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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Trainer Bob Baffert and the owners of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit have filed a lawsuit against Kentucky racing officials.

They are seeking a temporary injunction they say is to prevent violation of due process rights and for custody of “remnant” samples of the colt’s urine to prove that traces of the steroid betamethasone found in his system during a positive drug test did not come from an injection.

Medina Spirit’s Derby victory on May 1 is in jeopardy after a failed postrace drug test revealed 21 picograms of betamethasone in the horse. The Hall of Fame trainer and Medina Spirit owner Amr Zedan confirmed last week that a second test — or split-sample — was also positive for betamethasone.

Baffert and Zedan Racing Stables filed the lawsuit against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Monday in Franklin County Circuit Court. The suit states that the KHRC told the trainer and owners on June 1 that remnant samples of the samples had been “damaged/contaminated” during transport to the testing lab. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction to prevent the KHRC from violating “substantive and procedural due process rights” regarding analysis of the split sample.

“The testing the plaintiff seek would provide empirical and scientific reasonable certainty that the miniscule (sic) and materially irrelevant reported positive in Medina Spirit’s post-race sample was innocuously sourced from the topical Otomax,” the suit said.

A message left with a KHRC spokesperson was not immediately answered.

Baffert, suspended by Churchill Downs last week for two years from the track for his recent record of failed tests, initially denied wrongdoing before later acknowledging that the horse had been treated with an ointment containing the corticosteroid for a skin inflammation. Kentucky prohibits even trace amounts of betamethasone in horses on race day.

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Spoilermakers: Look out, Michigan, Purdue has an unrivaled history of upsets




Spoilermakers: Look out, Michigan, Purdue has an unrivaled history of upsets

When Jeff Brohm arrived to coach Purdue, he knew the program had two Rose Bowl appearances, an incredible all-time roster of quarterbacks that included Bob Griese and Drew Brees, an equally impressive group of defensive ends, and a coaching list that included Joe Tiller and Jack Mollenkopf.

But he didn’t know much about the Spoilermakers.

Since the AP poll began in 1936, no unranked team has been more successful against the highest-ranked teams in the country. The Boilermakers have nine wins against AP No. 1 or No. 2 teams as an unranked squad, four more than any other program in the poll era. Purdue gets another opportunity Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, Fox), as it makes its first Big Ten championship game appearance and takes on Michigan, which is ranked No. 2 in both the AP poll and the College Football Playoff rankings.

Brohm, who coached Purdue to wins over No. 2 Ohio State in 2018 and No. 2 Iowa in 2021, thinks the Spoilermakers tradition stems from two sources.

“Without question, we’ve had some opportunities when you play in this conference, and then our nonconference schedule is normally pretty daggone good as well,” Brohm told ESPN. “And then Purdue is normally a blue-collar, hardworking school, and that’s our team approach. You just try to make the most of what you have, work hard and figure things out along the way, and see if you can pull some things out.”

Brohm credits his approach to his own college coach, Louisville’s Howard Schnellenberger, who was masterful in “getting his team to think that they’re better than they are,” Brohm said, and to believe anything is achievable. Schnellenberger, known for his immaculate mustache and pipe smoking, consistently communicated in ways to inspire confidence, both in the locker room and publicly “so everyone could hear.”

Although Brohm isn’t as bold with his public messaging, his closed-door directives are all about belief, especially in the 24 hours leading up to kickoff. He’ll take the same approach before Purdue takes on Michigan as an unranked, 17-point underdog.

“You can’t be in awe, you can’t lose confidence, you can’t listen to what everyone says and writes, which may be accurate,” he said. “You’ve got to believe that on any given day, if you prepare right and you play aggressive — not timid, not to keep the game close, but aggressive — that you can have a chance.”

Here’s a look at Purdue’s nine wins as an unranked team against the AP No. 1 or No. 2, with input from Brohm and Cory Palm, Purdue’s director of broadcast services, who is working on his second book on Boiler football history.

Purdue 24, No. 2 Iowa 7

Date: Oct. 16, 2021
Location: Iowa City, Iowa



Purdue upsets No. 2 Iowa.

