Middle Tennessee State entered the Camellia Bowl 121st in the country in turnover margin and had lost the battle in nine of their 12 games this season. Arkansas State was only a little bit better in the same category, ranking 81st in turnover margin in 2017. Predictably those kinds of statistics came into play on Saturday night in the Camellia Bowl as the two sides played a bit of hot potato — six giveaways — before MTSU hung on for a 35-30 win to cap off the first day of bowl season in college football.
Blue Raiders quarterback Brent Stockstill had a game that could have been a nightmare for a veteran quarterback but ended up being alright thanks to his defense continually picking him on a night where chunk plays were hard to come by. The signal-caller threw the first of his three interceptions on the night on the first drive of the game but bounced back over the final three quarters, throwing for 232 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. That kind of performance, which included several big throws in the second half, helped secure the first bowl victory of his career and give him the rare distinction of being able to win a postseason game with his father Rick as head coach.
It wasn’t all about the Stockstill combo for MTSU however as their run game produced a pair of touchdowns behind tailbacks Terelle West and Tavares Thomas, and the team’s defense had one of their best outings of the season to limit the Sun Belt’s highest scoring offense to well below all their season averages. Linebacker Darius Harris led the way when his unit was on the field, flying from sideline-to-sideline and racking up 12 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a two pass break ups. His running mate at linebacker, D.J. Sanders, was equally productive with seven tackles and a 54 yard fumble return for a touchdown just before halftime.
The Red Wolves did what they could to threaten to make things interesting down the stretch but never could get over the hill. The team ran a fake punt to open fourth quarter, resulting in a 21 yard strike from the punter to gunner Chris Murray along the sidelines and appeared to seize momentum after a subsequent touchdown to Warren Wand. However the defense failed to get a stop and then Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Justice Hansen (337 yards, 3TD, 1 INT) threw a fourth down pass out of the end zone to all but seal a rather lackluster loss for a team that had won six of the last eight coming into the bowl.
Arkansas State also came up a bit short in the record books on the defensive side of the ball as well. In addition to allowing 35 points to MTSU, conference player of the year Ja’Von Rolland-Jones failed to record a sack and thus couldn’t break the NCAA career record (held by former Arizona State and current Baltimore Ravens star Terrell Suggs) of 44 career sacks after entering the game just shy of the mark with 43.5. While the pass rusher did manage to sack Stockstill in the game, the play was negated by a penalty to keep him from taking over on the all-time list.
The victory pushed Middle Tennessee over the .500 mark for the fifth time in six seasons and likely meant a little bit more to the program given how many key injuries the team suffered over the course of 2017 before capturing their first bowl win in eight years. Arkansas State did their best to prevent that from happening as they dropped to 7-5 on the season after a rather bizarre Camellia Bowl that had a little bit of everything.
If you like neon colors on college football uniforms, boy have we got a future series for you.
In an announcement made on Friday, Oregon and Baylor confirmed the two schools have agreed to a home-and-home series on the gridiron in their first-ever meeting between the two programs. The Bears and Ducks will play at McLane Stadium in Waco on Sept. 11, 2027; while the return game will take place at Autzen Stadium in Eugene on Sept. 9, 2028.
The move certainly beefs up the non-conference slate for both sides after years of rather lackluster scheduling for various reasons. Baylor recently scheduled a series with Auburn for 2025/2026 and Oregon was similarly busy over the summer adding an SEC opponent with a future date with Georgia in 2022.
This series between the Ducks and Bears is the first on either team’s schedule for the 2027/2028 seasons so each has a few more slots to fill nearly a decade ago.
TCU will be without a key member of its defense for this weekend’s showdown against Big 12 rival Oklahoma as starting safety Innis Gaines will not play on Saturday — and possibly not again this season.
Speaking on his radio show on Thursday night in the DFW Metroplex, head coach Gary Patterson ruled the junior out against the Sooners and cautioned that he was “likely” done for the year after suffering a leg injury against Texas Tech last week.
Gaines himself seemed to suggest that he also will be out a significant amount of time with the injury in a Twitter post.
Gaines has been a key member of the Horned Frogs defense the past two years and has been one of the program’s best players on defense in 2018, ranking second on the team in tackles (31) and tackles for loss (6.5), as well as recording one interception, a forced fumble and a sack.
Compounding the loss of Gaines is the fact that fellow safety Niko Small has been out since the loss to Texas, leaving TCU fairly thin in the one area that you can typically count Patterson’s defense to be strong in. Freshman La’Kendrick Van Zandt is likely to be elevated into the starting role based on the team’s depth chart but you could also see an increase in playing time for Trevon Moehrig-Woodard as well.
Either way, this is not exactly the kind of news you want to hear just days before facing off against Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma offense.
Arkansas will continue feeling the effects of its Week 7 loss to Ole Miss on into Week 8.
Ty Storey suffered a head injury in the 37-33 loss to the Rebels this past Saturday, although head coach Chad Morris had been optimistic about the starting quarterback’s availability for this Saturday’s non-conference game with Tulsa. Friday, however, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, citing a source with knowledge of the decision, is reporting that Storey will not play against the Golden Hurricane.
Storey has started five games this season — the Week 2 loss to North Texas as well as the last four losses in a row. The junior has thrown for 983 yards and seven touchdowns this season, but his 124.4 pass efficiency rating of 124.4 is 11th among SEC quarterbacks and 89th nationally.
As a team, the Razorbacks are 105th in the country and last in the SEC in passing efficiency at 118.7.
If Storey is indeed sidelined as the reports suggest, either redshirt sophomore Cole Kelley or true freshman Connor Noland would get the start. Kelley started the opener this year as well as a Week 3 loss North Texas before losing the job a second time to Storey. Noland has attempted seven passes on the season.
While Kelley certainly has the edge in experience, the Democrat-Gazette writes that “Noland was seen taking first-team reps as media members left at the end of the viewing period on Wednesday.”
Just past the halfway point of the 2018 season, Florida Atlantic’s defense has taken a very steep and significant hit.
First reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and subsequently confirmed by OwlAccess.com, Azeez Al-Shaair has been diagnosed with a torn ACL. The linebacker suffered the injury during practice earlier this week.
As a result of the injury, Al-Shaair will miss the remainder of the season. Additionally, because this is his final season of eligibility, Al-Shaair will see his collegiate career come to an end as well.
This season, Al-Shaair is second on the team in tackles with 43 and tied for the team lead in quarterback hits with three. The fourth-year senior will finish as the Owls’ all-time leader in tackles.
Al-Shaair was named as the Conference USA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year over the summer after leading the league with 147 tackles in 2017.