Mike Gesicki

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Richmond QB Kyle Lauletta steals show in Senior Bowl; Baker Mayfield leaves early

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The Senior Bowl can be a terrific opportunity for top senior prospects from the lower divisions of football to make a serious impact in the NFL draft cycle. On Saturday in Mobile, Alabama, it was Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta who shined the brightest in the annual Senior Bowl. Lauletta passed for a game-high 198 yards and three touchdowns to help the team of top seniors from the South blow out the North, 45-16.

Lauletta, the CAA Offensive Player of the Year and a First-Team All-CAA, took advantage of the opportunity against some of the top senior players college football had to offer in the top all-star game college football has. Lauletta connected on some big plays to LSU wide receiver D.J. Chark (who had five receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown). Lauletta was named the Senior Bowl MVP for his performance.

Lauletta also showed off the ability to send a laser into the end zone when needed.

The South also got a big game out of Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White, who completed eight of his 11 pass attempts for 128 yards and a touchdown. It was White who was one of the stars of the first half of the game. San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny was also making plays all day long, ending his final college game with 64 rushing yards on nine attempts and one 73-yard touchdown reception (after Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert made a nice play to avoid pressure).

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen had a slow start to the game once coming into the game for the North, but he was in control in the second half. Allen threw both of his touchdowns in the third quarter before ending his day with 158 yards and 9-of-13 passing.

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield started the game for the North team but appeared just for a couple of offensive series before leaving the game late in the first quarter and then leaving the stadium entirely at halftime. After completing three of seven pass attempts for nine yards, Mayfield’s exit from the Senior Bowl came quickly. Mayfield reportedly left the stadium to return home to be with his mother, who was recently hospitalized for a heart condition. Washington State quarterback Luke Falk left Mobile, Alabama on Friday to attend the funeral services for former teammate Tyler Hilinski.

South Alabama safety Jeremy Reaves had a solid outing in his home stadium. Reaves was tasked with covering Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki in coverage, and Reaves broke up two passes intended for one of the top tight ends in the country, including one on a two-point conversion try in the third quarter. Not too many players managed to cover Gesicki that well the past couple of seasons. Reaves also came up with an interception of Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee later in the third quarter.

Other players having solid outings included Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage (10 carries for 57 yards), Colorado State wide receiver Michael Gallup (3 receptions for 60 yards), and UCF wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (5 receptions, 79 yards, 1 TD).

There was a moment of comedy late in the game when UCF’s Shaquem Griffen was doing a sideline interview for the NFL Network. While discussing his chances of being invited to the NFL Combine and his tackling techniques, Griffen was alerted he was supposed to be on the field for punt coverage, which sent Griffen scrambling to get on the field before being pulled back to the sideline.

After having great weather all week long, the Senior Bowl moved to a running clock in the second half as the weather continued to turn nasty. And now, another Senior Bowl is in the books as some of the top seniors in college football now officially move on to pursue their NFL dreams.

Baker Mayfield cleans up at Home Depot College Football Awards

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Thursday night was a veritable smorgasbord of awards as ESPN shone a bright spotlight on a who’s who of the 2017 college football season.

At the 27th annual Home Depot College Football Awards show, originating again this year from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, more than a dozen awards were handed out on the night. Arguably the highlight of the night — outside of the awarding of the Disney Spirit Award that for some reason made the room extremely dusty — was the announcement of the winner of the prestigious Walter Camp Player of the Year honor, and that came in the “pregame” show.

Last year’s winner, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, was seeking to become just the fourth two-time winner of the award, joining USC’s O.J. Simpson, 1967-68; Ohio State’s Archie Griffin, 1974-75; and Texas’ Colt McCoy, 2008-09.  It wasn’t to be, however, as Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield became the fourth Sooner and first since Josh Heupel in 2000 to win the acclaimed honor.

Mayfield wasn’t done there, however, as he also took home the equally prestigious Maxwell Award, which dates back to 1937 and goes to the top player in college football, as well as the Davey O’Brien Award, given out annually to the nation’s best quarterback since 1981.  Just as he wasn’t done after he won the Camp Award, he’s likely not done collecting hardware as he’s the overwhelming favorite to take home the Heisman Trophy Saturday night.

