Associated Press

No. 4 Clemson clinches third straight ACC Atlantic crown with win over Florida State

Leave a comment

It was much more difficult than it should have been, but it was a win. No. 4 Clemson topped Florida State 31-14 to claim the ACC Atlantic Division championship and take a step forward toward defending its national championship.

Clemson claimed a 17-0 halftime lead that could have been 28-0 without a pair of Kelly Bryant fumbles, and then found itself fending off an upset bid in the tail end of the fourth quarter.

With the score still 17-0 late in the third quarter, Florida State got on the board with a 7-play, 90-yard touchdown drive punctuated by a 3-yard Jacques Patrick run. After three straight punts, Florida State scored again, this time on a perfectly executed reverse-flea flicker from Blackman to tight end Ryan Izzo who bobbed and weaved his way for a 60-yard score, pulling the Seminoles within 17-14 with 8:53 to play in the game.

And then Bryant (151 passing yards, 60 rushing yards) fumbled — his third of the game — on Clemson’s next touch, giving Florida State the ball at the Clemson 40 with 6:36 to play.

However, Blackman immediately gave the ball right back. Florida State’s next snap was an interception to Clemson’s Van Smith on a throw where Smith was the only player in the picture. He returned the ball 38 yards to the FSU 44, and a rejuvenated Clemson offense sprung to life with a 6-play touchdown drive that killed half the remaining clock and Florida State’s chances of completing the comeback. Adam Choice added a punctuation mark score with 35 seconds remaining.

Both of Clemson’s first two touchdowns came with help from Florida State (3-6, 3-5 ACC). The first was set up by a fumble by Blackman (12-of-31 passing for 202 yards with one touchdown and one interception, five sacks), which Clemson’s Tre Lamar recovered at the FSU 20-yard line. Bryant rushed in from two yards out to put the Tigers up at the 2:51 mark of the first quarter.

Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) threatened to add a second score midway through the second quarter, but Travis Feaster fumbled the ball at the FSU 1, and Demarcus Christmas hopped on the ball for Florida State. However, Clemson forced a punt from inside the Florida State end zone, and Ray Ray McCloud returned the boot 35 yards to the FSU 28. Travis Etienne raced in for Clemson’s second score on play later.

Bryant nearly gave away another red zone fumble on Clemson’s final drive of the half, with three Florida State defenders touching a loose football inside the FSU 10. But Bryant out-hustled all three of them to get the ball back, allowing Alex Spence to bang in a 26-yard field goal with 1:39 left before halftime.

The win pushes Clemson into the ACC Championship for the third consecutive year — matching 2012-14 Florida State for the longest appearance streak in the 13-year history of the game — and the fifth time overall, which ties Florida State for the second most in the ACC. (Virginia Tech leads the league with six division titles.) All five trips have come under Dabo Swinney. The Tigers have won their last three ACC title game appearances.

Not coincidentally, the win also gives Clemson three straight victories over Florida State. That matches the Tigers’ longest winning streak over the ‘Noles, though the two ACC Atlantic titans did not play regularly until Florida State joined the ACC in 1992. (Florida State leads the all-time series, 20-11.) The victory also pushes Swinney above .500 (5-4) against Florida State since obtaining the full-time head coaching job in 2009.

Of course, Clemson’s program has progressed well beyond simply Florida State and winning their division. The Tigers are in the midst of defending their College Football Playoff championship, and now three more wins separate them from a third straight CFP berth.

Florida State, meanwhile, now must reel off wins over Delaware State, Florida and Louisiana-Monroe to keep its FBS-leading 35-year bowl streak alive.

Kerry Coombs officially returns to Ohio State as DC

Ohio State Buckeyes football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Ohio State Buckeyes football program has, as expected, brought back a familiar coaching face.

Speculation has been growing of late that Ryan Day would be adding Kerry Coombs to his OSU staff. Monday afternoon, the Buckeyes confirmed that Coombs has indeed returned to the program as defensive coordinator.

Coombs will replace Jeff Hafley, who left last month to become the head coach at Boston College.

In January of 2018, Coombs left OSU to take a job with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.  Prior to that, he was on Urban Meyer‘s staff for six seasons.

“Kerry Coombs is the coach I was really hoping we could hire and bring back to Ohio State,” the Ohio State Buckeyes football head coach said in a statement. “He is an excellent coach and he has had two outstanding seasons in the NFL on Mike Vrabel’s staff with the Tennessee Titans.

“I’ve spent a season on staff with Kerry and I really like his coaching and knowledge of the game, but I also like that he knows Ohio State and he knows how to recruit to Ohio State. He’s recruited some of the players currently on the team and he coached a handful of Buckeye defensive backs who went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.”

