From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The person Manti Te'o says was pretending to be his online girlfriend told the Notre Dame linebacker "I love you" in voicemails that were played during his interview with Katie Couric.Taped earlier this week and broadcast Thursday, the hour-long talk show featured three voicemails that Te'o claims were left for him last year. Te'o said they were from the person he believed to be Lennay Kekua, a woman he had fallen for online but never met face-to-face.After the first message was played, Te'o said: "It sounds like a girl, doesn't it?""It does," Couric responded.The interview was the All-American's first on camera since his tale of inspired play after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day in September unraveled as a bizarre hoax in an expose by Deadspin.com on Jan. 16.Te'o's parents appeared with him for part of the interview and backed up his claim that he wasn't involved in the fabrication, saying they, too, had spoken on the phone with a person they believed to be Kekua.Couric addressed speculation that the tale was concocted by Te'o as a way to cover up his sexual orientation. Asked if he were gay, Te'o said "no" with a laugh. "Far from it. Faaaar from that."He also said he was "scared" and "didn't know what to do" after receiving a call on Dec. 6 -- two days before the Heisman Trophy presentation -- from a person who claimed to be his "dead" girlfriend.The first voicemail, he said, was from what was supposed to be Kekua's first day of chemotherapy for leukemia."Hi, I am just letting you know I got here and I'm getting ready for my first session and, um, just want to call you to keep you posted. I miss you. I love you. Bye," the person said.In the second voicemail, the person was apparently upset by someone else answering Te'o's phone.The third voicemail was left on Sept. 11, according to Te'o, the day he believed Kekua was released from the hospital and the day before she "died.""Hey babe, I'm just calling to say goodnight," the person on the voicemail said. "I love you. I know that you're probably doing homework or you're with the boys. ... But I just wanted to say I love you and goodnight and I'll be ok tonight. I'll do my best. Um, yeah, so get your rest and I'll talk to you tomorrow. I love you so much, hon. Sweet dreams."Couric suggested the person who left those messages might have been Ronaiah Tuisasosopo, a 22-year-old man from California, who Te'o said has apologized to him for pulling the hoax."Do you think that could have been a man on the other end of the phone?" she asked."Well, it didn't sound like a man," Te'o said. "It sounded like a woman. If he somehow made that voice, that's incredible. That's an incredible talent to do that. Especially every single day."Tuiasosopo has not spoken publicly since news of the hoax broke. The Associated Press has learned that a home in California where Te'o sent flowers to the Kekua family was once a residence of Tuiasosopo and has been in his family for decades.Also on Thursday, the woman whose pictures were used in fake online accounts for Kekua said Tuiasosopo confessed to her in a 45-minute phone conversation as the scheme unraveled.Diane O'Meara spoke with The Associated Press in a telephone interview. She said Tuiasosopo told her he'd been "stalking" her Facebook profile for five years and stealing photos.O'Meara's attorney, Jim Artiano, said they had not decided on whether to take any legal action.The 23-year-old O'Meara, of Long Beach, Calif., said she knew Tuiasosopo from high school and he contacted her through Facebook on Dec. 16. She said that, over the next three weeks, Tuiasosopo got in touch with her several times, attempting to get photos and video of O'Meara. She said he made up a story about wanting them to help cheer up a cousin who was injured in a car crash.O'Meara learned her identity had been stolen on Jan. 13 when she was contacted by Deadspin.com.The next day she got in touch with Tuiasosopo."When I contacted Ronaiah I got a very bizarre vibe from him, he became very nervous, he wasn't asking the questions I expected. He was asking Who contacted you? What did they say?'" O'Meara said.Later that day, he confessed, O'Meara said. She said she asked Tuiasosopo why he didn't simply stop the hoax."He told me he wanted to end the relationship," O'Meara said. "He said he wanted to stop the relationship between Lennay and Manti, but Manti didn't want Lennay to break up with him ... He said he tried to stop the game many times."When news of the hoax broke a few days later, O'Meara said she received a text from Tuiasosopo asking her to call him as soon as possible. O'Meara said she didn't respond.
Is James Franklin on the hot seat?
Perhaps fans and observers think the Penn State head coach should be, but the Nittany Lions' athletics director certainly doesn't.
Sandy Barbour told the Altoona Mirror that Franklin is not on the hot seat and gave a complete vote of confidence in the coach, who's coming off a blowout 49-10 loss against Michigan.
"He's not on the hot seat, and he's not going to be on the hot seat in December," Barbour told the Mirror's Cory Giger.
"James is going to be our football coach. I believe in where this football program is going under James Franklin, and I think he's going to be our football coach, period."
Franklin is in his third season at the helm in Happy Valley, and while he's had his fair share of recruiting successes, he hasn't experienced much success on the field. After last weekend's loss to Michigan, Franklin is now 0-7 against ranked opponents since arriving at Penn State ahead of the 2014 season.
"When Penn State is where we ought to be, where we should be, where we're all striving to be, we absolutely should go toe to toe with anyone in the country. Clearly we're not there," Barbour said. "We're not a finished product. I don't think anybody thought we would be a finished product four games into the season.
"Was Saturday disappointing? Of course it was. But no one's more disappointed than our coaching staff and our student-athletes in our football program. So I certainly understand where our fans are coming from and the disappointment."
Back-to-back 7-6 finishes could be seen as mild successes, perhaps, considering the program is still working out from the shadow of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But Penn State's historic status as one of college football's power programs is certainly not applicable right now, and the Lions competing for any kind of championship seems completely unrealistic in the ultra-competitive Big Ten East Division.
All that has led plenty to believe that Franklin's job might be in jeopardy, but Barbour at least verbally put those notions to rest.
"I believe that James is the right guy, and yeah, he's going to be our football coach."
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Last year, Notre Dame receivers combined to fumble twice in 13 games. Through four weeks in 2016, Irish receivers already have fumbled three times, losing two of them.
Sophomore C.J. Sanders’ fumble against Michigan State sparked the Spartans’ 36-point run, and fellow sophomore Equanimeous St. Brown lost a fumble that stunted Notre Dame’s offense in a three-point loss to Duke. Freshman Kevin Stepherson also fumbled against the Blue Devils, but impressive hustled back to recover it.
In 2015, only Torii Hunter Jr. and Chris Brown fumbled (Hunter’s came at the goal line against USC; Brown’s came in that rainstorm at Clemson). That was a veteran-heavy receiving corps, while Notre Dame’s 2016 group only has two upperclassmen in it: Hunter, a redshirt junior, and Corey Holmes, a redshirt sophomore (who doesn’t have much playing experience).
“A lot of young guys out there, a lot of young guys,” coach Brian Kelly said. “It's unacceptable, but a lot of young guys out there.”
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Sanders’ fumble, Kelly said was more careless — he didn’t have three points of pressure on the ball when it was knocked out. St. Brown tried to make a play despite having a second defender converging on him and should’ve gone down before the ball was dislodged.
Guys like Sanders and St. Brown, who are seeing the first real college action at receiver this year, were probably able to make plenty of defenders miss with ease while in high school. But that’s nowhere near as easy to do now.
Notre Dame needs its offense to avoid these unforced (yet, technically, forced) errors while its defense remains an ineffective work in progress. There isn’t much room for error as Notre Dame aims to pull out of its 1-3 tailspin and reach a bowl game.
“At this level everybody is bigger and faster,” Sanders said. “So you have to kind of have that notion in the back of your head, okay, you know if there's three guys in the area and I don't know where to go, get down. We made that mistake which we learned from it, so now we know.”