Some additional tidbits — and one must-watch video — from the night before getting on to the full roster of winners:

  • Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick became the third player to win the Bednarik and Thorpe Awards in the same year, joining Michigan’s Charles Woodson and LSU’s Patrick Peterson.
  • Houston’s Ed Oliver became the first defensive player (Pitt’s Aaron Donald) to win the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman since 2013 and just the sixth in the last 24 years.  All six of those players were defensive tackles; the last nose tackle to win the honor was Arizona’s Rob Waldrop in 1993.
  • Ohio State has won the last two Rimington Awards for nation’s best center — Billy Price this season, Pat Elflein last year.
  • Auburn’s Daniel Carlson was a three-time finalist for the Lou Groza Award, and ends his collegiate career as a three-time non-winner as Matt Gay of Utah took home the honor for the nation’s top kicker.  Gay is the third straight kicker from the Pac-12 — Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez last season, UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbairn in 2015 — to win the Groza.  The junior, who walked on to the team in summer camp this year before earning a scholarship in October, is the first Ute to win the award.
  • Four consecutive Australians have won the Ray Guy Award for the nation’s best punter.  Texas’ Michael Dickson is the latest, joining Utah’s Tom Hackett in 2014 and 2015 and Utah’s Mitch Wishnowsky in 2016.  Wishnowsky nearly made it four in a row for the Utes as he was a finalist for this year’s award.
  • With James Washington‘s win, Oklahoma State has now claimed three Biletnikoff Awards, the most of any school since it was first presented in 1994.  Just two Cowboys won those awards, though, as Justin Blackmon became the only player to win twice when he grabbed back-to-back Biletnikoffs in 2010-11.

Below are all the awards that were presented on the evening, with the full acknowledgment that a couple of the winners have previously been announced.

(Winners are in bold, listed along with the rest of the finalists)

WALTER CAMP PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Jr.)
Lamar Jackson, Louisville (Jr.)
Bryce Love, Stanford (Jr.)
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Sr.)
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State (Sr.)

MAXWELL AWARD
(Player of the Year)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Jr.)
Bryce Love, Stanford (Jr.)
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Sr.)

CHUCK BEDNARIK AWARD
(Defensive Player of the Year)
Bradley Chubb, NC State (Sr.)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (Jr.)
Roquan Smith, Georgia (Jr. )

FRED BILETNIKOFF AWARD
(Outstanding Receiver)
Michael Gallup, Colorado State (Sr.)
David Sills V, West Virginia (Jr.)
James Washington, Oklahoma State (Sr.)

LOU GROZA AWARD
(Outstanding Placekicker)
Daniel Carlson, Auburn (Sr.)
Dominik Eberle, Utah State (So.)
Matt Gay, Utah (Jr.)

RAY GUY AWARD
(Punter of the Year)
Michael Dickson, Texas (Jr.)
JK Scott, Alabama (Sr.)
Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah (Jr.)

DAVEY O’BRIEN AWARD
(Best Quarterback)
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State (Sr.)
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Sr.)
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State (Sr.)

OUTLAND TROPHY
(Most Outstanding Interior Lineman)
Orlando Brown, Oklahoma (Jr.)
Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (Sr.)
Ed Oliver, Houston (So.)

JIM THORPE AWARD
(Best Defensive Back)
DeShon Elliott, Texas (Jr.)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (Jr.)
Josh Jackson, Iowa (Jr.)

DOAK WALKER AWARD
(Best Running Back)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Jr.)
Bryce Love, Stanford (Jr.)
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (Fr.)

JOHN MACKEY AWARD
(Best Tight End)
Mark Andrews, Oklahoma (Jr.)
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin (Sr.)
Mike Gesicki, Penn State (Sr.)

RIMINGTON TROPHY
(Best center)
Bradley Bozeman, Alabama (Sr.)
Will Clapp, LSU (Jr.)
Billy Price, Ohio State (Sr.)

