KJ Hamler

Getty Images

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy headlines 2019 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

4 Comments

Media Day season is also Watch List season and the latest to surface for the 2019 campaign comes out of Tallahassee in the form of the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver, includes the defending winner in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and fellow semifinalist Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State, as well as a number of other talented pass-catchers from around the country.

Here’s the full list, which is a good general overview of the best wide receivers and tight ends for the upcoming season even if a few names can gripe about being left off:

Lynn Bowden, Jr. (Kentucky)

Rico Bussey, Jr. (North Texas)

Cedric Byrd (Hawaii)

Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma)

Damonte Coxie (Memphis)

Gabriel Davis (UCF)

Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)

D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan)

Aaron Fuller (Washington)

Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty)

KJ Hamler (Penn State)

Adrian Hardy (Louisiana Tech)

Damon Hazelton (Virginia Tech)

Tee Higgins (Clemson)

K.J. Hill (Ohio State)

Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State)

Justin Jefferson (LSU)

Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)

Collin Johnson (Texas)

CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

Ty Lee (Middle Tennessee State)

Kalija Lipscomb (Vanderbilt)

McLane Mannix (Texas Tech)

Kirk Merritt (Arkansas State)

Riley Miller (Ball State)

Denzel Mims (Baylor)

Darnell Mooney (Tulane)

Rondale Moore (Purdue)

Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)

K.J. Osborn (Miami)

Dezmon Patmon (Washington State)

Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)

Michael Pittman, Jr. (USC)

James Proche (SMU)

Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jared Rice (Fresno State)

Sean Riley (Syracuse)

Reggie Roberson, Jr. (SMU)

Justyn Ross (Clemson)

Henry Ruggs III (Alabama)

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Colorado)

JD Spielman (Nebraska)

Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC)

Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Tamorrion Terry (Florida State)

Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)

Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

JoJo Ward (Hawaii)

Quez Watkins (Southern Miss)

Big Ten media pegs Michigan as preseason favorite

Getty Images
8 Comments

The Big Ten did away with its preseason media poll ahead of the 2011 season, so the Cleveland Plain-Dealer has picked up the mantle and carried it for the rest of the conference. The paper polls 34 writers from around the conference, and for the second time in the poll’s nine-year history the consensus found the eventual champion in Ann Arbor.

Following the departures of Urban Meyer and Dwayne Haskins and the arrival of Josh Gattis, the Plain-Dealer‘s poll has anointed 2019 as the year Jim Harbaugh finally gets over the scarlet-and-gray hump standing between him and Indianapolis. In four years under Harbaugh, Michigan has not won the conference or division. In fact, the Wolverines last won the Big Ten in 2004 and are still looking for their first trip to the Big Ten Championship heading into Year 9 of the conference’s title game era.

Which, of course, will make it all the more painful for everyone in maize and blue if it doesn’t happen.

Possibly concerning for the Wolverines: the Big Ten media is no better at prognosticating their conference than any other league. The Plain-Dealer poll has accurately predicted the eventual champion only twice — when Ohio State won the league in 2017 and ’18.

But Michigan is a clear, but not heavy, favorite to dethrone the Buckeyes this year, landing 20 votes to win the East to Ohio State’s 14, with 17 picks to win the conference to Ohio State’s 14. Astute observers will note Michigan and Ohio State gobbled up all 34 available votes to win the East, but the West picture is quite muddied. Nebraska and Iowa each garnered 14 votes to win the division, while Wisconsin, Northwestern and Minnesota drew support as well. One thing everyone can agree on out West? Everyone sees Illinois bringing up the rear.

The full poll:

EAST DIVISION
1. Michigan — 222 total points (20 first-place votes)
2. Ohio State — 214 (14)
3. Michigan State — 156
4. Penn State — 154
5. Indiana — 86.5
6. Maryland — 82.5
7. Rutgers — 37

WEST DIVISION
1. Nebraska — 198 (14)
2. Iowa — 194.5 (14)
3. Wisconsin — 172.5 (4)
4. Northwestern — 142.5 (1)
5. Purdue — 110.5
6. Minnesota — 100 (1)
7. Illinois — 34

The Plain-Dealer also asks its respondents to pick players of the year on each side of the ball, and the poll found Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor as the league’s top offensive player and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young as the top defender. Five players drew at least one first-place vote on offense and six on defense; Taylor was the clear choice on his side of the ball, but Young actually came in third when just examining first-place votes.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor — 78 (21)
2. Purdue WR Rondale Moore — 36 (3)
3. Michigan QB Shea Patterson — 31 (4)
4. Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez — 24 (2)
5. Ohio State RB JK Dobbins — 13 (3)
5. Ohio State QB Justin Fields — 13 (1)
7. Iowa QB Nate Stanley — 4
8. Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke — 2
9. Penn State WR KJ Hamler — 1
9. Wisconsin OL Tyler Biadasz — 1
9. Iowa OL Tristan Wirfs — 1

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Ohio State DE Chase Young — 57 (8)
2. Iowa DE AJ Epenesa — 52 (9)
3. Michigan State DE Kenny Willekes — 41 (10)
4. Northwestern LB Paddy Fisher — 19 (2)
5. Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos — 16 (4)
6. Michigan State LB Joe Bachie — 6 (1)
7. Michigan CB Lavert Hill — 5
8. Minnesota DE Carter Coughlin — 4
9. Michigan S Josh Metellus — 2
10. Penn State LB Micah Parsons — 1
10. Northwestern DE Joe Gaziano — 1

Big Ten media days run Thursday and Friday in Chicago.

