NCF Nation: USC

The financial penalties levied against Penn State on Monday morning are clear, but the true cost to the university and football program won’t be known for some time.

The NCAA penalized the school $60 million, among other sanctions. The Big Ten followed suit by announcing that it will donate Penn State’s portion of conference bowl revenue over the next four years to charity, which amounts to a projected $13 million.

On an annual basis, the school looks to lose about $15 million over the periods laid out in the NCAA (five years) and Big 10 penalties (four years). While that is a big number, it’s a number Penn State can absorb if the past is any indicator.

The athletic department had a surplus of $31.6 million in 2010-11, according to Penn State’s financial report filed with the Department of Education. For 2009-10, a surplus of $26.4 million was tallied; it was $19.5 million in 2008-09. Penn State is not subject to public disclosure laws with regards to its athletic department finances, so it’s tough to estimate how much the department has in reserve to assist in paying the penalty.

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Matt Barkley's plan usually works out

March, 6, 2012
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US PresswireQuarterback Matt Barkley smiles at the end of USC's 50-0 win over UCLA last season.


Other quarterbacks have chosen to stay in school when they stood to be prominent NFL Draft picks, as quarterback Matt Barkley has done at USC.

Let's take a statistical snapshot of recent examples to forego the NFL Draft for one more year in the college ranks.

Peyton Manning, Tennessee
Manning still ended up as the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft after returning to Tennessee for his senior season in 1997.

The Vols won the SEC Championship, beating Auburn, 30-29 before losing to Nebraska, 42-17 in the Orange Bowl. They finished No. 7 in the final AP poll.

Matt Leinart, USC

After winning a national title as a junior, Leinart returned for a memorable campaign in 2005, but one that floundered on a couple fronts.

A year after winning the Heisman Trophy, Leinart finished third in the balloting. His Trojans fell short of a second straight undefeated season and national championship, losing to Texas and quarterback Vince Young in a classic game.

Leinart ended up being selected 10th by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2006 NFL Draft and has not yet flourished at the level he did in college.

Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

After winning the Heisman Trophy and losing the national championship game to a Tim Tebow-led Florida team, Bradford returned for his junior year at Oklahoma. It did not go as planned.
Bradford suffered a shoulder injury in the Sooners first game of the season, then re-injured his shoulder upon returning to face Texas.

Bradford sat out the remainder of the season, then declared for the NFL Draft. He was taken by the St. Louis Rams with the No. 1 pick, and he has thrown for 24 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in two NFL seasons.

Andrew Luck, Stanford
Luck tested his luck by staying in school for his senior season in 2011, and the decision worked out well.

The Cardinal went 11-2 in Luck’s senior season, finishing No. 7 in the national rankings after a 41-38 loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Luck is expected to be taken No. 1 in this year’s NFL Draft.
Brian Kelly was asked Sunday about the growth of his defense since Notre Dame's loss last season to Navy, which utilized the triple-option offense to run for four touchdowns and 367 yards -- including 210 from Alexander Teich -- in a 35-17 rout by the Midshipmen.

"You know, I think the Navy game was schematic more than it was kids not understanding how to play the right kind of defense," Kelly said. "So if you look at that as not about our players, I think we've showed steady improvement since last year. I think it's continuously been better and better defensive play leading up to where we are right now.

[+] EnlargeAsher Clark
AP Photo/Luis M. AlvarezAsher Clark is averaging 9.3 yards per carry for Air Force this season.
"We still have a ways to go. But I will tell you this, that it's tough to run the ball on us, and that's where you wanna start. So our starting point was, be difficult to run the ball on, and then let's continue to improve in the back end."

After that loss last Oct. 23, the Fighting Irish did not allow another 100-yard rusher over their last five games and gave up just one touchdown run, a 1-yard sneak by USC quarterback Mitch Mustain. Over their last four games, Notre Dame did not allow so much as a 50-yard rusher.

Only one player has rushed for more than 100 yards against the Irish since their loss to Navy, and that was Denard Robinson in Week 2 of this season. Robinson's 16-carry, 108-yard effort on the ground Sept. 10 is just as notable for another number Shoelace put up that night: One, as in the number of rushing touchdowns he scored. As in the only rushing touchdown Notre Dame has allowed this season.

And even that could be considered a fluke, as Robinson simply scooped up the ball and took it in for a 1-yard score after Irish safety Harrison Smith jarred it from Michigan running back Stephen Hopkins.

