Louisville starts fast, hangs on to beat Texas A&M in Music City Bowl

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Louisville exploded for 20 first quarter points and then hung on for dear life to hand Texas A&M a 27-21 defeat in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Wednesday night in Nashville.

The Cardinals were keyed by quarterback Lamar Jackson, who accounted for all four of Louisville’s touchdowns on the night. He raced in from six yards out on the Cardinals’ opening drive, then hit Micky Crum on a two-yard toss at the 5:22 mark of the first quarter to stake Louisville to a 13-0 lead.

After Tra Carson juked his way in for a nine-yard score on the ensuing possession, Jackson raced 61 yards to the house on Louisville’s next touch, pushing the Cardinals’ advantage to 20-7 with 1:14 still remaining in the first quarter.

And then the game turned into an ugly, chippy, ugly, grudge-filled and did I say ugly affair over the final three quarters. Jake Hubenak, making his first career start following the transfers of Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray, found Ricky Seals-Jones for a four-yard scoring toss — capping an eight-play, 97-yard drive — with 1:51 to go in the first half.

Jackson then notched the only score of the third quarter, a 17-yard strike to Keith Towbridge, to give Louisville its third 13-point lead of the night.

Accepting the ball at its own 14 with 6:58 to play in the game, the Aggies raced 86 yards in eight plays, the final one a 29-yard toss from Hubenak to Christian Kirk, to pull within 27-21 with just under five minutes to play. Texas A&M immediately forced a three-and-out, then methodically forced its way down field on a would-be game-winning drive. The march appeared to stall after an incomplete pass on 4th-and-10 at the Lousiville 41, but James Hearns was flagged for hands to the face, providing the Aggies new life. Hubenak appeared to hit Kirk for a complete pass that would have given Texas A&M a first-and-goal, but the completion was overturned on review, instead sentencing Texas A&M to a 3rd-and-8 at the Louisville 24.

Hubenak fired incomplete on the two following plays, and Louisville consumed the final 90 seconds to seal the win.

Jackson, a freshman, completed 12-of-26 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 22 times for 226 yards and two more scores, allowing the Boynton Beach, Fla., native to join Vince Young (2006 Rose Bowl) and Johnny Manziel (2013 Cotton Bowl) as the only players in FBS history to record a 200/200 bowl game.

Hubenak hit 28-of-48 passes for 307 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, while Carson led the Aggies with 20 carries for 106 yards and one score. Kirk and Josh Reynolds carried the vast majority of the Aggies’ passing game, combining to catch 21 passes for 261 yards and one touchdown.

Louisville out-gained Texas A&M 534-445, and Jackson edged the Aggies by himself, 448-445. The teams combined to post more penalties (19) than third-down conversions (11).

The loss dropped Texas A&M to 8-5 on the year, and handed Kevin Sumlin his first non-conference defeat in 20 tries. The loss, however, meant the Aggies’ win total has decreased or remained the same for the third consecutive year under Sumlin after an 11-2 debut in 2012. This season also marked the second straight year the Aggies finished 8-5 after starting 5-0.

Lousville closes at 8-5 as well, but the end result doesn’t feel nearly as identical as the numbers indicate. The Cardinals started the year 0-3 and rebounded to win eight of their final 10 games.

And there is, of course, the matter of one team’s quarterback position is in shambles while the other just saw its freshman post one of the better bowl games in college football history.

That’s music to Bobby Petrino‘s ears.

 

Former Baylor TE Tre’Von Armstead arrested in connection to 2013 sexual assault

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The cloud habitually hovering over the Baylor football program continues to get darker.  And more ominous.

According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, “[f]ormer Baylor football player Tre'Von Armstead was arrested Wednesday… on three second-degree felony sexual assault charges stemming from an alleged 2013 sexual assault while he was a member of the Baylor football team.” While the alleged rape occurred in mid-April of 2013, the case was suspended by the Waco Police Department, ESPN.com writes, “after the alleged victim chose not to pursue charges against Armstead and former Bears running back Myke Chatman, who she accused of sexually assaulting her at her apartment.”

