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No. 16 TCU goes to Stillwater and locks up No. 6 Oklahoma State

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Oklahoma State spent its first three games blasting its opponents from the jump. Against Tulsa, South Alabama and Pittsburgh — admittedly, not exactly the toughest non-conference schedule in the game — the Cowboys held a combined 59-0 lead at the end of the first quarter en route to blowout victories.

This game was pretty much the exact opposite.

TCU controlled the ball and the pace and tone of the game from the beginning, using a massive possession advantage to lean on an overmatched Cowboys defense and survive a late challenge from a powerful Pokes offense en route to a 44-31 victory.

Actually, the first quarter looked as if TCU would spoil a great game plan and an early advantage. The Frogs ran 25 of the game’s first 33 plays but found themselves in a 7-6 hole after two drives ended in field goals and Mason Rudolph hit James Washington for an 86-yard touchdown.

But the Frogs answered, rallying for consecutive touchdown drives of 75 and 62 yards, capped by a 28-yard Darius Anderson and a 9-yard strike from Kenny Hill to John Diarse. Oklahoma State tacked on a field goal before the break, but TCU hit the locker room with a 10-point lead on the scoreboard and an 11-minute time of possession advantage.

After halftime, a rested TCU defense intercepted Rudolph in Cowboys territory and turned it into points on a 6-yard Anderson run. Oklahoma State responded with a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown march to pull within 27-17 midway through the third quarter, but TCU rumbled down the field on a 9-play, 75-yard drive in which eight of the snaps were runs and the only pass was a 43-yard strike to Jaelan AustinSewo Olonilua punched in a 1-yard plunge — which he later fumbled, but the call of touchdown was upheld upon review — to give the Frogs a 34-17 lead.

TCU (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) forced a punt on the next drive and had a chance to put the game away early in the fourth quarter, but Hill fired incomplete on a 3rd-and-7 from the OSU 14. Jonathan Song‘s third field goal of the game made the score 37-17 but preserved a comeback window for Oklahoma State with 12:03 remaining.

Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) immediately notched the first of its three needed touchdowns, moving 79 yards in 2:19 and culminating in a 1-yard Rudolph keeper to pull within 37-24 with 9:44 to play. The Pokes’ defense forced a three-and-out on TCU’s next possession and its offense moved to the TCU 23, but a wide receiver pass by Jalen McCleskey was intercepted at the 5-yard line by TCU’s Nick Orr.

Nevertheless, Oklahoma State forced another three-and-out — the Frogs’ offense “gained” minus-8 yards in its first two touches after going up 37-17 — and then moved 53 yards in five plays, keyed by a 34-yard McCleskey catch — to shrink the deficit to 37-31 with 3:03 to play.

After a 42-yard kickoff return by KaVontae Turpin, Oklahoma State used both of its remaining timeouts to force a do-or-die 3rd-and-4 at the OSU 42 with 2:37 to play. A stop would’ve given Oklahoma State the ball deep in its own territory with plenty of time and a chance to win with a touchdown, and a loss would’ve allowed the Frogs to run out the clock. Neither of those outcomes happened, though, as Anderson bursted through the Pokes’ front and raced untouched for a touchdown, pushing the lead back to two touchdowns.

Anderson and the TCU offensive line dominated the game, as he carried 26 times for 160 yards and three scores. Playing without senior Kyle Hicks, TCU as a team rushed 49 times for 241 yards and four scores, while Hill hit a manageable 22-of-33 passes for 228 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

The TCU defense forced Rudolph into easily his worst game of the season. Rudolph finished the game hitting 21-of-39 throws with 398 yards and two touchdowns, but he also lost a fumble and threw two interceptions. Rudolph’s first two turnovers turned into TCU touchdowns, and his third came on a tipped pass on 4th-and-1 on Oklahoma State’s last-gasp driving trailing 44-31. Washington caught six passes for 153 yards and a score, and Justice Hill carried 25 times for 102 yards and a score.

Arkansas State’s Justice Hansen, Appalachian State’s Clifton Duck named Sun Belt preseason players of the year

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The SEC isn’t the only league in the South to release their preseason all-conference team on Friday as the Sun Belt named Arkansas State QB Justice Hansen and Appalachian State defensive back Clifton Duck as the preseason offensive and defensive players of the year for 2018.

Hansen is looking to repeat as Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year after winning the award at the end of last season after throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and accounting for 44 touchdowns with the Red Wolves. Duck had six interceptions last year to help pace the Mountaineers’ defense and is tied with fellow first-team selection Blace Brown (who plays at Troy) for the most in the nation the past two seasons with 11.

All told though, the Neal Brown’s Trojans had the most selections across the two All-Sun Belt preseason teams with 11 players earning a nod.

The full 2018 Preseason All-Sun Belt team is below:

First Team Offense

QB – Justice Hansen

RB – Jalin Moore (Appalachian State), Warren Wand (Arkansas State)

WR – Justin McInnis (Arkansas State), Penny Hart (Georgia State), Marcus Green (ULM)

TE – Collin Reed (Appalachian State)

OL – Victor Johnson (Appalachian State), Lanard Bonner (Arkansas State), Kevin Dotson (Louisiana), Tristan Crowder (Troy), Deontae Crumitie (Troy) 

First Team Defense

DL – Ronheen Bingham (Arkansas State), Logan Hunt (Georgia Southern), Hunter Reese (Troy), Trevon Sanders (Troy)

LB – Anthony Flory (Appalachian State), Michael Shaw (Georgia State), Tron Folsom (Troy)

DB – Clifton Duck, Justin Clifton (Arkansas State), Monquavion Brinson (Georgia Southern), Blace Brown