In allowing just one score on the ground this year, Notre Dame is tied for the nation lead with four other schools. The Irish have allowed just 91.2 yards per game on the ground this season, good for 19th nationally.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that this Saturday's contest against Air Force and its triple-option offense should be a fascinating test of execution on each side of the ball.

The Falcons' 364.5 rushing yards per game are good for third in the nation. Only seven teams have scored more than Air Force's 15 rushing touchdowns, but six of them have played five games to the Falcons' four.

The challenge could be all the more difficult if defensive end Ethan Johnson cannot play. Johnson, a two-year starter, suffered a right ankle sprain in Saturday's 38-10 win at Purdue, and Kelly would only say that there's a chance he could return this weekend.

"We'll immobilize him for the next few days and then get him moving and see," the second-year coach said. "It's one of those things where it's such an individual case-by-case situation when it comes to ankles, so he'll be immobilized.

"Last night he was in a boot. He'll stay in that until probably mid-week and then we'll start moving him and see what he looks like."

If Johnson can't go, Aaron Lynch will likely get the start. Known for his ability to rush the passer, Lynch saw more action Saturday after fellow freshman Stephon Tuitt did not make the trip to West Lafayette, Ind., because of a violation of Kelly's missed-class policy.

Kelly said after the game he expected Tuitt back, but neither Tuitt nor Lynch played Week 2 at Michigan because of the complex offense the Wolverines and, more specifically, Robinson, ran.

In any event, it makes this week's contest all the more important, one that can't be overlooked with a bye week and USC looming afterward.
1. Protecting the ball makes for smooth sailing: It seemed like we'd never see the day Notre Dame went 60 minutes without a turnover, but Saturday changed that.

[+] EnlargeCierre Wood
AP Photo/AJ MastNotre Dame's Cierre Wood is 42nd in the nation in rush yards per game at 89.8.
The Fighting Irish eclipsed the 500-yard mark for the third time this season, but won while crossing that plateau for the first time, as they were doomed by five-turnover performances in Weeks 1 and 2. Saturday was huge for the offense, particularly Tommy Rees, who eliminated many of the befuddling miscues that had Irish fans calling for a new quarterback after his first three and a half games under center. Now, for the first time all season, we can no longer say Notre Dame leads the nation in turnovers or has the worst turnover margin. (The first honor belongs to East Carolina, with 17. The latter is shared by East Carolina, Iowa State and Western Kentucky, at minus-2.00).

2. The rush defense is for real: Notre Dame had another dominating performance up front Saturday, limiting the Big Ten's second-ranked rushing offense to 84 yards on 27 carries. This came two weeks after the Irish allowed just 29 rushing yards against Michigan State and one week after holding Pitt's Ray Graham to 89 yards, something that looks like more of an accomplishment after Graham exploded for 226 yards Thursday against South Florida.

3. Special teams need to improve. Still: Brian Kelly said Saturday that he didn't want to sound like sour milk when listing what his team could have done better, but the Irish did leave points on the board. David Ruffer, a 2010 Lou Groza Award finalist, missed two field goals. And the punt return experiment once again looked like just that -- an experiment. John Goodman netted minus-3 yards on two returns and, in a real head-scratcher, watched one ball sail over his head and roll for a 61-yard punt in the first quarter.

4. Penalties still need clearing up: This one gets overshadowed because the Irish didn't turn the ball over, won by 28 points and saw their opponent commit an astounding 13 penalties for 118 yards. But Notre Dame itself committed eight penalties for 85 yards, including an ugly one when long snapper Jordan Cowart got tangled up with several Purdue players on a second-quarter punt. Mental lapses such as these are forgivable against the Boilermakers, not so much against USC or Stanford.

Irish recruiting update

September, 29, 2011
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Things have been relatively quiet on the Notre Dame recruiting front the past two weeks with the Fighting Irish away from home. And they will likely stay that away until the week of Oct. 16, the Sunday before the Irish host USC at night.

For now, it's worth taking a look at what other potential Notre Dame prospects are doing in their time before then.

William Mahone, the highly touted four-star running back from Austintown Fitch (Ohio) High School, will be joining prep teammates Demitrious and Chris Davis at Heinz Field tonight for Pitt's game against South Florida, according to our guy Jared Shanker.

