AP Photo

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

23 Comments

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.

Alabama: Tua Tagovailoa to undergo hip surgery Monday in Houston

8 Comments

There’s some additional clarity to what was the biggest college football storyline in Week 12 — or the entire 2019 season, for that matter.

After hours and hours worth of ofttimes ominous speculation, Alabama announced Saturday night that Tua Tagovailoa had been diagnosed with a dislocated right hip, an injury suffered in the first half of its rout of Mississippi State, and would miss the remainder of the 2019 season. At the time, the school stated that Tagovailoa “is undergoing further testing to determine the best course of treatment.”

Sunday night, the football program confirmed in a statement attributed to Dr. Lyle Cain, the team’s orthopedic surgeon, that the junior quarterback will undergo surgery on his injured hip in Houston Monday.

For the past 24 hours our medical team has consulted with multiple orthopedic experts across the country, who specialize in hip injuries and surgeries. Based on that research, Tua is being flown to Houston tonight to be evaluated and is scheduled to have hip surgery Monday. As previously stated, we anticipate a full recovery. The main focus has been, and will remain, on Tua, his family, and making sure we are providing them the best medical care possible.

It’s long been expected that Tagovailoa would forego his remaining year of collegiate eligibility and make himself available for the 2020 NFL Draft. At this point, it’s unclear how the injury will impact Tagovailoa’s decision.

Ed Orgeron did not stick to sports in Louisiana governor race

Getty Images
10 Comments

There were two major events on Saturday in the state of Louisiana: LSU’s closer than expected win at Ole Miss and the hotly contested gubernatorial race that saw incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards win reelection.

And yes, those events are in order of importance to most.

It seems there’s quite the sports angle to the latter too and it not surprisingly involves the former. You can start on Wednesday where Edwards, calling himself ‘John B.’ from Amite, called into Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron’s weekly radio show ahead of the polls opening over the weekend.

“It is an easier state to govern when the Saints and LSU are winning,” Edwards also told the New York Times. “People are just in a better mood.”

While we will leave the political analysis of Edwards’ victory to others, it’s worth noting that the result was also a personal win for Orgeron, who endorsed the Democrat back in the spring and has enjoyed a good relationship with those in and around the statehouse ever since taking over the program as head coach.  It is pretty rare for a head coach to ever wander into political waters nowadays (especially in a non-presidential election cycle) it seems that’s not the case for the Louisiana-loving Cajun in charge of No. 1 LSU.

Also a quick kudos to the governor himself, who said earlier in the week on Orgeron’s radio show that the Tigers shouldn’t overlook the Rebels in Oxford. Given the fight that Matt Luke’s team put up, that was certainly spot on in big sandwich game after beating Alabama and taking on Texas A&M.

45,161 fans see Ithaca beat SUNY Cortland to set D3 attendance record at MetLife Stadium

Keenan Slusher
3 Comments

MetLife Stadium has been home to some awful NFL football this season but this past Saturday fans in the Tri-State region were at least treated to a far more interesting product on the field..

As we noted back in early October, this year’s Battle for the Cortaga Jug was going to be extra special because it was going to take place in the Meadowlands as Ithaca College and SUNY Cortland attempted to set a new Division III record for attendance. According to the Ithaca Journal, the pair did just that with 45,161 fans showed up to the game as the Bombers (that’s Ithaca) won their third straight Jug, 32-20.

“The electricity was unreal,” Cortland senior running back Zach Tripodi told the paper, “… When I scored, I don’t think I’ve ever felt something like that. You really felt the crowd.”

The final tally broke the previous D3 mark of 37,355 (from a 2017 matchup between St. Thomas and St. John’s at Minneapolis’ Target Field) by a considerable margin.

For what it’s worth, the D3 game at MetLife also had a bigger crowd than the ones that watched some of the FBS programs in New York, including the 16,286 down in Durham, N.C. that saw Syracuse thump Duke, the 8,450 that saw Buffalo lose at Kent State or the 25,747 in West Point that saw Army beat Virginia Military Institute.

Good football, it seems, is hard to come by in the Empire State but fans will come out for quality play no matter what level.

Louisville AD dons a bird mask, breaks out Pappy van Winkle to celebrate bowl berth

Getty Images
2 Comments

For some teams, reaching a bowl game — even those obscure dot com-sponsored ones — is quite meaningful. Such is the case at Louisville as they have embarked on one of the better turnarounds in the country this season under new head coach Scott Satterfield. 

Following up a 2-10 disaster at the hands of Bobby Petrino last year, the new staff has revitalized the program and secured bowl eligibility on Saturday by beating N.C. State 34-20. That’s a cause worth celebrating around the city and Cardinals AD Vince Tyra certainly did not short himself on that front after the sixth victory of 2019 by donning a rather comical mask in the locker room and breaking out some very expensive whiskey to share with the head coach.

Tyra and Satterfield may indeed be the only ones to drink Pappy out of a Gatorade cup but it probably tasted even sweeter than it normally does given the accomplishment it’s celebrating. While some fans may scoff at reaching six wins in a season, the jubilation in Louisville is a good reminder that benchmarks like that have plenty of meaning for programs who sat at home in disarray last year.