Ameer Abdullah sets pace for Cornhuskers

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
12:28
PM ET

AP Photo/Nati HarnikAmeer Abdullah has run for 41 percent of Nebraska's rushing yards this season.
Ameer Abdullah might have already had his “Heisman Moment.” With Nebraska tied with McNeese State late in the fourth quarter in their Week 2 game, Abdullah took a three-yard pass, broke three tackles and ran 55 yards for a 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

Not only did that reception give Nebraska the lead with 20 seconds remaining, but it also gave Abdullah more than 100 yards from scrimmage, something he has done in every game since the start the 2013 season.

Abdullah has a streak of 16 games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage, the longest active streak in the FBS and fourth-longest streak for a running back in the last 10 seasons.

Given Abdullah’s streak, it should not be surprising that he leads all FBS players with 2,423 yards from scrimmage since the start of last season.

During that time, he has had the second-most offensive touches (368) in the FBS and is averaging 6.6 yards per touch, the 12th-best average in the FBS (min. 200 plays).

What has made Abdullah successful?
Abdullah has been the catalyst for this offense.
Nebraska ranks eighth in the nation in rushing yards per game (324.3) this season and second in yards per rush (7.4).

He has been responsible for 43 percent of the team’s carries and 41 percent of the Cornhuskers' rushing yards.

Abdullah is one of the most versatile running backs in the nation.
He is the only Power Five running back with at least 900 rushing yards both inside and outside the tackles since the start of last season.

During that time, Abdullah has gained 1,135 rushing yards outside the tackles, fourth-most in the FBS.

Abdullah is productive and consistent.
Since the start of last season, Abdullah is averaging 130.4 rushing yards per game, seventh-most in the FBS.

He leads all FBS players with 13 100-yard rushing games.

Abdullah finds the correct running lane.
He has 83 rushes in which first contact was not made until 5 yards past the line of scrimmage, tied with Washington’s Bishop Sankey for the most by any Power Five player.

That said, this week could be a challenge for Abdullah with Miami (FL) coming to Lincoln. The Hurricanes have allowed 2.0 yards per carry this season, fourth-best in the FBS.

If Abdullah can have a big game against one of the best rushing defenses in the FBS on national TV, it could vault him up the Heisman Watch list.
Nebraska and Miami met five times in bowl games from 1984 to 2002, with the winner staking claim to the national title four times. Here’s a look inside the series at three of the most memorable games from an era gone past in college football:

1984 Orange Bowl: Miami 31, Nebraska 30


Turner Gill, Kevin FaganAP Photo/John RaouxKevin Fagan hounded Turner Gill in the '84 Orange Bowl as Miami won its first national title.


December 1983 rated as one of the coldest months on record in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The high temperature was 36 degrees on Dec. 8. The low? Minus-24 on Dec. 22, part of a weeklong stretch when the thermometer did not reach zero while the top-ranked Cornhuskers readied to play Miami in the Orange Bowl.

At the time, Nebraska practiced outdoors on frozen grass and AstroTurf. Four years later, the school built an indoor facility, spurred in part by the horrendous conditions of that month. When the Huskers arrived in Miami, players and coaches exited the plane in their winter coats. The heat and humidity hit them hard -– which was a factor as the Hurricanes jumped to a 17-0 lead on Jan. 2.

The 1983 Huskers averaged 50.3 points and 370.8 rushing yards per game behind quarterback Turner Gill and Heisman Trophy-winning I-back Mike Rozier. But in that Orange Bowl, Nebraska sputtered offensively as Rozier left in the second half with an ankle injury.

The Huskers pulled within one, but Gill’s two-point conversion pass failed in the final minute as Kenny Calhoun knocked the ball away from Nebraska I-back Jeff Smith.

The whole scenario couldn’t have worked any better for Howard Schnellenberger, the Hurricanes’ showman of a head coach who, in buildup to the bowl game, landed a helicopter on the Nebraska practice field in Miami, jumping out with a pipe in his mouth.

A wayward program just five years prior when Schnellenberger took charge, Miami won its 11th consecutive game to earn the school its first national title and first of four in a nine-year period.

And the Huskers, again under Tom Osborne, were left out in the cold.



1995 Orange Bowl: Nebraska 24, Miami 17


Warren SappAP Photo/Jeffrey BoanMiami's Warren Sapp was chatty, but Tommie Frazier and Nebraska got the last word and the win.


The story is part of Nebraska lore. Not the two-touchdown comeback or the prescient halftime vow to his team by Osborne that Miami would tire late -– well, that’s all legendary, too -– but Tommie Frazier’s version of the trash talk shared with Warren Sapp perhaps best symbolizes Nebraska’s rise to surpass Miami in this once-lopsided postseason series.

Osborne had replaced Frazier with Brook Berringer early, the arrangement in place for much of the 1994 regular season as blood clots sidelined Frazier for eight games.

When Frazier returned to field late in the fourth quarter, the Huskers trailed 17-9. Sapp, the Hurricanes’ boisterous defensive tackle, shot jabs at the junior quarterback.

“Where you been, Tommie,” Sapp shouted, according to Frazier.

“It’s not where I’ve been,” Frazier said in 2009, recounting the exchange. “It’s where I’m going, fat ass.”

With fresh legs, Frazier, the Florida native who came up two points short against Florida State a year earlier in the same stadium, gashed Miami on the option. With less than eight minutes to play, fullback Cory Schlesinger burst through middle for a 15-yard score. Frazier found tight end Eric Alford for a two-point conversion to tie it.

Less than five minutes later, with Frazier at the helm, Schlesinger scored again from 14 yards out. The victory secured Osborne’s first national title and one of three in his final four seasons as coach.

As usual in his college career, which concluded with 33 wins in 36 starts, Frazier had the final word.



2002 Rose Bowl: Miami 37, Nebraska 14


Andre Johnson, Daryl Jones, Carl Walker, Ken DorseyAP Photo/Mark J. TerrillMiami had 38 players go to the NFL, including Daryl Jones (L), Andre Johnson (C) and Ken Dorsey (R).


Six years before this most recent Nebraska-Miami meeting, the Cornhuskers fielded a team in 1995 that was considered by some as the greatest in history. Its average margin of victory approached 40 points. And true to form, Osborne’s team crushed Florida 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl.

