw was good to great. I think he takes it that serious. I’m interpreting what his mind is telling him and it’s as if every throw is the most important throw of the day.

Texas Tech WR Caden Leggett arrested for racing on a highway

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Yes, Texas Tech football fan.  You read that headline correctly.

According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Caden Leggett was arrested over the weekend in Lubbock County.  The charge?  Racing on a highway.  It’s believed that another Texas Tech football player was involved in the race, although that player has not yet been identified by the police.

Leggett was driving a Ford Mustang and admitted to police that a teammate was one of the individuals with which he was racing.  From the Avalanche-Journal‘s report:

A Lubbock police patrol officer saw three vehicles speeding northbound about 2:40 a.m. in the 10000 block of Indiana Avenue and began chasing the vehicles.

“I had to travel at a high rate of speed in order to attempt to catch up to the vehicles,” the officer wrote in his report.

The officer caught up to the three vehicles — a dark colored Dodge Challenger, a white Ford Mustang and another white vehicle — at a red light in the intersection of 82nd Street and Indiana Avenue. However, the vehicles sped away again when the light turned green, the report states.

The officer activated his lights and sirens to get the three vehicles to stop.

The officer pulled along side the Challenger and motioned and yelled at the driver to pull over. The officer believed the driver of the Challenger saw him and pulled behind the Mustang to stop the driver.

The driver of the Mustang pulled over in the 3300 block of 76th Street. However, the driver of the Challenger and third vehicle continued driving, the report states.

The Texas Tech football program is aware of the off-field situation involving members of the Red Raiders team.

Leggett joined the Tech football team in 2018 as a walk-on.  In 2019, the wide receiver was placed on scholarship.

In two seasons, Leggett appeared in 15 games.  Of those appearances, 11 came in 2019.  The Georgetown, Texas, product has caught two passes for 16 yards.

Family of the first Black football player in University of Texas history suing the NCAA

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A racial pioneer in the Texas football program is back in the news.

As we have noted previously, dozens of Texas student-athletes, including football players, are demanding change at the university.  One of those demands is naming a part of Royal-Memorial Stadium in honor of Julius Whittier, the first-ever Black player in University of Texas football history.

Coincidentally or not, the family of Whittier this week filed a lawsuit against NCAA.  In the suit, which is seeking damages in excess of a million dollars, the Whittier family is accusing the NCAA of negligence and wrongful death in connection to the pioneer’s passing in September of 2018.  Whittier had been battling Alzheimer’s for several years prior to his death.

According to the Houston Chronicle, “[p]ostmortem examination of his brain at Boston University… revealed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease associated with head trauma.” The suit, filed by Whittier’s sister on behalf of her brother’s estate and three surviving children, alleges the Whittier’s death at the age of 68 was the direct result of football-related head trauma.

“Julius Whittier was a pioneer who became a lawyer and a member of the district attorney’s staff in Dallas County, and his life was about justice,” the family’s attorney told the Chronicle. “His family wants to carry on in his name and hope that we can make changes.

“We don’t want to end football. We just want to make it as safe as possible and make sure that everybody is informed about what can happen. That has not been the case historically, and we want to change that.”

The sister, Mildred Whittier, had previously filed a lawsuit against the NCAA on behalf of college players who suffered brain injuries from 1960 to 2014.

In 1970, Whittier became the first black player to letter in football at Texas.  He first joined the Longhorns in 1969.  At the time, though, the NCAA did not allow freshmen to play.  Whittier lettered every year from 1970-72, first as an offensive guard and then as a tight end his senior season.