NCAA Talk

Northwestern mounts huge comeback, beats Utah in Holiday Bowl; Thorson, Fitzgerald heading to NFL next?

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Northwestern mounts huge comeback, beats Utah in Holiday Bowl; Thorson, Fitzgerald heading to NFL next?

It was a tale of two halves for Northwestern in Monday's Holiday Bowl.

After entering halftime trailing Utah 20-3, Northwestern mounted a huge second half comeback to knock off the Utes 31-20. Northwestern, which outscored Utah 28-0 in the third quarter, finishes the 2018 season 9-5 record.

Northwestern was just 3-of-14 on third down, though they forced six Utah turnovers (two interceptions) highlighted by an 82-yard fumble return for a touchdown by safety/linebacker Jared McGee.

Six turnovers forced is the most by Northwestern since Oct. 3, 2009 against Purdue, when the Wildcats also forced six turnovers.

Senior quarterback Clayton Thorson — who tore his right ACL on Dec. 29, 2017 in the Music City Bowl — finished 21-of-30 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. However, Thorson exited the game late in the fourth quarter after going down awkwardly near Utah's sideline.

Thorson is one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft. 

The win improves Northwestern's all-time bowl game record to 5-10. However, they have now three-straight bowl games; from the 1948-2012 seasons, they won two bowl games — the 1949 Rose Bowl and the 2013 Gator Bowl.

One of the biggest questions facing Northwestern is the future of head coach Pat Fitzgerald. According to a report, the Green Bay Packers are expected to request an interview with Fitzgerald for their head coaching vacancy.

Unlike Thorson, Fitzgerald leaving for the NFL is no guarantee. If he does leave, however, Fitzgerald would leave with the most all-time regular season wins (95) and bowl wins (4) in Northwestern history.

Fitzgerald's .576 winning percentage would also be best all-time by a Northwestern head coach, minimum five seasons. 

Fans likely will anxiously wait for news regarding Fitzgerald's future. Overall, though, fans should be appreciative of the job he has done into turning Northwestern into one of the better football programs in the Big Ten.

UPDATE: Here's what Fitzgerald said about his future after the game.

Dave Leitao suspended 3 games, DePaul put on 3-year probation

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Dave Leitao suspended 3 games, DePaul put on 3-year probation

The DePaul men's basketball team has been placed on three-year probation and head coach Dave Leitao has been suspended three games for the 2019-20 season, the NCAA announced on Tuesday.

The program was found guilty of "failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance while Leitao did not "prevent violations from occurring in his program."

A Division I Committee on Infractions panel concluded that a "former DePaul associate head coach violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he knowingly directed the former assistant director of basketball operations to provide impermissible recruiting benefits to a recruit."

The NCAA found that three coaches knew about the situation but failed to report the infractions. DePaul will vacate all wins earned while the ineligible player competed and suffer recruiting restrictions. They were also fined $5,000 plus 1% of the men's basketball program budget.

In 2019, DePaul had their first winning season since 2007 by going 19-17. 

Jalen Rose: Fab Five beef squashed with Michigan hiring Juwan Howard

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Jalen Rose: Fab Five beef squashed with Michigan hiring Juwan Howard

The Michigan Wolverines are hiring former Fab Five star Juwan Howard as the head coach of their basketball team. Aside from being a part of that prolific college basketball team, Howard is a two-time NBA champion with the LeBron James-led Miami Heat.

And he is a former local basketball hoops star at Chicago Vocational Career Academy, where we was named an All-American in 1991.

But the Fab Five have not been on the best of terms over the years, particularly current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose and Chris Webber. With Howard back in Ann Arbor, all beefs are officially over.

“It squashes any drama or any beef because we’re not going to bring that to Ann Arbor’s campus with Juwan Howard as our head coach," Rose told Mike Greenberg when asked about the beef Thursday morning on ESPN's Get Up. "The one thing that we both know is his success turning around the University of Michigan is first and foremost about him and about the players that he’s going to influence. Then it’s about us being there to support him, not being drama, not being splintered, not giving any indication of dysfunction.

"We’re going to move as a family and we’re going to do what we can to build on what John Beilein has established in Ann Arbor.”

Rose reiterated this point later in the day during a segment with fellow Michigan alum Adam Schefter.

Let's wait and see if Howard brings winning ways to Michigan to make this honeymoon period last, otherwise it could be back to business as usual.

Also, does Chris Webber feel the same way? Has Rose already talked to Webber to clear the air? Or is Rose just saying it's over on his side in the hopes Webber follows suit?

Both Webber and Rose made it clear that Howard was their preferred candidate, so they seem to be on the same page.

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