Houston stuns Pitt with 29-point fourth quarter

7 Comments

For the better part of 54 minutes of game time, this was my thought.  And my original lede:

That’s three hours of my life I’ll never get back.  Wait, did I just type that out loud?

Then the last six minutes of the game happened… and it totally redeemed itself.

In a game that at one point some could’ve use as the argument for there being too many bowl games, but will instead be viewed as the little brother of yesterday’s Michigan State-Baylor classic, Houston (7-6) roared back from a significant fourth-quarter deficit to rip a 35-34 win away from Pittsburgh in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.

The thing for Pitt, playing under an interim head coach, is that Houston, also with an interim coach, trailed 31-6 with just under 14 minutes remaining in the game.  And then, eight minutes later, all hell broke loose.

The Cougars, who looked as dead as the Spartans did in yesterday’s Cotton Bowl, mounted a furious comeback after going down 34-13 with just over six minutes remaining in the fourth on a Pitt field goal.  An eight-yard Greg Ward touchdown pass with 3:41 remaining cut the lead to 34-20.  After a successful onsides kick, another Ward touchdown pass, this one from 29 yards out, cut the lead to 34-27.

Unbelievably, a second consecutive onsides kick was successful, with another Ward touchdown pass subsequently pulling the Cougars to within one at 34-33 with :59 remaining.  Instead of going for the tie, UH went for two… and converted, with Ward hitting Deontay Greenberry to give themselves a 35-34 lead.

Pitt’s final, last-gasp drive stalled at the 50-yard line, handing UH the improbable victory.

After starting off with just 37 first-half passing yards, Ward finished the game 272 yards and the three touchdowns.  He had 92 yards rushing as well, and was named as the Player of the Game.

For the game, the Cougars had 487 yards of offense; incredibly, 294 of those yards came in that wild fourth quarter.

Quarterback Chad Voytik passed for 214 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort, and added 40 yards rushing for good measure.  James Conner, the nation’s fifth-leading rusher, ended the game with 90 yards on the ground after being bottled up the first half.

With Pitt’s loss, the ACC dropped to 4-7 this postseason.  That will be their final record as that conference’s bowl season is complete.  It’s also the second-worst Power Five mark, ahead of only the Big 12’s 1-4.

The AAC, meanwhile, evened out its mark at 2-2.  East Carolina will face Florida in the Birmingham Bowl Saturday, the conference’s lone remaining opportunity to improve on that mark.

Four-star 2017 DE Nathan Proctor leaving Virginia Tech

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If Nathan Proctor is to live up to his recruiting pedigree, he’ll be doing it somewhere other than Blacksburg.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday, Proctor announced that he has decided to transfer from Virginia Tech for unspecified reasons. The defensive lineman’s name is already listed in the NCAA transfer database, although he could decide to withdraw from the portal and return to the Hokies.

“Virginia [T]ech is an outstanding institution and has a great football program and I am very thankful to have called it my home the past two years,” Proctor wrote as part of his goodbye missive. “Thank you to all of the coaches that helped me along the way and all of my friends and family for the support.”

A four-star member of Tech’s 2017 recruiting class, Proctor was rated as the No. 10 outside linebacker in the country and the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Maryland. Only one signee in the Hokies’ class that year, defensive back Devon Hunter, was rated higher than Proctor.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Proctor played in eight games this past season and was credited with three tackles.

As for a potential landing spot? Three Virginia Tech players have already transferred to Maryland this offseason, and Proctor is from Maryland.

Two Georgia Tech players retire because of medical issues

Getty Images
Leave a comment

So much for the positives on the personnel front for Geoff Collins.

After seeing three transfers this month denied immediate-eligibility waivers, Georgia Tech confirmed this week it had officially added a transfer from Notre Dame. The same day, however, the football program also announced that two players, senior defensive lineman Brad Morgan (back) and redshirt freshman wide receiver Tija’i Whatley (unspecified), have both been forced to retire from the sport because of medical issues.

