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No. 1 Clemson punches Playoff ticket with ACC title win over No. 10 UNC

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With a 42-23 lead and 11:34 remaining, Clemson appeared cruising to the College Football Playoff. Ten minutes later, the Tigers had to recover an onside kick to survive a hard-charging North Carolina team. But survive they did, and a 45-37 win over the No. 10 Heels gives No. 1 Clemson its 15th ACC championship and sends the Tigers to their first College Football Playoff — likely as the No. 1 overall seed.

ACC Player of the Year Deshaun Watson made his case for a much larger award, hitting 26-of-42 passes for 289 yards with three touchdowns and one interception while rushing 24 times for 131 yards and two scores.

Clemson scored on three consecutive drives, marching 68, 97 and 36 yards, to turn a 16-14 second quarter deficit into a 35-16 third quarter lead.

Watson’s interception propelled North Carolina to its next score as Marquise Williams capped a 42-yard drive with a one-yard plunge, but the Tigers immediately responded with an 11-play, 80-yard drive, to seemingly put the game away with a 19-point advantage and 11 minutes to protect it.

But North Carolina scored 100 seconds later to pull within 42-30 and, after a Clemson field goal, slashed 49 yards in one minute to claw within 45-37 with 1:13 remaining and all three timeouts in their pocket. The Tar Heels recovered the ensuing onside kick but a phantom offsides call forced a re-kick. Clemson recovered the second kick after the ball touched a number of hands on both sides, and one more first down officially punched the Tigers’ ticket.

Clemson owned the line of scrimmage for the majority of the night, achieving 33 first downs and converting 9-of-18 third downs. The Tigers out-gained UNC 608-382 and held a 319-142 advantage on the ground. Wayne Gallman led all players with 187 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.

Williams completed 11-of-33 throws for 224 yards with three touchdowns and an interception while rushing 17 times for a team-high 81 yards with a touchdown and a fumble.

North Carolina opened the scoring with a field goal and grabbed a 9-7 first quarter lead on a 40-yard catch-and-run score from Williams to T.J. Logan.

Clemson led 14-9 in the second quarter when punter Andy Teasdall took off on a surprise fake punt on 4th-and-15 in his own territory. He was stopped 11 yards short, and Williams hit Ryan Switzer for a three-yard touchdown to put North Carolina back on top 16-14 with 3:52 remaining in the first half.

But Clemson drove 68 yards for a touchdown with just two seconds remaining in the first half, reclaiming a lead it would not relinquish.

Florida to host Florida Atlantic in 2021

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Florida will host Florida Atlantic in 2021, FAU announced Tuesday. The game will take place on Sept. 4 and serve as the season-opener for both schools.

The schools have met three times previously, all of them in Gainesville. Florida won 59-20 on Nov. 17, 2007, 41-3 on Sept. 3, 2011, and 20-14 on Nov. 21, 2015.

The game will round out both schools’ non-conference schedules.

Florida will visit USF on Sept. 11, host Florida State on Nov. 27 and has a TBD home game against Samford, most likely on Nov. 20.

Today’s news means Florida has a future game on the schedule with every FBS program in the Sunshine State except UCF and Florida International. Florida beat Miami in Orlando to open this season and will play a home-and-home with the ‘Canes in 2024-25.

Florida Atlantic will follow its Gainesville trip with an excursion to Colorado Springs to play Air Force. After that, the Owls will host Fordham and Georgia Southern to round out September.

 

With Husky mascot retiring in 2021, Northern Illinois to introduce successor on Tuesday

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Northern Illinois’ husky mascot, Mission, is retiring in 2021, and on Tuesday the school will introduce his successor.

Mission II, born on July 6 and weighing a tender 14.5 ounces, will replace Mission two years from now, and the puppy will begin his official duties as NIU’s next official mascot on Tuesday.

“We have long been searching for the heir apparent to Mission, and there is no question that we have found the right Huskie,” NIU Alumni Association Executive Director Reggie Bustinza said. “Mission has set very high expectations, but there is no doubt in my mind that Mission II cannot only meet those demands, but surpass them.

“We are happy that Mission will have plenty of years to enjoy his retirement.”

Mission will turn 10 years old in 2021, and by that time Mission II will be fully versed in all the expectations placed upon the Official Northern Illinois Husky.

Mission II, a Siberian husky born in southern Wisconsin, will accompany Mission “to all eligible events for experiential learning and proofing,” which begins at a tasting for an NIU-branded beer on Tuesday evening in DeKalb.

The school has not revealed when Mission II will make his debut at a Husky football game, and in the meantime he’ll continue training with Lisa Boland while also attending daily puppy classes.

“I’m most looking forward to seeing Mission and Mission II do the job together during the training period,” Boland said. “It will be wonderful to watch ‘Mini-Mish’ learn from Mission, and see them work as a team. Mission has set a very high bar in mascotting, and Mission II will be working very hard to follow in his footsteps. I am so proud of Mission and the work that he’s done as the official NIU mascot.

“I am thrilled to have the privilege of guiding his successor to best represent Huskie Nation.”

Troy loses RB B.J. Smith, SBC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, to season-ending injury

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This one will certainly leave a lasting mark.

Over the summer, Troy’s B.J. Smith was named as the Sun Belt Conference’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.  Two months later, the football program confirmed, the running back will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2019 season because of an injury sustained in the Week 3 loss to Southern Miss.

While the specific nature of the injury wasn’t divulged by the school, it’s believed Smith injured his knee midway through the second quarter of last Saturday’s game.

Last season, Smith led the Trojans with 1,186 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.  This season, the fourth-year senior had rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in two games.

Because of the timing of the injury, Smith can take a redshirt for the 2019 season and return to the Trojans next season.

Texas LB Caleb Johnson enters transfer portal

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Sitting at the quarter-pole of the 2019 regular season, and Texas is the latest FBS program to feel the pain of the portal.

Joe Cook of InsideTexas.com was the first to report that Caleb Johnson has placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  247Sports.com subsequently confirmed the initial report, writing that the junior linebacker “feels he has not fit in well since he arrived at Texas.”

247Sports provided further details as to the events leading up to Johnson’s decision.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Johnson met with the staff Monday morning to inform them of his intentions to enter the transfer portal. While the staff requested he think more about his decision, Johnson decided to enter his name into he NCAA Transfer Portal, and is listed in the portal as of Tuesday morning.

Johnson joined the Longhorns from the junior college level, enrolling early and taking part in spring practice this past offseason.  He was a three-star 2019 signee who was rated as the No. 3 JUCO outside linebacker in this past year’s class.

Through three games, Johnson hadn’t yet taken the field for the Big 12 program.