Saturday, December 16News That Matters

No. 10 USC jumps out to halftime lead over No. 12 Stanford in Pac-12 Championship Game


Pac-12 After Dark appears to be stuck in traffic, but it’s getting there.

A somewhat dull college football game got a lot more exciting in the closing minutes of the second quarter at the Pac-12 Championship on Friday evening, as No. 10 USC methodically grabbed a 17-14 halftime lead over No. 12 Stanford in a rematch for a title at Levi’s Stadium.

Not surprisingly, star quarterback Sam Darnold was at the center of most of the action. The signal-caller finished the half with 171 yards passing and a pair of scores, the first a touchdown pass off play-action to Michael Pittman from seven yards out to light up the scoreboard first. The two hooked up again in the closing minutes for a big 40 yard gain that later setup a short Tyler Vaughns catch and run right to the pylon.

Running back Ronald Jones was a pretty big part of the offense too, rushing for 75 yards and helping churn out long drives to control the clock against a team that entered the game on short rest.

Stanford’s offense was a little hit or miss but seemed to start rolling toward the end of each quarter. Aided by several penalties, Bryce Love (only 37 yards rushing) found the end zone from nine yards out for the team’s first points but there was not much in the way of explosive plays from the Cardinal after a half of play. Quarterback K.J. Costello did pick up a few first downs with his arm as time was winding down and finished with 76 yards in the air while Cameron Scarlett punched in the other touchdown from a yard out.

The two in-state rivals are both battling a little history on either side of this one. Stanford is 3-0 in the championship game since the conference started it in 2011, while the North Division overall is undefeated in the event. On the flip side, USC hasn’t captured the league title in nearly a decade and are hoping to defeat the Cardinal for a second time this season.

The SEC has been filled with some wild stories the past week but here’s a bright spot courtesy of Missouri: defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. will return for his senior year instead of declaring for 2018 NFL Draft.

“I’m excited to make this decision and move on to finishing this season out the right way,” Beckner Jr. said in a statement.  “We have a chance to do something really special and keep momentum going into next year, and I want to be part of that and help lead this team in the right direction.  I love Mizzou, and I’ve grown so much this year working with Coach (Brick) Haley, but there’s so much more that I can learn from him.  I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be a Tiger and I want to do everything I can to help us do big things.”

The 6-foot-4, 290 pound tackle recorded seven sacks, 35 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss and an interception in 2017.

Beckner was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and has played a huge role solidifying Missouri’s defense after a rough start to the year. He is not going to request a grade from the NFL’s underclassmen advisory board but could be a top prospect in 2019.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer faced the media on Friday in advance of the Buckeyes’ Big Ten title game appearance against Wisconsin and, as you could expect, was peppered by questions about his quarterback J.T. Barrett.

The senior suffered a knee injury during pregame warmups last week against Michigan and underwent surgery on Sunday. While the doctors have cleared the signal-caller to play in Indianapolis on Saturday night, how much and whether he will start are two questions that still sound like they are up in the air.

“Those are all decisions I’m going to make tomorrow. I want to see where — we’re going to have a walk-through here in a little bit. Still having conversations with Coach (Ryan) Day and Coach (Kevin) Wilson about it,” said Meyer. “I don’t want to get into too much detail because it’s J.T.’s business, but so much of it has to do with how he does during the course of the week. And the trainers and doctors are very involved. And it’s not finished. He’s still 24 hours out. So I’ve had a player do it before, that was scoped earlier in the week and played. And then I’ve had others that can’t. And the body has to react a certain way. And his has been very positive.”

Meyer was asked over 15 questions related to Barrett’s status or how the knee injury could affect his play against the Badgers all told.

The team did practice on Thursday and will do a walkthrough at Lucas Oil Stadium Friday evening so we’ll have a good idea about the quarterback’s starting status at some point tomorrow during warmups. Either way, he’ll be suited up and likely the guy behind center for OSU if he’s good to go and won’t hamper the offense. Backup Dwayne Haskins did finish off the victory against the rival Wolverines a week ago and appears likely to play some role against Wisconsin either way based on Meyer’s comments.

It didn’t take long for James Franklin to make changes to his coaching staff in the wake of Joe Moorhead getting hired by Mississippi State.

Penn State announced several title changes and hires on Friday afternoon, led off by the expected move of promoting current Nittany Lions assistant coach Ricky Rahne to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Recent Fordham offensive coordinator and Maryland offensive line coach Tyler Bowen was named tight ends coach while recent PSU defensive consultant Phil Galiano was elevated to special teams coordinator and assistant defensive line coach.

“We are thrilled to elevate Ricky to offensive coordinator and add Tyler and Phil to our staff,” Franklin said in a statement. “Ricky is one of the rising stars in college football. He is extremely sharp, driven and has a great rapport with our players. He has been very involved in our offensive scheme the last two years, which is why I anticipate our offense will continue to thrive under Ricky.

Additionally, wide receivers coach Josh Gattis was named passing game coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover added run game coordinator responsibilities to his duties.

The moves will complete the Penn State staff going forward after Moorhead was named head coach in Starkville and assistant Charles Huff followed him as the Bulldogs new running backs coach. Rahne already has experience calling plays for the team, as he served as the interim offensive coordinator for the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl and is expected to do the same starting with the team’s 2017 bowl game and beyond.

The buyout life is nice. It’s even better when it’s bigger than expected.

ESPN’sMark Schlabach reports that the buyout former head coach Bret Bielema is owed by Arkansas has been negotiated to ring in at $11.8 million in order to cover the final three years of his contract.

That eight-figure sum is a little higher than reports that had the figure around $5.8 million should Bielema be fired. Per his contract terms however, the veteran coach would have been owed a full $15.4 million but both he and the Razorbacks agreed on a negotiated settlement, according to the report. The deal is expected to be finalized in the coming days.

In addition to their former head coach in Bielema, the school is also paying a multi-million dollar buyout to former athletic director Jeff Long.

With those two items of business out-of-the-way, Arkansas can now move forward with finding replacements for each. While reports had the school close to hiring Tulsa AD Derrick Gragg, it appears that was a tad premature and one of the front-runners for the position will actually interview for the job sometime next week. As for the coaching search, that is expected to pick up in the coming days following the SEC Championship Game.

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