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Mississippi State picks off Lamar Jackson four times, gets past Louisville in TaxSlayer Bowl

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It was far from Lamar Jackson‘s finest performance, and the sour swan song played a significant role in the talented quarterback (likely) finishing his time with the Cardinals on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

In what’s widely expected to be his final season at the collegiate level, Jackson accounted for three touchdowns but that wasn’t enough to overcome his turnovers as the U of L (8-5) dropped a 31-27 decision to No. 23 Mississippi State (9-4) in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl.  The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner will (likely) finish his career 1-2 in bowl games and the same 1-2 versus the SEC, with his lone win coming as a true freshman when he guided the U of L to a Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M.  They also fell to LSU in last year’s Citrus Bowl.

Jackson came into the game having not thrown an interception since a late-October loss to Wake Forest; he threw a career-high four in this one, including one deep in his own territory that led to a Keytaon Thompson rushing touchdown, the freshman quarterback’s second of the game, that knotted the score at 24-all with 13:25 left in the fourth quarter.  A U of L field goal six minutes later gave the Cardinals the lead back at 27-24; Thompson’s third rushing score with 3:39 remaining in the game proved to be the game-winner.

Jackson’s fourth pick of the game, with 2:31 left and the U of L trailing 31-27, helped seal the loss for the Cardinals.  MSU’s Mark McLaurin, incidentally, intercepted three of those passes and was named as the Player of the Game.

The U of L had a chance for a Hail Mary just beyond midfield to try to win the game in the last seconds, but Jackson’s pass was batted out of bounds as the clock ran out.

Thompson, in his first collegiate start, proved to be a difference maker for the Bulldogs, rushing for a team-high 148 yards on 27 carries to go along with the three scores.  He was quietly efficient in the passing game as well, going 11-of-20 for 126 yards in place of the injured Nick Fitzgerald and with his head coach, Dan Mullen, bolting Starkville for Gainesville.

Jackson finished the game 13-of-30 passing for 171 yards and two touchdown passes to go along with the four picks.  He also added a game-high 158 yards rushing.

The success of the dual-threat quarterbacks produced something on the ground not seen very often.

In the first half, Jackson also joined Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick as the only players in FBS history to account for at least 50 passing touchdowns and 50 rushing touchdowns in their careers.   Jackson now has 69 career passing touchdowns and 50 on the ground.

Mississippi State’s win was the first for the SEC after the conference started the 2017 bowl season 0-3.  The SEC had been the only Power Five league without a win in the postseason.

Louisville has now won at least eight games in each of the last six seasons, including four under Bobby Petrino.  In fact, In Petrino’s four seasons in his second stint at the school, the Cardinals have won eight, eight, nine and nine games.

Transferring Michigan WR Maurice Ways lands at Cal

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Nearly four months after leaving Ann Arbor, Maurice Ways is set to settle in on the West Coast for the next step in his collegiate playing career.

On his Instagram account Sunday, Ways announced that he has decided to transfer to Cal.  On November 29 of last year, the wide receiver took to the same social media website to announce his transfer from the Michigan football program.

As a graduate transfer, Ways will be eligible to play for the Bears in 2018.  The upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

A three-star member of the Wolverines’ 2014 recruiting class, Ways was rated as the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Michigan.

In 25 career games, the former Detroit Country Day high schooler caught eight passes for 71 yards.  Ways started two of those contests, with both of those starts coming during his redshirt freshman season in 2015.

Central Michigan adds former Oregon State interim coach Cory Hall to staff

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After coaching the second half of the season for Oregon State in 2017, Cory Hall is now making his way to the MAC. Hall has officially been added to the Central Michigan coaching staff, where he will serve as the team’s secondary coach and defensive pass game coordinator.

“We brought Cory in, and he made a presentation to the defensive coaching staff,” CMU head coach John Bonamego said in a released statement. “(Defensive coordinator) Greg Colby and the rest of us were impressed with his preparation and what he had to say. “There is no doubt he is a high-energy coach, and he’s a great fit for our program.”

Hall was named the interim head coach at Oregon State midway through the 2017 season following the removal of Gary Andersen. According to The Oregonian, Hall did not interview with new Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith to remain a part of the Beavers coaching staff in 2018.

Steven Montez throws 2 TDs, 2 INT in Colorado spring game

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Spring football practices concluded for the Colorado football program on Saturday with the playing of the annual spring game. Starting quarterback Steven Montez had his ups and downs with three total touchdowns and a pair of interceptions thrown in the scrimmage.

Montez led six and a half drives during the game, ending his day going 8-of-15 for 90 yards and two touchdown passes and two interceptions. He was also the leading rusher in the scrimmage with three carries for 43 yards. Co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini shrugged off the two picks by Montez after the game in a postgame interview.

“That’s going to happen, especially if we’re calling stuff that’s aggressive, it’s going to happen,” Chiaverini said. “What I like about him is he comes right back. It doesn’t bother him. Some guys get shy and won’t let it go. He comes right back in that two-minute drill and pulls the ball and runs for 60 yards. I like the fact that the kid loves to play football. That’s something you can’t teach kids. He loves to play, he loves to compete.”

Montez completed 609.5 percent of his passes in 2017 for 2,975 yards and 18 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

Colorado is coming off a 5-7 season, a year removed from playing for the Pac-12 championship in 2016. Colorado ended the 2017 season on a three-game losing streak to prevent the Buffs from being able to play in a bowl game at the end of the year.

Colorado estimates a total of about 4,500 fans attended the live scrimmage.

UCF, Lane Kiffin, Neal Brown among college football underdogs celebrating NCAA Tournament madness

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The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has been a joy to watch over the course of the first few days. Highlighted by some significant upsets and some thrilling finishes, this year’s tournament has everybody talking, including college football coaches. This is especially true for college football’s non-power conference programs, who seem to be celebrating the upsets performed early on by schools like Marshall, Loyola-Chicago and, of course, UMBC.

UCF took to Twitter to extend congratulations to the University of Maryland Baltimore County after the 16-seed Retrievers became the first team in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s history to upset a No. 1 seed, in which UMBC throttled No. 1 Virginia by 20 after an unbelievable second-half performance that left Virginia clueless how to respond.

UMBC has been the story of the first round for the historic upset of the Cavaliers, but FAU head coach Lane Kiffin claims he picked UMBC to win the game. In fact, Kiffin showed off a bracket in which he picked UMBC to win it all. Of course, such a bracket cannot be taken too seriously, especially after closer inspection reveals Kiffin went heavy with the underdog mentality throughout his bracket. Perhaps such a bracket strategy plays into the kind of mentality Kiffin is attempting to build at FAU.

Troy coach Neal Brown also used the UMBC upset to make a case for the Group of Five representation in college football to get more of a fair shake in the sport of college football.

Brown is not the only person to have this thought, although the idea has just as many on the other side of the fence as well. The College Football Playoff is a much smaller system to determine a college football champion and expansion is a hot-button topic of conversation for a variety of reasons. The current format allows for one guaranteed spot in a major bowl game for the highest-ranked conference champion from the non-power conferences, but undefeated UCF was still left out of the College Football Playoff last season and it may be a long time before a non-power conference champion gets a shot at the playoff.

Washington State head coach Mike Leach has proposed a 64-team college football playoff, but the most likely step for expansion of the playoff system will double the field to eight teams. That would still likely leave out some top non-power conference options, but it would leave the door open just a little wider for a team like UCF last year.