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Wisconsin football Class of 2013

Wisconsin Coach Football AP

(Below are the bios released by Wisconsin on the new members of its 2013 recruiting class.)

Hayden Biegel

Freshman
Offensive Line
6-7 / 275
Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. (Wisconsin Rapids)

High School: Three-star recruit according to ESPN, Rivals and Scout … ranked as the No. 82 offensive tackle by Scout, No. 105 by ESPN … rated as the No. 6 recruit in the state of Wisconsin by ESPN, No. 12 by Rivals … won the 2012 Joe Thomas Award as the most outstanding senior offensive lineman in Wisconsin … first-team all-state by Wisconsin Football Coaches Association as a junior and senior … two-time first-team all-conference selection as a junior and senior … conference offensive lineman of the year as a senior … team captain as a senior … also lettered in track and field … three-year honor roll student … head coach was Tony Biolo

Personal: Parents are Jamie and Rocky Biegel … brother of Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel … father played linebacker at BYU from 1988-92 and also wrestled at BYU … uncle, T.D. Biegel, played fullback at BYU from 1989-93 … grandfather, Ken Biegel, played linebacker and offensive line at UW-Eau Claire … enjoys skiing, hunting and fishing

Keelon Brookins

Freshman
Defensive Back
5-11 / 185
St. Paul, Minn. (Tartan)

High School: Four-star recruit by Rivals … rated as three-star recruit by ESPN and Scout … ranked No. 32 cornerback in the nation by Rivals, No. 58 by Scout and No. 74 by ESPN … rated the No. 2 recruit in state of Minnesota by Rivals … despite playing in only 12 games due to injury, finished career with nine interceptions as a defensive back and scored seven touchdowns as a wide receiver… as a senior, tallied two interceptions and a forced fumble in three games before missing rest of season with knee injury … had an interception, blocked punt and eight solo tackles in lone game of junior season … as a sophomore, recorded six interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown … also returned a kickoff for a touchdown and scored four offensive TDs on way to All-Classic Suburban Conference honors … claimed 2012 Minnesota Class AA state title in 200 meters as a junior, running a wind-aided 21.90 … Tartan High School’s recipient of 2012 Wendy’s High School Heisman Athletic Award … three-time All-Academic selection … three-year honor roll member … head coach was Tim Murtha

Personal: Parents are Tyrone and Dorene Brookins… active in DECA and Link Crew leadership program … volunteered as elementary school mentor and in children’s ministries at church

Corey Clement

Freshman
Running Back
5-11 / 210
Glassboro, N.J. (Glassboro)

High School: Four-star recruit according to ESPN, Rivals and Scout … rated as the No. 14 running back according to ESPN, No. 17 by Rivals, and No. 31 by Scout … ESPN Top 150 recruit … ranked as the No. 5 prospect from state of New Jersey according to ESPN, No. 8 by Rivals … selected for Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl … finished career with 6,245 rushing yards, 34 rushing touchdowns and 90 total TDs … rushed for 2,323 yards and 33 touchdowns while also recording 47 tackles and eight sacks as a senior … set New Jersey state record with 479 rushing yards in game vs. Gloucester City … first-team all-state, first-team All-South Jersey, first-team All-Group 1 and South Jersey Times All-Star team and offensive player of the year as a senior… ran for 2,510 yards and 36 total touchdowns as a junior … third-team all-state, first-team All-South Jersey, first-team All-Group 1 and South Jersey Times All-Star team and offensive player of the year as a junior … had 1,205 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore … head coach was Mark Maccarone

Personal: Parents are Latanya and Stephen Clement

Garret Dooley

Freshman
Linebacker
6-2 / 215
Rochester, Ill. (Rochester)

High School: Four-star recruit according to ESPN … rated three stars by Rivals and Scout … rated as the No. 18 inside linebacker according to ESPN, No. 22 by Scouts and No. 25 by Rivals … ranked as the No. 11 recruit in the state of Illinois by ESPN, No. 17 by Rivals … made 132 tackles, including 18.0 for loss and 14.5 sacks, at middle linebacker … on offense, ran for 1,456 yards and 32 touchdowns, adding 34 catches for 474 yards and five more touchdowns as a senior … Class 4A first-team all-state, ILB Lemming Award Recipient, Chicago Tribune All-State selection … first-team all-conference and Central State Eight Conference Player of the Year as a senior … as a junior, recorded 1,209 rushing yards, 598 receiving yards and 31 total touchdowns to go along with 146 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, six sacks … all-state honorable mention, first-team all-conference as a junior … two-time academic all-state pick … six-time academic all-conference selection between football and baseball … Spanish National Honor Society … head coach was Derek Leonard

Personal: Parents are Barbie and Greg Dooley … cousin, Buck Casson, played football at Rice University (2003-06) … cousin, Adam Casson, plays baseball at Parkland College (2011-present) … volunteers with the Big Buddy program, Homes for Troops, Community Service Sundays … enjoys golfing and playing the guitar

Matt Hubley

Freshman
Defensive Back
6-2 / 205
Waukesha, Wis. (Catholic Memorial)

High School: Three-star recruit according to Scout … ranked as the No. 97 safety by Scout, No. 172 by ESPN … rated the No. 12 recruit in the state of Wisconsin by ESPN … as a senior, named 2012 Associated Press Wisconsin Player of the Year … first-team all-state, first-team all-region and first-team All-Classic 8 Conference as a running back … also named second-team all-conference at defensive end … first-team all-county selection by Waukesha Freeman and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel … rushed for 1,671 yards and scored 21 touchdowns as a senior … on defense, finished with 75 total tackles, including 17 TFLs and 15 sacks to go along with three forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown … also a four-year letterwinner in track … head coach was Bill Young

