Florida State looked apathetic in Orange Bowl win

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As expected, Florida State handled Northern Illinois. However, it wouldn’t be right to say Florida State handled Northern Illinois “with ease” because, well, Florida State almost never takes the easy route.

It’s frustrating to watch, really, and it has to be borderline torture for Seminoles fans. That’s insane when you realize you’re talking about an ultra-talented 12-win team, but Florida State has a knack recently for getting pumped for big games while not showing up for presumed wins against (sometimes far) inferior opponents. And there was no question from the moment the Orange Bowl began that the Seminoles were a bigger, faster and simply better than Northern Illinois.

So when No. 13 FSU struggled to put away No. 16 NIU for three quarters before eventually cruising to a 31-10 win, it was another “meh” performance from Jimbo Fisher‘s team. Yet it was a strange game in the sense that the Seminoles’ one or two-possession lead for most of the night felt much, much larger.

There were a couple of reasons for that. For one, NIU wasn’t able to do much offensively because man for man, pound for pound, it wasn’t winning any battles at any position — especially in the trenches. Florida State’s front four had Jordan Lynch running for his ever-loving life the entire time.

Secondly, upsets require some assistance. NIU had to play at the top of its game (which didn’t happen) plus catch FSU napping (which did) and catch a break or two (which most certainly did not happen). In fact, the Huskies were screwed out of a first down or two and a fumble that should not have been thanks to some of the worst officiating the college football world had seen since earlier that day in the Outback Bowl.

More than anything though, NIU was outmatched — just to indicate that point, fullback Lonnie Pryor was torching the Huskies’ defense for five carries, 134 yards and a pair of scores — and therefore unable to recover from mistakes as well as FSU could. The Huskies played hard and even mounted a mini rally in the third quarter. People can rant against NIU for not deserving a spot in the BCS — even an Orange Bowl rep reportedly jumped on top of that pile — but this team played the system just like everyone else, got rewarded, and showed up in Miami expecting to win. That’s about the most anybody could have expected.

Florida State is another story.

Granted, the Seminoles were stuck in a tough situation. Beat NIU and people shrug their shoulders because that’s what should have happened. Lose, and the embarrassment will be unfathomable. About the only thing Florida State could have done to break even was spear NIU in the heart and filet them by halftime. That didn’t happen. Even Lynch’s promise to wear down FSU’s defense last week, which now was apparently fabricated, didn’t seem to register with FSU; quite on the contrary, the ‘Noles seemed genuinely apathetic tonight.

That part’s at least a little understandable. Some of the play calling by Fisher was not. Between Pryor’s long scampers and James Wilder Jr.’s bruising, inside-the-tackles running, there was a point in the game where FSU was averaging over eight yards a carry. Yet, somehow, E.J. Manuel was informed that continuing to throw the ball was a good idea. Manuel didn’t have a bad night with 291 yards and a score, but he was inaccurate at times and was plagued by drops in others. It wasn’t until the end of the first half that the Seminoles converted a third down. FSU finished with three of those conversions on the night out of 14 attempts.

The problem is this wasn’t a one-time thing for Florida State. This team has struggled with consistency in recent years while being hyped way too much by hacks like us.

Not anymore. Not until the Seminoles prove without a doubt they’re “back.” They certainly didn’t prove it tonight.

Pitt Special! Pitt stuns No. 15 UCF in thriller to snap UCF regular-season win streak

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After 27 consecutive wins in the regular season, the UCF Knights have taken a loss. No. 15 UCF (3-1) was upset on the road by Pitt (2-2, 0-1 ACC) on Saturday afternoon in Heinz Field, 35-34. Pitt blew a 21-0 lead befroe coming back to win the game with a trick play in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

With the game on the line in the final minute of the fourth quarter, Pitt rolled out a play reminiscent of the Philly Special (Pat Narduzzi attempted to rebrand the play as Pitt Special after the game) from Super Bowl 52. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett caught a pass from Aaron Matthews for a three-yard go-ahead touchdown.

Making the situation more imposing for UCF was the fact head coach Josh Heupel burned UCF’s final timeout on defense just before the touchdown was scored. That left UCF in a tough spot with under a minute to play. Starting at their 25-yard line with 56 seconds to play and no timeouts at their disposal, time ran out on the Knights as the Pitt defense was swarming. Gabriel was sacked twice in three plays to lock the gate son a win for the Panthers.

UCF fell behind with an uncharacteristically ugly start that saw them fall behind 21-0, and every aspect of the team was to blame. The offense was unable to get going. The defense could not make a big stop. And the special teams unit had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown by the Panthers. But UCF seized some control and got things back in their favor with a couple of scores before halftime, and a 21-7 burst out of halftime turned the tables in UCF’s favor.

Dillon Gabriel overcame his own rough start to the game to throw for 321 yards and two touchdowns. Both touchdown passes came in the third quarter, the first to Gabriel Davis from the 10-yard line to bring UCF within four and the second to Davis for a 28-yard score to push UCF’s lead to 10.

But UCF couldn’t put the game away for good. UCF missed on a fourth-down conversion attempt in the fourth quarter and settled for a field goal at the end of a 10-play drive with 4:36 remaining in the game. Pitt then went on their game-winning drive over the course of 12 plays. The drive was extended by a UCF offside penalty on a 4th & 5 with 2:11 left to play. After getting the free first down, Pickett completed a 19-yard pass to Taysir Mack to get the ball down to the UCF 11-yard line. A few plays later set the stage fo the memorable touchdown by the Panthers.

