On paper, the Dollar General Bowl between MAC champion Toledo and perennial Sun Belt power Appalachian State shaped up to be one of the best matchups of the postseason. Games are not played on paper and that certainly played out down in Mobile, Ala. as the Mountaineers routed the Rockets 34-0 on Saturday night to cap off another season with at least nine wins for head coach Scott Satterfield.
It was quickly apparent that this wasn’t Toledo’s night early — and often. Despite entering the week with an offense that was in the top in the country in terms of scoring, the team couldn’t do much of anything on that side of the ball and recorded four three-and-outs. Record-setting quarterback Logan Woodside never could find much down the field and was pressure on nearly every drop back, throwing for only 124 yards while also tossing three interceptions. Running back Terry Swanson managed 44 hard-fought yards on the ground but didn’t see many carries down the stretch as the team fell further and further behind.
While not much was working for the visitors from the North, few things could go wrong for AppState. Taking advantage of several short fields, the run game didn’t need much to get going and tailbacks Jalin Moore (125 yards, three TDs) and Daetrich Harrington (72 yards) both made quick work of the MAC title holders. Quarterback Taylor Lamb closed out his career with the Mountaineers with a performance that may not have been statically stellar — eight completions, 131 yards, no touchdowns — but was nevertheless plenty in a game the team controlled from pretty much the opening kickoff.
While all those points were nice to have, they didn’t really need all of them given how well the Sun Belt’s top defense looked to stymie their opponents. Linebacker Anthony Flory was all over the place, hauling in a pick and recording eight tackles on the night as they held the most dangerous #MACtion offense to under 200 yards.
That gave the team yet another finishing kick as they won their fourth in a row to close out 2017 and enter with plenty of momentum heading to next season. The same could not be said for the Rockets, which still captured an elusive conference title this year but simply didn’t show up in the Dollar General Bowl and looked out of sorts from start.
Georgia got its revenge on Alabama on Saturday, I guess. Months after letting a lead slip away in the national championship game, Georgia wiggled past Alabama in the spring game attendance standings on Saturday but the Dawgs still had to settle for second place overall. A record crowd at Nebraska led to the Cornhusker faithful having the highest attendance for a spring game this season.
Nebraska set a school record on Saturday with 86,818 fans attending the spring game in Lincoln, the first under new head coach Scott Frost. It was the first time Nebraska recorded a crowd over 80,000 during the past five years. Nebraska surged to the top of the Big Ten spring attendance standings as well, and stayed comfortably ahead after Penn State recorded an estimated 71,000 fans at its spring game on Saturday. Ohio State had led the Big Ten the previous three years but stadium renovations limited Ohio State to 79,000 available seats this year at Ohio Stadium, and weather and schedule adjustments to the spring game resulted in a crowd of 47,803 for Ohio State’s spring game.
The SEC once again dominated spring game attendance numbers this year. With LSU and Mississippi State numbers still pending, the SEC has five schools in the top 10 in spring game attendance as of today; Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and Texas A&M. As a conference, the SEC eclipsed the 400,000-fan mark for the fourth time in the last five years. Although the Big Ten is typically the second best conference in cumulative spring game attendance, the conference’s number took a big dip this season thanks to weather issues across the conference. Still, the number pulled in by Nebraska, Penn State, and Ohio State helped keep the Big Ten in second place ahead of the ACC.
Keep in mind spring game attendance is treated differently by every school, and the numbers often include estimates so the accuracy can be questioned. Even though there are still a handful of spring games left, none will rival the numbers put up today.
The updated top 10 is listed below, and a full database of spring game attendance can be found here (complete with conference breakdowns and a five-year record of spring game attendance figures by school).
2018 Spring Game Attendance Top 10
- Nebraska – 86,818
- Georgia – 82,184
- Alabama – 74,732
- Penn State – 71,000
- Tennessee – 65,098
- Florida State – 60,934
- Clemson – 55,000
- Florida – 53,015
- Oklahoma – 52,102
- Texas A&M – 48,129
New Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruit has a message to his players and Tennessee fans. If you are going to enter Neyland Stadium, you better be prepared to work.
Following Tennessee’s spring game in Knoxville, Pruitt reflected on his first spring game as head coach with the media and he was not about to let anyone off the hook for a mediocre performance in the spring game. One thing you never want to hear from a head coach is that some of his players seemingly quit. That was the case for Pruitt today, without naming any specific players.
Even fans received some gripes from the new head coach.
Tennessee estimated a total of 65,098 fans came out to watch the Tennessee spring game, which is an impressive total and right around the average Tennessee typically draws for the spring game. But the crowd buzz must not have impressed Pruitt, who could be setting the tone for the fans in the fall in hopes they turn things up a bit once the games actually matter.
The same message is now being sent to the entire team. Pruitt has a high standard in mind, which is to be expected after being an assistant at Alabama. Was Pruitt truly this displeased with his team’s effort in the spring game? Or was he simply trying to play things down in order to let his players know there will be no room for poor efforts?
If Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts was looking to build a case for taking the starting job for the Crimson Tide in 2018, he may have to rely on more than his performance in the spring game. Hurts turned in a sub-par performance in Alabama’s spring game on Saturday afternoon, leaving the door wide open for some speculation about his future as Alabama’s spring comes to a close.
Hurts completed 19 of his 37 pass attempts for 195 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He also was sacked seven times. With Tua Tagovailoa out of action due to injury, Hurts was outperformed by redshirt freshman Mac Jones, who completed 23 of 35 passes for 289 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jones was also intercepted once and was sacked six times. Of the two quarterbacks, Jones had the more inspiring performance.
Rumors speculating Hurts may end up looking to transfer will only continue to ignore following this spring, especially with Tagovailoa going into the offseason as the new hero in town after guiding Alabama back in the national championship game. It should be worth noting, however, a transfer for Hurts is not guaranteed to happen. That won’t stop fans and media from figuring out what will be next for Hurts.
Hurts’ dad recently suggested his son would be college football’s biggest free agent on the transfer market if he ended up losing the quarterback battle in Tuscaloosa. That may be a slight exaggeration, but there is no question Hurts would have plenty of potential and skill to offer any program he would potentially move to if he decides to leave Alabama. Alabama head coach Nick Saban tried to cool the tension by suggesting there is no reason to be concerned about the whole situation.
But this is Alabama we’re talking about. The Hurts watch is now in full force in Tuscaloosa, whether Saban likes it or not.
Early in Penn State’s spring game on Saturday afternoon, the Nittany Lions sent Brooke Fisher out to the field for the chance to score a touchdown. Fisher, a young girl with down syndrome, took the handoff from quarterback Trace McSorley and ran right up the middle 22 yards for a touchdown.
We’ll excuse the fact Fisher spiked the football prior to crossing the goal line. It doesn’t matter here.
McSorley ended up playing more in the first half than many likely expected, with three series on the field. He helped open the spring game with a touchdown drive capped with a pass to Mac Hippenhammer. McSorley passed for 107 yards and rushed for 41 yards in the first half.
No word on whether or not Fisher has any eligibility.