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Georgia’s dominance, USC’s resurgence and ACC chaos highlight a wild Week 1

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Georgia’s dominance, USC’s resurgence and ACC chaos highlight a wild Week 1

Sep 4, 2022

  • David M. HaleESPN Staff Writer

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    • ACC reporter.
    • Joined ESPN in 2012.
    • Graduate of the University of Delaware.

To endure an offseason as a college football fan is to live within an ecosystem of daily panic, nearly constant tumult and, on the plus side, the occasional heated debate over what to name a chicken. These are fraught times for the sport, when each day brings the possibility of a star player switching teams or a marquee program swapping leagues. Since Kirby Smart hoisted the national championship trophy nine months ago, we’ve all been desperate for something solid — or at least something marginally more stable than Auburn’s athletic department.

And so, at long last, we were given actual football, and Week 1 delivered a necessary injection of stability. It was a reminder that sometimes the things we think we know are actually true.

Georgia is still good. After an offseason in which the Dawgs sent enough players to the draft to qualify as a better source of NFL talent than the Jacksonville Jaguars, surely they would take a step back without Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean & Co., right? Nope. Instead, Georgia welcomed Oregon to Atlanta with an absolutely soul-crushing demolition of the No. 11 team in the country. A year ago, Dan Lanning was coaching the Bulldogs’ defense. This time, as Oregon’s head coach, he was on the receiving end of a thrashing that must’ve felt entirely too familiar. And Stetson Bennett, it turns out, is still so much better than anyone seems to understand. The Bulldogs signal-caller threw for 368 yards and then (we assume) retired to a leather chair, donned a smoking jacket and cracked open a bottle of 1945 Château Mouton-Rothschild.

Bryce Young and the Crimson Tide are still good too. Alabama may have fallen in last year’s title game, but it didn’t fall far. Young, who finished last season with exactly zero rushing yards (Side note: Can we please stop counting sacks as rushing attempts?) showed off his wheels on Saturday against Utah State, scampering 63 yards for a touchdown as part of a six-TD day.

Young’s closest competition for this year’s Heisman Trophy delivered a stirring drive to save Ohio State from a near upset. C.J. Stroud spent much of Saturday night frustrated by Notre Dame’s stout defense, but with the game on the line, the QB came up big. Stroud helped engineer a 14-play, 95-yard drive touchdown drive that chewed up nearly seven minutes in the fourth quarter, and the Buckeyes topped the Fighting Irish 21-10.

Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams looked perfectly comfortable in their new digs at USC, picking up right where they left off at Oklahoma. Williams tossed two TDs — both to Pittsburgh transfer Jordan Addison — and led the Trojans to a 66-14 win over Rice.

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Iowa punted 10 times and won. Utah ensured the Pac-12 blundered away its playoff hopes before Labor Day. UMass lost by 32. Same as it ever was.

Oh, Week 1 had its share of surprises, but not the “Hey, is that your car rolling into the lake?” type of surprises that this offseason seemed to provide on a weekly basis. Instead, we got Anthony Richardson’s star turn at Florida, helping Billy Napier win a nail-biter against No. 7 Utah in his debut with the Gators. We got the utter madness of North Carolina and Appalachian State scoring so much in the fourth quarter that Mack Brown lost his fine motor skills. We got a punt blocked by a guy standing too close to the punter and Delaware’s coach dropping an F-bomb on live TV to celebrate a win over Navy.

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Arizona’s Kyle Ostendorp tries to get his punt off in his own end zone but kicks it off a teammate, and San Diego State recovers for a touchdown.

It was all exactly the type of weird we expect from Week 1 of the college football season.

There’s something inherently comforting about knowing that, once the season kicks off, all those pesky decisions about super conferences and transfer windows fade into the ether, like so many Notre Dame upset bids, and disappear. And what we’re left with is good old college football, filled with the weird and wild and wonderful and, perhaps when we need it the most, give us exactly what we expected.

That’s the beauty of this sport. For all the chaos and craziness, the glory of a fall Saturday always feels the same.


