Matt Johnson

Davey O’Brien Award semifinalists announced; 2014 semifinalists Cook, Boykin, Prescott included

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A total of 17 of the nation’s top quarterbacks have been named a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award Monday by the Davey O’Brien Foundation. One of a handful of individual awards tailored for quarterbacks, the Davey O’Brien Award is the nation’s oldest of its kind. This year’s semifinalists include some familiar names as well, including Michigan State’s Connor Cook, TCU’s Trevone Boykin and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott. All three were named semifinalists last season (Boykin and Prescott would later be named finalists). It also includes a handful of passers from the Group of Five, including Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. and Navy’s Keenan Reynolds out of the American Athletic Conference and Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson (MAC) and Brandon Doughty of Western Kentucky (Conference USA).

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota took home the award last season, becoming the first Pac-12 player to win the award since UCLA’s Troy Aikman won the award in 1988. The Pac-12 has some good candidates on the list of semifinalists again this season as well.

2015 Davey O’Brien Award Semifinalists

  • Trevone Boykin (TCU)
  • Connor Cook (Michigan State)
  • Brandon Doughty (Western Kentucky)
  • Luke Falk (Washington State)
  • Jared Goff (California)
  • Kevin Hogan (Stanford)
  • Matt Johnson (Bowling Green)
  • Cody Kessler (USC)
  • Paxton Lynch (Memphis)
  • Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech)
  • Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)
  • Dak Prescott (Mississippi State)
  • Keenan Reynolds (Navy)
  • Josh Rosen (UCLA)
  • Seth Russell (Baylor)
  • Greg Ward Jr. (Houston)
  • Deshaun Watson (Clemson)

Charlotte earns first FBS win at expense of still-winless Georgia State

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Charlotte held on to beat Georgia State 23-20, Friday evening, giving their 49ers their first win at the FBS level in their inaugural game against an FBS opponent. The victory came at the expense of a Georgia State program still looking for its first win over a top-level opponent, dropping the Panthers to 0-for-23 all-time.

Charlotte opened the scoring with a play straight out of the yakety sax playbook, and the uneven play continued from there. The Niners committed five turnovers, including one on the doorstep of the Georgia State goal line, but survived thanks in large part to poor execution by Georgia State. The Panthers committed three turnovers of their own, converted only three of 15 third downs, missed a 44-yard field goal and, with a chance to snap victory out of the jaws of defeat, watched a last-gasp onside kick head straight out of bounds.

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Matt Johnson completed 19-of-32 passes for 244 yards with a touchdown (and two interceptions) and Kalif Phillips led the ground effort with 90 yards on 19 carries.

Charlotte led 23-6 through three quarters and held on for victory after Nick Arbuckle fired two fourth quarter touchdown passes, the last of which came from 53 yards out to Penny Hart with 30 seconds remaining.

Charlotte, who did not play its first game until 2013, remains (however briefly) undefeated at the FBS level, and figures to remain so for at least another week as the Niners return home to face FCS Presbyterian next Saturday.

Georgia State, meanwhile, has but one win since moving to the Sun Belt in 2013 – a 38-37 squeaker over an Abilene Christian program in its first game transitioning from Division II to FCS on the first night of the 2014 season. And with tonight’s now marked firmly in the ‘L’ column, one has to wonder if the Panthers’ first win over an FBS foe may have to wait until 2016.

DE Sam Ukwuachu found guilty of raping ex-Baylor soccer player

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On the same day a damning report involving Baylor’s handling of a situation involving one of its players made the rounds, said situation came to a head.  Suffice to say, BU will have some serious and much-needed explaining to do moving forward.

On trial for charges that he sexually assaulted a female BU student in October of 2013, Sam Ukwuachu was found guilty of those charges by a Waco jury Thursday evening.  Ukwuachu’s victim was a former Bears soccer player, with the rape occurring after Baylor’s homecoming win over Iowa State while he was still a listed member of the football program.

Because some of the witnesses in the trial came from out of state, the case has already gone into the penalty phase.  Ukwuachu is facing up to 20 years in prison.

The conviction is the latest in what’s fast becoming a sordid story connected to the rising Bears football program.

In May of 2013, Ukwuachu was dismissed by then-Boise State head coach Chris Petersen for violating unspecified team rules.  While the reasons were unspecified, the dismissal, it was subsequently reported, was triggered by a violent episode involving a female BSU student who was in a romantic relationship with the then-Bronco.

In the damning report mentioned up top, Texas Monthly wrote that “Ukwuachu claimed after the transfer was announced that Baylor’s coaches ‘knew everything’ about what happened in Idaho; and, as indicated by court documents obtained by Texas Monthly, the two programs had some communication regarding Ukwuachu in which Boise State officials expressed reticence about supporting the player’s efforts to get back on the field.”

Ukwuachu transferred to BU in June of 2013, sitting out that season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules and sitting out last season for unspecified reasons; Ukwuachu’s attorney subsequently confirmed that his client had been indicted on two counts of felony sexual assault.

Despite the knowledge of what happened at Boise, and that Ukwuachu was connected to sexual assault allegations while at his new school — again, according to reports — BU defensive coordinator Phil Bennett sounded very confident this past June that, for whatever reason, the end would be eligible to play for the Bears in 2015.

