Winners and Losers from Week 3 of Spring Games
Auburn's fans, all 83,401 of them, were the biggest winners in Saturday's spring college football games. But they were not alone.
From the tribute at UMass to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing to the Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix's cameo appearance at quarterback, there were plenty of moments to remember. Here's a breakdown of the best and worst from Saturday's games.
Winners: Auburn Fans
Auburn fans took to the streets on Saturday to roll the iconic Toomer’s Oaks for the last time.
A record turnout of 83,401 also piled into Jordan-Hare Stadium for the A-Day game, as this event rejuvenated a fanbase following a 3-9 season that ended the run of Gene Chizik, a national title-winning head coach.
Toomer’s Corner may not have the original trees after April, but the tradition will live on long after this A-Day experience.
Loser: N.C. State Offense
N.C. State took the field for the first time under new head coach Dave Doeren on Saturday, and the offense was tough to watch.
The Wolfpack introduced a no-huddle attack to their fans, but a number of miscues spoiled its debut. Pete Thomas was the de facto starter at quarterback, and he finished 15-of-26 for 168 yards. His backup, Manny Stocker, went 11-of-20 for 96 yards.
Losing starting quarterback Mike Glennon to the NFL draft was damaging enough. But add the growing pains that come with learning a new offense and it can get nasty.
Saturday was nasty.
Winner: Bill O’Brien, Penn State Head Coach
What’s not to love about Bill O’Brien?
First, he took over a program in distress and won eight games. Then, during the Penn State spring game, he called plays over the PA system.
What better treat is there for a pure football fan than to hear his head coach calling out plays to the world?
Nothing top secret was revealed, but this was an awesome way for O’Brien to continue endearing himself to the Penn State fanbase.
Loser: Tennessee Quarterbacks
Tennessee is looking for a starting quarterback, but the spring game may have just muddied the waters.
Justin Worley was 8-of-18 for 123 yards, and his counterpart, Nathan Peterman, went 9-of-23 for 98 yards. Neither quarterback screamed "breakout star" in this one.
The Volunteers did lose several quality receivers, but this was a terrible showing by the quarterbacks in Knoxville.
Winner: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
In case you missed it, big Louis Nix for Notre Dame stood in the pocket at quarterback on a two-point play and ran in for the score.
On what appears to be a designed draw play, Nix takes the football up the gut and scores two points for his team.
The large defensive tackle is among the nation’s best at plugging holes and stuffing the run, but running the offense is a new look for Nix.
Sometimes, spring games lose their fun with crazy scoring systems and so few starters playing. But Brian Kelly decided to keep the fun in the game when he handed Nix the keys to the offense.
Loser: Jonathon Mincy, CB, Auburn
Jonathon Mincy got a little too excited about taking on his own team on Saturday.
Early in the contest, Mincy lit up receiver Dimitri Reese and was tossed from the game for a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Yes, Mincy was tossed from the Auburn spring game for unsportsmanlike conduct.
This may be a first, folks. It is by far the funniest occurrence so far this spring.
Winner: West Virginia Uniforms
West Virginia showed off its new duds at its spring game.
The major difference is the departure from the solid blue helmets to three different colored ones that correspond with the color of the Mountaineers' uniform. This was a good change, Of all the latest uniform changes, it is one of the easiest to stomach.
The new lids look great and should be welcomed by the Mountaineers' faithful.
Loser: Andrew Maxwell, QB, Michigan State
Andrew Maxwell was supposed to walk out of spring as the incumbent starter who would lead the Spartans to a Big Ten title.
Instead, Maxwell put in a terrible performance, going 9-of-20 for 110 yards and a touchdown. No turnovers were reported, so that could be one positive takeaway.
Last season, the Spartans struggled to win consistently, and the offense was the issue. Nothing appears to have changed this offseason, as Maxwell and his No. 1 unit struggled to do much of anything on Saturday.
Winner: UMass Tribute
The bombings that occurred at the Boston Marathon were devastating, but the response has been nothing short of amazing.
This country always rallies when unspeakable actions occur against it, and this has been no different. A number of sports teams across the country have honored the fallen victims of the attacks in Boston.
As a tribute to the fallen, four UMass players donned jerseys with the victims' names. It was a touching display of remembrance for the victims and their families.
Loser: Alabama Spring Attendance
For the first time in the Nick Saban era, the spring game attendance dropped two years in a row. In 2011, 92,310 fans came to Tuscaloosa to watch the Tide.
This year, attendance was 78,315 (via al.com). While it is still a very strong showing for a spring game, there is an obvious dip in the numbers over the past few seasons.
Maybe the excitement surrounding the Tide is beginning to level off after two straight national titles—or maybe ESPN televising the games has hurt attendance.
Either way, spring game attendance in Alabama was a loser on Saturday.
Loser: Anyone But ESPN
If you love spring football, you don’t have to travel far to catch a heavy dose of it on Saturdays in April.
What used to be modified scrimmages are now televised games that have near-capacity crowds in attendance.
Thank you, ESPN.
ESPN brings a plethora of sports content to the living rooms of hungry fans, and no other network has tried or succeeded at this level. No one has really shot a round across the bow of the mothership.
That can and will likely change eventually. But as it stands now, if you are anyone but ESPN covering college football, you are looking from the outside in.