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No. 22 Ole Miss keeps SEC title hopes afloat by flattening No. 15 LSU

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No. 22 Ole Miss kept the faint hopes of its first SEC championship since 1963 alive with a 38-17 whipping of No. 15 LSU Saturday in Oxford.

After leading 3-0 after one, the Rebels jumped out to a 24-0 second quarter lead thanks to touchdown marches that totaled 150 yards and a one-play, 11-yard strike set up by a long interception return of Brandon Harris.

LSU, though, pulled within 24-17 from the close of the second quarter through the first five minutes of the third, but Ole Miss immediately responded with a seven-play, 83-yard drive capped by a Chad Kelly touchdown run, then put the capper on the game with a six-play, 57-yard push punctuated by a 36-yard Kelly pass to Evan Engram.

The win meant Hugh Freeze became the first coach since Houston Nutt to beat LSU, Alabama and Auburn in the same season. For what it’s worth: that 1998 Arkansas team did not play for that December’s SEC championship.

Kelly completed 19-of-33 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns (with no interceptions) and led the Rebels in rushing with 81 yards and two scores on 12 carries. Kelly passed Eli Manning for the Ole Miss single-season touchdowns record on an 11-yard touchdown run with 7:34 in the third quarter.

Robert Nkemdiche participated for ill older brother Denzel in Ole Miss’s senior day festivities, which was fitting considering it was likely his final appearance at Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium as well.

The Rebels (8-3, 5-2 SEC) need a win at Mississippi State Saturday paired with an Auburn upset of No. 2 Alabama. The Iron Bowl kicks before the Egg Bowl, meaning Ole Miss will know whether it plays for a championship or for pride by kickoff.

Now, about LSU.

The Tigers, No. 2 in the country just two weeks ago today, will likely find themselves outside the rankings tomorrow after losing their third straight in ugly fashion; LSU (7-3, 4-3 SEC) has now lost consecutive games to Alabama, Arkansas and these Rebels by a combined 99-47. In each loss LSU has allowed 30 or more and scored 17 or fewer.

A team reportedly playing for its head coach’s job played like it’d just as well return to Baton Rouge and help pack Les Miles‘ bags.

Harris was awful, completing 22-of-44 passes for 284 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He overthrew a wide-open Malachi Dupre when the Bayou Bengals had a chance to grab a 7-3 lead, tossed an interception to help push the deficit to 24 and, finally, blew the Tigers’ final chance to claw back in the game in the fourth quarter when a miscommunication with Leonard Fournette led to a turnover on downs at the Ole Miss goal line.

Speaking of Fournette, the one-time Heisman leader was quiet as a sedated bengal, rushing 25 times for 110 yards and no scores. After rushing for 16 touchdown in his first seven games, Fournette has totaled only two during LSU’s three-game skid.

The loss marks Miles’ first three-game losing streak in 11 seasons and 142 games on the job and means his Tigers will finish with at least three SEC losses for the third consecutive season.

LSU will fight for what’s left of their season – and the Les Miles era – next Saturday in Tiger Stadium against Texas A&M.

Third NC State football player this month hits the portal

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Who does this NC State football team think it is, Clemson?

Citing an unnamed source, 247Sports.com has reported that defensive lineman Joseph Boletepeli (pictured, No. 99) has entered the NCAA transfer database.  The website did note that “Boletepeli is still on the active roster for the Wolfpack and can still return to the program despite entering the portal.”

No specific reason for the decision was given, although playing time certainly played a role.

A three-star member of the Class of 2018 for NC State football, Boletepeli was rated as the No. 27 player regardless of position in the state of North Carolina.  During his two seasons with the Wolfpack, Boletepeli played in seven games.  Four of those appearances came this past season.

Boletepeli started the first two games of his true freshman campaign.  This season, Boletepeli was a No. 2 defensive end who ultimately dropped further down on the depth chart.

Barring something unexpected, Boletepeli will have to sit out the 2020 season if he moves on to another FBS school.  That would then leave him with two years of eligibility he could begin using in 2021.

