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AP top 25: Vandy ranked for first time in 24 years

NEW YORK (AP) -The Southeastern Conference needs to find another pushover.

Vanderbilt, for years the weakest team in college football's toughest league, moved into the AP Top 25 on Sunday for the first time in 24 years.

The unbeaten Commodores are No. 21 in the latest rankings.

''I think it's a pretty good reward for a good start,'' Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said Sunday in a telephone interview. ''Our guys are pretty smart. They realize it won't help you win games.

''They're already a pretty confident bunch. They're going to go into games thinking they're going to have a good chance to win.''

At the top of The Associated Press media poll, little changed after No. 1 Southern California and No. 2 Oklahoma had the week off.

No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Florida held their spots and LSU moved up one place after a 26-21 victory at Auburn, giving the SEC three teams in the top five.

Last week the SEC became the first league to have five teams in the AP top 10, but Auburn dropped five spots from No. 10 to 15th this week, leaving the SEC with four in the top 10, including No. 8 Alabama.

The Big 12 also has four top-10 teams with Oklahoma joined by No. 6 Missouri, No. 7 Texas and No. 10 Texas Tech.

But with Vanderbilt entering the rankings, the SEC still leads all conferences with six ranked teams.

Wisconsin is No. 9.

Vanderbilt improved to 4-0 for the second time in four seasons, but just the fourth time since World War II, with a 23-17 win at Mississippi on Saturday.

Vanderbilt, the only private school in the SEC and the smallest by student body, was ranked as high as 19th in 1984 after starting 4-0. That season the Commodores finished 5-6. The last time Vanderbilt had a winning season was 1982, when it went 8-4 and played in the Hall of Fame bowl.

Despite not being able to break through with a winning record, the Commodores have shown marked improvement in seven seasons under coach Bobby Johnson.

Last season, Vanderbilt was 5-3, needing one more victory for bowl eligibility, and lost its final four games.

This season was expected to be a rebuilding year of sorts for Vandy, with only nine returning starters, and six players from last season's team making NFL rosters, including three draftees.

The offensive and defensive lines, as well as the linebackers, needed a makeover, but Johnson had experienced players to plug in.

''We had some offensive linemen who had played a good bit,'' he said. ''We had some linebackers who had played before, so it wasn't like we've been putting all true freshmen in there.''

While SEC powers such as Florida and Georgia often toss talented freshmen into the fray, Vanderbilt has far fewer blue chippers on campus, so the plan is to let young players develop and be ready to play as juniors.

''We've been trying to get them bigger, stronger and better and ready to play in SEC,'' Johnson said.

The Commodores have also beaten Miami of Ohio, South Carolina and Rice, getting contributions from all over.

''The best thing we've been doing, all three phasses have been stepping up when we need to. When we were having trouble moving the ball against South Carolina, the defense stepped up. When we were having trouble stopping Rice, the offense stepped up.''

Vanderbilt's running game ranks second in the SEC behind mobile quarterback Chris Nickson, averaging 140 total yards per game, and leading-rusher Jared Hawkins.

''The administration has done a good job of allowing us to stay here and work our system,'' Johnson said.

Two more teams from non-BCS conferences crashed the gates, too. No. 24 TCU was ranked for the first time this year and No. 19 Boise State won at Oregon 37-32 to make it in.

No. 11 BYU is one of three Mountain West Conference teams in the latest Top 25, a first for that league, along with No. 17 Utah and No. 24 TCU. The non-BCS league with three ranked teams was the Mid-American Conference Nov. 9, 2003, when Northern Illinois (21), Miami of Ohio (23) and Bowling Green (25) made it.

The Western Athletic Conference has two teams in the latest rankings - Boise and Fresno State, which stayed at No. 25 after going to double overtime to beat Toledo 55-54.

Add in East Carolina of Conference USA, which dropped eight spots to No. 23 after losing 30-24 at North Carolina State, and six of the Top 25 teams are from non-BCS conferences.

Penn State is No. 12, followed by South Florida (the only ranked Big East team), Ohio State and Auburn.

Wake Forest is 16th, followed by Utah, Kansas, Boise State and Clemson.

The final five are Illinois, Vanderbilt, East Carolina, TCU and Fresno State. Falling out after losses were Florida State, Oregon and West Virginia.

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Injuries force Oregon to go with fifth-string QB

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -Had Oregon coach Mike Bellotti known what fifth-string quarterback Darron Thomas was able to accomplish, he would have put the freshman in earlier against Boise State.

As it was, Thomas didn't come in quite soon enough for the Ducks to defeat the Broncos - who won 37-32. He nearly led Oregon to a comeback, completing 13 of 25 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns, all in the fourth quarter.

