Rakeem Cato’s late heroics leads Marshall to Conference USA title

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A week after their big bowl dreams appeared to go up in flames with an offensive shootout and overtime loss at home to Western Kentucky, Marshall may still be in the mix.

Marshall (12-1, 7-1 Conference USA) needed its star quarterback to make a play, and Rakeem Cato delivered.  On second and goal from the Louisiana Tech (8-5, 7-1 Conference USA) five-yard line, Cato completed a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to Deon-Tay McManus for a go-ahead touchdown with just under two minutes to play. After securing its first lead of the afternoon, the defense went to work and Evan McKelvey picked off a pass from Cody Sokol on Louisiana Tech’s first play on the ensuing possession, thus wrapping up the win for the Conference USA championship. Marshall erased the pain of last year’s Conference USA championship game loss to Rice with a gutsy 26-23 victory in this year’s title game. Now, Marshall awaits its bowl fate.

It was far from a pretty performance by Marshall, playing at home, but the end result was all that truly mattered most. Cato was not particularly accurate at times, but he ended the day with 308 passing yards and two touchdowns to overcome a sluggish start and an interception. Offense tends to be the story for Marshall, but it was the defense that kept the game within reach for its offense and it was the defense that made some key plays. Marshall had four turnovers in the game, but the defense stood tall often enough.Louisiana Tech jumped out to a 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter, but the visiting Bulldogs scored just one other time in the game, late in the third quarter with

Louisiana Tech jumped out to a 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter, but the visiting Bulldogs scored just one other time in the game, late in the third quarter with Kenneth Dixon’s third touchdown of the game. Dixon was the only Louisiana Tech to contribute on offense, and he nearly carried the team to victory with 156 yards and three touchdowns. The rest of the team managed to add just 112 yards of offense against Marshall.

Marshall is now eligible for consideration in the College Football Playoff selection committee’s process to determine which Group of Five conference champion may be invited to a New Years Six Bowl. Boise State appears to be in the best position, and a win in the Mountain West Conference will likely wrap up that big bowl spot tonight. But if the Broncos stumble, the bowl invite could be there for 12-1 Marshall. Other teams in the running are Northern Illinois (won the MAC championship Friday night), Memphis, UCF and Cincinnati. The three AAC schools ended the year with a share of the conference title.

If Marshall is not chosen to play in the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or Peach Bowl, then it will be likely the Thundering Herd are sent to either the Bahamas Bowl or Boca Raton Bowl or the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl may also be an option. Louisiana Tech should also expect to play in one of those three bowl games as well. Bowl arrangements will be finalized on Sunday.

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.