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John Mackey Award names eight semi-finalists for top tight end award

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Eight of the nation’s top tight ends were officially named semi-finalists for this season’s John Mackey Award on Monday. The award, named after Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end and former Syracuse player John Mackey, is presented to the nation’s top tight-end as determined by a select voting panel.

This year’s semi-finalists are:

  • Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic
  • Hunter Bryant, Washington
  • Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
  • Brevin Jordan, Miami
  • Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
  • Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
  • Colby Parkinson, Stanford
  • Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan

A couple of notable omissions from this list stand out. Florida’s Kyle Pitts, who has the second-most receptions and fifth-most receiving yards among the nation’s tight ends somehow slipped through the voters here. The sophomore for the Gators has averaged 4.2 receptions per game and has accounted for 566 yards and five touchdowns for the Gators. No other tight end in the SEC has more yards per game than Pitts. Penn State’s Pat Freiemuth being omitted was also slightly surprising. Freiermuth has seven touchdowns, easily more than any other Big Ten tight end this season and tied for third-most in the conference this season.

Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson won the John Mackey Award in 2018. Other past winners of the award include Dallas Clark of Iowa, Tyler Eiffert of Notre Dame, Jake Butt of Michigan, Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington, and Aaron Hernandez of Florida.

This year’s Mackey Award winner will be announced on Dec. 11th.

Oregon’s Justin Herbert one of a dozen ‘Academic Heisman’ finalists

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As the watch lists for on-field honors continue to roll out, an award for what’s essentially scholastic excellence has significantly whittled its list to the chosen several.

The National Football Foundation, in conjunction with the College Football Hall of Fame, announced Wednesday the 12 finalists for the 2019 William V. Campbell Trophy. Commonly referred to as the “Academic Heisman,” the Campbell Trophy annually “recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation.”

Seven of the 12 come from the FBS level, including six from Power Five conferences. Another three hail from the FCS, while Div. II and Div. III are represented by one finalist apiece.

The Pac-12 had two finalists, the most for any single conference.

Last year, Clemson’s Christian Wilkins became the 29th winner of the prestigious honor. The winner of this year’s award will be announced Dec. 10.

Each of this year’s finalists will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship.  This year’s winner will see that scholarship dollar amount increase to $25,000.

“We are extremely proud to announce the finalists for this year’s Campbell Trophy® Presented by Mazda,” said NFF president & CEO Steve Hatchell in a statement. “These young men have an unrelenting commitment to excellence in all aspects of their lives, and they represent all that is right in college football. They serve as living examples that Football Matters®, and we are excited to honor their hard work and accomplishments with postgraduate scholarships.

As for the qualifications to even earn a nomination?

Nominated by their schools, which are limited to one nominee each, candidates for the Campbell Trophy® Presented by Mazda must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of playing eligibility, have a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first-team player or significant contributor and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.

Below are all 12 finalists for the 2019 Campbell Trophy who have met that criteria:

Stanford’s top two QBs questionable; kicker Jet Toner out for year

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Whether one of Stanford’s top two quarterbacks — or both — are available this coming weekend remains a moving target.

Some type of head injury sidelined season-opening starter K.J. Costello for the USC game in Week 2, although he was able to return the following weekend.  However, after playing in two straight games, a thumb injury kept him out of the Week 5 win over Oregon State and the Week 6 upset of Washington.

In that win over the Huskies, though, Costello’s backup, Davis Mills, suffered a calf injury.  Both Costello and Mills went on to sit out the Week 8 loss to UCLA.  With Arizona on tap this weekend, both quarterbacks remain questionable, although Costello was at least able to partially participate in practice Tuesday.

In addition to the twin signal-callers, the Cardinal also announced that kicker Jet Toner will not play again this season.  The senior (47-57 on field goals in his career, perfect on all 101 point-afters) suffered an injury to his kicking leg while covering a kickoff in the Bruins loss.

In place of Costello and Mills, Jack West made his first career start at the collegiate level — and, suffice to say, it was a less-than-auspicious one.

