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USC QB Sam Darnold, Houston DL Ed Oliver headline FWAA Freshman All-America Team

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USC quarterback Sam Darnold and Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver were the stars of the FWAA’s Freshman All-America Team for the 2016 season, and Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and USC head coach Clay Helton shared the award for First Year Coach of the Year.

The FWAA’s Freshman All-America Team, announced today, includes 20 true freshmen including Oliver, Ohio State running back Mike Weber, Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill and Florida State defensive lineman Brian Burns.

Fuente is coming off his first season as the head coach at Virginia Tech after a successful stint as head coach at Memphis, with an ACC Coastal Division championship and appearance in the ACC Championship Game. Helton overcame a rough start to coach USC into a top 10 finish and a Rose Bowl victory over Big Ten champion Penn State. Both have been head coaches before, of course, but the FWAA First Year Coach of the Year is open to any coach in his first full season as a head coach at his current school.

OFFENSE

  • QB Sam Darnold, USC
  • RB Mike Weber, Ohio State
  • RB Benny Snell, Kentucky
  • RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
  • WR Ammon Richards, Miami
  • WR Demetris Robinson, California
  • WR Ty Lee, Middle Tennessee
  • TE Isaac Nautta, Georgia
  • OL Michael Jordan, Ohio State
  • OL Jawaan Taylor, Florida
  • OL Ryan Bates, Penn State
  • OL Thomas Shoaf, BYU
  • OL Ben Bredeson, Michigan
  • AP Donnie Corley, Michigan State

DEFENSE

  • DL Ed Oliver, Houston
  • DL Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
  • DL Brian Burns, Florida State
  • DL Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State
  • DL Reggie Walker, Kansas State
  • LB Logan Wilson, Wyoming
  • LB Troy Dye, Oregon
  • LB Leo Lewis, Mississippi State
  • LB Josiah Tauaefa, UTSA
  • LB David Reese, Florida
  • DB Xavier Crawford, Oregon State
  • DB Javon Hagan, Ohio
  • DB Taylor Rapp, Washington
  • DB Jessie Bates, Wake Forest
  • DB Clifton Duck, Appalachian State

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia
  • P Tom Sheldon, North Carolina
  • KR Tony Pollard, Memphis
  • PR Malik McGue, Army

Rainbow Warriors roll in Hawaii Bowl win over Middle Tennessee

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Being home for the holidays sounded pretty good for Hawaii, as few things could compare to having a bowl game win as a nice present under the tree.

The Rainbow Warriors continued their hot play down the stretch and used a couple of Middle Tennessee turnovers to capture a 52-35 Hawaii Bowl win in a wild one on Saturday night.

After the Blue Raiders jumped out to a 14-0 lead just a few minutes into the first quarter, the home team decided to wake up and join the postseason party, turning three first half takeaways into three touchdowns and come roaring into the lead. Quarterback Dru Brown threw for 274 yards and four scores on the night overall (and added another rushing) as the offense threw a little bit of everything at their opponents to keep them on their heels.

Warriors running back Diocemy Saint Juste also had one of his best outings in a Hawaii uniform, rushing for 170 yards on 25 carries and helping power the team over the 500 yards of total offense mark.

As good as the offense was though, it was the defense for the home team that really helped them regain momentum with a fumble recovery in the red zone and a pair of interceptions in the first half, one of which was returned for a 68-yard pick six.

Despite those issues holding onto the ball, MTSU was still able to move down the field fairly effectively. Quarterback Brent Stockstill returned to action for the first time in nearly two months since breaking his collar bone and would have had a pretty nice game if it weren’t for those turnovers, throwing for 432 yards and four touchdowns. Richie James was the target of most of his passes (nine catches for 175 yards, two scores) while I’Tavius Mathers was contained fairly well with just 57 yards on the ground.

But none of that trio could get the Blue Raiders over the hump after a big early hole. Although they threatened down the stretch, ultimately Hawaii had an answer at every turn to capture the program’s first bowl victory in a decade, dating back to a blowout win of Arizona State on this same date and game back in 2006.

That puts the Warriors back at .500 for the season and caps off an impressive turnaround for first-year head coach Nick Rolovich after the team had just seven wins the past two seasons combined coming into 2016.

As recruits jump ship, Baylor WR KD Cannon, RB Terence Williams stick with Bears

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One of the more interesting subplots to follow as Baylor moves into the post-Art Briles era will be the reaction from recruits and current players.

Speculation exists the NCAA will — or at least should — allow current Bears out of their scholarships without penalty, similar to how the NCAA treated Penn State players in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But, for now, the NCAA has offered no such provision, and as such players are still bound to remain at Baylor or sit out a year.

On Friday night, wide receiver K.D. Cannon announced he will remain in Waco for what will most assuredly be his final season as a collegian. A rising junior, Cannon caught 50 passes for 868 yards and six touchdowns, and figures to gobble up much of the 74 grabs, 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns Corey Coleman left behind.