So many points — and so many punts — in Week 1’s early slate

Week 1 occasionally delivers truly great football, an epic battle of two teams destined for a playoff run.

But it also delivers some awful football, as two teams still shaking off the rust of a long offseason wage a battle of attrition.

But Saturday’s noon slate gave us something else entirely. It was a Schrödinger’s cat of college football — both great and awful, beautiful and horrifying, live and dead, all at once.

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On the wide open plains of Iowa, the Hawkeyes delivered a win so gloriously ugly, the only true complaint is that the 7-3 final score was marred by a late safety that left even Iowa fans, now secure in victory, dejected. It was a game that deserved a 5-3 final. To have anything else would be like Charles Dickens writing “A Tale of Two Cities” then naming it “A Book About France.”

Upon the rolling hills of western North Carolina, the Tar Heels and Appalachian State packed nearly nine full Iowa games into the fourth quarter alone. App State jumped out to a 21-7 lead, UNC roared back and led 41-21 entering the fourth quarter, and then things got fun.

The Mountaineers scored on back-to-back drives. UNC answered. Two more App State touchdowns followed before the Tar Heels scored on a 42-yard pass from Drake Maye to take a 56-49 lead with just 2:50 to play.

Then four more touchdowns happened. Seriously — four more TDs than in the entirety of the Iowa-South Dakota State game happened in less than 3 minutes of action at App State. It’s possible space-time ceased to exist for a while.

The Tar Heels appeared to have escaped when Chase Brice overthrew his receiver on a 2-point try with 31 seconds to play, but North Carolina went and did the dumbest thing it could possibly do in the aftermath. It scored again. Putting UNC’s defense on the field was akin to setting off M-80s in your closet. And sure enough, Brice hit Kaedin Robinson for a 26-yard TD pass with 9 seconds remaining to give App State one last 2-point try to tie.

The ending was anticlimactic. Brice was tackled at the 1 on a scramble — or perhaps he just collapsed from sheer exhaustion.

In all, Brice and Maye threw for a combined 10 touchdowns, with each topping 350 yards through the air. Or, as they say in Iowa, a full season of Big Ten play.

Iowa and South Dakota State combined for 16 first downs and 21 completed passes. Or, as they say in North Carolina, the stuff you missed while in line for a beer.

It was wondrous. It was agonizing. It was dizzying and terrible and electric. It defied explanation at every turn.

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It was exactly the way to kick off Week 1 of the college football season.


Who’s this year’s Cincinnati?

It’s never too early to wonder which Group of Five team spends the year complaining about being overlooked by the playoff committee. So, who might it be in 2022?

Well, probably not Cincinnati. The Bearcats still looked sharp despite the exodus of talent to the NFL after last year’s Cinderella playoff appearance, but it wasn’t enough to take down Arkansas, who clearly brought the good stuff to the party Saturday.

Instead, perhaps it’s Houston. The Cougars opened the season ranked No. 24, and after falling behind 21-7 at UTSA, they rallied to a 37-35 triple overtime win. On the downside, three OTs was bound to interfere with Dana Holgorsen’s dinner reservations, so it wasn’t all good news for Houston.

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Clayton Tune jumps over defenders at the goal line for the 2-point conversion to give Houston the victory over UTSA in 3OT.

A sleeper candidate might be Air Force. The Falcons crushed Northern Iowa (which, for reference, was nowhere near the ugliest team from Iowa on Saturday), and is favored, according to FPI, in each of their remaining games, too.

How about Coastal Carolina? The Chanticleers beat Army 38-28, while Grayson McCall threw three touchdowns. Coastal has a manageable schedule and some delightful haircuts and it’s about time the playoff committee started taking haircare into consideration.


Checking in on notable offseason storylines

Is Texas back?

Maybe! The Longhorns cruised to an easy win over Louisiana-Monroe, with Quinn Ewers throwing two TD passes in his debut. Sure, beating ULM doesn’t prove much, but given Texas’ history against teams like — oh, let’s say, Kansas — this still marks an important step forward. On the other hand, parking remains an issue.