All six seasons he was at OSU, Coombs was cornerbacks coach.  He was promoted in 2017 to assistant coordinator, defense. He was also special teams coordinator from 2013-17.

Five corners who had Coombs as their position coach  — Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby and Denzel Ward — went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.

Coombs, a longtime Ohioan, spent the past two seasons as the Titans’ cornerbacks coach.

This will mark the 58-year-old Coombs’ first job as defensive coordinator at any level of football.

Jalen Hurts to represent both Alabama and Oklahoma at Senior Bowl

Jalen Hurts Alabama Oklahoma
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The departure of Jalen Hurts from Alabama to Oklahoma was nothing but class. Not surprisingly, his departure from the college game will be just as classy — with the help of all-star game officials and a helmet company.

In January of last year, Jalen Hurts announced that he would be transferring from Alabama to Oklahoma for his final season of collegiate eligibility.  At the time, Nick Saban lauded the quarterback for “[t]he way he managed [the 2018 season]… and I think he showed a tremendous amount of class.”

After leading Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff — and with Alabama sitting out the CFP for the first time ever — and being named as a Heisman Trophy finalist, Hurts saw his collegiate career end with a throttling at the hands of LSU.  As he gets set to embark on what he hopes will be a career in the NFL, Hurts will take a huge first step in that direction by competing in the Senior Bowl.

Traditionally, the all-star game, which is played in the state of Alabama, features players who wear the helmets of the school from which they came.  Hurts will do the same, albeit with a twist.

On one half of the helmet, Hurts will wear the Alabama shade of Crimson with his old No. 2 on the side.  The other half, Hurts will have the Crimson of Oklahoma with the OU logo on it.

Hurts was surprised with the helmet, specially-made by the Riddell company, at a press conference in Mobile Monday evening.

Riddell actually made two of the custom helmets.  One will be worn by Hurts during the game.  The other will be auctioned off, with the proceeds benefitting charity.

For those interested, the Senior Bowl will be played this coming Saturday.  Kickoff is set for 2:30 ET.  The game will be televised by the NFL Network.

Miami lands AAC Defensive Player of the Year as grad transfer

Miami Hurricanes football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

It has been quite the day for the Miami Hurricanes football program on the personnel front.

After some initial uncertainty, D’Eriq King announced earlier Monday that he will be transferring to the Miami Hurricanes football team.  Not long after, Quincy Roche announced that he will be doing the same.

The Temple defensive end entered his name into the NCAA transfer database earlier this offseason.

“This was not an easy decision, but without a doubt the best decision for me and my family,” Roche wrote on Twitter. “I am ready to bring leadership, toughness and [hard work] to the University of Miami Hurricanes football program as we push to win the ACC championship.”

The decision to transfer to Miami came after Roche took a weekend visit to Virginia Tech.  According to 247Sports.com, “[t]he elite edge rusher also drew interest from schools like Ohio State, Florida, North Carolina, Baylor, Ole Miss, N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Texas and Rutgers amongst others.”

Roche, a three-star 2016 signee, was tied for third nationally in sacks with 14 and 11th in tackles for loss with 19 this past season.  Following the regular season, Roche was named as the AAC’s Defensive Player of the Year.

As is the case with King, Roche will be coming into the Miami Hurricanes football program as a graduate transfer.  This coming season will be the lineman’s final year of eligibility.

The twin transfer additions did not go unnoticed by UM head coach Manny Diaz.

There’s an interesting twist to Roche’s addition to the roster.

Roche, as previously stated, comes to Miami from Temple.  Diaz was named as Temple’s head coach on Dec. 12 of 2018; exactly 17 days later, he abandoned the Owls to take the same job with the Hurricanes.

Miami’s opponent to open the 2020 season?  Temple, at home.

Feleipe Franks transfers from Florida to Arkansas

Former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks will transfer to Arkansas and be eligible to play in the fall.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1 Comment

Former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks has made his transfer decision. He will be an Arkansas Razorback.

Franks is a grad transfer, which will make him eligible for Arkansas this fall. Even better for Arkansas is Franks will be enrolled in classes and be available to work out with his new team this spring. That means Franks will get a chance to go through a full spring practice schedule for his new program under brand new head coach Sam Pittman. Arkansas will also get its first spring practice in with new offensive coordinator Kendall Briles. It should go without much saying the Arkansas offense will have a new look in 2020.

A starting job may not yet be guaranteed for Franks at Arkansas, but he will be the most experienced option available. If Franks gels well with his new team this spring, that starting job may quickly become his to lose, if it is not considered that already. Franks is coming back from a season-ending ankle injury.

Arkansas will certainly be getting an experienced passer. Ranks passed for 4,593 yards and 38 touchdowns during his time at Florida, which included some time as the starter for the Gators. Franks also made a visit to Kansas while evaluating his options since deciding he would move on from Gainesville.