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Defense leads Minnesota to Holiday Bowl win over Washington State

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The Holiday Bowl built its reputation over 39 Decembers by producing wild results. Tuesday night’s definition of wild was a game involving Mike Leach that didn’t produce a touchdown for either side until the 3:23 mark of the third quarter.

Minnesota’s defense shut down Washington State like few clubs have this season, leading the Gophers to a 17-12 victory in San Diego.

The game started as a typical outing for Washington State, as its first possession moved 76 yards over 17 plays and ended in a 26-yard Erik Powell field goal. A string of four straight punts was ended when Minnesota matched Wazzu’s field goal, a 43-yarder from Emmit Carpenter at the 7:26 mark of the second quarter.

Washington State led 6-3 at the half, but a pair of bad luck plays in the same corner of the same end zone defined the night for both teams. Facing a 3rd-and-22 with 38 seconds left in the first half, Washington State quarterback Luke Falk was ruled to have completed a 23-yard strike to C.J. Dimry, momentarily setting the Cougars up with a 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line. But the completion was overturned upon review, forcing Wazzu to settle for a 41-yard Powell field goal.

After a long Washington State drive to open the second half produced no points, Minnesota took its time crossing the field when it found itself facing its own third down at the Wazzu 13. Mitch Leidner overthrew a streaking Shannon Brooks in the end zone, but Marcellus Pittman inadvertently deflected the ball right into Brooks’s outstretched arms, literally handing Minnesota (9-4) what turned out to be the game’s deciding touchdown.

The clubs traded punts on the next six possessions until Washington State (8-5) went for a 4th-and-6 near midfield with 3:05 remaining. Falk had all day to throw but no one to throw the ball to, and his desperation heave was intercepted by Adekunle Ayinde and returned to the Wazzu 30. Four rushes later, Rodney Smith raced in for a 9-yard insurance touchdown with 2:06 to play. Washington State finally found the end zone with 19 ticks remaining on an 8-yard pass from Falk to Kyle Sweet, but his 2-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful. Falk came in needing two touchdown passes to match the Washington State school record of 92, but that record will have to wait until next season.

Minnesota defended 51 passes from Falk, surrendering 30 completions for only 264 yards — a 5.2 yards per attempt average that stands as the lowest of Falk’s season. Wazzu ran the ball 23 times for 39 yards on the night.

That performance allowed Minnesota to win a game in which Leidner completed 11-of-20 passes for only 129 yards with a touchdown while the Gophers mustered only 151 rushing yards on 3.8 yards per carry as a team.

QB Austin Kirksey to transfer from Nevada, walk-on at Georgia

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It appears Georgia’s quarterback room will have a new addition, courtesy of a Group of Five program.

According to Nevada Sports Net‘s Chris Murray, Austin Kirksey has decided to leave the Nevada football team.  The reason given for the true freshman’s departure was a personal family issue.

As for the quarterback’s future, Murray reports that the Marietta, Ga., native plans to walk-on at Georgia after finishing out the semester at Nevada.

“He’s going to move back to Georgia to be close to his family,” head coach Jay Norvell said. “Really sad to see him go. What a great kid. He’s like a straight-A student, an awesome young man and very close to his family. A great family. We’re sad to see him go, but I certainly understand him wanting to be closer to his family.”

A three-star member of the Wolf Pack’s 2019 recruiting class, Kirksey was rated as the No. 59 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 170 player at any position in the state of Georgia.  Only three players in Norvell’s class this past cycle were rated higher than Kirksey.

Kirksey hadn’t seen the field this season prior to his decision to leave the program.

Frank Solich becomes MAC’s winningest coach in Ohio’s rout of Bowling Green

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Amidst negotiations on yet another contract extension, Frank Solich has added yet another notch to his résumé.

Thanks in part to Nathan Rourke‘s four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing), Ohio took Bowling Green State to the woodshed in a 66-24 road rout Tuesday night.  The Bobcats averaged 8.6 yards per carry in rushing for 342 yards, led by O’Shaan Allison‘s career-high 175 yards on the ground.  Allison also ran for three touchdowns after coming into the game with just two in his career.