If only the 1995 Huskers could have met 2001 Miami. Because this Nebraska team had no chance. The Hurricanes, loaded with 16 future first-round NFL draft picks, blitzed the Huskers for 27 second-quarter points en route to a 34-0 halftime lead. Miami could have named its score, but coach Larry Coker showed mercy in the second half as the championship celebration began early.

The star power at Miami in 2001 was incredible, featuring running backs Clinton Portis and Frank Gore, quarterback Ken Dorsey, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow, safeties Ed Reed and Sean Taylor, linebackers Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams, receiver Andre Johnson, cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Mike Rumph, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork -- the list seems never-ending. In all, 38 players from that team were drafted. They accumulated more than 40 appearances in the Pro Bowl.

Miami outscored its opponents in 2001 by 33.2 points per game. Its offense, defense and special teams units each could lay claim to a ranking as the nation’s best.

And for all the work Nebraska accomplished in the '90s to close the gap on Miami’s dynasty of the previous decade, it looked wider than ever on Jan. 3, 2002.

WVU's White playing like a man on fire

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
11:08
AM ET
Kevin White, Bradley SylveJohn David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsWVU receiver Kevin White has surpassed 100 receiving yards in all three games this season.
The last time he faced Oklahoma, West Virginia wideout Kevin White had the ball with a chance to give the Mountaineers a late lead. But as he attempted to slide past a pair of Sooner defenders, Oklahoma safety Quentin Hayes jarred the ball loose, thwarting what would be West Virginia's final chance to win in Norman.

"When I think about Oklahoma, all I think about is that fumble," White said. "We could have won that game.

"That play put a fire in me."

Saturday, White will get another crack against the fourth-ranked Sooners in a showdown that could hold major Big 12 championship implications. Everyone expected Oklahoma to be in the hunt. But thanks in large part to White playing like a man on fire, the unheralded Mountaineers have emerged as a dark-horse contender after a surprisingly strong start to the season.

Through three games, White ranks second in the country with 460 receiving yards and 32 receptions.

"He's a great player and he is making big plays in every game," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of White. "He's physical and is tough going up after the football. He's got a great physical presence -- just a great football player."

Stoops isn't the only one to take notice.

After reeling in 143 receiving yards and a touchdown in a narrow 33-23 loss to second-ranked Alabama in the opener, White boarded the bus outside the Georgia Dome and finally got around to checking his phone. The Twitter mentions came pouring in, but one specific tweet prompted him to look twice:



"That was really cool," White said. "I was pretty shocked. Larry is a guy I watch a lot, a guy I try to mimic my game after."

White has been putting together quite the imitation.

Besides sharing Fitzgerald's No. 11 jersey number, his hairstyle dreads and his physical 6-foot-3 body type, White has been destroying opposing cornerbacks downfield the way Fitzgerald has been for years.

White has already hauled in 17 receptions of 10 yards or more, a year after leading the Mountaineers with only 21 such catches during his entire first season at West Virginia.

"I don't think any cornerback not his size can guard him," said White's West Virginia cohort at receiver, Mario Alford. "He's unbelievable the way he uses his body and his athletic ability to block out smaller cornerbacks to go up and attack the ball.

"He's got a ton of confidence right now."

That confidence, however, wasn't always there.

White didn't have the grades or the tape to play FBS football coming out Emmaus High School in Pennsylvania, which prompted him to enroll at Lackawanna College down the road in Scranton. But White always had the tools. He just needed the discipline to unleash them.

"When we saw him run, jump, catch, we realized he was so much superior than any ordinary player," said Lackawanna head coach Mark Duda. "But he was undisciplined. Not in a criminal way. Just in a really young way. If we had a meeting at 10:30, he'd be there at 10:35. We knew if we didn't work a little harder on him, he might not make all that potential a reality."

Even though White had the talent to help Lackawanna right away, Duda redshirted him to get the message across.

"They were very tough on me my freshman year," White said. "At the time, I didn't understand why. I thought coach disliked me. But I realize he was trying to bring out the talent I had and show me the things I need to do to be successful."

After redshirting, White missed another season at Lackawanna for financial reasons. But when he rejoined the team for his third season, he returned a completely different player, on and off the playing field.

"He came back focused like a laser beam," Duda said. "He was like a full-grown man. Attentive. A guy who had completely bought in to being a college athlete. He didn't just get athletic, he didn't just get character. He had those things. He just put it all together."

White has continued to put it together since arriving in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Facing off last weekend against Maryland's William Likely, one of the top cornerbacks in the Big Ten, White was unstoppable. He finished with 13 receptions and 216 receiving yards, as West Virginia avenged last year's 37-0 thumping from the Terrapins with a thrilling 40-37 victory over Duda's alma mater on the road.

"I thought he was the best player on the field," said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. "He's playing really well."

But as well as he's been playing, White still hasn't extinguished the memory of last season's fumble against the Sooners. The play that lit a fire also is the one he hopes to atone for this weekend.

"It still leaves a bad taste," White said. "But we're confident. We're looking to prove everyone wrong.

"We're looking to show we're not playing any games this year."

video
videoSTARKVILLE, Miss. -- “You’re not going to Mississippi State unless you can tell me why,” Peggy Prescott said to her son late one night during his senior year of high school. Dak, her youngest, wanted to play college football in Starkville, but he was only 17 years old at the time. Because of that, he couldn’t sign his own letter of intent. Mom held the keys to his future and she wasn’t going down without a fight.

Raising three boys on her own in Louisiana, Peggy needed to be heard. Her whistle, how it cut through the crowd from the bleachers to the football field below, is still ringing in her sons’ ears today, 11 months after she passed away from a year-and-a-half-long bout with cancer.

She loved football and was there for every one of her sons’ games. Before she passed, she broke down and got her first tattoo: a football on her ankle with the number three written inside it for her boys.

“With the cannon going off on the football field and people yelling you could still hear my mom's sharp whistle over everybody,” Tad, her eldest, recalled. “She was not the mom that sat under a blanket and kept her mouth shut the entire game. You could hear her screaming, 'Hit him! Get your hands off him!’”

[+] EnlargeDak Prescott
Michael Chang/Getty ImagesDak Prescott knows he has something to prove on Saturday against LSU.
It was how she felt about Mississippi State, too. Starkville wasn’t allowed to have Dak, she thought. The seven-and-a-half-hour drive across state lines was too much for her. The two-and-a-half hour trip to LSU felt much more reasonable.