Personal: Parents are Jenny and Greg Hubley … volunteers with the Rotary Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and local elementary schools … enjoys weight training and basketball

Leon Jacobs

Freshman
Linebacker
6-4 / 220
Santa Clarita, Calif. (Golden Valley)

High School: Three-star recruit according to ESPN … rated as the No. 77 outside linebacker according to ESPN, No. 119 by Scout … ranked as the No. 89 recruit in the state of California by ESPN … first-team all-conference as a senior … rushed for 847 yards and six touchdowns as a senior … also recorded 19 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and a defensive touchdown … four-year letterwinner in basketball … three-time second-team All-Del Rey League selection in basketball … honor roll student … head coach was Robert Fisher

Personal: Parents are Tony and Theresa Jacobs … volunteered as math and science tutor … enjoys listening to music and playing basketball

Alec James

Freshman
Defensive End
6-4 / 220
Brookfield, Wis. (East)

High School: Four-star recruit according to ESPN … rated three stars by Rivals and Scout … No. 29 defensive end as rated by ESPN, No. 64 by Scout … ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the state of Wisconsin according to ESPN, No. 2 according to Rivals … had 97 tackles, 25.0 for loss, 12 sacks and four forced fumbles as a senior … 2012 Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Defensive Player of the Year … unanimous first-team all-state, first-team all-conference, first-team all-area and all-area Player of the Year according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel … Greater Metro Conference defensive lineman of the year … Tim Krumrie Award winner as the most outstanding senior defensive lineman in Wisconsin … first- team all-state, first-team all-conference, Greater Metro Conference defensive lineman of the year, second-team all-area according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel as a junior … all-conference honorable mention as a sophomore … three-year letterwinner in track, qualifying for state meet in 4×100 and 4×200 relays … head coach was Tom Swittel

Personal: Parents are Heidi and Jimmy James … father played football at Minnesota … enjoys working out and playing video games

Jackson Keeler

Freshman
Offensive Line
6-7 / 290
Barrington, Ill. (Barrington)

High School: Four-star recruit according to ESPN … rated three stars by Rivals and Scout … ranked as the No. 29 offensive tackle by ESPN, No. 39 by Rivals, No. 49 by Scout … rated as the No. 10 recruit in the state of Illinois by ESPN, No. 11 by Rivals … received 28 total scholarship offers … named to the 2013 Senior Offense-Defense All-American Bowl … named All-Area by the Chicago Sun Times … head coach was Joey Sanchez

Personal: Parents are Katherine Keeler and Paul Keeler … high school teammate of fellow Badgers offensive lineman Dan Voltz … volunteered with the Barrington Crop Walk for Hunger and Relay for Life … senior physical education leader and was member of choir … hobbies are fishing and playing basketball

Tanner McEvoy

Sophomore
Quarterback
6-6 / 215
Hillsdale, N.J. (Bergen Catholic)
Arizona Western College

Junior College: Passed for 1,943 yards and 25 touchdowns, while throwing just six interceptions … ran for 414 yards and scored six touchdowns … named first-team All-Arizona Community College Athletic Conference and ACCAC Offensive Player of the Year … first-team All-Western States Football League

High School: Enrolled and spent one season at South Carolina before transferring to Arizona Western College after spring practice in 2011 … three-star prospect according to Rivals … threw for 2,264 yards and 32 touchdowns while rushing for 1,196 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior … 2010 New Jersey Offensive Player of the Year … named to MSG Metro All-Star Team for the tri-state area … first-team all-state as a senior … three-time first-team all-county selection … as a junior, caught 35 passes for 550 yards and three touchdowns at wide receiver and recorded 49 tackles and three interceptions at defensive back … also lettered in basketball … honor roll student … head coaches were Fred Stengel and Nunzio Campanile

Personal: Parents are Tina and Steve McEvoy… brother, Colin, played football at Rutgers from 2007-10 … volunteered with American Red Cross Disaster Services and with Guiding Eyes of New York program, helping to train seeing-eye dogs

Matt Miller

Freshman
Offensive Line
6-5 / 265
Maumee, Ohio (St. Johns Jesuit)

High School: Three-star recruit according to ESPN, Rivals and Scout … rated as the No. 35 guard by Scout, No. 39 by Rivals and No. 55 by ESPN … ranked as the No. 50 recruit in the state of Ohio according to ESPN, No. 55 according to Rivals … 48 pancake blocks as a senior … first-team all-state, first-team all-district, first-team all-league and team captain … selected to play for the under-19 U.S. national team in the 2013 International Bowl … 40 tackles, including 11.0 for loss and four sacks, 28 pancake blocks as a junior … first-team all-district, first-team all-league … 25 tackles, including five for loss and one sack as a sophomore … head coach was Doug Pearson

Personal: Parents are Jane and P.J. Miller … brother, Jack, currently plays football at Michigan … father played football from 1986-90 at St. Joseph’s College in Indiana … uncle is Jim Leyland, manager of the Detroit Tigers since 2006 … volunteers at Sunshine Children’s Home, Cherry St. Mission, and through St. John’s Jesuit Christian Service … enjoys hunting, fishing, and working out

Chikwe Obasih

Freshman
Defensive End
6-2 / 235
Brookfield, Wis. (Central)

High School: Four-star recruit according to Rivals … rated three stars by ESPN and Scout … ranked as the No. 45 defensive end by Scout, No. 46 by ESPN … rated the No. 1 recruit in the state of Wisconsin by Rivals, No. 2 by ESPN … selected to 2013 Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl … finished three-year varsity career with 223 tackles, 49 tackles for loss, 17 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries and an interception … first-team all-state by Associated Press and WFCA … first-team all-conference, first-team all-area according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel as a senior … finished senior season with 101 tackles, 24 TFLs, 7.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries … first-team all-conference, honorable mention all-area as a junior … had 83 tackles, 15.5 TFLs, 6 sacks and 2 forced fumbles during junior season … honorable mention all-conference as a sophomore … head coach was Jamie Meulemans

