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Josh Rosen leads UCLA back from 34-point deficit to stun Texas A&M

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UCLA staged an impossible rally from 34 points down to stun Texas A&M 45-44 on Sunday night at the Rose Bowl. Trailing 44-10 with four minutes to play in the third quarter, Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen carried his team to five consecutive touchdown drives, the final one culminating on a 10-yard scoring toss to Jordan Lasley with 43 seconds remaining.

In all, UCLA’s rally totaled 396 yards on just 37 plays while needing less than nine minutes. Rosen ended four of those drives in touchdown passes, including an impossible 42-yard strike to Darren Andrews to make the score 44-31 with 8:12 remaining that quite literally went through the hands of A&M safety Deshawn Capers-Smith.

While UCLA’s quarterback played every bit like the possible No. 1 overall draft pick he’s hyped up to be, A&M’s meltdown was made possible by playing a quarterback who proved he was not ready for the moment — even if that moment asked for simply nursing a five-touchdown lead over 19 minutes. The Aggies lost starting quarterback Nick Starkel to a foot injury in the third quarter (he later returned to the sidelines in crutches), and while his numbers (6-of-13 for 62 yards) weren’t anything that would remind you of Johnny Manziel, clearly, Starkel’s presence allowed A&M to stay on the field. With Starkel unavailable, A&M turned to true freshman Kellen Mond (3-of-17 for 27 yards, 15 rushes for 54 yards), who led the Aggies to three 3-and-outs and another punt. Mond did help lead a nine-play, 50-yard drive that ended in a field goal try, but starting kicker Daniel LaCamera was also lost to injury and Braden Mann‘s 43-yard try with 4:41 to play and A&M leading 44-31 missed.

The Aggies raced to a 38-10 halftime lead thanks to a running game that ran over, around and straight past UCLA’s hapless defense. Trayveon Williams led the way with 22 carries for 203 yards and two touchdowns, including a 61-yard score and a 72-yard burst that set up another A&M touchdown. Keith Ford added 18 carries for 114 yards and three scores of his own. As a team, Texas A&M out-rushed UCLA, 382-70.

But it wasn’t enough to overcome a career night from Rosen, who hit 35-of-58 throws for a career-high 491 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Those final numbers are even more unbelievable considering Rosen hit six of his first 18 passes and ended the first half hobbling to the sideline after taking a sack on 4th-and-10.

Turns out, that was all simply a prologue to one of the greatest comebacks in UCLA history and perhaps the most costly collapse in Texas A&M annals.

The loss was Kevin Sumlin‘s first in 21 regular season non-conference games as Texas A&M’s head coach. And, considering the status he entered this season, it is undoubtedly his worst.

Marshall, North Texas tabbed as C-USA favorites

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Conference USA released its preseason poll on Sunday, and the league’s media sees some change at the top. UAB topped Middle Tennessee to win the conference crown a year ago, but voters don’t see either team repeating atop their respective decisions this season.

In the East Division, Marshall is a moderate favorite, garnering 14 first-place votes, ahead of FIU’s nine and 2017 C-USA champion Florida Atlantic’s three. In the West, North Texas was far ahead of the pack with 20 first-place votes, far outpacing Southern Miss’ four. Defending champion UAB earned three first-place votes, but Bill Clark‘s Blazers actually came in fourth place overall, behind Louisiana Tech.

EAST DIVISION
1. Marshall (14)
2. FIU (9)
3. Florida Atlantic (3)
4. Middle Tennessee
5. Western Kentucky
6. Old Dominion
7. Charlotte

WEST DIVISION
1. North Texas (20)
2. Southern Miss (4)
3. Louisiana Tech
4. UAB (3)
5. UTSA
6. Rice
7. UTEP

North Texas has yet to win the conference since joining the league in 2013, though Seth Littrell did guide the Mean Green to the West title in 2017. Marshall won the conference in 2014 and took the East Division in ’13.

