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Controversial missed field goal gives Duke first bowl win since 1961

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It only makes sense that a football game between two storied basketball schools — played on a hallowed baseball ground — would come down to a three-pointer. A 36-yard Ross Martin field goal gave Duke a 44-41 lead at the top of the first overtime, and Griffin Oakes’ 38-yard miss in the bottom of the first handed the Blue Devils a win over Indiana in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.

Oakes’ miss, however, was not as cut-and-dry as the box score could portray.

The win, controversial as it was, gave Duke (8-5) its first bowl victory since a 7-6 triumph over Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl. Indiana (6-7) snapped a seven-year postseason drought with Saturday’s appearance, but the Hooisers are in still in search of their first bowl win since 1991.

The teams got to overtime after a back-and-forth 60 minutes that saw both teams claim multiple leads but neither separated from the other by more than 10 points. Duke led 10-0 after one quarter thanks to an 85-yard Shaun Wilson run, then Indiana grabbed a 14-10 lead thanks to two quick scoring drives late in the second quarter. That lead lasted all of 25 seconds after Thomas Sirk darted 73 yards to put the Blue Devils back on top 17-14 with a minute left in the first half.

Oakes tied the game at 17-17 with a 45-yard field goal with just three seconds left in the first half.

Martin opened the third quarter with a 34-yard boot to put Duke back on top 20-17, and the edge see-sawed from there. Nate Sudfeld‘s three-yard pass to Nick Westbrook gave Indiana the advantage, and Sirk’s 10-yard strike to Braxton Deaver gave it back to Duke.

A 10-yard Alex Rodriguez run and another Oakes field goal gave Indiana a 34-27 lead with 11:12 to play in the fourth quarter, but Wilson immediately knotted the score again with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Sudfeld found Mitchell Paige alone in the end zone for a 25-yard score with 4:03 to play to again provide the Hooisers a touchdown advantage, but Duke once again responded when Sirk plunged in for a five-yard touchdown with 41 seconds remaining.

Given another chance to punch in a long-distance buzzer-beater, Oakes’ 56-yard field goal as time expired was no good.

Oakes’ next try and miss would hand the win over to Duke.

Each team raced up and down the field, reminiscent of a hardwood affair filled with fast breaks and turnovers. Sirk led the Blue Devils by completing 17-of-37 throws for 163 yards with a touchdown and two interception while also rushing 20 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Jela Duncan rushed 19 times for 103 yards, and Wilson added nine carries for 103 yards and a touchdown — plus his 98-yard kickoff return score.

Sirk was attended to by trainers after taking a hard hit on Duke’s second play of overtime, but he managed to finish the series.

For Indiana, Sudfeld hit 28-of-51 throws for 389 yards with three touchdowns and two picks, and Devine Redding accumulated 35 carries for 227 yards and one touchdown.

Seventeen separate players combined to catch the teams’ 45 completed passes.

Indiana out-gained Duke 667-536 while converting 10-of-20 third downs and holding a 33-23 first downs edge. Those yards were not enough, however, to pull out the win.

 

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.