Jared Goff strafes Air Force, leads Cal to first bowl win since 2008

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If this was indeed Jared Goff‘s last game in a Cal uniform, he made it a statistically memorable — and record-breaking — finale that came at the expense of Air Force.

Expected to leave his remaining eligibility on the table and make himself available for the NFL draft next April, Goff riddled the service academy’s air defense systems throughout the afternoon, setting Armed Forces Bowl records with 467 yards passing and six passing touchdowns in leading the Golden Bears to a 55-36 win over the Falcons.  The win was Cal’s first in a bowl game since dropping Miami (Fla.) in the 2008 Emerald Bowl.

Goff has now thrown for 300 or more yards 22 times — 10 this season in 13 games — in his three-year career as Cal’s starting quarterback.  He’s also gone over 400 yards eight times and surpassed 500 on three different occasions.  It was also the fifth time he’s thrown five or more touchdowns in a single game, including each of the last two.

In the process, Goff, expected to be in a fight with Memphis’ Paxton Lynch for the right to be the first quarterback selected in the draft, broke the Pac-12 single-season records for passing yards (4,719) and passing touchdowns (43), the latter of which was set by Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (42) during his Heisman run last season.  The yardage record was previously held by Oregon State’s Sean Mannion (4,662 in 2013).

The last two games alone, Goff passed for 1,009 yards as he threw for a career-high 542 yards in the regular-season finale against Arizona State.  He totaled 11 touchdowns in those two contests for good measure, a number that’s more than 13 FBS teams have thrown for all season.

Three of Goff’s scoring tosses on the day came in the second quarter as Cal took a 35-21 lead into the halftime locker room.  That was as close as the Falcons would get the rest of the way as they were outscored 20-15 over the final two quarters in what turned into their third bowl loss in their last four postseason trips.

Kenny Lawler caught three of Goff’s touchdowns, while Bryce Treggs accounted for 143 receiving yards.  Nine different Golden Bears caught passes as Goff completed 25-of-37 passes in putting up a season-high passer rating of 227.1.

Air Force, champions of the MWC’s Mountain division, finishes 2015 at 8-6.  The 18 wins for the Falcons the last two years (10-3 in 2014) are the most in back-to-back seasons for the program since they won 22 in 1997 and 1998.

Finalists named for inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year

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Jason Witten was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012, and now his foundation is attempting to start a similar honor for college football. While the William V. Campbell Trophy goes to the nation’s best scholar-athlete and the Wuerffel Trophy honors the nation’s best community servant, no other college award attempts to recognize what the Witten Man of the Year recognizes.

And what is that, you ask?

Reads the boiler plate from the Jason Witten SCORE Foundation:

Presented annually to the Division I college football player who has demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field. The award honors the type of exemplary character and commitment to community, family and teammates demonstrated by Jason Witten, the 2012 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year and one of the most prominent role models in the game.

Nominees are gathered from the Sports Information Directors of each NCAA Division I football-playing institution. Three finalists are selected by the award’s board of directors, and the winner is selected by a panel of prominent former players and coaches, as well as members of the college football media.

The finalists were announced Tuesday, and they are:

  • Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick
  • UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin
  • Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph

“I am very excited to announce these three exceptional young men as the finalists for the inaugural Collegiate Man of the Year,” the former Tennessee tight end said in a statement. “Minkah Fitzpatrick, Shaquem Griffin and Mason Rudolph are outstanding leaders on the field, in the classroom and in the community, and they embody what the sport of college football is all about. It was a nearly impossible task to choose just three from all of the great student-athletes nominated. There are so many outstanding leaders who are great representatives for college football, and I commend all of the nominees for the tremendous example they set on and off the field.”

These types of awards seem to be just as much about honoring the namesake as they do the winner, but I doubt either of the three finalists would turn down the award if chosen.

The winner will beget a $10,000 contribution in his name to his school’s scholarship fund, and will be chosen on Feb. 22.

Jeremy Smith’s dad says RB son transferring from Louisville

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A lost 2017 season for Jeremy Smith has morphed into a departure for the player.

The father of the running back confirmed to the Louisville Courier Journal Monday night that his son has been granted a release from his Louisville scholarship. A school official subsequently confirmed Smith’s departure as well.

The senior will be leaving the football program as a graduate of the university, giving him the ability to use his final season of eligibility immediately in 2018.

Smith came to the Cardinals from the junior college ranks as a member of their 2015 recruiting class.  After rushing for 270 yards his first year, he ran for 382 (on 57 carries) in 2016.  That latter season, his eight rushing touchdowns were second on the team to Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson‘s 21.

Entering the 2017 season as the Cardinals’ top returning back, Smith suffered a foot injury during practice between the first two games of the year that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.  That injury limited him to just eight yards on five carries.

Jerry Kill to make health-related decision on future as Rutgers’ OC

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Once again, Jerry Kill‘s health could force him to step away from the game.

Citing multiple unnamed sources, nj.com is reporting that the Rutgers’ offensive coordinator “is evaluating his options and is expected to make a health-related decision in the coming days” on his coaching future. The 56-year-old Kill was hospitalized in September of this year after suffering what was described as a minor seizure related to his ongoing battle with epilepsy, although he returned to his coaching duties shortly thereafter.

Ahead of an official decision, the website added, head coach Chris Ash has been informing prospects on the recruiting trail of the possibility that Kill might not be with the Scarlet Knights because of the issues that stretch back years.

In October of 2015, Kill was forced to step down as Minnesota’s head football coach because of health issues related to ongoing epileptic seizures.  Prior to joining the Rutgers staff, Kill spent the 2016 season in a non-coaching role at Kansas State.

In the year prior to Kill’s arrival, RU was 127th nationally in points per game (15.7) and 18th in total offense (283 yards per games).  In Kill’s first season in 2017, they were 121st in the former category (18 ppg) and 129th in the latter (263 ypg).

Nebraska’s Scott Frost confirms he will indeed coach UCF in bowl game

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After a little uncertainty, Scott Frost will indeed finish what he started this season.

After Frost led them to a perfect regular season and AAC championship, UCF earned the Group of Five’s bid to a New Year’s Six Bowl. In between the title win and bowl announcement, however, Frost was hired as the head coach at Nebraska. At the time, all of the sides involved indicated that Frost and his coaching staff, all of whom are following him to Lincoln, would be coaching the Knights in that bowl game.

As recently as late last week, however, there was some uncertainty as to whether Frost would actually lead UCF in the New Year’s Day Peach Bowl matchup with Auburn.  Tuesday, though, Frost was back at UCF with his undefeated Knights team and confirmed that he will coach them one last time, calling it “an honor” to do so.

“There’s some unusual circumstances but we’re gonna handle this as we would any bowl game of this type,” Frost said according to the Omaha World-Herald. “Our staff is completely committed and we’re going to do everything we can for this football team. …

“It’s an honor to be invited to this game. These players have poured their hearts out to accomplish a lot this year. There’s been a lot of circumstances swirling around this season and that’s been tough to navigate but they’ve been great with that. I’m grateful we have a chance to give them their best possible chance to put on the best show in Atlanta and win a football game.”

Frost had been on the road recruiting for his new team before returning to Orlando Monday night.  He and his assistants will remain there through Thursday as they continue preparing for the bowl game, then will continue recruiting duties for the Cornhuskers right up until the dead period starts Dec. 17 while continuing prep work for the Knights’ postseason.

Unlike in any other year, there’s an early signing period that starts on Dec. 20 and goes for 72 hours.  After that early signing period ends, there’ll be just a week or so left until Frost takes the field one last time as the Knights’ head coach.