Iowa had earned its highest AP ranking since 1985 entering the game, after rallying to beat Penn State the week before. But the Hawkeyes were limited on offense, relying heavily on their superb defense and special teams to win games.

“We had to find a way to get a lead,” Brohm said.

Purdue jumped ahead 7-0 and then 14-7 behind quarterback Aidan O’Connell, who ran for a touchdown and threw for another. The Boilers defense then took control in the second half, holding Iowa to 15 net yards on its first three drives before recording interceptions on the next two possessions. Cam Allen had two of Purdue’s four interceptions, and the offense surged behind O’Connell (375 pass yards, two touchdowns) and wide receiver David Bell (240 receiving yards, one touchdown).

“We made plays in the passing game,” Brohm said. “You have to be aggressive in your approach, you have to be attacking. We made them throw the ball more than they wanted, and we were able to get interceptions. That’s not the formula they like to use. It’s running the football, a little bit of play-action, play defense and keep the game close. We got them off that formula.”

Purdue 49, No. 2 Ohio State 20

Date: Oct. 20, 2018
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana



Last week, College GameDay told Tyler Trent’s story and showed his love for the Boilermakers. See how much Purdue’s upset win over Ohio State meant to the sophomore and super-fan.

The most memorable night of Brohm’s tenure included an upset against Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes, and also the presence of Tyler Trent, the Purdue student and superfan fighting cancer. Trent, whose story was featured on “College GameDay” that morning, watched his beloved Boilers never trail Ohio State, hold the Buckeyes to six points through three quarters and reach the end zone four times in the fourth.

Freshman wide receiver Rondale Moore had a huge night (170 receiving yards, 58 return yards), along with quarterback David Blough and running back D.J. Knox, while Markus Bailey led the defense with 15 tackles and a 41-yard pick-six in the closing minutes. The 29-point winning margin was the third largest by an unranked team against an AP top-two opponent.

“There was a lot of motivation, not only playing a top team but the Tyler Trent story,” Brohm said, as Trent would die Jan. 1, 2019. “While Ohio State was really good, a couple teams had played it close with them. It was a matter of, ‘OK, how can we take that to the next step?’ We were just aggressive. We changed things up on defense. We had them on their heels a little bit on offense.”

Purdue blitzed Ohio State and showed different looks, turning away the Buckeyes in the red zone. Then, after a relatively quiet third quarter, the Boilers hit the gas with big plays.

“We extended the lead because we stayed aggressive,” Brohm said. “If you’re not going to do that and take chances, you’re going to find a way to screw it up against a good team. You want to make sure your players know, ‘We’re not sitting on a lead.'”

Purdue 28, No. 2 Ohio State 23

Date: Oct. 6, 1983
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana

Ohio State came into Ross-Ade Stadium with an offense led by several future NFL players: quarterback Mike Tomczak, running back Keith Byars and wide receiver Cris Carter. Boilers coach Leon Burtnett would call the Buckeyes “the best offensive football team we’ve faced.”

But Purdue had its own future NFL standouts, including quarterback Jim Everett, who completed 17 of 23 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns. The Boilers had a big fourth quarter, scoring twice off Tomczak interceptions.

“They hung with Ohio State the whole game, and the cherry on top was a Rod Woodson pick-six late in the game that put it out of reach,” Palm said.

Purdue had opened the season by upsetting No. 8 Notre Dame in the first game played inside the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. The Boilers also beat Michigan that fall and tied for second place in the Big Ten, but finished 7-5 after falling to Virginia in the Peach Bowl.

Purdue 16, No. 1 Michigan 14

Date: Nov. 6, 1976
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana

Bo Schembechler brought one of his most dominant teams to West Lafayette. Michigan had won its first eight games by a combined score of 352-58. The Wolverines had shut out four opponents, including the previous two before Purdue, and handed Navy the worst defeat (70-14) in team history.

“That one was as big a shock as any of them,” Palm said. “The [Purdue] head coach, Alex Agase, was on his way out, they’d lost three in a row. Michigan, they were looking like world-beaters.”

