Last-second field goal keeps Playoff, Heisman hopes alive for No. 10 TCU

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No. 10 TCU fought back from a 13-point deficit, fell behind by 13, and then did it again as Jaden Oberkrom knocked in a 37-yard field goal as time expired to beat No. 20 West Virginia 31-30 in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers built a 13-0 first quarter lead after a 75-yard opening march and then two field goals, both of the shorter variety after West Virginia did not convert a third down of makable distance near the goal line. TCU pulled within 13-7 on a 47-yard catch-and-run from Trevone Boykin to Deante’ Gray with 1:44 to go in the first quarter, but that was it for first half scoring.

If TCU had lost this game, it would undoubtedly point to the second quarter, where the Frogs forced three turnovers inside West Virginia territory and turned none of them into points.

No matter, West Virginia wasn’t done giving the ball away. The Mountaineers coughed it up twice more in the second half. The first came on a premature shotgun snap that caught Clint Trickett by surprise, recovered by TCU’s Mike Tuaua at the WVU 33. Five straight runs, the last a two-yarder by Boykin, put TCU up with 9:27 to go in the third quarter.

West Virginia then went on a 14-0 run to reclaim its 13-point edge at 27-14 on a five-yard Dreamius Smith run, coming immediately after TCU had taken its first lead, and then one play after that as Terrell Chestnut ripped the ball from Josh Doctson‘s arms and raced 36 yards for a touchdown.

Facing at 3rd-and-9 at his own 35, Trickett threw his second interception of the day. Three plays later B.J. Catalon raced in from 23 yards to pull TCU within 27-21 as the third quarter came to a close.

Josh Lambert knocked in a 23-yard field goal, pushing the West Virginia lead to 30-21, but the Mountaineers’ offense completely collapsed from there. West Virginia did not gain a first down in the third quarter, actually moving backwards seven yards on its nine fourth-quarter snaps, giving TCU the opportunity it needed to mount the comeback.

Catalon scored from six-yards out with 7:33 to go, and had a great shot at his third touchdown of the day on a 4th-and-3 pass from Boykin, but West Virginia appeared to get away with a hold.

The Mountaineers immediately gave the ball back, and the Frogs moved 56 yards in seven plays to give Oberkrom a 37-yard field goal as time expired.

Since mutually joining the Big 12 in 2012, TCU has beaten West Virginia by one in double overtime and by one on a last-second field goal, while West Virginia won by three in overtime last season. The road team has won all three games.

Boykin kept his Heisman Trophy hopes alive only by winning this game, as he spent much of the afternoon looking like the 2013 version of himself. He completed only 12-of-30 passes for 166 yards with a touchdown and an interception while rushing nine times for 49 yards and a touchdown; take away the touchdown and he managed 4.1 yards per attempt on his 29 throws.

TCU mounted this comeback by shutting down All-America candidate Kevin White (three catches, 28 yards) with its own All-Conference candidate named Kevin White. The Frogs also moved to the run in the second half, pounding out 167 yards on 29 carries after halftime. Catalon did most of the work with 20 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns, while Aaron Green added 11 rushes for 65 yards.

The combination of Smith, Andrew Buie and Wendell Smallwood produced 176 yards on 39 carries, but could not get the necessary space with which to work as Trickett achieved only 162 passing yards on 26 attempts.

The win keeps TCU’s Big 12 and national championship hopes alive, setting up an absolutely massive game with No. 11 Kansas State on Saturday in Fort Worth.

West Virginia, meanwhile, must take solace in being college football’s most-accomplished three-loss team (losses to Alabama and Oklahoma before today, plus wins over Baylor and at Oklahoma State). They’ll visit Texas next week.

DL Jay Tufele, WR Tyler Vaughns skipping draft to stay at USC

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Clay Helton has a lot of issues to deal with at the moment. Having a talented USC football team is not one of them.

The Trojans received a rare bit of good news on Thursday evening as two key players announced they were skipping the 2020 NFL Draft. In back-to-back announcements, defensive lineman Jay Tufele and wideout Tyler Vaughns confirmed they would remain in Los Angeles for the 2020 season.