Shanker says this is the last shot for Pitt to make a strong impression on Mahone, who will likely choose between the Panthers, the Irish and Michigan State. The Davis twins have already committed to Pitt.

Still, Shanker said, it would be surprising if Mahone didn't end up in South Bend, Ind. He visited Sept. 17 for the Irish's win against the Spartans, and he liked it so much that he is paying his own way back for the Irish's Oct. 22 game against the Trojans.

Until then, however, don't expect much movement from a Notre Dame 2012 recruiting class 15-deep, one that moved up two spots to 11th overall in the nation in ESPN's latest rankings, released Wednesday.
PITTSBURGH -- An early wake-up call in the Steel City gave way to 17 total penalties, two more head-scratching Tommy Rees turnovers, a missed field goal and, perhaps most fitting, 666 combined yards of offense.

[+] EnlargeGray
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicNotre Dame running back Jonas Gray, center, celebrates with teammates Tyler Eifert, left, and Braxston Cave after his 79-yard touchdown run against Pittsburgh.
But Irish coach Brian Kelly and his team were more focused on Notre Dame 15, Pitt 12, the luck of the Irish turning after two mind-boggling defeats to open the season.

"It was a tough, blue-collar kind of day, and that's what was required of everybody, and that's what we got from our team," Kelly said, "enough to get the win and get outta here."

That result is all that matters for a Fighting Irish team that has churned out far prettier performances in early-season losses. Notre Dame put up more than 500 yards of offense in two straight weeks, outgained South Florida by a 2-to-1 margin, and held a 17-point lead entering the fourth quarter at Michigan.

And Notre Dame (2-2) lost both games.

On Saturday at Heinz Field, Rees fumbled deep in his own territory, leading to three points for the Panthers (2-2). He lofted a ball to the end zone that was easily picked off by Andrew Taglianetti. And Irish WR Michael Floyd, arguably the nation's best wideout, had just four catches for 27 yards, his worst statistical performance since his freshman campaign three years ago.

"It's not gonna be an instant classic," Kelly said, "but it certainly is, from a football standpoint -- games that you have to win on the road. And you're gonna be presented with some of these kinds of closely fought, last drive, come-up-with-a-big-stop-or-a-big-conversion [games], and that's what we saw today."

Like Floyd's aggressive downfield blocking on Jonas Gray's 79-yard touchdown run, the lone highlight of a rugged first half for the Irish offense.

Or the five times Notre Dame sacked Pitt QB Tino Sunseri, making him earn every one of his 22 completions and 165 passing yards.

And, of course, Rees' second-to-last drive, when he completed all eight of his passes after a rough 15-of-32 start and marched the Irish 85 yards on 11 plays to give them the lead with 6:48 to go.

"Like all the guys say, an ugly win is better than a pretty loss," Rees said. "So a win's a win, and on the road against a good Pittsburgh team here, that's all we can ask for, is coming out with a win."

Rees can thank Kelly's faith in him for that, along with the sure hands of tight end Tyler Eifert, who finished with a game-high eight catches for 75 yards, including three consecutive catches covering the final 27 yards on the go-ahead drive. His 6-yard touchdown grab capped the drive, and he also caught the two-point conversion.

And Rees can thank some of the little things Kelly pointed to afterward -- a potential saving tackle here, a few big plays by freshmen there, an ability to prove it can end up on the right end of one of these close contests.

"I think one of the key plays in the game was Prince Shembo running down Ray Graham, great hustle," Kelly said, recalling Graham's 42-yard first-quarter burst that looked like it could go all the way. "And I guess all those little illustrations are what I like about the team. They keep battling, they play every single play, sometimes maybe not as good as we would like, but it's a group that's learning. Had the big sack, Stephon Tuitt the end of the game there was huge, moved them back after they challenged the play. And some young guys getting in there are making plays for us."

This was supposed to be a breather after a gauntlet of an opening schedule, one that left the Irish with a 1-2 record and plenty of question marks given their perplexing performances.

Notre Dame wasn't supposed to face a serious challenge again until next month against USC, and after Saturday's win Kelly was asked what to make of his squad one-third of the way through its season.

"I told you this many a times, I like the way we compete," he said. "I'd like to have won 37-0 too, but you know what? Winning's winning. It's not easy. You go on the road against a BCS team and limit them to 12 points, and find a way to win, I like that development. We're developing an expectation with our guys that in a close game we're gonna win, and those are good dynamics.

