Georgia (10-3) once led Penn State (7-6) 24-3 in the TaxSlayer Bowl but a furious rally by the Nittany Lions with a backup quarterback fell just shy. Georgia’s 24-17 victory was made official when a Hail Mary attempt from Trace McSorely fell incomplete at the goal line.
Georgia’s defense knocked out Penn State starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the first half of the game. He returned on the sideline in the second half in street clothes, giving way to backup McSorely for his first serious playing time at Penn State. It was a rough adjustment once he entered the game but McSorely and Penn State eventually got in a groove and established some momentum through the air. McSorely passed for 142 yards and two touchdowns to lead the second half rally, but Georgia had done enough to grab the win.
Georgia running back Sony Michel and Keith Marshall played a key role on the ground for the Bulldogs. Neither had a big performance, but Michel’s 85 yards and touchdown and Marshall’s 62 rushing yards came at key moments to move the first down markers in the fourth quarter and keep the clock running. Georgia’s Greyson Lambert completed just 10 of his 20 pass attempts for 115 yards, but they also seemed to be picked up at key moments when needed. Malcolm Mitchell hauled in 114 receiving yards and a touchdown, but it was receiver Terry Godwin who caught Penn State’s defense off guard for the touchdown play to Mitchell in the first half.
Georgia’s defense did more than knock Hackenberg out of the game. The run defense was well prepared for Penn State freshman running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley was limited to 69 yards on 17 carries and the Georgia defense always seemed to have a presence in the backfield to shut down any play attempting to develop laterally. Penn State’s offense did gain some juice in the second half though, and the Nittany Lions rolled up 401 yards of offense to Georgia’s 327. Penalties proved costly for Penn State though, with six penalties totaling just 39 yards, but that included a crucial 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call on Austin Johnson on Georgia’s final offensive possession of the game to move the ball into Penn State territory.
With the win by Georgia, the SEC improves to 7-2 in bowl games this bowl season. The SEC still has a handful of games to be played, including Alabama’s national championship appearance against Clemson. The Big Ten closes out the postseason with a 5-5 record in bowl games, including a 1-3 mark against the SEC. Georgia interim head coach Bryan McClendon earned his first career bowl victory as a result of the game as well. Penn State’s James Franklin dropped to 3-2 in bowl games in his first loss since his bowl debut in 2011 with Vanderbilt.
Georgia will now turn the page as a program by ushering in the Kirby Smart era, just as soon as Smart is done with Alabama’s championship run in Tuscaloosa. Smart was on hand for the game to check out his new program. Penn State may also be turning a page depending on what happens with Hackenberg. If Hackenberg is on the move, Penn State got a glimpse of what may come in 2016 by seeing McSorely get some playing time and find himself in the offense. The two-minute drill with no timeouts left plenty of room for improvement, but McSorely was thrown into the fire for the first time for any extending playing time. If Hackenberg turns pro, McSorely will likely be the starting quarterback in 2016 for the Nittany Lions.
Georgia will open the 2016 season in Atlanta against North Carolina from the ACC in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Penn State’s 2016 season kicks off against Kent State at home in Beaver Stadium before taking to the road to renew an in-state rivalry with Pittsburgh.
The trend of college football players with the NFL coming into view has become a growing one the last few seasons, but Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence says you won’t have to worry about missing him in a postseason bowl game.
“Sitting out bowl games and stuff, that’ll never be me,” Lawrence said in an interview with ESPN. “You won’t have to worry about writing those stories.”
This quote is nothing new from Lawrence. In March, Lawrence stressed a similar stance with regard to sitting out of college football bowl games to protect NFL draft stock.
From The Athletic‘s Grace Raynor in March:
Asked specifically if he would consider sitting out in an effort to protect his health for an NFL future, the Georgia native answered with two resounding “No’s.” That’s not in the cards, he says.
“Everyone’s talking about that, but I don’t really care about that,” Lawrence said Monday evening in his first public interview since the College Football Playoff.
“It’s definitely not coming from me, all that stuff, so (I’ll) just kind of ignore it. Just keep working.
Of course, there is something that needs to be pointed out here. A large majority of the players choosing to skip bowl games aren’t playing in the College Football Playoff and a national championship. While New Years Six bowl games are high in prestige even if not in the playoff rotation, they simply are not the same as playing in the playoff with a national title in sight.