But Purdue turned to running back Scott Dierking, who logged a team-record 38 carries and rushed for 162 yards against the Big Ten’s top run defense. Michigan scored on its first possession but would score only once more, as Purdue stifled quarterback Rick Leach. Down 14-13, Purdue methodically drove downfield and turned to Rock Supan, a defensive back with 11 tackles in the game, for a 23-yard field goal. He made it and Purdue won after Michigan missed a 37-yard attempt to the left.

It would be Michigan’s only regular-season loss. The Wolverines would rise all the way back up to No. 2 after beating Ohio State later in the year but fell 14-6 to No. 3 USC in the Rose Bowl. Purdue went on to finish 5-6, its fourth straight losing season, and fired Agase.

Purdue 31, No. 2 Notre Dame 20

Date: Sept. 28, 1974
Location: South Bend, Indiana

Notre Dame had won the national championship in 1973, going undefeated under coach Ara Parseghian, and opened the season with easy road wins over Georgia Tech and Northwestern. Purdue lost its opener by 14 points to Wisconsin and then tied Miami (Ohio), missing three field goal attempts down the stretch.

As a result, the Boilers came in as 35-point underdogs.

“Agase spoke about taking umbrage with the fact they were such big underdogs,” Palm said. “They certainly showed up in that game.”

Purdue surged for 24 points in the first quarter, the most ever scored against Notre Dame in the first 15 minutes. The surge included a Purdue fumble recovery on Notre Dame’s second play, a 52-yard Pete Gross touchdown run and a pick-six by linebacker Bob Mannella.

The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier headline for Sept. 30 read: “Spoilermakers Strike Again!”

Purdue 23, No. 1 Minnesota 14

Date: Nov. 12, 1960
Location: Minneapolis

Purdue had a fascinating season in 1960, finishing 4-4-1 but ranking No. 19 in the final AP poll. Six of the Boilers’ nine opponents entered games ranked in the AP top 20, and Purdue twice faced No. 1 teams, falling to Iowa but beating Minnesota, which would go on to win the Rose Bowl and the national championship.

The Boilers surged to a 14-0 lead behind quarterback Bernie Allen, who would go on to play 12 seasons in Major League Baseball. Allen kicked a field goal in the second half and Purdue held off Minnesota. Defensive end Forest Farmer had two sacks and four receptions, earning national lineman of the week honors.

Purdue also beat No. 3 Ohio State and No. 12 Notre Dame that season, while opening with a tie against No. 8 UCLA.

Purdue 20, No. 1 Michigan State 13

Date: Oct. 19, 1957
Location: East Lansing, Michigan

Purdue stumbled into the game at 0-3, while Michigan State was beginning its surge under Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty. The Spartans came in as 21-point favorites over the Boilers, who had several players missing because of the flu. Michigan State held a significant edge in first downs (19-7) and completions (10-2) but lost five fumbles, including one in the second quarter that led to Purdue’s first touchdown.

It was another play in the second quarter that would haunt Michigan State, though. A Walt Kowalczyk touchdown was nullified by a late hit penalty. Rather than correctly enforcing the penalty after the play, officials took away the touchdown and assessed the penalty, leading to a missed field goal attempt.

Daugherty in 1984 discussed the play, saying the official who called the penalty was replacing a more experienced official, who had to leave after his wife had a heart attack. The Big Ten later apologized to MSU for the officiating snafu.

“That call changed the complexion of the game and we probably would have routed Purdue,” Daugherty said.

MSU wouldn’t lose another game but finished No. 3 in the final poll. Purdue would lose only once more, to No. 6 Ohio State, to go 5-4 on the season.

Purdue 6, No. 2 Michigan State 0

Date: Oct. 24, 1953
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana

Michigan State had won the national championship in 1952 and came to Purdue on a 28-game win streak, the longest in the nation. The Boilers were 0-4 and banged up, but turned to a fullback named Dan Pobojewski, who had started his career at MSU but couldn’t make the team.

Pobojewski provided the game’s only points, scoring from a yard out early in the fourth quarter.

