Army-Navy moves from Philly to West Point

James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
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The Army-Navy football game in December has been moved from Philadelphia to West Point because of attendance limits placed on outdoor events in Pennsylvania.

By playing the game on Army’s home field in New York, the entire Brigade of Midshipmen and Corps of Cadets will be able to attend.

The game is scheduled for Dec. 12. This will be the first time the Army-Navy game will be played at a home site since Army hosted the event in 1943 during World War II.

Navy athletic Chet Gladchuk called West Point a “safe haven” for the Brigade and the Corps of Cadets at a time when “medical conditions and protocols dictate the environment in which we live.”

“History will repeat itself as we stage this cherished tradition on Academy grounds as was the case dating back to World War II,” Gladchuk said Friday.

Philadelphia has long been home for the event, with few exceptions.

Army athletic director Mike Buddie thanked the city of Philadelphia, the Eagles and all those involved in the planning.

“Of utmost importance to us throughout this entire process was the health, safety and welfare of the Corps of Cadets and the Brigade of Midshipmen,” he said. “We are excited about this historic opportunity.”

It is unlikely fans will be allowed at Michie Stadium beyond the Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen.

Big 12 defenses rising up, changing poor reputation

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
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Defenses are making a stand early during this Big 12 season.

The conference best known in recent years for high-scoring showdowns and crazy passing numbers now boasts some of the nation’s stingiest defenses. West Virginia leads the nation in total defense, allowing just 240.3 yards per game. Among the 77 Bowl Subdivision teams that have played so far this season, Oklahoma State ranks second nationally in scoring defense and sixth in total defense. West Virginia and Oklahoma State are tied for the national lead for fewest yards allowed per play and Baylor ranks fifth.

Though the Pac-12 and Big Ten have yet to play, those lofty positions in the national rankings are much different than what Big 12 observers are used to.

The biggest leap has come against the pass. Seven Big 12 teams have allowed fewer passing yards per game than they did at the same point in league play last season. This season, the conference has four of the top 16 teams nationally in fewest passing yards allowed per game and three of the top 11 in pass efficiency defense.

“To sit here and say there’s no defense and it’s just a passing league — I sort of block that stuff out,” Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy said. “It doesn’t mean much to me because I think the defensive play is really hard in this league and I give respect to the d-coordinators across the league. They do a good job scheming up all the offenses. It goes both ways.”

The Big 12 went through a run of excellent quarterback play in recent years. Patrick Mahomes lit it up at Texas Tech before becoming an NFL MVP and Super Bowl champion for the Kansas City Chiefs. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, both Heisman Trophy winners and No. 1 overall draft picks, led the Sooners to College Football Playoff appearances.

Those are just a few of the prolific signal callers the league has featured. There still are plenty of good quarterbacks in the Big 12 — they’re just not quite at the same level as in recent years.

“You look at the No. 1 draft picks and the high rankings in passing offense and things like that, and it was really difficult to play defense in this league due to offensive skill, and most importantly, at the quarterback position,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. “And I think it’s been more pro offense than it’s been negative defense.”

Big 12 defenses have been adjusting, too. Programs are recruiting more versatile personnel and many have switched coordinators in recent years.

What has resulted is games like Oklahoma State’s 27-13 win over West Virginia in which neither team gained more than 360 yards. And Kansas State’s 21-14 victory over TCU where 289 yards of offense were enough for the Wildcats to pull off the win.

“Defenses have seen what’s happened in this league for the last eight years and they’ve rallied and done some things differently, particularly playing coverage guys deeper than they did four or five years ago,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.

Playing deeper and having more players in coverage has put more responsibility on defensive linemen to pressure the quarterback. TCU coach Gary Patterson said his team isn’t getting as much pressure as he’d like, but it’s a byproduct of the way the game has changed.

“I’m not happy with it,” he said. “It’s something we want to be a lot better at, but I’m not unsatisfied. But if you want to be one of the best defenses in the nation, you’ve got to make people fear that you can come and get the quarterback with a three- or four-man rush.”

The league still goes back to its old ways sometimes. Texas has been in two high-scoring thrillers — a 63-56 overtime win against Texas Tech and a 53-45 loss to Oklahoma. But other conferences, such as the SEC, are starting to see the kinds of offensive explosions once reserved for the Big 12. Alabama defeated Ole Miss 63-48 earlier this month as the teams combined for an SEC-record 1,370 yards.

“People have migrated in those conferences in running what the country would call Big 12-style offenses now in other conferences, and those numbers are getting run up,” Gundy said.

Florida’s Dan Mullen tests positive for COVID-19

Brad McClenny-USA TODAY NETWORK
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Dan Mullen, who last week wanted 90,000 fans packed inside the stadium amid a pandemic, says he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Mullen made the announcement Saturday on Twitter, saying his initial positive result was confirmed by a second test. The 10th-ranked Gators had at least 21 players and coaches test positive earlier this week, an outbreak that prompted the Southeastern Conference to postpone Florida’s next two games.

With potentially dozens more quarantined because of contract tracing, Florida (2-1) would have had fewer than 50 scholarship players available to face the defending national champion Tigers (1-2) in the Swamp.

Two assistant coaches also tested positive for the highly contagious virus.

Mullen is the second SEC head coach, along with Alabama icon Nick Saban, to contract COVID-19 and the fifth overall known this season in major-college football, joining Florida State’s Mike Norvell, Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin and Kansas’ Les Miles.

Florida has started administering daily tests since it first suspected an outbreak following last week’s loss at Texas A&M.

The 48-year-old Mullen says he has experienced “mild to no symptoms.”

“I’m continuing to self-isolate from my family, who all remain healthy, and am following all the guidelines set forth by UF Health, the CDC and our public health officials,” Mullen tweeted.“I am proud of how our players, staff and campus community have navigated this unprecedented time and hope all continue to be safe.”

The Gators believe their outbreak started with two players — one experiencing congestion and the other a headache late last week. Both suspected allergies and didn’t alert team doctors before getting on the team flight to Texas A&M.

Mullen raised eyebrows after the loss to the Aggies by saying he wanted to pack the Swamp against LSU. When given a chance to back down, he doubled down. He was given another chance Monday and dug in more. He finally relented Wednesday and apologized if he offended anyone.