NCAA Football

UCLA Football: Bruins' Season on the Line vs. Oregon

Saturday’s Pac-12 football clash between preseason conference favorites, No. 18 UCLA and No. 12 Oregon, has taken on a single-game elimination feel.

Both the Bruins and Ducks come into the highly anticipated cross-divisional affair with the fresh wounds of home losses. Oregon dropped a 31-24 decision to Arizona, and UCLA fell to Utah, 30-28.

UCLA and Oregon both came into the 2014 campaign with realistic designs on the College Football Playoff. And the dream is still very much alive for both, despite losing in Week 6.

They certainly weren’t alone in being bit by an insect. College football was swarmed by a veritable infestation that saw Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas A&M and playoff long shot Brigham Young all get stung.

Bruins head coach Jim Mora may have described the landscape in the wake of an upset-mad weekend best: “There are not many teams out there that don't have a wound,” he said.

Equally as astute was Mora’s followup.

“It’s how you respond,” he said.

To keep its championship hopes intact, UCLA must respond against an opponent that hasn’t lost back-to-back games in the same season since 2007. That year was also the last in which the Ducks failed to win at least 10 games.

If there’s a bar by which others in the Pac-12 are measured, it’s Oregon. Having to measure up against the conference’s measuring stick coming off a loss excites UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.

“It’s a perfect game for where we’re at right now, because we’re disappointed with what occurred [against Utah],” Ulbrich said after Wednesday’s practice at Spaulding Field.

The disappointment comes from giving up 242 rushing yards to the Utes. Sixty came on their game-winning drive moments after UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley’s touchdown pass to wide receiver Eldridge Massington gave the Bruins their only lead of the night.

“It was a great learning moment for our guys,” Ulbrich said. “To me, being at your best when your best is required is all about understanding the moment.”

The moment’s presenting itself Saturday, as Oregon comes in with the nation’s ninth-most prolific scoring offense—par for the course in a program that has ranked in the top 10 for points scored each of the previous six seasons.

With Lou Spanos as its coordinator, the UCLA defense saw Oregon rack up 42 points in last year’s Ducks win in Autzen Stadium.

But coming off the loss, that’s exactly the kind of challenge Ulbrich said the Bruins want to see.  

“You want a worthy opponent,” he said. “And that’s what [Oregon is] across the board.”

Conference-wide recognition of Oregon as that worthy opponent—if not the preeminent Pac-12 opponent—means the Ducks are getting teams' best shots week after week.

That’s not necessarily anything different from the last few years, but what has changed, according to Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, is how much better the Pac-12 is as a whole.

“There’s a ton of parity in this conference,” he said on Tuesday’s conference call. “You have to be ready to rock every single snap.”

Such is the “reality” of playing in the Pac-12, as Helfrich described it. And that reality is why a win Saturday is so critical to both teams' playoff outlook.

Another topsy-turvy day like Week 6—or just season-long attrition catching up to championship contenders—could open a backdoor into the College Football Playoff for a two-loss team.

But that’s relying on variables out of each team’s hands.

“I know it’s a lot easier if you [win out],” Helfrich said. “The only way that happens is if you handle your business.”

 

The Maligned Line

If the UCLA offensive line took a step forward in its 62-27 rout of Arizona State on Sept. 25, the unit took two big strides back in the Utah loss.

Utes defenders got to Hundley for 10 sacks on Saturday night. That’s a number haunting offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone’s dreams.

He said Wednesday after practice that preparing him for Oregon could be causing him to lose sleep. But if it’s not the Ducks keeping Mazzone awake?

“I can’t sleep at night because of the 10 sacks,” he said.

Mazzone said Utah exploited “poor technique” and beat the Bruins blockers in one-on-one situations.

Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm attributed the lack of execution to a lack of confidence among the unit’s younger players—of which there are plenty. UCLA started three true freshmen a season ago, all of whom are now true sophomores.

A third second-year player, redshirt freshman Kenny Lacy, is in the current rotation.

Klemm said the line has practiced well this week but did so in preparation for Utah as well. The difference against the Ducks has to be playing as the Bruins have practiced.

 “How you carry over [practice] to game, it’s no different,” Klemm said. “You can’t start second-guessing yourself…That comes with maturity.”

UCLA needs to demonstrate that maturity against an Oregon defense that got to Hundley for three sacks a season ago.

Ducks linebacker Tony Washington was a handful for tackle Caleb Benenoch rushing off the edge in last year’s contest. Washington beat Benenoch for a sack and a crucial strip of Hundley.

 

Stopping Marcus Mariota

When asked what in Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota’s game worries Ulbrich, the UCLA defensive coordinator said: “What doesn’t worry [me] about Mariota?”

Ulbrich cited Mariota’s ever-improving passing: The redshirt junior is completing 71.1 percent of his attempts and has 15 touchdowns with no interceptions on the season.

