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.

Tennessee officially announces addition of USC transfer WR Velus Jones

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The newest member of the Tennessee Vols football team is officially onboard.

Earlier this month, Velus Jones announced on social media that he would be transferring from USC to Tennessee. Two weeks later, the Tennessee Vols football program confirmed the wide receiver’s addition to the roster.

The move continues what’s been a winding, twisting collegiate journey for Jones.

Originally committed to Alabama, Jones flipped to USC… then to Oklahoma… then back to USC before ultimately signing with the Trojans in 2016. In March of 2019, Jones placed his name into the NCAA transfer database. Three months later, however, Jones reversed course and remained with the Trojans.

Jones, a three-star 2016 signee coming out of high school in Alabama, was fourth on the Trojans in receptions (24) and receiving yards (266) as a redshirt sophomore in 2018. He also led the team with a 22.7 yards per kick return average. A year later, though, that production dropped to just 35 yards on six receptions.

For his career thus far, Jones has totaled 347 yards and a touchdown on his 36 catches.  He also scored a rushing touchdown in 2018.  On 82 kick returns spread out over three seasons, he averaged 23.7 per.

As a graduate transfer, Jones will be eligible to play for the Vols in 2020.  The upcoming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.

Auburn announces new three-year deal for DC Kevin Steele

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When it comes to the defensive side of the ball, the Auburn Tigers football program has ensured some continued coaching continuity.  At least for now.

Earlier Wednesday, Auburn announced that defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has agreed to a new three-year contract.  The new deal would keep Steele on The Plains through the 2022 season.

The financial particulars of the new pact have not yet been released.  In 2019, the 61-year-old Steele took in $1.9 million in total pay according to USA Today‘s coaching salary database.  That figure placed him third in the SEC and fourth nationally.

“Kevin has done a fantastic job with our defense the last four years making it one of the best in the country,” Auburn Tigers football head coach Gus Malzahn said in a statement. “This will provide great stability and leadership for our defense in the future. I’m appreciative of Kevin’s hard work.”

In December of 2015, Steele was hired as Auburn’s defensive coordinator.  Prior to that, he held the same job at LSU.

From the school’s release:

During Steele’s tenure as defensive coordinator the last four years, Auburn’s defense has ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense. Auburn is one of only five FBS programs to hold opponents under 20 points per game in each of the last four seasons.

This past season, Auburn was sixth in the SEC and 17th nationally in giving up 19.5 points per game.  In total defense, the Tigers were seventh in the conference and 28th in the country as they allowed 337 yards per game.

Five Virginia Tech players, including three WRs, enter transfer portal in one day

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When it comes to the portal world, the Virginia Tech football program won the day.  Congrats?

As of this posting, three Virginia Tech football players announced on Twitter Wednesday that they have entered the NCAA transfer database.  Two of those entries are wide receivers — redshirt junior Hezekiah Grimsley (HERE) and true freshman Jacoby Pinckney (HERE) — to go along with running back Caleb Steward (HERE).

On top of that social-media attrition, it has been confirmed that yet another receiver, redshirt junior Phil Patterson, is in the portal.  As is defensive back Khalil Ladler, bringing the one-day total of Virginia Tech football players considering a transfer to five.

Five.  In one day.  The same day the program began winter workouts, it should be noted.

The trio of receivers in the portal actually pushes that group to four overall.  Earlier this month, Damon Hazelton signaled his intention to leave Blacksburg as well.

As for the recently-departed receiving corps particulars:

  • Grimsley — 53 career catches for 691 yards, three touchdowns. Stat line of 10-170-2 in 2019.
  • Patterson — 27 career catches for 269 yards, two touchdowns. Sta line of 6-72-1 in 2019.
  • Pinckney — Four-star 2019 signee who took a redshirt as a true freshman.  He was the No. 3 player regardless of position in the state of South Carolina.

As a redshirt freshman this past season, Steward ran for 85 yards on 19 carries.  Coming out of high school, Steward was a three-star 2018 signee.  He was rated as the No. 74 running back in the country and the No. 196 player at any position in the state of Florida.

A redshirt junior, Ladler played in 13 games each of the past three seasons.  During his time with the Hokies, the Georgia native was credited with 96 tackles, 6½ tackles for loss, five pass breakups, five passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumbles recovered.

Boise State, Mountain West release joint statement

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The developing situation between Boise State and the Mountain West Conference has taken yet another twist.

Earlier this month, the MWC announced a new six-year television deal that would significantly increase the annual revenue for league members.  The only problem?  MWC commissioner Craig Thompson stated earlier this month that Boise State’s sweetheart arrangement that allowed it to receive broadcast revenue above and beyond what other league members receive — originally part of a deal to remain in the conference after briefly going to the Big East during realignment’s heyday — would be coming to an end when this new deal expired.

That was apparently news to Boise State, which stated Tuesday that the university was “weighing our options to move forward.” One of those options, apparently, was the legal one as it was reported earlier Wednesday that Boise State filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the MWC.

Two hours or so after those reports emerged, a “joint statement” from Boise State and the Mountain West addressed the latest development.

Last week, Boise State filed a complaint regarding media rights against the Mountain West Conference; however, that action alone does not formally begin a lawsuit. The University and the Mountain West are currently in discussions in hopes of bringing this matter to a resolution without litigation.

In the agreement that allowed Boise State to return to the MWC after the Big East flirtation, the university was to receive an additional $2 million in conference revenue annually.