First Team Special Teams

K – Gavin Patterson (South Alabama)

P – Corliss Waitman (South Alabama)

RS – Marcus Green (ULM)

Second Team Offense

QB – Caleb Evans (ULM)

RB – Wesley Fields (Georgia Southern), Trey Ragas (Louisiana)

WR – RJ Turner (ULM), Jamarius Way (South Alabama), Deondre Douglas (Troy)

TE – Ellis Richardson (Georgia Southern)

OL – Jacob Still (Arkansas State), Curtis Rainey (Georgia Southern), Hunter Atkinson (Georgia State), Shamarious Gilmore (Georgia State), Aaron Brewer (Texas State)

Second Team Defense

DL – Myquon Stout (Appalachian State), Marterious Allen (Georgia State), Tyree Turner (South Alabama), Marcus Webb (Troy)

LB – Silas Kelly (Coastal Carolina), Bull Barge (South Alabama), Bryan London II (Texas State)

DB – Tae Hayes (Appalachian State), BJ Edmonds (Arkansas State), Marcus Jones (Troy), Cedarius Rookard (Troy)

Second Team Special Teams

K – Tyler Bass (Georgia Southern)

P – Cody Grace (Arkansas State)

RS – Marcus Jones (Troy)

Hotels, recruiting trips and meals among the things on the chopping block at New Mexico due to budget cuts

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Operating a Division I athletics program can be tough but few face the inherent hurdles of running a department quite like the two FBS schools in the state of New Mexico. For years the Aggies of New Mexico State have had one of the smallest budgets in the country and their rivals at New Mexico are not immune to the same challenges either. Case in point came this week as the Lobos moved to cut four sports on Thursday by a unanimous vote from the UNM Board of Regents.

While football was not on the chopping block for the school (it’s a required sport to remain in the Mountain West), the program itself is not immune to penny-pinching the department is facing in the near term. According to the Albuquerque Journal, this includes no longer staying at a hotel the nights before home games, a reduction in the recruiting budget for trips and a potential reduction in the number of meals the school provides to players.

“We are talking about football internally,” athletic director Eddie Nuñez said. “Football, as well as every other sport, is going to be held to the same accountability when it comes to managing their budgets.”

According to recent records, the football team spent a reported $8.3 million during the most recent fiscal year and failed to turn a profit. The Lobos will soon be reducing the total number of players on the team from 116 to 113 (there will remain 85 scholarships available) for both budgetary and Title IX reasons as well. While it was certainly not intended, the program did see some additional cost savings earlier this year when they suspended head coach Bob Davie without pay for 30 days.

Still, times are tough in the state and nobody knows that better than the athletic departments who are facing a money-crunch and trying to do what they can to dig themselves out of it.

North Carolina’s self-reported NCAA violations the result of players selling their shoes

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We learned two things about the North Carolina football program this week and neither of them are all that great for the Tar Heels or their brand.

The item that generated the most headlines was head coach Larry Fedora discussing his misguided views on CTE at ACC Media Days but in terms of impact, it may very well be the fact that the school self-reported several NCAA violations that could lead to player suspensions this season. Now we know what the whole mess was about and let’s just say that it’s a lot less serious than the last time the school underwent the NCAA microscope.

Per WRAL, the secondary violations that were agreed upon were the result of players “selling university-issued shoes and athletic gear.” Yep, selling shoes.

“It’s disappointing,” athletic director Bubba Cunningham told The News & Observer about the matter. “You know we do a great job. I think our compliance office does a great job with education, and students know the rules, and occasionally we make mistakes. We had a couple of students who made some mistakes, and there’s obviously penalties associated with that.”

Adding a layer to this story is that the school recently switched to the Jordan Brand for their apparel prior to the 2017 season as a nod to the Tar Heels’ most famous alum. As part of a uniform unveil that summer, players were given a free pair of Retro 11s and understandably went nuts upon receiving them. They also received some Air Jordan 3 retros in January. It’s unknown whether those shoes are the ones in question that were sold or if it were some other items that players were given to wear but the bottom line is selling such items is against NCAA rules.

At well over $100 for each pair, the players in question face not only repaying the money to a charity to regain eligibility but also the prospect of several games worth of suspensions. It seems like we’ll find out soon who will be held out and for how long but that trip to face Cal in the season opener could be a lot tougher than Fedora and his staff thought thanks to the latest bit of scandal in Chapel Hill.

Watch list season rolls on with Rimington Trophy latest to release list of 58 (!) centers to keep an eye on

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Are you a center that plays college football? Congrats, there’s a nearly 50% chance that you’re on the latest watch list to be released to the media for a postseason award.

On Friday, the Remington Trophy followed in the footsteps of its counterparts and released the 2018 Fall Watch List featuring centers from all over the country. In total, some 58 (!) players made the cut after getting nominated by their schools. The Pac-12 led the way this season with a full 10 players on the list, followed by the ACC with eight centers and the SEC just behind with seven.

Among those that you could say headline the entire group are Alabama’s Ross Pierschbacher, Georgia’s Lamont Gaillard, Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy, Texas’ Zach Shackelford, Penn State’s Connor McGovern, Florida State’s Alec Eberle and Clemson’s Justin Falcinelli.

You can find the full Remington Trophy watch list here.

And if you’re in the preseason watch list mood… the Doak Walker Award, Mackey Award, Biletnikoff Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Bednarik Award and Maxwell Award have all released their watch lists for various positions as well.

We’re still a month away from the regular season actually starting in college football but media days and award watch lists are a sure sign every summer that the long, long offseason is coming to an end.