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Washington State outshines Miami in snowy Sun Bowl

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The Hyundai Sun Bowl didn’t live up to its titular name, but Washington State and Miami provided the back-and-forth thriller we thought we’d see. As snow pelted the El Paso turf throughout Saturday afternoon — played simultaneously as the balmy Heart of Dallas Bowl across state and the comfortable Pinstripe Bowl in New York City — that the Bizarro Sun Bowl would be decided by Washington State’s 93rd-ranked defense.

Clinging to a 20-14 lead with 5:14 remaining, Washington State briefly saw Miami take the lead as Brad Kaaya tossed a go-ahead touchdown screen pass. But Hurricanes wideout Herb Waters was called for an illegal block, wiping the points off the scoreboard, and two plays later Miami running back Mark Walton fumbled and Wazzu defender Marcellus Pippins hopped on the snowy pigskin to end the threat. The Cougars took over at their own 4 and punted three plays later, which Braxton Berrios returned 20 yards to the Washington State 28 with a practical eternity (two minutes, 58 seconds) with which to work.

But again the Washington State defense stiffened.

Running back Joseph Yearby‘s halfback pass was intercepted on Miami’s next snap, and the Cougars consumed the final 148 seconds to secure a 20-14 victory.

Luke Falk led the Washington State attack with 29 completions on 53 attempts for 295 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. His 31-yarder to Jamal Marrow opened the scoring at the 12:41 mark of the first quarter, and his 25-yard strike to Gabe Marks gave the Cougars a 17-7 lead with 1:10 to play in the first half. A 25-yard Erik Powell field goal as time expired in the first half pushed the lead to 20-7 and provided Wazzu’s final points of the day.

Only Walton’s five-yard run with 13:10 left in the fourth quarter dented the scoreboard in the second half, played entirely under ever-increasing snow flurries.

Brad Kaaya threw for 219 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and Berrios led the all rushers with 72 yards on three carries. Yearby added 14 rushes for 63 yards.

Jamal Morrow led Washington State’s ground efforts with 10 carries for 71 yards, and Marks concluded a stellar junior season by snaring five receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown.

The win was Washington State’s (9-4) first post-season victory since knocking off No. 5 Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl. Miami (8-5) closes the book on a lost 2015 season and rests knowing sunnier days are ahead — both in the arrival of new head coach Mark Richt and, you know, in the literal sense.

VIDEO: Blind USC long snapper Jake Olson can play quarterback, too

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Jake Olson became one of the stories of the 2017 season on the opening Saturday, when he entered USC’s opener to serve as a deep snapper for an extra point in the waning moments of a win over Western Michigan.

Which would not otherwise be a story except for the fact that Olson is legally blind.

Olson’s athletic ability extends far beyond his ability to accurately snap a football, as he showcased last month.

With Sam Darnold now off to the NFL, Olson has thrown his name in the ring of those vying to become USC’s next quarterback.

After displaying his ability to snap and throw the football, his next step needs to be to kick the pigskin.

Clemson QB Tucker Israel enters his name in graduate transfer market

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Tucker Israel has yet to see significant action during his time at Clemson. With Kelly Bryant coming back and No. 1 quarterback recruit Trevor Lawrence joining the roster, that wasn’t likely to change.

So Israel (the non-Deshaun Watson player pictured above) is leaving.

“My time here at Clemson will always hold a special plate in my heart,” Israel said in a Twitter post released by the school. “I enjoyed every minute being here & thank Coach Swinney for believing in me. After much consideration, I plan on transferring upon getting my degree from this amazing university.”

A former 3-star recruit, Israel redshirted in 2015, threw four passes in 2016 and did not play in 2017. The Orlando, Fla., native will have two years of eligibility remaining upon arriving at his new destination.

Shane Beamer reportedly leaving Georgia for Oklahoma

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After you beat them, join them? Georgia special teams coordinator Shane Beamer is on his way to Oklahoma to become an offensive assistant coach at Oklahoma, according to multiple reports on Monday.

At Georgia, Beamer held the role of special teams coordinator and tight ends coach. At Oklahoma, it is reported Beamer will take on an assistant head coach title and assist head coach Lincoln Riley in preparing the offensive game plan for the Sooners. Beamer was with the Georgia staff for two years under Kirby Smart after leaving Virginia Tech to join the coaching staff in Athens.

Beamer is the son of former Virgina Tech head coach Frank Beamer. Georgia defeated Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, which was a semifinal game for the College Football Playoff last season.

There is no update on how Smart will replace Beamer on his coaching staff at this time, but Dawg Nation notes Georgia has already lost special teams advisor Scott Fountain to join the coaching staff at Mississippi State.

 

Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Saquon Barkley among Lombardi Award finalists

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The list of Lombardi Award candidates has been whittled down to a list of seven select finalists for this year’s award. A week after a list of 21 candidates was unveiled, only seven remain after a panel of voters cast their initial ballots for the award.

2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love of Stanford, and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville highlight the list of finalists for the Lombardi Award. Other finalists include Saquon Barkley of Penn State, Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama, Shaquen Griffin of UCF and Joel Lanning of Iowa State.

The Lombardi Award has a new trophy and criteria this season after opening the award up to any position after previously being reserved for the top lineman or linebacker in the nation. The award is based on performance, leadership, character and resiliency on and off the field.

Lombardi Award Finalists for 2017 Season

  • Saquon Barkley, Penn State (RB)
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (S)
  • Shaquem Griffin, UCF (LB)
  • Lamar Jackson, Louisville (QB)
  • Joel Lanning, Iowa State (LB/QB)
  • Bryce Love, Stanford (RB)
  • Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (QB)

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen won the award for the 2016 season. Carl Nassib of Penn State won the award in 2015, meaning Barkley and Fitzpatrick are attempting to win another Lombardi Award for their school. Oklahoma is the only other school with a Lombardi Award among the schools represented by the finalists for this season’s award. Iowa State, Louisville, Stanford and UCF are all looking for their first Lombardi Award winner in school history. Oklahoma has three all-time Lombardi Award winners, and Alabama and Penn State each have two.