Everett Golson

Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

Houston hangs on for Peach Bowl victory over Florida State

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The debut season for Tom Herman as a head coach could not have gone too much better. No. 18 Houston (13-1) capped a dream season with a 38-24 victory over No. 9 Florida State (10-3) in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl to kickoff the New Years Six on New Year’s Eve. Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. passed for 238 yards and a touchdown and ran for two touchdowns and 67 yards in the win, although he was knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter. That forced Houston to close out the win with backup quarterback Kyle Postma, who picked up key third down conversion and led the Cougars to a cherry on top touchdown.

Houston’s offense shined against Florida State. The Cougars put together an evenly distributed 452 yards of offense, including 191 rushing yards, and lost the football just once. It was Houston’s defense that really stepped up and took Florida State out early. The Cougars forced five turnovers in the game and shut down talented running back Dalvin Cook in the first half. Cook ended his afternoon with just 33 rushing yards and a touchdown, and he was knocked out in the final two minutes after being popped by two Houston defenders. Florida State’s offensive line could not provide much room to run though, and that continued from start to finish.

Houston also knocked out quarterback Sean Maguire for a brief stretch in the first half, leaving Florida State to play briefly with a third string quarterback (J.J. Cosentino) who did not even appear on the team’s depth chart for the game. Everett Golson was not with the team due to a death in the family). Maguire did pass for nearly 400 yards and two touchdowns, but he was under pressure plenty of times and was intercepted four times. Florida State was limited to just 17 first downs in the game.

Houston took a 21-3 lead into halftime and led 24-10 in the fourth quarter when the teams began exchanging touchdowns on the scoreboard. Florida State’s offense appeared to be taking advantage of a tirewd Houston defense, but the Cougars always seemed to have an answer waiting.

At least someone behind Florida State’s Twitter account had a sense of humor. Referencing an earlier loss to Georgia Tech, Florida State made a resolution for the new year:

Of course, one of the College Football Playoff games will be played in the Peach Bowl next year…

(Also, Florida State is scheduled to play Alabama in a season-opening game in Atlanta in 2017, but enough about that…)

Houston was clearly the top Group of Five program this season, and having Herman come to guide the program coming off a national championship as an Ohio State assistant helped the Cougars take a giant step forward as a program. With Herman already lined up to return to Houston in 2016, Houston’s run as a dominant Group of Five program is just getting started. Houston is currently lining up a very talented recruiting class, one that would make even some power conference programs envious.

Florida State will open the 2016 season in Orlando when the Seminoles clash with Ole Miss on a neutral field on September 5. Expect Florida State to still remain one of the top teams in the ACC in 2016 with plenty of talent to work with and perhaps another strong recruiting class being signed. The ACC Atlantic Division could very well be a race between Florida State and Clemson, although Louisville may be in the hunt as well. This may have been a second straight step back for Jimbo Fisher and Florida State (yes, they were undefeated in the regular season in 2014), but the Seminoles will not be likely to continue down a steep decline.

Houston will also open the 2016 season with a bit of a high profile matchup. Houston will kick off the 2016 season in NRG Stadium in Houston against the Oklahoma Sooners, defending Big 12 champions and College Football Playoff participant this season. As with most Group of Five programs, this will be a tremendous opportunity for Houston to assert itself as the top Group of Five program out of the gates, and it figures to be as good an opportunity as any for Ward. to establish himself in the early field of Heisman Trophy candidates.

Everything looking peachy for Houston after dominant first half vs. FSU

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Nothing seemed to go right for Florida State in the first half of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Everything seemed to go righ for their opponents, AAC champion Houston. Houston has forced two turnovers and quarterback Greg Ward Jr. has rushed for two touchdowns to help Houston jump out to a 21-3 lead on the Seminoles after one half of play in the Peach Bowl.

The first quarter was a complete mess for Florida State. Run blocking for Dalvin Cook was non existent (10 carries, 11 rushing yards in first half). Kicker Roberto Aguayo missed a 52-yard field goal try. Starting quarterback Sean Maguire was lost (temporarily) to a leg injury, and with Everett Golson not with the team due to a death in the family, that left the Seminoles to go with J.J. Cosentino under center. Cosentino was not even listed on the depth chart for the game. Maguire went to the locker room but returned with his leg wrapped up.

Ward opened the scoring this afternoon with a seven-yard touchdown run at the end of an 11-play drive midway through the first quarter. Houston dug into the bag of tricks for its second touchdown midway through the second quarter when Demarcus Ayers took a handoff off a reverse and chucked it 20 yards to the end zone to a wide open Chance Allen.

Ward rushed for his second touchdown of the game shortly after that after Houston’s defense forced a fumble from Dalvin Cook at the Florida State 16-yard line.

Still one half to play, but Houston appears to have a solid upper hand in Atlanta.

Florida State QB Everett Golson to miss Peach Bowl for personal reasons

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Everett Golson did not make the trip to Atlanta with Florida State and will miss Thursday’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher revealed Saturday.

Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com reported shortly after the news broke that Golson is dealing with a death in the family.

A graduate transfer, Golson’s absence will bring an abrupt and unexpected end to a star-crossed career that saw him take Notre Dame to the 2012 BCS National Championship, miss the 2013 season for academic reasons, return to the Irish roster in 2014 and then transfer to Tallahassee for a one-year rental in 2015.

In nine games this fall, Golson completed 147-of-219 throws for 1,778 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. He started the ‘Noles first seven games but was ruled out of FSU’s Oct. 31 game with Syracuse and threw only 12 passes over the club’s final five games.

Golson’s absence clears the way for the Sean Maguire era to begin a game ahead of schedule. The junior has connected on 90-of-145 throws for 1,128 yards with nine touchdowns against two interceptions. Maguire led the Seminoles to a 4-1 mark down the stretch, losing only at No. 1 Clemson.

The ninth-ranked Seminoles will face No. 18 Houston in Thursday’s Peach Bowl at noon ET (ESPN).

Opening drive just enough for FSU so far vs. BC

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If you saw Florida State’s first drive against Boston College, one would assume this Friday night affair is a rout.  If you actually decided to hit yourself in the testicles with a hammer continue watching, well, that’s your fault.

Through two quarters of play in the ACC opener for both teams, FSU stumbled the least and took a 7-0 lead into the first-half locker room.  If either team wants to hang their hats on anything that happened in the first two quarters, their defenses would have to suffice.

On its first possession of the game, FSU marched 83 yards in a drive that culminated with a nine-yard Everett Golson pass to Travis Rudolph.  After that, the two teams combined for just 178 yards; 63 of those yards came on an FSU drive late in the second quarter that ended with a field-goal attempt from the most accurate kicker in FBS history.  Appropriately enough, Roberto Aguayo missed that 42-yard attempt.

BC totaled just 92 yards of offense, with a mere 12 coming from the passing game.  Dalvin Cook has 50 yards rushing for the Seminoles, and is halfway to what would be his sixth straight 100-yard game.

Currently, Cook is second in the country in rushing yards.

Irish QB Malik Zaire has surgery on ankle, eyes spring return

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Notre Dame lost starting quarterback Malik Zaire for the season in Saturday’s win at Virginia. A severe ankle injury required the Irish quarterback to undergo surgery Sunday morning. He has already returned to Notre Dame’s campus and is targetting a return to the team in the spring.

That’s the hope for Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, who seemed to be optimistic about having his starting quarterback back in plenty of time to get back ion shape for the 2016 season. With Zaire down for the count in Week 2 and Everett Golson having transferred to Florida State in the offseason, Kelly now must keep Notre Dame in any playoff hunt with redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer under center. That worked out well on Saturday as Kizer came in and managed to throw a game-winning touchdown

He can win games for us,” Kelly said of Kizer, per David Hale of ESPN.com. “But I want to win a championship with him. We need to get him to the next level.”

Kizer will now get a full week of practice with the first team to develop a bit more chemistry. Notre Dame will return home this weekend for another game against an ACC team, Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have been rumbling early and should pose a serious threat to Notre Dame’s early unbeaten mark.