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Best of College Football: Liberty shocks Baylor in Matt Rhule's Bears coaching debut

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Best of College Football: Liberty shocks Baylor in Matt Rhule's Bears coaching debut

WACO, Texas -- Stephen Calvert threw for 447 yards and three touchdowns and Liberty spoiled Matt Rhule's coaching debut at Baylor, stunning the Bears with just their second-ever loss to a lower-division team in a 48-45 victory Saturday night.

The Bears lost their seventh straight regular-season game since starting 6-0 last season, while a 19-game regular-season winning streak against nonconference opponents ended.

Rhule was hired after a year with interim coach Jim Grobe following a sexual assault scandal that led to the firing of two-time Big 12-winning coach Art Briles. The Bears lost an opener for the first time since Briles' first game in 2008.

Baylor's only other loss to a lower-division team was 18-17 to Division I-AA Lamar in the 1981 opener, when the Bears were coming off one of two Southwest Conference championships under Grant Teaff, the school's winningest coach.

The matchup up of private Christian schools was a big win for Liberty and athletic director Ian McCaw, who resigned the same job at Baylor last year after a scathing report over the school's handling of sexual assault cases involving football players (see full recap).

No. 1 Alabama defense smothers No. 3 Florida State
ATLANTA -- The Alabama defense turned in a dominating performance, the Florida State special teams endured a terrible night, and one of the most anticipated opening games in college football history went to the top-ranked Crimson Tide.

Damien Harris ran for a touchdown and blocked a punt, and Jalen Hurts chipped in with a scoring pass on a night that basically required the sophomore quarterback to make no major mistakes, leading Alabama to a 24-7 beatdown of No. 3 Florida State on Saturday at Atlanta's new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

This one was all about that dynamic Bama D.

And those not-to-special teams for the Seminoles (see full recap).

No. 11 Michigan gets kicks in 33-17 win over No. 17 Florida
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Quinn Nordin became the first Michigan kicker to make two 50-yard field goals in the same game, one of them in a quick go-ahead spurt after halftime, and the 11th-ranked Wolverines won 33-17 Saturday to hand 17th-ranked Florida its first season-opening loss in nearly three decades.

The Gators had won 27 consecutive season openers, the nation's longest such streak, since a home loss to Mississippi in 1989.

Michigan trailed 17-13 at halftime before scoring three times in the first 6 minutes of the second half.

After Karan Higdon's 3-yard TD run capped a half-opening 75-yard, 10-yard drive, Ambry Thomas forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. That set up a 30-yard field goal by Quinn, who then made a 50-yarder after Michigan recovered another fumble.

Nordin made four field goals, including a 55-yarder in the first half. He missed two attempts wide right in the fourth quarter, one of those from 52 yards (see full recap).

Maryland upsets No. 23 Texas, spoils Herman's debut
AUSTIN, Texas -- Tyrrell Pigrome passed for two touchdowns and ran for another before leaving with an injury and Maryland stunned No. 23 Texas 51-41 Saturday, spoiling new Longhorns coach Tom Herman's debut.

Pigrome had to be helped off late in the third quarter after twisting his knee, but freshman Kasim Hill came in and led two crucial fourth-quarter touchdown drives.

Maryland (1-0) led 27-7 in the second quarter, and then held off a Texas rally to snap a 17-game losing streak to ranked opponents, the third-longest streak among Power Five conference teams.

The Longhorns scored three non-offensive touchdowns: an interception return and blocked kick return by Holton Hill and a 91-yard punt return by Reggie Hemphill-Mapps. But those highlights couldn't deliver a win for Herman, who was brought from Houston to replace Charlie Strong after three straight losing seasons. Texas had its same old problems, giving up a special teams touchdown, missed field goals and a defense that was physically battered all game and give up big plays (see full recap).

Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

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Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

Fresh off a second national championship in three years, this was bound to happen. Jay Wright is a hot name. 

And according to the New York Daily News, the Knicks plan on reaching out to Wright about their vacant head coaching job. 

Just don’t expect Wright to be interested. 

The 56-year-old coach has been determined to build Villanova into a powerhouse since he took the head coaching gig way back in 2001 and he’s finally done that. On the surface, maybe some think that would be enough to make him want to take his coaching to the top league in the world. Not so fast. 

In a recent interview with The Athletic, Wright said pretty flatly that he’s staying at Villanova because he loves it there. 

“The NBA does intrigue me,” Wright said. “That challenge is appealing but it’s not worth giving up working with these guys. The whole thing is, to take a new challenge you have to give up what you have. I don’t want to give up what I have. Would I like to coach in the NBA? Yes. But I have to give this up in order to do that, and I don’t see that happening.”

In that interview, Wright talked about his time at Hofstra and quoted Jim Valvano, who once said, ‘Don’t mess with happy.’ That was true at Hofstra until the Villanova job came around, so maybe there’s a chance the Knicks could blow him away. It just doesn’t seem likely. 

The Knicks just fired head coach Jeff Hornacek after a 29-53 record in 2017. The Knicks haven’t had a winning record since 2012-13. 

The New York Daily News cites a source, who said the Knicks believe Wright would be a “perfect candidate for a rebuilding club.” The Knicks might be right, but don’t bet on them getting Wright. 

Jalen Brunson hires agent, declares for NBA draft

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Jalen Brunson hires agent, declares for NBA draft

Villanova is losing its second star player in two days. 

Guard Jalen Brunson has decided to hire an agent and enter the 2018 NBA Draft, he wrote in a letter to Nova Nation on ESPN. He will forego his senior season at Villanova after an incredible college career. 

This news comes a day after his teammate Mikal Bridges announced he will also head to the NBA draft.

“It is with great honor and privilege that I have called Villanova University my home for the past three years,” Brunson wrote in ESPN. “When I decided to commit to Coach Jay Wright and the basketball program, I was driven by three goals: getting my education, competing at the highest level and winning a national championship. While I pride myself on remaining disciplined and focused to achieve these goals, I have grown as a man and have established lifelong relationships with my teammates, classmates, members of the basketball staff, fellow student-athletes and the wonderful educators and administrators of this prestigious university.”

Brunson leaves Villanova as one of the greatest players in Wildcats history, helping lead Villanova to its second national championship in three years. 

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 18.9 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game this season. Brunson was named the Big East Player of the Year and was the Wooden Award and Naismith Award winner this season.