South Carolina special teams block Florida’s chance to become bowl eligible

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Florida (5-4, 4-4 SEC) looked to have this game as close to being in the bag as either team may have been able to do on Saturday afternoon. After digging a 10-0 hole in the first quarter, Florida rallied with 17 straight points and held a 17-10 lead in the fourth quarter. But the South Carolina (5-5, 3-5 SEC) special teams pulled through with two huge blocks to give the Gamecocks enough life to tie things up late and force overtime. Then, in the overtime, South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson took it himself for a four-yard touchdown run for a 23-20 victory.

Florida had its chances to put this game away in the fourth quarter despite having another sluggish afternoon on offense, but the Gators could not finish things off in the fourth quarter. Florida’s fourth quarter possessions resulted in a three-and-out, a blocked field goal and a blocked punt. The Gators drove to the South Carolina 15-yard line but ended the drive with the Gamecocks blocking a 32-yard field goal try by Francisco Velez. South Carolina took over at their 41-yard line as a result but were unable to score points off the drive. Florida’s next possession was another three-and-out, this time with a punt blocked at the Florida 38-yard line.

Following the blocked punt, Thompson went straight to the air for a 27-yard gain to Mike Davis and a few plays later Davis was in the end zone, in part because Florida had been called for a pass interference in the end zone.

Florida had to settle for a field goal on the first possession of overtime, and South Carolina opted to simply keep things on the ground with Davis. It worked effectively with four straight runs to the Florida 11-yard line. South Carolina was on the four-yard line two plays later with a first and goal, at which time Thompson took care of things himself by running into the end zone for the win.

Florida ended the day with just three of 14 third-down conversions and 278 yards of offense. Gators quarterback Treon Haris attempted just 11 passes all afternoon, completing five for 60 yards and a touchdown late in the first half. Haris also led the Gators with 111 rushing yards. South Carolina was only marginally better on offense. South Carolina converted eight of 17 third downs for first downs but managed just 301 yards of offense and went 0-for-3 on fourth down attempts.

Florida will host Eastern Kentucky, an FCS program, next weekend in Gainesville for the final home game of the season. The following week Florida will wrap up the regular season on the road against Florida State. Florida is now done with SEC play, with a conference record of 4-4 this season, highlighted by a win over Georgia. After letting this game slip away, the talks about making a coaching change from Will Muschamp could heat up again after it looked as though he would manage to silence that idea for at least one more year. It has reached a point where even a win against Florida State might not be enough.

Florida can still play in a bowl game though. If the Gators win next weekend against Eastern Kentucky (and they should, although Eastern Kentucky is 8-2 after winning today against Murray State, so who knows), Florida will be eligible for postseason play. The last thing Florida will want is to have to clinch bowl eligibility against Florida State.

South Carolina also wrapped up SEC play this afternoon. The Gamecocks ended their season with a record in SEC play of just 3-5, a far cry from preseason expectations. South Carolina did record wins against Georgia and Florida, and that is usually a very good sign but other pieces just never fell into place for the Gamecocks, starting with a week one loss at home to Texas A&M. Next week South Carolina will host South Alabama from the Sun Belt Conference for the regular season home finale. The following week South Carolina travels to Clemson for the annual rivalry game against their instate ACC rival. South Carolina must win one of the next two games left on the schedule in order to become eligible to play in a bowl game. South Carolina has played in a bowl game every season since 2008 under Steve Spurrier.

LSU students will go to class on Saturday to make up for national title game

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LSU students who got to skip class for the national title game (and the ensuing celebrations…) were hit with a dose of reality returning to Baton Rouge on Friday.

According to an announcement from the university, classes that were cancelled on Monday and Tuesday for the championship game have been rescheduled. As a result, students will have to go to class on Saturday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 8.

So yes, Saturdays in the fall have resulted in a few Saturdays of work in the spring.

The school had received a bit of criticism when it was announced that classes were cancelled on the dates surrounding the championship game. While the practice has happened elsewhere, the nature of the game being less than an hour from campus in New Orleans certainly made things unique for the Tigers and their large fan base.

While some students no doubt had hoped that the classes at the time were indeed cancelled, it turns out they were in fact just being rescheduled. Going to school on a Saturday probably isn’t what many had in mind when signing up for the spring semester but there’s probably not a soul in purple and gold will take issue with the change given that it comes as a result of hoisting the ultimate football trophy on Monday night in the Big Easy.

Virginia safety Chris Moore enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal has claimed another name.

As first noted by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Virginia safety Chris Moore has entered his name into the database as he explores a move out of Charlottesville.

Moore started five of his nine appearances for the Cavaliers in 2019 and wound up recording 42 tackles. While he was in line to become one of the key members in the secondary going forward, a prior  suspension for violating team rules back in November may have wound up playing a role in his departure and standing with the team.

The safety had previously missed all of the 2018 season with an injury as well.

Moore was originally a three-star recruit out of Ashburn, Va. in 2016 and, assuming the redshirt senior has a degree, likely has a season remaining as a grad transfer.

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.