Gurley’s return helps Georgia hold off Florida

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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.

NC State adds Division 2 graduate transfer kicker

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It’s possible Dave Doeren‘s life would feel completely different right now if he had a better kicker in 2016.

In this reality, Doeren is 25-26 after four seasons in Raleigh, coming off back-to-back 7-6 seasons following his 8-5 breakthrough of 2014. But if his Wolfpack could kick last year, Doeren is most likely riding high after an 8-4 regular season buoyed by a win over Clemson in Death Valley. Because not only did NC State lose that game on a late field goal whiff, the Pack also suffered a 33-30 loss to East Carolina in which it endured two missed field goals.

NC State’s two kickers combined to hit only 9-of-17 tries last fall, good for 121st nationally, and ranked 104th with a 93.3 percent conversion rate on 45 extra points. And the situation wasn’t getting better this spring.

To rectify that situation, NC State announced the addition of kicker Carson Wise. A graduate transfer from Division II Carson-Newman, Wise will have two years of availability for the Wolfpack.

Wise connected on 21-of-31 field goals and 97-of-101 PATs last season, numbers that, on their face, do not represent massive changes from what NC State posted last season. But Doeren is banking on Wise as a solution for NC State in 2017.

“I’m excited to have Carson join the family,” Doeren said in a statement. “He is a talented player who should be a great addition to our special teams as we look for him to handle our field goal and kickoff duties this fall.”

Arkansas House votes to exempt sporting venues from expanded gun law

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Remember how we talked about it’s impossible to follow sports and ignore politics? Not long after John Swofford released a statement on how a North Carolina law would effect ACC sporting events, the Arkansas legislature passed a bill that will do the same in the SEC.

The Arkansas House voted 71-20 to allow its state colleges and universities to exempt themselves from a law that greatly expands venues permitting concealed-carry handguns. Until the passing of SB724 today, guns would have been permissible inside Razorback Stadium, among other places.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey released a statement earlier this week urging state lawmakers to remove sporting venues from the bill. “HB 1249 creates concerns for the Southeastern Conference and its member institutions,” he said. “It remains our collective desire to provide a safe environment for student-athletes, coaches, officials and fans, and will continue to closely monitor the status of this legislation.”

Passing the bill was made more complicated by the involvement of the NRA, according to Rep. Jimmy Gateway.

The bill must now head back to the Senate before it can receive final approval from Governor Asa Hutchinson.

John Swofford releases statement on North Carolina repeal of HB2

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It’s pretty much impossible to keep politics out of the sports page today. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was forced to release a statement on Tuesday urging Arkansas state legislators to exempt Razorbacks sporting venues from a bill that would greatly expand areas allowing concealed-carry handguns, and now ACC commissioner John Swofford has been forced to wade back into political waters.

North Carolina’s state legislature brokered a deal Thursday with new governor Roy Cooper to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial law requiring persons within Tar Heel state borders to use public bathrooms matching their gender at birth. The “bathroom bill” cost the state a reported $3.76 billion in revenue, and some of that lost revenue related directly to college football.

Following the NCAA’s lead of revoking the state’s championship event hosting privileges due to HB2, the ACC moved its football championship game from Charlotte to Orlando (the men’s basketball tournament was previously booked for Brooklyn), a move that cost the conference itself money as well.

Thursday’s repeal of HB2 is more complicated than simply yanking the bathroom bill (this is where I’ll direct you to a much more appropriate place to digest the political news of the hour than a college football blog) and, as such, Swofford’s statement is appropriately nuanced.

The ACC is still undecided where this December’s title game will be played, and Swofford will kick that decision upstairs to the league’s presidents.

Oklahoma OL Christian Daimler to pursue graduate transfer

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Oklahoma offensive tackle Christian Daimler will pursue a transfer, according to a message posted to his Twitter account Thursday.

As a fifth-year senior, Daimler qualifies as a graduate transfer and will be eligible immediately. “I could not be more excited about what my future holds,” Daimler wrote. “Wherever I end up I know that I will always be a Sooner and for that am I so proud. This University [sic] will forever remain close to my heart. Boomer Sooner.”

If that name does not immediately ring a bell, you are forgiven. Daimler appeared in three games as a Sooner, all over last season.

Hailing from Houston, Daimler, who stands 6-foot-7 and is listed at 321 pounds, was a 3-star recruit when he signed with Oklahoma over Texas A&M, Arizona State and Colorado, among others.