The sliver of a silver lining, though, is that the school stated both Morgan and Whatley will remain on scholarship — neither will count against the program’s 85-man limit, it should be noted — and involved with the team in non-playing capacities.

“I feel for both Brad and Tija’i,” the head football coach said in a statement. “It goes without saying that they will continue to be a part of the Georgia Tech football family and we’re looking forward to the contributions that they continue to make to our organization and the Institute.”

Morgan played in 28 games the past three seasons, starting three games at right guard this past season. This offseason, he moved from offensive to defensive line and was expected to be part of the Yellow Jackets’ rotation prior to being forced to walk away.

Whatley was a three-star 2018 signee who took a redshirt as a true freshman.

Nick Saban brings in Ray Rice to speak to Alabama players

Getty Images
3 Comments

If you’re trying to show your players how to avoid doing the wrong things, bringing in someone who did one of the most absolutely vile and abhorrent things — and is successfully turning his life around — is probably not the worst way to go about your business.

Already this offseason, Nick Saban has brought in Mike Tyson to speak to his Alabama football team.  On Thursday, Ray Rice was in Tuscaloosa as the Crimson Tide head coach’s “Title IX speaker” to touch on subjects such as domestic violence.

Then a member of the Baltimore Ravens, the former Rutgers running back was suspended by the NFL in 2014 after videos surfaced of Rice punching his then-fiancée Janay Palmer and dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator.  Initially suspended, Rice never played another down in the NFL because of an incident Kyle Flood, then the Scarlet Knights’ head coach and now an assistant coach at Alabama, described at the time as a sad day for RU football.

Rice, who is now married to Janay Palmer, has since turned into a motivational speaker of sorts, speaking in front of football players at programs such as Georgia (HERE) and Ohio State (HERE).

Prior to Rice’s latest appearance, Saban explained his reasoning for bringing Rice in.

Well, he’s obviously going to talk about how to treat the opposite sex and having the proper respect for other people,” Saban said when asked about Rice’s appearance. “And I think that’s important to relationships. It’s important as a person to be able to do those things in a very respectful manner.

I think a lot of the players can relate to (Rice’s) circumstance,” Saban said. “And it will be interesting to hear a guy that has had issues that now has turned a corner and has really done everything he can to help other people not have the same problem that he has. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him doing that and we’re certainly glad to have him here.

UTEP mourns passing of TE Luke Laufenberg, 21, after two-year battle with leukemia

Associated Press
2 Comments

For the second time this month, the insidiousness that is cancer has struck at the heart of college football.

Following a nearly two-year battle with leukemia, Luke Laufenberg passed away early Thursday morning, his father, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg, heartbreakingly revealed on Twitter. ” The hole in our hearts will never be filled,” Laufenberg wrote. “You are my hero. RIP my sweet Luke. See you on the other side.”

The younger Laufenberg had just signed with UTEP this past February as a tight end and was expected by many to win a starting job before his health began to fail again later on in the offseason.

Laufenberg actually began his collegiate career as a walk-on at Texas A&M. On the day after Christmas 2017, Laufenberg was diagnosed with leukemia; in May of the following year, he was declared cancer-free and, after the 230-pound player had regained the 90-plus pounds he had lost during chemotherapy, began his trek back to college football, first at a junior college in 2018 before signing with UTEP earlier this year.

By the summer, sadly, the disease had returned with a fatal ferocity, with doctors telling his family in July that “his condition was terminal and that he had just a few weeks left.”

Below is a statement from UTEP head coach Dana Dimel:

Luke Laufenberg touched our hearts and souls forever. His spirit and fight are reminders of what it means to play and coach the game of football. He was a fighter, a champion and a wonderful person. He was a very talented young man that lived his life and left a huge mark on everyone he came in contact with. He was a wonderful individual and will not be forgotten on our football team. Our student-athletes learned from how he prepared himself and the way he handled adversity. I know Luke loved playing football for UTEP and he will forever be a MINER!

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those affected by the young man’s way-too-early passing.­