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San Jose State takes inaugural Cure Bowl over Georgia State

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San Jose State claimed the inaugural AutoNation Cure Bowl in a 27-16 decision over Georgia State Saturday night at a mostly-empty Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando.

The Spartans (6-7), who came in at 5-7 and earned their right to play in the postseason thanks to an impressive APR score, led nearly the entire way. After a scoreless opening frame, San Jose State got on the board on a 19-yard Austin Lopez chip shot with 11:05 to play in the first half. After forcing a three-and-out, star running back Tyler Ervin took the ensuing punt 85 yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 10-0.

Georgia State (6-7) immediately responded with a five-play, 87-yard touchdown march punctuated by a 38-yard scoring strike from Nick Arbuckle to Donovan Harden.

Another Lopez field goal nudged the Spartans’ lead to 13-7 in the third quarter, but Georgia State briefly grabbed the lead thanks to a safety at the 12:44 mark of the fourth quarter and, after a 24-yard kickoff return following the safety, a four-play, 36-yard touchdown march, ended on a 19-yard pass from Arbuckle to Todd Boyd, giving the Panthers a 16-13 edge with 10:46 to play.

San Jose State immediately struck back with a three-play touchdown drive of their own, capped by a 42-yard keeper by quarterback Kenny Potter.

A 29-yard kickoff return gave Georgia State the ball at the 40, but 1st-and-10 at the 40 quickly became 4th-and-1 at the 49. After taking a timeout to think it over, head coach Trent Miles elected to throw it deep, and Arbuckle overshot an open Penny Hart streaking toward the end zone.

San Jose State methodically strolled 49 yards in 11 plays and more than five minutes, with the capper coming on a one-yard toss from Potter to tight end Josh Oliver with 2:40 to play.

Potter completed 10-of-19 throws for 89 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while Ervin carried the day with 30 rushes for 132 yards in addition to his punt return score. Ervin’s 132 yards were enough to put him at 1,601 on the season, breaking San Jose State’s single-season rushing record.

The game proved to be a perfect swan song for San Jose State’s outgoing defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who announced Friday that today’s game would be the last in a 41-year coaching career. His defense held Arbuckle, the nation’s sixth-leading passer at nearly 347 yards per game, to just 208 yards on 14-of-29 passing with two scores and one end-of-game interception. San Jose State also held six Panthers rushers to 23 yards on 20 carries.

The win gives Ron Caragher his first bowl victory in three seasons as San Jose State’s head coach and just the seventh in program history.

Georgia State was denied its first bowl win in program history — unlike Sun Belt bunkmate Appalachian State — but 2015 will still be viewed as a success for a program that came into the fall looking for its first FBS win of any kind.

QB controversy in Tuscaloosa? Freshman Tua Tagovailoa impresses at Alabama spring game

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Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and those tuning in to the Crimson team’s last minute 27-24 win over the White team had to be especially impressed with the Tide’s explosive offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In particular that comes at the quarterback position, where there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.

The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You could normally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.

Tagovailoa did throw a pick-six in the second quarter but that was mostly because linebacker Terrell Hall made an unbelievable play on a swing pass to snatch the ball out of the air and run it all the way back to the opposite end zone. Freshman tailback Najee Harris (70 yards rushing) as well as stud wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy (134 yards, two scores) also stood out on Saturday.

In all, offense ruled the day as the two quarterbacks combined for over 600 yards through the air. That probably won’t make reviewing film with Nick Saban all that pleasant for members of the secondary next week but was probably good news to most fans after lackluster performances down the stretch to end last season.

Either way, everybody should probably start brushing up on how to pronounce Tagovailoa even if he doesn’t ultimately unseat Hurts as the starter because the young QB has lived up to the early billing by recruiting analysts.

Baylor freshman tailback Abram Smith out for the season with spring ACL tear

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Baylor kicked off the first spring game of the Matt Rhule era on Saturday and wrapped things up with a 65-39 Gold team victory over the Green squad that included a pretty impressive touchdown catch from former basketball player Ish Wainright.

The news wasn’t all rosy in Waco however as after the game Rhule announced that freshman running back Abram Smith would be lost for the 2017 season after suffering an ACL tear in the Bears’ first spring practice.

Smith wasn’t being counted on as being a starter this season but his loss is a fairly big blow to the team’s depth at the position. Returnees JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams already missed parts of the spring game due to injuries on Saturday, leaving just senior Wyatt Schrepfer to take most of the carries late in the contest.

All three figure to be good to go by the time fall camp rolls around but there’s not much behind them with Smith being lost for the year. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, the early enrollee likely would have seen some snaps in 2017 but will instead have to spend it redshirting on the bench.

Brian Kelly takes the blame for Notre Dame’s struggles last season

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Notre Dame wrapped up spring football with the Irish’s annual spring game on NBC Sports Network on Saturday afternoon in South Bend and front and center was not surprisingly head coach Brian Kelly.

While fans of the team were probably most interested in how quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked, Kelly did go into detail about what the offseason has been like after last year’s disappointing 4-8 campaign. While the coach has been known to be a bit defensive when it comes to the team’s struggles, he did open up during a sit-down interview and was transparent in taking the blame for the way 2016 went.

“When you have a losing season, you have to look at yourself first,” Kelly told NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth. “I’ve always felt like there isn’t a bad football team but there is bad leadership and I don’t think I provided the kind of leadership (last year). It starts with yourself.”

Kelly goes on to discuss the significant changes to the Irish coaching staff, how this team is very much a work in progress and how Wimbush is handling taking over as the starting signal-caller.

The Gold team ended up winning the spring game 27-14 over the Blue team behind a strong defensive performance. If Saturday’s outing was any indication, Notre Dame should be much improved this upcoming season and that seems to start from the top on down.

SEC commissioner confirms graduate transfer rule changes will be discussed at spring meetings

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We’re still over a month away from the SEC’s annual spring meetings down in Destin, Fla. but one item we might be able to confirm is on the agenda will be the graduate transfer rules for the conference.

It’s a hot topic around the league and particularly so at Florida, which is in the mix to land Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire but can’t officially take him due to restrictions from the conference office.

That may change however, as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey confirmed in a radio interview on Friday with ESPN Gainesville.

“It will come up,” Sankey said, according to SECCountry.com. “I do think we need to look where we’ve been restrictive in the past because of the absence of national rules and look at reducing some of those restrictions. I’m one who would position it as interest in freeing things up without just removing every restraint, because I think the restraints have been healthy for us.”

At the heart of the issue is a rule that limits schools from taking additional graduate transfers if previous graduate transfers failed to meet academic requirements after enrolling. The move was designed to prevent a number of situations where players would transfer over just to play and not really go through coursework at their new school.

Other NCAA conferences have failed to follow the SEC’s lead in this area however and now the league is being put at a bit of a disadvantage on the graduate transfer market. This is particularly an issue with the Gators this offseason but it seems as though there will be quite the discussion down in Destin among athletic directors and head coaches about changing the rules to be on more of a level playing field with other conferences on this front.