Updated: Penn State kicker next to depart, heads to Texas

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It’s been making its way through the rumor mill for some time, but the departure of Penn State kicker Anthony Fera is about as official as it can be without a statement.

Orangebloods.com was on the story last night that Fera, a second-team All-Big Ten selection last year, was heading to Texas. ESPN’s Joe Schad was one of several to report the same thing this morning and the school confirmed Fera was on roster Thursday afternoon.

It feels weird typing this, but Fera is probably the biggest loss for Penn State behind Silas Redd, who transferred to USC earlier this week — that is if you want to put rankings on these kinds of things. Fera was the guy or the Nittany Lions’ kicking game last year, averaging over 40 yards per punt and making 14-of-17 field goals.  He was also a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award.

Likewise, because it feels weird typing this too, Fera’s addition is huge for Texas. The Longhorns struggled in the kicking game this spring and Mack Brown has already been upgrading that department with former Duke punter Alex King earlier this summer.

Fera’s departure marks the sixth Penn State player to have transferred out of the program in the past several days.

Updated 5:45 p.m. ET: Here are Fera’s comments upon joining the Longhorns:

“The past few weeks have been extremely difficult as I’ve wrestled with the decision on my future. It’s been tough to endure, not only for me, but for my entire immediate family back in Texas, and the Penn State football family I have grown so fond of over the past three-and-a-half years. It has been hard to separate the two as my family and I have been accepted and treated so wonderfully by everyone in the Penn State community. For that, we are all truly grateful.

“The decision to remain at Penn State has been complicated due to an illness in my family. Shortly before I arrived on campus, the most important person in my life was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis), making it more and more difficult to travel each weekend from Texas to see me play. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and I’ve been afforded the opportunity to give back to my family and make their lives a little easier by transferring to a university much closer to home, The University of Texas.

“I love Penn State University, my teammates, my coaches – both present and past – along with all of the great fans who have supported me and my teammates over the years. I made a promise to Coach Paterno and my family the day I arrived on campus to obtain a degree from Penn State University, which with the cooperation of the folks at Texas, I plan to fulfill over the next year. I will always proudly say that I am a Penn State alum!

“A new chapter in my life begins next week, and I am very excited to play for such a well-respected coach in Mack Brown, and a Longhorn football program that is traditionally one of the finest in the nation. My family and I had a chance to visit Austin and get to know the coaches and some of the players last weekend. It is a wonderful place and we had a great time. I feel like I can have another extended family in Austin, and I’m really looking forward to being a part of the team and campus community.

“I cherish my time at Penn State, but look forward to challenges ahead and the ability to compete on the playing field and in the classroom at another tremendous institution in The University of Texas. I want to wish Coach (Bill) O’Brien and his entire staff, my fellow teammates, and all of Nittany Nation the very best this upcoming season. I will be giving my all to the Longhorns, but will always be pulling for my friends and Nittany Lions family as well.”

Marshall pushes bowl winning streak to six in escaping with win over Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl

Associated Press
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The Streak lives.  Barely.

Marshall (8-5) came into Saturday’s Gildan New Mexico Bowl having won five straight bowl games.  Exiting Albuquerque, Marshall will head back to Huntington armed with a six-game postseason winning streak as they escaped with a 31-28 win over Colorado State (7-6).

The first half was all about the passing of quarterback Chase Litton.  The second half was all about the running game — with a little Litton sprinkled in as well.

Up 21-14 at halftime, Tyler King outran the CSU defense to score on a 90-yard touchdown run very early in the third quarter to give MU a 28-14 lead that had the feeling of putting the game out of reach.  King finished the win with 106 yards rushing, one of two Thundering Herd running backs to top the 100-yard mark as Keion Davis chipped in with a team-high 141 yards.  Davis himself scored on a 68-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give the Herd its halftime lead.

After throwing for 177 in the first half, Litton finished with 262 through the air.  Tyre Brady, who caught six passes for 165 yards and a touchdown, was named the Player of the Game.