“I went to school there for two years and wasn’t good enough to make their club,” Pobojewski told reporters afterward. “When I finally scored and rolled into the end zone, I just wanted to lie there and cry.”

Michigan State hadn’t been shut out in 59 games. Purdue was shut out in its next two games and dropped a third, 21-6 to Ohio State, before finishing the season with its only other victory, a 30-0 pummeling of rival Indiana.

Purdue 28, No. 1 Notre Dame 14

Date: Oct. 10, 1950
Location: South Bend, Indiana

From 1946 to 1949, Notre Dame didn’t lose a game, tying just twice (against Army in 1946 and USC in 1948). Coach Frank Leahy’s team won AP national titles in 1946, 1947 and 1949, and opened the 1950 season with a win against North Carolina.

Purdue wasn’t known for quarterbacks back then, but Dale Samuels, a first-year starter who stood just 5-foot-9, began to shape the team’s tradition. He completed nine passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. The Boilers jumped ahead 21-0, but Notre Dame came back with two scores before Samuels found Mike Maccioli for a 56-yard touchdown pass. Notre Dame had not lost at home since 1942.

“The party on campus lasted two days,” Palm said. “They canceled class on the following Monday. There was a pep rally and everybody came out. Nobody was in a learning mood.”

The hangover seemingly impacted the team, as Purdue lost its next six games before finishing with a win over Indiana. The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier reported that 40 million people learned about the outcome through radio or newsreels. Among them: a high school student in Ohio who was an aspiring pilot and engineer. His name: Neil Armstrong.

“He credits hearing those highlights on the radio as one of his first exposures to Purdue,” Palm said. “He graduated in ’55.”

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‘I want my number called on’: Will Shipley is the constant Clemson needs




'I want my number called on': Will Shipley is the constant Clemson needs

CLEMSON, S.C. — Will Shipley can rap.

This is not a skill Shipley actively promotes, but his roommate, Clemson tight end Jake Briningstool, insists he’s pretty good. Shipley might be folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher or just sitting around the living room with friends, and, spur of the moment, he’ll lay down a few verses off the top of his head. It never fails to impress.

Shipley’s favorite rapper is Mac Miller, but his biggest rap influence is his mom.

Tammy Shipley is a hip-hop connoisseur, and when Will and his older brother, James Jr., were kids, she had a habit of making up raps about them and their friends and could freestyle entire narratives about their football games.

“She makes these crazy raps for all her friends for their birthdays,” Will said. “She has a really good one about tomatoes.”

Now, the obvious follow-up to this information is to outright beg Tammy to perform her tomato rap, but Will’s dad, James Sr., said it’s not intended for mainstream audiences. It’s more of an underground mixtape. You’ve got to be part of the inner circle to know about it.

Of course, James Sr. and Tammy aren’t entirely opposed to sharing her art with the world at the right price, so they’re open to a deal.

“If Will wins a national championship at Clemson,” James Sr. said, “she can do it.”

This might seem like a rather esoteric aside in a story about one of the nation’s top running backs, but it hints at two critical aspects to Will’s persona. The first is that he possesses a nearly limitless skill set, from freestyle rapping to hurdling defenders on a football field.

“There’s a lot of layers to him,” Briningstool said, “and there’s only a certain amount of people that get to know him deep down.”

The second is that, even if it takes his mom rapping about tomatoes, there’s nothing Will won’t do to win a championship.

The Tigers return to Will’s hometown of Charlotte on Saturday with an ACC championship on the line against No. 24 North Carolina, but for many fans, it feels like a consolation prize. Last week, the Tigers lost to rival South Carolina, their playoff hopes vanishing with the defeat. It’s a second straight season in which the offense has struggled and Clemson has fallen short of its lofty expectations.

That’s not how Will sees it though. He wants to win the ACC title, and he wants that to be the start of his team’s ascent back to the playoff, back to the mountaintop, and there may not be a player in the country better equipped to lead that charge than Shipley.

“He’s fun and people love him, but he’s got some fire to him, man,” said offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter. “He’s got some juice to him. And every team needs that.”

WILL IS 205 pounds of potential energy. It’s palpable even in quiet moments, like a balloon filled to capacity, pinched at the end but ready to burst into a wild spectacle the moment he’s turned loose.