The victim in that alleged assault, a former “Baylor Bruin” recruiting hostess for the football program, filed a lawsuit in late January of this year in which it’s alleged that 31 Baylor football players committed 52 acts of rape over a four-year period starting in 2011.  It was further alleged in the lawsuit that BU assistant football coaches, including current Florida Atlantic assistant Kendal Briles, contributed to what was described as a “culture of sexual violence” around the football program.

“Do you like white women? Because we have a lot of them at Baylor and they love football players,” Briles, the son of disgraced former BU head coach Art Briles, told one recruit according to that lawsuit, one of many the university is currently facing as a result of the sexual-assault scandal.

Despite the 2013 allegations of Armstead being involved in a sexual assault, he remained with the football program until his dismissal in September of 2015.  A little over a week ago, Armstead was arrested on multiple charges in Las Vegas after he allegedly physically assaulted a woman.

Louisville clarifies titles for revamped defensive coaching staff

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The offseason shuffling of Bobby Petrino‘s defensive coaching staff appears to be complete.

Thanks to Todd Grantham‘s move to Mississippi State earlier this offseason, Petrino was forced to overhaul his staff on that side of the ball.  Peter Sirmon, who Grantham replaced at MSU, was hired by the U of L as defensive coordinator in mid-January.

As the Cardinals kicked off spring practice this week, the football program detailed the responsibilities for the defensive side of the staff.

New defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon announced on Wednesday that he has finalized position changes on his defensive staff. Sirmon will mentor the defense, but will also coach the outside linebackers. Lorenzo Ward will coach the secondary, while Cort Dennison will now mentor the inside linebackers. L.D. Scott will stick with coaching the defensive line.

Last season under Grantham, the Cardinals were 31st nationally and sixth in the ACC in scoring defense (23.8 points per game).  They were 14th and third, respectively, in total defense (319.6 yards per game).

Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis potentially out for spring

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Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was optimistic about wide receiver Kyle Davis returning to the team at some point this spring, but the tune has changed regarding his future. Malzahn is now saying Davis may be out for the remainder of Auburn’s spring practices due to personal reasons.

“Kyle Davis is still taking care of some personal business,” Malzahn said, according to SEC Country. “I’m not for sure if he’s going to be back before the end of the spring. He will be back for the fall, just taking a little bit longer than we initially thought.”

It was just a few weeks ago Malzahn said Davis was going to be out for the start of spring practices, which are now close to half over. For now, the plan is simply to have him return over the summer in preparation for the fall.

In the meantime, Malzahn confirmed John Franklin III is working primarily as a wide receiver, which had previously been suspected to be the case.

Penn State announces three captains for 2017 season

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With Penn State just about to get started with spring football practices, head coach James Franklin wasted no time in naming his captains for the 2017 season. Quarterback Trace McSorley, linebacker Jason Cabinda, and safety Nick Scott have been voted captains by their peers on the team.

“These three young men have been leaders in our program, on and off the field,” Franklin said in a released statement. “They live our four core values and act with the program’s best interest in mind. Our team is in good hands with these guys!”

McSorley took over the offense as Penn State’s starting quarterback in 2016. A bit of a mystery to most entering the season after being the backup to Christian Hackenberg, McSorley ended his 2016 season with a Big Ten-leading 3,614 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes with eight interceptions and played a key role in guiding Penn State to a late run to a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. He enters the 2017 season as one of the top quarterbacks returning to the Big Ten, along with Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett.

Cabinda, an All-Big Ten third team player in 2016, was Penn State’s third-leading tackler last season with 81 tackles. He accumulated that many tackles despite missing five games due to injury. He is slated to be the leader in the middle of the Penn State defense with a starting role already locked down and will look to help guide some younger linebackers stepping into key roles in the defense this upcoming season, such as Manny Bowen and Koa Farmer.

Scott has been a special teams leader for Penn State and is expected to continue to lead the special teams effort once again this season.