NCAA Football

What Does Miami's Al Golden Need to Do to Quiet His Critics?

Late Saturday afternoon, the wolves at Al Golden’s door quieted their howls, if only for a moment.

Before a Sun Life Stadium crowd that featured plenty of fans disguised as empty seats, Miami put together a gutty effort and toughed out a 30-20 win over Virginia Tech, improving its record to 4-2, 1-1 in ACC play.

It was a solid win, albeit one against a 3-4 Hokie team that sports its worst record through seven games since 1992. But it won’t cool Golden’s seat much or quiet the critics calling for his job or flying “Fire Al Golden” planes over south Florida airspace.

So how does Golden do it? How does he quiet his critics and save his job?

The answer is right in front of us, and the Hurricanes, for that matter.

Although Miami has been far from stellar this season, the ‘Canes still have the chance to make 2015 special. What they do in the next two weeks could be make-or-break for their aspirations and Golden’s Miami tenure.

While NCAA probation has made his life difficult, there’s no calling Golden’s Miami career anything but average at the midpoint of his fifth season. The Hurricanes are 32-24 on his watch and have won more than seven games in a season only once.

The key to breaking out of that malaise is right in front of them, however. Next week, Clemson comes to Sun Life Stadium. The Tigers, who haven’t played Miami since 2010, entered Saturday’s game against punchless Boston College ranked No. 5 nationally and will likely carry that ranking into south Florida.

Beat the Tigers, and 2015 suddenly looks a lot better to Miami fans.

That’s followed by a Halloween trip to Wallace Wade Stadium and a faceoff with No. 25 Duke, who, at 5-1, 2-0, is the only ranked team in the Coastal Division.

Win those games, and November brings Virginia, a trip to North Carolina, a struggling Georgia Tech team and a Black Friday regular-season finale at Pittsburgh.

With an offense led by sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya, one of the ACC’s best signal-callers, as well as an improving defense that forced three turnovers, those four are all winnable games.

Beat the Tigers and/or Blue Devils, and the Hurricanes are firmly in the mix for the Coastal Division title and on track to an eight- or nine-win season.

With a young team that returned only eight starters from 2014’s 6-7 team, losing offensive talent like first-round picks Phillip Dorsett, Ereck Flowers and all-time program leading rusher Duke Johnson, that should be more than enough to earn Golden some slack on South Beach.

Accomplishing it isn’t as easily said as done, but it is possible for Golden to save his job and make something of Miami’s 2015 season.

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Texas A&M Shows Growth, Is Still in Hunt for SEC West Despite Loss to Alabama

Admit it—when Eddie Jackson returned a Kyle Allen interception 93 yards for a touchdown midway through the second quarter to put Alabama up 28-6 on Saturday afternoon at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas, you thought the game was over.

You thought Texas A&M's hopes of winning the SEC West were over.

After all, it was Allen's second of three pick-sixes on the afternoon, and Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry had already rushed 10 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns, making the Aggies defense look foolish in the process.

But a funny thing happened in the second half: The Aggies defense showed back up.

The unit that looked dead and gone in the first half finished the afternoon with 15 tackles for loss, held Henry in check—he finished with 236 total rushing yards, including 28 on the final drive in garbage time—and allowed Allen and the Aggies offense to at least claw back into the game and mount a challenge to the Crimson Tide before falling 41-23.

The combination of the Aggies defensive front coming of age and Crimson Tide center Ryan Kelly leaving the game shortly before halftime helped the Aggies fight back as USA Today's George Schroeder noted on Twitter.

The highlight of the afternoon for the Aggies defense was defensive tackle Daylon Mack blowing up the offensive line and meeting Henry at the ball.

The defense got punched in the mouth, staggered and threw haymakers back at Alabama to at least make it interesting.

The days of the Aggies defense being soft, undisciplined and poorly coached are gone thanks to the arrival of Mack, the progression of defensive end Myles Garrett—who had two tackles for loss and a blocked punt on the afternoon—and the arrival of new defensive coordinator John Chavis.

Are the Aggies flawed? 

Absolutely. 

Running back Tra Carson couldn't get going on the ground and finished the day with 46 rushing yards and a long of just six. That was due in part to Alabama's stout front seven and the fact that A&M was trying to dig out of a whole from virtually the opening kickoff.

Allen is a liability, too.

