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Pumphrey breaks record, San Diego State breaks Houston’s offense in Las Vegas Bowl

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Donnel Pumphrey became the FBS all-time leading rusher and San Diego State earned a 34-10 triumph over Houston in a Las Vegas Bowl that will be remembered as one of the best wins in Aztec football history.

Though the Aztecs eventually ran away for the win, the first quarter played completely differently. Like a Houston rout, to be exact. Thanks to a Ty Cummings field goal and a Greg Ward, Jr., touchdown plunge, the Cougars jumped out to a 10-0 lead, limiting the Aztecs’ offense to four punts and three three-and-outs to open the game. Houston finished the frame with a 102-5 yardage advantage, limiting Pumphrey’s first seven carries to minus-1 yard.

The game after that, though. John Baron II chipped in two short field goals to get the Aztecs on the board, while the San Diego State defense limited Houston to just five total yards in the second quarter.

That domination continued in the third quarter as three consecutive Houston drives ended in Ward interceptions. The Cougars forced a punt after the first pick, but Pumphrey cashed in on the second with a 32-yard touchdown jaunt to put San Diego State on top 13-10 at the 3:14 mark of the third quarter, and Ron Smith stepped in front of a wide receiver screen and raced it 54 yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 20-10 with 56 seconds left in the frame. Ward finished the day completing 25-of-34 passes for 229 yards with four interceptions while netting zero yards on 14 rushes and eight sacks. He was sacked three times on Houston’s next-to-last possession alone, including a fourth down that the Coogs’ coaches for some reason felt necessary to go for despite being deep in their own territory and trailing by 17 with just over three minutes remaining.

Pumphrey topped Ron Dayne‘s all-time record early in the fourth quarter, racing 15 yards around right tackle to become the first player in FBS history to top the 6,400 yard mark. Pumphrey finished the day with 19 carries for 115 yards and one touchdown, officially closing his record-breaking career with 1,059 carries for 6,405 yards and 62 touchdowns spread over 53 games. He also became the only player in FBS history to record three consecutive seasons of 2,000 rushing/receiving yards. Dayne, as far as the NCAA is concerned, carried for 6,397 yards on 1,149 carries in 47 countable games. (Dayne, however, rushed for 7,125 yards when including three non-countable bowl games.)

After San Diego State turned away a desperation 4th-and-1 Ward rush at the Houston 31-yard line, the Aztecs put the game away with 8:58 to play as Christian Chapman (10-of-14 passing for 128 yards) hit Curtis Anderson III over the top for a 28-yard play-action touchdown pass, nudging the score to an out-of-reach 27-10. Juwan Washington punched in the capper on a 13-yard carry with 1:11 left to play. In the only downer of the day for the club, Rashaad Penny totaled only 10 yards on nine carries, leaving him five yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark to go with Pumphrey’s 2,133 yards this season.

The win pushed San Diego State to 11-3 on the year, the second consecutive season the Aztecs have won 11 games and the Mountain West championship, cementing SDSU’s status as the nation’s most underrated program. Houston’s loss dropped the Cougars to 9-4 on the year and 0-1 in the Major Applewhite era.

Florida State names James Blackman starting QB over Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook

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In this case, the transfer pastures weren’t any greener for a signal-caller — two, actually — who moved on from his first college football home.

Alex Hornibrook left Wisconsin this offseason and ultimately landed at Florida State as a graduate transfer.  Jordan Travis took his leave of Louisville earlier this year and ended up transferring to FSU; Travis was ultimately granted an immediate-eligibility waiver.

With those twin under-center developments, Willie Taggart and the Seminoles navigated a three-headed quarterback competition during the spring and on into summer camp: Hornibrook, Travis and one-time starter James Blackman.  Sunday night, FSU announced that Blackman is its QB1 heading into the opener against Boise State this coming Saturday night.

The naming of Blackman as the starter continues what’s been a roller coaster ride for the redshirt sophomore.

Blackman, who himself placed his name into the transfer portal earlier this year before undergoing a change of heart, started most of the 2017 season due to an injury to starter Deondre Francois, who regained the job in 2018 only to be dismissed from the football program in February of this year.

Blackman was a three-star member of FSU’s 2017 recruiting class. After Francois went down with what turned out to be a season-ending injury in the opener that year, Blackman started the remaining 12 games as a true freshman.  Francois returned as the starter for the vast majority of the 2018 season, missing one game in early November because of a concussion.  Blackman started the lone game Francois didn’t, throwing for 421 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to NC State.

In that initial season in 2017, Blackman completed almost 60 percent of his 297 passes for 2,230 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.  He was able to take a redshirt for this past season despite playing in four games.

