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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.

Following pregame speeches from President Trump, Navy leads Army at halftime

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For the second consecutive year, President Donald Trump is taking in the annual Army-Navy Game in person in Philadelphia. And, as is typically the case in this storied rivalry, it’s been a tight contest after 30 minutes of play in Lincoln Financial Field with Navy leading Army 14-7 at halftime.

Army quarterback Christian Anderson became the first quarterback to make his first career start for Army in the Army-Navy Game since T.D. Baker did so in 1979. It sure didn’t take long for the freshman to have an impact. After going three-and-out to open the game, Anderson rattled off a 21-yard gain on the ground on the first play of Army’s second possession. 17 plays later (yes, 17 plays later), Anderson finished off the drive with a five-yard run to the right edge of the field for a touchdown, the first score of the game.

Malcolm Perry provided a jolt to the Navy offense on the second offensive series for the Midshipmen, although in much quicker fashion compared to the lengthy Army drive. Perry took off to the right side and juked a defender en route to a 55-yard touchdown that tied the game up early in the second quarter. The 55-yard touchdown run also moved Perry into first place in the Navy record books for most single-season total offensive yards. He later became Navy’s all-time single-season rushing leader as he continued to rewrite the record books in Annapolis.

Perry provided another juke move in a very similar play on a 44-yard run late in the first half. That run setup the go-ahead score. Naturally, a play similar to the Philly Special run by the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl two seasons ago, Navy took the lead with a fake play that saw receiver Chance Warren complete a pass to fullback Jamale Carothers. It wasn’t exactly a Philly Special, but this gam,e being played in the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, it felt appropriate.

President Trump took a few minutes to address each team in the locker room prior to walking on the field for the national anthem and coin flip. A video message from Trump was also played in the stadium during the pregame routine.

Army has won each of the last three meetings and is looking for a long-awaited four-game winning streak.

Florida State RB Cam Akers declares for NFL draft, will skip bowl game

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One of college football’s most talented running backs is moving on to the NFL. Florida State running back Cam Akers has declared for the NFL draft. As most players do, Akers announced his decision with a statement released on his Twitter account on Saturday afternoon.

“I have decided to enter the 2020 NFL Draft and will not play in the Sun Bowl, ” Akers confirmed, ruling himself out of the bowl game for the Seminoles coming up. “Even though I won’t be playing in the bowl game I will be at practice and in El Paso supporting my teammates.”

Akers rushed for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns for Florida State this season, both more than good enough to lead the team. It was the second time Akers rushed for over 1,000 yards for the Seminoles, having done so in 2017 while rushing for 706 yards in 2018. Akers also caught 30 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns this season.

Florida State will face Arizona State in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.

Georgia RB James Cook arrested on pair of misdemeanor charges

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If Ye Olde Arrest Tracker were still around, it’d be time to set the ticker back to double zeroes.

The latest FBS program with an off-field issue with which to deal is Georgia, with multiple media outlets reporting that running back James Cook was arrested early Saturday morning following a traffic stop in Athens.  According to the Athens Banner-Herald, Cook, the brother of former Florida State star Dalvin Cook, was charged with driving without a valid license and possession of an open container of alcohol in a passenger area.

Both of those charges are misdemeanors.

At this point, the football program has not publicly commented on the development.  It’s unclear if the incident will impact Cook’s availability for the Sugar Bowl vs. Baylor on New Year’s Day.

Cook was a four-star member of UGA’s 2018 recruiting class, rated as the No. 3 all-purpose back in the country; the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 41 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  He has rushed for 460 yards and four touchdowns in two seasons, including 176 and two in 2019.

New USF head coach Jeff Scott lands second Power Five transfer RB

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It’s been quite the productive first few days on the Power Five personnel front for Jeff Scott.

Monday, it was confirmed that the Clemson co-offensive coordinator had been named as the next head football coach at South Florida.  Two days later, former South Carolina running back Lavonte Valentine announced that he would be continuing his collegiate playing career at USF.

Friday, yet another running back decided to transfer into Scott’s program, with Darrian Felix announcing via Twitter that he will transfer to USF and continue his collegiate p[laying career with the Bulls.  Felix, who decided to transfer from Oregon following the Pac-12 championship game, will be eligible to play immediately for the AAC school in 2020.

A three-star member of the Ducks’ 2017 recruiting class, Felix ran for 426 yards and three touchdowns on 78 carries during his three years in Eugene.  This past season, the redshirt sophomore totaled 197 yards and a pair of touchdowns on his 34 carries.