Cody Kessler threw for a career-high 344 yards and four touchdowns as No. 25 USC (10-4) defeated No. 20 Fresno State (11-2), 45-20, in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday.
It was USC’s first bowl win since 2009. The Trojans also grabbed their first 10-win season since 2011.
All of Kessler’s touchdowns came in the first half as the Trojans jumped out to a 35-6 lead. Nelson Agholor and Marqise Lee each scored twice, with Lee notching a season-high 118 receiving yards on seven catches.
Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr came into the game leading the nation in total offense at 415 yards per game, but USC held him to just 217 passing yards on 29 of 54 passing. Carr did throw two touchdown passes to become the fourth player in NCAA history to top 5,000 yards and 50 touchdown passes in a season.
The Trojans dominated the stat sheet, holding the ball for over 41 minutes and piling up 499 yards to FSU’s 254.
It was a disappointing ending to a once-promising season for the Bulldogs. After starting out 10-0 to move into contention for a BCS bowl bid, FSU dropped two of its last three. Still, the 11-2 record was the best season by the Bulldogs since 1989.
As for USC, it was a fine ending to a tumultuous season. Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron and Clay Helton all coached the Trojans to wins and now Steve Sarkisian takes over as the new head man.
If Sarkisian is going to last longer than Kiffin, he better hope he’s not back in the Vegas bowl any time soon.
You really have to feel for Nick Chubb.
The Georgia running back returned from a devastating knee injury that knocked him out for more than half of the 2015 season, rushing for career regular-season high of 222 yards in the 2016 opener in his first game back. In an embarrassing Week 4 loss to Ole Miss, however, Chubb sustained an ankle in the second quarter and wasn’t able to return.
Whether he will be healthy enough to return for a ky SEC East matchup with Tennessee next weekend remains to be seen.
“Don’t know the severity yet. He couldn’t come back in the game,” head coach Kirby Smart said according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution following the loss. “If he could have come back, I know he wanted to. So we’ll see how that goes the next couple days.
In his three games since the opener, has for just 200 yards total. Included in that was the 57 yards on 12 carries he had prior to the ankle injury. If Chubby can’t go vs. the Vols, Brian Herrien (11 carries for 78 yards against the Rebels) and Sony Michel (11-66). Herrien also scored the Bulldogs’ two touchdowns in the 45-14 loss, both of which came on the ground.
And then there was one.
Entering Week 4, Nevada and Notre Dame were the lone FBS teams that had yet to register a sack during the first quarter of the 2016 season. Midway through the second quarter of the game against Purdue today, however, Nevada’s Korey Rush sacked David Blough for a four-yard loss.
With Notre Dame not playing until 3:30 ET this afternoon (on NBC), that leaves the Irish standing alone as the only sackless team left at the FBS level.
Ironically enough, Purdue entered today’s game as one of five FBS teams, along with East Carolina, Northern Illinois, Texas State and West Virginia, that had recorded just one sack on the year. And, for those who are curious, Florida came into Week 4 leading the nation in sacks with 16.
No. 2 in that category? The Irish’s opponent this afternoon, the Blue Devils (tied with Ball State).
The story of September for No. 23 Ole Miss (2-2, 1-1 SEC) had been the inability to keep its foot on the gas pedal once it jumped out to a sizable lead against a quality opponent. Whether it was a lesson learned or the mere fact that No. 12 Georgia (3-1, 1-1 SEC) was over-ranked heading in, the Rebels did not let up Saturday afternoon in Oxford. Ole Miss built a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, took a 31-0 lead into the halftime break and went on to demolish Georgia, 45-14.
Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly was able to get an early rest after one extremely productive first half. Before Hugh Freeze handed the offense to backups quarterbacks, Kelly completed 16 of 21 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. The ball was distributed pretty well between the running and passing games as well. Eight different players caught a pass for Ole Miss, and seven different Rebels carried the football at least once. Kelly took off four times for 53 yards and a touchdown in addition to his efficient day through the air.
