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.

Louisiana-Lafayette suspends 13 players arrested on felony charges

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This’ll certainly leave a mark on the ol’ depth chart.

Louisiana-Lafayette announced Tuesday night that a total of 13 players have been indefinitely suspended by head coach Mark Hudspeth.  Those 13 are tight end Matthew Barnes, defensive end Joe Dillon, left guard Robert Hunt, defensive back Denarius Howard, defensive end Jarvis Jeffries, defensive tackle LaDarrius Kidd, linebacker Terik Miller, defensive back Damar’ren Mitchell, running back Trey Ragas, defensive back Simeon Thomas, defensive back Levarious Varnado, left tackle D’Aquin Withrow and running back Jordan Wright.

While the school attributed the suspensions to a violation of unspecified team rules, KATC-TV is reporting that all 13 of the players were arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy to commit felony theft stemming from an incident earlier this month.

From the television station’s report:

According to investigators, surveillance video shows the 13 players going to a room on the fourth floor of the Huger Hall dormitory and stealing around $2,400 worth of items from the room. Police say the students surrendered after warrants for their arrests were issued.

Seven of those suspended started games last season — Hunt (13), Withrow (13), Mitchell (11), Dillon (eight), Jeffries (seven), Thomas (seven) and Howard (two).  Dillon was named a Freshman All-American by several organizations after leading the Ragin’ Cajuns with 12.5 tackles for losses and seven sacks in 2016.

Wright (pictured, No. 27) wasn’t a starter, but he was fourth on the team last season with 192 yards rushing.  With the departure of leading rusher Elijah McGuire (1,127 yards), Wright, Ragas and Darius Hoggins (281 yards last season) are expected to compete or the starting running back job this season.

UL-L is scheduled to open the 2017 season Sept. 2 against Southeastern Louisiana.

Louisville grad transfer QB Kyle Bolin tweets transfer to Rutgers

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Following Louisville’s spring game earlier this month, Kyle Bolin confirmed that he would be transferring from the football program.  A little over a week later, the quarterback already has a new team lined up.

Per a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account, Bolin wrote he’s “proud to say my next home will be at Rutgers University.” The football program has thus far declined to confirm Bolin’s addition to Chris Ash‘s roster.

Bolin is scheduled to graduate from the U of L next month, meaning he’ll be eligible to play for the Scarlet Knights this coming season.

Texas, Cincinnati, Northern Illinois, Southern Miss and Western Michigan were also considered potential destinations for Bolin.

Bolin started five games in 2015 as he and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson shared quarterbacking duties that season.  Jackson replaced Bolin after a pair of picks in the regular-season finale against rival Kentucky that year and, coming off his four-touchdown performance in the Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M, the former was firmly entrenched as the starter heading into the spring of 2016.

The arrival of Bolin couldn’t come soon enough for the quarterback-depleted Knights.

In mid-November, Rutgers had six scholarship quarterbacks on its roster.  By the beginning of December, that number had been cut in half as two of them, Hayden Rettig and Chris Laviano, left the program as graduate transfers while another, Mike Dare, left as a run-of-the-mill transfer.  The group was further pared earlier this month when Tylin Oden was dismissed for violating team rules and TCU transfer Zach Allen suffered a torn ACL.

With Allen’s injury, it leaves the Scarlet Knights with just one healthy signal-caller on scholarship at the moment — Giovanni Rescigno, the starter to close out the 2016 season and presumptive front-runner to maintain the job.  Another will be added when 2017 signee Johnathan Lewis comes to campus this summer.

Rescigno, Lewis and Bolin will commence a battle for the starting job when summer camp opens in early August.

Nick Saban, on QB controversy: ‘there isn’t one’

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Consider The Nicktator perturbed.  Again.

Jalen Hurts (pictured, right) helped lead Alabama to the national championship game as a true freshman last season and is seemingly the Crimson Tide’s unquestioned starter as we trudge toward summer.  Five-star 2017 signee Tua Tagovailoa (pictured, left), however, had an impressive first spring in Tuscaloosa, capped off with an excellent showing in the annual A-Day game this past weekend.

The true freshman passed for 315 yards and three touchdowns in what amounted to a glorified scrimmage, while the incumbent threw for 301 yards and a pair of scores.

Tagovailoa’s showing throughout the 15 spring practice sessions had led some to wonder whether there could be a quarterback controversy brewing at ‘Bama.  According to Nick Saban, that’s just the media being the media.

“Jalen Hurts played a lot of good football for us last year, and he’s certainly made a lot of progress this spring,” the head coach said by way of al.com. “Even though all of you in the press are trying to make a quarterback controversy out of nothing, which is what you’re doing right now, there isn’t one.”

LOOK: Jim Harbaugh hooks Pope Francis up with Michigan helmet, pair of Jordans

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There’s a series of words I’d never imagined I’d string together in a headline.

As you may have heard, Jim Harbaugh has taken his Michigan football team to Italy for an offseason European vacation.  As part of the trip, the team is in the Vatican City today and took in the Pope’s Wednesday address to the masses in St. Peter’s Square — the players and athletic director Warde Manuel sat amongst the crowd while the head coach and his wife were seated on the same stage as Pope Francis.

Following the address, and after a wait of nearly a half-hour, Harbaugh was able to meet with and speak to His Holiness.  The coach didn’t come empty-handed, either, as Pope Francis was gifted with a Michigan football helmet and a pair of Air Jordans.  Michigan-themed, of course.

“This is as good as it gets,” Harbaugh said according to mlive.com after his meeting with the pope. “This has been the experience of my lifetime.”