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Troy makes Big Easy work of North Texas in New Orleans Bowl

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Troy jumped out to a big lead early, watched it dwindle to two points by halftime, then jumped out to another large lead to begin the second half and held onto it this time, exploding for a 50-30 win over North Texas in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

After watching a potential 29-7 lead in the second quarter turn into a 22-20 lead with North Texas getting the ball to open the second half, Troy intercepted North Texas quarterback Mason Fine at the Mean Green 27, which Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers capitalized on by hitting Damion Willis for a 24-yard fade and then scored one play later on a 1-yard keeper, giving Troy a 29-20 lead at the 13:33 mark of the third quarter.

The Trojans forced a three-and-out on UNT’s next drive, then moved 92 yards in just five plays, scoring on a 59-yard strike from Silvers to Tevaris McCormick. North Texas attempted to climb back in the game with a 13-play march, but Fine was sacked on a 3rd-and-3 play from the Troy 6-yard line and Mean Green head coach Seth Littrell elected for a 24-yard Trevor Moore field goal rather than a do-or-die fourth-down conversion, pulling the score to 36-23 at the 4:26 mark of the third quarter.

North Texas forced a three-and-out and accepted the ball at its own 33 with a chance to climb back in the game, but Tyler Murray effectively ended it by sacking Fine and forcing his third turnover inside UNT territory. The Trojans hopped on the ball at the Mean Green 13 and, after a penalty, scored on a 20-yard strike from Silvers (24-of-31 for 306 yards) to John Johnson, putting the game out of reach at 43-23 with 2:02 left in the third quarter.

The dagger came when North Texas coughed up its fourth minus-territory turnover of the game, a Michael Lawrence fumble at the UNT 47, and Silvers hit Willis for his fourth passing touchdown of the game and fifth total score, a 10-yard strike with 4:07 left in the game.

Fine completed the scoring with a 17-yard cosmetic touchdown pass to Turner Smiley with 28 seconds left. The Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, Fine completed 30-of-54 passes for 303 yards with three touchdowns while getting sacked six times and turning the ball over four times. Playing without leading rusher Jeffrey Wilson, North Texas mustered only 50 yards on running plays. Overall, Troy won the turnover battle 5-2 and out-gained the Mean Green 437-295.

The win allows Troy to conclude its best season since joining the Sun Belt in 2004. The Trojans claimed their first SBC crown since 2009, won their fourth bowl game ever and registered their first 11-win season since doing so as an FCS member in 1999. North Texas (9-5) dropped to 1-4 in its five New Orleans Bowl appearances, slunk to 2-7 all-time in bowl games, missed a shot at its first 10-win season since 1947 and fell to 2-9 all-time against Troy.

Troy accepted the ball to open the game and promptly rolled 80 yards in nine plays, capped by a 1-yard Josh Anderson scoring run. The Trojans immediately pushed the lead to two scores when North Texas quarterback Fine was sacked and fumbled at his own 14, setting up Anderson’s second touchdown run of the first half of the first quarter. Silvers hit Johnson for a 2-point conversion to stake the Trojans to a 15-0 lead at the 9:21 mark of the opening frame.

The Mean Green went three-and-out on their next possession but, facing the prospect of getting buried for the game in just the first quarter, the North Texas defense rose up when Joshua Wheeler sacked Silvers on third down at the Troy 39. The UNT offense awoke with an 11-play, 75-yard drive culminating in a 12-yard pass from Fine to Rico Bussey, Jr.

Anderson immediately responded with a 55-yard run on the final play of the first quarter, and Silvers completed the drive four plays later with a 7-yard strike to Willis at the 14:24 mark of the second quarter. North Texas attempted to return service with another touchdown, but Fine under-threw a wide open Bussey on 3rd-and-2 from the Troy 31 and his fourth down pass to Michael Lawrence was dropped.

Troy threatened to push its lead to three touchdowns on its next drive, moving to the North Texas 22, when disaster struck — a snap went over Silvers’s head and was scooped up by the Mean Green’s Colton McDonald, who returned the loose pigskin 56 yards for a touchdown. Fine’s 2-point conversion rush failed, but North Texas was still within 22-13 with 5:49 left in the first half.

