Deshaun Watson spent most of the second half in an unfamiliar place: on the sidelines.
Lamar Jackson was also in a strange position: on the field in the fourth quarter.
No matter how strange things were for the two Heisman Trophy caliber quarterbacks however, few could have predicted the wild swings of a classic heavyweight battle that No. 5 Clemson survived with a 42-36 victory.
Jackson did his best in the hostile environment to keep Louisville’s perfect season alive by throwing for 295 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 162 more and two scores.
While Jackson was a big part in a rally that turned a 10 point deficit into a 12 point lead, Todd Grantham’s defense played a role too. Clemson came out of the locker room and turned the ball over three times — once in the red zone — and went three-and-out on another possession in the second half to stunt most of their momentum. Louisville responded with a 19-0 run on four consecutive scoring drives to storm back and take the lead.
Desperately needing something, Artavis Scott busted out a 77 yard return for the Tigers to get the crowd back into it at Memorial Stadium. Clemson scored just two plays later to cut it to a two point game.
That’s when Watson finally looked like the quarterback everybody was expecting coming into 2016. He helped mount an eight play, 85 yard drive with just over three minutes left before finding Jordan Leggett over the middle for the game-winning score.
Jackson responded by marching the Cards right down the field in the final minutes but receiver James Quick couldn’t quite make it to the first down marker or the end zone on fourth down to complete the second half comeback.
The win by the Tigers all but gives them the ACC Atlantic title and punches their ticket to the league title game. Clemson owns the head-to-head win over Louisville and is already two games up on Florida State ahead of their meeting in Tallahassee at the end of the month. Despite a lackluster first month of the season, the victory also helped show the nation that a return trip to the final four at the end of the year is just as realistic as it was in August.
The close loss doesn’t knock Louisville completely out of the ACC race nor does it eliminate them from a potential College Football Playoff bid but certainly takes a little wind out of their sails the rest of the season. They’ll need help to win the division but a dream season is certainly not over after Saturday’s thriller in which they came up just a little short.
Bret Bielema is interviewing for the Colorado head coaching position, according to reports Monday from NFL Network and ESPN.
Bielema tried to get in on the Michigan State job that, obviously, went to Mel Tucker, so now he’s in the running for the job Tucker left.
The former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach joined Bill Belichick‘s witness protection program after his 2017 Arkansas firing, working for a year as “consultant to the head coach” in New England. He was promoted to defensive line coach and reportedly told friends he was in the running to become the defensive coordinator after Greg Schiano stepped down, but Belichick wound up giving that job to himself.
He wound up following Joe Judge from Foxboro to the New York Giants, but now has apparently decided he’d rather be back in college than work as a position coach at the NFL level.
Bielema went 68-24 at Wisconsin before his 29-34 flameout at Arkansas. His teams famously stuck to a ground-and-pound philosophy that worked like peanut butter and jelly in Madison but peanut butter and salsa in Fayetteville. So, should Colorado be as interested in Bielema as he apparently is in them, his offensive philosophy would figure to be question one in the interview.
Mel Tucker secured his first signee over the weekend, which is impressive since he didn’t take the job until after the 2020 signing periods.
Jordon Simmons, a 3-star running back from Powder Springs, Ga., committed to Michigan State back in October but did not sign in the early period or the late period.
After Mark Dantonio‘s retirement the night before the February signing period, Simmons announced he would not sign with the Spartans the following day.
“Due to the unforeseen retirement of Coach Dantonio and after discussing things with my family, I have decided to delay my signing with Michigan State University until further notice,” he tweeted the night of Dantonio’s announcement. “I love everything that Michigan State has to offer and I appreciate the love and support that the fan base has shown me. However, with the uncertainty of the MSU program I have decided to take some time to weight out my options and think about where I will spend the next 4 years.”
After taking a couple weeks to consider his options and get to know his new head coach, Simmons inked with the Spartans once and for all.
The Simmons saga shows that, should players obtain a free release to play elsewhere if their head coach leaves in between the time they sign scholarship papers and their freshman seasons, most of those players would still wind up at their original school simply because they’d be out of options elsewhere.
Central Michigan football is the latest FBS program to face an off-field issue invoicing one of its players.
Friday, Jim McElwain announced that Kyron McKinnie-Harper had been indefinitely suspended from the Central Michigan football team for violating unspecified team rules. The school’s student newspaper subsequently reported that a warrant was issued for McKinnie-Harper’s arrest Feb. 13.
Per court records, McKinnie-Harper is facing one count of using a computer to commit a crime, one count of unauthorized computer access, one count of computer fraud and three counts of larceny by conversion. One of the larceny counts and the computer access charge are felonies. The others are misdemeanors.
“According to court records, police are looking at his Oct. 27 online activities,,” the paper wrote. No further details of what led to the charges has been detailed.
As for what type of prison time the cornerback could be facing if convicted? From the report:
McKinnie-Harper is charged with one felony larceny count of more than $1,000, less than $20,000. Conviction could result in 5 years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property. He also faces two misdemeanor larceny counts of $200, less than $1,000. A conviction is punishable by 1 year in jail and/or fines of up to $2,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property. Using a computer to commit a crime is a felony that could result in 4-to-10 years in prison.
As a true freshman, McKinnie-Harper emerged as a starting corner the last half of the 2019 season. An unspecified injury kept the defensive back out of the bowl game in which Central Michigan football played following the 2019 campaign.
“The coach would not elaborate on the injury and McKinnie-Harper did not travel with the team, though other injured teammates did go to Albuquerque,” 247Sports.com wrote.
In his first season with Central Michigan football, McKinnie-Harper led the Chips in passes defensed with 10 and forced fumbles with two.
Nebraska football added five wide receivers as part of its 2020 recruiting class. Not surprisingly, that group has seen a potential shakeup.
Utilizing his personal Twitter account, Darien Chase has taken the first step in leaving Nebraska football by announcing his entry into the NCAA transfer database. In the post, Chase revealed that he has “struggled with mental health and depression” for years and needs to transfer in order to be closer to family as he deals with his issues.
“I’ve lost a lot of family members and I have struggled with mental health and depression for the past 6 or 7 years and these events put me in a place I can never fall to again, and it is the best decision for me and my family for me to transfer closer to home,” the receiver wrote. “This decision has been the hardest I’ve ever had to make because it has nothing to do with the program or football, and there is truly no place like Nebraska, and I’ll always love GBR and all the love I’ve gotten just in the past year.”
Chase was a three-star 2019 signee. He was the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Washington.
Prior to committing to, then signing with Nebraska football, Chase had received scholarship offers from, among others, Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah and Boise State. He took official visits to the latter two schools.
As a true freshman, Chase played in four games. That will allow him to take a redshirt for the 2019 season.
In that limited action, Chase caught one pass for 13 yards.
In addition to adding a handful of players at his position, Chase also saw offensive coordinator and receivers coach Troy Walters, who was his primary recruiter, leave the Nebraska football program last month.