HOME DEPOT COACH OF THE YEAR
Scott Frost, UCF

WUERFFEL TROPHY
(Community Service)
Blaise Taylor, Arkansas State (Sr.)
Courtney Love, Kentucky (Sr.)
Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame (Sr.)

Mackey Award for nation’s top TE goes to Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews

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This one, unlike late last month, will likely sit a lot better with Baker Mayfield.

A pair of seniors, Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli and Penn State’s Mike Gesicki, along with one junior, Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews, were selected as finalists for the 2017 Mackey Award, given annually to the nation’s top tight end.  Wednesday, it was the youngster taking home the honor as Andrews was named as the 2017 Mackey Award winner.

Andrews, the first Sooner to win the award, will receive the actual trophy during the Home Depot College Football Awards show Thursday night.

The Mackey was first awarded in 2000, going to Purdue’s Tim StrattonJake Butt of Michigan was last year’s honoree.

Over five hours later, Penn State and Michigan State finally reach halftime

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Over five hours later, we have reached halftime in East Lansing between Penn State and Michigan State, with the Nittany Lions and Spartans tied 14-14 at the second break of the game. A nearly three-and-a-half hour weather delay in the middle of the second quarter posed an extra challenge to both teams.

With 7:58 to play in the second quarter, the game had to be sent into a weather delay as lightning strikes moving through the area caused a threat to the safety of the teams and fans in Spartan Stadium. The weather delay was announced as officials were reviewing an incomplete pass from Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke to Trishton Jackson on the sideline. The incomplete pass was upheld. It would be a while until they played third down.

Penn State was looking to get off to a nice quick start to move on from last week’s loss at Ohio State, but an interception thrown by Trace McSorley after missing a couple of throws earlier on the drive brought the game’s opening drive to an end. Unfortunately for the Spartans, Michigan State could not take advantage of the possession despite a promising looking drive that included a 3rd and 11 and 3rd and 19 pass completions to keep the ball moving. But on 4th and 2, Mark Dantonio opted to punt from the Penn State 43-yard line.

Penn State got the offense in gear on their second possession with McSorley dialing in and Saquon Barkley getting a chance to throw out of a direct snap for a 20-yard gain to tight end Mike Gesicki. McSorley then completed back-to-back passes to DeAndre Thompkins and then DaeSean Hamilton for a 31-yard score and a 7-0 lead. Michigan State answered after getting the ball near midfield on the ensuing kickoff, thanks in part to a good return and a late hit penalty on Penn State. Four plays later, Lewerke tied it up with a pass to Darrell Stewart Jr. Not to be outdone, Penn State had their own answer with Mcsorley completing a fourth-down pass to Saeed Blacknall, who then took advantage of horrendous tackling efforts by multiple Michigan State players on his way to the endzone for a go-ahead score.

Michigan State tied the game at 14-14 with a Lewerke touchdown pass to Felton Davis III from 33 yards.

Lightning causes weather delay of Michigan State-Penn State

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The Big Ten contest in East Lansing, Michigan between Michigan State and Penn State is getting an earlier break than expected. Midway through the second quarter, the game was forced to be interrupted with inclement weather bringing lightning to the area. The teams left the field for their respective locker rooms midway through the second quarter with Penn State leading the Spartans, 14-7.

The announcement of the weather delay came just before an official video review on a Michigan State incompletion could be ruled on. The pass was ruled incomplete as the Spartans appeared to be on the move.

At the weather break, Trace McSorley has passed for 193 yards and two touchdowns with one interception for Penn State, while Brian Lewerke has been effective through the air for the Spartans with 159 yards and a score. The running backs have not been able to get too much going, with LJ Scott leading the way with 18 rushing yards on five carries. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is once again not impressing in the rushing department with just one yard on three carries, however, Barkley completed a 20-yard pass to tight end Mike Gesicki and has caught a couple of passes for 13 yards.

Penn State’s streak of not allowing a touchdown to be scored in the first quarter was snapped this week, a week after seeing its first quarter shutout streak come to an end against Ohio State.