North Texas had a golden opportunity to pull within one score of the Trojans when Kishawn McClain intercepted Silvers at the UNT 46 on Troy’s first play of the ensuing possession, but the Mean Green were forced to punt after just one first down.

But North Texas forced its third straight stop, this drive ended by another Wheeler sack, and Fine capitalized with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Lawrence with 49 seconds left before the break to pull the Mean Green within two.

Houston, Utah confirm 2026-27 home-and-home series

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A mini-Houston scheduling day at CFT continues, with the AAC school confirming another future matchup with a Power Five program.

On the heels of their tweaked series with UT-San Antonio, UH also announced a future home-and-home with Pac-12 member Utah.  The Cougars will host the Utes at TDECU Stadium on Sept. 5, 2026, then travel to Salt Lake City’s Rice-Eccles Stadium Sept. 11, 2027.

Th two football programs have met four times previously, with the Cougars winning all four of those matchups.  Three of those four games were played in Houston, with the most recent meeting coming way back in 1978.

In confirming their series, the two programs also took care of a couple of other scheduling notes.

Utah announced a three-game series with Weber State that will be played in 2023, 2026 and 2027.  That trio of games against the FCS program will, obviously, be played in Salt Lake City.  Houston, meanwhile, confirmed a home-and-home with Rice, with a Sept. 24, 2022, game at the Cougars’ home and a Sept. 9, 2023, game at the home of the Owls.

Sanford to Samford: ex-Georgia LB Jaleel Laguins heads to FCS

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From Sanford to Samford, and Bulldogs to Bulldogs, Jaleel Laguins has settled on his new college football home.

In an announcement posted to his personal Twitter account Thursday evening, Laguins confirmed that he has decided to enroll in classes at Samford and continue his playing career with the FCS Bulldogs.  The move comes almost exactly one month after the linebacker used the same social media website to announce his transfer from Georgia.

As Samford plays at a level below the FBS, Laguins will avoid having to sit out the 2018 season.

A four-star member of the Bulldogs’ 2016 recruiting class, Laguins was rated as the No. 10 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 21 player at any position in the state of Georgia. He was the top-rated linebacker in UGA’s class that year, and only three signees on the defensive side of the ball — defensive tackles Julian Rochester and Michail Carter, and defensive end Chauncey Manac — were rated higher.

As a true freshman, Laguins played in six games. He took a redshirt for this past season, and would have to sit out the 2018 season if he moved on to another FBS program.

Ohio State transfer Jared Drake moves on to the FCS

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After moving on from Ohio State, Jared Drake has opted to drop a couple of rungs on the college football ladder in continuing his playing career.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday, Drake announced “that the next stop on this long journey will be with the Leathernecks of Western Illinois University!” As Western Illinois plays at the FCS level, the linebacker will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

Drake came to the Buckeyes as a walk-on in 2015.  he played in nine games the past two seasons, almost exclusively on special teams.

According to his official OSU bio, Drake had “added long snapping to his résumé along with his responsibilities as a linebacker.”

Houston, UTSA announce tweaks to twin home-and-homes

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The aftereffects of Hurricane Harvey continue to linger, in this case as it pertains to college football scheduling.

Houston and UT-San Antonio in March of 2016 announced a future four-game series, with two of the games set to be played at the latter’s home (2017, 2023) and two in the former’s (2022, 2024). Because of the once-in-500 years flooding event in the Houston area last August, however, the 2017 game was canceled.

In a press release Thursday, UTSA confirmed that the canceled 2017 game will now be played on Aug. 30, 2025, at TDECU Stadium in Houston. The 2023 game, which had been scheduled to be played in San Antonio, will now be played in Houston.

The 2022 and 2024 games had been scheduled for Houston’s home but will now be played in San Antonio’s Alamodome.

The two football teams have met twice previously, in 2013 and 2014. The road teams won each of those matchups, with the Roadrunners spoiling the opening of UH’s new stadium in the 2014 game.