"So we put this one behind us and, believe it or not, we have expectations that we wanna win every game."

Notre Dame's last game of September was an ugly start toward fulfilling that prophecy, but it was a start nonetheless. And after the way this month began, the Irish will surely take it.

Irish recruiting update

September, 22, 2011
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If two straight losses to start the season didn't hurt Notre Dame in recruiting, a convincing win against the defending co-Big Ten champions had to have helped, right?

The Fighting Irish walked away from Saturday with win No. 1, 2012 commit No. 15 and 2013 verbal No. 1.

Chris Brown, a three-star receiver out of Hanahan (S.C.) High School, became the Irish's third receiver to join the Class of 2012. The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder is ranked as the 58th best wideout in his class and runs a 4.44 40. He committed Sunday.

Steve Elmer, meanwhile, will add some meat to Notre Dame's offensive line two years from now. He became the Irish's first commit for the Class of 2013 before their 31-13 win against Michigan State on Saturday. The 6-foot-6, 305-pound tackle from Midland (Mich.) High School is one of the top prospects from Michigan in his class. According to our guy Jared Shanker, it would take a major meltdown in South Bend over the next two seasons for the big fella to change his mind.

The only thing missing from this past weekend might have been a commitment from William Mahone, but good things might be on the horizon. Shanker said Mahone, a four-star running back out of Austintown-Fitch (Ohio) High School, loved his visit to Notre Dame so much Saturday that he will pay his way back for the Irish's Oct. 22 primetime showdown against USC.

That weekend will be a huge one for Notre Dame on the recruiting front, especially since it has only one more home game, Oct. 8 against Air Force, before then. Don't be surprised if things are a little quiet for the next month. The week leading up to the Irish's game against the Trojans, however, should be a busy one.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Michael Floyd got up from his news conference Wednesday, grabbed his hip and looked at a nearby Notre Dame official.

"I'm getting old, man," the senior wide receiver said as he walked out of the Isban Auditorium inside Notre Dame's Guglielmo Athletics Complex.

[+] EnlargeMichael Floyd
AP Photo/Tony DingMichael Floyd has 31 catches for 397 yards this season -- averaging nearly 13 yards per reception.
Whatever discomfort Floyd felt likely had more to do with sitting down for nearly 12 full minutes than anything else. Three games into his senior season, Floyd has been moved all over the field, giving defenses different looks as he blitzes past the Fighting Irish career receiving records and climbs up the ladder of elite wideouts in the nation.

Floyd's 397 receiving yards trail only Washington State's Marquess Wilson (429 yards) for most in the nation. And his 31 catches are just two behind national leader Robert Woods of USC.

Floyd admitted that being looked at as the best receiver in the country has served as motivation, but he is trying not to look too far ahead with nine games remaining.

"I think about it all the time, but it's early in the season and I think I can get better as the season goes on," Floyd said. "Just gotta make sure I keep a level head and don't make mistakes, and improve on the things that I need to the most."

What he has improved on so far is what head coach Brian Kelly calls "the nuances of being a wide receiver" -- blocking, getting more physical and even adding more elements to his speed.

"We've moved him around a lot, as you know," Kelly said. "He's been in virtually every position. His knowledge base of being able to pick up so many different positions has probably been, I would say, the biggest jump for him. I'm really, really impressed with his burst. He didn't have that burst last year. This year when he turns the corner, he's got a burst to him. So I think those are the two things that stand out."

Floyd said that next level of quickness off the ball has come with losing weight during the offseason.

To elevate his game another level, however, he won't be watching his peers across the country.

"I don't really learn from college football players," Floyd said. "I tend to watch NFL most because they're the kind of guys who made it to the highest level.

"But when I look at players from that level, I look at little guys. So I feel like you can get the most information from the little guys -- quick feet, just being able to get off the ball."

What we learned about Notre Dame: Week 3

September, 18, 2011
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1. These guys can rush: Aaron Lynch set the tone early by sacking Kirk Cousins and forcing a fumble. The defense continued the assault all day long, getting to Cousins time and time again and rendering the Spartans' run game moot.

2. Special teams can make all the difference: George Atkinson III's kickoff return for a score made it 14-3 early and the Irish never looked back. The return came after MSU's first scoring drive and gave Notre Dame plenty of momentum and distance the rest of the way.