The redshirt freshman completed 15-of-32 passes for 143 yards, posting an 84.4 passer rating.  He was also sacked seven times by the Bruins defense and was officially credited with minus-23 yards rushing.

As for Toner’s replacement last week, Ryan Sanborn, a true freshman punter, made his lone extra-point attempt.

UCLA thumps Stanford to break 11-game losing streak to in-state rivals

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UCLA has proven to a bad football team this season. On Thursday night though, we found out Stanford was worse.

The Bruins dominated their in-state rivals 34-16 to snap an 11-game losing streak and notch their second victory of the season in yet another case of a puzzling performance from both sides out of Pac-12 territory.

A lot of the effort — or lack thereof — on account of the Cardinal can be explained by their offense looking very much like one starting a walk-on third string quarterback for the first time. Jack West completed just 15 passes for 143 yards and had trouble seemingly every dropback behind an even more makeshift offensive line (seven sacks allowed). Running the ball was out of the question against a predictably stacked box and the team averaged just 1.8 yards per rush anyway.

All told, Stanford converted just three third downs all game and mustered only 198 yards total as they were booed off the field a few times by the sparse crowd in attendance. Kicker Jet Toner was also injured in the first quarter and the only other non-garbage time touchdown came off a blocked punt.

As bad as things were for the home side, they went equally well for a UCLA team that scored on their first drive and were in complete control of the game for the first time since Chip Kelly took over the program. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson was electric with his arm (192 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) and legs (66 yards, 1 TD) while Joshua Kelley notched 176 yards on the ground with a score of his own.

In the process of stealing Stanford’s soul, the Bruins managed to end a long losing streak to their rivals in the Bay, winning on the Farm for the first time since the Karl Dorrell era in Westwood and first time overall since 2008. Coincidentally, that latter year was the last time the Cardinal missed a bowl game or won fewer than eight games — a streak that very much appears to be ending in 2019 unless the team invents a time machine in the next week or runs the table the rest of the regular season.

Make no bones about it, this was a very ugly and hard to watch rock fight between two bad teams that not even #Pac12AfterDark juju could save.

It remains to be seen just where these two programs go from here but at least on Thursday night, Kelly was able to overcome an old adversary and put an end to a streak many at his school thought would go on for a while. It didn’t however as UCLA can celebrate on their way back to Southern California while David Shaw‘s team will have a few extra days to contemplate just what kind of team they are this season.

UCLA leads Stanford at halftime in another Pac-12 game that’s hard to make sense of

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If you can make sense of Pac-12 football, congrats on your impending move to Las Vegas to take advantage of it. Case in point? Strange first halves of football games like UCLA 21, Stanford 10 on Thursday night in Palo Alto.

The Bruins, looking for their second win of the season, looked uncharacteristically sharp on the offensive side while their defensive counterparts had one of their better performances through two quarters in recent memory in order to jump out to the early lead between California rivals.

UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson marched the team right down into the end zone on their first two drives, hitting the halfway mark with 100 yards passing and two touchdowns (one pick) while adding five carries for 67 yards and another score. Joshua Kelley notched 87 yards on the ground as well for a team that had previously struggled to move the ball at all.

Instead it was the Cardinal offense who couldn’t muster much on the offensive end. They had just 86 yards total in the game and starting quarterback Jack West very much looked like a walk-on making his first start at the position. It didn’t help that the offensive line (five sacks allowed) did him no favors but pretty much every series ended predictably in a setback before trotting out the punt team.

In fact, were it not for special teams, this first half would have been even more lopsided. Kicker Jet Toner nailed a 42 yard field goal but was injured and had to be taken to the locker room while Brycen Tremayne recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for six in perhaps the only sign of life in the contest for Stanford.

Somehow this Cardinal squad beat Washington by 10 points and somehow this UCLA side has just one win on the season. But first half performances like the one we saw on the Farm Thursday night are a good reminder as to why they play the game… and how hard it is to make sense of things out West on the gridiron.