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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.

Tennessee loses LB Jonathan Kongbo to torn ACL

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Heading into this weekend’s rivalry game against Alabama in Knoxville, Tennessee’s linebacking corps has taken a hit that will be felt for the rest of 2018.

Late in the third quarter of Tennessee’s huge Week 7 upset of Auburn this past weekend, Jonathan Kongbo went down with an injury to his right knee and didn’t return to the game.  Over the weekend, Jeremy Pruitt confirmed that Kongbo was diagnosed with a torn ACL.

Obviously, Kongbo, who is expected to undergo surgery at some point this week to repair the damage, will miss the remainder of the 2018 season.  As this was his final year of eligibility, it also means that this effectively ends the linebacker’s collegiate playing career.

The fifth-year senior had started five of the six games this season for the Vols.  In that half of the regular season, he had accounted for 11 tackles, four quarterback hurries and an interception.  The pick came in the second quarter of the upset of the Tigers.

Last season, Kongbo started 10 games.

After throwing and landing punches on Mizzou player, Alabama DL Raekwon Davis will lose playing time

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An on-field incident in Week 7 will cost Raekwon Davis on the field in the future.  Just when and how much remains to be seen.

During Alabama’s romp over Missouri this past weekend, the defensive lineman was caught by the all-seeing television broadcast eye punching (x3) Mizzou offensive lineman Kevin Pendleton.  Not only did the cameras catch him, but so did the officiating crew, who flagged Davis for unsportsmanlike conduct.

While Davis very publicly apologized to Pendelton, and the human punching bag very graciously accepted…

… there will be, after Nick Saban spoke with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey about the incident, playing-time repercussions for the lineman.

“We will have him do some things and I think it should affect his playing time in the future,” the head coach said.

Again, just what effect specifically the incident will have on Davis on the field is unclear.

Davis is currently sixth on the Crimson Tide with 27 tackles while his three tackles for loss are tied for sixth.  Alabama will face rival Tennessee, coming off a huge upset of then-No. 21 Auburn this past weekend, in Knoxville this coming Saturday.

Report: Bryan Harsin, Boise State closing in on contract amendment

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Bryan Harsin and Boise State are closing in on a contract amendment to keep the coach in Broncos colors moving forward, according to a report from the Idaho Statesman.

The amendment has already been agreed upon by both sides and now just needs approval by the Idaho State Board of Education, which should come Thursday.

The new deal isn’t necessarily an extension, it just adds on terms to his existing one — which runs through the next five years and automatically extends by one year each time the Broncos win eight games. And it isn’t a raise, either. His salary is set to remain at $1.65 million this season and $1.75 million next.

But it does add a bunch of new clauses.

First of all, it would add a buyout on Harsin’s end for the first time in his five seasons as Boise State’s head coach. Should the coach leave for another school between now and Jan. 10, he would owe $300,000 to Boise State. The figure drops $50,000 each year thereafter.

Additionally, the amendment includes a slew of new incentives, including $10,000 for beating BYU and an extra five grand for doing so in Provo. Boise State hosts BYU on Nov. 3.

The amendment also allows Harsin to double-dip on his bonuses. For example, he could receive $75,000 for winning a Mountain West championship and $35,000 for taking Boise State to a bowl game. Under his existing contract, Harsin could only take the conference title bonus. On top of that, Harsin will also receive a $25,000 for winning six conference games, which then doubles to $50,000 for seven MW wins and $100,000 for eight.

Finally, the amendment changes the language on Harsin’s pool for his 10 assistant coaches. Previously, Harsin could allot up to $2.2 million for his 10 assistants; now the school must provide at least that amount.

Harsin is 46-14 as Boise State’s head coach (27-8 in MW play) with two conference championships, including a 4-2 overall mark this year

 

SEC will not levee punishments for Florida, Vanderbilt brouhaha

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The game between No. 11 Florida and Vanderbilt was exciting enough on its own. The Commodores jumped to a 21-3 lead but couldn’t hold it, and the Gators rallied for a 37-27 win, their 14th consecutive in Nashville. But the action when the clock was running was not the most entertaining thing to happen at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday. Not even close.

After Florida’s James Houston IV laid a de-cleating block — for which he was flagged for targeting and ejected from the game — upon Vanderbilt’s Dare Odeyingbo, who remained on the turf long after the hit. That drew Vandy head coach Derek Mason and defensive line coach C.J. Ah You to check on their player. While at midfield, someone from the Florida sideline said something to Mason, Mason said something back, and all of a sudden grown men were being restrained by other grown men.

Asked by ESPN’s Tom Luginbill at halftime what was said, Florida head coach Dan Mullen said the conversation would have to be referred to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and coordinator of football officials Steve Shaw.

But by the time the game ended, Mason and Mullen had calmed down, and the two head coaches exchanged a warm, lengthy embrace at midfield.

That hug-it-out mentality extended to their respective post-game press conferences.

“Derek’s a great, really close friend of mine,” Mullen said. “And I think, our sideline, we’ve got to make sure we’re cleaner in that situation and he probably thinks the same thing.”

On Monday, SEC spokesman Herb Vincent told The Tennessean that no punishment would be handed down to either side for the altercation, citing the cooler heads each side displayed after the game.

“Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were appropriately administered on the field by the officials,” Vincent told the paper. “Any discussion about decorum among the coaches will be handled privately between the conference office and the participating institutions. Both coaches appeared to put this issue behind them in their post-game midfield meeting and post-game comments.”