Personal: Father is Kemakolam Obasih … sister, Chidera Obasih, competes in track and field at Minnesota … volunteered on Boy Scout service projects and as coach at youth football camps and with various church projects

Jazz Peavy

Freshman
Wide Receiver
6-0 / 175
Kenosha, Wis. (Tremper)

High School: Three-star recruit according to ESPN and Rivals … rated as the No. 177 wide receiver by ESPN … rated as the No. 9 recruit in the state of Wisconsin by ESPN, No. 11 by Rivals … had 38 catches for 535 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior … first-team all-state, first-team all-conference, all-region … team MVP and captain … Kenosha Alan Ameche Award finalist … caught 26 passes for 425 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior … first-team all-state, first-team all-conference, all-region … career totals of 115 catches for 1774 yards and 37 touchdowns … head coach was Frank Matrise

Personal: Parents are Linda and Jeff Peavy … volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club youth football camp … helped distribute gifts to less fortunate kids at the Holiday House … enjoys weight lifting, basketball and video games

Sojourn Shelton

Freshman
Defensive Back
5-9 / 175
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (Plantation)

High School: Four-star recruit according to ESPN … rated as three-star recruit by Rivals and Scout … ranked No. 26 cornerback in the nation by ESPN, No. 47 by Rivals and No. 76 by Scout … named to Gridiron Kings 7-on-7 camp in July 2012 … selected for Nike’s “The Opening” all-star camp … named MVP of Miami-area Nike Football Training Camp in April 2012 … as a senior, returned three punts for touchdowns and recorded an interception, 16 pass breakups and 22 tackles … named first-team all-county by South Florida Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald … as a junior, recorded three interceptions at cornerback and was named to the Broward County Super 11 by the Sun Sentinel … started at cornerback as a sophomore and grabbed four interceptions … head coach was Steve Davis

Personal: Parents are Rachel Victor and Sojourn Shelton, Sr. … active in 100 Black Men of Greater Ft. Lauderdale and Junior Achievement … served as motivational speaker for Plantation area Little Leaguers

Donnell Vercher

Junior
Safety
6-2 / 200
Clovis, Calif. (Clovis)
Fresno City College

Junior College: Finished sophomore season at Fresno City College with 23 tackles and eight interceptions, earning junior college All-America honors … had 41 tackles, three interceptions and four pass breakups as a freshman

High School: Three-star recruit by Rivals and ESPN … as a senior, named 2010 Tri-River Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year … finished senior season with 112 tackles, three interceptions, six forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and three blocked kicks … also rushed for 258 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior … also competed in basketball, track and volleyball … coach was Rich Hammond

Personal: Parents are Betty and Eric Vercher … cousin, Roshon Vercher, played football at Fresno State … volunteered with Amazing Grace Ministries … enjoys spending time with family

Jakkarie Washington

Freshman
Cornerback
5-10 / 170
Everett, Mass. (Everett)

High School: Three-star recruit according to Scout … ranked as the No. 56 cornerback by Scout, No. 110 by ESPN … rated as the No. 8 recruit in the state of Massachusetts by ESPN … caught 33 passes for 439 yards and nine touchdowns, ran for 697 yards on just 75 carries and scored 15 touchdowns, recorded two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, returning one for a touchdown as a senior … ESPN Boston first-team all-state as a senior … two-time all-state selection … head coach was John Dibiaso

Personal: Mother is Keisha Washington

T.J. Watt

Freshman
Tight End
6-4 / 215
Pewaukee, Wis. (Pewaukee)

High School: Three-star recruit according to ESPN, Rivals and Scout … rated as the No. 28 tight end by ESPN, No. 44 by Scout … ranked as the No. 9 recruit from the state of Wisconsin by Rivals, No. 11 by ESPN … threw for 527 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 554 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior … also recorded 42 tackles and five sacks as a senior … honorable mention all-state … first-team all-conference quarterback, linebacker and punter … honorable mention all-area at linebacker according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel … made 27 catches for 505 yards and three touchdowns as a junior … first-team all-conference as a tight end … also lettered in track and field … head coach was Justin Friske

Personal: Parents are Connie and John Watt … brother of former Badgers defensive lineman J.J. Watt, who was named 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year with the Houston Texans, and current Badgers fullback Derek Watt

Robert Wheelwright

Freshman
Wide Receiver
6-1 / 179
Columbus, Ohio (Walnut Ridge)

High School: Four-star recruit according to Scout … rated three stars by ESPN and Rivals … ranked as the No. 28 wide receiver according to Scout, No. 49 by Rivals, No. 70 by ESPN … rated as the No. 21 recruit in the state of Ohio by Scout, No. 30 by ESPN … finished career with 26 touchdown receptions … recorded 48 receptions for 903 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior …. had 45 catches for 528 yards, 11 touchdowns as a junior … first-team all-city, all-district and all-state as a senior … advanced honor roll student … head coach was Byron Mattox

Personal: Parents are Debra and Ernest Wheelwright … grandfather, Ernie Wheelwright, played football at Southern Illinois and went on to nine-year NFL career with New York Giants, Atlanta and New Orleans … uncle, Eric Wheelwright, played football at Utah … brother, Michael Bell, played at Ohio Dominican University … brother, Ernest Wheelwright III, played football at Minnesota from 2004-07 and went on to pro career with Baltimore Ravens and Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL … high school teammate of current Badgers tight end Austin Traylor

Jack Cichy

Freshman
Linebacker
6-3 / 195
Somerset, Wis. (Hill Murray)

