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#pounditSaturday, January 22, 2022

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Notre Dame extends unwanted bowl record with latest loss

Marcus Freeman before a game

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish suffered an incredible second half collapse in Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl to extend an incredible and unwanted school record.

The Fighting Irish jumped out to a 28-7 lead late in the first half before allowing 30 unanswered points to the Oklahoma State Cowboys. A late score of their own was not enough for Notre Dame, and they ultimately lost 37-35.

The defeat extended Notre Dame’s incredible run of futility in major bowl games. The Irish have lost eight consecutive New Year’s Six and BCS games.

The losing streak goes back even further than that. Notre Dame has lost ten straight dating back to the Bowl Coalition era. They haven’t won an equivalent bowl game since Jan. 1, 1994, when the Irish beat Texas A&M under then-coach Lou Holtz.

Notre Dame was rolling in the first half to the point that some were questioning whether the team was better off without Brian Kelly. The second half silenced a lot of that talk, and furthered the narrative that Notre Dame simply struggles too much in big games.

Photo: Oct 2, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish Defensive Coordinator Marcus Freeman enters Notre Dame Stadium before the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Reeves, former NFL coach and player, dead at 77

Former NFL head coach Dan Reeves

Former long-time NFL head coach Dan Reeves has died at the age of 77.

Reeve’s family confirmed his passing in a statement to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.

“Legendary NFL player and coach Dan Reeves passed away early this morning, peacefully and surrounded by his loving family at his home in Atlanta, GA. He passed away at age 77 due to complications from a long illness. His legacy will continue through his many friends, players and fans as well as the rest of the NFL community. Arrangements are still to be determined,” the statement read.

Reeves participated in nine Super Bowl during his legendary career. Two came as a running back for the Dallas Cowboys, where he played from 1965-1972.

After his playing career ended, Reeves broke into coaching with the Cowboys as an assistant in 1972 and then from 1973-1980. In 1981, he became the NFL’s youngest head coach when hired by the Denver Broncos, where he’d remain through the 1992 season.

The Broncos fired Reeves following the ’92 season but he quickly landed on his feet, joining the New York Giants as their next head coach. He posted an 11-5 record in his first season, which still stands as the best record by a first-year coach in franchise history. It also earned him the first of two AP Coach of the Year honors.

In 1997, Reeves was hired as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. A year later, he won his second AP Coach of the Year Award.

Reeves left the game of football in 2003 but returned in 2007 to help the Georgia State University’s football program get off its feet. He then reunited with the Cowboys as a consultant in 2009.

Reeves posted an overall head coaching record of 190-165-2. He was also 11-9 in the playoffs.

In 2010, Reeves was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Broncos’ Ring of Fame in 2014.

Image: Unknown date; Denver, CO, USA; FILE PHOTO; Denver Broncos head coach Dan Reeves on the sideline at Mile High Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Smart denies Gatorade bath for good reason

Kirby Smart Gatorade

The Georgia Bulldogs posted a blowout win over the Michigan Wolverines in Friday’s College Football Playoff semifinal, but coach Kirby Smart was in no mood to celebrate.

With time running out in the final minute of Georgia’s win, Georgia players were preparing to give Smart the traditional Gatorade bath. Smart, however, was not having it. In fact, he even called timeout to put a stop to it.

ESPN’s Holly Rowe said Smart told his players that winning a semifinal was not the time to celebrate that way.

In his postgame interview, Smart told Rowe that the Gatorade bath is “not what it’s about right now.”

Smart’s message was a clear one: the real goal is beating Alabama and winning a championship. The Bulldogs’ SEC Championship loss to the Crimson Tide still stings, and Georgia players will want to put that right. That is where Smart wants the focus.

Smart’s attitude isn’t really a shock. The game was essentially over at halftime, but the coach was not letting up even then.

Alabama players showed great discipline ahead of playoff game

Nick Saban on the sidelines

Alabama’s players showed some great discipline ahead of their College Football Playoff semifinal game against Cincinnati on Friday.

Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said during the week that his players voted to effectively put themselves in a bubble by staying at the team hotel and agreeing not to leave.

Such a decision serves two purposes.