“Ukwuachu is a guy we’re expecting to be back,Phil Bennett said of the former Freshman All-American. “We expect him to be eligible in July. That gives us probably five or six guys we can play at end.”

Bennett’s boss, a little over a month later, liked how the situation involving Ukwuachu has been handled on all ends.

“That’s been an ongoing situation for I don’t know, a year and a half probably and we’ve been real sensitive to the process,” Bears head coach Art Briles stated Aug. 6. “We’ve sat back and waited for it all to take shape and see what the outcome is. So, I like the way we’ve handled it as a university, an athletic department and a football program.”

“We are looking forward to the trial,” Ukwuachu’s attorney, Jonathan Sibley, said earlier this month. “Sam passed a polygraph exam, he’s been cleared by Baylor and has graduated and is 100 percent innocent of these charges against him. He has done everything a man can do to clear his name and he is looking forward to the trial so he can finally do that.”

As Sibley mentioned, Ukwuachu was “cleared” by Baylor following an investigation that has come under intense scrutiny, so much so that the player’s defense team wasn’t permitted by a judge to mention it at trial.  Again, from the Texas Monthly piece:

Jury selection in Ukwuachu’s trial began Monday, and during in limine motions to determine what evidence would be admissible, assistant district attorney Hilary Laborde, who is prosecuting the case, told 54th District Judge Matt Johnson that Baylor’s own investigation into the accusations against Ukwuachu involved interviewing just Ukwuachu, his accuser, and one friend of each, and that the school never saw the rape kit collected by the sexual assault nurse examiner. The woman Ukwuachu is accused of sexually assaulting went to the hospital and talked to the police on October 20, 2013, the day after the encounter. But after the school’s investigation (so insufficient, according to the court, that the judge sustained a motion from the prosecution to restrict the defense from referencing it during the trial), Baylor took no action to discipline Ukwuachu, even while charges were still pending. From Baylor’s brief investigation, to its failure to consider disciplinary action, to its defensive coordinator’s statements this summer about the player’s expected return, the school’s idea of how to respond to serious rape allegations is seriously out of step with that of the courts.

Some hard questions should be asked of both the football program and the university over this debacle.  Just as much, open and honest answers should be demanded and, most importantly, freely offered by both bodies.

In the interim, the school offered up the following comment in the wake of the guilty verdict.

FCS-to-Ducks transfer one of 30 QBs on Unitas Award watch list

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Even as one high-profile FCS transfer has yet to be officially added to his new Power Five program’s roster, he’s still highly thought of by at least one major award.

Tuesday, the fine folks at the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award released its preseason watch list, with the annual award given to the best college senior or fourth-year junior quarterback recognizing 30 players who meet the qualifications.  And, again, those qualifications are that they are, one, a quarterback and, two, are a college senior or fourth-year junior.

Included in that group of 30 is Vernon Adams, one of the most decorated players in the Football Championship Series who announced in February of this year that he would be transferring from Eastern Washington to Oregon for his final season of collegiate eligibility.  In early July it was reported that Adams had been admitted to UO and ruled eligible to enroll in classes at the university.  However, Adams will likely miss at least the first three days of the Ducks’ summer camp that begins Aug. 10 as he cleans up one final class that will allow him formal admission and his inclusion on his new squad’s roster.

There’s also one current FCS quarterback in the group: North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz.

In addition to Adams and Wentz, 2014 Unitas finalists Cody Kessler of USC and Dak Prescott of Mississippi State are included in the initial watch list.   Last year’s winner was the man Adams will attempt to replace, Marcus Mariota.

Below is the complete list of preseason Unitas Award watch listers.  And, again, those eligible are college senior or fourth-year junior quarterbacks.

Vernon Adams, Oregon
Brandon Allen, Arkansas
Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
Mike Bercovici, Arizona State
Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Blake Frohnapfel, UMass
Everett Golson, Florida State
Taysom Hill, BYU
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Driphus Jackson, Rice
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Chuckie Keeton, Utah State
Cody Kessler, USC
Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
Fredi Knighten, Arkansas State
Joe Licata, Buffalo
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Maty Mauk, Missouri
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
Chad Voytik, Pittsburgh
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah

Bowling Green in first-half control of bowl rookie South Alabama

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Entering the first-ever Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, both Bowling Green and South Alabama were looking to end losing streaks and build momentum for the 2015 offseason.  Through two quarters of play, the MAC school is well on its way to doing just that.

After jumping out to a quick 14-0 lead through the first half of the first quarter, the Falcons offense slumbered for a bit before reawakening in the second quarter long enough to take a 20-7 lead into halftime on the Jaguars.  In addition to it being the inaugural game for the Montgomery bowl, incidentally, it’s also USA’s first-ever postseason appearance in its third season as an FBS program.

Even given that, and the fact that the game was being played in USA’s home state, the first two quarters were all about BGSU.

James Knapke, who took over as the starting quarterback when Matt Johnson sustained a season-ending injury in the opener, passed for 230 first-half yards and a touchdown.  134 of those yards came in the first half, with 97 of those yards coming on two completions — one being a 44-yard touchdown pass to Roger Lewis that opened the scoring.

The Falcons’ defense, which had struggled during the three-game losing streak to close out the regular season, allowed the Jaguars’ offense to gain just 119 yards.  In its last three games, BGSU had given up nearly 1,500 yards in losses to Northern Illinois, Ball State and Toledo.