Lawrence has played for and won the national championship in his freshman season and probably has two more seasons that could see Clemson continue to compete for a playoff spot. If Clemson is in the playoff the next two (or three years), the chances Lawrence skips a bowl game are reduced significantly.
Maybe Lawrence is just confident in Clemson’s ability to make the playoff the next couple of seasons. He’s not wrong though, right?
Dino Babers had Syracuse enjoying a 10-win season for the first time since 2001 last season. Fans of the Orange have had their enthusiasm for the football program rejuvenated and it shows in the season ticket sales this offseason.
According to a report from Syracuse.com, Syracuse has recorded 4,500 more season ticket sales this year than the school saw all of last year. To date, as of Friday, Syracuse has sold 6,800 season tickets for the 2019 season as the total inches closer and closet to a possible school record (8,000).
On top of the increased season ticket sales, Syracuse is also seeing a great retention rate through season ticket renewals. Syracuse has seen over 90 percent of season ticket holders renew their ticket packages for the 2019 season.
Syracuse ended the 2018 season ranked No. 15 in the final AP poll. IT is the highest Syracuse has ended a season in the AP Top 25 since the 2001 season (No. 14). Babers also ended Syracuse’s bowl drought in style by coaching Syracuse to a Camping World Victory in Syracuse’s first bowl game since 2013.
Syracuse opens the 2019 season on the road at Liberty on Aug. 31.
The transfer portal never takes a day off in college football. Auburn linebacker Richard Jibunor is one of the latest players to add his name to the list. Matt Zenitz of Al.com reported the transfer portal news, via Twitter.
Coincidentally enough, Auburn received a commitment from a four-star linebacker yesterday (Cameron Riley), but you can make your own guess as to whether those two developments were related in any way. Regardless, Auburn is still potentially about to lose a linebacker off the roster.
A player is free to make contact with any other football program looking to recruit him once his name is officially added to the NCAA’s transfer portal. But adding a name to the portal doesn’t necessarily mean this is the end of the line for Jibunor at Auburn, because a player can always take their name out of the portal and decide to stay with their current program. However, Auburn also has the option of dropping Jibunor from his scholarship now that he is in the transfer portal.
Jibunor was a four-star recruit in Auburn’s Class of 2018. As a true freshman last season, Jibunor appeared in 10 games and recorded eight tackles and two sacks. He also forced a fumble for the Tigers defense. The Athens, Georgia native chose Auburn, who seemingly had the lead in his recruiting for a while. He committed to the Tiger sin Nov. 2017 after two previous unofficial visits earlier in the 2017 season.
Jibunor will have to sit out the 2019 season if he transfers to another FBS program unless there is a waiver approval in the works with the NCAA offices. There is no suggestion at this time that is an option in play. Jibunor still has a redshirt to burn, so he will still have three years of eligibility to use beginning in 2020.
The best college football coaches are always learning and adjusting over time rather than stick to their guns no matter what. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy had the Cowboys humming along as a typical 10-win program until hitting a speed bump last season. Now, after winning just seven games last season, Gundy is feeling as energized as ever going into a new season, if not more.
In an interview with The Oklahoman, Gundy made it clear he was inspired to get going in 2019 after seeing his program take a few more lumps than they were accustomed the last few years.
“It energized me, because I failed to get our team to play at the highest level last year,” Gundy said to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. “We were a very undisciplined football team, and we were not a very tough football team. And those two things fall on the head coach.”
Oklahoma State was ninth in the Big 12 with 70.5 penalty yards per game, with an average of 6.8 penalties called against them per game, which is more in the middle of the Big 12. In Oklahoma State’s case, it wasn’t so much the number of penalties received per game, but the yardage tacked on to those penalties. In 2017, Oklahoma State had the second-fewest penalty yards per game assessed to them in the Big 12, and in 2016 they led the Big 12 with the fewest penalty yards per game.
“So when I see mistakes that can be corrected and should be corrected, and when I go back and see the reasons for those mistakes were me, the head coach, it energizes me to come up with a solution, put a plan in place, solve the problem and make it better,” Gundy said. “Moreso than even an 11 or 12-win season, just for me.”
Gundy is about to embark on his 15th season as the head coach in Stillwater. The last time Oklahoma State recorded a seven-win season, the Cowboys ripped off three consecutive 10-win seasons.