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Meanwhile, down in Austin

- by Jon Mark Beilue

Florida State’s pulsating 34-31 win over Auburn in the BCS national championship game Monday night ended the Southeastern Conference’s streak of national champions at eight.

Until Monday night, the last champion that wasn’t from the SEC was Texas, which edged USC, 41-38, on a Vince Young fourth-down run in the final seconds at this same Rose Bowl in January 2006.

That seems like a lot longer than eight years ago — certainly it does in Austin. The Longhorns, who would return to the title game in 2009, fell from their dominant ways over the last four years. Mack Brown, who restored Texas football, saw the program fall to a 30-21 record since 2010 and he was forced out last month.

On the same day that the national champion was crowned, Louisville’s Charlie Strong was formally introduced as Texas’ new coach. His charge is simple — to get Texas back again, to get the Longhorns into the new college football playoff, to contend for national titles. It’s Texas, why shouldn’t it be?

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Playoff parody — yes, parody

- by Jon Mark Beilue

Once upon a time, when society didn’t believe everyone needed a participant trophy and a snow cone to help kids’ self-esteem, high school football teams had to earn a spot in the playoffs.

The post-season was resevered for the best. To be in the playoffs was a designation of a quality season, a sign of worthiness and talent.

There was a time when good teams, 9-1 kind of teams, were left home because they didn’t win district. That was too harsh.  Finally, in the early 1980s, two teams from a district were allowed in Class 5A.  That was fine, and warranted.

But it was inevitable that it would expand. No matter the sport or the level, pro, college or high school, more teams get in the postseason. Some of it is money-driven, and some of it it job security, but none of it is because all of these quality and worthy teams were staying at home.So two eventually became three, and three soon became four, and at some point, everyone will get in.

Four teams from each district in Class 5A through 3A get into the postseason. Classes 2A and 1A are now broken into Division I and Division II, and still three teams from each district go. Six-man, which is in divisions as well, is a little more realistic with two from each district into the postseason.

So, this year, in Texas, there are two teams in the playoffs with exactly one win. One. One of them is Pampa, which is 1-8.  The Harvesters beat River Road, and wereable to finish fourth in five-team District 1-3A. They were outscored this season, 347-150

Playoff-bound and the hammer down.

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Credit Panhandle High School with some of Art Briles’ genius

- by Jon Mark Beilue

Baylor head football coach Art Briles is the toast of college football, especially after his No. 5-ranked Bears topped Oklahooma, 41-12, Thursday night to improve to 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Bears lead the country in total offense and scoring, and are doing it with the way Briles has done it since his days as a high school coach in Stephenville — an unconventional spread offense that confuses and puts pressure on defenses while  maximizing his own talent.

Sports Illustratedprofiled Brilesin an extensive feature story in this week’s issue.  Much of that story details when Briles got the idea to go to that kind of offense, and it was a 1984 Class 2A playoff game when he was head coach at Hamlin, northwest of Abilene.

The opponent? The Panhandle Panthers.

The game ended in a 7-7 tie, but Panhandle advanced on 20-yard penetrations, 2-1, in the days before high school teams played overtime.

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A run like no other: Triumphant touchdown transcends competition

- Jon Mark Beilue

Unbeaten and state Class 1A power Stratford led Memphis, 35-0, with about 30 seconds left Friday night. This idea of Memphis coach Andy Correll, which seemed almost outlandish eight weeks ago, just might work.

He called timeout and met with Stratford coach Eddie Metcalf at midfield.

Correll already had broached the idea with Metcalf via email earlier in the week. Correll knew he would need his and the Elks’ cooperation to make it work.

But, now, with Stratford having held his team scoreless, Correll wasn’t so sure.

“I said, ‘Coach, I don’t know now,’” Correll said. “Your boys have played too hard to allow him to score. Maybe he could just run for 10 yards or so.”

Metcalf didn’t want to hear any more.

“Coach Correll was telling me that I don’t want to ruin your shutout,” Metcalf said, “and I told him that didn’t mean anything, that what you’re doing for that kid is more important than zeroes on the scoreboard.