Of course, containing Mariota means having to be ready for as capable a runner as a passer.

Mariota has 215 rushing yards on the season and averages more than five yards per carry.

However, last week against Arizona, Ducks offensive coordinator Scott Frost opted to use Mariota as a ball-carrier sparingly. The result was just one yard gained on the ground.

I asked Ulbrich how much that impacted his defense’s prep for Mariota as a true dual-threat playmaker.

“Not much,” he said.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: Bruins' Season on the Line vs. Oregon

Saturday’s Pac -12 football clash between preseason conference favorites, No. 18 UCLA and No. 12 Oregon, has taken on a single-game elimination feel...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Georgia Tech Chaplain Derrick Moore Gets Team Fired Up with Pregame Speech

If the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets aren't already pumped up for games when they get to the stadium, team chaplain Derrick Moore will get them fired up.

Moore, a former NFL running back, knows exactly what to say to inspire the players. Not only does he deliver a powerful message, but he also does a great job of getting the team involved.

The speech above is from before Saturday's game against Miami. Georgia Tech won, 28-17.

Here are some of Moore's previous pregame speeches:

[YouTube]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Anatomy of a Field Storming: The Fantastic Saga of the Ole Miss Goalposts

All that’s left are pieces: pieces of football history and a reminder of just how beautiful this game can be. The goalposts that once stood proudly in Vaught–Hemingway Stadium are now artifacts, coffee-table fixtures following a sea of human exhilaration.

These yellow aluminum cylinders do more than simply dictate scoreboard activity. Despite their obvious visual similarities, these static symbols evoke memories. They tell time. They remind us of special days—days like October 4, 2014. 

Their value is only understood by those who worship them, like a contingent of confused, hungover and euphoric Ole Miss students who stumbled upon football treasure.

Still on a whirlwind from the past 24 hours, the same group that had paraded the 20-foot piece of goalpost from Vaught–Hemingway Stadium through campus the night before edged the aluminum pillar out of tight kitchen quarters to the backyard.

It was time for the electric saw, a necessary device to ensure that one football trophy became many.

“I was expecting sparks everywhere, but it wasn’t too intense,” Ole Miss student Buckner Corso said. “I’d say we worked on the post for two hours or so. We were able to figure it out.”

To non-college football fans, the process of sawing a goalpost into 30 small pieces might seem barbaric and bizarre. To those who have felt the sweeping emotion that comes with program-altering victories—the kind of games that live on through generations—this unfamiliar scene hits closer to home.

For Corso, a 23-year-old grad student from Jackson, Mississippi, the goalpost voyage stretches further back than the Rebels’ 23-17 victory over Alabama. It goes back to September 4, 2010, the day Ole Miss lost to Jacksonville State 49-48 in double overtime.

“That was my first game as a student,” Buckner recalled of that crushing loss. “I’ve seen the lows and one of the biggest highs we’ve ever had since I’ve been here.”

But Saturday began like any other game day, only the intensity was amplified and the campus was overcapacity. Before entering the stadium, Buckner enjoyed the sights and sounds of one of The Grove, an unduplicatable pre-football venue. Just like always.

About an hour and 45 minutes before the game began, he took his seat in the stadium about halfway up the student section. As anticipation mounted, the Ole Miss fans waited with bated breath.

What happened next you already know. Alabama took a convincing 14-3 lead to halftime. Following the intermission, Ole Miss responded by outscoring the Crimson Tide 20-3 in the second half behind an active defense and the brilliance of quarterback Bo Wallace.

With less than a minute remaining, an interception by cornerback Senquez Golson in the back end zone secured the victory. The catch was originally ruled incomplete, although the call was reversed upon review. Ole Miss took a knee as the stadium bubbled over. Once the clock hit zeroes across, the stands could no longer contain the crowd.

Fans charged. They hugged. They kissed.

Tremendous. RT @ChipBrooker: Rebel fans behind me gave a whole new meaning to "rushing" the field #HottyToddypic.twitter.com/T7AVJGpd1i

— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) October 5, 2014

They climbed and climbed and climbed, and eventually the goalposts could no longer hold. Down they went, and soon after, they were carried outside the stadium.

“I did not jump on the goalposts, and I wasn’t involved in tearing it down or anything,” Corso said. “We were too busy getting pictures with the players.”

Following the celebration in the stadium, Corso did not help escort the goalpost out of the building. Instead he went back to his tent and tried to process the entirety of what just transpired. He sat in his chair and smiled.  

As he did, however, a friend alerted him that a group had obtained a significant piece of one of the posts near where ESPN’s College GameDay set had been located. He jumped at the opportunity to help out, as did roughly 19 other friends.

That’s when the voyage truly began.

