Travis Wilson

Utah holds off BYU to win Holy War

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Travis Wilson threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns to lead Utah (3-1) to a 20-13 win over in-state rival BYU on Saturday. It was the Utes’ fourth-straight win over BYU (1-2) in the fabled ‘Holy War’ and Utah now leads the overall series, 58-34-4.

The teams started out rusty, with the first six possessions resulting in punts. But Utah jumped out to a 13-0 lead thanks to drives of 77, 64 and 80  in the first half, the last one comprised largely of a 74-yard pass from Wilson to Dres Anderson to set up a first-and-goal on the Cougars one-yard-line.

BYU never did get untracked in the first half. Quarterback Taysom Hill missed on his first four passes and three of his first 10 and the Cougars went 0-for-7 on third down conversions. As a result, the Utes took that 13-0 lead into the half.

The second half was a different story, though.

The Cougars came alive behind Hill, who rushed for 61 yards on the first two drives of the second half, both of which ended in BYU field goals. Suddenly, the score was 13-6 heading into the final quarter and Utah had gone cold. One of the field goals came at a price, though, as Cougar running back Jamaal Williams was knocked out after suffering a helmet to helmet collision while converting a key first down. Williams left the game on a stretcher midway through the third quarter and did not return.  It was later confirmed that he had movement in his extremities.

Meanwhile, Wilson got hot again, hitting five-straight passes on a 79-yard drive to give Utah a 20-6 lead.

BYU then attempted to mount a dramatic comeback.  J.D. Falslev returned a punt 58 yards to the Utah 13-yard line and suddenly Hill and the Cougars were in business with almost 10 minutes to play. But a rather curious series of play calls, including a run up the middle for two yards on third and six, resulted in Utah getting the set and BYU turning it over on downs.

The Cougar defense also got a set and Utah was forced to punt out of its own goal line. Hill, who had 260 passing yards and 99 rushing yards, then drove BYU 44 yards for a touchdown, going 3-for-3 for 32 yards along the way. Michael Alisa’s 1-yard run cut Utah’s lead to 20-13 with 5:13 left.

It truly looked like the Utes would give this one away after yet another punt left BYU in good shape at its own 38 yard line. A couple passes by Hill got BYU as far as the Utah 38, but his 4th and 13 pass  was intercepted. Hill got one more shot later to throw a Hail Mary or two, but Utah thwarted them.

This was a big win for Utah, which moved to 3-1 (an OT loss away from being undefeated), thanks to a sweep of in-state schools Utah State, BYU and Weber State. The continued development of Wilson has to have the Utah coaching staff fired up. And for the defense to rebound as it did after a rough outing last week against Oregon State is also encouraging. With UCLA and Stanford up next on the schedule, Utah needed this win to gain some confidence.

But it’s back to the drawing board for BYU. The Cougars have a stingy defense but the offense is still a work in progress. Until Taysom Hill becomes a more proficient passer — or his coaches figure out better ways to feature his talents — they’re going to continue to have spotty performances from time to time.

Nearly 30 percent of early entrants went undrafted

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  A detail from the red carpet prior to the start of the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images)
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North of 100 college football players decided earlier this year, in some form or fashion, to forego their remaining collegiate eligibility for an early shot at the NFL.  In the end, roughly seven out of every 10 of those players felt a draft.

In mid-January, the NFL announced that 96 players “have been granted special eligibility for the 2016 NFL Draft.”  Another 11 players with eligibility remaining “have in timely fashion under NFL rules officially notified the league office that they have fulfilled their degree requirements” and were eligible for the draft as well.

Add it up, there were 107 players who left collegiate eligibility on the table.  And, in the end, exactly 30 of those players were left without a seat once the draft music had stopped.

Below is the list of players who will hope to gain a foothold on an NFL club as an undrafted free agent:

Bralon Addison, WR, Oregon
Dominique Alexander, LB, Oklahoma
Travis Blanks, LB, Clemson
Peyton Barber, RB, Auburn
Dariusz Bladek, OG, Bethune-Cookman
Beniquez Brown, LB, Mississippi State
Trenton Coles, DB, Duquesne
Elijah Daniel, DT, Murray State
Terrell Davis, LB, British Columbia
Eric Enderson, P, Delaware
David Grinnage, TE, North Carolina State
Cayleb Jones, WR, Arizona
Denver Kirkland, OT, Arkansas
Darius Latham, DL, Indiana
Roger Lewis, WR, Bowling Green
Steve Longa, LB, Rutgers
Jalin Marshall, WR, Ohio State
Brett McMakin, LB, Northern Iowa
Marquez North, WR, Tennessee
Joe Powell, DB, Globe
Tyvis Powell, S, Ohio State
Alex Redmond, OL, UCLA
Aldrick Rosas, K, Southern Oregon
Tyrell Smith, OT, Massachusetts
Ron Thompson, DE, Syracuse
Corey Tindal, DB, Marshall
Quinn van Gylswyk, K, British Columbia
Cleveland Wallace III, CB, San Jose State
De’Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi State
Avery Young, OL, Auburn

Notre Dame-Ohio State Fiesta Bowl produced 19 NFL draft picks

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Defensive lineman Joey Bosa #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.The Buckeyes defeated the Fighting Irish 44-28.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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In the run-up to the Notre Dame-Ohio State Fiesta Bowl following the 2015 regular season, many a pundit pounded the pulpit on the plethora of potential next-level players* who would litter the field that night. At least in this instance, said pundits absolutely nailed it.

As the dust has settled in Chicago and the 2016 NFL draft has been put to bed, the tally is official: a whopping 19 Buckeyes and Fighting Irish players who took part in or were on the roster for OSU’s 16-point win in the desert were selected in the seven rounds of the annual selection meeting.

The Buckeyes, who entered Day 3 with a record 10 players drafted the first two days, finished with 12 players plucked by various NFL clubs. While that total is impressive, it falls just short of the record of 14 set by… the 2004 Buckeyes.

They did, though, set one record on the day, and at their own expense.

The Irish, meanwhile — and if you can calculate at a third-grade level — saw seven players selected in the draft.  While it was a good haul, it was tied fourth, along with Alabama and Florida, behind OSU’s 12, Clemson’s nine and UCLA’s eight.

There were nine schools that had five players each drafted: Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Penn State, Stanford, TCU and West Virginia.

(*Alarmed at a little alliteration?)

Al-Quadin Muhammad, Miami’s leading sacker, takes to social media to reveal surgery

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 21: Al-Quadin Muhammad #98 of the Miami Hurricanes sacks Antonio Bostick #13 of the Savannah State Tigers on September 21, 2013 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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While Miami had not yet confirmed it, one of the most talented Hurricanes on the defensive side of the ball, Al-Quadin Muhammad (pictured, right), underwent a successful but unspecified surgical procedure recently.  And just how did we know that initially?  Because the player posted a picture of himself laying in a hospital bed and clothed in hospital garb, that’s how.

Subsequent to Muhammad’s social media revelation, the university confirmed that the lineman had undergone “a small surgical procedure… on his knee.”  Muhammad is expected to resume football activities in a couple of weeks.

The redshirt junior played in 12 games in 2015, leading the team in both tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (five). He’ll enter summer camp, provided he doesn’t suffer a setback, as arguably the Hurricanes’ top pass rusher.

Motorcycle accident claims life of Troy DB Nathan Harris

Nathan Harris
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Sadly, tragedy has hit the college football community yet again.

Troy confirmed in a press release that Trojans football player Nathan Harris has passed away due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident earlier Saturday.  Harris was just 19 years old.

Other than the accident occurred in Gulf Shores, Ala., no details were made available.

“This is an unthinkable tragedy and the thoughts and prayers of the Troy Athletics Department and the Troy University community are with Nathan’s family and friends,” Troy athletic director Jeremy McClain said in a statement. “It is devastating to see a young life end in such a heartbreaking way, and we will provide support and comfort for his teammates, friends and coaches as they go through the grieving process.”

“Nate was a tremendous person and a very caring young man,” a statement from Troy head coach Neal Brown said began. “While his time here at Troy University was brief, his impact was felt by many. He was loved by his teammates and had a positive effect on our team’s culture in a short time.”

Harris, who starred as a quarterback at Gulf Shores High School, joined the Troy football team as a walk-on this past semester.  During the course of spring practice, Harris had worked his way up to being the Trojans’ starting holder.  He was listed as a safety on the school’s online roster.

The sudden passing is hitting the Gulf Shores community particularly hard.

“We are struggling here,” Harris’ high school coach, Ben Blackmon, told WALA-TV, adding, “He has gone to live with God.”

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Harris’ passing.