Mich. St. stuns Baylor with B1G 4th-quarter comeback, wins Cotton Bowl

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For the first 10 minutes or so of the game, it looked like Michigan State had a chance against Baylor.  Over the next 35 minutes, they looked like they never really stood much of a chance.  The last 15 minutes?  Sparty Hell Yes!

In an unbelievable turn of events, No. 8 Michigan State (11-2) overcame a 20-point deficit entering the fourth to stun No. 5 Baylor (11-2) 42-41 in the 79th annual Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic that was just that: a classic.  What improbably was the game-winner came with just 11 ticks left on the clock to complete the stunning fourth-quarter turnaround.

Connor Cook was hit and miss all afternoon, completing 24-of-42 passes for 324 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.  He gutted it out, though, right until the dramatic end after entering the final 15 minutes on the wrong end of a 41-21 score.

The second of Cook’s picks was actually returned for a touchdown that would’ve given the Bears a 48-28 lead with just over 11 minutes remaining and seemingly sealed a blowout win for BU, but was instead called back because of a block in the back.  That would prove to be the first significant turning point in the comeback as, six plays later, the Bears gave the ball back to the Spartans on downs, and MSU promptly drove down the field and scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 41-35 with 4:55 remaining.

A blocked field goal attempt and return to the MSU 45 with just over a minute remaining — after a lengthy Bear reception had originally given them the ball inside the five but was pushed back because of an offensive face mask penalty — gave Sparty one final shot.  A Cook 28-yard completion got the Spartans to the 27-yard line and then, on fourth down, a 17-yard completion left the offense with a first and goal with 30 or so seconds remaining.  Then, with :11 remaining, Cook hit Keith Mumphery on a 10-yard touchdown pass for what proved to be the game-winning score.

Baylor had one last slim chance, but a Bryce Petty interception officially sealed the stunning loss for the Bears, which was the beneficiary of its own huge fourth-quarter comeback against TCU earlier this season.

Petty, though, was a significant part of the reason the Bears were in the College Football Playoff discussion all season long, and was the majority reason for what was looking early on like a win today.  Petty, a senior playing in his last game at the collegiate level, passed for a Cotton Bowl-record 557 yards and three touchdowns.  It was the last of that trio of touchdowns, though, that was the play of the game from my perspective as it went to 390-pound Laquan McGowan.  Again, a man who weighs 390 pounds — and that’s a listed weight that seems to err on the side of caution as his official bio calls him an “[e]normous fourth-year junior offensive lineman — scored on a touchdown reception.

That’s beautiful.  I wept.

All told, the Bears totaled 583 yards of offense, and did that despite the fact that they ran for minus-20 yards on 22 rush attempts.  Their 602 yards passing as a team set a school record.  BU had a pair of receivers catch more than 100 yards in passes as KD Cannon, a freshman who will be one of the favorites for the Biletnikoff Award in 2015, had 197 yards on eight receptions and Corey Coleman went seven for 150.

Jeremy Langford was also a significant bright spot for MSU as he ran for 162 yards and three touchdowns.  This was Langford’s 10th straight 100-yards game after failing to break that plateau in the season’s first three games.

MSU’s two losses this season, incidentally, came to teams that are currently ranked second (Oregon, 46-27) and fourth (Ohio State, 49-37).

After losing its first three games of the postseason, the Big 12 is now 1-4 in bowl games in 2014-15.  Including an overtime win by Wisconsin and loss by Minnesota New Year’s Day — both against SEC squads — the Big Ten is suddenly very respectable 4-4 mark.  The latter conference still has a significant shot at further redemption for the league as No. 4 Ohio State takes on top-ranked Alabama in a Sugar Bowl matchup that doubles as the last of two College Football Playoff semifinals.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add this:

Ohio State 49, Michigan State 37.
Baylor 61, TCU 58.
Michigan State 42, Baylor 41.

Therefore, Ohio State > Michigan State > Baylor > TCU.  Do with that what you will.

So, why wasn’t Ohio State’s Ryan Day part of the Dodd Trophy’s midseason watch list?

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At first blush, it was quite the head-scratcher.

Thursday afternoon, the Dodd Trophy released its midseason watch list, which consisted of 22 head coaches from seven different FBS conferences as well as a football independent. The most notable omission? Ohio State’s Ryan Day.

Not only did Day have the unenviable task of replacing a living coaching legend in Urban Meyer, but the first-year coach was forced to backfill myriad talent lost to the NFL on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Dwayne Haskins and havoc-wreaking defensive lineman Nick Bosa.