Imagine the scene: roughly 20 or so college students navigating traffic, jubilantly carrying a sacred piece of Ole Miss memorabilia on their shoulders as the masses migrated through The Grove. It was frenzy, and the response was overwhelming.

“We started walking down University Avenue; just walking in the middle of traffic,” Corso said. “Everyone was going crazy honking and yelling ‘Hotty Toddy.’ The police didn’t even care about us being in the middle of the road and stopping traffic.”

They kept walking. With the goalpost resting overhead, they headed to The Square, one of Oxford’s most popular destinations. As day became night, the group paraded the goalpost past the bars as more applause, more chants and more cheers broke out. This was a celebration, a reminder of what had just taken place.

Slowly but surely, as the walk progressed, the group started to lose steam. The emotional and physical drain set in. Some wanted to take it around The Square once more for another victory lap. Others, including Corso, were out of gas.

“This thing was starting to get pretty heavy,” Corso said. “I bet all together we walked about a mile and a half.”

As the pace began to slow, the group brought the piece of goalpost to the house Corso is currently renting. They were greeted with a fascinating dilemma.

How do you fit a 20-foot long piece of goalpost into your home? Where do you put it?

The answer, of course, was the kitchen. And it was a tight squeeze. After angling it through the house, the group managed to find just the right amount of space before crowd started to disperse to celebrate further in various locations. Having maximized the day and then some, Corso decided to avoid the run to the bars.

Instead, with the goalpost at their feet, he and a few friends enjoyed a beverage and put on a replay of the game. They looked for the things they missed and soaked in the environment from an entirely different perspective, all with a critical piece of the day by their side.

“That’s when it started to blow up,” Corso said.

With one tweet, their yellow treasure went viral. Corso, in search of some mild social media fame (by his own admission), posted a picture of the goalpost in his home. The result was an unexpected frenzy.

Goal post made it home pic.twitter.com/EbimQguVEU

— Buckner Corso (@BucknerCorso) October 5, 2014

As the tweet circulated and word spread, the Ole Miss masses showed up at his door demanding to see the sacred relic. A low-key night was transformed into madness.

“I got nervous when I eventually went to sleep,” Corso said. “I thought someone might break into my house.”

The social media fame also generated an unexpected response. Ross Bjork, the Ole Miss athletic director, reached out to Corso in hopes that he could claim dibs on a small portion of the item.

These too made their rounds.

@BucknerCorso Save me & @CoachHughFreeze a piece........

— Ross Bjork (@RossBjorkAD) October 5, 2014

@BucknerCorso@CoachHughFreeze Be careful cutting it or we can help you be safe and cut it up for you.....

— Ross Bjork (@RossBjorkAD) October 5, 2014

The next day, Corso and crew woke up to a mess. The house was nothing short of a disaster, while the status of each individual varied greatly. To put it plainly, it was a double-down-on-Vitamin-Waters kind of morning for the moving crew and the entire state of Mississippi. But their journey was not yet complete.

From its hallowed place in the kitchen, the goalpost was relocated to the backyard as a friend returned with a saw. Despite offers from the school’s AD, the team matter-of-factly disassembled the holy object it had so proudly carried around roughly 12 hours earlier.

Piece by piece, the goalpost shrunk. Ultimately, the once 20-foot column was metamorphosed into roughly 30 small pieces. They were then handed out with care.

“I have had a million people ask me for a piece of it,” Corso said. “We gave it to everyone who helped carry it.”

Except for two.

Having coordinated with Bjork that night before, Corso took two pieces of the goalpost to the Ole Miss headquarters. His visit, however, was much more than a simple drop-off. He sat down with Bjork, and the two talked about the day that was, the goalposts and, more importantly, the state of the program.

While Bjork was grateful for the gesture and thrilled by the enthusiasm it revealed, he also relayed a message regarding fan behavior going forward.

“He told me that these are the types of wins we’re going to expect rather than celebrate,” Corso said on the exchange with Bjork. “When they happen, we’ll be happy. But we don’t have to rush the field anymore.”

As a result of fans storming the field, the SEC fined the school $50,000. The fine escalated because of similar instances in 2012 and 2013.

With the bill in the open and pricey goalposts to replace, Bjork posted the following message on his Twitter account.

Everyone in this picture should send donation to http://t.co/iGAqjYmHr4. All donations accepted for the post & fine! pic.twitter.com/Tjk0J7oXUR

— Ross Bjork (@RossBjorkAD) October 5, 2014

The school’s announcement that it was accepting donations, like the celebration itself, soon went viral.

All $5 donors will receive thank-you letters. A $25 donation will get you a desktop background for your computer. A $250 donation is good for a commemorative photo. And for $500 or a $1,000 donation, the school offered 80 small pieces of an 18-foot piece of goalpost that it recovered. Those 80 artifacts were gobbled up almost instantaneously.

Within hours of posting, Ole Miss easily surpassed its $75,000 donation goal. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than $100,000 had been raised.