Tufele is one of USC’s best defensive players. He recorded 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season as a redshirt sophomore despite dealing with a handful of injuries. With leading sacker Drake Jackson also back, there’s a nice tandem up front for whoever the team hires as defensive coordinator to work with going forward.

Vaughns returning also makes a dangerous receiving corps that much deeper. Michael Pittman Jr. was lost to graduation but the next three top wideouts are set to be back in 2020. Add in a group of solid tailbacks and both J.T. Daniels and Kedon Slovis at QB and USC will once again have one of the top offenses in the Pac-12.

Whether it will all help save Helton’s job again remains to be seen. If nothing else though, there’s at least there’s some positive news for the cardinal and gold this offseason with Tufele and Vaughns back in the fold going forward.

Nebraska and OC Troy Walters “mutually agreed to part ways”

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A year after significantly falling short of expectations, an offseason of change has commenced at Nebraska.

In one of the first big moves since Scott Frost took over at his alma mater, the Cornhuskers and offensive coordinator Troy Walters announced on Friday that they had ‘mutually agreed to part ways.’

“Troy has been a valued member of our coaching staff for the past four years,” Frost said in a statement. “Troy is a good mentor for his players, provides great energy on and off the field, and carries himself with a presence off the field that will be missed. I want to thank him for his work on our coaching staff, and wish him and his family all the best going forward.”

The duo first came together when Frost was hired at UCF and led a number of prolific offenses, including the undefeated 2017 team for the Knights. Walters was a finalist for the Broyles Award that same season though has not called plays for either team.

Walters had a distinguished career as a player at Stanford that included All-American honors and a Biletnikoff Award in 1999. He spent several years in the NFL before going into coaching during stops at Texas A&M, N.C. State and Colorado.

The departure of Walters could interestingly lead to a reunion between Frost and a familiar name in Mark Helfrich. The latter was head coach at Oregon when Frost was elevated to offensive coordinator for the Ducks and is in search of a job after being let go by the Chicago Bears from a similar role.

Report: USC OC Graham Harrell interviewing for NFL job

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Clay Helton has been searching for a defensive coordinator the past several weeks and may need to expand his search to include an offensive coordinator as well.

According to a report out of Philadelphia, USC OC Graham Harrell has interviewed with the Eagles for a spot on Doug Pederson’s coaching staff in a similar role:

Harrell was retained this offseason amid plenty of fan fare (and money) in Los Angeles. He reportedly had interest from Texas in the same position on Tom Herman’s staff but a return to the Lone Star State was put off for a multi-year deal with the Trojans.

The former North Texas OC and Texas Tech quarterback oversaw one of the more impressive turnarounds in the country in 2019. Despite being forced to play true freshman Kedon Slovis at quarterback following J.T. Daniels injury, USC still added nearly a touchdown per game with the move to the Air Raid and rose from 91st in scoring offense to 35th.

This wouldn’t be the first time Helton and the Trojans will feel like the rug has been pulled out from under them by the NFL after a splashy move on offense. As many know, Kliff Kingsbury was on the job for a few weeks before moving on as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals last January. We’ll see if anything becomes of Harrell’s flirtation with the pros but there’s little doubt that this will not be the last time his name comes up for a bigger job going forward.

Nine from ’19: TE Thaddeus Moss joins LSU exodus for NFL Draft

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Thaddeus Moss is officially a one-and-done at LSU after declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft.

The star LSU tight end became the ninth underclassman for the national champions to leave campus for the pros this week. He made the announcement on social media in a letter thanking the fan base:

Moss played a pivotal role in the team’s record-setting offense in 2019. He caught 47 passes for 570 yards and had three of his four touchdowns come in the College Football Playoffs. That included a pair of scores in the title game, one of which doubled as the one that allowed QB Joe Burrow to set the FBS record for TD passes in a season.

The one-time North Carolina State transfer is no stranger to the pros either way. He’s the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss and will be part of an intriguing class of players at tight end this spring.

While it’s possible there will be an additional name or two that surfaces, Friday’s deadline for underclassmen to declare means Moss’ departure could be the last for LSU for the time being. Still, that’s a lot of talent to lose as Ed Orgeron embarks on an offseason full of changes right after reaching the top of the sport.