High School: Recorded 107 tackles, seven tackles for loss, four sacks, six forced fumbles and four fumbles recovered, as well as one interception , four pass breakups and two blocked kicks as a senior … all-conference selection as a senior … honorable mention all-state … team MVP as a senior … finished with 111 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumbles recovered, plus three interceptions, seven pass breakups and four blocked punts as a junior … all-conference selection … two-time team captain … 58 tackles and one pass broken up as a sophomore

Personal: Parents are Lisa and Steve Cichy … father played football at Notre Dame and in the Canadian Football League … mother played basketball at Marquette … sister, Tessa, plays basketball for the Badgers … volunteers with Amnesty International and as a camp counselor with local football and basketball youth … participated in food preparation at a local homeless shelter and volunteered at Ronald McDonald House … enjoys golfing, boating and playing with his three dogs

D.J. Spurling

Freshman
Athlete
5-11 / 215
Slinger, Wis. (Slinger)

High School: Ran for 1,084 yards and nine touchdowns, threw one touchdown, and made 76 tackles, including six for loss, as a senior … all-county offensive player of the year, second team all-conference, team MVP and team captain as a senior … recorded 104 tackles, eight tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery as a junior

Personal: Parents are Lisa and Duane Spurling … uncle, Brian Fulton, played football and basketball at Carroll College (1986-91) … participated in powerlifting in high school, placing fifth in the state and eighth nationally as a junior … volunteers with Future Christian Athletes, Skills US, Habitat for Humanity and local youth football programs … enjoys working out, mountain biking and playing paintball

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Bowling Green in first-half control of bowl rookie South Alabama

MAC Championship - Bowling Green v Northern Illinois

Entering the first-ever Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, both Bowling Green and South Alabama were looking to end losing streaks and build momentum for the 2015 offseason.  Through two quarters of play, the MAC school is well on its way to doing just that.

After jumping out to a quick 14-0 lead through the first half of the first quarter, the Falcons offense slumbered for a bit before reawakening in the second quarter long enough to take a 20-7 lead into halftime on the Jaguars.  In addition to it being the inaugural game for the Montgomery bowl, incidentally, it’s also USA’s first-ever postseason appearance in its third season as an FBS program.

Even given that, and the fact that the game was being played in USA’s home state, the first two quarters were all about BGSU.

James Knapke, who took over as the starting quarterback when Matt Johnson sustained a season-ending injury in the opener, passed for 230 first-half yards and a touchdown.  134 of those yards came in the first half, with 97 of those yards coming on two completions — one being a 44-yard touchdown pass to Roger Lewis that opened the scoring.

The Falcons’ defense, which had struggled during the three-game losing streak to close out the regular season, allowed the Jaguars’ offense to gain just 119 yards.  In its last three games, BGSU had given up nearly 1,500 yards in losses to Northern Illinois, Ball State and Toledo.

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UAB transfers land at Southern Miss, Troy

FBC- UH vs. UAB AP

The exodus of UAB football players continues unabated, with Southern Miss and Troy the latest landing spots for the erstwhile Blazers.

Friday evening, Troy announced that cornerback Lamarcus Farmer has signed a grant-in-aid agreement and will continue his playing career with the Trojans. A day later, kicker Nick Vogel confirmed to the Biloxi Sun-Herald that he has transferred to Southern Miss.

Both players, as has been the case with every other player who’s fled the shuttered UAB program, will be eligibility to play immediately in 2015. Of the two, Farmer comes into his new program with by far the more impressive pedigree.

After starting 11 games as a redshirt freshman in 2012, injuries the past two seasons helped limit the defensive back to just 10 total starts, five each in 2013 and 2014. The 2015 season will serve as Farmer’s final year of eligibility.

“Lamarcus is a veteran player and will come in and compete immediately in our program,” new Troy head coach Neal Brown said in a statement. “What happened at UAB is very unfortunate and we really feel for all of the players and staff who were effected by those events. We’re glad that Lamarcus has decided to join our family and we look forward to having his experience on the field.”

Vogel, meanwhile, did not see any action at UAB as a freshman in 2014. He is, though, expected to compete for kicking duties beginning in spring practice.

“I do believe that I will be able to contribute to the success of the team immediately and look forward to the opportunity to do so,” the kicker, who will have four years of eligibility remaining, told the Sun-Herald.

Oddly enough, and thanks again in part to the demise of UAB football, the two football programs announced Friday afternoon that they have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series. Troy will travel to Hattiesburg, Miss., on Sept. 17, 2016, for the first game of the series, while the Golden Eagles will make the return trip on Sept. 7, 2019.

Troy had scheduled to host UAB in 2015 and travel to Birmingham in 2016.

“I have to give [athletic director] John Hartwell a lot of credit for having a plan in place and locking down this series quickly after the news broke about UAB,” Brown said. “This is going to be an exciting series for our players and for our fans. From a recruiting and fan engagement standpoint, it is very beneficial for us to continue to play games within our geographic footprint.”

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Air Forces bakes Western Michigan for sweet 38-24 Potato Bowl victory

Zach Terrell, Jordan Pierce

Camouflaged in all blue from head to toe and standing on a drenched blue field, Air Force raced past Western Michigan for a 38-24 victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Though Western Michigan trailed from the 10:12 mark of the second quarter on, the game played closer than the final score. Trailing 23-10 entering the fourth quarter, Zach Terrell found Corey Davis for a 35-yard touchdown to pull the Broncos within 23-17 with 13:26 remaining. Western Michigan pushed Air Force 13 yards backward on the ensuing possession, and Daniel Braverman returned Will Conant‘s punt for a touchdown to seemingly give the Broncos a chance to take the lead. But the touchdown was pulled off the board for a block in the back that was ultimately irrelevant to the play (aren’t they all?) but illegal nonetheless. After an incomplete pass and a one-yard loss, Terrell scrambled forward on 3rd-and-11, but fumbled and Air Force’s Dexter Walker returned the loose ball for a 60-yard touchdown.