Those three pick-sixes were back-breakers, and he was erratic all afternoon, finishing 20-of-40 with just one touchdown pass. But as Aubrey Bloom of the Bryan-College Station Eagle noted on Twitter, not all of those mistakes were on Allen—including the final pick-six of the afternoon in the fourth quarter by Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.

That's not ideal.

But if A&M's going to have a flaw, that flaw being anything other than its defense is still tremendous progress from where the program was over the last couple of seasons. The Aggies showed tremendous progress against the Crimson Tide.

The Aggies are down after falling to the Tide, but they aren't out as tackle Julien Obioha told TexAgs.com after the game.

That's not 100 percent true, but it's not false either.

The loss drops the Aggies (5-1, 2-1 SEC), despite tying Alabama (6-1, 3-1 SEC) in the loss column in the conference. 

Sure, Alabama has the tiebreaker with the Aggies in hand, but it doesn't have the tiebreaker with Ole Miss which also has one loss in the conference. All three of those schools have undefeated LSU on the schedule. 

This would likely have been an elimination game for Alabama had it lost, but instead, it just made the muddled SEC West even murkier.

Buckle up. The next month-and-a-half in the ever-changing SEC West is going to be a wild ride.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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College Football Scores 2015: Top 25 Teams' Week 7 Results, Key Stats and Stars

The Baylor Bears (6-0) are No. 2 and trying harder.

The Bears may be asking what they have to do in order to secure the No. 1 ranking. Baylor welcomed a high-scoring West Virginia Mountaineers team and delivered a 62-38 beating to its guests.

If you think you have seen Baylor put up 60 points or more this season, you are correct. The Bears have done it five straight times.

West Virginia kept this game fairly close for 30 minutes, trailing just 27-17 at halftime. But the Bears came out in an even more aggressive frame of mind in the third quarter. Seth Russell threw three touchdown passes in the quarter as the Bears gained complete control by outscoring the Mountaineers 21-7.

It was another huge showing by the well-rounded Baylor offense. In addition to Russell throwing for 380 yards with five touchdowns, the Bears also had their running game going at full speed as they rushed for 304 yards. Russell was the leading ball-carrier in the game with 14 carries for 160 yards and a score, while Shock Linwood carried 19 times for 84 yards and a score.

Russell has already thrown 27 TD passes, and he has Robert Griffin III's school record of 37 touchdowns in his sights.

Surprising Florida State may be ready to move into the Top 10 after Saturday.

The 11th-ranked Seminoles (6-0) trailed Louisville 7-6 at halftime, but they got untracked in the second half as they scored five touchdowns and secured a 41-21 victory.

Quarterback Everett Golson had the hot hand in the final 30 minutes as he threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Dalvin Cook punished the Cardinals with 163 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Stars of the Week

WR Corey Coleman, Baylor

It's difficult to separate stars when the subject is the high-scoring Bears, but Corey Coleman is a dazzling wide receiver who seems to have three or four different gears when it comes to speed and acceleration. 

Coleman tormented West Virginia by catching 10 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns. His 33-yard TD reception early in the third quarter helped give Baylor a 34-17 lead and triggered a decisive scoring outburst.

The 5'11", 190-pound Coleman has been a scoring machine this year. Thirteen of his 31 receptions have gone for touchdowns, and he is averaging an explosive 21.9 yards per catch.

 

RB Akrum Wadley, Iowa

A week ago, Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri was one of the top stars of the week because he ran for 256 yards and a touchdown in the Hawkeyes' victory over Illinois. Canzeri was injured early in the Hawkeyes' game at Northwestern, but that didn't stop Iowa from launching a new star at the running back slot.

Akrum Wadley ran with speed and power as soon as head coach Kirk Ferentz sent him into the game in Evanston. He torched the Wildcats by carrying 26 times for 204 yards and four TDs. The 17th-ranked Hawkeyes (7-0) secured a 40-10 victory over the 20th-ranked Wildcats (5-2).

Red-hot Iowa outscored Northwestern 24-0 in the second half to break open a close game.

 

RB Derrick Henry, Alabama

The Crimson Tide had a tough assignment as they had to go to College Station to play a hungry and ninth-ranked Texas A&M team.

Nick Saban's team knew that if it was going to secure the key road win, it needed to control the clock with a powerful running game. That placed the onus on Derrick Henry, and the powerful 6'3", 242-pound running back delivered.

He carried 32 times for 236 yards and two touchdowns as Alabama (6-1) pulled out a 41-23 victory over the Aggies (5-1).

 

ST Jalen Watts-Jackson, Michigan State

It may be the most shocking ending ever in a college football game.

