Mason faces road test at Bucknell

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Mason faces road test at Bucknell

George Mason opened the season with a thrilling home court over a power conference program.

The Patriots next opponent, Bucknell, can make the same claim though with an on the road distinction.

On the same night Bryon Allen scored five points in the final minute to spur George Mason to a 63-59 over Virginia, the Bison pulled a 70-65 stunner at Purdue on Friday. Now the two mid-major schools square off Tuesday (7:00 p.m.) on the Bucknell campus in Lewisburg, Pa.

George Mason leads the all-time series 7-3, including a 61-57 win at the Patriot Center last season on the strength of a dominant edge at the free throw line. The Patriots powered their way to 25 attempts, making 19. The Bison finished 8 of 12.

Allen, named the co-CAA Player of the Week for his late-game heroics and scoring 13 points against the Cavaliers, stuffed the stat sheet against the Bison with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists - all without a turnover. Sherrod Wright scored 14 points.

Bucknell returns the core from last season's 25-win team that won the Patriot League regular season crown and reached the second round of the NIT. Senior center Mike Muscala, the 2010-11 Patriot League Player of the Year, pounded Purdue for 14 points and 10 rebounds while junior guard Cameron Ayers hung 18 points on the Boilermakers. Ayers torched the Patriots last season for 23 points, 18 coming after halftime with a stretch of seven consecutive made baskets.

 

Virginia Tech lands four commitments Saturday

Virginia Tech lands four commitments Saturday

Virginia Tech had itself a day on Saturday as four prospects committed publicly to the football program. Three players are from the 2017 class while the Hokies also grabbed their first commitment for 2018.

Wide receiver Sean Savoy, linebacker Jaylen Griffin and offensive lineman Aiden Brown committed from the class of 2017. Wide receiver Bryce Thompson from the class of 2018 committed also committed. Savoy is a three-star prospect and Brown is a two-star. Both Griffin and Thompson are unrated, per Rivals.

In addition to the four commitments, there is more good news out of Blacksburg as four-star defensive end TyJuan Garbutt also visited the school over the weekend.


Garbutt is the eleventh ranked defensive end in the country. He was previously committed to Virginia Tech, but decommitted earlier in July. Despite the decommitment, Virginia Tech remains the leader to land the prized prospect.

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Mendenhall provides little clarity on QB race

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USA TODAY Sports

Mendenhall provides little clarity on QB race

If you were hoping for some clarity from Bronco Mendenhall at the ACC Kickoff on Virginia's quarterback race, he provided none.

Matt Johns returns for his senior season, but he is competing with transfers Connor Brewer and Kurt Benkert to remain atop the depth chart in 2016. Mendenhall is certainly in no hurry to name a starter.

"We currently have three quarterbacks in contention that we will carry through fall camp before we make a decision," Mendenhall said.

Despite starting for the past two seasons, Johns did not do enough to entrench himself as the starter. Johns threw for 2,810 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015, but he also threw 17 interceptions. Mendenhall praised his poise and experience, but his play has left an opening for Brewer and Benkert.

Brewer served as Johns' backup last season after transferring from Arizona. He appeared in only two games for the Cavaliers, completing 4-of-8 passes for 34 yards and an interception. His progress in the offseason, however, has pleased the coaches and has thrust him into the midst of the quarterback competition.

"Connor Brewer had a very good spring, much more efficient and effective than any of us expected," Mendenhall said. "He was just grateful for a chance. But he made the most of it."

The newest quarterback of the three to Charlottesville, Benkert may also be the most intriguing. He transferred to Virginia from East Carolina in the spring after missing the entire 2015 season with a knee injury. ECU head coach Ruffin McNeil, now the defensive line coach at UVa, named Benkert the starter before he suffered the injury.

Unlike the other two quarterbacks, Benkert also has two years of eligibility remaining which is a very appealing prospect to the head coach.

"We're very intrigued by what we've seen from [Benkert] with the upside that he has two years of eligibility,' Mendenhall said. "There is a nice bridge there that could be formed with the possibility of more experience."

As Mendenhall begins rebuilding the Virginia program, having too many options at the quarterback position is potentially a positive development for the Cavaliers. UVa may need help in a lot of areas, but if they come into the season feeling confident under center it will make the transition to a new coach that much easier.

Because of the importance of the position, however, it's a decision Mendenhall has to get right and he intends to take his time before he makes it.

"I won't know until fall camp is over," Mendenhall said. "We'll have to do a masterful job of orchestrating fall camp to distribute the repetitions enough to be clear enough as to who is the uncontested leader."

RELATED: MENDENHALL NOT INTERESTED IN 'HONEYMOON PERIOD' AT UVA

Fuente ready to take Virginia Tech back to prominence

Fuente ready to take Virginia Tech back to prominence

Taking over for a legend is never easy, but that's the position Justin Fuente now finds himself at Virginia Tech.

Frank Beamer built the football program at Virginia Tech into a national power during his 29 seasons in Blacksburg. Fuente now takes over looking to preserve the Hokies' 23-year bowl streak and return to the team to the heights reached during Beamer's peak.

“I feel pressure to do a good job because Virginia Tech football means a lot to a tremendous amount of people," Beamer said. "It’s important."

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With that comes a lot of expectations. Fuente wouldn't have it any other way.

"It’s great to coach at a place with expectations," Fuente said at the ACC Football Kickoff. "There is a lot that comes with that and I understand that. That’s just the way it is. But it’s fun to coach at a place that means so much to so many people."

Fuente's task is made more difficult as Virginia Tech finds itself at a crossroad of sorts. After eight straight seasons of 10 or more wins, the Hokies have not won more than eight since 2011. Rather than competing for ACC Championships, Virginia Tech has had to battle just to reach bowl eligibility.

For Fuente, he recognizes that fans do not just expect him to extend the bowl streak. His job is to return the Hokies to national prominence

"We’re taking over a program that is not where we want it to be," Fuente said. "When I say ‘we,’ I mean Hokie Nation. We want it to be back to where it was ... but we will get it there. I know that for a fact.”

MORE VIRGINIA TECH: Hokies driven to 'get the job done' during the offseason