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Egg Brawl in the Egg Bowl: No. 18 Mississippi State thumps rival Ole Miss in victory

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A year ago in the Egg Bowl, Nick Fitzgerald sat on a stretcher after an awful ankle injury and watched his team struggle offensively against their in-state rivals in a devastating loss. A season later and fully healthy, the senior quarterback showed just what kind of impact he can have over a full game as his No. 18 Mississippi State squad thumped — literally and figuratively it turns out — Ole Miss 35-3 on Thanksgiving night in Oxford.

Fitzgerald showcased just why he was one of the top dual-threat signal-callers in the country coming into 2018, throwing for an efficient 111 yards and a touchdown while doing most of his damage on the ground with 117 yards rushing and two more scores. His ability to tuck and run kept the Landshark defense guessing all night long and helped the tailback tandem in the backfield with him do plenty of damage of their own. Fellow senior Aeris Williams recorded 64 yards rushing and a score while back of the future Kylin Hill was even better, breaking off several impressive runs on his way to 108 yards and a touchdown.

While the MSU offense has sputtered at times this season, safe to say Joe Moorhead’s group saved one of their better performances for the end of the regular season even if the final numbers were not quite eye-popping.

Even with that said though, the Bulldogs defense also showcased why they’re one of the best units in the SEC, if not the nation. They held Ole Miss to zero third down conversions on the night and held them well below just about every season average. Add in four sacks and a trio of turnovers and it was quite the performance in front of a national audience.

The same group also was involved in one of the most bizarre moments of the game — and one that figures to be discussed in the state for weeks and years to come — when it had appeared as though Rebels wideout A.J. Brown had scored a touchdown. Safety Johnathan Abram got into a fight with him after scoring though and that spilled over into several minor skirmishes before referees and coaches were able to break things up. Every single player on both sides was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while Ole Miss’ C.J. Moore was ejected from the game along with Bulldogs Jamal Peters, Cameron Dantzler and William Gay.

And the play that caused it all didn’t even happen because they reviewed things and the third quarter clock had actually expired. Nothing like Egg Bowl theatrics, that’s for sure.

That fight will take away from the fact that the Rebels couldn’t get much done with their normally prolific offense. QB Jordan Ta’amu threw for only 87 yards and threw an interception but most notably injured his hand while fumbling early in the first half. Though he did briefly return to action a few series later, he left the game for good by the third quarter and had turned things fully over to freshman backup Matt Corral. The youngster wound up throwing for 65 yards and a pick himself but really endeared himself to the home fans by sticking up for his wideout when the fight broke out by getting right in the middle of the action.

Either way, it was probably not the way Matt Luke wanted to close out the season with the Rebels. Not only did Ole Miss fall to 5-7 overall in 2018, but they closed out their final campaign under a bowl ban with a four game losing streak.

The Egg Bowl victors, meanwhile, find themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum by winning four of their final five that included a competitive loss to Alabama. There was some questions about the Selection Committee ranking next to their name the last few weeks but MSU certainly have showcased what they’re capable of down the stretch in the rough SEC West and should be able to look forward to a pretty good bowl next month as well.

Most importantly, the team was able to hold that golden trophy up at the end of the night for the first time with their new head coach… and the last time with their stellar senior quarterback a year after he had his own bit of heartbreak in the rivalry game.

SMU WR Reggie Roberson, Jr., to return for senior season

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SMU wide receiver Reggie Roberson, Jr., will return for his senior season in 2020, he announced earlier this week.

Roberson did so through a statement that at first read as if he would leave the Hilltop. “In the past couple of weeks, it has come to my attention that I am able to forgo my senior year and enter the NFL draft. I want to thank Coach Dykes for giving me the opportunity to come to SMU, and play the game I love in my hometown in front of my family and friends,” it began.

However, like a a classic Roberson open field move, he quickly changed directions and sprinted toward opportunity. “I have decided to come back and play my senior year at SMU. There is a lot of unfinished business that I left on the field that I need to take care of next season.”

A native of DeSoto, Texas, just south of Dallas, Roberson was one of SMU’s top players before he was lost to a foot injury in October. He caught 11 passes for 180 yards in the Ponies’ opening week win over Arkansas State and hauled in eight passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-21 drubbing of Temple on Oct. 19.

For the year, Roberson caught 43 passes for 803 yards and six touchdowns over seven-plus games. Spread over a 13-game season, he was on pace to end the year in the neighborhood of 80 receptions for 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Roberson originally signed with West Virginia out of high school.

Zack Moss to play in Alamo Bowl

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It’s become A Thing ever since Christian McCaffrey bailed on Stanford for that Sun Bowl: Draft eligible players announcing whether or not their prep for the next level begins for or after their team’s upcoming bowl game.

For Utah running back Zack Moss, that will begin after the Alamo Bowl.

“I just wanted to play with my guys,” Moss told KSL Sports. “That was one of the reasons why I wanted to come back was to play with these guys and I definitely want to finish it off. I am healthy enough to play and that’s exactly what I want to do.

“I love this team, I love the program, coaching, fans and community, so why not give everyone one last game.”

Moss’s teammate Jaylon Johnson previously announced he will skip the game.

The senior will look to polish off a career in which he’s carried for 4,010 yards and 38 touchdowns.

No. 11 Utah will close the career of Moss and backfield mate Tyler Huntley opposite Texas on Dec. 31 (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

Tom Herman reportedly set to hire Chris Ash as defensive coordinator at Texas

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Sometimes it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to solve these equations. Tom Herman and Chris Ash worked together previously at Iowa State and Ohio State, and when Herman’s team couldn’t stop anyone and Ash found himself out of a job, it seemed like they would try to channel that 2014 energy for the 2020 Texas Longhorns.

And now it seems that’s about to happen.

Multiple reports out of Austin on Sunday indicate Ash is close to being named the new defensive coordinator on Herman’s staff at Texas.

Ash worked with Herman previously for two seasons at two separate stops. In 2009, Ash was the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator on a Paul Roads-led Iowa State staff for which Herman was the offensive coordinator, and in 2014 Herman and Ash led the offense and defense on a national championship Ohio State team.

Shortly after his firing at Rutgers, Ash was spotted in Austin, leading, well, pretty much everyone to start putting two and two together.

And that cliche is a good place to start, because Ash is expected to install a 4-man front, a welcome change in Austin from the 3-man scheme that grew unpopular under Todd Orlando. Texas finished 83rd in sacks, 70th in tackles for loss, 96th in pass efficiency defense, 105th in yards per play and 74th in scoring defense en route to one of the most disappointing seasons in school history.

Orlando was fired back on Dec. 1, and with Ash very much available, it would seem Herman conducted a search beyond his old colleague given that two full weeks passed without a defensive coordinator, though virtually no names beyond Ash circulated amongst the media.

With Ash coming aboard, the focus will now turn to the remainder of the UT defensive staff. Safeties coach Craig Naivar has been appointed interim coordinator for the upcoming bowl game, and cornerbacks coach Jason Washington and defensive line coach Oscar Giles remain in their posts. Ash’s speciality has been in the defensive backfield, so presumably Texas will be in the market for a linebackers coach while Naivar, Washington or both could possibly move on.

Transferring Florida QB Feleipe Franks to visit Kansas

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Does the Mad Hatter have a graduate transfer under center up his sleeve?

On a post on his Instagram story Saturday, Franks indicated that he is currently in Lawrence, Kansas. A Kansas official subsequently confirmed that the quarterback is in town for a visit to the Big 12 football program.

Adding to the intrigue, and according to 247Sports.com, Franks recently began following KU head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon on Twitter.

In early December, Franks had announced that he would be leaving Florida. At the time, it was unclear if Franks, who signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox this past summer, was leaving to play a professional sport or transfer to another school, although this latest development seems to indicate the latter is likely.

After starting eight games in 2017, Franks started all 13 for the Gators in 2018. He had started the first three games of 2019 before going down with a season-ending ankle injury.

During his time in Gainesville, Franks threw for 4,593 yards, 38 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in completing exactly 59 percent of his 622 passes.