Despite that, Day has the third-ranked Buckeyes sitting at a perfect 6-0 coming off a bye weekend and heading into Friday night’s road trip to Evanston for a date with Northwestern. So, why no Dodd love?

As it turns out, it’s nothing nefarious. At all.

From the fine folks at the Dodd Trophy:

Considering The Dodd Trophy represents more than just a coach’s performance on the field, a coach in his first year, who has not had a full season to establish his own impact on APR and the local community, is not eligible to win.

As for those who are eligible?  See the award’s tweet below.

BYU starting QB vs. Boise State to be game-time decision

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Last week, Jaren Hall became the first black quarterback to start a game at BYU.  Whether he becomes the first black quarterback at the university to start two games remains up in the air.

In the fourth quarter of the Week 7 loss to South Florida, Hall was knocked out of the game with concussion-like symptoms.  There was some encouraging news on that front midweek, though, as Hall returned to full practice on Wednesday.

Despite that, it will likely be a game-time decision as to whether Hall, who himself replaced Zach Wilson after the season-opening starter underwent thumb surgery, will be available for the Boise State game Saturday night.  One hint that it could be Hall again?  Passing-game coordinator Aaron Roderick acknowledged that Hall took the most first-team reps of any of the Cougars quarterbacks during that Wednesday practice.

If Hall is ultimately unable to go, freshman Baylor Romney would very likely get the starting nod.  In replacing the injured Hall against the Bulls, Romney completed 6-of-10 passes for 73 yards on a couple of fourth-quarter drives.

Current No. 3 Joe Critchlow would then serve as Romney’s backup in such a scenario.

Kansas State’s Kenyon Reed leaps headfirst into the portal

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It’s been a couple of days since we’ve kicked off a morning with a portal post, so we were due.

Speculation was swirling over the past couple of days that Kenyon Reed was considering a transfer from Kansas State.  Thursday, defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton confirmed to 247Sports.com and others that the defensive back has made his way into the NCAA transfer database.

According to the coordinator, he became aware of the impending departure the day before, although he wasn’t quite clear in the details surrounding the player’s decision.  To further buttress the coordinator’s confirmation, Reed’s official bio is no longer a valid link.

Reed was a three-star member of the Wildcats’ 2019 recruiting class.  The California high schooler surprised most observers by signing with K-State over UCLA earlier this year.

As Reed didn’t play a down this year, he can take a redshirt for the 2019 season.

UCLA thumps Stanford to break 11-game losing streak to in-state rivals

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UCLA has proven to a bad football team this season. On Thursday night though, we found out Stanford was worse.

The Bruins dominated their in-state rivals 34-16 to snap an 11-game losing streak and notch their second victory of the season in yet another case of a puzzling performance from both sides out of Pac-12 territory.

A lot of the effort — or lack thereof — on account of the Cardinal can be explained by their offense looking very much like one starting a walk-on third string quarterback for the first time. Jack West completed just 15 passes for 143 yards and had trouble seemingly every dropback behind an even more makeshift offensive line (seven sacks allowed). Running the ball was out of the question against a predictably stacked box and the team averaged just 1.8 yards per rush anyway.

All told, Stanford converted just three third downs all game and mustered only 198 yards total as they were booed off the field a few times by the sparse crowd in attendance. Kicker Jet Toner was also injured in the first quarter and the only other non-garbage time touchdown came off a blocked punt.

As bad as things were for the home side, they went equally well for a UCLA team that scored on their first drive and were in complete control of the game for the first time since Chip Kelly took over the program. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson was electric with his arm (192 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) and legs (66 yards, 1 TD) while Joshua Kelley notched 176 yards on the ground with a score of his own.

In the process of stealing Stanford’s soul, the Bruins managed to end a long losing streak to their rivals in the Bay, winning on the Farm for the first time since the Karl Dorrell era in Westwood and first time overall since 2008. Coincidentally, that latter year was the last time the Cardinal missed a bowl game or won fewer than eight games — a streak that very much appears to be ending in 2019 unless the team invents a time machine in the next week or runs the table the rest of the regular season.

Make no bones about it, this was a very ugly and hard to watch rock fight between two bad teams that not even #Pac12AfterDark juju could save.

It remains to be seen just where these two programs go from here but at least on Thursday night, Kelly was able to overcome an old adversary and put an end to a streak many at his school thought would go on for a while. It didn’t however as UCLA can celebrate on their way back to Southern California while David Shaw‘s team will have a few extra days to contemplate just what kind of team they are this season.