Entering the fourth quarter, MU held what walked, talked and looked like an extremely comfortable 31-14 lead.  CSU, however, cut the lead to 31-28 midway through the quarter on a pair of Nick Stevens touchdowns (one passing, one rushing).  Getting the ball back with just over six minutes remaining and pinned back on their own 16-yard line, the Rams, who caught a break when a fumble recovered by the Herd was negated by defensive holding, couldn’t reach midfield on their last drive as their hopes for a come-from-behind win were extinguished after turning the ball over on downs.

(That Michael Gallup catch to briefly extend that last drive, though.  Wow.)

While Marshall extended its winning streak — Doc Holliday is 5-0 as head coach — Colorado State extended a skein in the opposite direction as the Rams have now lost four bowl games in a row.

FCS title game set: defending champ James Madison vs. five-time champ North Dakota State

Associated Press
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If everyone is being honest with themselves, and aside from the opposing fans, this is the matchup we were all looking for.

Friday night, No. 2 North Dakota State (13-1) routed No. 6 Sam Houston State (12-2) 55-13 to claim one spot in the 2017 FCS championship game.  One day later, top seed James Madison (14-0) easily took care of business against No. 5 South Dakota State (11-3), claiming the other spot with a methodical 51-16 semifinal woodshedding.

The top two seeds in this years tournament will now square off Jan. 6 in Frisco, Tex., for the 2017 FCS championship.

James Madison is the reigning national champion, claiming the school’s second-ever title with a 28-14 win over Youngstown State last season.  North Dakota State, meanwhile, will be looking to get back to the trophy mountaintop after they won a record five straight championships from 2011-15.

The Bison will likely be shorthanded for that contest, however, as their two starting cornerbacks — Jalen Allison and Jaylaan Wimbush — suffered knee injuries in the semifinal win while their second-leading rusher, Ty Brooks, suffered a shoulder injury.  Despite the game being nearly three weeks away, all three are expected to be sidelined for the contest.

Oregon rolls snake eyes in Mario Cristobal’s Las Vegas Bowl debut

Associated Press
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With Justin Hebert in the lineup, Oregon’s offense was one of the best in college football, racking up 50 points and 580 yards per game. The Ducks had Hebert in the lineup on Saturday, but the Oregon attack looked nothing like it had under Willie Taggart in Mario Cristobal‘s head coaching debut.

Oregon committed four turnovers, was doubled up on first downs, was out-gained by nearly 200 yards, did not cross the 50-yard line until more than midway through the third quarter and its offense did not score until the fourth quarter in a deceptively-close 38-28 loss to No. 25 Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Boise State jumped out to a 24-0 lead, and hopped on the Ducks from the jump. The Broncos’ defense posted a three-and-out to open the game, then rolled down the field, going 67 yards in 13 plays and concluding with a nifty 1-yard Ryan Wolpin run.

Boise State forced another three-and-out on Oregon’s next possession and again moved into scoring territory when the Ducks scored their best play of the game, as cornerback Arrion Springs baited Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien into throwing an end zone interception.

It didn’t matter, though, because Oregon running back Tony Brooks-James was forced into a fumble by the Broncos’ Leighton Vander Esch, and Rypien erased his mistake with a 26-yard scoring strike to Cedrick Wilson

The first quarter closed with another minus-territory fumble, as this time Hebert lost the ball as he was being sacked at his own 21 but Boise State could not capitalize when Haden Hoggarth missed a 42-yard field goal.

After another Oregon punt, Hoggarth pushed Boise’s lead to 17-0 by converting a 39-yard field goal at the 8:59 mark of the second quarter.

Hebert followed up his fumble with two consecutive interceptions, with the second pick being returned 53 yards for a touchdown by Kekaula Kaniho, pushing the lead to 24-0 with 5:11 left in the first half.

Boise State had a chance to close the half with a 31-0 lead, but instead let Oregon back in the game with two disastrous plays inside the final minute. First, a Statue of Liberty play backfired when Rypien’s exchange bounced off Alexander Mattison‘s face mask and Oregon’s Troy Dye picked it up and raced 86 yards for the Ducks’ first touchdown with 37 ticks left in the half. Then, after a 67-yard completion to Wilson, Rypien’s pass into the end zone was intercepted and returned for a 100-yard touchdown by Oregon’s Tyree Robinson with seven seconds left, giving Oregon 14 defensive points in a 30-second span.