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How’d I get towed during the game🤣

— Quinn Ewers (@QuinnEwers) September 4, 2022

Is the Pac-12 in line for a playoff berth?

No! As always, the Pac-12 was kind enough to largely eliminate itself from the playoff discussion in Week 1 with losses by Utah and Oregon. Kevin Warren smells a buyer’s market.

Is Vanderbilt the best team in the country?

Maybe! We can’t officially say no since the Commodores are 2-0 (matching last year’s win total) but given its rather lackluster win over FCS Elon, it’s fair to wonder if, in fact, they’re still a year away from toppling Alabama.

Has Scott Frost been fired yet?

No! Frost finally got a win, even if it wasn’t pretty and it came against FCS North Dakota. Nebraska went to halftime tied at 7, but Casey Thompson found his groove in the second half and the Huskers won 38-17.

Has Bryan Harsin been fired yet?

We don’t think so! Auburn won with ease against FCS Mercer, though that doesn’t necessarily mean a few Tigers boosters didn’t find some cash in their couch cushions and decide to make a change anyway. We can never be sure.

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Maybe just pay the up-charge next time

This season, the ACC will play 10 road games against teams outside the Power 5. No other Power 5 league plays more than three. And yet, this isn’t new. By year’s end, the ACC will have played nearly as many such games (64) in the playoff era as the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC have combined (78).

The first three of these road trips came Friday, when Virginia Tech first got stuck in an elevator then shot itself in the foot, losing to Old Dominion 20-17 in head coach Brent Pry’s debut.

On Saturday, North Carolina and NC State both came within inches of suffering the same fate on the road vs. American Athletic Conference foes.

UNC needed approximately 36 narrow escapes in the final moments against App State to avoid embarrassment.

NC State looked even worse. The Wolfpack blew back-to-back drives in which they had the ball at the 1-yard line with a chance to go up 14, then watched ECU score late, miss a PAT, get a stop, drive into field goal range, then miss another kick. NC State hung on for the 21-20 win that, while a victory in the standings, surely deflated much of the preseason hype the team had gotten as a possible dark-horse playoff candidate.

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1:23

UNC was winning 56-49 with 38 seconds remaining, holding on to win 63-61 in a stunning sequence of events.

In all, the ACC has lost 20 road games outside the Power 5 in the playoff era — three more than the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 combined — and it’s certainly doing little to help the reputation of a league that’s in dire need of some good vibes.

So, why does the league keep doing it?

The first answer is money. Promising a home game for Group of Five opponents saves ACC teams the cost of paying for a one-off visit to their stadium, though there’s a good argument to be made that the cost of taking an L in one of those games is even bigger. The ACC has essentially decided to sit on a plane with a suitcase on its lap rather than pay to check a bag.

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The second answer is politics, and while the state legislature didn’t directly force North Carolina or NC State to visit their small-school neighbors, critical funding from the state is often a part of the decision making. Not every state legislature rewrites laws at a coach’s request (hi, Georgia!).

Still, politics and money matter to everyone, but the ACC is unique in its approach, and so the biggest answer might simply be philosophy. The league’s top football brands — Clemson and Florida State — have played just one road game outside the Power 5 in the playoff era. Look to the SEC, where Vanderbilt is responsible for the bulk of its road trips outside the Power 5, and Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia and LSU have played just two such games combined.

As one ACC administrator put it, “it’s risky business” playing these games for legitimate football brands, and there’s very little reward even if it all works out well.


Under-the-radar play of the day

Wyoming kicker John Hoyland had a chance to cap a wild, back-and-forth game in regulation with a 44-yard field goal try for the win. Technically speaking, he missed.

Wyoming with a doink off the top of the upright! 🏈 pic.twitter.com/VLHNSqgEKV

— The Comeback (@thecomeback) September 3, 2022

That this doesn’t count as an automatic walk-off win at any point in the game feels like a real flaw in the rule book. After all, what’s tougher — kicking a football between two uprights 18.5 feet apart, or dropping that kick onto the very tip of one of those uprights? We’re simply choosing to value the wrong things.