Oregon (3-1) had wanted to redshirt Thomas, but injuries forced Bellotti to reconsider.

''We talked about it at halftime, but didn't get to it until the fourth quarter. That was a mistake,'' the coach said. ''He did a great job, which I thought he could. We decided at halftime to bring him in, but we didn't do it until I said we could, and we probably should have done it earlier.''

The trouble for Oregon's quarterbacks started before the season got under way.

The season's projected starter, Nate Costa, went down with a knee injury in the final days of fall practice and had season-ending surgery.

Backup Justin Roper learned he would be the starter in the week leading up to the season opener against Washington. When he suffered a concussion in the victory over the Huskies, and the Ducks went with both junior college transfer Jeremiah Masoli and freshman Chris Harper.

Roper returned to start the next two games, but then injured his left knee late in Oregon's 32-26 double-overtime victory over Purdue.

Masoli, Oregon's third-string quarterback going into the season, started against Boise State before leaving the game in the first quarter with a mild concussion.

When Harper, used more as a scrambler than a passer in Oregon's spread-option offense, was unable to do much against the Broncos, it became clear the Ducks would have to look at another option.

That was Thomas.

''They told in the second half to get ready so I was just waiting on the call,'' he said.

The Broncos led 37-13 at the end of the third quarter. Thomas first hit Jeff Maehl with a 24-yard scoring pass, and then found Ed Dickson with a 19-yard TD pass to narrow it to 37-26.

Thomas found Dickson again in the end zone to close to within 37-32 with 2:07 left in the game. But time ran out for the Ducks.

''We wanted the ball back one more time,'' Thomas said. ''We knew what we were capable of doing.''

The Broncos were clearly taken aback by the move.

''They made that quarterback change and started chucking it all over, and that hurt us a little bit,'' coach Chris Petersen said. ''But I don't think Oregon was totally able to play the game they wanted to play, but the game they played we were able to play with them. So it worked out well for the Broncos.''

Boise State (3-0) earned its first victory on the road over a BCS-conference team, and popped into The Associated Press poll at No. 19.

The Ducks, ranked No. 17 going into the game, dropped out of the top 25 with the loss.

Masoli's concussion was mild and he wasn't expect to miss time. Roper will likely miss Oregon's next game against Washington State. The team hopes to have him back for a trip to top-ranked Southern California on Oct. 4.

Bellotti said the team would assess its future this week.

''Going into Monday, we've got three quarterbacks and I assume they will all be ready to play,'' he said. ''It will be an open competition and I think we will evaluate from there.''

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Texas loses TE Irby to season-ending knee injury
September 21, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -Texas tight end Blaine Irby will miss the rest of the season after dislocating his right knee Saturday against Rice, trainer Kenny Boyd said Sunday.

Irby started all three games this season and had 10 catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns. He had seven receptions for 62 yards and a TD in the Longhorns' season-opening victory over Florida Atlantic.

Texas coach Mack Brown said Irby will get a medical redshirt year and have three seasons of eligibility when he returns in 2009.

``We have a great history of tight ends and Blaine was quickly developing into the type of player to follow in those footsteps,'' Brown said. ``He was getting better every week and making a big impact in our offense.''

Peter Ullman and Greg Smith both have played this season and are expected to compete for the starting tight end job.

Irby is expected to undergo surgery.

``It's going to be a long journey, and I just have to take it one step at a time,'' Irby said. ``I know the tight end spot and the offense won't lose a beat because Peter and Greg are there to lead the way.''

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James likely to miss at least 2 more Miami games
September 21, 2008

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -Miami running back Javarris James will not play Saturday when the Hurricanes open their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule against North Carolina, and will likely miss the following week's game against rival Florida State as he recovers from a high ankle sprain.

James suffered the injury two weeks ago in the early stages of Miami's loss at Florida, and has not practiced or played since.

``If he gets out (of his cast) and can run this week, then he might be ready for FSU,'' Miami coach Randy Shannon said Sunday. ``A running back's ankle, with a high ankle sprain, that's a lot of cutting. And if he can't run this week, I don't see him being ready for FSU.''

Shannon indicated that a more realistic timetable may have James back for Miami's game against Central Florida on Oct. 11.

James, who typically splits time with Graig Cooper in the Miami backfield and is the Hurricanes' power running back, has 14 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown this season.

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UNC QB Yates out six weeks with ankle
September 22, 2008

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates has a broken left ankle and is expected to miss at least six weeks.

