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Iloka backs Steelers’ Mitchell, defends Smith-Schuster hit

Published: Thursday, December 07, 2017 @ 3:57 PM

Iloka says NFL made right decision

Finally, something the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers can agree on.

One day after having his suspension overturned by the NFL and saying “they made the right decision,” Bengals safety George Iloka concurred with comments made by Steelers safety Mike Mitchell on Wednesday.

“I personally think, like Mike said, if you start suspended guys for that, the league is going to turn into a brand of football in which, if you’re worried about losing viewers, you’ll lose a lot more,” Iloka said. “Fines. Understandable. Repeat offenders. Understandable. Plays away from the ball, off ball incidents, post-whistle kind of things. OK, all right. Those might warrant suspensions if deemed unreasonable.

“But on-ball kind of plays, which are football plays, to suspend for that is going to set a bad precedent to where guys are just going to pull up and give away things,” Iloka added. “I’m not a betting man, but I can guarantee you next if will be Vegas complaining, talking about they’re throwing these games and things like that.”

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Iloka pointed to the play where William Jackson stopped short of hitting Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell because he appeared to be heading out of bounds, only to watch him to stay in bounds and score a 35-yard touchdown.

“That, to me, I would turn off football to see plays like that,” he said. “(Jackson)told you legit, ‘I was scared of getting a personal foul.’”

Iloka said the hit he originally was suspended for is a football play and took exception to the suggestion it was in response to the hit JuJu Smith-Schuster delivered against Vontaze Burfict, resulting in the Bengals linebacker leaving the field strapped to a backboard on a cart.

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The Smith-Schuster hit, which Iloka defended, also drew a one-game suspension that will be served Sunday after the rookie receiver’s appeal was denied.

“I heard people say it was for retaliation,” Iloka said. “No. Not the case. There’s just 3 minutes and some change left and they’re going for a tie. He throws the ball into a tight window and I tried to make a play. Whether it be a random team like the Detroit Lions, the Steelers, the Browns, anybody, just take away my name, take away the receiver, take away the team names, that’s what you want each player to do in that situation.

“You expect the quarterback to throw into a tight window,” he continued. “You expect the receiver to go up for the catch. And you expect the safety to try to draw the ball free. Period. Just take away the names. It’s not that deep. It was a football play. Just like JuJu’s was a football play. It’s just obviously like they said and a lot of people said, no one agrees with him standing over someone that’s hurt. But football plays are football plays, and this game is violent. We know that.”

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Mitchell defended Iloka on Twitter after the suspension was announced, saying he’s not a dirty player. Iloka and Mitchell work out together in the offseason and talk at times during the season.

Iloka said he didn’t think Mitchell was defending him so much as he was sticking up for the game they play and love.

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“He obviously understands the position we’re in week in and week out,” Iloka said. “I think he’s just speaking for the future of the game. I’m going to be in that position five more times this next game, and the game after that. That’s the position we’re in as safeties. Quarterbacks are going to throw into tight windows and you’ll be in that situation a lot. It feels like what am I supposed to do? What would you want your safety on your team to do? Just concede us a touchdown?

“That’s not how anybody should want the game to be,” he added. “Not a fan, not a coach and not a player. Period. I think that’s what (Mitchell) sees. He’s like man, if you’re suspended after football plays, what are we doing? We’re not playing football anymore. It’s just flag football. If you want a flag, go to your local college intramural league, not what we’re doing here.”

Scott Frost’s Year 1 goal: Don’t just bring wins back to Nebraska — bring pride back, too

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 9:06 AM

Scott Frost’s résumé says .500 feels like a bit of a low bar for 2018, all things considered, Bristol be damned. Although if you want to splash cold water on that endorphin high you’ve been on since the first week of December, take a gander at the roadies on Nebraska’s dance card this fall:

Sept. 22: at Michigan

Oct. 6: at Wisconsin

Nov. 3: at Ohio State

Nov. 4: at Iowa

Fun, right? It’s the first time as a member of The Delany 12 14 that the Cornhuskers have been handed visits to Ann Arbor and Columbus in the same itinerary. Throw in joyrides to Madison and Iowa City, plus Colorado (Sept. 8) and Michigan State (Nov. 17) at home, and, yes, Virginia — 13-0 right out of the chute looks like a bit of a reach.

So where do we draw a fair line or Scott Frost, Year 1, given that what’s old is new, and what’s new is everywhere — coach, staff, system, philosophy, quarterback, the lot? 7-5? 8-4? Does ESPN have it right at 6-6?

“I don’t put a number on it,” former Huskers rush end Chad Kelsay, a 1998 co-captain, a former Frost teammate and member of the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017, told Land of 10 this week.

“You have a lot of people talk about it. I think, just from a perspective of a former player, [Frost’s] focus, at least through all the talk and interviews since he’s been there, since it was announced he’d been hired, is that it’s getting back to the culture and what Nebraska is all about,” Kelsay said. “If you can do all that and get it back, from that perspective, the wins and losses take care of themselves.

“I’m pretty excited that all the focus has been, ‘Hey, we’re going to get back to working hard and outworking your competition.’ And those things are exciting to hear. That’s how we did it. We also had some great talent, but we also had a lot of guys — I’d put myself in that boat — that if you worked hard, good things were going to happen. Obviously, you’ve got to have your game-changers, but you also have to have a lot of guys who are busting their butts.”

When it comes to Year 1, to those that know, to those that care, it’s not just about the number.

It’s about the pride.

Enough pride to wipe that silly grin off PJ Fleck’s mug.