The good news is Hoyland got his shot at redemption in double OT, connecting on a 30-yarder to give the Cowboys a 40-37 win.


Under-the-radar game of the day

James Madison officially joined the FBS with its opener against Middle Tennessee on Saturday, and the Dukes made sure there wasn’t much drama to the festivities, marching to an easy 44-7 win.

So, if you’re scoring at home, JMU now has as many wins over FBS opponents in one game at this level than UConn has since 2018.

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Heisman Five

There’s little point in making any broad pronouncements after just a week of games, but we think it’s safe to say Bryce Young is still good and all UMass players have officially been eliminated.

1. Alabama QB Bryce Young

“The Wire” summed up Week 1’s impact on the Heisman race nicely: “The king stay the king.” Young threw five TD passes and ran for another, racking up 295 total yards despite barely playing more than a half.

2. Georgia QB Stetson Bennett

Bennet threw for 368 yards against the No. 11 team in the country. That’s a pretty good follow-up to a National Championship game.

3. Alabama LB Will Anderson Jr.

This play is illegal in 17 states. My word.

OH MY WILL ANDERSON 😤 @AlabamaFTBL pic.twitter.com/aaLMD057eW

— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 4, 2022

4. USC QB Caleb Williams

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In his USC debut, he averaged 11.3 yards per pass and also 11.3 yards per rush. That’s good balance.

5. Florida QB Anthony Richardson

Fun fact: Cam Newton once played at Florida. Fun fact No. 2: Richardson might be the second coming. He threw for 168, ran for 104 and scored three times in the Gators’ win over Utah.


Hey, these guys aren’t so bad

In the Pac-12, it was USC’s dip into the transfer portal that drew the most attention, but there’s a case to be made Arizona may have benefited even more.

The Wildcats were a national punchline for the better part of the past three seasons, finishing 2021 with a 1-11 record. But this offseason, Arizona dipped into the deep end of the transfer portal and added some key players, including QB Jayden de Laura and receiver Jacob Cowing.

The results were felt immediately with an impressive 38-20 win over San Diego State in Saturday’s opener. The passing game dominated, with de Laura throwing four touchdowns, while Cowing hauled in three of them, part of a 152-yard day.

Arizona’s 38 points were the most the team had scored since November 2019, while San Diego State has now allowed 38-plus in two of its last three games after 46 straight holding opponents below that total.


The most college football thing of the week

Greg Schiano made this an impossible choice in Week 1.

On one hand, Schiano reached elite level galaxy brain coaching on Rutgers’ first series of the game Saturday against Boston College, which the Scarlett Knights played without starting QB Noah Vedral.

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Schiano’s QB on first down: Johnny Logan, who’s technically listed as a tight end. (He ran for 4 yards.)

His QB on second down: Gavin Wimsatt. (He handed off. Gain of 3.)

His QB on third down: Evan Simon. (He threw incomplete.)

Add a delay of game, and Rutgers could officially claim that its first drive included more QBs than yards gained.

But that wasn’t the end of the ridiculous (or sublime, depending on your perspective) from this game.

Midway through the first quarter, Wimsatt converted a third-and-5 with a completion to the BC 10-yard line, setting up a first-and-goal. Three plays later, Rutgers punted.

Yes, you read that right.

A 2-yard run was followed by an offensive pass interference flag, a holding call, a false start and a sack. By fourth down, Rutgers set up shop at the BC 43-yard-line, and called in the punter.

Punting from the 43? Eh, it happens. Punting from the 43 because it’s 4th and goal? That’s Rutgers football. pic.twitter.com/VEchjgAQxs

— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) September 3, 2022

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The wildest part? It all worked out. BC threw a pick on the next drive, and Rutgers turned the interception into 6 points — the long way.

And lest anyone assume all of this wasn’t perfectly scripted, the Scarlet Knights pulled off a come-from-behind 22-21 win following a 12-play, 96-yard touchdown drive with 2:43 to play. Just like Schiano drew it up.