One Nebraska DB cited for weed, another for driving under suspension following traffic stop

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One of these days, every single state in the Union — along with the federal government — will fall in line and come to their senses when it comes to weed.  Until then, we’ll continue bringing you stories like this one.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, two Nebraska football players, safety Marquel Dismuke (pictured) and walk-on defensive back Jeramiah Stovall, were cited by Lincoln Police Department officers Friday night. Stovall was cited for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana while Dismuke received a citation for driving on a suspended license.

The twin citations came after Dismuke’s vehicle was pulled over for failing to display  a front license plate.

“We are aware of the incident and are addressing it,” a Nebraska official said in a very brief statement.

After playing in 19 games (one start) the past two years, Dismuke is a front-runner for a starting job entering summer camp. This past season, Stovall was named as NU’s Special Teams Player of the Year.

Kentucky confirms addition of Troy transfer QB Sawyer Smith

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It’s now officially official.

In late April, Sawyer Smith took his first step in moving on from Troy by announcing on social media that he had placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  Two weeks later, the quarterback used social media to reveal that his next stop at the collegiate level would be at Kentucky.

Monday, Smith’s expected new home confirmed the player’s addition to the roster.

”We’re excited to have Sawyer join our program,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said in a statement. “It’s great to add a quarterback with his experience and success. He helped lead Troy to an outstanding season last year and we’re glad to have him here.”

As Smith comes to the Wildcats as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to compete for a starting job immediately.  Additionally, he’ll have another season of eligibility he could use in 2020.

Smith played in 13 games this past season, including starts in the last seven.  In those appearances, the Florida native completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,669 yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with six interceptions. He also rushed for 191 yards and another touchdown.

Terry Wilson started all 13 games for the Wildcats in a 2018 season that saw UK reach double digits in wins for the first time since Jimmy Carter was sitting in the Oval Office. Wilson, though, was 10th in the SEC and 63rd nationally with a 133.9 pass efficiency rating.

For what it’s worth, Smith’s 139 rating was fifth in the Sun Belt Conference and 47th in the country.

Lincoln Riley: Jalen Hurts must win starting job at Oklahoma

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Coaches say things to motivate their players even if nobody really believes it. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, entering his third season in charge of the Sooners this fall, is already proving to be a veteran when it comes to setting the bar high and motivating his quarterbacks in the offseason.

Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts will undoubtedly be the starting quarterback for Oklahoma when the 2019 season kicks off for the defending Big 12 champion on Sept. 1 against Houston. However, Riley is not prepared to publicly anoint his newest quarterback as the heir to the throne of the offense that has produced the last two Heisman Trophy winners at the quarterback position. Instead, Riley is telling media members at Big 12 media days Hurts will have to go out and earn the opportunity.

Don’t be shocked by seeing that quote, because that is what the best coaches will do no matter who is on their team. Except in certain situations where a proven starting quarterback is coming back to the program for a second or third (or fourth?) season, coaches will always hope to inspire healthy competition at every position, including quarterback. By not gifting Hurts the starting job in the middle of July, Riley is setting the tone that will keep Hurts pushing to improve his game and keep other quarterbacks like Class of 2019 five-star recruit Spencer Rattler and four-star Class of 2018 quarterback Tanner Mordecai working to get their shot.

But Hurts is far from any ordinary transfer quarterback. Hurts was the starter for Alabama for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, in which Alabama went to the national championship game both seasons, losing one and winning the other. Yes, Tua Tagovailoa replaced Hurts at quarterback for that national title win against Georgia, but Hurts was a major reason why Alabama was in the national title game two years in a row with him as the starter. Hurts brings multiple seasons of starting experience form one of the top programs in the sport with him. And after Oklahoma lost Kyler Murray to the NFL Draft a year after losing Baker Mayfield, Hurts is stepping right into a position that carried high expectations and demands results.

Hurts may have had a couple of bumps in the road in Tuscaloosa, but he didn’t come to Oklahoma to be a back-up. Riley knows that, but he has the responsibility to make sure everyone on his team is working hard to improve. That message should be heard loud and clear, even if media pundits don’t have to believe it.