Gurley’s return helps Georgia hold off Florida

9 Comments

Tailback Todd Gurley returned from injury to lead Georgia in both rushing and receiving as the Bulldogs (5-3) held on to beat rival Florida (4-4), 23-20, in Jacksonville on Saturday.

Gurley, out since late September with a high ankle sprain, totaled 122 yards and two touchdowns on his first five touches to help spark the Bulldogs to a 23-3 halftime lead. He finished with 100 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and also added 87 yards and a score on three catches.

Aaron Murray joined Buck Belue and Johnny Rauch as the only Bulldog quarterbacks to beat Florida three times. The senior went 16 of 25 for 258 yards and one touchdown as he completed passes to seven different receivers.

What looked like a possible blowout in the early going turned into a nailbiter, as the Gators owned the second half.

A key sequence in the third quarter helped Florida on its comeback. After Austin Hardin missed a 47-yard field goal, Murray’s lateral was muffed by Arthur Lynch (who seemed to think it was a forward pass) and Leon Orr pounced on the ball for the Gators and returned it to the Georgia 13-yard line. A review upheld the call and Mack Brown punched it in for a touchdown two plays later to make the score 23-10 with a little under seven minutes to play in the third.

The teams then traded punts after ineffective possessions, only Florida’s punt pinned the Bulldogs down on their own three yard line. That’s when Louchiez Purifoy sacked Murray on a corner blitz for a safety to make the score 23-12 with the third quarter winding down.

Georgia free kicked it and the Gators took over on their own 50 and drove in for a touchdown in five plays, with Tyler Murphy‘s 14-yard TD run being the capper. Murphy found tight end Clay Burton for the two point conversion and, suddenly, UGA’s lead was just 23-20. The roof seemed to cave in for the Bulldogs when Gurley was stopped on fourth and one from the UGA 39 yard line on its next possession.

But while Florida got the ball back in good field position, Neiron Ball‘s personal foul penalty pushed it back to its own 46. The Gators advanced as far as the UGA 41, but Corey Moore sacked Murphy for a loss of 14 yards on third and 12 and Florida was forced to punt.

Georgia then took over on its own 17-yard line with 8:17 to play. It held the ball the rest of the way, running 15 plays while benefitting from another ill-timed Florida penalty that kept the drive alive. Game over.

This was a hard-fought, physical battle that got fairly sloppy at times.  The Bulldogs won the first half, the Gators won the second and, in the end, the better team won.

Could this be the beginning of the end for Will Muschamp at Florida? The third year coach is now 22-12 overall, but Ron Zook was fired for going 23-14 in his three seasons in Gainesville. With games against South Carolina, Georgia Southern and Florida State left to play, do the math. Muschamp and Zook might end up having a lot more in common than a blustery sideline demeanor.

Clemson QB Tucker Israel enters his name in graduate transfer market

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tucker Israel has yet to see significant action during his time at Clemson. With Kelly Bryant coming back and No. 1 quarterback recruit Trevor Lawrence joining the roster, that wasn’t likely to change.

So Israel (the non-Deshaun Watson player pictured above) is leaving.

“My time here at Clemson will always hold a special plate in my heart,” Israel said in a Twitter post released by the school. “I enjoyed every minute being here & thank Coach Swinney for believing in me. After much consideration, I plan on transferring upon getting my degree from this amazing university.”

A former 3-star recruit, Israel redshirted in 2015, threw four passes in 2016 and did not play in 2017. The Orlando, Fla., native will have two years of eligibility remaining upon arriving at his new destination.

Shane Beamer reportedly leaving Georgia for Oklahoma

AP Photo/Richard A. Lipski
Leave a comment

After you beat them, join them? Georgia special teams coordinator Shane Beamer is on his way to Oklahoma to become an offensive assistant coach at Oklahoma, according to multiple reports on Monday.

At Georgia, Beamer held the role of special teams coordinator and tight ends coach. At Oklahoma, it is reported Beamer will take on an assistant head coach title and assist head coach Lincoln Riley in preparing the offensive game plan for the Sooners. Beamer was with the Georgia staff for two years under Kirby Smart after leaving Virginia Tech to join the coaching staff in Athens.

Beamer is the son of former Virgina Tech head coach Frank Beamer. Georgia defeated Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, which was a semifinal game for the College Football Playoff last season.

There is no update on how Smart will replace Beamer on his coaching staff at this time, but Dawg Nation notes Georgia has already lost special teams advisor Scott Fountain to join the coaching staff at Mississippi State.

 

Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Saquon Barkley among Lombardi Award finalists

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The list of Lombardi Award candidates has been whittled down to a list of seven select finalists for this year’s award. A week after a list of 21 candidates was unveiled, only seven remain after a panel of voters cast their initial ballots for the award.

2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love of Stanford, and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville highlight the list of finalists for the Lombardi Award. Other finalists include Saquon Barkley of Penn State, Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama, Shaquen Griffin of UCF and Joel Lanning of Iowa State.

The Lombardi Award has a new trophy and criteria this season after opening the award up to any position after previously being reserved for the top lineman or linebacker in the nation. The award is based on performance, leadership, character and resiliency on and off the field.

Lombardi Award Finalists for 2017 Season

  • Saquon Barkley, Penn State (RB)
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (S)
  • Shaquem Griffin, UCF (LB)
  • Lamar Jackson, Louisville (QB)
  • Joel Lanning, Iowa State (LB/QB)
  • Bryce Love, Stanford (RB)
  • Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (QB)

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen won the award for the 2016 season. Carl Nassib of Penn State won the award in 2015, meaning Barkley and Fitzpatrick are attempting to win another Lombardi Award for their school. Oklahoma is the only other school with a Lombardi Award among the schools represented by the finalists for this season’s award. Iowa State, Louisville, Stanford and UCF are all looking for their first Lombardi Award winner in school history. Oklahoma has three all-time Lombardi Award winners, and Alabama and Penn State each have two.

QB Wilton Speight holding off graduate transfer decision

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Former Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight is going to take his time evaluating all of his options before making a final decision. After previously announcing his decision to leave Michigan behind, Speight will reportedly not enroll at a new school until the summer, which gives him more time to decide where exactly he would like to continue his college football career.

According to a report from The Detroit News, Speight felt rushed to make a decision on a transfer between graduating from Michigan and January enrollment periods at potential landing spots. It would have been an ideal situation to be able to enroll in January and be eligible to participate in spring practices with his new program if possible, but it is also wise to not rush to a decision that Speight may end up regretting.

Because Speight will not be available for spring practices anywhere, The Detroit News reports Speight plans to stay in shape and train in Los Angeles. Joining a new program in the summer should still allow him an opportunity to step in and compete for a starting job, depending on where he ends up.

Speight announced his decision to transfer from Michigan as a graduate transfer in late November, and he later confirmed there would be some restrictions placed on his pending transfer. Per Speight, Michigan has blocked any potential transfer to another Big Ten program and any non-conference opponent on Michigan’s 2018 schedule (Notre Dame, Western Michigan, SMU). At the time, Speight said he was not joining the Wolverines for the bowl game because he was intending to enroll in January. With January nearly over, the next window for a transfer will have to wait until the summer.

As a graduate transfer, Speight will be eligible to play with his new football program this fall.