Big bets and bad beats

The total for Iowa-South Dakota State closed at 42, the lowest total for any game Saturday at the time of kickoff. And perhaps if they’d played 43 overtimes, they might’ve taken a run at that number. Instead, the final score — 7-3 without a touchdown — came up 32 points shy.

On the flip side, the total for North Carolina at Appalachian State was just 56, a number both teams covered on their own. In fact, they actually combined for 62 points in the fourth quarter alone — a tally that, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, was just one point shy of the FBS record for a fourth quarter, set by Navy and North Texas in 2007.

Georgia is good. This isn’t news. But Georgia is particularly good — for bettors, in particular — when it plays a non-conference game vs. a Power 5 foe. With Saturday’s dominant 49-3 win over No. 11 Oregon, the Bulldogs have covered six straight against non-SEC Power 5 teams, winning by an average of 37 points. The Georgia defense has allowed just one touchdown — vs. Michigan with 4:25 to play in a game already in hand — in its last four.

Layne Hatcher’s 10-yard TD pass on third-and-6 with 2:23 to play had absolutely no impact on Texas State’s ugly loss to Nevada. But it did bring the score to 38-14 — a total of 52 points — in a game with an over/under set at 51.5. And if you had your under ruined because of a meaningless Texas State Bobcats TD, well… welcome to football season. We’re just getting started.

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Panthers outlast Hurricanes in 4th OT in 6th-longest game in NHL history

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Panthers outlast Hurricanes in 4th OT in 6th-longest game in NHL history

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers seemed determined to keep playing. And playing. And playing.

The teams opened their Eastern Conference final playoff series with Florida’s 3-2 victory in four overtimes early Friday, with the game ranking as the sixth-longest game in NHL history.

Matthew Tkachuk’s goal came at the 19:47 mark of the fourth OT to end this one, which marked the 15th four-overtime game in NHL history and the longest game in franchise history for each team.

The longest game in NHL history came on March 24, 1936, when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Montreal Maroons 1-0 in the sixth overtime on Mud Bruneteau’s goal at 116 minutes, 30 seconds of extra play.

Florida’s previous record for longest game was 104:31 in Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup final against Colorado. Carolina’s previous record was 114:47 for Game 3 of the 2002 Stanley Cup final.

The only good news for the teams is they had an extended break before this series began. Carolina closed out New Jersey exactly a week earlier, while Florida eliminated Toronto a day later.

But this game ended roughly six hours after Thursday night’s puck drop, and the teams have a Game 2 in less than 48 hours.

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AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Barcelona says probe found no evidence of corruption by club

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Barcelona says probe found no evidence of corruption by club

MADRID (AP) — The investigation ordered by Barcelona into its controversial payments for refereeing reports found no evidence of corruption by the club, president Joan Laporta said Monday.

Laporta reiterated that the club’s payments over several years to the company owned by the vice president of Spain’s refereeing committee were only for technical reports and not to influence referees. He said he believed there were no ethics breach and that Barcelona was the victim of a campaign to hurt its reputation.

“This is one of the most ferocious attacks in our history,” Laporta said. “I ask FC Barcelona supporters to be as united as ever in defense of our crest, our essence, and our ownership model. No campaign to discredit us will prevent us from continuing to be an organization of reference in the world of sports that is beloved and admired by millions of Catalans and by many more millions of people around the world.”

It was the first time Laporta spoke at a news conference to give explanations after it became public that the club paid 7.3 million euros ($8 million) from 2001-18 to the company of then committee vice president José María Enríquez Negreira. Prosecutors have accused Barcelona of alleged corruption in sports, fraudulent management, and falsification of mercantile documentation.

Barcelona opened the probe to look into the actions of all the different presidential administrations that made payments over the years, including Laporta’s first at the club. The investigation was conducted by an external company.