The win is the 111th for Solich during his time at Athens, making him the all-time winningest head coach in MAC history.  The 75-year-old Solich surpassed Herb Deromedi, who won 110 games at Central Michigan from 1978-93.

“It seemed like it stalled itself out a little bit for a while, but we’re interested in winning football games, and this record goes with it,” Solich, in the midst of his 15th season with the football program, said in quotes distributed by the school. “I feel really good about it, but a lot of people were involved in this. A lot of great players over the years that have come through Ohio that have set the tradition to where we were able to recruit well and win football games.

“There have been tremendous athletes and tremendous coaches. If you have that combination, you’re going to have a few wins. A lot of people have been involved in winning some football games, so I appreciate everything that people have been done during my time at Ohio. I will say this, it is as good as I could ever hope for in a coaching business in terms of those 15 years and how it all worked.”

With the win, Ohio also moved to 5-6 and within one more win of becoming bowl-eligible.  With a win over winless Akron next Tuesday, Ohio would qualify for the postseason for the fifth straight season and 11th time overall under Solich.

Top seven remains the same in latest CFP rankings

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The third edition of the 2019 College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday, and the top seven teams remained the same from last week’s rankings. This means, as expected, Alabama remained No. 5 following the devastating loss of Tua Tagovailoa.

Minnesota remained in striking distance following their loss to Iowa (now at No. 17) at No. 10, with No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 2 Ohio State (potentially) still on their schedule. Oklahoma and Penn State moved one spot apiece, keeping the Top 10 stagnant.

Auburn fell three spots to No. 15, one spot behind No. 14 Baylor, who will spend the week wondering how high they would’ve climbed if the rankings were taken at halftime on Saturday night.

Memphis swapped spots with Cincinnati as the highest-rated Group of 5 team at No. 18; the Tigers and Bearcats SMU rejoined the rankings after falling out last week. They were joined by Iowa State at No. 22, who replaced then-No. 19 Texas, and USC at No. 23.

The full rankings:

1. LSU
2. Ohio State
3. Clemson
4. Georgia
5. Alabama
6. Oregon
7. Utah
8. Penn State
9. Oklahoma
10. Minnesota
11. Florida
12. Wisconsin
13. Michigan
14. Baylor
15. Auburn
16. Notre Dame
17. Iowa
18. Memphis
19. Cincinnati
20. Boise State
21. Oklahoma State
22. Iowa State
23. USC
24. Appalachian State
25. SMU

Georgia photographer hospitalized by Brian Herrian shares final photo before collision

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It’ll be a fun story to share for years to come, and thank God for that. Because at the time it looked so much worse.

Late in the first half of No. 4 Georgia’s 21-14 win over No. 12 Auburn, Georgia running back Brian Herrien ran into a photographer on the sideline. The photographer’s identity was not immediately known, but the game stopped for several minutes as she laid motionless on the Jordan-Hare Stadium sideline before she was eventually carted out of the stadium.

She was later identified as Chamberlain Smith, an intern in the UGA sports information department. Smith was taken to the East Alabama Medical Center in nearby Opelika, where she was diagnosed with a concussion, an eye bruise and a cut above her right eye, presumably from when her camera forcefully collided wither her head.

“I haven’t had a chance to respond to everyone, but I just wanted to say thank you all so much for the overwhelming outpouring of support in the form of kind comments, messages & prayers!! .. last night was very scary, but I’m so glad to be walking away with nothing more than a concussion & some bruises,” Smith tweeted Sunday. “I will be home resting & recovering for the next several days, but I’m looking forward to being back on the sidelines soon!”

Smith is recovering in her Ringgold, Ga., home recovering, and on Tuesday she tweeted the photo she paid such a price for.

Herrien retweeted the image with a message of support.

Smith, thankfully, will make a full recovery, and now she’ll have a photo to hang on her wall and a heckuva thousand words to go with it.