One, it helps players avoid the trouble that can arise when going out and exploring new cities. Two, it can help the players avoid potential COVID complications.

There is a big reason why Alabama is such a successful program, and this helps prove it. Not only do they have talent, but their players all prioritize football and are willing to make sacrifices with extracurricular activities in order to focus on winning. They also appear to make the right decisions on their own without needing the coaches to make the decisions for them.

That, my friends, is what we call culture. Alabama has a winning culture, and their players have completely bought in.

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rules expert weighs in on controversial Tennessee play

A Tennessee player at the goal line

Tennessee was on the wrong end of a very controversial call during overtime of the Music City Bowl on Thursday, and one rules expert agrees that the Volunteers were robbed.

With the game tied 45-45, Tennessee went for it on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the first overtime period. Purdue defenders met Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright at the line of scrimmage, but he kept fighting and reached the ball across the goal line. However, the line judge determined that Wright’s forward progress was stopped before he broke the plane.

Many people disagreed with the ruling. Former NFL official Terry McAulay, a rules analyst for NBC, said the whistle came too early. He did, however, point out that Tennessee committed a penalty (one that is hardly ever called) when a teammate tried to help pull Wright across the goal line.

You can see another angle of the run here.

The play was reviewed, but forward progress is a judgment call. Once that call was made on the field, there was no way to overturn it. The question is whether Wright’s forward was actually stopped or stopped long enough to warrant a whistle.

Purdue kicked a field goal to win the game 48-45 after getting the stop. Tennessee fans were irate with the finish. You can understand why.

Tennessee robbed of touchdown on controversial call at goal line

A Tennessee player at the goal line

The Tennessee Volunteers were victims of an extremely controversial call during overtime of Thursday’s Music City Bowl against Purdue.

With the game tied at 45 in the first overtime period, Tennessee decided to go for it on 4th and goal from the Purdue 1-yard line. Running back Jaylen Wright was stood up shy of the goal line, but reached out to try to get the football into the end zone. He appeared to do so while on top of a Purdue defender.

However, the play was called dead on the field, with the line judge determining that Wright’s forward progress had been stopped short of the goal line.

Video taken from the sideline shows how questionable the decision was.

The play was reviewed, but the call was confirmed by replay. Forward progress is a judgement call, and once that call was made on the field, nothing after that point could be overturned.

Tennessee will contend that Wright was still moving forward when the line judge ruled him down. Wright’s knee was not down at any point before he reached across the goal line, so it simply came down to the arbitrary judgement call. That will come as little solace to Tennessee fans, who were already quite outraged by another controversial ending earlier in the season.

Bart Scott suggests Ravens will go head-hunting against Joe Burrow

Bart Scott on ESPN

Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals unapologetically ran up the score on the Baltimore Ravens last week, and Bart Scott thinks they are going to regret it.

Scott, an ESPN analyst who played linebacker for Baltimore from 2002-2008, said on “Get Up!” Thursday that Burrow will now be in the crosshairs of Ravens player going forward. Scott said his former team has what they call “red dot,” which sounds a lot like a bounty on an opposing player. He predicted that the Ravens will go head-hunting on Burrow the next time they play the Bengals.

“I guarantee you he will not last long in this division. They’re gonna make sure they become head-hunters whenever they go against them,” Scott said. “He’s gonna get the rib shot. He’s gonna get the neck shot. He’s gonna get the tackle his arms and make his head bust off the ground shot.

“The order has been sent. We call it red dot in Baltimore, and it’s gonna be on him for the rest of his career. He’s gonna regret that he ever did that.

Louis Riddick repeatedly pointed out to Scott that this isn’t the same ferocious Ravens defense that Scott was once a part of. Scott said it doesn’t matter and that the same “culture” still exists in Baltimore.

You can hear Scott’s full remarks beginning at around the 45-second mark below:

Scott’s comments will probably make NFL executives cringe, though they aren’t a huge surprise. Burrow threw for 525 yards in Cincinnati’s 41-21 win over the Ravens. The Bengals called a deep pass play late in the game to get Burrow over the 500-yard mark. John Harbaugh may not have been happy about that, and it looked like he expressed his displeasure during his postgame handshake with Zac Taylor (video here).