Besides, it was LSU that recruited Peggy the hardest, 10 times harder than Dak, he said.

“They knew whatever Mom said was going to matter,” Dak said. “They battled her and battled her, but I wanted to be an honest guy, and when I give my word I’m committed.”

That decision didn’t come easily. Dak had to keep his mother up until 2 a.m. to finally convince her why Mississippi State and coach Dan Mullen were the right choice.

“I didn’t want to go to a team that had already won a championship and had been in the top 10 every year,” Dak explained. “I wanted to help a team grow and be a part of something special, and I thought Mississippi State had the best chance at the time.”

LSU, he felt, was telling him what he wanted to hear. Mullen said redshirting his first year on campus was a possibility while Miles told him he wanted him to play right away, he said.

“I feel like I’m a smart guy and I can see through bull crap,” Dak said.

“I wanted to get to where LSU and all those other schools were and beat them.”

On Saturday, he’ll have that chance.

If only Peggy could be in Baton Rouge to see it.

For the first time in a long time, there’s hope among Mississippi State fans that beating LSU is a real possibility. The Tigers have won 14 consecutive times in the series, after all.

But the Bulldogs are 3-0 themselves, the defense is as deep as it’s ever been and Dak is quietly building a case for the Heisman Trophy. He’s an outsider at this point, but his numbers speak volumes: 43 of 72 passing for 696 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s rushed for 273 yards and two touchdowns. And for good measure, he’s also caught a touchdown pass.

Between his number (15) and his charismatic leadership, there have been comparisons to Tim Tebow. Mullen, after all, was Tebow’s offensive coordinator at Florida when he won the Heisman in 2007.

“He’s evolved,” said safety Jay Hughes, who hosted Dak and his mother on their official way back when. “Just his knowledge and understanding of the game have gone to another level.”

“I don’t even think he knows how good he can be,” he added.

But while putting up big numbers against LSU would surely catapult Dak into the Heisman conversation, Mullen doesn’t want him thinking that way.

“There will be plays he has to make to win the game for us, but not every play,” Mullen said. “Disperse the ball, get it to the playmakers, lead the offense, and then when there are plays to be made go make them.”

Dak insists he’s ready to do just that. He knows Tiger Stadium will be loud, but he’s excited for it. With more than 20 family members expected to be on hand, he knows, “All eyes will be on us and LSU this time.”

The same quarterback who turned down LSU and convinced his mother it was the right decision is now returning to his home state with hopes of an upset. Mississippi State is ready to break through, he thinks. Now is the time to prove it.

“There’s nothing like starting 1-0,” he said. “Starting off against a top-10 opponent would be a great chance to put ourselves ahead and let the nation know.”

And in some way, it would let Dak know, too.

A win would do more than lift Mississippi State in the SEC West. A win would do more than lift Dak’s Heisman chances.

A win would make Dak right about that 2 a.m. conversation so many years ago. A win would be the perfect way to say to his mother that leaving home and helping build something in Starkville was well worth it.
They were told they would never have a chance against Nebraska, the fiercest, most powerful team in America.

Looking across the line, safety Kenny Calhoun and his Miami teammates saw big boys all right. But Miami had speed, and it had confidence, and it had its own toughness, too. Calhoun showed as much when he batted down Turner Gill’s two-point conversion pass attempt in the 1984 Orange Bowl, delivering the defining moment in one of the most memorable national championship games ever played.

Their rivalry only grew from there, Tom Osborne on the Nebraska sideline with his plodding, ball-control offense, trying to figure out a way to neutralize the warp-speed Hurricanes. Their national championship battles became referendums on strength and toughness versus speed and athleticism. Speed won twice. Then Tommie Frazier came along, trash talkin’ Warren Sapp and putting on the moves to back it up, delivering Osborne his first national championship in the 1995 Orange Bowl.

But the advantages they once used to build their dynasties seemingly have disappeared as the college football landscape has changed. The last time they met, Miami routed Nebraska for a fifth national title in the 2002 Rose Bowl.

Since then, neither school has replicated the success they had when their paths met during the 1980s and 1990s. When they play Saturday in Lincoln, their matchup will serve as another reminder that college football has moved on without them.

"Those two teams, those two decades are moments in time and I seriously doubt that they can ever be duplicated," Calhoun said. "Just basically because of recruiting, the bowl structure now, the playoff system and the NCAA regulations and rules on how they govern the game."

[+] EnlargeHoward Schnellenberger and Al Golden
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeHoward Schnellenberger, left, led Miami to the 1983 national title. The college football landscape has changed for current Miami coach Al Golden.
So much has changed in the 30 years since the two teams met in the Orange Bowl. At the time, Nebraska had built a strength and conditioning program that was the envy of everybody across the country. The Huskers had perfected the option offense and had a strong coaching lineage, big draws for players growing up in the Plains.

Miami, meanwhile, began to focus on recruiting the South Florida area. Coach Howard Schnellenberger coined the term "State of Miami," hoping to lock down the best athletes from the three counties surrounding the school. He also brought a pro-style offense with him from his days as an NFL assistant. After Miami began having success, other programs started to follow the Hurricanes’ blueprint.

Their advantages were no longer a secret. Schools from across the country now recruit in South Florida, and are looking for speed. That includes Nebraska. Plus, there are more FBS programs in state looking for a piece of the recruiting pie. South Florida, Central Florida, Florida International and Florida Atlantic were not part of the equation during the dynasty years.

As for Nebraska, the Huskers no longer own an edge in strength and conditioning. The option offense is virtually obsolete, negating another edge it used to have. They no longer have rivalries with Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma to sell. Their closest conference "rivals" are Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

And recruiting has changed for the Huskers, too.

[+] EnlargeNebraska's Tom Osborne
AP Photo/Hans Deryk"One thing that we did have in common is, if you looked at our recruiting classes, we were usually -- Miami and Nebraska -- ranked around 20th or 30th, 35th," Tom Osborne said.
"One thing that we did have in common is, if you looked at our recruiting classes, we were usually -- Miami and Nebraska -- ranked around 20th or 30th, 35th," Osborne said. "They seemed to get a lot of players out of South Florida that lots of people didn’t know about. And we got a lot of kids out of Nebraska and other places that people didn’t know much about. We developed talent. We didn’t have as many blue-chip players, but we certainly had guys who could play."