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Now THAT’S a football bet

- by Jon Mark Beilue

John Grant and his wife have to be a fun-loving married couple. Not every romantic coupling would do this after the  Chicago Bears’ 27-20 win Monday night over the Green Bay Packers.

You see, John is a big Bears fan. His wife loves the Packers. So they had a bet on the game’s outcome. What was it, loser had to clean out the garage? Husband had to make dinner? Wife had to winterize the yard?

Oh, no. How about the winner got to use a taser on the loser.

The bet originated, shockingly, at a bar, Sidelines Tap, in Mayville, Wisc. And so Big John got to send a few thousand volts through his wife’s bee-hind after the game.

Police were still called, though why they were on a voluntary bet, it’s not clear. According to the Beaver Dam (Wisc.) Daily Citizen, police responded to a bowling alley, Dan’s King Pin, and arrested John.

According to the police report: “The wife said that while the two were smoking cigarettes outside Sidelines, Grant had used the stun gun twice on her butt and once on her thigh. Grant said that the two had made a bet on the game as she is a Packers fan and he a Bears fan and that if the Packers lost, she would be shocked with a stun gun.”

Police did confirm that the woman consented to the bet, but the husband was still arrested and could face up to six years in prison for use of an electric weapon.

Not too surprisingly, Grant’s blood alcohol level was .137.  His wife’s was .155.

Cheap Hits: Getting personal with … Ethan Westbrooks

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Westbrooks, a 22-year-old, 6-foot-4, 275-pound senior defensive lineman from San Leandro, Calif., had nine tackles, two sacks and forced a fumble in West Texas A&M&’s 31-27 loss Saturday to No. 14 Tarleton State. He has 20 tackles and three sacks for the season and leads the team with five quarterback hurries.

How did it feel to get two sacks in last week’s game?

"Honestly, it didn’t even feel right, to be honest, because of the loss. I would like to say it felt good because that is something I definitely pride myself on, but it was a bittersweet feeling. It would have been great to get the W and the sacks, but I get it how it comes to me. All in all, I’m not mad at it or mad at the stats. but I just wish it could’ve gone better and gotten the W, too."

What are some of the things you focus on when you line up for a play?

“Honestly, just the best thing that the O-lineman or the man across from me is going to do. What is his best move? What is he worst at? That’s helps me figure out what he’s going to give me and what he’s going to do. The down and distance, whether it’s a run or a pass play, it helps that I know all of that because then I figure if it’s third-and-eight, they’re going to pass the ball and he’s more than likely going to pass protect. The down and distance helps a lot because then I know if his strength is pass blocking, he’s going to try to pass block me. Usually, if I’m faster than them I try to go to the outside for the most part.”

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'Think pink' in NFL kind of stinks

- by Jon Mark Beilue

Turn on an NFL game in the month of October and pink is the operative color. That’s the color for breast cancer awareness, and October is the month keyed to that.

There’s pink everything — pink wrist bands, pink cleats, pink gloves, pink ribbons for coaches, just a lot of pink. And there’s ample  opportunity to purchase pink clothing and accessories through the NFL to help breast cancer research.

But, according to ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell on Wednesday,actual money spent on NFL pink merchandise that goes to fight breast cancer research is low.Way low.

How low? Would you believe just 8 percent? After all entities have  taken their cut, just 8 percent goes to breast cancer research. That’s appalling.

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Tech students buck trend, filling The Jones

- by Jon Mark Beilue

Not so much if they build it — but if Texas Tech hires one of its own, a young guy in their own demographic age group — they will come.

Tech students have twice set records and bucked a national trend with their overflow attendance at Jones AT&T Stadium for Red Raider football games. No, free beer is not available, but apparently new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, a 5-0 record, a huge new video board and better game-day presentation is enough to get students out in droves.

The first home game on Sept. 7 against Stephen F. Austin, of all teams, had 14,915 students in the Jones. That broke the previous record of 12,910 students set in the 2010 opener, according to a Tech news release.

That record lasted all of five days. Against TCU on Sept. 12, a Thursday night when you know students longed to be home studying, 16,092 showed up for the game against TCU. This was a game that was on ESPN and could have been watched in dorm, home or apartment.

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Can’t NFL acknowledge prostate cancer too?

