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Georgia holds off Penn State rally for TaxSlayer Bowl victory

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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.

Papa Bosa explains Nick Bosa’s decision to shut it down at Ohio State

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Nick Bosa has played his last snap as an Ohio State Buckeye, a decision that, John Bosa said, did not come easy.

“It’s difficult on him,” Bosa’s father told Sports Illustrated Tuesday. “He had set all kinds of team goals. The love he has for his D-line group and D-line coach is something special.”

However, the elder Bosa said the decision wasn’t really much of one at all. Nick Bosa underwent surgery to repair injuries to both sides of his core on Sept. 20. Though the public learned of Bosa’s injury during the Buckeyes’ Sept. 15 win over TCU, John Bosa said the family knew he was most likely playing through injuries against Oregon State and Rutgers as well.

And, as John Bosa explained, though the prescribed recovery time of 12 weeks indicates Nick could return this season, that doesn’t take into effect the tole of preparing for and then playing defensive line in the style Bosa plays. Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson teaches his linemen to “flip their hips” to angle them toward the quarterback. It’s a style that has served both Bosa brothers well, but it’s one that causes considerable strain on the body’s core.

When taking that variable into effect, Bosa’s season ended on Sept. 15 regardless of his likelihood as the No. 1 pick looming.

“The way he plays the game, the amount of torque and power he creates, when you have any little issue it’s going to be exposed,” John said.

Bosa recorded four sacks and six TFLs in his three appearances this season.

With Khalil Tate still out, Rhett Rodriguez to start at QB for Arizona

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Imagine hearing a year ago that Khalil Tate missing a game, forcing Kevin Sumlin‘s Arizona Wildcats to start Rhett Rodriguez at quarterback may actually be a good thing for the club.

A year ago at this time, Tate had just rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns and passed for another 148 and a score en route to a 47-30 win over UCLA. It was part of an out-of-nowhere storm that saw Tate throw for 1,591 yards, rush for 1,411 yards and total 26 touchdowns in essentially nine games.

But a lot has changed over the past 12 months. Rich Rodriguez, of course, is out, and Arizona’s Heisman candidate quarterback hasn’t gelled with Sumlin’s offense. Through seven games, Tate has thrown 178 passes — he threw 179 all of last season — for 1,415 yards with 11 touchdowns against four interceptions while rushing only 46 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

Tate injured his ankle early in a 42-10 loss to Utah and the younger Rodriguez finished the game, hitting 20-of-38 throws for 226 yards and a late touchdown.

With Tate still injured, Sumlin revealed Tuesday Rodriguez will start for the Wildcats against UCLA.

Rodriguez had thrown only seven passes ahead of Saturday’s loss to Utah and threw one pass as a freshman in 2017.

Arizona is just 3-4 overall (2-2 Pac-12) while UCLA is 1-5 and 1-2 against the Pac-12.

Status of Temple’s leading rusher iffy for game vs. No. 20 Cincinnati

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Whether Temple has the biggest piece of its running game this weekend remains decidedly up in the air.

Ryquell Armstead didn’t play in last Saturday’s win over Navy because of an ankle injury.  With a huge matchup with No. 20 Cincinnati on deck for this weekend, the running back’s status is very much up in the air.

Head coach Geoff Collins stated Armstead “is still day-to-day,” and that “we are excited about his healthy return, whenever that may be.”

Armstead is far and away the Owls’ leading rusher with 626 yards on the ground, and he’s scored exactly half (six) of Temple’s 12 rushing touchdowns.  Jager Gardner’s 101 yards are a distant second on the team.

Police: Louisville TE Kemari Averett held gun to girlfriend’s head, threatened to kill her

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A very scary and disturbing incident is the latest to trigger a resetting of the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker.

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Louisville tight end Kemari Averett was arrested on one count each of first-degree wanton endangerment and domestic violence (fourth-degree assault).  Averett is accused of holding a gun to the head of his girlfriend, who is also the mother of his child, and threatening to kill her.

From the Courier-Journal‘s report:

According to an arrest citation, Averett was at the woman’s house Sunday night to study and left his backpack. The woman went over to Averett’s apartment to return the backpack Monday night. He walked to the car and gave the woman a baby outfit and ultrasound pictures, according to the citation.

When he retrieved the backpack, he noticed his laptop was missing, the citation said.

She told Averett she wasn’t aware the laptop was missing. Police said Averett then came at the woman, put a gun to her left temple and said, “(expletive), I will kill you.”

Averett then told her to return to her hometown, and “I’ll have my people looking for you,” police said. He also told a witness in the back seat that, “I should pistol whip your (expletive) for running your mouth,” the citation said.

As a result of the arrest, the 20-year-old Averett has been indefinitely suspended from the football program.

“Kemari Averett has been suspended immediately from all football activities per further investigation,” a statement from head coach Bobby Petrino began. “He will not have access to our facility or be involved in any team activities during this suspension.”

Averett, a true sophomore from Atlanta, has started four of the six games for the Cardinals this season.  He’s caught eight passes for 65 yards and is tied for the team lead with two receiving touchdowns.