Former Miami defensive end Kevin Fagan echoes that sentiment, believing Miami can win again with the right group of players -- a group that shows the same characteristics that his 1983 championship team showed.

"Throw away the five-star stuff and go out there and look at kids," Fagan said. "Put on the film against really good opponents. When they’re getting beat, do they have character? Look beyond the speed and vertical jump and bench press. ... Schnellenberger, that was something he was really, really good at. He looked for those tough kids that other people didn’t want. Who finds a Jim Burt, or Jim Kelly? No one thinks he’s a quarterback, but Schnellenberger did."

Since the 2001 season, only Miami has played for another national championship, in 2002. Since 2004, neither team has won a conference championship. The highest final ranking for Miami was No. 11 in 2004; for Nebraska, it was No. 14 in 2009.

"Football is still a developmental game," Osborne said. "People go about it in different ways. Every place has an offseason plan and a sophisticated strength program. I agree that we might have had an edge for a period of time, but by the '90s, I think that was pretty well gone. ... But you always look for things -- whether it’s nutrition, whether it’s academic support, whether it’s schemes -- things to give you an edge."

Miami and Nebraska are still looking.

Big Ten reporter Mitch Sherman contributed to this report.

2015 Pac-12 football schedule

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
10:00
PM ET
We're three weeks into 2014 ... so let's talk about 2015.

The Pac-12 released the full 2015 football schedule Tuesday, which begins the third cycle of scheduling among conference teams since the 2011 expansion.

We've known about most of these games for awhile, but it's still fun to scan them all in one place. Chris Petersen's return to Boise State, Arizona State's trip to Houston to play Texas A&M and the state of Oregon against the state of Michigan (on the same day) immediately stand out.

10 notable nonconference games
  • Michigan at Utah
  • Arizona State vs Texas A&M
  • Washington at Boise State
  • Oregon at Michigan State
  • Oregon State at Michigan
  • Washington State at Rutgers
  • BYU at UCLA
  • California at Texas
  • USC at Notre Dame
  • Notre Dame at Stanford

Here is the full schedule:

Week 1

Thursday, Sept. 3
  • UTSA at Arizona
  • Michigan at Utah
Saturday, Sept. 5
  • Arizona State vs Texas A&M, NRG Stadium, Houston
  • Arkansas State at USC
  • Virginia at UCLA
  • Colorado at Hawaii
  • Eastern Washington at Oregon
  • Weber State at Oregon State
  • Washington at Boise State
  • Portland State at Washington State
  • Grambling State at California
  • Stanford at Northwestern
Week 2

Saturday, Sept. 12
  • Arizona at Nevada
  • Cal Poly at Arizona State
  • Idaho at USC
  • UCLA at UNLV
  • UMass at Colorado
  • Utah State at Utah
  • Oregon at Michigan State
  • Oregon State at Michigan
  • Sacramento State at Washington
  • Washington State at Rutgers
  • San Diego State at California
  • Central Florida at Stanford
Week 3

Saturday, Sept. 19
  • Northern Arizona at Arizona
  • New Mexico at Arizona State
  • Stanford at USC
  • BYU at UCLA
  • Colorado vs. Colorado State, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver
  • Utah at Fresno State
  • Georgia State at Oregon
  • San Jose State at Oregon State
  • Utah State at Washington
  • Wyoming at Washington State
  • California at Texas
Week 4

Friday, Sept. 25
  • Stanford at Oregon State
Saturday, Sept. 26
  • UCLA at Arizona
  • USC at Arizona State
  • Nicholls State at Colorado
  • Utah at Oregon
  • California at Washington
Week 5

Saturday, Oct. 3
  • Arizona at Stanford
  • Arizona State at UCLA
  • Oregon at Colorado
  • Washington State at California
Week 6

Thursday, Oct. 8
  • Washington at USC
Saturday, Oct. 10
  • Oregon State at Arizona
  • Colorado at Arizona State
  • California at Utah
  • Washington State at Oregon
Week 7

Thursday, Oct. 15
  • UCLA at Stanford
Saturday, Oct. 17
  • Arizona at Colorado
  • Arizona State at Utah
  • USC at Notre Dame
  • Oregon at Washington
  • Oregon State at Washington State
Week 8

Thursday, Oct. 22
  • California at UCLA
Saturday, Oct. 24
  • Washington State at Arizona
  • Utah at USC
  • Colorado at Oregon State
  • Washington at Stanford
Week 9

Thursday, Oct. 29
  • Oregon at Arizona State
Saturday, Oct. 31
  • Arizona at Washington
  • USC at California
  • Colorado at UCLA
  • Oregon State at Utah
  • Stanford at Washington State
Week 10

Saturday, Nov. 7
  • Arizona at USC
  • Arizona State at Washington State
  • UCLA at Oregon State
  • Stanford at Colorado
  • Utah at Washington
  • California at Oregon
Week 11

Friday, Nov. 13
  • USC at Colorado
Saturday, Nov. 14
  • Utah at Arizona
  • Washington at Arizona State
  • Washington State at UCLA
  • Oregon at Stanford
  • Oregon State at California
Week 12

Saturday, Nov. 21
  • Arizona at Arizona State
  • USC at Oregon
  • UCLA at Utah
  • Colorado at Washington State
  • California at Stanford
  • Washington at Oregon State
Week 13

Friday, Nov. 27
  • Oregon State at Oregon
  • Washington State at Washington
Saturday, Nov. 28
  • Arizona State at California
  • UCLA at USC
  • Colorado at Utah
  • Notre Dame at Stanford
Friday, Dec. 4
  • Pac-12 Championship Game, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California

Meet Booker Mays, the Fainting Goat

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
9:34
PM ET
Booker Mays went from gunner to goat on the Arkansas State punt team.

A Fainting Goat, to be exact.

Perhaps you’ve seen the video of the bizarre fake punt from the second quarter of the Red Wolves’ 41-20 loss on Saturday at Miami by now.

video

Since Monday night, when the video emerged online, Mays’ life has turned ... well, let him explain.

“It’s been totally crazy,” he said.

A sophomore receiver from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Mays said he learned of the video’s existence from a fraternity brother at their Jonesboro, Arkansas, campus. By Tuesday morning, Mays said, "it was total chaos.”