That’s partly why he started playing football, his mom said.

“He was always on,” Tammy said. “He didn’t have an off button. As soon as he woke up in the morning, he was getting after it.”

Turn him loose on a football field, however, and all that energy had a place to go.

James Sr. coached Pop Warner even before his boys were born. As toddlers, Will and James Jr. would run along the sidelines, imagining they were playing, too. Will got his first taste of action when he was 5, playing in a flag football league, and even then, he was something special. By 7, he was playing for his dad’s team, and James Sr. couldn’t help but notice his boy’s instincts at tailback.

“He’s always had really good vision,” James Sr. said. “Whether it was being patient and then hitting the hole hard or reading his blocks, he always had a knack for that. And then speed just came naturally for him.”

Will was at a tryout in eighth grade, and after running through all the usual drills — three-cone run, 40-yard dash — a coach came over to him to talk about college.

“Where do you think you might want to go?” the coach asked.

Will had never given it much thought. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to play college ball, he said.

“Son,” the coach said, “you’re going to be able to play anywhere in the country.”

As a freshman at Weddington High School, Will had more than 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns from scrimmage. As a sophomore, he established himself as one of the top recruits in the country, rushing for more than 1,400 yards, catching 31 passes and chipping in with two interceptions on defense.

His skills were one thing, but at camps, the first thing that caught Dabo Swinney’s attention was Will’s personality.

“He’s just got an energy to him, a confidence to him that you can feel it,” Swinney said. “Then you watch the tape and holy moly.”

By his junior season, Will was getting offers from dozens of top schools, though he never quite embraced the publicity.

“He’d get mail from all these colleges, and he’d leave it in my office and pick it up at the end of the day,” Weddington High coach Andy Copone said. “He didn’t want everybody to see he had mail. He just wanted to go to class and be a student.”

Will finished the 2019 season by leading Weddington to its second straight state title. He rushed for 256 yards in the state final, scoring four times. For the season, he rushed for 2,066 yards — averaging 11 yards every time he carried the football.

His senior season was delayed due to COVID-19, and by January 2021, Will had already enrolled at Clemson. He was a star from the moment he arrived.

“He’s a very natural leader,” Swinney said. “He’s one of the few freshmen who has come in here and led and guys followed. But it’s because of how he works.”

Will has never lost a sprint. This is a fact Swinney tends to use in nearly every description of his tailback. First sprint of a workout, Will wins. The 20th? Will wins that one, too.

“He just wants to be great,” Swinney said. “He works and if you can’t keep up with that, that’s your problem. He’s an unbelievable competitor.”

Will’s freshman year was miserable. Clemson lost its opener, lost again at NC State, lost again to eventual ACC champion Pitt. It was the Tigers’ worst season — and first without an ACC title — since 2014. And yet, Clemson still won 10 games in large part because of Shipley.

The offense was a mess. QB DJ Uiagalelei was playing through an injury, the O-line was a sieve and the receiving corps was so depleted that the coach’s son, Will Swinney, a former walk-on, was thrust into the starting lineup by year’s end. And in the absence of any other viable blueprint for scoring points, Clemson relied on Will.

In those final five games, Will played with a foot injury that needed offseason surgery. It didn’t matter.

Will’s totals in his final five games of the year: 571 yards and six touchdowns. Clemson won every one of them.

“I embraced that opportunity,” Will said. “I want to be the guy they come to when that situation arises. I want my number called on. There was no hesitation.”

WHEN THE ALL-ACC awards were announced earlier this week, Will was a clear-cut first-teamer — three times.

It’s a mark of Will’s diverse talents that he was voted first-team All-ACC at tailback … and all-purpose player … and specialist. If he’d been allowed to toss a couple flea-flickers during the course of the season, he might’ve won at QB, too. He can do just about anything.

“He’s so unpredictable,” Clemson linebacker Barrett Carter said. “He’s fast, we all know that. The athleticism. He’s really strong and explosive. He’ll run over you, run through you, jump over you. He can do anything the game has to offer.”