3. Turnovers need to be curtailed: Three turnovers are still too many. Tommy Rees, at 19, is still growing as a quarterback and will make mistakes, but senior John Goodman's fumble of a punt return deep in his own territory could have been costly if not for Blanton's pick three plays later. Three is better than five, and the Irish have at least showed they're capable of bouncing back from mistakes by not letting up against MSU on Saturday. But at some point the bleeding has to stop.

4. Don't look now, but the Irish could be in business: The Irish should be favored in every game moving forward except for the final one, at Stanford. For now, they can focus on a Pitt team that looked more vulnerable Saturday than the Irish themselves through the first two weeks, as the Panthers blew a 21-point lead to Iowa in a 31-27 loss. Purdue and Air Force follow for Notre Dame before its bye, after which it will host rival USC in its first home night game in 21 years.
Tommy ReesRobin Alam/Icon SMITommy Rees will start when the Irish take on Michigan in the first-ever night game at the Big House.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Before he could lead a group of older teammates into Yankee Stadium, and before he could quarterback the first Notre Dame team to win at USC in a decade, Tommy Rees had to go 78 yards in 3 minutes, 26 seconds at Libertyville High School.

Only a high school sophomore at the time, Rees took his Lake Forest teammates 77 yards, enough to set up a game-tying field goal before his game-winning touchdown pass clinched a 23-20 overtime victory, knocking the hosts out of the playoffs.

"He put the team on his back," Lake Forest coach Chuck Spagnoli recalled. "That's probably my biggest memory of him."

The stage has gotten slightly bigger in the four years since, as Rees finds himself directing Notre Dame into a Michigan Stadium that is expected to host the biggest crowd in college football history Saturday night.

For a kid who grew up in a football family, the situation is hardly daunting.

Rees' father, Bill, spent 17 years as an assistant with Northwestern and UCLA before working for four NFL teams. His older brother Danny played at UCLA.

"This kid was at Rose Bowl games when he was young," Spagnoli said. "He's been around high levels of football as a youngster, so I don't know that stadiums really intimidate him. He was on the sidelines when he was 10 years old at NFL games, so he's probably got an advantage growing up in that environment."

That shows during preparation in the film room, where tight end Tyler Eifert says a lot of players don't initially know what exactly they're looking for.

That wasn't the case with Rees.

"I think a lot of the quarterbacks see film differently than other people," Eifert said. "He just sees the whole defense as a whole instead of just looking at one guy or end up watching the offense, actually, instead of watching the defense."

Offensive coordinator Charley Molnar said Rees broke down every play from the first half of the Fighting Irish's loss to South Florida flawlessly -- all the more striking since Rees didn't take a snap until the third quarter.

"I think he's got a real innate sense about the game of football," Molnar said. "He has some real football intelligence that other players just don't have, and that's just a product I think of him growing up in a football family, No. 1.

"No. 2 is he's a gym rat, as we say. He spends the time watching film, watching himself and really, really trying to be the best football player that he can be. He loves football, and that's obvious by the way he practices and the way he plays."

But it's less obvious by his stature. Spagnoli remembers the first time he met Rees, then an 11-year-old whose dad brought him to practice to watch Danny in his sophomore year under Spagnoli.

"Just a little guy with freckles," Spagnoli recalled. "I wasn't going, 'Oh my god, this is the future.' He was just a little kid at the time."

At a less-than-imposing 6-foot-2 and 193 pounds when he enrolled at Notre Dame in the spring of 2010, Rees hardly made a first impression on unsuspecting teammates.

Said Eifert: "He was the dork. I was the lanky, tall kid."

But the dork soon showed his heart, Michael Floyd said, taking hits in the pocket and instilling confidence in the offense with his unflappability.

"It's kind of weird," Floyd said. "Kind of different just knowing coming from high school and to playing elite college football. Kind of surprising that a freshman quarterback can do that."

Added Brian Kelly: "His FBI, his football intelligence, was really good early on. He had to physically develop. As I've said before, he looked like a high school student -- I guess he was, he was a high school student. He physically needed to develop, but mentally I thought he was well beyond his years."

Still, Rees' teammates never miss a chance to rag on his demeanor when the opportunity arises.

Take Tuesday, when Cierre Wood told reporters that Rees dresses like a bum, a line that made its way to teammates.

"They hit that dead-on," Braxston Cave said. "You always see him in like a raggedy sweatshirt and some shorts and just hanging out. That's just Tommy."

Rees was met with ridicule upon entering the locker room the next day.