Coach Butch Davis said Monday that he hasn't settled on a starter for this week's game at Miami. His choices are redshirt freshman Mike Paulus and junior Cameron Sexton, who started five games under ex-coach John Bunting in 2006.

It puts more pressure on the rest of the offensive players who Davis said ``are going to have to make plays and help those two guys.''

Yates, a sophomore, was hurt on a sack in the third quarter of last week's 20-17 loss to Virginia Tech. He stayed on the field for one more play, then limped off and didn't return.

He threw for 181 yards and a touchdown before the injury. Initial X-rays didn't show a fracture, and Yates watched the remainder of the game while sitting on a sideline training table. The school said Monday the injury was found during an MRI Sunday evening.

Yates had surgery on his right, throwing shoulder at the end of last season and missed the Tar Heels' spring workouts. That gave Paulus and Sexton extra work with the first-team offense.

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Injured Ball State WR Love likely out of football
September 22, 2008

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) -Ball State officials said injured receiver Dante Love will probably never play football again.

Love was hurt during the second quarter of a game Saturday night at Indiana and underwent a 5-hour operation Sunday for a broken spine and an injury to his spinal cord.

The university had said after the surgery that Love could move his arms and legs.

``Due to the injury Dante sustained, his football career is expected to be over,'' coach Brady Hoke told reporters during his weekly news conference Monday. ``He should have normal and healthy functions for the rest of his life. He touched a lot of lives, and he will continue to do so.''

Love entered Saturday's game as the nation's leader in yards receiving per game (144.3), and the fleet 5-foot-10, 179-pound senior was considered an NFL draft prospect.

The injury came in the biggest victory in school history - a 42-20 win over the Hoosiers, Ball State's first victory over a BCS school.

Running back MiQuale Lewis struggled to watch the play on tape. Love had caught a short pass and started to turn up field when Indiana cornerback Chris Adkins walloped him.

Love immediately dropped the ball in front of the Hoosiers bench and went down to the ground. After about 15 minutes, Love was strapped to a backboard and taken off the field on a golf cart, his parents running behind the cart.

``At first, I watched it back-to-back a couple of times,'' Lewis said. ``After that, I just couldn't watch it again.''

Losing Love will force Ball State, off to its first 4-0 start since 1988, to make adjustments.

True freshman Briggs Orsbon was listed as Love's replacement on the offensive depth chart Monday, and Hoke said he would have to choose from three players to return kickoffs. Love was the school's career leader in kickoff return yardage with 2,129.

Love, from Cincinnati, also ranks second in school history in receptions (199), yards receiving (2,778) and is tied for fourth in TD receptions (20).

But even as Ball State prepares for this week's Mid-American Conference game against Kent State, Love remains a primary focus.

``The role we want him to play is to get better,'' Hoke said. ``That's what his teammates want, that's what we all want because of the respect we have for him. That will always be there, and he will always be in our thoughts.''

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Yeatman won't play against Purdue
September 23, 2008

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Notre Dame tight end Will Yeatman can practice but can't play until prosecutors decide whether to formally press alcohol-related charges against him, coach Charlie Weis said Tuesday.

``Until further notice, I've decided to hold Will Yeatman from competition until his matter is resolved,'' Weis said.

Yeatman, 20, and Irish center Mike Golic Jr., 18, were among 37 arrested at a weekend party in South Bend following a 23-7 loss at Michigan State.

Yeatman faced preliminary charges of consumption of alcohol by a minor, false informing and resisting arrest. Golic faced a preliminary charge of consumption of alcohol by a minor, St. Joseph County Police Sgt. William Redman said.

Prosecutors are reviewing police reports before deciding whether to file formal charges.

Weis said any punishment Golic, the son of ESPN television host and former NFL player Mike Golic, will face will be handled internally.

The case involving Yeatman is different, though, because he was suspended from spring football practice and from the men's lacrosse team after he pleaded guilty in February to drunken driving and reckless driving for driving on a campus sidewalk. The plea agreement said if Yeatman stayed out of trouble for a year, the drunken-driving charge would be dismissed and he would be sentenced only for reckless driving.

When asked about what type of talk he had with Yeatman when he was reinstated to the team in August, Weis spoke in general terms about how he talks with players. He said he tries to talk to them as though he is talking with his 15-year-old son, Charlie Jr.

``As you go through growing pains you try to educate and teach and let them know that you weren't perfect going through the growing experience yourself. You just try to educate them as best as you can and give them as much guidance as you can,'' Weis said.

He said he talks to the team regularly about alcohol and other societal issues.

``I'm not here to play judge and jury. The most important thing is for me to look out for the interests of the kids and the team and the university,'' he said. ``I have to try to have those to mutually coexist peacefully and do what's in best interest of all three.''

