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.

ECU transfer Kurt Benkert wins Virginia’s starting QB job

In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 East Carolina quarterback Kurt Benkert rolls out to pass during NCAA college football practice in Greenville, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Four months ago, Kurt Benkert was one the losing end of a quarterback competition at East Carolina.  Fastforward to today, and he’s now the trigger man in a Power Five offense.

First-year Hoos head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced Wednesday that Benkert will start the season opener against Richmond.  Benkert had been involved in a competition that included returning starter Matt Johns and Texas/Arizona transfer Connor Brewer.

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Benkert came to the Cavaliers as a graduate transfer, but is not a one-year stop-gap as he has two years of eligibility remaining.

Named the Pirates’ starter in early August of 2015, Benkert sustained a right knee injury a couple of weeks later that knocked him out for the entire season.  Blake Kemp took over and kept a stranglehold on the starting job through spring practice this year, triggering Benkert’s decision to move on.

Benkert has attempted 10 passes in his collegiate career, all in 2014.

In starting all 12 games for the Cavaliers last season, Johns’ 2,810 passing yards were third in school history while his 20 touchdowns were tied for fourth.  His 17 interceptions, though, were the most of any FBS quarterback in 2015.

Cassius Peat granted release by Mich. St., appears headed to JUCO

COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 15:  A Michigan State Spartans helmet on the bench during a college football game against the Maryland Terrapins at Byrd Stadium on November 15, 2014 in College Park, Maryland.  The Spartans won 37-15.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Earlier this month, Mark Dantonio stated that Michigan State was giving Cassius Peat “an opportunity to work on his academics and get himself in order” as his status with the program was “in flux.”

A week or so later?  He gone.

MSU confirmed Wednesday that Peat has been granted a release from his scholarship and will transfer from the Spartans.  And, in fact, the defensive lineman may have already found a new home, one at the junior college level.

Peat, initially a UCLA commit, was a three-star 2015 recruit who was rated as the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Arizona.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman, and had been listed as the No. tackle heading into summer camp.

However, according to mlive.com, Peat did not report for camp amidst his academic issues.

Ex-Oregon St. DB goes home to LaTech as grad transfer

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Running back Justin Davis #22 of the USC Trojans is defended by safety Cyril Noland-Lewis #17 of the Oregon State Beavers in the second half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 27, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. USC defeated Oregon State 35-10.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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A week after transferring from Oregon State, Cyril Noland-Lewis has found a new home that happens to also double as his hometown.

The Ruston News Star, among others, has reported that Noland-Lewis is transferring into the Louisiana Tech football program.  As he is coming to Tech as a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play for the Bulldogs in 2016, his final season of eligibility.

The defensive back, who went to high school in Ruston, was at the Bulldogs’ practice Tuesday as Tech continues preparations for the season opener Sept. 3 against Arkansas.

Noland-Lewis started 10 games for the Beavers last season.  Six of those starts came as a safety, the others as the nickel corner.  OSU moved Noland-Lewis to cornerback this offseason, where he ultimately found himself buried on the depth chart in summer camp.

The 6-0, 198-pound fifth-year senior, who began his OSU career as a linebacker, played in a total of 37 games during his time in Corvallis.

Tyler Rodgers, NMSU’s starting QB, arrested on battery charge

BATON ROUGE, LA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Tyler Rogers #18 of the New Mexico State Aggies drops back to pass against the LSU Tigers during the first quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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It’s not been a good day for a couple of starting quarterbacks at Group of Five programs.

The Las Cruces Sun-News has reported that New Mexico State’s Tyler Rogers turned himself in last Friday on a warrant that had been issued for him Aug. 14.  The junior was booked on one count of misdemeanor charge of battery against a household member.

The alleged victim is Rogers’ girlfriend. A verbal altercation at a party allegedly turned physical in a vehicle later on. When police arrived, the woman, who was initially crying, “downplayed the incident and said that it wasn’t really anything and that the altercation did not get physical and didn’t consider Mr. Rogers grabbing her arm as being a physical altercation.”

The woman decided against completing a domestic violence supplement report, and, according to the Sun-News, it’s unclear if the woman is cooperating with police.

“I was very disappointed in hearing the news but we are in the information gathering stage,” NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia said in a statement. “These are allegations that we take very seriously and we look forward to getting as much detail as possible so the university can be informed and the athletic department can make an informed decision moving forward.”

Because “it is a misdemeanor, there isn’t a suspension coming forth right now,” head coach Doug Martin said.

Rogers has started 15 games the past two seasons for the Aggies.