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Eric LeGrand inspires Rutgers football team

Eric LeGrand was right. His presence fired up Rutgers.

LeGrand, who was paralyzed from the neck down while trying to make a tackle on a kickoff return a year ago, put on his black-and-red Rutgers uniform Saturday and led the Scarlet Knights onto the field for their game against No. 25 West Virginia.

Riding in a motorized wheelchair through a snow storm and carrying an ax — Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano’s oft-stated motto is “Keep chopping” — LeGrand led the team to midfield before making a right-hand turn and leaving the field.

LeGrand is an analyst for the Rutgers radio network and has made a tremendous recovery. He can stand for up to 40 minutes at a time.

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“I think it’s the perfect time to fire up the team, inspire the crowd and hopefully lead us to a victory,” LeGrand said earlier in the week during a radio interview.

And it worked — for a half. Rutgers led, 31-21, at halftime and 31-28 after three quarters. But West Virginia rallied for a 41-31 victory.

Open mouth …

… insert foot.

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Notre Dame defeated Navy, 56-14, and has restored order in what is college football’s longest continuous rivalry — the teams have played the last 85 seasons. Not all is well, however, with the Fighting Irish.

On Thursday, Coach Brian Kelly was quoted saying, “You can see the players that I have recruited, you know who they are. We’ve had one class of kids that we’ve recruited that I’ve had my hand on. The other guys here are coming along. It’s a process.”

On Friday, Kelly apologized, but by then several upper-classmen had responded on Twitter, including star linebacker Manti Te’o, who wrote: “Playin for my bros and that’s it!!!!”

Star makers

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Navy isn’t much for air defense. The Midshipmen have been making quarterbacks look like world-beaters and Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees kept the streak going, completing 16 of 22 passes for 237 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown that was the longest of his career.

This is what opposing quarterbacks did in Navy’s four previous games: Tim Jefferson of Air Force completed nine of 10 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown; Austin Davis of Southern Mississippi completed 21 of 23 for 283 yards and three touchdowns; Rutgers freshman Gary Nova completed 23 of 31 for 271 yards and two touchdowns; and East Carolina’s Dominique Davis established an NCAA record by completing his first 26 passes, finishing 40 of 45 for 372 yards and two touchdowns.

That’s a combined completion percentage of 85.3 (93 of 109). Then again, other thing that happened against Notre Dame is that the Fighting Irish ran for seven touchdowns.

Quick draws

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We’re used to strong Pacific 12 Conference quarterback crops, and this year is no different. But what about those gunslingers from the Big 12?

What years ago was a run-oriented conference recently has been churning out the passers. Heading into Saturday, five of the league’s 10 starters were among the finalists for the Davey O’Brien Award, which goes to the nation’s top quarterback:

Robert Griffin III led the nation in passing efficiency, completion percentage and points responsible for, and even though Baylor was routed by Oklahoma State, he passed for 425 yards.

Seth Doege of Texas Tech led the nation with an average of 34 completions per game and was second in passing yardage.

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Landry Jones of Oklahoma was third in passing yards, fourth in total offense and fifth in completions per game. Against previously unbeaten Kansas State, he passed for 505 yards and five touchdowns.

Brandon Weedon of Oklahoma State was first-team All-Big 12 last season and led the league’s most productive offense, averaging 548.6 yards and 48.6 points.

The other O’Brien finalist is Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M, who was 11th in the nation in total offense and 16th in passing yards.

No doubting Thomas

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De’Anthony Thomas of Oregon already has 11 touchdowns, a school record for a true freshman.

A product of Los Angeles Crenshaw High, Thomas scored twice in a 43-28 win over Washington State, on a 45-yard run and a 93-yard kickoff return.

mike.hiserman@latimes.com

Times wire services contributed to this report.


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