Penn State special teams a disaster as Kentucky leads Nittany Lions in Citrus Bowl

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
3 Comments

The VRBO Citrus Bowl between No. 12 Penn State and No. 14 Kentucky has been dictated by the defenses by both teams and a handful of special teams miscues by the Nittany Lions. At the half, Kentucky leads Penn State 10-7 in Orlando, with Kentucky prepping to get the ball to start the second half.

It was a first half of special teams blunders for Penn State, but none were more costly than Lynn Bowden Jr. returned a punt out of the Penn State end zone 58 yards to the house for a touchdown late in the first quarter. Paired with a field goal on Kentucky’s first offensive series of the game, Kentucky had a 10-0 lead in the first quarter despite not getting much on offense against a stingy Penn State defense.

Penn State started the game with two straight three-and-outs and then capped their third possession of the game with a missed field goal try in the first quarter. Penn State picked up some momentum at the beginning of the second quarter with a screen pass to speedy KJ Hamler, which setup Trace McSorley for a short touchdown pass to tight end Nick Bowers to bring the score to 10-7 in favor of Kentucky.

Penn State has had a few special teams miscues in addition to giving up the punt return touchdown. The Nittany Lions were stuffed on a fake punt run on the opening possession of the game, missed two field goals, and cost themselves some field position by not calling for a fair catch in their own end. It hasn’t been all bad, however, as Blake Gillikin did get off a 71-yard punt that pinned Kentucky deep on their side of the field.

If Kentucky was able to get anything going on offense, Penn State would be in serious danger. But because the Nittany Lions defense is keeping things within reach, this is still anybody’s game in the second half.

Neither team has a third-down conversion at halftime, with Penn State 0-for-8 and Kentucky 0-for-7.

True freshman Rondale Moore of Purdue wins Hornung Award

Getty Images
2 Comments

In his very first game at the collegiate level, Rondale Moore broke Purdue’s single-game record for all-purpose yards.  So, it’s none too surprising — outside of his young age, of course — that the wide receiver has claimed an honor that goes to the nation’s most versatile player.

Tuesday, the Louisville Sports Commission announced that Moore has been named as the 2018 recipient of the Paul Hornung Award.  Moore, who played his high school football in the city of Louisville, is the first-ever true freshman to receive the award.

Moore is also the first Boilermaker football player to be on the receiving end of a major national honor since punter Travis Dorsch won the 2001 Ray Guy Award.

Moore beat out the other four finalists for the award: Marcus Green (Louisiana-Monroe), KJ Hamler (Penn State), N'Keal Harry (Arizona State) and Connor Heyward (Michigan State).

After the 313 all-purpose yards he put up in his collegiate debut, Moore also added 252 against Big Ten champion Ohio State.  He currently leads the Big Ten in receiving yards (1,164), receiving touchdowns (12) and kickoff return yards (599).

Déjà vu all over again for No. 8 Penn State as Michigan State stuns Nittany Lions with late score

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
10 Comments

Michigan State did it again. For the second year in a row, the Spartans (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) stunned No. 8 Penn State (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) with a fourth-quarter rally and late go-ahead score to hand the Nittany Lions a bitter loss in the first game Penn State played after losing to Ohio State by one point.

Brian Lewerke underthrew a pass to Felton Davis on a third-and-two, but Davis was ready for it, broke a tackle and then broke the hearts of Penn State fans gathering in Beaver Stadium for homecoming. Davis’ touchdown grab came with 19 seconds to play, giving Michigan State a stunning 21-17 lead on the Nittany Lions. All that was left was for the Michigan State special teams unit to prevent KJ Hamler from a big kickoff return (they did) and for the defense to hold on for the final 13 seconds of the game. They did.

Penn State didn’t play their best game of the year, and Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio going into his bag of tricks caught the Nittany Lions off guard a few times. But a fourth-quarter decision to attempt a fake field goal came up empty for the Spartans and their hopes of celebrating a big win in Big Ten East play. Brian Lewerke‘s pass over the middle to Raequan Williams appeared to be there for the taking, but the pass fell incomplete for a turnover on downs.

Earlier in the game, Michigan State had successfully executed a fake punt and followed it up with a running back pass to lead to a touchdown. A few trick plays were needed to light a spark for the Spartans, who were a bit short-handed on offense. Penn State’s offense was not much better. The Nittany Lions struggled on third-down conversions and had a missed field goal and Penn State was flagged for six penalties for 41 yards. Outside of a couple of big runs by Miles Sanders, the Spartans defense fared well enough to keep the pressure on Penn State all afternoon.

Trace McSorley and Lewerke each had a rough game in terms of completing passes. McSorley, in particular, did not look like himself after a career game against the Buckeyes, from the ball slipping out of his hand on a pass to making an odd decision to run out of bounds late in the fourth quarter to stop the clock without forcing Michigan State to use a timeout. That inability for Penn State to kill off more than 11 seconds on their last offensive possession with the lead proved to be critical, as was a missed field goal earlier.  Michigan State’s game-winning drive started at their 24-yard line with 1:10 to play, and the Spartans scored with fewer than 20 seconds remaining.

The win helps keep Michigan State in the discussion for the Big Ten championship with games still to play against Michigan (next week) and Ohio State down the line. The loss knocks Penn State out of the running for the Big Ten East once again, and the fight just to get back to a New Years Six bowl game may have taken a tough blow as well, although that could still be a possibility if Penn State can turn things around.

Penn State will take to the road for the second time in Big Ten play next week when they visit Indiana. Michigan State will return home next week for a big game against in-state rival Michigan.