Missed PAT costs Texas as California outduels Horns, 45-44

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We noted at halftime that a plethora of mistakes was the only thing keeping California from holding a substantial lead over Texas. But it was one crucial mistake that cost Texas, as a Nick Rose missed PAT prematurely ended a three-touchdown rally and allowed California to hold on for a 45-44 win in Austin.

First, how they got there. Thanks to an offside penalty that cost them a fresh possession deep inside Texas territory, a fumble at the Longhorns goal line and another one near their own and, finally, a procedure penalty that led to a missed field goal, Cal – a touchdown favorite in most books – found itself down 24-14 with 1:32 to go in the first half after Johnathan Gray charged in for a six-yard touchdown run, his second of the half. But the Bears immediately marched 75 yards in four plays, capped by a one-yard Vic Enwere run, to pull within 24-21, and Jalen Jefferson stepped in front of a Jerrod Heard and raced it back to the Texas 30, leading to a 34-yard Matt Anderson field goal that knotted the game at 24-24 at the half.

Cal opened the second half by scoring touchdowns on all three of its third quarter possessions: a 42-yard march punctuated by another one-yard Enwere plunge, a three-yard Jared Goff pass to Kenny Lawler, and a 74-yard Khalfani Muhammad dash, to grab a 45-24 lead.

It was a 21-0 quarter and, in total, a 31-0 run dating back to the end of the first half that put the game completely out of reach… until it wasn’t.

Texas rallied in the fourth quarter, getting a 13-yard Heard run to pull within two scores with 13:24 to go, then a 27-yard D’Onta Foreman dash to pull within one touchdown at the three minute mark. Facing a potential game-ending 3rd-and-7 at the Texas 44, a Goff pass was dropped deep in Texas territory and the Longhorns stayed alive. Heard moved the Longhorns 81 yards in six plays, dashing 45 yards for his third score of the day, seemingly tying the game with 1:11 to go. And then Rose missed the extra point.

California recovered the onside kick and, with Texas out of timeouts, that was that. The Bears (3-0) held on for an important non-conference win, and Texas (1-2) found another way to lose a game in a half-decade full of them.

Goff completed 27-of-37 passes for 268 yards with three touchdowns and one fumble, hitting nine different receivers on the night. Lawler was his top target on the night, snaring six passes for 79 yards and two scores. The Bears rushed for a combined 280 yards and three scores; Muhammad racked up 164 yards on 10 carries, and Enwere notched 73 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts.

In just his second start, Heard flummoxed California on the air and the ground. The redshirt freshman connected on 20-of-31 passes for 364 yards with one interception and rushed 24 times for 163 yards and three scores with one fumble. Two weeks after Texas posted 163 yards – total – in a blowout loss at Notre Dame, Heard racked up 527 by himself. Daje Johnson grabbed five receptions for 145 yards, and Gray posted four grabs for 71 yards to go with 11 carries for 46 yards and two touchdowns.

In all, Texas outgained Cal 650-548 and held a 28-26 first downs advantage.

California visits Washington next week, while Texas hosts No. 25 Oklahoma State.

Pitt FB/TD machine George Aston set to return vs. Georgia Tech

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One of the most efficient touchdown producers in college football in 2016 that you were probably completely unaware of appears ready to make his 2017 debut.

A vague lower-extremity injury knocked George Aston out of most of not only summer camp but also Pittsburgh’s first three regular-season games as well. With Georgia Tech on the horizon in Week 4, the fullback is listed as probable on the team’s official injury report released Thursday.

For a team that has scored just four offensive touchdowns in two games against FBS competition, Aston’s potential return could serve as somewhat of a boon for that side of the ball.

Last season, Aston totaled 75 yards on 22 carries as well as 169 yards on 22 receptions. In those 44 touches, Aston totaled 10 touchdowns — five on the ground, five through the air.

Saturday’s game will serve as the ACC opener for both Pitt and Tech.

NCAA approves waiver to allow UCF to schedule Austin Peay as hurricane replacement game

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Hurricane Irma forced a lot of shuffling and cancellations on the college football schedule but perhaps no team was more uniquely affected than Central Florida.

The Knights had two home games cancelled as a result of the storm, last weekend against Georgia Tech and a contest against Maine that was bought out as a way for the team to play their full AAC conference slate. Dropping the games left UCF with only 10 games for the 2017 season and a not ideal five home games as a result.

That has been cleared up somewhat however, as the school announced on Thursday that the NCAA has approved a waiver and that Austin Peay is now scheduled to go to Orlando for a Oct. 28th contest.

“I can’t thank Oliver Luck and the staff at the NCAA enough for their help and understanding of our situation,” UCF athletic director Danny White said in a statement. “We greatly appreciate Austin Peay being willing to visit Spectrum Stadium. We’re thrilled for our student-athletes, who deserve every opportunity they can get to go out and compete. I know our fans will be excited about the opportunity to have another Saturday at Spectrum Stadium.”

The Knights are currently 1-0 heading into their trip to play Maryland on Saturday. With the addition of an 11th game to their 2017 slate, UCF needs to go at least 6-5 in order to become bowl eligible as a result.

Clemson kicker Greg Huegel injured during practice, out for the season after ACL tear

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If Clemson is to defend their national title this season, they will do so without the services of their reliable kicker.

The school confirmed various reports on Thursday evening that redshirt junior Greg Huegel was injured during the Tigers’ practice on Wednesday night — on the final kick, no less — and tore his ACL. He will have surgery and will not play again in 2017.

While he didn’t get the press of Deshuan Watson or others, Huegel was a key part of the Clemson run the past few seasons after taking over as the starter in 2015. The former walk-on was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year and had hit two of his four field goals to start off this season, one of which was a career-long 49 yard kick just last week.

Backup kicker Alex Spence is likely to take over for the Tigers in Huegel’s absence. The redshirt junior has never attempted a field goal in a game but has kicked off and made an extra point for Clemson this season.

Reserve tight end Cole Renfrow, the younger brother of title game star Hunter Renfrow, also tore his ACL in practice and is out the rest of the season as well.

Given the thin margins that College Football Playoff teams have nowadays, the loss of Huegel figures to be a big one for Dabo Swinney and company going forward. Clemson hosts Boston College this week but will face a stiff test on the road at Virginia Tech in an ACC title game rematch to end the month.

Notre Dame, Western Michigan agree to 2020 game in South Bend

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More #MACtion is heading to South Bend.

Western Michigan and Notre Dame announced on Thursday that the two schools have agreed to a single game series that will take place on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. It will mark the fourth time the two teams have met in their long histories, but a decade since they last faced off in a 44-20 Irish win back in 2010.

The Broncos will receive a $1.175 million payout from Notre Dame for the game according to a release.

While playing a MAC team is a bit of a regular occurrence for Notre Dame now, their meeting with WMU back in 2010 was actually the first time they ever played a team from the conference. The Irish play at least one opponent from the MAC from now until at least 2021 with Western Michigan added to their slate of future games.

The Irish have been busy filling out the 2020 schedule and have just one opening remaining with this contract being signed. The Broncos join home games against Arkansas and Stanford, a trip to Charlotte to play Wake Forest, Wisconsin at Lambeau Field, the annual USC game in Los Angeles and the opener at MetLife Stadium outside New York City against Navy. Additional games against Clemson, Duke, Louisville (at home) and a road trip to Pittsburgh are also on tap as part of the ACC scheduling agreement.