In a proverbial blink of an eye, a 24-23 lead turned into a 31-17 deficit and Western Michigan was baked, fried and scalloped.

Terrell through four straight incompletions on Western Michigan’s next possession, and Air Force turned a short field into a 38-yard touchdown drive, pushing the lead to 38-17. Terrell hit Davis for a 51-yard touchdown, his third of the day, with 3:16 remaining to provide the final score.

Air Force rushed for 284 yards and four touchdowns, led by Shayne Davern‘s 12 rushes for 101 yards and two touchdowns, while college football’s 12th-leading rusher Jarvion Franklin was limited to 26 yards on 12 carries for Western Michigan.

With no help from his banged up running back, Terrell carried the Western Michigan offense as he completed 19-of-38 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns while rushing 11 times for a team-leading 61 yards. Davis caught eight passes for 176 yards and his trio of scoring strikes.

The win is Air Force’s 11th bowl victory in program history, while Western Michigan falls to 0-6 all-time in bowl games.

Win or lose, both teams represent the best turnaround stories in college football outside of Fort Worth, Texas, for the 2014 season. Air Force turned a 2-10 record a year ago into a 10-3 finish in 2014, while Western Michigan jumped from 1-11 in P.J. Fleck‘s first season to 8-5 in his second campaign.

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Leading receiver returning to UCLA for another season

USC v UCLA

Many FBS teams have to be concerned about losing players to an early jump to the NFL, but UCLA’s not one of them.  Well, at least not as far as one of its top offensive playmakers is concerned they won’t.

With speculation apparently swirling that he was leaving early, Jordan Payton confirmed Saturday that he will be returning to the Bruins for his senior season.  In fact, Payton claimed that leaving early for the NFL was never a part of his thought process when it came to his football future.

I’m coming back,” Payton told reporters after practice. “There were reports saying that I was leaving or something, but I’m coming back. Didn’t really even think about leaving, to be honest with you.”

As Payton isn’t being projected to be selected in the first couple of rounds of the 2015 draft, it’s likely a wise decision.

In 2014, Payton is leading all Bruins receivers with 63 receptions for 896 yards and seven touchdowns. Last season, he was third on the team in receptions (38) and receiving yards (440).

Jim Mora‘s Bruins won’t go completely unscathed on the early-entry front as the head coach confirmed earlier this month that star quarterback Brett Hundley will forego his remaining eligibility and enter the NFL draft.

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Dan Mullen goes yard with staff party sweater choice

Cousin Eddie

Other people can have “A Christmas Story” or “Miracle on 34th Street” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” or myriad others when it comes to Christmas movie classics.  For me, it doesn’t get any better this time of the year than “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

For those who haven’t seen it… shame on you; rectify that egregious error and invite the Griswolds into your home this holiday season.

In that vein, the Mississippi State football staff held its Christmas party Saturday night, and Dan Mullen‘s sartorial sweater splendor was, without a doubt, the highlight of the evening.  Well, it was at least the highlight of the evening that was posted to Twitter.

We were all witnesses to this masterpiece of greatness, which may or may not be SFW depending on your place of employment.

Bravo Coach Mullen, and whoever was responsible for that thing of beauty.  Bravo.

And, again, for those unfamiliar with the movie, click HERE for some perspective on Mullen’s choice of attire.  And then go out and watch the entire movie.

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Nick Saban gives impassioned defense for D.J. Pettway’s second chance

Auburn v Alabama Getty Images

In February of 2013, four Alabama football players, including D.J. Pettway, were arrested in connection with a pair of robberies and, following an initial suspension, dismissed from the football program.  Only Pettway, in December of last year, was ultimately permitted to return to the Tide.

The second chance caused enough of a controversy — Pettway had initially been charged with a pair of felonies that involved beating a UA student– the the university took the somewhat unusual step of releasing a statement from the school’s athletic director addressing the reinstatement.

Fast-forward almost exactly a year, and Alabama is one win away from an appearance in the national championship game, and Pettway has played a role in the Tide’s success as a rush defensive end.  Not only that, but Pettway has earned his degree in just three and a half years.  He’s obviously done well with his second chance, regardless of whether some people think he deserved it at the time based on the serious nature of the crime.

It’s those people, though, for whom Nick Saban had some very choice words as he stepped up to the pulpit following Saturday’s practice and delivered a passionate sermon on second chances.  From al.com‘s account of Saban’s speech:

“Where do you want them to be? Guy makes a mistake. Where do you want them to be? You want him to be [on] the street or do you want them to be here graduating?”

He made reference to Muhsin Muhammad, who got in trouble while playing for Saban at Michigan State but turned into a success story after his second chance.

“Everybody in the school, every newspaper guy, everybody was killing [Muhammad] because he got in trouble and they said there’s no way he should be on our team,” Saban said. “I didn’t kick him off the team. I suspended him. I made him do some stuff.”

The receiver enjoyed a 15-year career in the NFL. He created a charity foundation called “The M2 Foundation for Kids.” Saban noted that he has seven children, and his oldest daughter is at Princeton.

“So who was right? I feel strong about this now, really strong, about all the criticism out there of every guy that’s 19 years old that makes a mistake and you all kill them,” Saban said.

“Some people won’t stand up for him. My question to you is, ‘Where do you want him to be?’ You want to condemn him to a life sentence? Or do you want the guy to have his children going to Princeton?”

Regardless of where you stand on football players and second chances, that’s some powerful stuff right there from Coach Saban.

