Rose Bowl champions? Sparty yes! Michigan State holds off Stanford, 24-20

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In a game full of defensive talent, it was only fitting that the deciding play in the Rose Bowl turned out to be a 4th and 1 in the final minutes of the game. The Spartans came up with the big stop as No. 5 Stanford (11-3, 7-2 Pac 12) was down four points with the game on the line. With defenders leaping over a pile at the Stanford 34-yard line, No. 4 Michigan State  (13-1, 8-0 Big Ten) stuffed fullback Ryan Hewitt for no gain, allowing the Spartans offense to run out the clock for the fourth Rose Bowl championship in program history. Michigan State held on for a 24-20 win in Pasadena.

The game was everything it was expected to be, with defenses coming up with big plays, but in this one the Michigan State offense took control of the game. Michigan State rolled up 400 yards of offense and went on a 17-0 run to come from behind and carry all of the momentum in the second half. Michigan State dug an early 10-0 hole, but Connor Cook never gave in and passed for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Stanford’s defense. Cook’s fourth quarter pass to Tony Lippett from 25 yards proved to be the game winner. At the time it broke a 17-17 tie, so the game was placed in the hands of the Spartans defense, a comfortable feeling for Michigan State for sure.

Stanford looked to catch Michigan State off guard when a field goal attempt seemed to fall apart and the Cardinal completed a roll out pass for a first down, but the officials threw a flag for an illegal formation with an ineligible receiver down field amid the confusion on the play. Rather than seizing momentum and having a chance to tie things up, Stanford settled for a 39-yard field goal by Jordan Williamson to cut Michigan State’s lead to 24-20.

The Cardinal then forced the Spartans to go three-and-out with just over three minutes to play. With one last chance, the Cardinal were stopped on a fourth down with one yard to go to keep the game alive. With no timeouts, there was nothing Stanford could do but watch as Michigan State allowed the seconds to tick all the way down to triple zeros.

The win for Michigan State is just the second by a Big Ten team since 2000. Ohio State defeated Oregon in the 2010 game. The Big Ten may have suffered a 1-2 mark earlier in the day against SEC opponents, but the conference has a chance to end the bowl season on a high note if Ohio State can take down Clemson in the Orange Bowl. A pair of BCS bowl victories would help to overshadow a losing bowl season regardless of what happens. Michigan State has now also proven to be worthy of playing on the big stage, but will they be able to keep this momentum going in 2014 as the College Football Playoff era is christened?

Michigan State will enter the 2014 season as the outright defending Big Ten champions for the first time since 1988. They will do so in a new division as well. With the additions of Maryland and Rutgers next year the Big Ten is re-organizing the division line-up. Michigan State will be in the Big Ten’s East division, along with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers. The Spartans will geta  rematch with the Buckeyes on November 8, 2014 and also travel to Oregon in mid-September. Michigan State will also renew their end-of-the-year series with Penn State. Like Stanford, Michigan State will have three offensive linemen moving on but the significant players on the offense will be in tact at the skill positions. The defense will have six senior starters to replace but the Spartans should continue being tough on defense. The good news is Mark Dantonio and his staff will be getting a nice pay upgrade, so the Spartans will have some continuity working for them.

Stanford will have some changes to work through when the Cardinal move in to 2014. The offensive line will have at least three starters to replace in addition to running back Tyler Gaffney and fullback Ryan Hewitt. The defense will also be looking for new leadership after losing a good handful of players to graduation, including linebacker Shayne Skov. The backbone of Stanford’s success the last few years has been a punishing ground game and a stiff defense (yeah, Andrew Luck was a nice asset as well), so look for David Shaw to continue with that typical formula as the Pac 12 North continues to catch up. The Pac 12 North may still be Stanford’s or Oregon’s to lose in 2014, but Washington adding Chris Petersen as a head coach should lead to the Huskies improving as well. The Cardinal will get USC at home next season but will take to the road to play Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Washington in addition to a non-conference match-up in South Bend, Indiana against Notre Dame.

UAB caps best season in school history with first bowl win

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Sometimes the first play from scrimmage is a mirage for what’s to come, like Ted Ginn, Jr.’s opening kickoff touchdown in the 2007 BCS National Championship. Other times, it tells the entire story.

When Tyler Johnston hit Xavier Ubosi for a 70-yard touchdown pass on the first play of Tuesday night’s Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, it told you pretty much all you needed to know. Johnston would hook up with Ubosi for two more long touchdown passes throughout the night, and UAB blasted Northern Illinois, 37-13.

The win bolstered what was already the best season in school history for Bill Clark‘s Blazers. Just two years back from the dead, UAB had already secured its first conference championship and its first 10-win season; now, the program has its first bowl win to boot.

The Boca Raton Bowl was one of just three bowl games pitting conference champions against each other, the others being the Orange (SEC vs. Big 12) and Rose (Big Ten vs. Pac-12) bowls.

UAB (11-3) came into the game averaging less than 200 passing yards per game, but the redshirt freshman Johnston went off for easily the best game of his young career, hitting 17-of-28 passes for 373 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. The bulk of the damage went to Ubosi, who snared seven passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns. Ubosi entered the game with 28 grabs for 610 yards and five touchdowns, including four catches for 24 yards in his two most recent games.

After the 70-yard score put UAB up 7-0 (and, it turns out, for good), the Johnston-to-Ubosi connection put the game away for good with 5:11 to go in the second quarter with a 46-yard strike that gave the Blazers a 24-10 lead.

A 66-yard bomb at the 5:15 mark of the third quarter concluded Ubosi’s night and gave UAB a 34-13 lead. Johnston’s other touchdown pass was a 3-yard shovel to running back Spencer Brown at the 12:08 mark of the second quarter, turning a 10-7 UAB lead back into a comfortable 10-point spread.

