Sun Bowl Football

USC, the preseason No. 1 team, falls to 7-6 after Sun Bowl loss


There are few teams that have fallen farther from grace this season than West Virginia. USC managed to do it, though.

The preseason No. 1 team has been the biggest disappointment in college football this year. The depth issues facing the Trojans were becoming impossible to ignore in the preseason, but it was hard to predict USC losing five out of its final six games, including today’s Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech.

Max Wittek, replacing the injured Matt Barkley, went just 14-of-37 for 107 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions as the Trojans fell to the Yellow Jackets 21-7. Aided by blustery conditions, Wittek overthrew receivers all day and had a hard time connecting with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. But the redshirt freshman also generally had one mode for throwing the ball all afternoon: as hard as he could.

Wittek is young and will learn from the experience, but his performance was an impression of how Lane Kiffin once again was unable to make successful second half adjustments — if there were adjustments at all. For the third time this season, the Trojans failed to score in the second half of a game.

Kiffin calls the offensive plays, yet USC had just 205 total yards and had just seven first downs the whole game without the help of penalties. For perspective, that’s 182 yards less than what Georgia Tech, which fired defensive coordinator Al Groh midseason, allowed on average per game all year, and only 1-AA Presbyterian scored fewer points against the Yellow Jackets in 2012.

And it’s Monte Kiffin, USC’s defensive coordinator, who is retiring.

Of course, you can blame the game conditions or the inexperience of Wittek, but USC showed from the first down of play that it had no interest being in the Sun Bowl. Not that it was some gigantic secret.

So now USC becomes the first preseason No. 1 team since 1950 to lose six games in a season. It’s final loss came against a team that needed a bowl waiver just to get to the postseason.

It was going to be interesting to see how Wittek played since it appears he’s the future for USC at the quarterback spot, but the Sun Bowl turned into a disaster where little, if any, positives could be taken away for the Trojans.

Kiffin’s going to need a banner season in 2013 now more than ever. If he doesn’t, it will likely be his last in Los Angeles.

Iowa’s Desmond King suspended for first quarter of Nebraska game

IOWA CITY, IA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Defensive back Desmond King #14 of the Iowa Hawkeyes is knocked out of bounds in the first half by running back Andrew Tucker #25 of the North Texas Mean Green on September 26, 2015 at Kinnick Stadium, in Iowa City, Iowa.  (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
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If Iowa is to wrap-up the football program’s first-ever undefeated regular season in history, it’ll have to do so without one of the nation’s top cornerbacks and return men for one-quarter of it.

Iowa confirmed Friday afternoon that Desmond King has been suspended for the first quarter of today’s game against Nebraska.  The disciplinary measure stems from King being late to a team meeting.

King is currently tied Northern Illinois’ Shawun Lurry for the FBS lead in interceptions with eight.  He was named as a Thorpe Award finalist earlier this week.

In addition to being one of the top cover corners in the country, he’s third in the Big Ten and 29th nationally in kick returns with a 25.6 average, and 11th in punt returns at 12.7 per.

With King sidelined, it will be either Sean Draper or Josh Jackson who gets the start.

Houston sinks Navy for AAC West Division crown; will host Temple or USF for AAC title

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With a chance to clinch the AAC West Divison and home-field advantage in the conference championship game, Houston (11-1, 7-1 AAC) was led by quarterback Greg Ward Jr. throwing and running the football to take down No. 15 Navy (9-2, 7-1 AAC), 51-31. Houston will wait to see if it will host Temple or South Florida next week in the conference championship game.

Houston’s gameplan against Navy was simple in philosophy and strategy but masterful in execution. Big plays and well-designed ball-control was the key to the game for Houston. The Cougars rolled up over 500 yards of offense and kept the Navy defense on the field for a majority of the game. That led to some big play opportunities for Houston, and with players with the skill and talent of Ward Jr., Brandon Wilson and Demarcus Ayers, it proved to be too much for Navy to handle for 60 minutes. Wilson rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown and Ayers hauled in 161 yards and a score and even got involved with a passing touchdown in the first half, a 29-yard strike to Steven Dunbar. Considering how much Ward Jr. was forced to play through injury, it was a remarkable effort by Houston against a Navy team that has shown some good defense this season. It just was not there today against the AAC’s most talented offensive team.

Houston converted 15 of 18 third-down attempts, and went two-for-two when they chose to go for it on fourth down. Houston was without a turnover and committed just three penalties.

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds may have seen his late Heisman Trophy campaign take a dent with the loss, but he may still prove worthy of an invite to New York City for the presentation of the award. Reynolds tied the FBS all-time career touchdown record previously set by Wisconsin’s Montee Ball with his fourth quarter touchdown run. Whether he receives an invite to New York or not, there is no question he is among the classiest of college football players and it was clear he never allowed the Midshipmen to pack it in when Houston started to separate itself from Navy.

Houston will host either Temple or South Florida in the first American Athletic Conference championship game next Saturday, December 5. The game, scheduled to kick off at noon, will see its AAC East representative determined tomorrow when Temple plays Connecticut. If Temple defeats the Huskies in Philadelphia, the Owls will make the trip to Houston for the conference championship game. A loss by Temple and it will be South Florida representing the East thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker over Temple. USF won Thursday night to force Temple to win against UConn to win the division. Houston has not played either AAC East Division contender this season.

Navy is not done this regular season, of course. The Midshipmen will make the trip to Philadelphia for the traditional Army-Navy Game in two weeks. Navy has beaten their rivals from West Point 13 straight times for the longest winning streak in the series.

Miami defense shutting down Pitt; Hurricanes lead 23-3 at half

Brad Kaaya

It may be hard to believe, but Miami is in position to end the season with nine wins. That assumes, of course, the Hurricanes avoid a second half meltdown against Pittsburgh and close out the year with a bowl win. For now, Miami should be feeling pretty good as the Hurricanes have stomped Pitt in the first half of an early kickoff in western Pennsylvania. Miami took a 23-3 lead into the half.

Miami has more than doubled the total offensive production of the Panthers, outgaining Pitt at halftime 248 yards to 102. The Panthers have just 36 passing yards and 66 rushing yards in the half. Pitt also had a turnover with Nathan Peterman having a pass picked off by Artie Burns.

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has completed 13 of 23 pass attempts for 166 yards, with Rashawn Scott on the receiving end of the touchdown play and leading the team with 50 receiving yards. Miami’s Joseph Yardley leads all players with 64 rushing yards. Pitt’s star receiver, Tyler Boyd, has just one catch for eight yards.

Houston takes halftime lead on Navy in AAC West winner-takes-all contest

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If Houston is going to slow down Navy’s offense, keeping it off the field is a good way to go about it. In a battle for the American Athletic Conference West Division title, and home field advantage in the AAC Championship Game, Houston has used methodic ball control to its advantage and leads the Midshipmen 24-14 at halftime. Greg Ward Jr.‘s five-yard touchdown run gave the home team the lead just minutes after Houston successfully converted a fourth down and short after a timeout.

Houston took the game’s opening possession 82 yards for a touchdown after 13 plays for an early lead. Greg Ward Jr. completed a short pass to Steven Dunbar from five yards out for the score, but Navy answered with a touchdown drive on their opening possession. Keenan Reynolds ripped off a 52-yard run and later capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7.

Houston again put together a lengthy and time-consuming touchdown drive on the ensuing possession. The Cougars took 13 plays to move 76 yards for a score, this time seeing Brandon Wilson complete the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead. The two teams exchanged punts before Navy once again tied the game with Reynolds completing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jamir Tillman.