"We were in the cold tub and someone was like, 'Man, you do look like a bum,'" Cave said. "So we were kind of giving him crap for that."

Cave said Rees off the field is one of the least serious people he's ever met. That thick skin will serve him well under the lights at the Big House as he gets another shot at the team that ruined his debut last season.

Replacing a woozy Dayne Crist in the first quarter of that contest, Rees had his first career pass intercepted in an eventual loss.

"A 'Welcome to College Football' moment," he said, adding: "Since that moment I haven't really looked back, so that probably has helped me in the long run."

A year, an initiation and a full-time job later, Rees is tasked with turning roughly 114,000 opposing fans and a prime-time audience into believers.

Even if he catches most of them off guard.

"He's unassuming, but at the same time you better be careful of what you can't see," Spagnoli said. "This guy -- I won't say he's a shark or anything like that -- he's pretty much what you see except one thing: He cares.

"He really has been around it a long enough time that he understands the implications of when he doesn't succeed as a quarterback."

No Heisman winner for 2005

September, 15, 2010
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After Reggie Bush decided to give back his Heisman Trophy, the Heisman Trophy Trust announced today there would be no winner for 2005. So that means runner-up Vince Young will not be given the trophy.

Here is the official statement from the Heisman Trust:
"The Heisman Trophy Trust is a charitable entity whose mission is to ensure the continuation and integrity of the Heisman Trophy; to foster a sense of community responsibility; and to help service the disadvantaged and afflicted youth of our country.

"The Trustees of the Trust have been monitoring the NCAA investigation of Reggie Bush and USC since first announced. We determined that no action was necessary by the Trust unless and until the NCAA acted and issued its report. Since the issuance of the NCAA decision vacating USC’s 2005 season and declaring Reggie Bush an ineligible athlete, the Trustees have met, discussed and reviewed all information underlying this decision in an effort to exercise the due diligence and due process required of any decision regarding the awarding of the 2005 Heisman Trophy.

"We are very appreciative of the respect Reggie Bush demonstrated for the Heisman Trust, the whole Heisman fraternity and the continuing legacy of the Trophy in his public statement issued September 14, 2010. It was a difficult decision to return the Heisman Trophy and he exhibited great character in acknowledging his mistakes and accepting the consequences. We intend to explore further his offer to support jointly 'an educational program which will assist student athletes and their families' to avoid the pitfalls that plagued him during his college years as this is a part of our charitable mission as well.

"As a result of Reggie Bush's decision to forfeit his title as Heisman winner of 2005, the Trustees have determined that there will be no Heisman Trophy winner for the year 2005."
Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz took a vicious hit late in the third quarter against USC last week, but is expected to play Saturday against Army, coach Greg McMackin said.

Moniz was hit by linebacker Michael Morgan after a 13-yard scramble down to the USC 5 yard-line and looked woozy when he got up Thursday night. He missed the remainder of the game, and also sat out practice Saturday. No penalty was called on the play, as it appeared Morgan did not intentionally try to hit him in the head. But McMackin sent tape of the hit into the league office for an explanation about why no flag was thrown.

"I don’t think the USC kid did it intentionally. He’s just playing football," McMakin said on the WAC conference call. "We just want to get things, we’d like to understand how the officials saw it."

As for Moniz, he was having a terrific game before he went out, going 18-of-36 for 269 yards and a touchdown. McMackin said Moniz showed no concussion symptoms afterward, but doctors have been monitoring him.

"I see him playing," McMackin said. "The doctors are looking at him every day. His health is really important to us ... they’ve been watching him."

Even with Moniz out of the game, his backups picked up right where he left off. Shane Austin went 6-of-9 for 141 yards and two touchdowns, and Brent Rausch was 3-of-4 for 49 yards.

Hawaii faces the start of a 13-day cross-country road trip starting this week as it heads to West Point, the farthest game east for the Warriors in school history. The team will leave for the East Coast on Tuesday night and arrive in New Jersey on Wednesday morning. The Warriors will then practice there before doing a walk-through at Army. When the teams kick off Saturday, it will be 6 a.m. Hawaii time.

After the game, Hawaii heads to Las Vegas, where it will stay for the week before playing at Colorado on Sept. 18. The entire trip will cover more than 11,000 miles.

McMackin is not too concerned, considering his team practices in the morning.