Georgia’s running duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel rushed for a combined 123 yards, but neither scored a touchdown before the game started to get out of hand and away from Georgia’s strength. The early hole meant Georgia had to try and catch up through the air, with freshman quarterback Jacob Eason having a rough afternoon on the road. Eason completed 16 of 36 pass attempts for 137 yards and an interception, and a number of dropped passes.
Georgia will return home and hope the momentum is quick to swing back in its favor next week. The Bulldogs play a pivotal SEC East contest against Tennessee. The Vols are playing an important SEC East game today against Florida. Georgia may need a win at home to bounce back, with games at South Carolina and at home against Vanderbilt following before a bye week. After the bye week comes the annual game in Jacksonville against Florida. How Kirby Smart gets his team to come back next week with Eason will be key as Georgia looks to prove this loss was a bit of a fluke.
There was certainly nothing flukey about it though, as Ole Miss showed what they can do when they play a complete game. For the first time this season, Ole Miss did not get tired against a physical opponent and continued to make plays all afternoon to lock down the win. This was one Ole Miss needed to have after the way this month has played out thus far. Next up for Ole Miss is a bit of a revenge game at home next week against Memphis of the American Athletic Conference. The Tigers stunned Ole Miss last season with Paxton Lynch at quarterback and Justin Fuente coaching. Both have moved on from Memphis (Lynch to the NFL, Fuente to Virginia Tech), so the Tigers will have their work cut out for them if they are to pull the stunner once more. Ole Miss will be a prohibitive favorite and get a chance to get to the bye week with a winning record before heading to Arkansas and then to LSU before returning home to play Auburn.
It just might be time to start taking No. 11 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) seriously as a Big Ten threat. Feel free to throw the Badgers in your late September College Football Playoff conversation if you are so inclined, but the Badgers made mincemeat of No.8 Michigan State (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten) and may have put the Big Ten on notice with some very challenging games still to come in the next month. Wisconsin picked up their second win against a top 10 opponent with a 30-6 victory at Michigan State.
Wisconsin put this game away in the third quarter. After taking a 13-6 lead into halftime, the Badgers defense made a big play to open the scoring in the second half. Michigan State running back LJ Scott had the ball pop out of his hands on a run up the middle, and free safety Leo Musso managed to pick up the loose ball and make his way down the left side of the field, shove aside Michigan State quarterback Tyler O’Connor attempting to make a tackle, and get some blockers to make his way to the end zone for a wild touchdown. The score seemed to deflate the Spartans just a little more than they already had been against the Badgers defense. Wisconsin took advantage of a special teams mistake when a punt snap went above the punter and the ball was downed at the five-yard line. One play later, Corey Clement ran in for a knockout blow of a touchdown, putting the Badgers up 30-6.
O’Connor was picked off by the Badgers defense three times in the game, and he completed just 18 of 38 pass attempts. Scott managed to pick up just 61 rushing yards on the ground for the Spartans. Michigan State may have to go back to the drawing board with its offense.
Wisconsin opened the year with a win against LSU, who was then ranked in the preseason top 10. Maybe LSU was overhyped (LSU was definitely overhyped), but take nothing away from what the Badgers have managed to do, even if this is a step-back year for Michigan State. Few teams have accumulated two quality wins the way Wisconsin has four weeks into the season. The only team that may have done better is Alabama, although the Crimson Tide’s win against now 1-3 USC looks far less sexy than it could have. Does this make Wisconsin the team to beat in the Big Ten? No. Not at this point, with Michigan and Ohio State still looming. But the Badgers are most certainly worthy of praise for what they have accomplished in September.
Next up for Wisconsin is a return trip to the state of Michigan to play the Wolverines. Michigan hosts Penn State today, looking to keep an undefeated start to the season in play. Wisconsin will be Michigan’s toughest opponent to date when the two meet next week in Michigan Stadium. Wisconsin will get a much-needed bye week after that but it gets no easier once they return to action. Wisconsin hosts Ohio State, visits Iowa and then hosts Nebraska in October.
Michigan State will hit the road next week to continue Big Ten play. The Spartans head to Bloomington to take on Indiana. Michigan State’s next home game will be no easy one either, with BYU heading in for a non-conference battle.