Hornibrook, who battled concussion issues the latter half of the 2018 season but was cleared for winter workouts in January, spent the past three seasons as the Badgers’ starting quarterback.  In games in which Hornibrook started during that span, Wisconsin went 26-6.

In 35 career games played with the Badgers, Hornibrook passed for 5,438 yards, 47 touchdowns and 33 interceptions.

This coming season is Hornibrook’s final year of eligibility.

Travis, whose older brother played baseball at FSU a few years ago, was a three-star member of the Cardinals’ 2018 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 dual-threat quarterback in the country.  As a true freshman this past season, Jackson completed four-of-nine passes for 71 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Because he played in four or fewer games this past year, he took a redshirt for the 2018 season.

Calamity averted: Washington State flag’s College GameDay streak reaches 225 straight

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Courtesy of some expected common sense, a potential national nightmare was averted earlier this weekend.

Along with Lee Corso, one of the constants you can count on seeing when you turn on ESPN‘s College GameDay Saturday mornings during the football season is the Washington State flag flying somewhere in the crowd, regardless of from where the show originates.  Ol’ Crimson first appeared around the GameDay set in Austin on Oct. 4, 2003, and has made it to every show since, a streak of 224 straight appearances.

Unfortunately, there was some serious concern earlier this month that the streak wouldn’t make it to 225.

ESPN announced Aug. 13 that College GameDay would set up camp and televise its popular pregame show from Walt Disney World ahead of the Week 0 Florida-Miami matchup at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium Aug. 24.  In a cruel and potentially streak-ending twist, the Magic Kingdom’s rules prohibit, among other things, flags from being flown on the Walt Disney World Resort Property.

All was right with the world in the end, though, as Ol’ Crimson was indeed front and center ahead of what would turn out to be a Gators win over the Hurricanes as, not surprisingly, Disney bent its rules regarding not only flags but signs as well.

From the Spokesman-Review:

Hey, look at this,” ESPN’s Rece Davis said as the flag was shown. “Look who made it into the Magic Kingdom.”

“The streak’s alive,” Kirk Herbstreit said.

“I want to point out, too, the streak is legit and authentic,” Davis added. “Now, we’ll cooperate with our friends, but Washington State has to do its part and they have.”

Herbstreit chimed in: “They’ve made big efforts throughout this streak and they made another one today.”

“Congrats to the Cougs,” ESPN’s Desmond Howard said.

Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick doesn’t sense momentum for CFB Playoff expansion

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We’re at the dawn of a new season in college football but for a lot of folks, the upcoming campaign is a lot more about the ending than the beginning. We’re talking of course about the thing that dominates the debate in the sport for much of the fall: the College Football Playoff.

Though it seems like we’re stuck at four teams in the postseason event for the foreseeable future, expansion of the playoff is a topic that seems like a never ending well. Most want it, but few in power seem to be pushing for it.

That point was reiterated this week by Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. The leader of a program who made last year’s edition of the final four and one of the more powerful people in college athletics recently told the South Bend Tribune that he doesn’t see a move to six or eight teams in the event anytime soon.

I don’t want to speculate on that. I don’t sense a lot of momentum,” Swarbrick said. “But again, this is a group of individuals who cares about college football and think about it all the time. And so that’s all you want, a process where people are always talking about how to make the game better. But I don’t sense any particular momentum for change right now.”

If anybody would have some insight into the thought process regarding expansion, it’s bound to be Swarbrick — who sits on the CFP Management Committee and has his school president on the overarching CFP Board of Managers.

Perhaps something will change by 2025 when the postseason contract comes up with ESPN but until then, get used to four teams.

Missouri AD Jim Sterk is even more mad about NCAA penalties after Mississippi State case

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At some point in the distant future, Missouri fans, coaches, players and administrators will forget about the sanctions that the NCAA handed out to their football program.

That day is not today however.

Hot on the heels of Friday’s decision by the NCAA to slap the wrist of Mississippi State over a somewhat similar academic fraud case, Tigers AD Jim Sterk is telling anybody who will listen just how wronged his school was in the wake of what happened at his SEC rival.

“We believe that the penalties imposed in the recently decided and factually similar case (at Mississippi State) further illustrate that the penalties imposed on Mizzou were excessive and inconsistent with previous case precedent,” Sterk told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. We have never wavered from our stance or the merits of our appeal and remain hopeful it will be successful.”

The Tigers are hopeful that an appeal will be decided in the fairly near future and, obviously, that it will be a favorable ruling.

There are a handful of differences between Mizzou’s and the Bulldogs’ cases and enough to make comparing them apples to oranges despite being under the broad umbrella of academic fraud. We’ll see what ultimately ends up happening but something says that short of a complete reversal, Tigers fans and others sporting the gold and black won’t be happy with the NCAA for a long, long time.