No. 10 USC’s talented trio of runners has more to show

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — No. 10 Southern California has a three-headed monster at running back that showed its face in the season opener.

Former Stanford rusher Austin Jones had two touchdown scampers, ex-Oregon tailback Travis Dye thrived at pass protection, and freshman Raleek Brown showed off his athleticism. Together, they combined for 186 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries and six receptions in their debut.

“We all have our part to do in this offense, and it speaks volumes on the coaches on actually put into places where the pieces fit,” Dye said. “For one game, it just worked perfectly. We were meshing really well.”

USC coach Lincoln Riley acknowledged the trio’s workload was deflated by three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns by USC (1-0) in its 66-14 win over Rice.

“It wasn’t as we planned,” Riley said. “I mean, love it. I’d take it every week.”

More touches are likely to come at Stanford (1-0), a Pac-12 opener.

While Jones downplayed the significance of facing a team that he spent three seasons with before transferring, Dye said he can already sense a different level of intensity from the senior.

“Oh, he’s definitely antsy this week,” Dye said. “Definitely antsy and he wants to get after it, and I can’t wait to watch him play against his own guys.”

After facing stacked boxes in Stanford’s power run game, Jones showed he could make the most of the space created by Riley’s spread offense on a 28-yard touchdown run. He finished with 48 yards on four carries and had one catch for 21 yards.

“It was definitely a lot more daylight,” Jones said.

Dye was held out of the end zone but more than made up for it with two punishing hits as a blocker. He put a defensive end on roller skates to allow Caleb Williams to step up in the pocket and complete a 29-yard pass on third down, and Dye followed it up by leveling that same defender on a chip block as he went out on his route.

“He’s showing all these ribs, you know, and I had to get me some baby back ribs real quick,” Dye said. “Slap some barbecue sauce on that real quick, but, yeah, just all my might right into his side.”

Dye, who had 21 yards receiving and 20 yards rushing, credits his growth in pass protection to working with assistant coach Kiel McDonald.

“You got to protect our team if you want to stay on the field, and that’s just what the job is,” Dye said.

The most exhilarating showing came from Brown, who pulled away from a defender for his first collegiate touchdown in addition to a slippery 40-yard catch-and-run.

Brown practiced with his ankle wrapped, but Riley does not believe the injury will keep Brown from playing.

Riley first took note of the 5-foot-8, 185-pound dynamo at a summer camp when he was coaching at Oklahoma. Jalen Hurts was the Sooners quarterback at the time, and he and Riley had the same reaction watching Brown.

“Jalen was hoping we could sign him then, and Jalen was disappointed when I told him he was a freshman in high school, and to this day Jalen still asks me about him. So, yeah, we got a pretty early introduction, and he just put on a show,” Riley said. “You could tell, athletically, he was a little bit different.”

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 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.