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Second half comeback powers Kansas State to Cactus Bowl victory over UCLA

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If this is the end of the Bill Snyder era (Part II) at Kansas State, at least the ol’ Wizard went out in memorable fashion.

The Wildcats (8-5) used a wild two-minute stretch in the third quarter to power a second half comeback at the Cactus Bowl on Tuesday to beat UCLA 35-17 and complete a flourishing kick to the 2017 season under the team’s venerable head coach.

Snyder, who is one of the best in the business in terms of making adjustments at halftime, proved his coaching acumen is still pretty sharp against a Bruins squad (6-7) that was banged up, without starting quarterback Josh Rosen and operating under an interim coaching staff. KSU took their first drive of the second half 74 yards to the end zone and included a fourth-and-inches run right at the goal line to cap it off. Safety Denzel Goolsby forced a fumble out of the hands of Bolo Olorunfunmi on UCLA very next offensive snap, setting his offense back up just outside the red zone.

They converted that into a touchdown and were off to the races for a bit of postseason revenge against the Bruins for a somewhat controversial Alamo Bowl three years ago — twisting the knife a bit with a 15-play, 98 yard drive to ice the game in the final frame.

Skylar Thompson started at quarterback but proved to be ineffective and eventually gave way to Alex Delton, who immediately took off running 68 yards for a touchdown on his first touch. The latter finished the game with 158 yards and three scores on the ground while adding another 52 through the air as the spark that seemed to get the Wildcats going and help really open things up.

Running back Alex Barnes chipped in with 117 yards and a touchdown, doing most of his damage after Delton took over signal-caller duties. Fullback Winston Dimel, who could be playing his final game with the team with his father taking the UTEP head coaching job, didn’t go out on quite the high note he would have wanted statistically and appeared to aggravate an existing shoulder injury in the third quarter as well.

Though new coach Chip Kelly was looking on from a suite, his new UCLA team didn’t exactly prove themselves to be up to the moment after looking pretty solid in the first half. Devon Modster, starting under center in place of Rosen, flashed early in throwing a pair of 50+ yard touchdowns during the second quarter but trailed off after that. He finished the game with 257 yards and added another 19 with his legs for what was still a pretty solid audition for the new staff.

It was nearly enough to stop one of the best teams in the country during the second half of the 2017 season, as Kansas State closed strong with wins in five of their last six to finish a very trying campaign on a high note. While the emotion of the effort from Chase Field in Phoenix was nice to celebrate for Wildcats fans, their attention will likely now be wondering about their head coach.

Snyder has said no decision has been made as to his plans in 2018 with the team but if Tuesday night was it for his career in the Little Apple, it was a heck of a way to go out for the man nicknamed The Wizard. And if it isn’t the end, it will make for a fine way to run into the offseason after running right over UCLA out in the desert.

Arizona State, Mississippi State ink home-and-home

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Arizona State and Mississippi State on Tuesday announced a home-and-home series to be played in 2024-25. Arizona State will host the first game in Tempe on Sept. 7, 2024, and the clubs will meet in Starkville on Sept. 6, 2025.

The Sun Devils and Bulldogs have never met previously.

The Arizona State trip is not Mississippi State’s only upcoming trek from the Deep South to the Southwest. The Bulldogs also lined up a visit to Arizona in 2020 and Texas Tech in 2029. Mississippi State will open the 2024 season against Eastern Kentucky and visit Southern Miss the week after its Arizona State visit, on Sept. 14. The Bulldogs have no other games lined up in 2025 as of yet, according to FBSchedules.

Likewise, Mississippi State is not the Sun Devils’ lone upcoming SEC opponent. Arizona State has a home-and-home with LSU on the docket for 2026-28, per FBSchedules. The Mississippi State games complete both of the Sun Devils’ non-conference schedules for these respective seasons. Arizona State opens with Wyoming and visits Texas State in 2024, and hosts Northern Arizona and Texas State in 2025.

UCLA lands Texas Tech graduate transfer OL Justin Murphy

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Help is on the way for Chip Kelly‘s offensive line. One graduate transfer offensive lineman has the Bruins on his list, but another has already pulled the trigger for UCLA.

Texas Tech graduate transfer Justin Murphy on Tuesday committed to UCLA in a post on his Twitter account.

A native of Belton, Texas, Murphy signed with Texas Tech in 2014 and made four starts at right guard as a redshirt freshman. He again started four games at right guard in ’15 before moving out to tackle, where he started another four games. But after battling a series of knee injuries, Murphy announced in the middle of the 2016 season he had medically retired from the game.

After sitting out 2017, Murphy announced in March he planned to make a comeback.

UCLA remarkably started the same offensive linemen in all 13 games last season, but tackle Kolton Miller entered the NFL draft, guard Najoee Toran and center Scott Quessenberry graduated.

Toledo posts, then deletes, tweet offering to change mascot to Shrek

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There are plenty of annoying trends on Twitter, but perhaps the worst is the “I’ll do X if this gets retweeted X-thousand amount of times.” I blame Wendy’s.

But blanket policies are never a good way to go through life, and an exception was made on Tuesday when Toledo offered to change its mascot from a rocket to Shrek with 500,000 retweets.

Sadly, some dreams are simply too beautiful to live in this fallen world, and the tweet was outed to be a hoax. “We are definitely not changing the school mascot to Shrek,” Toledo media relations specialist Christine Billau told USA Today. “The tweet was meant to be fun, but it caused too much of a distraction.”

Meanwhile, Bowling Green gleefully hopped on the dog pile with both elbows pointed out.

UMass grad transfer lineman narrows choices to Auburn, UCLA, USC

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It’s not yet known to where Jack Driscoll will transfer, but the field has been significantly narrowed.

Earlier this offseason, Driscoll decided to transfer from UMass.  Tuesday, the offensive tackle confirmed to Rivals.com that he’s down to three schools as a potential landing spot — Auburn, UCLA and USC.

Neither football program will have to wait long for a decision as Driscoll expects to make an announcement Wednesday.  Driscoll had taken an official visit to all three of the campuses prior to whittling down his transfer to-do list.

“It will come down to one of those three schools,” the lineman told AuburnSports.com. “I feel like all three of the schools would be a good fit.”

Driscoll will graduate from UMass early next month, and will be eligible to play immediately in 2018 at whichever program he selects.  The upcoming season will be the first of two years of eligibility the 6-5, 294-pound lineman has remaining.

After starting eight games as a redshirt freshman in 2016, with most of those starts coming at left guard, he started all 12 games in 2017.  All of those starts this past season came at right tackle for the football-independent Minutemen. He was named to Phil Steele’s All-Independent first team while he earned second-team All-Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) honors for good measure.