The Broncos accepted the ball to open the second half and managed to complete this drive, moving 75 yards in a dozen plays, finding pay dirt on a 13-yard strike from Rypien to Alec Dhaenens to push their advantage to 31-14. The score remained there for the next quarter as the teams traded punts on six consecutive possessions until Oregon’s offense finally affected the score with an Oregon-esque 8-play, 78-yard drive that spanned less than two minutes. Hebert hit Brenden Schooler for a 24-yard score to bring the Ducks within 10 with 10:07 to play, then took over at his own 42 just over a minute later with a chance to pull his club within three, but he was sacked for a loss of 10 yards on a third down from the Boise State 42, forcing a punt. 

Boise State used the extra chance to put the game out of reach, slicing 86 yards in 11 plays, punctuated by another 1-yard Wolpin run with 2:22 to play. Hebert pulled Oregon back within 10 with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jaylon Redd with 1:12 left, but the Ducks could not recover the ensuing onside kick. He finished the game an up-and-down 26-of-36 for 233 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions, one fumble, and four sacks. Even with those four sacks, Hebert rushed nine times for a team-leading 16 yards, as the Ducks were out-gained 112-52 on the ground.

Rypien completed 21-of-38 throws for 362 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and Wilson caught 10 passes for 221 yards and one score.

The win pushed Boise State to 4-0 in the Las Vegas Bowl, the best mark by any team in the history of the 26-year-old game, and to 3-0 all-time against Oregon. It also gave Boise State its 11th season of 11-plus wins over the last 16 years. This marked the sixth time Boise State has closed one of those 11-plus win seasons with a bowl victory over a Power 5 opponent, and the first since Bryan Harsin closed a 12-2 debut season of 2014 with a 38-30 Fiesta Bowl win over Arizona. That number trails only Ohio State for the most in FBS since 2002.

Oregon, meanwhile, concluded its season of multiple changes at 7-6. Saturday’s loss was not without precedent, though. Cristobal became the second consecutive coach to lose his debut in the Las Vegas Bowl, joining Major Applewhite, who dropped his Houston debut in a 34-10 rout to San Diego State last season. There was also another Oregon coach who began his tenure with an inauspicious loss to Boise State. He coaches at UCLA now.

Slumbering offenses awaken as Marshall takes halftime lead on Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
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If you’re a fan of defensive football, you were loving the Gildan New Mexico Bowl — until the second quarter happened.

After a first quarter completely dominated by both defenses, the two combatants traded offensive jabs in the second as Marshall (7-5) took a 21-14 lead on Colorado State (7-5) into the halftime locker room.  And what a second quarter it was as the two teams combined for three lead changes and a pair of ties.

Very early in the period, Thundering Herd quarterback Chase Litton threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Tyre Brady to account for the first score of the half.  On the ensuing possession, a Detrich Clark five-yard touchdown catch from Nick Stevens capped 15-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game at 7-all.  The possession after that, Litton tossed his second touchdown pass, hitting Ryan Yurachek from 15 yards out for MU’s second lead of the contest.  The possession after that, Stevens called his own number and scored on a nine-yard run to knot the score once again. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but, on the possession after that, Keion Davis rumbled 68 yards yards for a touchdown to hand the lad back to the Herd.

Litton finished the half with 185 yards passing, 136 of which went to Brady.  Stevens, meanwhile, passed for 128 yards.

On the running side of the ledger, Davis had 85 yards on the ground on just six carries.

Thanks to special teams, the Herd, looking to win its sixth straight bowl game, could’ve taken a two-touchdown lead into halftime as Hyleck Foster returned a punt 83 yards for a score early in the first quarter.  However, he was penalized for an illegal fair-catch signal and the touchdown was taken off the board.

While the Herd is looking to extend a winning streak, the Rams are looking to snap its three-game bowl losing streak.  Their last postseason win? The 2013 New Mexico Bowl

Colorado State will get the ball on offense to start the second half.