Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

Houston hangs on for Peach Bowl victory over Florida State

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The debut season for Tom Herman as a head coach could not have gone too much better. No. 18 Houston (13-1) capped a dream season with a 38-24 victory over No. 9 Florida State (10-3) in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl to kickoff the New Years Six on New Year’s Eve. Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. passed for 238 yards and a touchdown and ran for two touchdowns and 67 yards in the win, although he was knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter. That forced Houston to close out the win with backup quarterback Kyle Postma, who picked up key third down conversion and led the Cougars to a cherry on top touchdown.

Houston’s offense shined against Florida State. The Cougars put together an evenly distributed 452 yards of offense, including 191 rushing yards, and lost the football just once. It was Houston’s defense that really stepped up and took Florida State out early. The Cougars forced five turnovers in the game and shut down talented running back Dalvin Cook in the first half. Cook ended his afternoon with just 33 rushing yards and a touchdown, and he was knocked out in the final two minutes after being popped by two Houston defenders. Florida State’s offensive line could not provide much room to run though, and that continued from start to finish.

Houston also knocked out quarterback Sean Maguire for a brief stretch in the first half, leaving Florida State to play briefly with a third string quarterback (J.J. Cosentino) who did not even appear on the team’s depth chart for the game. Everett Golson was not with the team due to a death in the family). Maguire did pass for nearly 400 yards and two touchdowns, but he was under pressure plenty of times and was intercepted four times. Florida State was limited to just 17 first downs in the game.

Houston took a 21-3 lead into halftime and led 24-10 in the fourth quarter when the teams began exchanging touchdowns on the scoreboard. Florida State’s offense appeared to be taking advantage of a tirewd Houston defense, but the Cougars always seemed to have an answer waiting.

At least someone behind Florida State’s Twitter account had a sense of humor. Referencing an earlier loss to Georgia Tech, Florida State made a resolution for the new year:

Of course, one of the College Football Playoff games will be played in the Peach Bowl next year…

(Also, Florida State is scheduled to play Alabama in a season-opening game in Atlanta in 2017, but enough about that…)

Houston was clearly the top Group of Five program this season, and having Herman come to guide the program coming off a national championship as an Ohio State assistant helped the Cougars take a giant step forward as a program. With Herman already lined up to return to Houston in 2016, Houston’s run as a dominant Group of Five program is just getting started. Houston is currently lining up a very talented recruiting class, one that would make even some power conference programs envious.

Florida State will open the 2016 season in Orlando when the Seminoles clash with Ole Miss on a neutral field on September 5. Expect Florida State to still remain one of the top teams in the ACC in 2016 with plenty of talent to work with and perhaps another strong recruiting class being signed. The ACC Atlantic Division could very well be a race between Florida State and Clemson, although Louisville may be in the hunt as well. This may have been a second straight step back for Jimbo Fisher and Florida State (yes, they were undefeated in the regular season in 2014), but the Seminoles will not be likely to continue down a steep decline.

Houston will also open the 2016 season with a bit of a high profile matchup. Houston will kick off the 2016 season in NRG Stadium in Houston against the Oklahoma Sooners, defending Big 12 champions and College Football Playoff participant this season. As with most Group of Five programs, this will be a tremendous opportunity for Houston to assert itself as the top Group of Five program out of the gates, and it figures to be as good an opportunity as any for Ward. to establish himself in the early field of Heisman Trophy candidates.

Bill Snyder’s grandson, Sean Snyder’s son dies at age 22

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Tragedy has struck at the heart of the Kansas State football program.

According to the Manhattan Mercury, 22-year-old Matthew Snyder died Wednesday in Manhattan.  Snyder is the grandson of legendary K-State head coach Bill Snyder and the son of longtime Wildcats assistant Sean Snyder.

Scant details surrounding the younger Snyder’s death have been released.  From the Mercury‘s report:

Emergency personnel responded to a medical call Wednesday afternoon in the 3300 block of Claflin Avenue in Manhattan. Riley County police confirmed that there had been a death but declined to give any further information.

The house at 3309 Claflin Ave. belongs to KTMW LLC, which is owned by Sean and Wanda Snyder, according to county records.

The football program is expected to release a statement or statements on Matthew Snyder’s passing later on Thursday.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to those affected by the young man’s death.

In the retiring Chayce Crouch, Illinois loses second QB in one day

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Wednesday evening, Jeff George Jr. announced that he was leaving the Illinois football program as a graduate transfer.  A short time later, another of his fellow Fighting Illini quarterbacks confirmed his exit as well — albeit with a twist.

On his personal Twitter account, Chayce Crouch announced that not only is he leaving the Illini but he’s leaving the sport, period. “I don’t think there’s anything left to give,” the redshirt junior wrote. “I have decided to hang up the cleats and end my career as a Fighting Illini.

“At this point in my life, this is what is best for me.”

Crouch started the first four games of the 2017 season before being benched in favor of George Jr. in early October; he started another game later on in the year.  The Ohio native finishes his collegiate career completing 78 of his 157 passes for 852 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions.  He also ran for 360 yards and another four touchdowns on 108 carries.

With the departures of Crouch and George, rising sophomore Cam Thomas is the only scholarship quarterback currently on the Illini’s roster.  A three-star recruit signed last December, MJ Rivers, won’t enroll until the summer.  There’s also the possibility of adding another recruit during the “usual” February signing period, and there’s also the possibility (probability?) that a graduate transfer at the position will be added as well.

Ex-Tennessee line coach Don Mahoney takes same job at East Carolina

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Head coach Scottie Montgomery has added a veteran assistant with SEC experience to his East Carolina coaching staff, announcing Wednesday that Don Mahoney has been hired as his new offensive line coach.

From 2013-16, Mahoney served as the line coach for the Tennessee Volunteers.  The longtime assistant spent the 2017 season at a Div. II program in West Virginia.

“Don’s wealth of experience and expertise is synonymous with a foundation we need to have in place on the offensive side of the ball here,” a statement from Montgomery said. “His background features a strong association of development and depth, two qualities which are crucial to the growth, balance and success of our unit.”

Prior to his time on Rocky Top, Mahoney was the line coach for three years at Cincinnati (2010-12).  He also coached the line during stops at Central Michigan (2007-09) and Tulane (1999-2006).

Texas QB Shane Buechele undergoes hip surgery, expected back for spring practice

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A postseason injury has forced Shane Buechele to undergo an offseason medical procedure.

Buechele suffered a torn abductor muscle in his hip/abdomen in the first half of Texas’ Texas Bowl win over Missouri and didn’t return in the second half.  Nearly a month later, the football program has announced that the quarterback will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair the damage.

If rehab goes as planned, Buechele is expected to be on the field when the Longhorns kick off spring practice March 5.

As a true freshman in 2016, Buechele started all 12 games for the Longhorns.  This past season was one marred by various injuries.

Buechele started the season opener for Texas, but ceded the job to Sam Ehlinger the next two games because of a bruised throwing shoulder.  Returning to the starting lineup in Week 5, Buechele suffered an ankle injury in the win over Iowa State that allowed Ehlinger to start the next three games.  In the last of those three games, Ehlinger suffered a head injury that left him in concussion protocol and opened the door for Buechele to start five of the last six games of the season.

Buechele and Ehlinger will be the two veterans battling for the starting job once spring practice kicks off in March.