Enough pride not to let Ohio State walk in your house and treat your secondary the way a boot treats a doormat.

Enough pride to protect your face, or what’s left of it, when Wisconsin slips on the gloves and goes into Rocky Balboa ’80s montage mode:

“They basically did to us what we were used to doing to people throughout so many years, when Nebraska had so many strong teams — you beat them down,” Kelsay sighed, the bruises still fresh from the Badgers’ 38-17 win at Memorial Stadium last Oct. 7, a night in which Bucky rolled up 353 rushing yards.

“You’d start the game and maybe it would be back and forth, and once you get to the third and fourth quarter, those 3- and 4-yard runs turn into 8- and 9-yard runs. And the same thing with the defense — it would be able to take a stranglehold to the other team and pretty much dominate as the game went on. And that’s what [Wisconsin] did to us. It was a little sick to watch the roles reversed.”

Enough pride to try and stop the bleeding, once the wound opens up.

Over the last 15 years, the Big Red has been handed a defeat of 21 points or more 25 times — or an average of 1.67 times per season, almost two clock-cleanings per campaign. Since joining the Big Ten, it’s been 12 poundings in seven seasons.

For perspective, that’s more than twice the beatdowns suffered by Iowa, and more than three times what’s been handed to Wisconsin over that same stretch:

“We’d get a game of a little bit bigger stature,” Kelsay said, “and you’d watch us get whipped up on.”

Ohio State 118, Huskers 17.

Iowa 96, Huskers 24.

“To some extent, to see some of those blowouts we had, it’s like, ‘Hey guys, don’t you have a little bit of pride?’ ” Kelsay asked.

“You’re not going to say that somebody’s quitting. But there’s a time where you’re still going out there every play and you have to say, ‘Suck it up.’ ”

Of those 25 routs, six of them — nearly a quarter of the carnage — stem from the last 18 months.

It starts there.

It has to end there, too.

Miami Hurricanes release 2018 ACC conference schedule

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 9:05 AM

The ACC announced on Wednesday the dates for its conference games for the 2018 season.

Miami’s ACC opener will be a Thursday home game against North Carolina on Sept. 27.

Miami’s crossover matchup will be at ACC Atlantic foe Boston College on Friday Oct. 26.

Coming off ending the overall seven-year drought last season in Tallahassee, Miami will now aim for their first home win against Florida State since 2004 when the in-state rivals square off on Oct. 6.

Here’s the fully released ACC schedule for Miami:

Sept. 27 vs. North Carolina

Oct. 6 vs. Florida State

Oct. 13 at Virginia

Oct. 26 at Boston College

Nov. 3 vs. Duke

Nov. 10 at Georgia Tech

Nov. 17 at Virginia Tech

Nov. 24 vs. Pitt

Miami will begin the season with a matchup against LSU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Sept. 2, followed by games against Savannah State, at Toledo and vs. FIU.

Florida State football: Dates released for 2018 ACC matchups

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 9:07 AM

Florida State fans already knew that when the Seminoles take the field for the first time under new head coach Willie Taggart, the team will host Virginia Tech on September 3. Aside from that matchup, the team’s 2018 ACC schedule has remained a mystery.

Wednesday, the dates of Florida State’s remaining seven ACC games were revealed.

After hosting Virginia Tech, the Seminoles will face their first conference road test at Syracuse on Sept. 15. After a non-conference matchup with Northern Illinois, Florida State will travel for two more matchups, at Louisville and at rival Miami. The Seminoles’ bye week will follow on Oct. 13.

After the off week, Florida State will host Wake Forest on Oct. 20. The following Saturday, Atlantic Division rival Clemson will come to Tallahassee in what will likely be the biggest game of the year in Doak Campbell Stadium.

Florida State will finish ACC play by traveling to N.C. State on Nov. 3 and hosting Boston College on Nov. 17.

In their non-conference slate, the Seminoles will face Samford in on Sept. 8 and Northern Illinois on Sept. 22. As usual, Florida State will close the season against rival Florida. Plus, this year, Florida State will travel to South Bend for a highly anticipated matchup against Notre Dame on Nov. 10.

Below is the Seminoles’ 2018 schedule in its entirety.

Coaching rumors: Lincoln Riley could hire brother as final Oklahoma assistant

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 9:05 AM

Oklahoma football has one more assistant coach position to fill this offseason, and Lincoln Riley might be considering his brother for the role.

Programs across the country are hiring or promoting coaches to fill the new 10th on-field assistant role allowed by the NCAA starting this year. According to Football Scoop’s Zach Barnett, there is “chatter” in the industry that Riley’s brother Garrett could fill that position for the Sooners.

Prior to a new NCAA rule that went into effect January 2018, college football programs were allowed nine on-field assistants. Any additional coaches on staff have to work as analysts or graduate assistants, limiting what they can do on game days and in recruiting.

Programs throughout the Big 12 and around the country are making hires now that the new rule is in effect. Texas officially hired Auburn offensive line coach Herb Hand as its 10th assistant this week. Elsewhere, Baylor promoted Director of Player Personnel Evan Cooper to fill out its staff.

Garrett Riley has served as the quarterbacks coach at Kansas since 2016. He previously was on staff at East Carolina from 2013-2014 while Lincoln was the offensive coordinator for the Pirates.

Other than adding the 10th assistant, Oklahoma isn’t making any changes to its on-field coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops isn’t going anywhere, despite the wishes of some fans. The Sooners did have to hire a new strength coach in Bennie Wylie after long-time strength coach Jerry Schmidt  left for Texas A&M.