East Carolina Pirates

ANNAPOLIS, MD - SEPTEMBER 19:  Jimmy Williams #81 of the East Carolina Pirates catches a first half touchdown pass while being covered by Brendon Clements #1 of the Navy Midshipmen on September 19, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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ECU’s third-leading WR granted medical hardship waiver, eligible to play in 2017

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After the dust had cleared, Jimmy Williams‘ collegiate career hasn’t come to an end after all.

With his eligibility set to expire, the East Carolina wide receiver has instead been granted a medical hardship waiver by the NCAA, the school announced Tuesday.  The waiver means Williams will be eligible to play in 2017, which will be his final season of eligibility.

The decision was based on Williams’ true freshman season, which ended after the fifth game of the year because of a broken bone in his foot.  Because Williams didn’t play in more than 30 percent of the Pirates’ games that season and none of his participation came in the second half of the year, the NCAA granted the request for the waiver.

The decision will be a boon to an ECU passing attack that will be losing Zay Jones, the NCAA’s all-time leader in career receptions.

This past season, Williams was second on the team in receiving yards (818) and third in receptions (45).  His 18.2 yards per catch was tops on the Pirates, while his eight touchdown receptions was tied for the team lead.

Temple will travel to Navy for AAC championship game

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 26: Adonis Jennings #17 of the Temple Owls runs with the ball and is tackled by Travis Phillips #14 of the East Carolina Pirates in the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on November 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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For the second consecutive year, Temple will play for the American Athletic Conference championship.  And, yet again, they’ll have do so on the road.

Thanks to Temple’s 27-10 win over East Carolina Saturday, the Owls will represent the East division in the AAC’s title game.  Temple actually finished tied with USF, but, based on the Oct. 21 win over the Bulls, it’s the Owls that can claim the division.

USF needed both a win over  FIU and a Temple loss.  While they got the former, the latter eluded them.

With the division in and, Temple will now turn its attention to the conference championship game against matchup with West champion Navy.  Both the Owls and Midshipmen finished with identical 7-1 records in league play; because the Midshipmen came in at No. 25 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings and the Owls weren’t ranked, and CFP rankings are the first tiebreaker per AAC rules, the service academy will play host to the title game Dec. 3 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

Last season, Temple dropped a 24-13 decision to Houston in the first-ever AAC title game.  Navy, in its second season in the league, will be making its first appearance.

Lamar Jackson, Jabrill Peppers headline list of major awards finalists

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 22: Jabrill Peppers #5 of the Michigan Wolverines signals a teammate while playing the Illinois Fighting Illini on October 22, 2016 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The college football version of the Oscars are coming, and the nominees were just announced. The National College Football Awards Association, basically every major award south of the Heisman, jointly dropped its finalists on Monday evening.

Winners will be unveiled at the annual Home Depot College Football Awards show set to air from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Thursday, Dec. 8 (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Let’s get right to them.

Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player)
– Jonathan Allen, Alabama
– Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
– Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver)
Austin Carr, Northwestern
– Zay Jones, East Carolina
Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma

Butkus Award (best linebacker)
– Kendall Beckwith (LSU)
– Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt)
– Jarrad Davis (Florida)
– Rueben Foster (Alabama)
– Josey Jewell (Iowa)

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)
– Daniel Carlson, Auburn
– Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
– Younghoe Koo, Georgia Southern

Ray Guy Award (best punter)
– Micheal Dickson, Texas
– Cameron Johnston, Ohio State
– Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah

Mackey Award (best tight end)
Jake Butt (Michigan)
O.J. Howard (Alabama)
Jordan Leggett (Clemson)

Maxwell Award (best player)
– Lamar Jackson, Louisville
– Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
– Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback)
– Lamar Jackson, Louisville
– Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
– Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)
– Pat Elflein, Ohio State
– Cody O’Connell, Washington State
– Cam Robinson, Alabama

Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
Dalvin Cook, Florida State
– D’Onta Foreman, Texas
Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State

Wuerffel Trophy (best community servant)
Christian McCaffrey (Stanford)
– Trevor Knight (Texas A&M)
– Garrett Adcock (New Mexico State)

The Home Depot awards show will also recognize the Home Depot Coach of the Year, the NCFAA Contributions to College Football Award, the Disney Spirit Award (already awarded to Pittsburgh’s James Conner), the William V. Campbell Trophy (to be awarded two nights prior at the National Football Foundation dinner in New York), the Allstate Good Works Team and the Walter Camp All-America team.


Zay Jones breaks former ECU teammate’s FBS record for career receptions

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 22: Zay Jones #7 of the East Carolina Pirates stiff-arms Grant Coleman #13 of the Cincinnati Bearcats while carrying the ball during the first quarter at Nippert Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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In 2014, Zay Jones watched as teammate Justin Hardy set an FBS record.  Two years later, Jones is the record-setter — at his former East Carolina teammate’s expense.

With his eighth catch of the day in the game against Navy, Hardy pushed his total of career receptions to 388.  That broke the FBS record of 387 set by Hardy from 2011-14.

Jones caught 62 passes as a freshman in 2013, then grabbed 81 and 98 the next two seasons. Coming into today’s game, Jones had a whopping 139 receptions; the FBS single-season record is 155 by Bowling Green’s Freddie Barnes in 2009. As Jones already has 10 receptions in the first half against Navy — he’s caught at least 10 passes in 10 of 11 games this year — he’s just six catches away from tying and seven from breaking Barnes’ seven-year-old standard.

Ex-Rutgers DE Marques Ford tweets he’s transferring to East Carolina

GREENVILLE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05:  Head coach Skip Holtz of the East Carolina Pirates walks onto the field with his team before their game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Greenville, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Nearly a year after exiting the FBS level, Marques Ford is preparing for a return.

On his personal Twitter account this week, Ford announced that he has committed to continuing his collegiate playing career at East Carolina. According to 247Sports.com, the defensive end had also drawn interest from Cal, Louisville, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Syracuse, Texas A&M and West Virginia, although ECU as his only scholarship offer amongst those schools.

As Ford will be coming to the Pirates from a junior college, he’ll be eligible to play in 2017. He’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Ford was the highest-rated member of Rutgers’ 2015 recruiting class, the only four-star recruit signed by the Scarlet Knights that year. After not playing as a true freshman, Ford became the first player to transfer after the hiring of Chris Ash as head coach.