With just 19 seconds remaining, Michigan State (7-0) was about to absorb a 23-20 defeat from Michigan (5-2) that would have knocked the Spartans from the ranks of the undefeated and most likely would have ended their national championship hopes.

Michigan ran the clock down to 10 seconds and sent punter Blake O'Neill onto the field one final time to boot the ball downfield and pin the loss on the Spartans. 

Instead, O'Neill fumbled the snap and could not secure the ball as he attempted to pick it up. The ball squirted out of his hands and into the arms of Michigan State special teamer Jalen Watts-Jackson, who returned the fumble 38 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Watts-Jackson ran close to the sideline but never stepped out of bounds, and he didn't go down until he crossed the goal line for the extraordinary touchdown that gave Michigan State a 27-23 victory.

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Twitter Reacts as Michigan State Returns Punter's Fumble for TD to Beat Michigan

It seemed like it was in the bag. With 10 seconds remaining, No. 12 Michigan led No. 7 Michigan State 23-21 and was looking to punt the ball, pinning the Spartans deep with virtually no time left.  

That was when disaster struck. Punter Blake O'Neill fumbled the snap, was unable to get the punt off and fumbled again only to see Michigan State's Jalen Watts-Jackson return the loose ball 38 yards for the game-winning touchdown for a 27-23 Spartans win.

ESPN College Football has the replay of the game's final play:

The dramatic ending had Twitter abuzz about Michigan's last-second gaffe, as its national title hopes look all but dashed now. 

Former Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett was stunned:

So was Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps:

It couldn't have been easy on Michigan fans, as USA Today's Kofie Yeboah showed:

CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon captured a good picture, too:

The Outside Corner's Ian Casselberry, a Michigan fan, let his followers know things aren't exactly alright:

Another, U.S. News' Stephanie Steinberg, resorted to take it up with Twitter: 

Wolverine alumnus and former NFL wide receiver Braylon Edwards tried to be the voice of reason, but even he couldn't hide his disappointment:

It's not the ending that fiery Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh wanted, as USCFootball.com's Ryan Abraham speculated what was next for him:

Sports Illustrated's Brian Hamilton sees this as too harsh a punishment for Wolverines fans:

USA Today's Paul Myerberg made breaking Michigan hearts crack a bit more:

Fox Sports' Jon Morosi even took an unpleasant trip down memory lane:

Getting over the initial shock, attention shifted to the punter O'Neill. NBC Sports Network's Ross Tucker couldn't help but feel bad for him:

WRTV's Dave Furst wasn't so compassionate: 

Others thought it best for O'Neill to not show his face around Ann Arbor anytime soon.

The New York Post's Bart Hubbuch was one of them:

The Washington Post's Cindy Boren and Jeopardy Sports thought he should go a bit farther away:

But for Michigan State fans, it was euphoria, as alum and Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell was ecstatic:

ESPN's Jamele Hill was pretty happy, too:

But it didn't come without its damage for Michigan State, as WDIV's Jamie Edmonds reports:

Bell and Hill have every right to be happy as their Spartans remain undefeated at 7-0 and could possibly move up a spot or two in the national rankings. They have to make up three spots before the season's end to make the College Football Playoff. 

For Michigan, this might be one of those games where you just have to throw out the film, never mention this date again and try to win out to end the season. While they have two losses already, both came against teams currently in the Top 10, which means the Spartans should stay in the Top 25.

But any images of winning the national championship will probably have to wait until next year. For now, those images have been replaced by a botched punt, which won't be easy to get out of Michigan fans' heads for quite some time.

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Alabama vs. Texas A&M: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The No. 10 Alabama Crimson Tide kept their SEC title and College Football Playoff hopes alive Saturday with a 41-23 road victory over the No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.

The 6-1 Crimson Tide handed the Aggies (5-1) their first loss of the season, and junior running back Derrick Henry bolstered his Heisman Trophy candidacy in the process as he gashed A&M to the tune of 236 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries.

Henry extended his own school record with a touchdown run for the 12th consecutive game and set a career high in single-game rushing yards, which he managed to accomplish in just one quarter by rumbling for 153 yards in the opening stanza.

He also ended a four-year drought for the Crimson Tide in terms of 200-yard rushing performances, according to SportsCenter:

While the Tide's running game ruled the day, head coach Nick Saban's defense was dominant, too. Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer provided this stat:

Alabama quarterback Jake Coker put up modest numbers, with 138 yards on 19-of-25 passing, but that was a dream performance in comparison to the Aggies pair of Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray, who combined to throw four interceptions and just one touchdown.