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Air Force leading Western Michigan 20-10 at halftime of Potato Bowl

Colton Huntsman

The story line of Saturday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl was Air Force’s experience and execution versus Western Michigan’s youth and ability. So far, experience and execution is winning out.

The Falcons lead Western Michigan 20-10 at the half.

Air Force has successfully bottled up the nation’s 12th-leading rusher (and second-leading freshman rusher) Jarvion Franklin, limiting him to just 21 yards and six carries to this point. Quarterback Zach Terrell has been forced to carry the Broncos attack through the air (7-of-15 passing for 126 yards and a touchdown) and on the ground (seven carries for 52 yards).

Western Michigan’s 10 points have come on a 22-yard field goal drive that began after recovering a Devin Rushing fumble on Air Force’s first snap, and six-play, 75-yard drive punctuated by a 47-yard scoring strike from Terrell to Corey Davis. Outside of that,

Outside of that, Western Michigan has generated 102 yards of total offense while registering seven first downs and two third-down conversions in seven tries.

Air Force has used its diverse rushing game to lead its offense, as six different ball-carriers have combined for 34 rushes for 186 yards and three touchdowns. Shayne Davern has led the way with nine rushes for 92 yards and two touchdowns, turning a 3-0 deficit into a 6-3 lead and a 10-6 deficit into a 13-10 lead.

Kale Pearson has completed three of his four passes for 58 yards.

And in undoubtedly his best decision of the day, Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun has camouflaged his troops in blue helmets, blue jerseys and blue pants on the trademark blue turf of Boise State’s Albertson’s Stadium.

Western Michigan will receive the ball to open the second half.

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No. 22 Utah runs over Colorado State to win Las Vegas Bowl

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl - Utah v Colorado State Getty Images

Colorado State played Saturday’s Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl with head coach Jim McElwain watching from a proverbial plush leather recliner from Gainesville, Fla., and it showed. No. 22 Utah did everything it wanted on offense while stifling Colorado State’s potent passing attack for a 45-10 blowout victory.

Utah scored a Las Vegas Bowl-record 21 first-quarter points – thanks to 202 yards of total offense on 15 plays – to grab a 24-10 halftime lead and it the revved the engines (powered by Royal Purple, of course) from there, scoring three unanswered touchdowns to create the 45-10 final with 12:28 to spare.

The 35-point margin is the second-largest in the game’s 23-year history, trailing only Oregon State’s 55-14 smashing of New Mexico in 2003.

The combination of Travis Wilson and Davontae Booker proved too much for the Colorado State defense to handle. Wilson completed 17-of-26 passes for 158 yards with a touchdown and an interception and eviscerated the Rams’ rush defense – particularly in the red zone – to the tune of 91 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries. Booker added 26 carries for 162 yards and a 60-yard touchdown, which came one snap after Colorado State had pulled within 14-7 midway through the first quarter and ended any semblance of momentum the Rams would enjoy on the afternoon.

Garrett Grayson completed 20-of-34 passes for 227 yards and an interception (he also caught Colorado State’s only touchdown, a 39-yard throwback from receiver Charles Lovett), and All-American wideout Rashard Higgins snagged seven passes for 109 yards, but Colorado State lost this game up front. The Rams were out-rushed 359-20.

After forcing a three-and-out to open the game, Utah’s first snap came from the Colorado State 47-yard line. Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen dialed up an end around-turned-reverse-turned-throwback pass from Wilson to Kaelin Clay for a 36-yard completion, a Vegas-inspired gamble that got the Utes off to a hot start. Overall, Utah racked up 548 yards of offense on 77 plays (7.11 yards per play) with 29 first downs and nine third-down conversions in 14 tries.

Colorado State closes its season at 10-3 – its first 10-win season since 2002 and, much like that 2002 season, the Rams close the year by dropping their final two games – and will turn its full attention toward finding McElwain’s full-time successor.

Utah, meanwhile, wraps up its 2014 season at 9-4, its best showing since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. The Utes will close the season ranked inside the top 25 for the first time since 2010, when they garnered a No. 23 ranking in the coaches’ poll.

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UW Huskies call report that Marcus Peters choked coach ‘bull****’

Ty Montgomery, Marcus Peters AP

Marcus Peters’ dismissal from Washington last month was preceded by a series of ugly incidents, something acknowledged by those around the football program.  What UW is taking issue with, however, is the latest specific report of ugliness.

According to NFL.com earlier this week, a veteran NFL scout quoted anonymously claimed that he had witnessed the cornerback choking an assistant coach after a verbal altercation turned physical.  The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel offered up a similar report.

Those allegations are apparently not sitting well with at least one member of the UW coaching staff.

“It’s bull****,” UW defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski told the Seattle Times when asked about the allegations. “We had our issues with Marcus, but there was never any physical altercation. Not with this staff.”

Regardless of whether or not it’s true, it serves as yet another black mark for a talented but troubled player looking to move on to the next level.

Peters’ dismissal in early November came nearly two months after the corner, in an early-season game against Eastern Washington, was seen throwing his helmet and gloves on the ground and arguing with Washington assistants. First-year head coach Chris Petersen in turn slapped the player with a one-game suspension; suffice to say, that lesson didn’t take.

It was then reported that, in the span of five days beginning in late October, Peters got into a verbal altercation with coaches on the sidelines during the Week 11 game against Colorado; skipped practice three days later for unknown reasons; and, finally, was involved in yet another verbal altercation with an assistant during practice a day after that.

There’s little doubt that, when Peters can maintain his composure and get on the playing field, he was one of the most talented players at his position in the Pac-12.  He had started 22 of 23 games at corner for the Huskies prior to his suspension, and was named second-team All-Pac-12 following the 2013 season.  He was also named to a handful of midseason All-American teams this year as well.