Boletepeli is the third NC State football player to enter the portal this month.  Jan. 7, linebacker Brock Miller announced on Twitter that he was leaving as a graduate transfer.  A week later, defensive end Jeffrey Gunter was reported to be making the same move.

Over the weekend, Miller announced that he would be transferring to Boise State.

Southern Miss co-DC Derek Nicholson moves on to Louisville

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A familiar face has returned to the Louisville football coaching family.

In a release, Louisville announced that ACC Coach of the Year Scott Satterfield has hired Derek Nicholson to his staff as inside linebackers coach.  Nicholson will take over the void left by Dale Jones‘ departure for the defensive coordinator job at Appalachian State.

“Derek has an infectious personality that will blend well within our staff,” the Louisville football head coach said in a statement. “He will bring great energy to our program and is an excellent recruiter. He has shown that he’s a great teacher of defensive football and will be a great addition to our defensive staff.”

This will be Nicholson’s second stint with the Louisville football team.  In 2014, Nicholson coached the Cardinals’ outside linebackers and defensive ends.

In between his time at the UofL, Nicholson spent four years at Southern Miss.  The first two he coached the defensive line.  He was the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach the past two seasons.

Nicholson played his college football at Florida State.

“I’d like to thank Scott Satterfield, Bryan Brown, Cort Dennison and the rest of the Louisville football program for this amazing opportunity,” Nicholson said. “My family and I are extremely excited to be back at Louisville and in the Atlantic Coast Conference. I look forward to working with the coaching staff and coaching the inside linebackers. There is something special is brewing in Louisville and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

Marshall WR Obi Obialo makes way into the portal

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One of the best names in the sport, and a Marshall Thundering Herd football player to boot, is the latest to hit the portal.

Over the weekend, Obi Obialo announced on his personal Twitter account that he has decided to place his name into the NCAA transfer database.  The move is normally the first step in a departure, although the wide receiver could always return to the Marshall Thundering Herd football team.

“I want to thank all of the coaches and staff at Marshall for the opportunity to grow into the person and player I am today,” Obialo wrote.

Obialo also confirmed in the same post that he will be leaving the Herd as a graduate transfer.  The 2020 season will serve as his final season of collegiate eligibility.

Obialo actually began his playing career at Oklahoma State as a three-star 2016 signee who was originally a walk-on.  In May of 2017, Obialo opted to transfer from OSU.  A month later, he moved on to Marshall.

In 2017 and 2018, Obialo started 16 games for the Thundering Herd, including all 13 in the latter season.  In that 2018 season, Obialo was second on the team in receptions (42), receiving yards (505) and receiving touchdowns (four).

A foot injury sidelined Obialo for all but one game this past season.  In that limited action, he caught 18 passes for 244 yards.

Because he played in just the four games, that will allow Obialo to take a redshirt for the 2019 season.  The move also preserved a year of eligibility that he will presumably use elsewhere.

Maryland hires George Helow to Mike Locksley’s staff

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The lone hole on Mike Locksley‘s Maryland Terrapins football staff has been filled.

In late December, John Papuchis left the Maryland Terrapins football program to take a job with Mike Norvell at Florida State.  Exactly four weeks later, Locksley has landed Papuchis’ replacement, with the addition of George Helow officially announced by the school.

Helow will serve as Maryland’s special teams coordinator.  He’ll also coach the Terps’ inside linebackers.

Helow spent the past four seasons at Colorado State.  The first two were as a defensive quality control coach and graduate assistant.  The last two were spent as safeties coach.

The 2018-19 seasons were Helow’s first as an on-field assistant at the collegiate level.

In addition to the Mountain West Conference school, he has also been a football staffer at:

  • Georgia, defensive quality control assistant (2014-15)
  • Florida State, defensive graduate assistant (2013)
  • Alabama, defensive intern (2012)

Helow played his college football at Ole Miss from 2006-10.  Most of his action during his 38 games played came on special teams.