- by Jon Mark Beilue

For the millions watching NFL games on Sunday, pink was everywhere.  There were pink ribbons on coaches polo shirts, pink arm bands, pink gloves, pink shoes and pink sweatbands on players. The officials even threw pink flags, which looked awfully weird.

This will be a common sight for the next four Thursdays and three Sundays. For any NFL game, pink will be the theme.

For the last few years, the NFL has taken a huge role in breast cancer awareness.  Pink is the color of the campaign, and October is the month.

It’s almost impossible not to miss the message.  The idea behind the NFL’s platform is for husbands, sons or fathers to encourage their wives, mothers and daughters to get regularly tested with a mammography, and/or to donate to credible organizations for continued research or to fund free testings for those women who can’t afford it.

And, yes, I know there are many women who watch the NFL too.

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Mercy, this rule is causing controversy

- by Jon Mark Beilue

Don’t be running up the score in age-group football in Northern California — or it may cost the coach in the wallet.

A youth football league near Sacramento has established a new mercy rule that is upsetting some parents. It’s not that the new rule is not tough enough, but some say it’s too strict and preventing their children from opportunities in order to keep scores from getting out of hand.

The Northern California Federation Youth Football League has installed a new rule that results in a $200  fine and a one-game suspension for a coach if a team wins a game by more than 35 points. Teams must also sit their first-team plaeyrs if they lead by 28 points or more at halftime.

"We lose a lot of football players because their teams lose so badly," Robert Rochin, the league’s deputy commissioner, told Sacramento NBC affiliate KCRA. "If they are constantly getting beat, who wants to play any more? We lose kids all season long because of that."

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Leach in another post-game dust-up

- by Jon Mark Beilue

Mike Leach didn’t endear himself to a lot of his colleagues when he was head football coach at Texas Tech from 200-2009 with his refusal to take his foot off the gas pedal many times when the Red Raiders had a comfortable lead and the game was essentially over.

He and then-SMU coach Phil Bennett got into a bit of a heated post-game exchange in 2004when Bennett thought Leach should have taken a knee late in Tech’s 27-13 win.

In his second year at Washington State,Leach raised the ire of Idaho coach Paul Petrino,though it looks like Petrino, brother of Bobby, is the one overreacting in a 42-0 loss Saturday night.

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Cheap Hits: Eugene Sims’ return to Texas ‘good experience’ despite loss

- by Jacob Mayer

St. Louis Rams defensive end and former West Texas A&M standout Eugene Sims’ return to Texas did not go as planned, the Rams lost 31-7 Sunday to the Dallas Cowboys, but he was still able to take time to appreciate the experience of playing in the state where he excelled as a college player.

Sims, who the Rams drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, played for West Texas A&M in 2008 and 2009, and is sixth on the Buffs’ single-season sack list with the 10 he had during the 2008 season.

Sims recorded one tackle Sunday, but the loss stung particularly hard because he wanted his team to play well in front of his friends and family, he said.

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Saban to Texas? Unlikely, but possible

- by Jon Mark Beilue

It is ugly in Austin, and will only get worse as the football season clicks down for embattled Texas coach Mack Brown.

Even three weeks into the season, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Brown’s 16th season at UT will be his last. The Longhorns are in their fourth season of mediocrity — by Texas standards — and the patience from a 128-27 record from 1998 to 2009 seems all but exhausted.

Texas, 23-18 since playing Alabama for the 2009 national title, is 1-2 and in disarray. After giving up a school-record 550 yards rushing in a 40-21 loss to Brigham Young on Sept. 7, a desperate Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Most wondered why Brown hired the young coordinator from Mississippi State before the 2011 season anyway.

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Is West Texas A&M QB Vaughan Division II’s top football player?

- by Jim Lexa

West Texas A&M quarterback Dustin Vaughan took a huge step Thursday night in a bid to capture the Harlon Hill Trophy, Division II’s version of the Heisman Trophy.

Vaughan could be the first WT football player to win the award. After an All-American season last year, he boosted his value with a prime-time performance Thursday.

Vaughan led WT’s comeback from deficits of 24-6 and 31-16 as the fourth-ranked Buffs beat 18th-ranked Chadron (Neb.) State 34-31 on Sergio Garcia’s last-minute field goal at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

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