No. 23 Utah routs No. 3 Oregon, ending Ducks’ CFP hopes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Britain Covey returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half, giving Utah 14 points in 27 seconds and a 28-0 lead, and the No. 24 Utes ended No. 4 Oregon’s College Football Playoff hopes with a 38-7 victory Saturday night.

Tavion Thomas ran for 94 yards and three touchdowns to help the Utes (8-3, 7-1 Pac-12) wrap up a share of the Pac-12 South title and a spot in the conference championship game. Utah has won four in a row.

Thomas has run for a Utah-record 17 touchdowns this season. The previous mark was 15, shared by Zack Moss and John White IV.

Cameron Rising threw for 178 yards. His top target, Brant Kuithe, piled up 118 yards on five catches for just the second 100-yard game of his career. Covey had 191 all-purpose yards.

Anthony Brown threw for 231 yards and a touchdown for Oregon (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12, No. 3 CFP). Oregon rushed for 63 yards and had 294 yards of offense.

On its only scoring drive of the first quarter, Utah ran the ball 11 times on 13 plays — culminating in a burst up the middle for 10 yards from Thomas.

Rising found a rhythm on Utah’s next scoring drive. He completed three straight passes to open the drive and capped it off by dancing across the goal line on a 1-yard run in the second quarter.

His biggest pass in the first half — a 49-yard catch and run by Kuithe — set up a 4-yard scoring run by Thomas that put Utah ahead 21-0 with 27 seconds left in the half.

The Utes forced another Oregon punt 16 seconds later, and Covey returned it for the TD to make it 28-0.

Oregon finally got on the board in the third quarter when Devon Williams reeled in a 36-yard catch. Utah ended any possibility of a comeback when Thomas sprinted 5 yards for his third touchdown. Jadon Redding tacked on a 26-yard field goal to put the Utes up 38-7 midway through the fourth quarter.

THE TAKEAWAY

Oregon: Aside from a 50-yard catch by Kris Hutson, the Ducks did hardly anything noteworthy against Utah’s defense until the third quarter. Oregon’s inability to move the chains kept it off the board in the first half and ultimately crushed the Ducks’ hopes of going to the College Football Playoff.

Utah: The Utes did practically everything right on offense in the first half. Utah converted 8 of 10 third downs and averaged 6.1 yards per play. As well as the Utes’ offense played, the defense did an even better job of grounding the Ducks when it mattered.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Oregon will take a tumble in the latest AP Top 25 Poll and Utah should see a big jump.

UP NEXT

Oregon: Hosts Oregon State on Saturday.

Utah: Hosts Colorado on Friday.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.