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KD Cannon a thorn in Boise State’s side as Baylor takes Cactus Bowl

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Bowl games can often be completely separate animals from the regular season, and no one will prove that phenomenon more true this winter than Baylor. A team that arrived in Phoenix on a 6-game losing streak played like the Big 12 title contender many expected it to be, beating Boise State 31-12 in the Cactus Bowl.

Baylor playing like Baylor again started with getting the ball in the hands of the type of player that dominated games during the Bears’ salad days — wide receiver KD Cannon. The junior caught 14 passes for 226 yards and two crucial first half touchdowns — a 30-yarder to open the scoring in the first quarter and a 68-yard connection to stretch the lead to 14-3 with 12:14 to play in the half.

In addition to not covering Cannon, Boise State was undone by Brett Rypien‘s inability to hold on to the football inside scoring territory. The Broncos’ quarterback tossed first half two interceptions inside Baylor’s 5-yard line and lost a fumble at the Bears’ 16, ending any hopes of a comeback early in the fourth quarter. Rypien’s second pick came inside the end zone and led to an, ahem, controversial 99-yard drive for the Bears’ final score of the half.

Baylor was initially stopped at its own 21 but received new life when Drew Galitz drew a running into the kicker flag, a 5-yard penalty on a 4th-and-4, despite ESPN replays showing clearly no Boise State player actually touched Galitz. The flag stood, though, and JaMychal Hasty ended the 15-play march with a 5-yard scoring dash with 4:19 to play in the half.

Boise State added a second Tyler Rausa field goal, a 26-yard chip shot, to close the first half and opened the second half with a 13-play drive that ended on a turnover on downs when Bryan Harsin eschewed a third field goal try in favor of a fourth-and-goal pass that was broken up by defensive back Ryan Reid. Baylor answered with an un-Baylor-like 21-play drive culminating in a 34-yard Chris Callahan field goal at the 3:19 mark of the third quarter.

Baylor (7-6) closed the door for good after Rypien’s fumble with a 12-play, 71-yard drive that closed with a Zach Smith 14-yard scoring strike to Ishmael Zamora with 10:03 remaining. Smith played the best game of his young career, completing 28-of-39 passes for 375 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Terence Williams, receiving a full work load after Shock Linwood chose to stay home, toted 25 carries for 103 yards.

Rypien (31-of-50 for an even 300 yards) added a cosmetic score when he hit Cedrick Wilson for a 28-yard score with 1:20 to play. His 2-point pass was, fittingly, intercepted.

Playing in the final game of his Boise State careerJeremy McNichols posted a quiet night of 19 carries for 46 yards with five grabs for 24 more yards.

The loss for Boise State (10-3) was a rare one in a metropolitan area that hosted many of the orange and blue’s greatest moments over the past decade. The Broncos are 3-0 in Fiesta Bowls played at University of Phoenix Stadium in nearby Glendale, while Tuesday night’s loss came at Phoenix’s Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Lincoln Riley finalizes defensive staff for 2019

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Oklahoma’s defense was flat-out awful in 2018, as we know. The Sooners were 114th in total defense (453.8 yards per game), 102nd in yards per play (6.13) and 101st in scoring (33.3 points per game). Their ineptitude indirectly handed Kyler Murray the Heisman Trophy as the Sooners’ signal caller had to pull his rabbit out of a hat on a weekly basis throughout the fall, but without Murray’s exploits Oklahoma might’ve been a 7- or 8-win team in 2018.

Murray is gone, so the defense has to improve or Oklahoma will take a significant fall in 2019.

Lincoln Riley has spent the past three weeks reshaping his defensive staff, and on Sunday he finalized his staff and their assignments.

New hire Alex Grinch will coach safeties while coordinating the defense. He spent 2018 as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Ohio State. (The Buckeyes’ pass efficiency defense slipped from 13th to 42nd in Grinch’s one season on staff, but Riley hired him for his success coordinating Mike Leach‘s defenses at Washington State.)

Assisting Grinch in the secondary will be cornerbacks coach Roy Manning. He spent 2018 as the outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at UCLA but worked with Grinch at Wazzu from 2015-17.

Brian Odom was hired away from Missouri to coach the Sooners’ inside linebackers, where he’ll team with new outside linebackers coach Ruffin McNeill. Riley’s mentor, McNeill is one of two holdovers from the 2018 staff. He was hired upon Riley’s promotion to head coach as assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach but took over the entire defense following Mike Stoops‘ midseason firing.

The only Oklahoma defensive coach to coach the same position from 2018 to ’19 will be defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux. The OU graduate has been on staff since 2016, when he returned to Norman as defensive ends coach.

Former South Carolina DE announces transfer to TCU

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TCU loses its top two sack artists from 2018 to 2019, but some help just arrived.

Shameik Blackshear (above, top) announced on Saturday he will spend his final year of college football in Fort Worth.

The Bluffton, S.C., native played his first three seasons at South Carolina, where collected 34 tackles and one sack. He appeared in all 13 of the Gamecocks’ games in 2018, including two starts.

He’ll have a chance to compete for an immediate starting role following the graduations of Ben Banogu and LJ Collier plus the departure of Michael Collier. Banogu and Collier combined for 14.5 sacks in 2018, more than 40 percent of the Frogs’ 35 total sacks.

Blackshear is the second Power 5 graduate transfer to pick TCU this week. The Frogs also secured the services of former Kansas State quarterback Alex Delton.

Penn State LB Jarvis Miller announces graduate transfer to UMass

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UMass signed one of its biggest recruits since joining FBS, four years after he left high school.

Penn State linebacker Jarvis Miller has announced he will leave State College to spend his final season in Amherst.

“After much prayer and consideration with my family I have decided to play my 5th year of eligibility at the University of Massachusetts (UMASS), Amherst will pursuing my Masters (sic) Degree,” Miller wrote in a note posted to his Twitter account. “To the Penn State fan base you are the best fans anyone could ask for ! It has been the most memorable 4 years of my life.”

A consensus 3-star recruit, Miller was viewed as a top-10 player in the state of Connecticut when he signed with the Nittany Lions out of Suffield.

Miller redshirted in 2015, then played in 33 career games as a special teams player and reserve linebacker. He collected 23 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack while in blue and white.

Florida State QB James Blackman reportedly not considering transfer after all

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It appears a bad debut season for Willie Taggart at Florida State is not going to get worse.

After it was reported Wednesday that Seminoles quarterback James Blackman had entered his name into the transfer portalWarchant reported that no such entry had been made as of the end of the business week.

Of course, entering one’s name into the transfer portal wouldn’t guarantee a transfer, but it’s simply not possible to transfer without putting your name in, so it appears that — as of this writing, at least — Blackman is intent on returning to Tallahassee for his junior season.

Starting quarterback Deondre Francois also dealt with a similar rumor last month. As of now, he remains a Seminole as well.

While playing for the injured Francois, Blackman completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 2,230 yards with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a true freshman in 2017. Francois returned to health and the starting lineup this past season, connecting on 57.3 percent of his passes for 2,731 yards with 15 scores against 12 picks. Blackman went 33-of-51 for 510 yards with five touchdowns and one interception as his backup.

As Francois’ numbers indicated, the Seminoles sputtered offensively in Taggart’s debut campaign. Florida State finished 110th nationally in yards per play, 93rd in passing efficiency and 113th in scoring. However, both signal callers would be wise to stick around. Taggart hired Kendal Briles to run his offense. In 1-season stints at Florida Atlantic and Houston, Briles pushed the Owls from 80th to eighth in scoring and the Cougars from 65th to fifth.