The Tide's defensive excellence was on full display early when freshman defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted Allen in the first quarter.

As seen in this video, courtesy of CBS Sports, Fitzpatrick returned the pick 33 yards for a touchdown to help put Alabama on top 7-0:

Henry subsequently took over by rushing for a 55-yard touchdown on Alabama's ensuing possession to help make the score 14-0:

While Henry deserved no shortage of credit for decimating the Texas A&M defense, Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News accurately pointed out the offensive line's role:

The Aggies entered Saturday's contest with an undefeated record, but ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon believed they were living dangerously with regard to their struggles against the run:

Henry exposed the A&M run defense in a big way on his 55-yard touchdown scamper, and he continued to do so throughout the game.

The Aggies' main source of offense in the opening half was senior kicker Taylor Bertolet, who converted 54- and 51-yard field goals.

In between those makes, Henry rushed for his second touchdown of the day on the first play of the second quarter.

With Alabama leading 21-6, the Aggies seemed poised to score their first touchdown of the day. Allen made yet another poor throw, however, which allowed junior safety Eddie Jackson to secure his fourth interception of the season and return it 93 yards for a score:

Texas A&M needed a huge play to keep its head above water after going down 28-6, which is what it got with just over three minutes remaining in the half.

Freshman wide receiver Christian Kirk returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown, which helped make the score 28-13 and prevented Alabama from turning it into a runaway:

That score held up entering halftime, but Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin sent Murray in at quarterback for a series in place of the struggling Allen just before the halfway mark.

Sumlin had this to say about the change, per TexAgs on Twitter:

There is no question that Sumlin was looking to spark his offense, which was a move worth considering since all of Texas A&M's first-half points came courtesy of special teams.

In addition to the Aggies' late score in the first half, there was some hope for a comeback after a key Tide player went down with an injury. Per Bleacher Report's Christopher Walsh, center Ryan Kelly suffered concussion-like symptoms, which may have had something to do with Henry's drop-off in production during the second half.

Murray didn't do much on Texas A&M's first possession of the third quarter, but the Aggies recovered a fumble on a punt to get the ball back. Sumlin then turned to Allen at quarterback once again, and the move paid dividends as he completed a 44-yard pass to Ricky Seals-Jones before connecting with Seals-Jones again one play later for a three-yard touchdown.

That helped pull the Aggies to within eight points of Alabama and put the pressure firmly on the Tide as the momentum swung in Texas A&M's favor.

While the Aggies started to put points on the board after a rough beginning to the game, David Ubben of Sports on Earth credited the Aggies defense for making some adjustments:

The Crimson Tide were able to stop the bleeding, though, when junior kicker David Griffith completed a 13-play drive by making a 32-yard field goal with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Alabama's defense struck again on the final play of the third quarter and made Sumlin pay for inserting Murray back into the game at quarterback as Jackson nabbed his second interception of the day and fifth of the season.

After watching Murray get baited into a pick, Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports questioned the freshman's progress as a passer:

The Tide took advantage by knocking another field goal through the uprights to make it 34-20 with just over 11 minutes left in the game.

Texas A&M cut the lead to 11 as Bertolet hit his third field goal of the game with just over eight minutes remaining, but it was all for naught as Allen made yet another miscue a few minutes later.

Fitzpatrick made his second interception of the game and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown for his second pick-six of the contest. That marked the Tide's third pick-six as a team, which set a new school record, according to Marq Burnett of the Anniston Star.

ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough marveled at how good Fitzpatrick already is so early in his collegiate career after watching the play:

The Tide were in control when Fitzpatrick scored his second touchdown of the day, but he put an exclamation point on the victory.

Alabama was left for dead by many following its loss to Ole Miss, but the Crimson Tide may be the favorites to win the SEC and represent the conference in the CFP at season's end.

The Tide will likely be favored in all of their remaining games, with only a Nov. 7 home clash against LSU and Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette looking particularly dangerous.

Texas A&M isn't out of the equation despite Saturday's loss, but with tilts against Mississippi and LSU still on tap, it has a more difficult route to the top than Alabama.

Things can change significantly from one week to the next in the supremely talented, challenging SEC, and Alabama's re-emergence as one of the nation's top teams over the past few weeks is proof positive.