“I’m loving it,” he said. “It’s all fun. My job was to take one step back and fall straight down. I was supposed to get the attention of the defense while my teammate got the touchdown.”

It didn’t work out quite like that. While Mays executed his part of the play to perfection, Arkansas State punter Luke Ferguson – on fourth-and-4 from the Miami 41-yard line with the Hurricanes up 20-7 – misfired in his attempt to hit Frankie Jackson.

Miami’s Raphael Kirby intercepted the pass as Mays lay motionless.

The idea for the Fainting Goat came from ASU special teams coordinator and receivers coach Luke Paschall.

The inspiration? North Carolina, with Pascall on staff and first-year Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson in charge of the offense, pulled a prank in a 2012 practice on quarterback Bryn Renner in which everyone but Renner toppled to the ground.

They called it the Fainting Goat.

So early last week in Jonesboro, Paschall approached Mays.

“He told me the play of the week, the special teams funky deal, was a fake punt – the Fainting Goat,” Mays said. “In my mind, I was like, ‘What’s that?’”

Said Paschall: “Book, you’re going to be the goat.”

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ What is he saying?” Mays said.

Usually, Mays works as the gunner in punt coverage. In this alignment, though, he was ineligible to run downfield. Mays said he practiced the fall all week.

And when it came time to run it, he added a little fun to the equation by acting sick at the line of scrimmage.

“I was talking to the guy across from me, saying, ‘Wow, there is some thick air down here in Miami,” Mays said. “I sold out for the play. I was all in.”

No one from Miami said a word to Mays after the play.

“No, sir,” he said. “It was like nothing even happened.”

Maybe next time, the Red Wolves can fool the opponent.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Mays said.

Familiar foe awaits Pitt's Paul Chryst

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
5:11
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Manasseh Garner was playing a different position at a different school in 2010, so forgive him if he does not know exactly how to attack Iowa's defense. But the former Wisconsin defensive end and current Pitt receiver is in a familiar spot this week as his Panthers ready to welcome the Hawkeyes to Heinz Field.

"It seems long, but it really seems like it was just yesterday," Garner laughed.

[+] EnlargeManasseh Garner
Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY SportsPanthers WR Manasseh Garner and his head coach will face a familiar opponent in Iowa in Week 4.
He's not alone.

Garner and third-year Pitt head coach Paul Chryst will recognize what they see across the field Saturday, having become quite familiar with Iowa in their previous lives at Wisconsin, where Chryst was the offensive coordinator. Chryst went 3-3 when the Heartland Trophy was up for grabs against Iowa, with the effects of the game usually leaving marks on his players in one fashion or another. The Badgers averaged just 18 points in those six games, and they failed to crack even that much on four different occasions.

There are new faces now, sure, most notably with Phil Parker having taken over as Iowa's defensive coordinator in 2012, replacing Norm Parker (no relation), who died this past January. But many of the hallmarks of 16th-year head coach Kirk Ferentz's program remain the same.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Kirk Ferentz, and it's going to be a well-coached team," Chryst said. "He believes in physical offense, physical defense. It's always going to be a challenge. I'm excited for our guys to play. It's going to be a good atmosphere. It'll be a good physical game, and we've got to rise up and meet that challenge. It's a great opportunity for us. The amount of success that he's had for a long time -- there's a lot of programs across the country trying to do that."

Chryst and Garner have had the last laugh against Iowa since 2010, escaping Kinnick Stadium with a 31-30 win that helped propel their Wisconsin squad to the first of three straight Rose Bowls, two of which they were a part of.
Four years later, Garner remembers the feeling of his lone meeting with the Hawkeyes.

"Just the physical nature that they bring -- I feel like Big Ten teams, they pride themselves on being physical, physical, physical," Garner said. "Relentless, four quarters, smash mouth. So that's one of the things I really got to see in my two years up in the Big Ten. That was something at Wisconsin, something we took pride in, wear and tearing you, and beating you to the punch, making sure that you felt the beatdown through four quarters. I'm sure that's what Iowa's preaching to their players as well. We're a physical team, smash-mouth and we want to wear you down. And that's one of the things that I've seen and I've witnessed, I went through it when playing them at their house. They're definitely a physical team and I respect them for being the team that they are."

Saturday will be akin to the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object, as Pitt enters as the nation's No. 3 rushing team (1,086 yards), while Iowa ranks seventh against the run (65.67 yards per game). James Conner, the burly 250-pound sophomore, leads the nation with 544 rushing yards, and is the ideal antidote for a stout front-seven.

Chryst said he looks forward to facing teams like Iowa, knowing that every yard comes with a price. Asked if he sees Chryst putting a similar stamp on the Panthers, Garner couldn't help but laugh.

"Oh without question, yeah," Garner said. "That's one of the main things Coach emphasizes: Let it go, let it go. Don't hold anything back. Just be instinctive and be physical. You have nothing if you're not physical, especially in this type of offense. Your front men, if they're not laying a foundation, (if) they're not winning the fight at the line of scrimmage, you really have nothing."
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Amari Cooper is a game-changing talent at receiver. His ability to catch the football, make one guy miss and take it the distance is uncanny. His yards-after-catch numbers are gaudy. As of Monday, he leads the country with 33 receptions and is third overall with 454 yards receiving. And that’s not counting the passes he hauls in behind the line of scrimmage, of which he has three “carries” for 29 yards. But those are just the cherries on top.

Cooper is arguably the best receiver in the country. But for Alabama's offense to be successful, he can’t continue to do it alone.

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
AP Photo/Brynn AndersonAmari Cooper has accounted for just over half of Alabama's receiving yards this season.
It’s fine that Cooper is the focal point of the offense, but he can’t be the entire playbook on a weekly basis. Teams like Florida won’t allow it. Cornerbacks like Vernon Hargreaves III and safeties like Jabari Gorman will get in the way of an Amari Cooper-centric attack. Florida's Will Muschamp didn’t look great coaching against Kentucky last weekend, but the man knows defense and understands how to double- and triple-team a receiver.

Take last season for instance. Despite the mess that it was for Florida, the defense held down LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Neither receiver had more than 60 yards receiving or a single touchdown. Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri’s most talented receiver last season, was held to 52 yards and no touchdowns, too.