To truly appreciate Will’s unique set of skills, however, look no further than The Play.

It probably needs a better name — The Leap? The Hurdle? — but it’s hard to fully capture its magic with the usual article-plus-noun nomenclature. Suffice it to say that, in any discussion of Will on a football field, his touchdown run against Louisville in which he jumps over one defender then immediately sends two more converging Cardinals toppling like bowling pins is the play by which all others will be compared.



Will Shipley jumps over the Louisville defender for a Clemson touchdown.

Will takes a handoff at the Louisville 30-yard line. He bursts through the line of scrimmage, zipping past the Cardinals’ front and into the secondary. At the 10-yard line, a trio of Louisville defenders converge. M.J. Griffin attacks directly, aiming for Will’s midsection, but he hits nothing. Instead, Will elevates over the Cardinals safety like a sprinter running hurdles, and, having missed his point of impact, Griffin’s momentum sends him stumbling head first to the ground.

Griffin’s reinforcements are stunned, and they’re late to adjust. Will’s cleats hit the turf just an inch or two beyond their collision point, and he sheds both tacklers with ease, sending them tumbling to the turf as he trots into the end zone.

The play was the football equivalent of filling a Big Gulp with a little of every flavor soda — Will’s vision, first-step quickness and physicality all wrapped into one perfect highlight.

And yet there are two critical elements to the play that get overlooked.

The first came before — long before. Back in high school, Will went to his dad and insisted he start working with a private trainer. He loved his coaches at Weddington High, but time there was limited. He wanted more, so he started work with RoePro training in nearby Fort Mill, South Carolina. In those sessions, he practiced the leap. Not the play, exactly — but the maneuver. Adding leaping ability to his repertoire was just another playmaking skill with which he could eviscerate a defense, and so he practiced it. Video from those sessions made the rounds after the Louisville game, the two scenes fused together in near perfect symmetry. The play was improvised, of course, but it was possible only after years of refinement.

The second came after. Clemson won the game 31-16, with Will rushing for 97 yards in the victory. But he also fumbled twice, and he was furious with himself.

Running backs coach C.J. Spiller found Will on the bench, fuming.

“What are you doing over here?” Spiller inquired.

“I’m pissed,” Will told him.

Spiller put his arm around his protégé.

“You’ve got to put that behind you,” Spiller said. “That play was legendary. You made history.”

When they were kids, school started at 8 a.m., but Will and his brother refused to leave the house until they’d seen the day’s top 10 plays on SportsCenter.

“It came on at 7:52,” Will said, “and it didn’t matter if we were going to be late.”

It wasn’t until the Tuesday after the Louisville game that Will caught his play — the play — on SportsCenter. By then, the sting of the two fumbles had faded a bit, and it dawned on him that, yes, he’d done something worth appreciating. It was a rare moment in which Will allowed himself a sense of satisfaction. But even now, weeks later, he’s thinking about those fumbles, and he’s still mad.

That might be the most important thing about Will’s game. He can create a legend, and there will still be more work to do.

WILL’S FIRST GAME at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte came when he was playing Pop Warner ball when he was 8 or 9 years old. His team got to play a scrimmage at halftime of a Carolina Panthers game, and Will was the star, breaking off a series of long runs.

After the scrimmage ended, James Sr. got a text from a friend who was at the game: “Can Will stay in for the second half?”

As Will returns to that field Saturday, frustrated Clemson fans are asking a similar question.

Clemson’s playoff hopes are gone with last week’s loss to South Carolina. For the second straight season, a team used to competing for national championships is instead enduring a chorus of criticism largely focused on the struggles of its offense. Among the chief complaints is that Will, perhaps the most talented player on Clemson’s roster, has not played a big enough role.

Will has carried more than 20 times just once this season, in the Tigers’ come-from-behind win against Syracuse, a game in which backup QB Cade Klubnik entered with his team down 21-10, threw just four passes the rest of the way, and Clemson still won 27-21.

In the loss to Notre Dame two weeks later, Will had 12 carries.

Against South Carolina, Will ran for an 11-yard touchdown to put Clemson up by nine, then carried just twice more the rest of the way.