 

Post-Game Reaction

Saban summed up Alabama's season to this point succinctly when speaking with reporters after the win, per the Tuscaloosa News' Aaron Suttles:

Coker agreed with that sentiment, telling reporters Alabama is "just staying alive," per ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Saban also assessed the superlative work of his defense, according to LivingCrimson on Twitter:

Finally, Sumlin didn't have many positives to take away from his team's quarterback play. 

"I told those guys, 'Playing quarterback is just like being the head coach,'" Sumlin said, per Rittenberg. "That's part of playing that position. You take the pats on the back along with the slaps in the face. Today was kind of a slap in the face." 

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Michigan State Wins on Walk-off TD After Michigan Punter Fumbles on Final Play

The Michigan Wolverines were in position to beat rival Michigan State on Saturday, but a special teams flub on the final play cost them the game.

With 10 seconds to play, the Wolverines lined up to punt on 4th-and-2 from the Spartans' 47-yard line. A punt likely would have sealed the game, but Michigan punter Blake O'Neill was not able to handle the snap.

O'Neill lost the football at the Michigan State 38-yard line, with the Spartans recovering. From there, it was a race to the end zone—a race that Michigan State's Jalen Watts-Jackson won.

Watts-Jackson's walk-off touchdown gave the Spartans a 27-23 victory and left the Big House stunned.

Like everyone else watching, Michigan State alum Le'Veon Bell couldn't believe what just happened:

[ESPN]

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Penn State vs. Ohio State: Live Score and Highlights

Ohio State 21, Penn State 10—Mid 3rd Quarter

The top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes are hosting the Penn State Nittany Lions in a Big Ten clash.

ABC is broadcasting the matchup, and Bleacher Report is providing scoring updates, highlights and analysis. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments.

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311-Pound Michigan DT Draws Personal Foul for Belly-Flopping on Top of Pile

Given that he is a senior, Michigan defensive tackle Willie Henry should know better than to commit a silly penalty like this.

On the final play of the third quarter of Saturday's game against Michigan State, the host Wolverines stuffed the Spartans on 3rd-and-2 from the Michigan 46-yard line. That would have made the Spartans—who were trailing 20-14—choose between going for it on fourth down and punting.

However, they didn't have to decide because Henry committed a foolish personal foul.

The 6'3", 311-pound defender came in late and essentially belly-flopped on top of the pile. The referees saw that and threw the flag.

First down, Spartans.

Fortunately for Henry, his mistake didn't come back to hurt his team on the scoreboard. Michigan State turned the ball over on downs four plays later.

[Dr. Saturday]

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Texas A&M DL Daylon Mack Busts Through Alabama Offensive Line, Stuffs Run

Alabama apparently didn't watch the film from Texas A&M's game against Nevada because the Crimson Tide made the same mistake as the Wolf Pack.

They chose not to block Aggies defensive lineman Daylon Mack.

Earlier this season, Mack lit up a Nevada running back when the offensive line didn't block him. He struck again Saturday.

On 1st-and-10 from the Aggies' 34-yard line midway through the third quarter, Crimson Tide quarterback Jake Coker attempted to get the ball to running back Derrick Henry.

But the signal-caller didn't have time to do so because Mack had busted through the line and stopped the play before it could ever get going.

The result: a seven-yard loss.

Maybe someday a team will decide to block Mack.

[Vine]

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USC vs. Notre Dame: Live Score and Highlights

USC 31, Notre Dame 31—Early 4th Quarter

Notre Dame and Southern Cal will face off for the 87th time Saturday night, and the Irish will look to continue their recent success against the Trojans. Notre Dame has won two of the last three meetings.

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Missouri vs. Georgia: Live Score and Highlights

The Georgia Bulldogs (4-2, 2-2) return home Saturday to host the Missouri Tigers (4-2, 1-2) in a pivotal SEC East showdown.

The Bulldogs are still reeling after last week's loss at Tennessee. However, the biggest loss Georgia suffered was the season-ending injury to star tailback Nick Chubb. Sophomore Sony Michel did an outstanding job filling in for Chubb last week, recording a career-high 145 yards on the ground. 

After starting the season 3-0, Missouri has struggled recently, losing two of its last three games. The Tigers have struggled to move the ball on offense since freshman Drew Lock took over for the suspended Maty Mauk under center. 

You can watch the game live on the SEC Network at 7:30 p.m. ET, but make sure to stay right here for the latest news, notes, analysis and the best postgame coverage around.

You can find the official box score is available at NCAA.com

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