Corso’s donation was far more meaningful than a dollar amount, something he’s well-aware of himself. Although he could still get a pretty penny from a buyer for his piece of history, it’s not for sale.

“I’m going to get it inscribed and framed,” Corso said. “I’m also going to put together everything in a scrapbook. For me, this is a culmination of being a Rebels fan.”

All tents have since been tucked away; the field has been cleared. Fans have retreated to their homes, awaiting the next chapter of Ole Miss Football. College GameDay has long departed, off to its next Mississippi destination. 

The goalposts that hovered over the Vaught–Hemingway field are no more, but they are not lost. The remains have simply been scattered throughout the state, ready to tell a story when it needs to be told.

 

Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. You can follow Adam Kramer on Twitter @Kegsneggs

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

James Franklin Claims He Lied to Team About Seeing Video in Vanderbilt Rape Case

Former Vanderbilt head football coach James Franklin, who is the current head coach at Penn State, testified in an alleged rape hearing for two of his players at Vanderbilt on Wednesday. During the testimony, he admitted to lying about seeing video of the alleged incident.     

Lori Mitchell of WKRN ABC News in Nashville provided the details of Franklin's testimony on Twitter:

The players at the center of the alleged rape are Brandon Vandenburg, Brandon Banks, JaBorian McKenzie, and Cory Batey. Today's hearing was for Vandenburg and Batey. 

In August 2013, Brian Haas and Jeff Lockridge of The Tennessean reported that the players were "charged with five counts each of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery."

According to a September 2013 report from Bobby Allyn of Buzzfeed, a source with ties to one of the players involved in the alleged incident "said he believes that Franklin encouraged a player to delete a video of the incident after the player showed it to Franklin."    

The source is also quoted in the report as saying, "I’m 99.9 percent sure that Franklin saw the video." Franklin's attorney, Hal Hardin, speaking on behalf of his client said, "Coach Franklin denies that emphatically."

During the testimony on Wednesday, the defense asked whether or not Franklin saw the video, per Tony Gonzalez of The Tennessean:

Hayley Mason of WSMV-TV in Nashville provided Franklin's rationale for lying to the team about seeing the video:

Franklin also provided a timeline of when he learned about the alleged rape, noting that he was on vacation and that the school provided a directive for him to follow, via Gonzalez:

Also, Franklin testified that the players attempted to make their case in his office only for him to let them know he couldn't discuss it and to give them a message, via Mitchell:

At Franklin's introductory press conference to Penn State in January, university president Rodney Erickson told reporters that Franklin went "through the most thorough vetting process that any individual has gone through at the university," via Chip Minemyer of the Centre Daily Times

Franklin, 42, left Vanderbilt after three years, compiling a 24-15 record with the Commodores. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Hurricanes Welcome Make-A-Wish Patient as Part of the Team

The Miami Hurricanes are doing everything they can to make one eight-year-old feel like part of the team.

Carter Hucks, who is fighting a life-threatening disease, traveled from Charleston, South Carolina, to Miami in order to join the Hurricanes football team as part of the Make-A-Wish program. The third-grader had a big day on campus.

On Wednesday, the Hurricanes gave Hucks his own uniform and locker.

He got to run out of the team's inflatable helmet and the smoke like the players do before games.

He then led the team in stretches and played some catch.

Hucks got to hang out at practice with some of the Hurricanes players.

To cap off the special day, Hucks hauled in a game-winning touchdown pass.

Hucks loved living his dream, and the Hurricanes loved getting him involved on the field.

Fans can also show their support for Hucks.

As good as this day was for the youngster, the fun isn't over. The Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter reported that Huck will spend the next few days with the team and will be with the team on Saturday when it hosts the Cincinnati Bearcats. 

[Twitter, h/t Dr. Saturday]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Breaking Down the Best Possible National Championship Games at Week 6

If it's "never too early to start talking about the College Football Playoff," then six weeks seems like an appropriate amount of time to wait before talking about the second leg of that playoff: the national championship game.

Almost every team from a power-five conference with less than two losses stands a mathematical chance of making the CFP and advancing to play for the national title, but only a handful of those teams stand a realistic chance. A lot can happen between now and then to change things, but for the time being, we have narrowed that handful down to the Top 15 teams in the Associated Press poll

In selecting the best possible matchups from those 210 options, we looked for a couple of things. Especially since the season is still young—i.e., we do not know as much as we would like about which teams are actually the best—a heavy focus was placed on narrative. In other words, which games would make for the best TV spectacle?

But, of course, it was more than just that. We also looked for interesting style or personnel matchups to go with those off-field storylines. We did not simply plug in the teams from the top of the poll to ensure picking the safest matchups. But we also made an effort to keep things realistic by including only title-worthy teams.

Begin Slideshow

Pages