“Hell yeah, I want the freakin’ rock with five minutes to go and the game on the line against our rival,” Will said after the loss to South Carolina, in which he carried just twice in the fourth quarter. “That’s me as a competitor. But that’s not how it shakes out all the time.”

Will doesn’t spend much time on regrets. This summer, he grew a mustache for the team’s media day because he thought it would look funny in photos. That, he regrets. The playcalling in the second half of last week’s game though? Nah. That’s nobody’s fault — just the way it goes sometimes, he said.

Swinney is more contrite. In hindsight, he said, Clemson had a better shot to win if it had fed Will the ball more. It would be a valuable lesson to learn in time for the Tigers to face off against North Carolina’s defense, which ranks second-to-last in the ACC against the run.

Still, Will isn’t begging for a new game plan. But he’s desperate for a different outcome — whatever it takes to get there.

“I just love winning,” Will said. “That’s all I can say. Ten carries or 35.”

THESE ARE STRANGE times at Clemson, a place used to winning with a fan base that expects the Tigers to make something incredibly hard look easy. But that’s not how Will operates. There’s a process to doing something great.

“Every day I pick one thing and get better at it,” Will said. “Next day, pick another. And I keep repeating it.”

Will’s mom remembers shuttling her kids home from preschool. It was late fall, and leaves blanketed their lawn.

“Why don’t you boys try to catch a leaf before it hits the ground,” Tammy offered.

It was a canny mom trick to have the kids burn off some energy, and Will and James Jr. rushed into the yard and craned their necks toward the sky and awaited their prey.

Catching a leaf is a lot tougher than it sounds, Tammy said, but sure enough, within a minute or two, James Jr. grabbed one.

Will wasn’t so lucky.

Tammy and James Sr. watched for another 10 minutes as Will zigzagged his way across the lawn, but each time he had a bead of a fluttering leaf, it darted away from his outstretched hands before he could capture it.

The rest of the family soon grew bored and went inside.

“He didn’t come in for five hours,” Tammy said, “until he caught one.”

Will’s natural talent is immense, but he’s always understood that’s not enough to achieve what he really wants, and so he’s worked, relentlessly, to get better, no matter how long it takes.

Clemson will not win a national title this year. Tammy won’t be rapping about tomatoes. But Will keeps looking up, stalking his next challenge, and he will not relent until he grabs it.

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Utes-Trojans: Live updates, top plays and CFP implications




Utes-Trojans: Live updates, top plays and CFP implications

The final weekend of the college football season is here and the stakes in the games could not be higher.

There is legitimate College Football Playoff drama. The top four teams in the ranking have one more game to secure or solidify their spots and two powerhouses are lurking to potentially leap into the semifinals.

The No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs play the No. 14 LSU Tigers in the SEC title game. The No. 2 Michigan Wolverines face the Purdue Boilermakers for the Big Ten crown. The No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs meet the No. 10 Kansas State Wildcats in the Big 12 championship and the No. 4 USC Trojans go against the No. 11 Utah Utes for the Pac-12 title.

The Bulldogs are likely locked into a spot no matter what happens in Atlanta. Any other slip-ups, however, would put the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes and the No. 6 Alabama Crimson Tide back in the mix.

Three of the top five players in ESPN’s Heisman Trophy poll will be in action. USC quarterback Caleb Williams, the current betting favorite to win the award, starts the action Friday night. In his first meeting against the Utes, he threw for 381 yards and five touchdowns. However, the Trojans suffered their lone loss of the season in that game. The matchup Friday in Las Vegas could be a chance at revenge and another Heisman moment for Williams.

Here are the top plays, biggest moments and playoff takeaways from championship weekend.

FIRST HALF: Utah 17, USC 17

Utes find the end zone

Trophy-worthy run, 4th-down TD

Utah kicked a field goal on its first drive, but USC rolled right back down the field. Williams made several defenders miss on a 59-yard run then found Raleek Brown for a 3-yard score.

USC strikes quickly

A big play set up USC’s first score. On the 75-yard scoring drive, Williams accounted for 70 of those yards.

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