UCF makes late stand, beats Houston to gain inside track on AAC title

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UCF got 127 yards rushing from Storm Johnson and its defense made a game-saving stand in the final seconds to beat Houston, 19-14, and grab the inside track for the American Athletic Conference title.

The Knights improved to 7-1 and 4-0 in conference and edged closer to its first BCS bowl game. Houston fell to 7-2 and 4-1.

UCF featured a balanced attack, getting 210 passing yards from quarterback Blake Bortles and 188 rushing yards thanks to Johnson and his backup, freshman William Stanback, who had 74 yards and two key TDs on nine carries.

The Knights held a 6-0 lead at the half courtesy of two Shawn Moffitt field goals, but Houston came back to take the lead in the third quarter on a 24-yard touchdown run by quarterback John O’Korn, who also threw for 231 yards and a touchdown on 24 of 46 passing.

Down 7-6, UCF stormed back with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was aided by a personal foul penalty on Houston before Stanback scored from 15 yards out. The Knights led 13-7 as the fourth quarter dawned, but were pinned down at their own 2-yard line when they got the ball back. No matter — UCF went 98 yards in seven plays, with Stanback going in from 38 yards this time to put his team up, 19-7 (a two-point conversion pass attempt by Bortles failed).

That’s when Houston stormed back. After O’Korn’s pass was intercepted on the ensuing drive, the Knights drove to the Houston 33 and attempted a 50-yard field goal. But it was blocked! O’Korn then drove the Cougars 53 yards in eight plays, culminating in a 12-yard touchdown pass to Wayne Beadle. Suddenly, it was 19-14. The Knights got the ball back with a little over four minutes to play.

Houston’s defense forced a three-and-out and UCF punted the ball away to the Cougar 38-yard line. O’Korn found Kenneth Farrow on completions of six and 22 yards and then hit Deonte Greenberry on a clutch 14-yard pass on third and 10 to set the Cougars up at the UCF 20-yard line. Two rushes produced a first and goal at the 10 and Houston had four plays to get it into the end zone. But the Knights defense stiffened when it mattered and O’Korn’s fourth-down pass sailed over the end line and that was the ball game.

UCF has now beaten Louisville and Houston, which should leave a clear path to the league title. Games against Temple, Rutgers, South Florida and SMU remain, but the Knights would have to lose twice to not get it done and make it to a BCS bowl.

SEC leads NFL Draft for 11th straight year as Alabama and Michigan set school records

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The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again it is the SEC claiming another NFL Draft national championship. A grand total of 53 players from the SEC were drafted by NFL teams. It is the 11th straight year the SEC has had the most players drafted by NFL teams.

The ACC ended the draft with 42 players drafted, followed by the Pac-12 (36) and Big Ten (35). The Big 12 ended the draft with just 14 players drafted.

Helping to contribute to the SEC’s NFL Draft total was Alabama setting a school record with 10 players drafted.

Alabama’s nine players drafted in the first 80 picks was also a new Alabama record.

Michigan ended up having more players drafted than any other Big Ten team, slipping past Ohio State by the time the draft closed up shop this year. For the Wolverines, 11 players ended up being drafted. The previous school record for draft picks was 10, set in 1972 and tied in 1974. Head coach Jim Harbaugh will get plenty of the praise for developing that many players getting a chance to be drafted, but Brady Hoke should be recognized for recruiting those players as well (and blamed for not developing the talent he brought in).

 

Air Force changes rules for football players with NFL aspirations

AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo
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One of the top players from Air Force was ineligible to be drafted by the NFL this weekend, and it had nothing to do with NFL rules. It also had nothing to do with NFL teams backing away from a particular player due to off-field concerns. Instead, a policy at Air Force is what is to blame for wide receiver Jalen Robinette not moving on to the NFL at this time.

The U.S. Air Force will not approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty in order to be allowed to play professional football. Just a year ago, the Department of Defense changed the policy to allow for the possibility, which made it possible for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be allowed to play. Reynolds later joined the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds had received a recommendation to be allowed to play by the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The Air Force notified academy leaders [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military commitments for cadet athletes,” a statement from Air Force read. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve, which would allow their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”

Because of the policy change and confirmation, Robinette was not able to be drafted. He may still have been a long shot to be drafted by an NFL Team, but the policy also means he is unable to be signed as an undrafted free agent as well.

Rawleigh Williams carted off at Arkansas scrimmage

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Any time a player that has previously undergone neck surgery goes down on the field and needs to be carted off is quite the scary moment. On Saturday, the Arkansas football program had that exact scare when Rawleigh Williams went down on the field in pain and ended up having to be carted off the practice field during the Arkansas scrimmage.

Williams was placed on a stretcher and taken out of the facility on a cart to receive medical attention. His legs and arms were moving on the ground, a slight sigh of relief given the hit and his injury history. In 2015, Williams was carted off and had to undergo surgery on his neck. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the injury concern on Saturday was apparently not related to the previous neck injury, which was expected to have a full recovery.

It is an unfortunate ending to the spring for Williams, because all indications seemed to be he was certainly improving running the football. Bielema said earlier in the week Williams was running with more patience, which is always a key for a running back.

Arkansas moved its final scrimmage of the spring indoors due to bad weather rolling through the area.

Justin Herbert shines in first Oregon spring game under Willie Taggart

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A glimpse of a brand new era of Oregon football took center stage in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday as the spring football season drew to a close. Willie Taggart showed fans a little bit of what to expect from Oregon in the fall as the program looks to bounce back from a down season under the coach who has shown a knack for improving programs. As is usually the case in a spring game, Oregon’s quarterback situation was under a microscope, and sophomore Justin Herbert took advantage of the opportunity.

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and established a connection with wide receiver Darren Carrington. The two connected for three touchdowns in the game. Sophomore Travis Jonson and early enrollee Braxton Burmeister also saw playing time in the game, but Carrington was confident in saying this is Herbert’s job to lose.

”Our chemistry has definitely improved this spring, and it’ll improve more by the time fall comes, but Herbert, I mean, that’s the guy right now to beat,” Carrington said after the spring game.

As for the team as a whole, Taggert knows there is much still to address as a new system and style are implemented and the roster adjusts physically to the demands of the new coach.

‘We’re still building. We’re nowhere where we need to be as a football team yet. We have some good players. We don’t have a lot of depth that we need to have, that’s going to be a work in progress,” Taggart said. ”The thing for us as coaches is just to make our guys better than they were before. If I guy wasn’t good enough we want to make him look better than he was before. If I guy was good we want to make him great.”

Og course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon spring game without having that typical Oregon uniform flair. Even with a new head coach and with the talk suggesting the Ducks will go for a more traditional approach to uniforms in the fall, the spring game was used for some sizzle on the unis.

Oregon’s spring game crowd of 36,821 assured the Ducks of having the highest spring game attendance among Pac-12 school for a third consecutive year.