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Illinois State rallies past New Hampshire, set to face North Dakota State for the FCS title

Illinois State University v University of Northern Iowa

It’ll be an all-Missouri Valley affair for the FCS championship.

North Dakota State punched the first ticket Friday night with a 35-3 win over Sam Houston State, taking a 7-3 halftime lead and exploding from there. The Bison will play for their fourth straight national championship – and three of them could come at the expense of Sam Houston State after beating the Bearkats in the 2011 and 2012 championship games.

On Saturday, Illinois State booked its ticket to the championship in epic fashion. The Redbirds trailed top-seeded New Hampshire 18-6 through three quarters, but notched touchdowns in successive drives – traveling 173 yards in 19 plays – to take a 21-18 lead.

New Hampshire had one chance to tie or take the lead, but its eight-play, 29-yard drive was halted at the Illinois State 46 when Sean Goldrich‘s 4th-and-3 pass to Kyon Taylor was stopped for no gain. Illinois State consumed the game’s final four minutes and eight seconds to punch its first ticket to the FCS title game. Quarterback Tre Robertson carried the Redbirds, completing 18-of-31 passes for 278 yards while also leading the club with 12 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown. His prolific effort overcame a lost fumble at the New Hampshire goal line in the first half.

Illinois State (13-1) and North Dakota State (14-1) finished the regular season as co-champions of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. They did not meet in the regular season, and each suffered its lone loss on the road to Northern Iowa. Illinois State avenged its loss to the Panthers with a 41-21 win in a second-round playoff game on Dec. 6.

A win by North Dakota State will make the Bison the first FCS team to win four straight national titles since the subdivision was formed in 1978. Appalachian State also claimed three straight national titles from 2005-07.

The FCS National Championship will be held Saturday, Jan. 10 in Frisco, Texas (1 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

 

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Report: Ohio St. co-DC Chris Ash interviews for Colorado St. vacancy

Chris Ash, Tyvis Powell AP

Ohio State has already lost its offensive coordinator to a head coaching job.  Could a coordinator on the other side of the ball be next?

According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, OSU co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash interviewed for the head-coaching vacancy at Colorado State.  Former USC associate head coach John Baxter interviewed for the job as well, McMurphy reported.

It’s unclear when the interviews took place.  It’s also unknown when CSU, in the midst of its bowl game against Utah Saturday afternoon, will pull the trigger on a hire as they’ve cast an expansive net searching for a replacement for Jim McElwain, who took the Florida job earlier this month.

This is Ash’s first season with the Buckeyes after leaving Arkansas, but his departure would be a significant one as he helped take a defense, particularly the secondary, that was extremely suspect in 2013 and turned it into one of the top units in the Big Ten.  Ash’s loss would be magnified as Tom Herman left his offensive coordinator post this past week to take over the Houston football program.

In addition to Ash and Baxter, there have been close to a dozen names mentioned in connection to the CSU opening, including Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo earlier this week.  Another name mentioned recently is that of Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, although it’s believed he might be the front-runner for the Pittsburgh job.

Interestingly, no current FBS defensive coordinators have been hired as head coaches during the 2014 spinning of the coaching carousel, although four coordinators on the other side of the ball and one wide receivers coach have claimed five of the 11 head coaching positions already filled.  CSU is one of three FBS programs still searching for a head coach, the others being Michigan and Pittsburgh.

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Utah State’s New Mexico Bowl victory is 10th win with 4th QB in 2014

Kent Myers

The New Mexico Bowl may have seen some crazy endings the past few years, but this year’s game went against that script. Instead, Utah State (10-4, 6-2 Mountain West Conference) recorded just the second 10-win season in program history with its third straight bowl victory with a 21-6 victory over UTEP (7-6, 5-3 Conference USA).

UTEP opened the scoring in the first quarter with a field goal on the game’s opening possession, but Utah State later scored a touchdown in the first quarter when quarterback Kent Myers broke off a 48-yard touchdown run down the left sideline for the lead. The Aggies punched in a second touchdown in the third quarter with Nick Vigil pushing one in from three yards out to cap a 75-yard drive. UTEP would add a late field goal.

UTEP’s chances to get the ball back for one last chance to tie things up took a critical blow when a kickoff following the second field goal by Jay Mattox went out-of-bounds, setting Utah State up in good field position. UTEP burned a timeout before the field goal try, which meant the decision not to go for the onside kick was a little extra confusing with under three minutes to play remaining. Utah State simply let running back Joe Hill carry the team the rest of the way with some big runs to run clock, including a touchdown run with 1:33 to play for the knockout blow.

Heading into 2015 the first big question for Utah State will be how does quarterback Chuckie Keeton look? Keeton’s return to the field in 2014 did not go according to plan, as he never seemed to be playing at full speed after a knee injury ended the 2013 season for him. The knee acted up again early in 2014, but he has one more year of eligibility to play. It would be wise to have Utah State proceed with extreme caution with Keeton in order to make sure he is ready for the rigors of the 2015 season.

Enough cannot be said about the coaching job Utah State head coach Matt Wells did this season. The Aggies won 10 games using four different starting quarterbacks along the way. That included a bowl game victory that even saw Myers receive some brief medical attention.

UTEP will look to find a way to build on the momentum the second half of the season saw on the field. The Miners win five of their final seven games of the regular season, although they fell a couple of games shy of the division title. The start to the 2015 season could be rough with three consecutive road games against Arkansas, Texas Tech and New Mexico State. UTEP will look to replace some key position players like quarterback Jameil Showers and receivers Jarred Shaw and Ian Hamilton, but the bulk of the offense should be in place. The defensive secondary will be hit hard as well, but the front of the defense should largely in good shape.