Receivers are reliant. Quarterbacks are not. Blake Sims, despite all the good work he’s done in winning the starting job, must get the ball to his other weapons on Saturday against the Gators.

So far, Cooper has accounted for 48.5 percent of all of Alabama's receptions and 50.8 percent of all passing yards. He’s been targeted 43 times. The next closest is Christion Jones, who has been thrown to only 14 times. Chris Black, who has started in place of DeAndrew White, has three total receptions. Starting tight ends Brian Vogler and O.J. Howard have combined for just one reception.

While there’s been a lot to like about Sims and the new life Lane Kiffin has breathed into the offense, there’s still a lot of uncharted territory to be discovered. Kenyan Drake has shown flashes of Reggie Bush-like ability, Jalston Fowler has caught the ball a few times in his versatile H-back role and even young ArDarius Stewart has gotten somewhat involved. But none have been truly featured.

Howard, who has the ability to be a mismatch against any defense, simply hasn’t gotten the football. We’re waiting on an APB to be sent out on the All-America talent. He’s been thrown to once all season and it resulted in an interception. You could say he’s not worked to get himself open, but that’s a faulty argument because good coordinators find a way to get their best players the football in space. Sometimes that means setting a pick, dump it off into the flat or dialing up a screen pass. Howard is fast and athletic enough for any of those options.

Before Saturday’s win over Southern Miss, Saban insisted that Howard needed to be more involved in the offense. That obviously didn’t happen. Following Alabama’s 52-12 beat down, Saban reiterated the need for more playmakers to emerge.

“We need to get more people involved offensively,” he said. “Coop has had a great start, but we have other guys that are capable players. Chris Black dropped the ball tonight. He’s a capable playmaker. We need those guys to play and get confidence. Getting DeAndrew White back will help us. Christion Jones had four catches tonight. We need to get more guys involved.”

Ameer Abdullah makes his way

September, 16, 2014
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LINCOLN, Neb. -- When Ameer Abdullah arrived in the summer of 2011, an unheralded afterthought of a recruit, 5-foot-9 and 172 pounds soaking wet, bent on excelling in a conference loaded with bigger, heftier running backs, there were doubters. He was used to that.

People who judged him with a tape measure did so at their peril, as far as Abdullah was concerned. He found the negative feedback useful. It drove him to build his psyche, his body and his game, to try to be beyond athletic reproach.

Three years later, three games into the final season of a stellar college career, Abdullah has willed his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation. The 21-year-old from Homewood, Alabama, has shown he can grind out tough yards when needed, but he is most celebrated for his agility and elusiveness in the open field, for changes of direction that fake opposing players out of their socks, for magical spinning escapes from the clutches of would-be tacklers and afterburner accelerations into the end zone, all of which he displayed on a lightning-strike, game-winning, 58-yard pass play in the final minute two weekends ago against McNeese State.

[+] EnlargeAmeer Abdullah
AP Photo/Nati HarnikAmeer Abdullah is closing in on some hallowed marks at Nebraska.
Heading into Nebraska's home game Saturday against the University of Miami -- the first time the teams have met since the national championship in January 2002 -- Abdullah is closing in on Johnny Rodgers' school record of 5,586 all-purpose yards. It was a standard few imagined he would reach, but Abdullah has always drawn his own hashmarks.

Abdullah knows there is another measuring system out there that he can't control, one in which people size him up based solely on his Muslim faith and a name that does not allow him to hide. He navigates this invisible gantlet in a variety of ways, some less obvious than others.

A couple of minutes before every opening kickoff, Abdullah finds an empty spot on the Nebraska bench and faces east, toward the compass point he was taught to find as a little boy.

"I say a little prayer before every game, wishing myself, my teammates and the opposing teammates the best of luck, asking the Lord to help us use our talents just to glorify him [and] not to be selfish or self-motivated today, just to let our talents glorify him and keep us safe from injury, to allow us to go out and show everything we've worked for the week before," he said.

Players and staff wander by as he bows his head, some seemingly oblivious, some simply giving him space. The moment goes by in a blink and is hard to catch -- like him.

This quietly declarative act is crucial to Abdullah's sense of inner consistency, his desire to keep his balance in a world that can swipe and tug at his jersey.

"That's something very big to me: Be who you are all the time," he said.

To read more about Abdullah's climb to becoming one of the best running backs in college football all while staying true to himself and his religion, click here.

Wake uses Kim K. and Photoshop to recruit

September, 16, 2014
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It isn't entirely original. As Matt Fortuna detailed in this piece last week, schools have been using graphic design and creating fake magazine covers for a while now to amuse and impress recruits.

Just a few weeks ago, Tennessee created a Rolling Stone cover with Beyonce and Shy Tuttle, one of the Vols' top targets in this year's class.

But the one Wake Forest recently sent to Class of 2015 defensive end Kengera Daniel really caught our eye.



It's safe to say this wasn't the best Photoshop we've ever seen. And fans across the country will no doubt get a chuckle from the claim that the ACC is "the real power conference in college football."

And "KimGera?" Well, we're not sure what to make of that.

But it's not us the Demon Deacons were trying to impress. It's the 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior from Raleigh, North Carolina. And apparently it worked -- even though he has no idea how the Wake staff found out he's a fan of Kim Kardashian, whom they even dressed up in the Deacons' black and gold colors.

"It did impress," Daniel told ESPN.com. "But I haven't really told anyone I was a Kim K. fan. I guess they assume all guys are. But it's a cool edit."

Will it ultimately work? We'll find out Sept. 22. That's when Daniel said he'll release his top 5 finalists.
EUGENE, Ore. -- When Marcus Mariota went airborne last Saturday, diving into the end zone for a second-quarter score against Wyoming, it was as if everyone at Autzen Stadium held their breath.

That includes every Oregon player and coach, every Ducks fan, every bettor, every single person who has found himself/herself rooting for this quiet Heisman contender. For a few seconds, until Mariota got to his feet with his teammates, stomachs were churning.

As exciting as the play was and as happy as fans were to see another six points added to the scoreboard, all of it seemed minuscule when compared to one detail: Is Marcus OK?

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesMarcus Mariota doesn't play it safe, and that's a good thing for Oregon.
“You can’t really think about those types of things,” Mariota said of playing it safe. “Because that’s when you get hurt. My dad always told me that if you play with your mind worrying or cautious, then you play at half-speed and end up getting yourself hurt.”