Running back Terence Williams made a similar proclamation as well on Friday. A rising sophomore, Williams rushed 88 times for 556 yards and three touchdowns in 2015.

While current players are compelled to remain in Waco, recruits are under no such obligation. An already light 2017 class has seen two defections with decommitments from three-star offensive lineman Jayden Peevy and four-star tight end Kedrick James, a Waco product.

It may also be a matter of time before the prize of this year’s class, four-star quarterback Kellen Mond, succumbs to an avalanche of pressure to leave as well.

Caught somewhere in between the current and future Bears is the class of 2016, players who have inked themselves to Baylor but have yet to enroll in the school. The top two players from the Bears’ 17th-ranked class have publicly wavered on their desire to play for Baylor. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement; one player has wavered, and one has outright refused to report.

Four-star offensive lineman Patrick Hudson, the second-ranked offensive lineman in Texas, tweeted Friday he is reconsidering his stance with Baylor.

(Update: Gerry Hamilton of ESPN reports Hudson will not enroll.)

Meanwhile, four-star running back Kameron Martin will not enroll according to Max Olson of ESPN.

Whether Baylor grants Martin’s release will perhaps set a precedent for other 2016 Bears who may be inclined to join Martin but have not spoken out yet.

One thing is certain, though: the mess in Waco is only just beginning to sort itself out.

Alabama, Clemson each land two on FWAA Freshman All-America Team

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Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley and defensive back Marlon Humphrey and Clemson offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins will be playing a rather important game in just a number of hours, but they each received one more honor for the 2015 season. Each was named to the Freshman All-America Team on Monday by the Football Writers Association of America.

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen and Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers were among some of the more household names appearing on the Freshman All-America team from the FWAA on Monday. The FWAA also included first-year Houston head coach Tom Herman as its First Year Coach of the Year. Herman beat out finalists Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and Pat Narduzzi of Pittsburgh. The Freshman All-American team featured 10 redshirt freshmen this season and included 12 players for both offense and defense, with five more specifically for special teams.

2015 FWAA Freshman All-America Team

OFFENSE

  • QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
  • RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
  • RB Myles Gaskin, Washington
  • RB Mike Warren, Iowa State
  • WR Penny Hart, Georgia State
  • WR Richie James, Middle Tennessee
  • WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
  • OL William Clapp, LSU
  • OL Will Noble, Houston
  • OL Mitch Hyatt, Clemson
  • OL Max Scharping, Northern Illinois
  • OL Connor Williams, Texas

DEFENSE

  • DE Walter Brady, Missouri
  • DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
  • DT Terry Beckner Jr., Missouri
  • DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
  • LB T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
  • LB Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
  • LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
  • DB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
  • DB Kareem Orr, Arizona State
  • DB Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
  • DB Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
  • DB Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh

SPECIAL TEAMS

HEAD COACH

  • Tom Herman, Houston

WMU tops MTSU in another wild Bahamas Bowl

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This Bahamas Bowl is turning into quite the spectacle.

The first-ever Bahamas Bowl last year saw one of the wild finishes ever, with Central Michigan roaring back from a 49-14 third-quarter deficit only to see their comeback, aided by a Hail Mary + Laterals with no time left, fall short on a failed two-point conversion in Western Kentucky’s 49-48 win.  Exactly one year later, and while not nearly as dramatic, Middle Tennessee State and Western Michigan put on quite the show on the day before Christmas.

In a back-and-forth offensive affair that was sealed by, oddly enough, a defensive play, WMU outscored MTSU 21-7 in the fourth quarter to stake its claim to a 45-31 win in the second annual Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.  After rushing for 215 yards and four touchdowns on just 19 carries, Broncos running back Jamauri Bogan was named the game’s MVP.

Bogan’s fourth score of the day, which essentially wrapped up the win, came after a Rontavious Atkins interception with under six minutes remaining that was returned to the four-yard line. That and the second quarter, though, was about all of the defense that was played as offense ruled the day.

The two teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of offense — WMU 613, MTSU 442. Of the 10 touchdowns combined the teams scored, six of them were 44 yards in length or longer; three of those were sixty-plus yards and one came from 80 yards out.

Broncos quarterback Zach Terrell passed for 297 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Corey Davis, on eight catches, hauled in 183 receiving yards. Brent Stockstill, the MTSU head coach’s son, threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns in a losing effort. The freshman also set an FBS record during the course of the game.

WMU finishes the season at 8-5, the first time in the football program’s history that they’ve won eight or more games in back-to-back seasons. The win was also the program’s first in a bowl.

MTSU will finish the year 7-6.

With the Broncos’ win, the MAC is now 4-2 this postseason.  Conference USA, meanwhile, suffered its first loss after two wins.