The club said the probe found that “no conducts of a criminal nature associated to sporting corruption have been identified, nor are there any grounds to investigate any form of criminal activity associated to bribery.” It added there was “official documentation on the invoices and payments” for the services of “scouting and advice regarding referees, which are common practices in the professional sports sector.”

“Consulting on technical-refereeing issues does not constitute any type of illegal act,” Laporta said. “Consulting, as is done by the big clubs, that was carried out transparently, with the corresponding invoices, at least in my first mandate as president.”

The probe found 629 technical refereeing reports and 43 CDs that the club received over 18 years for what Laporta called “market price.” More reports were likely lost over time, he said.

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“I reiterate with all my resolve, I am convinced that FC Barcelona has not committed any crime of sports-related corruption. I hope that sooner rather than later, it is fully exonerated,” he said. “Accusations must be proven. We live by the rule of law, which guarantees among its basic principles the presumption of innocence.”

He said that if there were any irregularities committed by Negreira, Barcelona would be a victim of them. He also said Negreira was not in a position to directly influence referees, and that it was Negreira’s son who actually produced the refereeing reports.

“I dare anyone to show an instance in which Barcelona was favored in a match because of these payments,” Laporta said. “We will allow the justice system to do its work and I’m sure that Barcelona will be cleared. I am fully convinced that FC Barcelona has never performed any act with the intention of altering the competition to gain an advantage.”

The Spanish league, Real Madrid and other clubs have been among those taking part in the legal proceedings against Barcelona. Laporta criticized league president Javier Tebas for making accusations against Barcelona, and also took a shot at rival Madrid.

“Everyone knows that Real Madrid is a club that is historically favored by refereeing mistakes,” he said.

Laporta said Barcelona has always been a club that takes pride in its values, and it would never want to win anything with outside help.

“Throughout its 123-year history, FC Barcelona has always been a model of fair play, both on and off the field,” he said. “If we have won for so many decades, it has undoubtedly been a result of effort, talent and knowledge.”

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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Silicon Valley councilman indicted in 49ers report leak

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Silicon Valley councilman indicted in 49ers report leak

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Silicon Valley city councilman has been charged with perjury after he allegedly lied about leaking a grand jury report to the San Francisco 49ers last year that detailed a purportedly unethical relationship between the team and the city council, prosecutors said Friday.

Santa Clara City Councilmember Anthony Becker is accused of providing the secret report titled “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Santa Clara City Council” to the team’s former top spokesperson and a local media outlet in 2022, days ahead of its official release.

Becker then allegedly lied to the grand jury about the leak, prosecutors said, prompting the criminal charges.

The 49ers play in Levi’s Stadium in the city of Santa Clara, about 35 miles (56.33 kilometers) south of San Francisco. Santa Clara County is broadly considered home to Silicon Valley.

The city of Santa Clara owns the stadium and leases it to the team; fighting between the two groups has led to ethics complaints, legal disputes and years of bad blood.

Al Guido, the team’s president, and Larry MacNeil, the former CFO who worked extensively on the team’s stadium project, were named in the indictment as witnesses who spoke to the criminal grand jury for Becker’s indictment.

“The 49ers have cooperated fully with the District Attorney’s Office in their investigation, and will continue to do so,” team spokesperson Brian Brokaw said in a statement Friday. “However, because this is an ongoing legal matter, the organization is not able to make any further comment at this time.”

Prosecutors say the team has bankrolled Becker’s political career by spending $3.2 million through independent expenditure committees for his 2020 city council race, which he won, as well as his unsuccessful 2022 mayoral bid.

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The “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” report alleged that Becker and four other councilmembers regularly voted “in a manner that is favorable to the 49ers” and would routinely meet with the team’s lobbyists but not disclose what was discussed.

Becker faces a felony charge of perjury under oath, as well as a misdemeanor charge of willful failure to perform duty. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

Becker did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday, and it was not clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

“Councilmember Becker violated the public’s trust,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “That an elected official would commit perjury and lie under oath before the grand jury strikes at the very heart of our justice system and requires accountability.”

Representatives for the Santa Clara City Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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