The loss of Yeatman could hurt the team as the Irish (2-1) prepare to play Purdue (2-1) on Saturday. Yeatman has only two catches for 6 yards in three starts this season, but is the best blocking tight end on a team struggling to get its rushing game going. The Irish are ranked 111th in rushing at 78 yards a game.

Tight end was considered one of Notre Dame's deepest positions heading into the season. But the Irish lost Mike Ragone to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in August and now Yeatman is out indefinitely. Weis said the Irish, who already are starting freshman Kyle Rudolph at tight end, will have to turn to freshman Joseph Fauria, who wasn't expected to play this year.

Weis said Fauria moved Tuesday from the scout team to practicing with the starters.

``Because you have to have your contingency plans in place just in case,'' he said.

Fullback Luke Schmidt also has practiced at tight end, so he is another option.

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Tressel: Wells probable for Minnesota
September 23, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -Tailback Chris ``Beanie'' Wells may finally be returning to the lineup for No. 14 Ohio State.

Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday that Wells was probable for Saturday's Big Ten opener against Minnesota at Ohio Stadium.

Wells would likely share time with Dan Herron, who has started in his place. The Buckeyes also have replaced fifth-year senior Todd Boeckman at quarterback with freshman Terrelle Pryor.

Wells hurt his right foot early in the third quarter of the opening win against Youngstown State and has missed the Buckeyes' wins over Ohio and Troy and the lopsided loss at top-ranked Southern California two weeks ago.

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WSU QB Lopina out with back fracture
September 23, 2008

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -Washington State quarterback Kevin Lopina fractured a bone in his lower back in last weekend's win over Portland State and will be out indefinitely, the team said Tuesday.
Backup Gary Rogers also broke a bone in his spine in the same game and was already out for the season. Both are expected to make full recoveries.

Redshirt freshman Marshall Lobbestael is expected to start Saturday's game against Oregon.

Lopina, making just the second start of his career, was knocked out of the 48-9 win over Portland State when he was sacked by Eloka Anyaorah with 3:03 left in the first half. He walked off the field and did not return.

Lopina was initially thought to have a badly bruised throwing shoulder, but tests found that he had a fracture in his lower back, team trainer Bill Drake said.

Lopina's status will be evaluated on a weekly basis, Drake said.

The team also announced Tuesday that junior linebacker Jason Stripling will need surgery on his left shoulder and will miss the rest of the season.

The news leaves Washington State (1-3, 0-1) with virtually no experience at quarterback heading into the game with Oregon (3-1, 1-0).

Lobbestael, in his first extensive playing time, completed 9 of 12 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns during the second half against Portland State. He was named Pacific-10 offensive player of the week, but that doesn't make coach Paul Wulff comfortable.

``Let's be realistic. He's a redshirt freshman with very little experience,'' Wulff said.

It's one thing to be on the sideline and get shoved into a game on short notice, Wulff said. As the starter, there is much more preparation and expectation.

``You feel like you've got more on your shoulders and the team is depending on you,'' Wulff said. ``Hopefully, those nerves will not affect his play.''

It will be a rush of preparation for Lobbestael this week. He never got to practice with the No. 1 offense during training camp, because all the snaps went to Rogers and Lopina.

The Cougars will likely simplify their play selection because of that. Lobbestael is also spending a lot of time watching film.

``We were here last night at 10:30 and he was still watching film,'' Wulff said. ``We told him to get the heck out of the office.''

Behind Lobbestael, the quarterbacks are walk-on Dan Wagner and J.T. Levenseller, a freshman who enrolled in January. Wulff had hoped to redshirt Levenseller, the son of offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller, but said he would play if needed.

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Kentucky LB Johnson, DT Lumpkin out against WKU
September 24, 2008

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -Kentucky will be without linebacker Micah Johnson and defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin on Saturday when the Wildcats host Western Kentucky.
Johnson and Lumpkin both had sprained ankles during Kentucky's 20-14 win over Middle Tennessee on Sept. 13. Coach Rich Brooks said earlier this week that it was doubtful the pair would play and ruled them out against the Hilltoppers (2-2) on Wednesday.

Johnson leads Kentucky (3-0) with 17 tackles, including 2 1/2 tackles for loss. Braxton Kelley, who moved from middle linebacker to outside linebacker at the beginning of the season, will move back inside for the game. Mike Schwindel will start in Kelley's place on the outside.

Lumpkin has six tackles this year, including two tackles for loss. Josh Minton and Shane McCord could split time filling in for Lumpkin

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