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.

 

SEC leads NFL Draft for 11th straight year as Alabama and Michigan set school records

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The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again it is the SEC claiming another NFL Draft national championship. A grand total of 53 players from the SEC were drafted by NFL teams. It is the 11th straight year the SEC has had the most players drafted by NFL teams.

The ACC ended the draft with 42 players drafted, followed by the Pac-12 (36) and Big Ten (35). The Big 12 ended the draft with just 14 players drafted.

Helping to contribute to the SEC’s NFL Draft total was Alabama setting a school record with 10 players drafted.

Alabama’s nine players drafted in the first 80 picks was also a new Alabama record.

Michigan ended up having more players drafted than any other Big Ten team, slipping past Ohio State by the time the draft closed up shop this year. For the Wolverines, 11 players ended up being drafted. The previous school record for draft picks was 10, set in 1972 and tied in 1974. Head coach Jim Harbaugh will get plenty of the praise for developing that many players getting a chance to be drafted, but Brady Hoke should be recognized for recruiting those players as well (and blamed for not developing the talent he brought in).

 

Air Force changes rules for football players with NFL aspirations

AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo
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One of the top players from Air Force was ineligible to be drafted by the NFL this weekend, and it had nothing to do with NFL rules. It also had nothing to do with NFL teams backing away from a particular player due to off-field concerns. Instead, a policy at Air Force is what is to blame for wide receiver Jalen Robinette not moving on to the NFL at this time.

The U.S. Air Force will not approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty in order to be allowed to play professional football. Just a year ago, the Department of Defense changed the policy to allow for the possibility, which made it possible for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be allowed to play. Reynolds later joined the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds had received a recommendation to be allowed to play by the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The Air Force notified academy leaders [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military commitments for cadet athletes,” a statement from Air Force read. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve, which would allow their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”

Because of the policy change and confirmation, Robinette was not able to be drafted. He may still have been a long shot to be drafted by an NFL Team, but the policy also means he is unable to be signed as an undrafted free agent as well.

Rawleigh Williams carted off at Arkansas scrimmage

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Any time a player that has previously undergone neck surgery goes down on the field and needs to be carted off is quite the scary moment. On Saturday, the Arkansas football program had that exact scare when Rawleigh Williams went down on the field in pain and ended up having to be carted off the practice field during the Arkansas scrimmage.

Williams was placed on a stretcher and taken out of the facility on a cart to receive medical attention. His legs and arms were moving on the ground, a slight sigh of relief given the hit and his injury history. In 2015, Williams was carted off and had to undergo surgery on his neck. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the injury concern on Saturday was apparently not related to the previous neck injury, which was expected to have a full recovery.

It is an unfortunate ending to the spring for Williams, because all indications seemed to be he was certainly improving running the football. Bielema said earlier in the week Williams was running with more patience, which is always a key for a running back.

Arkansas moved its final scrimmage of the spring indoors due to bad weather rolling through the area.

Justin Herbert shines in first Oregon spring game under Willie Taggart

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A glimpse of a brand new era of Oregon football took center stage in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday as the spring football season drew to a close. Willie Taggart showed fans a little bit of what to expect from Oregon in the fall as the program looks to bounce back from a down season under the coach who has shown a knack for improving programs. As is usually the case in a spring game, Oregon’s quarterback situation was under a microscope, and sophomore Justin Herbert took advantage of the opportunity.

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and established a connection with wide receiver Darren Carrington. The two connected for three touchdowns in the game. Sophomore Travis Jonson and early enrollee Braxton Burmeister also saw playing time in the game, but Carrington was confident in saying this is Herbert’s job to lose.

”Our chemistry has definitely improved this spring, and it’ll improve more by the time fall comes, but Herbert, I mean, that’s the guy right now to beat,” Carrington said after the spring game.

As for the team as a whole, Taggert knows there is much still to address as a new system and style are implemented and the roster adjusts physically to the demands of the new coach.

‘We’re still building. We’re nowhere where we need to be as a football team yet. We have some good players. We don’t have a lot of depth that we need to have, that’s going to be a work in progress,” Taggart said. ”The thing for us as coaches is just to make our guys better than they were before. If I guy wasn’t good enough we want to make him look better than he was before. If I guy was good we want to make him great.”

Og course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon spring game without having that typical Oregon uniform flair. Even with a new head coach and with the talk suggesting the Ducks will go for a more traditional approach to uniforms in the fall, the spring game was used for some sizzle on the unis.

Oregon’s spring game crowd of 36,821 assured the Ducks of having the highest spring game attendance among Pac-12 school for a third consecutive year.