It’s no secret: Oregon’s playoff hopes rest on Mariota’s shoulders ... even when they’re closer to the ground than his feet. And though the Ducks preach the mantra of every school, everywhere -- “backups need to come in and play like a starter” -- Oregon’s postseason dreams will be nonexistent if Mariota is sidelined due to injury. And fans need to look no further than last season to know that is a fact.

Many would like to enclose Mariota in bubble wrap, keeping him safe until they “need” him to make those kinds of plays later on down the road. They want his helmet to wear a helmet and for his Nike jersey to somehow deploy airbags when it senses possible injury within five yards.

But that’s not going to happen, though Phil Knight might be phoning in an idea to Nike manufacturers now.

But Mariota knows one fact: You don’t tiptoe the line toward a national title. It’s not exactly a game that welcomes those who bring fruit baskets and tap politely on the door asking to enter. No, it’s a game for the risk takers and those willing to lay it all on the line, which Mariota, if it wasn't evident before that dive, is certainly willing to do.

Especially this season, with no prior knowledge as to how exactly the committee will choose the four teams or which factors they will give the most weight, teams and players can’t leave anything to chance.

So, would Mariota make that flip again?

Yes. He would. Because he’s not playing it safe and no one should want that. If Oregon wins the title, no one will say it’s because Mariota played it safe until it “really mattered.” Because with this new playoff, no one knows exactly which detail matters. Thus, everything matters.

And so, Mariota throws caution to the wind and his body toward the end zone. And as nervous as it might make fans, coaches and teammates -- wide receiver Keanon Lowe said, “I hope he never does that again. Ever.” -- it’s how the Ducks need to play this season if they want to be in that group of four at the end of the season.

Mariota knows how to get there. Now, everyone needs to just trust his lead.

He has an innate playmaking ability that you just can’t coach. So coach Mark Helfrich certainly isn’t going to un-coach it.

“You can’t sit there and say, ‘Hey, don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t do this,’” Helfrich said. “The way that he plays, the dynamic nature of his play, how he likes to improvise -- that’s one of our biggest strengths.”

 “I’ll just let my instincts take over,” Mariota added. “It’s tough as a football player to kind of stop yourself from doing something.”

And so, one of Oregon’s biggest strengths will also be one of its fans’ biggest fears moving forward. Every time Mariota leaves the pocket or throws his body in harm’s way, every time he dives or hurdles, fans everywhere are going to hold their breath until they see their Flyin’ Hawaiian get back on his feet.

It’s the way Mariota wants to win the national title this season. And as much as a national title might mean to Fan X or Fan Y, it means more to Mariota.

He’s a smart player. Any risk he takes is one that’s going to be calculated. And, if he does get injured, then it will happen because it was a risk that he believed was worth it.

Isn’t that the kind of player you’d want to lead your team? Those are usually the kinds of players who are standing on the top of the podium or in the winner’s circle.

“You can’t squelch somebody’s gifts and the stuff that he does,” Helfrich said. “We can’t, we won’t ever approach offense with any kind of handcuffed mentality.”

What does that mean? Well, it means a lot more stomach-churning moments as Oregon fans wait for Mariota to climb from the bottom of the pile or stand and walk without a limp. It means some hesitance as folks let Mariota fly free. It means letting the player make the plays that he believes in.

Because at the end of the day, he’s driving this machine. And no one buys a Maserati to go 30 mph.

Certainly not Oregon.

Campaign Trail: South Carolina

September, 16, 2014
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Which teams will make the College Football Playoff? Ultimately, the selection committee will decide. Until then, there will be a lot of campaigning. Each week we'll unveil what we think one team's campaign message should be.

South Carolina is back in the College Football Playoff hunt after taking down Georgia, 38-35. Steve Spurrier continues to have the Dawgs' number, and his glee after the game was palpable. “Some wins are better than others,” said Spurrier. “This one was better than most others.” Spurrier has the Gamecocks back in the race for a conference and national championship, and that's a good thing for everyone.

South Carolina posterIllustration by Sam Ho

ECU looks to do it again vs. ACC

September, 16, 2014
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Ruffin McNeill has not approached East Carolina's rugged three-game nonconference stretch here as proving grounds. The fifth-year Pirates coach has always believed his teams belong with whoever they're playing, Power 5 program or not. They entered South Carolina two weeks ago intending to leave with a win, the same way they entered this past weekend at Virginia Tech, the same way they will approach a home tilt with North Carolina this Saturday.

"We did not go down thinking 'upset,'" McNeill told ESPN.com, referring to the loss to the Gamecocks. "We went down expecting to win, and that's saying it as humble as I can. And that's how much I believe in our staff and our team."

[+] EnlargeShane Carden
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsThrough three games this season, East Carolina senior QB Shane Carden has already thrown for 1,031 yards and seven touchdowns.
Such a mentality hardly hindered ECU last season during its 100-plus mile trip to Chapel Hill, as the Pirates had their way with the Tar Heels in a 55-31 rout. It helped earn them more notoriety nationally three days ago in Blacksburg, Virginia, as they jumped on the Hokies early and scored late for a 28-21 win.

This week? ECU is actually favored over in-state neighbor UNC, the first-year American Athletic Conference program looking to make it back-to-back wins against the Heels before it embarks on league play.

"Oh it's been brought up since we lost to them," UNC safety Tim Scott said. "For 365. Every day our coaches remind us if we don't come ready to play, they already showed us the results when we don't come to play and this year we're trying to make sure that doesn't happen again."

To do that, UNC needs to do what it couldn't do last season, and what few have been able to do since, including NC State late in 2013: Stop Shane Carden.

Carden accounted for six total touchdowns last season against the Heels, throwing for 376 yards. Saturday at Virginia Tech, he was responsible for all four ECU touchdowns and threw for 427 yards. The Houston native's rise has mirrored that of his staff's, each in their fifth years in Greenville.

With McNeill getting hired at ECU roughly two weeks before signing day, Carden appeared to be Stephen F. Austin-bound. Former Texas Tech quarterback B.J. Symons, who had played for the Red Raiders while McNeill was an assistant there, called McNeill about Carden, whose dad was Symons' wife's boss. Carden visited ECU, was intrigued by the idea of running an offense designed by Mike Leach proteges and signed with the Pirates a week later.