Burrow offered a great take on running up the score on Baltimore. While we can’t say if Ravens players will try to injure the star quarterback, it goes without saying that they will seek revenge next time.

Ben Roethlisberger drops major hint about his NFL future

Ben Roethlisberger throwing a ball

Ben Roethlisberger has seen his skills rapidly decline over the past few seasons, which makes sense considering he will turn 40 in just two months. It is widely assumed that he will retire at the end of the year, and the Pittsburgh Steelers star gave a big hint about his future plans on Thursday.

Roethlisberger was asked if he thinks Monday night’s matchup against the Cleveland Browns will be his last ever home game at Heinz Field. He stopped just short of confirming that he plans to retire at the end of the season.

“I don’t ever speak in definites or guarantees. That’s not what I’ve ever done or who I am,” Roethlisberger said. “But, looking at the bigger picture, I would say all signs point to this could be it — regular season, that is. I know we still have a chance to potentially get a playoff game if things fall our way. In terms of regular season, the signs are pointing that way that this could be it.”

At this point, it would be a shock if Roethlisberger played next season. The Steelers would probably prefer that he retire, that way they don’t have to make any difficult decisions about moving on from him.

Roethlisberger missed almost the entire 2019 season with an arm injury, and some thought he would retire then. He instead rehabbed and returned, throwing for 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions a year ago. Pittsburgh lost in the first round of the playoffs. Big Ben has 3,337 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight picks this season. He’s far from terrible, but it is clear he doesn’t have much left in the tank.

Mike Tomlin was asked this week about Monday potentially being Roethlisberger’s last home game, and the coach gave a great response.

Photo: Nov 25, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) warms up before the game against the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Campbell irate with Clemson band during bowl loss

Matt Campbell complains

Matt Campbell had a moment of great frustration during the Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando, Fla. on Wednesday night.

Campbell’s Iowa State Cyclones were trailing Clemson 13-3 in the third quarter. They had a 1st-and-10 at their 15 and got called for a false start penalty, which set off the Iowa State coach.

Campbell was irate on the sidelines. He was seen signaling to the officials and complaining about the Clemson band.

“The f—ing band!” Campbell was seen saying to the officials as he raised his hand to the band. “That’s f—ing bulls—,” he could be seen saying.

ESPN’s announcers later confirmed that Campbell’s issue was with the band.

“He was upset,” announcer Dave Pasch said of Campbell. “He thought the Clemson band was continuing to play during the cadence. Because they were backed up right in front of the band, that that was throwing off the offense.”

Campbell apparently thought the noise from the band was interfering with his players’ ability to hear the snap count. If that were the case, then Clemson’s band would have been responsible for a penalty.

The NCAA college football rulebook says “Persons subject to the rules, including bands, shall not create any noise that prohibits a team from hearing its signals (Rule 1-1-6).” Such an action is subject to a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Iowa State was already deep in their own territory before the penalty, which helps explain Campbell’s frustration. By his argument, Iowa State should have had the ball at their 30 instead of their 10. Two plays after the penalty, Clemson got a pick-six to make it 20-3.

The Tigers ended up winning the game 20-13.

College football has made a point of cracking down on things that could interfere with the offense’s signals. Campbell apparently wants the officials to start enforcing the band rule too.

Lamar Jackson does not look healthy in new practice video

Lamar Jackson without a helmet

Lamar Jackson has not played since Week 14 due to a right ankle injury. While the Baltimore Ravens quarterback was able to practice Wednesday, he did not look particularly healthy.

In a video shared by ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, Jackson was seen getting in some light work. He was visibly limping between reps, however, suggesting his ankle remains a significant impediment.

It is tough to imagine Jackson being able to play effectively while moving like that, though he has time to heal before Sunday’s Week 17 game. This also outlines how bad things have been if Jackson has missed two key games.

Jackson’s ankle issue is clearly more serious than the Ravens initially thought. The team is hopeful that Jackson can play some role in this week’s must-win game against the Los Angeles Rams, but it looks like it may be difficult to get much out of the quarterback.

Photo: Sep 13, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) reacts against the Las Vegas Raiders during Monday Night Football at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports