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Pac-12 bowl woes continue as Arizona State falls in Sun Bowl to NC State

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The bowl season has not been kind to the Pac-12 this season. After entering the day with a dreadful 1-5 record, the conference of champions fell to a lowly 1-6 after Arizona State (7-6) started slow and could not rally enough to catch No. 24 NC State (9-4) in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on Friday afternoon in El Paso, Texas. The 52-31 win by the Wolfpack improves the ACC to 4-3 after Wake Forest topped Texas A&M earlier in the day.

Ryan Finley was efficient in his final game of the season, completing 24 of 29 pass attempts for 318 yards and a touchdown. Nyheim Hines rushed for three touchdowns in the first half but Reggie Gallaspy II picked up the pace after Hines got banged up on a play. Gallaspy scored twice. Jaylen Samuels didn’t get his touchdown until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Samuels also recovered an onside kick attempt by Arizona State and nearly returned the football for a touchdown before being brought down at the seven-yard line.

Arizona State did try to make a game of it in the fourth quarter with a couple of touchdown drives, but the damage had largely been done by then. By then, three turnovers and a lackluster first half and a few too many gambles not paying off made for too big of a hole to climb out of against a solid NC State team. Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins was picked off three times but did have three touchdowns and 2352 yards through the air.

NC State ends the season with the most wins in a season under head coach Dave Doeren, and the Wolfpack will be finishing in the top 25 for the first time under his watch. This will be just the third season NC State finishes the season ranked in the top 25 since 1995. With win totals of 9, 8, and two years with 7 wins the last four years, the trick is for Doeren to be able to get NC State to take that next step forward as an ACC contender, and perhaps as a playoff contender.

Todd Graham goes out as Arizona State’s head coach with a final record of 46-32 and a bowl record of 2-3, with the last win coming in 2014. Graham was fired by Arizona State in late November. The School then went out and hired former NFL head coach Herm Edwards with the intent of keeping the coaching staff together, but Edwards has already had to replace both of his coordinators after each left voluntarily following his hiring.

NC State will open their 2018 season on Sep. 1, 2018 at home against FCS powerhouse James Madison. The highlight of the non-conference schedule will be a home game two weeks later against West Virginia, while the Wolfpack will get Florida State at home and Clemson and Louisville on the road in division play. Arizona State’s season will also begin on Sep. 1, 2018 with a home game against UTSA. The Sun Devils will also play Michigan State at home and San Diego Stae on the road in non-conference play.

AP All-American Team highlighted by Mayfield and Sooners on First Team

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The Oklahoma Sooners will bring three AP First Team All-Americans into the College Football Playoff this year, including Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Mayfield was named a First Team All-American by the Associated Press on Monday, and he is joined by fellow Sooners offensive tackle Orlando Brown and tight end Mark Andrews.

Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, and Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell were also named to the AP’s First Team to combine to match Oklahoma’s First Team total. Other First Team All-Americans included Heisman finalist and Doak Walker Award winner Bryce Love of Stanford, Biletnikoff Award winner James Washington. Lombardi Award winner Saquon Barkley of Penn State was named to the First Team as an all-purpose player, and the nation’s leading rusher, Rashaad Penny of San Diego State joined Love as a First Team running back.

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Baker Mayfield, senior, Oklahoma.

Running backs — Bryce Love, junior, Stanford; Rashaad Penny, senior, San Diego State.

Tackles — Orlando Brown, junior, Oklahoma; Mike McGlinchey, senior, Notre Dame.

Guards — Quenton Nelson, senior, Notre Dame; Braden Smith, senior, Auburn.

Center — Billy Price, senior, Ohio State.

Tight end — Mark Andrews, junior, Oklahoma.

Receivers — James Washington, senior, Oklahoma State; Anthony Miller, senior, Memphis.

All-purpose player — Saquon Barkley, junior, Penn State.

Kicker — Matt Gay, junior, Utah.

DEFENSE

Ends — Bradley Chubb, senior, North Carolina State; Clelin Ferrell, sophomore, Clemson.

Tackles — Hercules Mata’afa, junior, Washington State; Maurice Hurst, senior, Michigan.

Linebackers — Roquan Smith, junior, Georgia; Josey Jewell, senior, Iowa; T.J. Edwards, junior, Wisconsin.

Cornerbacks — Josh Jackson, junior, Iowa; Denzel Ward, junior, Ohio State.

Safeties — Minkah Fitzpatrick, junior, Alabama; DeShon Elliott, junior, Texas.

Punter — Michael Dickson, junior, Texas.

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SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Lamar Jackson, junior, Louisville.

Running backs — Jonathan Taylor, freshman, Wisconsin; Kerryon Johnson, junior, Auburn.

Tackles — Mitch Hyatt, junior, Clemson; Isaiah Wynn, senior, Georgia.

Guards — Cody O’Connell, senior, Washington State; Will Hernandez, senior, UTEP.

Center — Bradley Bozeman, senior, Alabama.

Tight end — Troy Fumagalli, senior, Wisconsin.

Receivers — David Sills V, junior, West Virginia; Michael Gallup, senior, Colorado State.

All-purpose player — Dante Pettis, senior, Washington.

Kicker — Daniel Carlson, senior, Auburn.

DEFENSE

Ends — Sutton Smith, sophomore, Northern Illinois; Nick Bosa, sophomore, Ohio State.

Tackles — Ed Oliver, sophomore, Houston; Christian Wilkins, junior, Clemson.

Linebackers — Malik Jefferson, junior, Texas; Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, senior, Oklahoma; Dorian O’Daniel, senior, Clemson.

Cornerbacks — Jalen Davis, senior, Utah State; Carlton Davis, junior, Auburn.

Safeties — Derwin James, junior, Florida State; Justin Reid, junior, Stanford.

Punter — Johnny Townsend, senior, Florida.

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THIRD TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Mason Rudolph, senior, Oklahoma State.

Running backs — Ronald Jones II, junior, Southern California; Devin Singletary, sophomore, Florida Atlantic.

Tackles — David Edwards, sophomore, Wisconsin; Jonah Williams, sophomore, Alabama.

Guards — Beau Benzschawel, junior, Wisconsin; Tyrone Crowder, senior, Clemson.

Center — Frank Ragnow, senior, Arkansas.

Tight end — Jaylen Samuels, senior, North Carolina State.

Receivers — Steve Ishmael, senior, Syracuse; A.J. Brown, sophomore, Mississippi.

All-purpose player — D.J. Reed, junior, Kansas State.

Kicker — Eddy Piniero, junior, Florida.

DEFENSE

Ends — Austin Bryant, junior, Clemson; Mat Boesen, senior, TCU.

Tackles — Vita Vea, junior, Washington; Harrison Phillips, senior, Stanford.

Linebackers — Micah Kiser, senior, Virginia; Tremaine Edmunds, junior, Virginia Tech; Devin Bush, sophomore, Michigan.

Cornerbacks — Andraez Williams, redshirt freshman, LSU; Jack Jones, sophomore, Southern California.

Safeties — Armani Watts, senior, Texas A&M; Quin Blanding, senior, Virginia.

Punter — Mitch Wisnowsky, junior, Utah.

Lamar Jackson collects second straight ACC Player of the Year award

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And, in other news, water is wet and the sky is blue.

In one of the most “duh!” votes of award season, the ACC announced Wednesday that Lamar Jackson has been named as the conference’s Player of the Year.  Jackson received 51 of a possible 59 votes, with the remaining going to North Carolina State Bradley Chubb (six), Clemson’s Clelin Farrell (one) and Clemson’s Christian Wilkins (one).

Jackson won the same award last season on his way to claiming the 2016 Heisman Trophy.

The Louisville quarterback also, obviously, won the ACC’s Offensive Player of the Year Award in even more dominant fashion with 57 of 59 votes.  Clemson’s Kelly Bryant and North Carolina State’s Jaylen Samuels split the remaining votes.

Chubb was named Defensive Player of the Year by a Jackson-esque margin, with 45 first-place votes.  Farrell and Wilkins had four apiece.

Yesterday, the ACC named Miami’s Mark Richt as its Coach of the Year.

South Carolina uses goal-line stand to survive NC State

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South Carolina returned a kickoff for a touchdown and turned two fumbles into touchdowns and still needed a deflection inside its own end zone to survive NC State, holding on for a 35-28 win in Charlotte.

Deebo Samuel started the year for the Gamecocks as well as he possibly could, taking the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The game turned into a shootout for there.

NC State answered Samuel’s touchdown with a 14-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 6-yard Ryan Finley scoring run. South Carolina answered that answer when Jake Bentley found Rico Dowdle for a 34-yard score at the 3:53 mark of the first quarter.

And NC State again responded, this time on a 2-yard Nyheim Hines run to close the first quarter in a 14-14 tie.

South Carolina’s Chris Lammons forced a fumble by NC State receiver Stephon Lewis inside NC State territory, and South Carolina capitalized on a 6-yard toss from Bentley to Samuel at the 10:02 mark of the second quarter.

NC State tied the game again with its third lengthy drive of the half — 79 yards in 10 plays — closing on a 4-yard strike from Finely to Jakobi Meyers.

South Carolina opened the second half with two straight scores. The first came on a 39-yard strike from Bentley (17-of-29 for 215 yards and three touchdowns with one interception)

to Samuel on the ‘Cocks opening touch of the second half, and the third came two plays after another Wolfpack fumble inside its own territory; Dowdle staked South Carolina to a 35-21 lead on a 7-yard dash at the 9:08 mark of the third quarter.

That would be the last output from South Carolina’s offense, while its defense had to survive an onslaught of plays from NC State. The Wolfpack ran 99 plays, 64 of them passes from Finley.

A 4th-and-goal completion from Finely to Jaylen Samuels (15 catches for 85 yards) pulled NC State within seven at the 12:21 mark of the fourth quarter, but the pair could not hook up again after NC State moved to a 1st-and-goal from the South Carolina 8-yard line with 24 seconds remaining. Finley (45-of-64 for 415 yards for two touchdowns with no interceptions) fired three incomplete passes surrounded by one sack, allowing South Carolina to escape with the win.

The victory pushed South Carolina to 1-0 for the 17th time in 18 tries since the turn of the century and 3-0 in Charlotte openers. The Gamecocks also beat East Carolina at Bank of America Stadium to open the 2011 season and toppled North Carolina to begin the ’15 campaign. NC State (0-1) fell to 26-28-4 against South Carolina all-time and 0-3 since the turn of the century.

NC State smashes Vanderbilt in Independence Bowl rout

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NC State was too much for Vanderbilt on Monday night. More specifically, the pitch-and-catch combination of Ryan Finley-to-Jaylen Samuels was too much for Vanderbilt, as the Wolfpack raced to a 41-17 Independence Bowl victory in Shreveport, La.

Finley and Samuels hooked up six times for 104 yards and three decisive touchdowns on the night. The first came at the 9:08 mark of the second quarter, a 9-yard strike to put NC State on top 7-3, handing the club a lead it would not relinquish. The second connection came nearly eight minutes later, a 55-yard snatch-and-dash that all but put the game out of reach at 14-3.

After a 5-yard scoring rush by Reggie Gallaspy II pushed the lead to 21-3, Finley’s third and final strike to Samuels, a 17-yard connection, put the game out of reach with 5:34 still to play in the third quarter.

Vanderbilt briefly climbed back in the game when Ralph Webb posted a 30-yard touchdown run and Khari Blasingame bulled in from the 1-yard line to pull the Commodores within 28-17 with 10:37 left in the game, but NC State (7-6) immediately ended any comeback hopes when Nyheim Hines raced the ensuing kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown.

Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmer provided NC State its final score of the night when Niles Clark returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown as time expired. Shurmur finished the night hitting 19-of-46 passes for 158 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Vanderbilt (6-7) managed 156 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 4.5 yards per carry.

Finley closed his season connecting on 19-of-30 passes for 235 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Matthew Dayes led the Pack on the ground with nine carries for 47 yards.

The win pushed the ACC to 2-0 in bowl games pitting 6-6 teams and clinched at least a .500 record for the conference against the SEC in 2016. The ACC is now 7-3 against its southeastern rival with three games and the possibility of a Clemson-Alabama CFP national championship still remaining.