"He's always been pretty strong on the mental toughness, the leadership, being one of the guys, the guy that they can rally behind," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Lincoln Riley told ESPN.com. "Some of that can be taught, but some of that is natural, God-given ability. Sometimes people just follow people and you can't really nail down exactly why. Some people just have that presence about them, and Shane has that."

Carden's first career pass was picked off, at South Carolina in 2012. But he found his footing late that year, leading the Pirates to five wins in their final six regular-season games, during which they scored 42 points per game. Last season, Carden finished in the top-10 nationally of virtually every passing category, leading ECU to a 10-3 mark while making a leap that McNeill described as going from the quarterback of the offense to the quarterback of the team.

"He works every day like he's losing his job, and he works on his craft," said McNeill, who played defensive back at ECU from 1976-80. "The kids call him cap'n: C-A-P-apostrophe-N."

The 31-year-old Riley, meanwhile, has become one of the hottest names on the assistant coaching circuit, based largely off his work with Carden and before that with Michael Crabtree, whom he mentored when coaching receivers at Texas Tech.

Everything seems to be falling into place right now for ECU, which has one of its favorite sons ushering it into this new era in a new league.

"I'm beginning to see it come into fruition, because one thing with Coach (Steve) Spurrier and Coach (Frank) Beamer: They don't just win for a season, they win for seasons, and I would like to get our program where it's understood that we are going to be successful for seasons, not a season," McNeill said. "And the belief and commitment to the team and belief and commitment to our mission and vision -- it's very important that that is continued."

Another win Saturday over a bigger program from down the road would only further that progress, as it would make ECU 4-1 against the ACC in the past two years and serve notice to the rest of its new league brethren.

"You always hear about teams that went undefeated or only lost one game and everybody says, 'Who'd they play?' And they don't have anything to show for it," Carden said. "Well, ECU always has a chance to play these good teams and give us a chance to put our name in the mix with some big-name schools if we go out and win those games."
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Travin Dural had already learned a painful lesson about perspective during his LSU career, even before a late-night car wreck nine days ago placed him in the hospital with a head wound that required 13 stitches to close.

[+] EnlargeLSU's Travin Dural
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty ImagesTravin Dural had three catches for 151 yards and a touchdown against Wisconsin.
As a true freshman who seemed during preseason camp to be on track to contribute to the offense in 2012, Dural's knee buckled while trying to outjump cornerback Jalen Collins and make a catch in practice. The ACL tear he suffered on the play cost the Tigers' speedster a season, but he believes it spawned personal growth that has helped him since then, as it did in the aftermath of the wreck that occurred a few hours after LSU's 56-0 win against Sam Houston State on Sept. 6.

"I'd say that helped me out a lot," Dural said of the injury. "It showed that football isn't guaranteed. You've got to play every play like it's your last play. In fall camp, I was never thinking that I was going to get hurt, especially the way that I got hurt. I didn't get touched, I didn't get hit, my leg just snapped. So that showed me that football isn't always guaranteed and it made me grow up a lot."

Perhaps the experiences from Dural's lost 2012 season might also help him enjoy the success he's experiencing today. He entered last Saturday's 31-0 win against Louisiana-Monroe averaging a ridiculous 48.5 yards per catch, having scored four touchdowns -- including bombs of 94 and 80 yards -- in six catches.

As No. 8 LSU (3-0) prepares for its SEC opener against Mississippi State (3-0) on Saturday, Dural once again looks like the playmaker teammates expected him to become when he arrived on campus. He ranks second in the SEC with 370 receiving yards and is tied for first with four touchdown catches.

"I remember his freshman year when he came in, we knew he was going to be a great player because he was out there making unbelievable catches just like Jarvis [Landry] and Odell [Beckham]," senior running back Kenny Hilliard said. "He got hurt from there. But now he just has this little firepower that's in him and he's just been great."

Dural put a serious dent in his yards-per-catch average against ULM -- he finished the night with six grabs for 79 yards, lowering his average to only 30.8 yards per reception -- but that didn't seem to bother him much afterward.

"It doesn't matter. We got the win," Dural chuckled. "I'm going to just come out next week and try to make up for it, try to have a better game than this game."

In truth, Dural doesn't need to make up for anything. He played Saturday with the 13 stitches still in his forehead -- he waited until Sunday to have them removed – and still finished as the Tigers' most productive receiver for the third time in three games.

Through three games, Dural leads LSU in receptions (12, six more than John Diarse, the Tigers' next most-productive wideout), receiving yards (370, 254 more than Diarse) and touchdown catches (four, three more than Diarse and Malachi Dupre). LSU quarterbacks have targeted Dural with 21 passes, more than twice as many as the next receiver.

Perhaps instead of Dural making up for only getting 79 yards in a game, his fellow receivers need to get on his level, helping LSU's passing game become something other than the Dural-or-bust show that it has mostly been to date.

But just as the third-year sophomore is one of the leaders in the Tigers' receivers meeting room -- partially a product of his personality and partially because of his status as by far the most experienced player in the room -- he has also become their most reliable pass-catcher.

"He's the highest on the totem pole, and sometimes I go to him because in the room, he's the only person that really played last year," Diarse said. "We look up to Travin. He has the most game experience, he knows what the defense looks like, he knows what the corners look like, so we go to him."

He's also one of the most explosive players on the LSU offense. An ACL injury can be particularly scary for a player who relies on speed the way that Dural, a state champion sprinter in high school, does at receiver. But through hard work during the grueling rehab process, Dural is once again a dangerous deep-ball threat -- as he proved last season while catching the game-winning touchdown in the closing moments against Arkansas, or when he blazed past the Wisconsin and SHSU secondaries this season for long-scoring catches.

As Dural mentioned, he certainly understands how playing sports is a volatile activity where a freak occurrence can take it away at any moment. But he has made plenty out of his opportunities so far in 2013, once Landry and Beckham's early exits for the NFL gave him the chance to become LSU's No. 1 wideout.

"I know he's not one of those guys who gets complacent," Diarse said after practice last week. "He was out here pushing me today at practice: 'Hey man, you've got to make that catch' or 'You've got to get out of that break faster.' Because we all need each other, and I'm happy to see him finally achieve what he's been working for."

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