UCF 31-7 run shatters Louisville’s BCS title hopes

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Everything was going Louisville’s way. After taking a 14-7 lead in to halftime, the Cardinals stormed out to a commanding 28-7 lead midway through the third quarter. But Central Florida put together a 31-7 run from that point on and snapped Louisville’s undefeated season with a thrilling, down-to-the-wire 38-35 victory.

Louisville took  28-7 lead when a James Quick picked up a botched snap on a Central Florida punt and returned it for a touchdown a couple of minutes after Dominique Brown‘s 20-yard touchdown run sparked a wild second half. Central Florida rallied to tie the game late in the third quarter, with Storm Johnson getting in from the one-yard line an scored on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Blake Bortles just minutes later. William Stanback added a 12-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds left in the third quarter as the Knights seized momentum in the game and started to wear down Louisville.

Central Florida took their first lead of the game midway through the fourth quarter when Shawn Moffitt kicked a 34-yard field goal to cap a time-consuming 10-play drive spanning 52 yards in a little over five minutes of play. With the fate of the game, season and perhaps a shot at a national championship on the line, Teddy Bridgewater responded by driving the Cardinals 88 yards in nine plays for a touchdown an the lead. Brown’s 15-yard line down the left sideline showed great foot work and balance and seemed to give Louisville a moment to breathe a sigh of relief. But with three minutes still on the clock and timeouts to spare, it proved to be too much time left for George O’Leary‘s Knights.

Bortles was methodic in guiding Central Florida down field and showed great poise and composure. The Knights strung together a patient 11-play drive for 75 yards capped by a two-yard touchdown, and game-winning, pass to Jeff Godfrey for his third catch of the night. There would be no more important catch in the game, because Louisville’s final second desperation Hail Mary fell incomplete in the end zone.

As the pigskin fell to the ground in the end zone, the visions of a crystal ball may have shattered with it. The loss undoubtedly removes Louisville from the BCS championship picture, barring a most-bizarre sequence of events around the country moving forward. The scenario for Louisville to make a BCS title run left little with regard to margin of error. The Cardinals had to run the table in the regular season to even be in the conversation at the end of the season largely due to the national perception of the strength of The American. Louisville may still have a shot to reach a BCS bowl game of course, and they may still be the team to beat in the conference, but now they are chasing Central Florida.

Perhaps Central Florida has already taken on the role of the top program in The American as well. The Knights have scored road wins at Penn State and Louisville this season and they gave South Carolina a very respectable fight. There may not be a team in the conference that can boats the profile Central Florida has put together. This win should bring Central Florida back in to the top 25 rankings on Sunday. The focus can now officially transition to Central Florida’s path to their first BCS bowl berth, which is now coming in to focus.

The champion of The American will receive an automatic berth in the BCS bowl line-up, although there is no direct bowl tie-in. The remaining schedule does feature some tricky spots against Rutgers (4-2) and undefeated Houston (5-0), although Central Florida will get both of those conference foes at home in Orlando. The combined record of Central Florida’s remaining opponents is 12-21. UCF gets Rutgers and Houston at home.

But what about Bridgewater’s Heisman campaign? Had Louisville held on to win the game, Bridgewater would have had his finest Heisman moment of the year while driving Louisville down field in the fourth quarter for the win. Bridgewater ended his night with 341 yards and two touchdowns, but both touchdowns came in the first half. With the loss, Bridgewater will likely take a hit in the Heisman straw polls among voters, but we’ll leave that to our own Heisman pundit to worry about.

Florida’s statement on Jim McElwain’s death-threat claim is interesting, to say the least

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Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something.  Regardless, it’s something that bears watching.

Losers of two in a row and off to a 3-3 start to the season,  Florida has underperformed and underwhelmed to say the least.  So much so, in fact, that head coach Jim McElwain indicated Monday that he, his family, his coaching staff and players have been subjected to death threats by unknown individuals.

The head coach went into no detail publicly regarding the nature of the threats.  Apparently, it was the same privately when discussing the situation with his employer.

OK then.

Again, it could be in the same neighborhood as naked shark humping — nothing. Bears watching, though, as one very outspoken member of the Florida media is very much already doing publicly about a situation that was apparently reported to the media before it was reported to the police or even the university.

LOOK: Arizona State to wear Pat Tillman-themed uniforms

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Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.

The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.

Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.

Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

Jim McElwain says family, players have received death threats over 3-3 start

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Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.

How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.

“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”

In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.