Fresno State holds on against Utah State to win MWC title

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Derek Carr threw for 404 yards and three touchdowns and the Fresno State defense stepped up to the plate with nine sacks to lead the No. 23 Bulldogs to a 24-17 victory over Utah State in the first-ever Mountain West Conference title game on Saturday night.

FSU finishes 11-1, while Utah State falls to 8-5.

Carr’s first two touchdowns sparked FSU to a 17-0 lead, but Jake Doughty’s 86-yard return of a Josh Quezada fumble with seconds to play in the first half made the score 17-7 in favor of the Bulldogs. Carr’s third touchdown extended FSU’s lead to 24-7 in the third quarter and it looked like the Bulldogs would cruise to the win.

Things looked even more bleak for the Aggies when starting quarterback Darell Garretson was knocked out of the game on a sack with USU trying to finish off a drive deep in FSU territory early in the fourth quarter. Garretson — himself filling in for the injured Chuckie Keeton — was replaced by junior Craig Harrison. But the Aggies soon scored on Bruce Natson’s 10-yard touchdown run and the lead was 24-14 with 12 minutes to play.

Then the Aggies recovered the onside kick and things really started to get interesting.

Harrison drove the Aggies 35 yards in seven plays, leading to Nick Diaz’ 20-yard field goal. Suddenly, the score was 24-17 with plenty of time left. That was as close as it got, but the Bulldogs had some nervous moments before time expired.

Namely, USU stopped FSU on fourth down inside Aggie territory on its final two drives of the game (barring the one by the Bulldogs to drain the last few seconds off the clock). The last time came on a questionable decision by FSU coach Tim DeRuyter to pass up a makeable field goal to go for the first down at the USU 29 yard line. Quezada was stopped cold and USU took over with a chance to send the game to overtime.

The Aggies drove to the Bulldog 39, but Harrison’s final pass was intercepted by Dalen Jones on the FSU 17 yard line with 44 seconds to play.

Despite the loss, USU shouldn’t hang its heads. After all, the Aggies weren’t supposed to get this far after losing their star, Keeton. But they persevered and showed they weren’t just a one-man team.

Kudos to the Bulldogs defense, too, which gave up 304 total yards to the Aggies just one week after allowing 736 to San Jose State. While the loss to the Spartans will sting for a while, FSU finished with its best record since also going 11-1 in 1989. DeRuyter is 20-5 in his two seasons in Fresno and, if the school can keep him around, this should remain a program on the rise.

Louisville clarifies titles for revamped defensive coaching staff

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The offseason shuffling of Bobby Petrino‘s defensive coaching staff appears to be complete.

Thanks to Todd Grantham‘s move to Mississippi State earlier this offseason, Petrino was forced to overhaul his staff on that side of the ball.  Peter Sirmon, who Grantham replaced at MSU, was hired by the U of L as defensive coordinator in mid-January.

As the Cardinals kicked off spring practice this week, the football program detailed the responsibilities for the defensive side of the staff.

New defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon announced on Wednesday that he has finalized position changes on his defensive staff. Sirmon will mentor the defense, but will also coach the outside linebackers. Lorenzo Ward will coach the secondary, while Cort Dennison will now mentor the inside linebackers. L.D. Scott will stick with coaching the defensive line.

Last season under Grantham, the Cardinals were 31st nationally and sixth in the ACC in scoring defense (23.8 points per game).  They were 14th and third, respectively, in total defense (319.6 yards per game).

Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis potentially out for spring

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Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was optimistic about wide receiver Kyle Davis returning to the team at some point this spring, but the tune has changed regarding his future. Malzahn is now saying Davis may be out for the remainder of Auburn’s spring practices due to personal reasons.

“Kyle Davis is still taking care of some personal business,” Malzahn said, according to SEC Country. “I’m not for sure if he’s going to be back before the end of the spring. He will be back for the fall, just taking a little bit longer than we initially thought.”

It was just a few weeks ago Malzahn said Davis was going to be out for the start of spring practices, which are now close to half over. For now, the plan is simply to have him return over the summer in preparation for the fall.

In the meantime, Malzahn confirmed John Franklin III is working primarily as a wide receiver, which had previously been suspected to be the case.

Penn State announces three captains for 2017 season

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With Penn State just about to get started with spring football practices, head coach James Franklin wasted no time in naming his captains for the 2017 season. Quarterback Trace McSorley, linebacker Jason Cabinda, and safety Nick Scott have been voted captains by their peers on the team.

“These three young men have been leaders in our program, on and off the field,” Franklin said in a released statement. “They live our four core values and act with the program’s best interest in mind. Our team is in good hands with these guys!”

McSorley took over the offense as Penn State’s starting quarterback in 2016. A bit of a mystery to most entering the season after being the backup to Christian Hackenberg, McSorley ended his 2016 season with a Big Ten-leading 3,614 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes with eight interceptions and played a key role in guiding Penn State to a late run to a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. He enters the 2017 season as one of the top quarterbacks returning to the Big Ten, along with Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett.

Cabinda, an All-Big Ten third team player in 2016, was Penn State’s third-leading tackler last season with 81 tackles. He accumulated that many tackles despite missing five games due to injury. He is slated to be the leader in the middle of the Penn State defense with a starting role already locked down and will look to help guide some younger linebackers stepping into key roles in the defense this upcoming season, such as Manny Bowen and Koa Farmer.

Scott has been a special teams leader for Penn State and is expected to continue to lead the special teams effort once again this season.

New Arkansas house bill will allow some concealed guns at football games

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill regarding a person’s ability to carry a concealed handgun into various buildings at a public university or college into state law. However, House Bill 1249 will not allow all legal gun owners to carry a gun to a football game in the state of Arkansas.

Football games will be considered a “sensitive area,” which require enhanced training in order to be allowed to carry a gun into a football stadium. The law supposedly trumps any provisions already in place to prevent guns from being allowed on the premises.

“The enhanced level of training is very important, and I am convinced the public will be more safe,” Governor Hutchinson said. “This bill, in my view, reflects the view of the general assembly.”

The bill has received praise from Arkansas Republican state representative Charlie Collins and the NRA.

While the bill has now become an act in the state, it will not go into effect until January 2018, so guns will still not be allowed in football games where Arkansas, Arkansas State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, or Central Arkansas during the 2017 season.

The news of the new Arkansas state law comes on the same day the SEC has just unveiled a new clear bag policy for football games in the 2017 season. How the SEC handles this latest state law within its footprint remains to be seen (as well as the Sun Belt Conference). The bigger question will be where the SEC stands on this law considered the law is designed to overrule any stadium policies. The way the law is written, the SEC may not be able to do much to stand in the way, but the conference has those clear bag policies hammered down, rest assured.