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Temple mows over Florida International to win Gasparilla Bowl

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Head coaches — at least publicly — won’t complain about winning ugly when it comes to securing a victory in college football. If you gave some truth serum or a few adult beverages to Geoff Collins though, the first year head coach would have to admit that Thursday night’s game at Tropicana Field was about as ugly as it comes in the sport.

Not that it mattered in the end, as his Temple team (7-6) managed to mow down Florida International (8-5) for a 28-3 win in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

The formula was a familiar one for the Owls: salty defense, a methodical offense and wait for a few big plays out of quarterback Frank Nutile. The signal-caller didn’t have the sharpest outing down in St. Petersburg, Fla. but was solid enough to lead his team to the win column by throwing for 254 yards and a touchdown without an interception. He scored the game’s first points as well on a keeper in the second quarter and setup the team’s second score on a big pass play down the field that tailback David Hood (76 yards rushing) eventually punched in for a touchdown.

Adonis Jennings (51 yards), Keith Kirkwood (96 yards) and Isaiah Wright (73 yards, one touchdown) were the big play threats in the passing game and balanced out things given how difficult it was to run the football. The offense did just enough to take advantage of a quality performance from the Temple defense, which recorded seven sacks, two fourth downs stops, and kept their opponent out of the end zone despite having one of the more productive units in the country coming in.

Most of those struggles for FIU can be traced back to their opening drive of the game when senior starting quarterback and Tampa native Alex McGough went down with what officials later said was a broken collarbone. That seemed to chuck the game plan right out the window for the Panthers, which never seemed to get any consistency on that side of the ball out of backup Maurice Alexander once he threw two early interceptions and was generally running around to avoid pressure on every drop back. Running backs Napoleon Maxwell and Alex Gardner failed to find much space on the ground without much of a passing threat as neither came close to hitting the century mark.

Despite the loss though, it was still a heck of a year for FIU and first year coach Butch Davis as they made just the third ever bowl appearance for the program and tied the school record for wins in a season.

Temple knows all about turnarounds themselves as the bowl victory on Thursday, just the third postseason win in program history, caps off a remarkable second half surge that included four wins in their final five games. Given how bad the Owls looked in September, that’s a nice little springboard into the offseason for Collins and his staff as they send the winningest senior class in school history off with a nice, if ugly, victory.

Dad of former Northwestern QB donated a real, stuffed wildcat to ‘Cats new facility

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Northwestern’s state-of-the-art football facility, literally on the shore of Lake Michigan, is now fully operational, at a low, low cost of $260 million.

The facility has everything — including an actual wild cat.

According to a story by Yahoo‘s Eric Edholm, a stuffed cat was donated to the program by Walter Siemian, the father of former Wildcat quarterback Trevor Siemian. The plan was to originally sell it and use the proceeds to benefit the program, but apparently Pat Fitzgerald saw the cat and fell in love.

Walter Siemian took down the predator — legally, of course — last November, sent the cat of prey in question to a taxidermist and then donated it to the program.

The initial understanding was that it would be sold, with the proceeds benefitting the program. After all, these things draw some serious coin. (One current listing here for a mountain lion, which this mammal appears to be, is going for more than $12,000.) But once Fitzgerald saw it, the story goes, there was no way he was letting it leave.

The cat was staying put. That’s also easy to see why. And it’s now the first thing you see when you enter the coaches’ meeting rooms.

The hope with facilities like these is that the enhanced investment into football will lead to the Northwestern coaching staff singing a different class of recruit, which will in turn allow the program to pair their stuffed mascot with some Big Ten championship trophies.

That’s the hope, at least.

Illinois lands former USC WR Josh Imatorbhebhe

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The Los Angeles-to-Champaign pipeline is alive and well.

After landing wide receiver Trevon Sidney and defensive end Oluwole Betiku, Jr., the Fighting Illini have added wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, he announced Monday.

“Transitions are never easy, but the support has definitely helped lighten the load,” Imatorbhebhe, No. 17 above, wrote in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account. “Without further ado I’m pleased to announce my commitment to…

THE University of Illinois; with a plan to get my Masters (sic) in Strategic Brand Communications.”

A former 4-star recruit in the class of 2016 out of Suwanee, Ga., Imatorbehbhe redshirted in his first year on campus, then caught just two passes in his two seasons on the active roster, with his 2018 season slowed by an ankle injury.

Imatorbehbhe will have two seasons to play immediately for the Illini.

Trevor Lawrence once again says he has no desire to skip bowl games to protect NFL stock

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The trend of college football players with the NFL coming into view has become a growing one the last few seasons, but Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence says you won’t have to worry about missing him in a postseason bowl game.

“Sitting out bowl games and stuff, that’ll never be me,” Lawrence said in an interview with ESPN. “You won’t have to worry about writing those stories.”

This quote is nothing new from Lawrence. In March, Lawrence stressed a similar stance with regard to sitting out of college football bowl games to protect NFL draft stock.

From The Athletic‘s Grace Raynor in March:

Asked specifically if he would consider sitting out in an effort to protect his health for an NFL future, the Georgia native answered with two resounding “No’s.” That’s not in the cards, he says.

“Everyone’s talking about that, but I don’t really care about that,” Lawrence said Monday evening in his first public interview since the College Football Playoff.

“It’s definitely not coming from me, all that stuff, so (I’ll) just kind of ignore it. Just keep working.

Of course, there is something that needs to be pointed out here. A large majority of the players choosing to skip bowl games aren’t playing in the College Football Playoff and a national championship. While New Years Six bowl games are high in prestige even if not in the playoff rotation, they simply are not the same as playing in the playoff with a national title in sight.

Lawrence has played for and won the national championship in his freshman season and probably has two more seasons that could see Clemson continue to compete for a playoff spot. If Clemson is in the playoff the next two (or three years), the chances Lawrence skips a bowl game are reduced significantly.

Maybe Lawrence is just confident in Clemson’s ability to make the playoff the next couple of seasons. He’s not wrong though, right?

Syracuse seeing spike in football season ticket sales

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Dino Babers had Syracuse enjoying a 10-win season for the first time since 2001 last season. Fans of the Orange have had their enthusiasm for the football program rejuvenated and it shows in the season ticket sales this offseason.

According to a report from Syracuse.com, Syracuse has recorded 4,500 more season ticket sales this year than the school saw all of last year. To date, as of Friday, Syracuse has sold 6,800 season tickets for the 2019 season as the total inches closer and closet to a possible school record (8,000).

On top of the increased season ticket sales, Syracuse is also seeing a great retention rate through season ticket renewals. Syracuse has seen over 90 percent of season ticket holders renew their ticket packages for the 2019 season.

Syracuse ended the 2018 season ranked No. 15 in the final AP poll. IT is the highest Syracuse has ended a season in the AP Top 25 since the 2001 season (No. 14). Babers also ended Syracuse’s bowl drought in style by coaching Syracuse to a Camping World Victory in Syracuse’s first bowl game since 2013.

Syracuse opens the 2019 season on the road at Liberty on Aug. 31.