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No. 22 Utah handling Colorado State halfway through Las Vegas Bowl

Travis Wilson

No. 22 Utah used big plays and solid defense to build a 24-10 halftime lead over Colorado State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.

This being Vegas, both teams’ first scores were set up by successful rolls of the dice. After taking possession of its own 47, Utah’s first play from scrimmage was an end around-turned-reverse-turned-throwback pass from Travis Wilson to Kaelin Clay, good for a 36-yard gain. Wilson rushed in two plays later to put the Utes up 7-0.

After forcing a three-and-out, Utah swiftly moved 71 yards in six plays, capped by a 16-yard scoring strike from Wilson to Delshawn McClellon to go up 14-0 midway through the first quarter.

Colorado State responded by moving 77 yards in five plays on the ensuing possession, scoring on a 39-yard pass from senior wide receiver Charles Lovett to quarterback Garrett Grayson.

Utah quickly seized back momentum, though, as Devontae Booker raced 60 yards to pay dirt on the next play from scrimmage.

Overall, Utah scored a Las Vegas Bowl-record 21 first quarter points by gaining 201 yards of total offense on just 15 plays.

Jared Roberts knocked in a 41-yard field goal at the 2:09 mark of the first quarter to pull the Rams within 21-10, and Andy Phillips answered with a 38-yarder at the 8:25 mark of the second quarter to push the lead back to 14. Phillips missed a 38-yard try on the final play of the half.

Wilson has completed 12-of-18 passes for 124 yards with a touchdown and an interception while adding seven carries for 59 yards and a score. Combined with Booker’s 92 yards on 10 rushes, Utah is out-rushing Colorado State 203-13.

Grayson has completed 12-of-18 throws for 136 yards, and All-American receiver Rashard Higgins has notched four receptions for 83 yards.

Utah will receive the ball to open the second half.

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Utah State has edge in defensive New Mexico Bowl at half

Kent Myers

The Gildan New Mexico has served up some wackiness over the last few years, but this year’s game has been a much more defensive battle so far. Utah State holds the upper hand at the break, leading UTEP 7-3 at the half.

It may not matter who is playing quarterback for Utah State this season, because they just seem to make plays. Kent Myers, who started the season as Utah State’s fourth-string quarterback, gave the Aggies a 7-3 lead with a 48-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against UTEP in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Myers had to receive some medical treatment in the second quarter, but he returned to finish off Utah State’s final possession of the half.

UTEP got the scoring started early with a 32-yard field goal by Jay Mattox from 30 yards out to cap a game-opening drive of seven plays and 60 yards. The Miners were later stuffed on a fourth and four situation inside the Utah State 10-yard line. The Aggies capitalized on the game-changing sequence by sending Ronald Butler off to the races for a 61-yard gain on the first play of the ensuing possession. With time running short, the Aggies had to settle for a field goal attempt in the final seconds of the first half. The kick, after a UTEP timeout, was wide left.

The game has, for the most part, been pretty evenly played. One area UTEP has the clear advantage in is turnover margin. The Miners offense has not lost the football, but UTEP has forced two turnovers in the first half. Once UTEP gets their hands on the football though, they have been unable to cash in. Credit the Utah State offense for bailing out their offense.

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Ragin’ Cajuns win fourth straight New Orleans Bowl to start bowl season

C.J. Bates, James Butler

For the fourth straight season, the Louisiana-Lafayette (9-4, 7-1 Sun Belt Conference) season comes to an end by celebrating a victory in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. The Ragin’ Cajuns buckled down defensively to hold off Nevada (7-6, 4-4 Mountain West Conference) for a 16-3 victory. UL-Lafayette is the first school to ever win the same bowl game in four consecutive seasons.

UL-Lafayette jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead in the first quarter before Nevada got a handle on things defensively. The offense for the Wolf Pack could never really get going though. For the first time this season Nevada was held to fewer than 20 points, and it was the first time since losing to Florida State in 2013 (62-7) that Nevada was held to fewer than 10 points in a game.

UL-Lafayette quarterback Terrance Broadway was accurate and effective with his passing against Nevada, completing 26 of 31 attempts for 227 yards and a touchdown. Running back Elijah McGuire led the Ragin’ Cajuns on the ground with 97 yards and was the team’s leading receiver with 54 receiving yards.

Not only is this the fourth consecutive New Orleans Bowl victory in as many years for Louisiana-Lafayette, but this marks the fourth straight season with a record of 9-4 for the program, another tremendous credit to the work and model of consistency put together under the leadership of head coach Mark Hudspeth. The program had just four winning seasons dating back to 1990 before Hudspeth was named the head coach before the 2011 season. Hudspeth had his contract extended earlier this year, but he is going to remain one of the coaches to watch during next season’s coaching carousel unless he still moves somewhere during this season’s cycle. Pittsburgh and Michigan still have coaching vacancies to fill, as well as Colorado State.

Nevada’s last bowl victory came in the 2010 season in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. Head coach Chris Ault did show signs of improvement with the Nevada a program this season though. Although it ended with a loss, Nevada doubled its win total from a year ago, at a time when the program was in the midst of some significant turnover and going through a realignment adjustment. One key offseason task for Nevada will be to find a replacement for quarterback Cody Fajardo. The senior was Nevada’s leading passer and rusher in the losing effort, and he had a rough finale as a college player. Nevada plays in a wide-open division in the Mountain West Conference, so it would not be a surprise at all to see Nevada bounce back next season and contend for the West Division.

With the Ragin’ Cajuns winning, the Sun Belt Conference gets off to a good start in the bowl season. The Sun Belt went 2-0 in its two bowl appearances last season. The Sun Belt has two more bowl games to be played this season, starting later today with South Alabama playing Bowling Green in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. Arkansas State will face Toledo on January 4 in the GoDaddy Bowl.

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