"We're used to traveling," McMackin said. "Our guys, they’re very disciplined and they do a very good job of it. It’s a challenge we’ll just have to take care of."
Here are a couple of non-AQ scheduling notes:

Utah State will play at USC in 2013, and has a four-game series set with Wyoming. The game at USC will be played Sept. 21, 2013, the first matchup between the schools since 1989. The Aggies are 0-4 all-time against USC.

The Wyoming series begins Oct. 8, 2011 in Logan. The Aggies will play at Wyoming on Sept. 13, 2014 before hosting the Cowboys on Sept. 19, 2015 and then returning to Laramie on Sept. 10, 2016.

Buffalo added Tennessee and Georgia to its non-conference slate. The Bulls announced Thursday that they will play at Neyland Stadium on Oct. 1, 2011, and will open the 2012 season at Sanford Stadium on Sept. 1, 2012. Buffalo's only other game against an SEC team came in 2006 against Auburn. The game against Tennessee was officially announced after it was reported the Bulls would replace North Carolina on the Vols' slate to help ease the difficulty of the schedule.

Best opening weekend games

August, 16, 2010
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Today we gave you 20 games to watch this season. Three from opening weekend made the Top 20 list. But there are several others that just missed the cut:

USC at Hawaii, Sept. 2. We have got to know how Lane Kiffin does in his opener with the Trojans, right? So much melodrama has followed this program since Kiffin took over, you can bet he and his players will be thrilled to start playing games -- even though they are ineligible for postseason play. We will get to see what strides QB Matt Barkley has taken, and take a look at the retooled Monte Kiffin defense. USC freshman RB Dillon Baxter won’t be there -- he is suspended for violating team rules.

LSU vs. North Carolina, Sept. 4. Huge game for both teams ranked in the bottom portion of the Top 25. Both teams have great defenses but mediocre offenses. There are some high expectations for North Carolina this season. If the Tar Heels can open with a win against a top-quality SEC team, their confidence will no doubt grow.

Purdue at Notre Dame, Sept. 4. Two intriguing storylines here -- Brian Kelly makes his debut as Irish coach with high expectations and plenty of pressure. We’ll see how his new offense looks with Dayne Crist under center. Michael Floyd could have a tremendous season. For Purdue, Miami transfer Robert Marve makes his debut. If Marve has a good season, the Boilermakers could surprise.

Connecticut at Michigan, Sept. 4. When the Huskies were put on the schedule, a faction of Michigan fans scoffed. But the Huskies come into the Big House with a shot at winning the game. The Michigan defense has been atrocious and is lacking depth in the secondary. The specter of NCAA sanctions loom above the program as well. Could this be the last season opener Rich Rodriguez coaches with the Wolverines?

Washington at BYU, Sept. 4. Steve Sarkisian returns to his alma mater with a quarterback who would fit right in at BYU. Jake Locker is receiving early Heisman and NFL draft buzz. Meanwhile, the Cougars have quite the opposite situation at quarterback, where Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson are competing for the starting job. If coach Bronco Mendenhall doesn’t have his mind made up before the opener, watch for both to play.

Of course, the following weekend is shaping up to be even better, with Michigan-Notre Dame, Florida State-Oklahoma, Miami-Ohio State, Penn State-Alabama, Oregon-Tennessee and Stanford-UCLA all on the schedule.
1. One thing to keep in mind as you consider your fantasy draft for the Big Ten and the Pac-10: Whichever schools are invited have to be able to bring financial value equal to what the league members get now. Big Ten schools get $22 million apiece in their current TV contract. Are there three schools out there that can bring $66 million with them? Five schools worth $110 million. If not, why would the Big Ten members expand if their slice of the pie gets smaller?
2. While Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich recovered from cancer last fall, freshman Luke Kuechly stepped in and made 158 tackles, more than double any other Eagle. He also made All-ACC. “He made things easier for us,” Kuechly, who turned 19 on Tuesday, said of Herzlich. “He’s never let what he’s going through get in the way of helping other people.” Imagine what could happen if Herzlich and Kuechly play alongside each other this fall.
3. Reggie Bush’s reported settlement of a lawsuit against him by a former marketer means that the NCAA won’t hear the former Trojans star being grilled in a legal setting as it considers the USC enforcement case. That also means that the NCAA should give its verdict soon. The hearing ended more than two months ago. Remember, the NCAA went through an unusually large amount of evidence even without Bush’s deposition. Bush or no, I still think the Trojans should be nervous.

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