As the score indicates, Northern Illinois (8-6) struggled to get anything going offensively. Marcus Childers completed 22 of his 29 passes but gained just 179 yards on those completions. NIU entered the night with the nation’s 118th most efficient passing attack, so a 6.2 yards per attempt average wouldn’t necessarily spell doom as long as the Huskies managed to run the ball, but that was a struggle as well. Against UAB’s top-20 rushing defense, NIU mustered just 108 yards on 44 carries. Tre Harbison tied Childers for the team lead with 35 yards (he had a team-high six yards at halftime) and scored the Huskies’ lone touchdown, a 1-yarder to pull them within 10-7 in the final minute of the first quarter.

Given a chance to add a cosmetic score midway through the fourth quarter, Jordan Nettles fumbled a 4th-and-goal run out the side of the end zone.

Ex-TCU QB Shawn Robinson headed to Missouri

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Oklahoma is presently the king of the quarterback transfer market. It’s literally impossible to improve upon turning two transfers into two Heisman Trophy winners. But if the Sooners are the gold medal winners of that particular competition, Missouri definitely wins silver.

After beating out a host of competitors to land Clemson graduate transfer Kelly Bryant, the Tigers have now landed Bryant’s successor in TCU transfer Shawn Robinson.

Mizzou announced Robinson’s arrival on Tuesday night, a Christmas Eve present to Tigers fans before Recruiting Santa drops his presents on Wednesday morning.

As an undergraduate transfer, Robinson will sit out the 2019 season, which works perfectly for Missouri as Bryant will be a one-and-done in Columbia. Robinson will then take over for Bryant in 2020 as a redshirt junior.

While Robinson flashed rare ability during his half-ish season as TCU’s starter this fall, he also showed why he would benefit from the opportunity to sit and learn. Robinson completed 60.8 percent of his passes, but for just 6.5 yards per attempt with nine touchdowns against eight picks.

He tossed two interceptions in the Frogs’ September loss to Ohio State and then coughed up three turnovers in a loss at Texas a week later, essentially eliminating TCU from national title contention. After throwing two more picks in a loss to Texas Tech and then completing just three of eight passes against Oklahoma a week after that, Robinson was shut down for the year to have season-ending shoulder surgery.

Missouri will be Robinson’s fifth different school since entering high school. He played at two different Dallas-Fort Worth area schools before leading DeSoto to a state championship as a senior in 2016, and will now play for his second college starting in 2020.

Big passing plays put UAB up on Northern Illinois

Associated Press
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If UAB was to beat Northern Illinois in the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday night, it was supposed to happen on the ground, where the Blazers’ top-30 running game would grind out an advantage over the Huskies’ No. 3-ranked yards per carry defense to secure a tight, hard-fought win. UAB, with its No. 100-ranked passing offense, certainly wasn’t supposed to go bombs away on the Huskies.

But Bill Clark‘s team flipped that script on the very first play, when Tyler Johnston hit a streaking Xavier Ubosi for a 70-yard touchdown pass.

After a 25-yard Nick Vogel field goal and a Northern Illinois touchdown, UAB pushed its lead back to 10 when Johnston flipped to Spencer Brown for a 3-yard shovel pass score at the 12:08 mark of the second quarter.

Then, after an NIU field goal pulled the Huskies back within a score at 17-10, Johnston again found Ubosi for a long score, this one a 46-yarder, to push UAB in front 24-10.

Johnston is well on his way to his best night of the year, hitting 13-of-20 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns, while Ubosi hauled in six catches for 161 yards and two scores.

Instead of cutting into its 14-point deficit just before the halftime gun, the NIU offense helped increase it. Marcus Childers was sacked and fumbled away the ball at his own 31-yard line with 2:13 left in the half, setting up a 34-yard Vogel field goal to push the UAB lead to 27-10 as the first half expired.

NIU’s touchdown came on a 1-yard Tre Harbison run in the final minute of the first quarter, capping a 9-play, 59-yard drive. He was NIU’s leading rusher with six yards on four carries.

Louisville pulls offensive coordinator away from NC State

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NC State named two offensive coordinators from within its staff after Eli Drinkwitz left to become the head coach at Appalachian State, and Wolfpack offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford was not among them.

Turns out, there was a good reason for that. He’s joining the staff of the former Appalachian State head coach at a different ACC school.

That Meereenese Knot of coaching moves unwinds with Dwayne Ledford leaving NC State to become the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Louisville.

“Adding a coach with the experience of Dwayne Ledford is a key addition to our offensive staff,” new Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield said. “Dwayne’s one of the top offensive line coaches in the nation and has produced some of the best offensive lines in the country during his career. His units are technically sound and his players play with great passion. This is an excellent hire in the development of our program.”

Ledford spent three seasons at NC State, ending a program-record streak of eight straight seasons without a 1,000-yard rusher by producing a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his three seasons with the program.

This season, NC State had two linemen — center Garrett Bradbury and left tackle Tyler Jones — make the All-ACC team, the first time that’s happened in Raleigh, while a third guard Terronne Prescod was an AP Third Team All-American. Bradbury also won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center.

NC State also finished fourth nationally in sacks allowed this season after placing 113th in the year prior to Ledford’s arrival.

Ledford worked for Satterfield previously at Appalachian State before joining Dave Doeren‘s NC State staff. He is a North Carolina native and East Carolina graduate. This will not only be his first offensive coordinator job, it will be just the third time he’s coached outside of his home state, following a 2-year stint with the Frankfurt Galaxy and one year at Tennessee State.

Ledford also played seven seasons in the NFL for a variety of clubs.