For the first time in three seasons, UCF must rebound from a regular-season loss. The good news is they get a good rebound opportunity next week at home against UConn. It will be all conference play the rest of the year for UCF, and their hopes of playing in the New Years Six ar not at all dashed base don this one loss. With over two months of football still to be played, UCF still is firmly in the mix for a third-straight NY6 appearance (although fans of Boise State are feeling good at this particular moment). But the talk about UCF in the College Football Playoff, for now, can be set aside.

As for Pitt, the Panthers play one more non-conference matchup next week against Delaware, a top 25 FCS program coming off a nailbiter against Penn earlier today. After a battle with the Blue Hens, Pitt will remain in ACC play for the rest of the season, beginning with a road trip to Duke. And against Duke, anything can happen if recent history is any indication.

SMU upsets No. 25 TCU, claims Iron Skillet for first time since 2011

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The Iron Skillet is heading back to Dallas for the first time in nearly a decade as one of the surprise stories of the early portion of the 2019 season has continued its unexpected winning ways — and at the expense of a rival for good measure.

The media had SMU pegged as the fourth-best team in the AAC South in its preseason poll; in his college football bible, Phil Steele had the Mustangs in third place in the division.  Saturday afternoon, however, SMU showed it should be a force to contend with in the conference race as it jumped out to a 31-17 halftime lead on No. 25 TCU and then held on for a 41-38 win over the Horned Frogs.

The win gives SMU, an eight-point underdog entering the game, possession of the Iron Skillet for the first time since 2011 and just the third time since 1998.

The 4-0 start is the program’s first since the Pony Express days of 1984; a win next week would match the 5-0 start of the ’83 squad.  Barring something unforeseen, the Mustangs will be ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since the 1986 season when the new poll is released Sunday afternoon.

Former Texas quarterback Shane Buechele passed for 288 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win.

No. 8 Auburn too much for No. 17 Texas A&M

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No. 8 Auburn did most of its damage to No. 17 Texas A&M on two drives. The first was the game’s opening drive, where Anthony Schwartz darted 57 yards for a touchdown. The second came midway through the fourth quarter, when the Tigers went 12 plays and 69 yards , with 11 of those plays and 62 of those yards coming on the ground, the last effectively putting the game way, as JaTavious Whitlow‘s 8-yard rush with 8:27 remaining gave Auburn a 28-10 lead en route to a 28-20 win.

Texas A&M (2-2, 0-1 SEC) rallied after the Whitlow run, moving 69 yards to set up a Seth Small field goal and then 81 yards in eight snaps to pull within 28-20 on a Kellen Mond-to-Ainias Smith strike with 2:12 remaining.

Whitlow recovered A&M’s onside kick after the Smith touchdown, allowing the Tigers to ice the game and emerge from Kyle Field with their fourth win in as many trips. Overall, the road team is 7-1 in this series since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012.

Auburn (4-0, 1-0 SEC) won the game because it owned the ground game. The Tigers rushed for 195 yards to the Aggies’ 56, though all but 76 of Auburn’s rushing yards came on two drives.

Bo Nix took care of the football, but threw for just 100 yards on 20 attempts and missed on three deep balls that would have broken the game open for Auburn. He did rush for six yards on a 3rd-and-5 to expire the clock inside the final minute.

Mond threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns, but needed 49 attempts to get there. He found Jhamon Ausbon eight times for 111 yards and Quartney Davis five times for 82 yards and a score, but A&M’s inability to run the ball with its running backs left Mond as the Aggies’ leading rusher at just 26 yards.

No. 22 Washington runs away from BYU in second half behind quarterback Jacob Eason’s big day

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Jacob Eason returned to his hometown program to win big games and the former five-star delivered his biggest ‘W’ yet for No. 22 Washington on Saturday in a sizzling performance that resulted in a 45-19 win over BYU in Provo.

The quarterback was nearly perfect on a picture-perfect day in the Beehive State, throwing for 290 yards and a trio of impressive touchdowns. Showing off an NFL-caliber arm on many of those throws, Eason had only five incompletions against a pretty solid defense and his second half interception only came off a deflection in his most complete performance yet under Chris Petersen.

The Huskies kind of needed the outing too in bouncing back from a disappointing loss to Cal and hitting the road for the first time in 2019 without starting tailback Savon Ahmed with a leg injury. Sean McGrew (97 yards) and Richard Newton (80 yards, 1 TD) filled in admirably but Washington took to the air for most of their offense. Aaron Fuller also stood out with his play, recording eight catches for 91 yards and a score to go along with weaving 88 yard punt return in the third quarter that all but turned the game into a rout.

All told, Washington punted just once all game long and that didn’t come until the 4th quarter.

The effort was not exactly what Kalani Sitake was hoping for in BYU’s third game against the Pac-12 so far this season. The Cougars turned the ball over twice and failed to muster much in terms of sustained drives during the second half as things got away from them a week after a wild comeback against USC on the same field. Zach Wilson was under duress most of the afternoon in throwing for 277 yards, a touchdown and a pick.

All things considered though, the program probably has to be okay with coming out of the hardest opening stretch in the country at 2-2 even if the bookends of the first four weeks of the season were a little rough on the eyes.

Washington, meanwhile, will return to Seattle to face off against a USC squad brimming with confidence in their own bounce-back win against a team from Utah. The Huskies will do so with plenty of confidence themselves given the way their quarterback played in his first road as that conference clash with suddenly huge implications takes place next Saturday in the friendly confines of Husky Stadium.