Associated Press

USF survives in OT, holds off South Carolina in wild Birmingham Bowl

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South Florida had already set a school record for wins in a season.  Thursday, the Bulls added to it.  Barely.

Trailing 29-14 in the first half of the 11th annual Birmingham Bowl, South Carolina (6-7) roared its way back to tie the game late but its USF that will head back to the Sunshine State with a wild 46-39 win, its fifth in a row to close out the season.  The win was the 11th for the Bulls in 2016, setting a school record.  This year, the 20th anniversary of the first season in the football program’s history, was also the first time they’d reached double-digits in wins, with the previous high being nine wins accomplished on three occasions, the last coming in 2007.

The win was also the Bulls’ first in a bowl game since 2010.  It didn’t come easy, though.  At all.

With the Bulls up 39-21 late in the third, an Elliott Fry field goal cut the Gamecocks’ deficit to 15.  A little over five minutes into the fourth, a Jake Bentley touchdown pass sliced USF’s lead to 39-31.  With an offense that was dominant in the first half suddenly stagnant, the Gamecocks got the ball back again with 6:33 left in the game.  Five plays later they were at the USF 8-yard line; on the sixth play, A.J. Turner appeared headed for what, with a two-point conversion, could’ve been the game-tying touchdown run but fumbled the ball back to the Bulls a yard short of the goal line.

Forcing a Bulls punt from their own end zone after three plays netted next to nothing, Chris Lammons returned a punt that was initially ruled a touchdown but, upon further review, was placed at the two-yard line.  Three plays later, a Turner one-yard run left the ‘Cocks a two-point conversion away from tying the score; a Bentley pass to Hayden Hurst was complete to knot the score at 39-all and send it to overtime.

Quinton Flowers, dominant in the first half but bothered by injury in the second, hit Elkanah Dillon from 25 yards out on the first play of extra time to give the Bulls back the lead.  Facing a fourth down on their first possession of overtime, a strip-sack of Bentley recovered by the Bulls ended the Gamecocks’ comeback hopes.  It was USC’s third red-zone turnover of the game.

Flowers finished the game with five touchdowns — three rushing, two passing — and 366 yards of offense.  He led the team in rushing with 105 yards.

Despite the loss, the future, especially at the quarterback position, certainly looks bright for Will Muschamp & Company.

Bentley finished the game 32-of-43 passing for 390 yards and three touchdowns.  He did, though, throw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown in the third quarter.  Sophomore wide receiver Deebo Samuel was on the receiving end of 14 of those completions and 190 of the yards.

The loss drops the SEC to 1-3 this bowl season, one year after going 9-2.

 

Butch Jones says the most Butch Jones quote of all time

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It’s become a theory among some in the media that Butch Jones is conducting a social experiment or participating some sort of performance art. While that’s the more charitable and fun interpretation, I tend to think the Tennessee head coach is just frighteningly insecure and, thus, fighting for every inch of public approval he can in a likely doomed attempt to keep his job.

That approach has backed him into some verbal corners that, in the long run, make his job more difficult on himself.

I’m talking about the “Champions of Life” quote of last season or, in February, actually stating that he didn’t want 5-star players, he wanted 5-star hearts.

This season has seen Jones go on an odd rant blaming the media for negative recruiting and saying Tennessee had one of the best bye weeks ever last week.

It wasn’t one of the best bye weeks ever, because Tennessee lost at home to South Carolina, 15-9. And you’re not going to believe Jones’s explanation for why Tennessee loss. Scratch that. You will believe his explanation, and that’s the problem here, isn’t it?

Here’s the full quote.

Jones is 33-24 in his four-plus seasons in Knoxville, and 14-21 in the SEC. Those numbers will likely fall to 33-25 and 14-22 after Saturday, when the Vols face No. 1 Alabama. The end is likely near.

And here’s the grand irony of Jones’s everything’s-sunny-here p.r. strategy: his attempt to keep his job by stating blatantly cliche quotes in the state of the obvious will live on much longer than Jones’s actual tenure. Two and three years from now, when Jones is working on someone else’s staff or sitting on his buyout money, the next time an on-the-hot-seat coach says his team won the game everywhere except the scoreboard, we’ll see he Pulled a Butch.

Houston Nutt settles lawsuit with Ole Miss

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Houston Nutt wanted money and an apology from Ole Miss. He’ll have to settle for the second of the two — and a largely different future for the program he used to lead.

It was Nutt’s lawsuit, remember, which exposed the documents that led to a Mississippi State fan finding Hugh Freeze‘s call to a Tampa escort service, which led to Freeze’s resignation, which led to… we have no idea what it will lead to, but, whatever that future is, it will be wildly different than if Freeze was still the Rebels’ coach.

Nutt amended his lawsuit in August to seek simply an apology from Ole Miss, and that apology finally came on Monday.

Each side released their own bitter, short statements.

Nutt will go on, with his apology but without any monetary compensation, while Ole Miss will play out the string of this season, hire a new coach, and move into a future that will be immeasurably different that the one it would have lived had it apologized to Nutt in the first place.

Washington loses LT Adams, CB Miller for the season

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No. 12 Washington’s loss to Arizona State was a disaster on the field — for more reasons than one.

The Huskies not only put their College Football Playoff hopes in danger — they’ll need to sweep their next six games, including a finishing kick that calls for games against No. 22 Stanford, No. 15 Washington State and, presumably, No. 11 USC, two of them away from Seattle. But the road to get there became noticeably more difficult after losing two starters.

Left tackle Trey Adams suffered a torn ACL in his right knee, and cornerback Jordan Miller sustained a broken ankle. Head coach Chris Petersen confirmed Monday that both will be lost for the season. Miller is the third Husky this season to suffer a broken ankle.

The Seattle Times noted that Washington is also without another starting corner in Byron Murphy, who is expected to return later this year from a broken foot. The Huskies are expected to replace Miller with either a pair of true freshmen or a converted running back.

But Adams may be the bigger loss for the Huskies. A junior, Adams was widely expected to be a first round pick in this spring’s NFL Draft. It’s the second straight season Washington has lost a key player in the trenches to a season-ending injury; a year ago, it was linebackers Joe Mathis, who finished one sack away from the team lead despite playing in only seven games, and third-leading tackler Azeem Victor.

Maryland AD Kevin Anderson to take 6-month sabbatical

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Maryland AD Kevin Anderson will not be the Maryland AD for the next six months.

Anderson announced Monday he will take a 6-month sabbatical to focus on “professional development.” That leave of absence will see him remain on his national committees with the NCAA and NACDA, the professional organization of ADs.

It was reported over the weekend that Anderson would be out completely as Maryland’s AD, but those reports were knocked down by the university.

Additionally, Maryland announced that former Georgia AD and current Terps associate AD/CFO Damon Evans will run the department in Anderson’s stead.