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Quinton Flowers leads USF to wild come-from-behind victory in Birmingham Bowl

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The 2017 season may not have checked off all of the goals for USF (11-2), but Charlie Strong and the Bulls have reason to celebrate at the end of the season after winning a wildly entertaining Birmingham Bowl with a 38-34 victory over Texas Tech (6-7) on Saturday afternoon. USF quarterback Quinton Flowers was the hero fo the day after putting the Bulls on his back in the second half, shrugging aside a woeful first half to pull USF from behind for the win.

Flowers ended his day with an MVP performance with 311 passing yards and four touchdowns and 106 rushing yards. It was Flowers who had to step things up in the fourth quarter, leading the Bulls to three touchdowns in the final quarter by using his feet and his arm to work the late game heroics.

Early in the fourth quarter, and just one play after an instant replay confirmed a call on the field marking the ball shy of the end zone, USF tried muscling their way across the goal line only to be overmatched by Texas Tech’s defensive effort to keep Darius Tice just out of the end zone on fourth down.

The Texas Tech stop preserved a seven-point advantage, but the battle of field position would still end up helping USF. After forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, USF took over at the Texas Tech 43-yard line and worked their way into the end zone, this time ending the drive with Flowers running off to the right side to find a clear path for a game-tying touchdown.

Texas Tech took a 27-24 lead with just over five minutes to play with a 33-yard field goal by Clayton Hatfield, setting the stage for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers to try and deliver some last-minute heroics in his final college football game. Flowers needed just two plays before giving the Bulls a 31-27 lead on a 64-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

Texas Tech answered with a touchdown of their own, with T.J. Vasher somehow getting left wide open in the end zone for an easy touchdown pass from Nic Shimonek.

But the Red Raiders left Flowers and the Bulls too much time to strike back, and strike back they most certainly did. Flowers once again delivered the heroics with a key 21-yard run on a 3rd and 10 and followed that up with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Tyre McCants to go up 38-34 after the extra point.

The legacy of Quinton Flowers at USF will be one that will be remembered fondly, even if it never saw a trip to a BCS or New Years Six bowl game. But Flowers will leave with a handful of team records and his shoes will be big to fill for whoever is next in line in Tampa. After coming up just shy of an elusive AAC championship after a wild shootout loss against UCF in the regular season finale, it is fitting to see Flowers go out having led his team to a wild back-and-forth victory in a bowl game.

For three quarters, it appeared as though Texas Tech may get by the game using its defense, going against the grain of what is typically expected from a Texas Tech team. All of that crumbled in the fourth quarter, however, despite the goal line stand highlighted above. USF had over 400 yards of offense in the second half after a lackluster first half showing, and the Bulls edges the Red Raiders in first downs with 27 to Texas Tech’s 26.

The AAC improves to 2-1 in the bowl season with the win after Temple took care of FIU on Thursday night. Texas Tech gets the Big 12 off to a 0-1 start in the bowl season with the next games played on Tuesday by West Virginia (vs. Utah in Heart of Dallas Bowl) and Kansas State (vs. UCLA in Cactus Bowl).

Texas Tech’s 2018 season will open with a neutral site game in Houston against Ole Miss of the SEC on Sept. 1, 2018. USF will begin the 2018 season at home on Sept. 1 against FCS opponent Elon. The Bulls will then host Georgia Tech and visit Illinois the following two weeks.

SWAC moving conference title game “permanently” on-campus after issues last season

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The Birmingham, Alabama area may be more well known for hosting SEC Media Days this week but the city was also the epicenter of another kickoff event in the SWAC’s annual media day on Tuesday.

And in contrast to their FBS friends down the road in Hoover, the SWAC actually had a bit of pertinent news to discuss in announcing that the league’s annual conference title game in football is moving away from a neutral site going forward.

“The permanent home of the SWAC championship will be on the campus of the higher seed,” commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland said, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.

McClelland reportedly said several cities bid on hosting the game in the future but the lessons of 2018 had to be a big factor in the league sticking with the home-hosted model adopted by just about everybody outside of the FBS Power Five conferences. Last year the SWAC was forced to move their game on-campus from Legion Field after UAB won their CUSA division and had a chance to host their respective league title game.

Legion Field and the Blazers didn’t wind up actually hosting the CUSA title game but the simple threat of it happening pushed the SWAC out after the league had made a big deal about returning to Birmingham for the game after five years away.

The SWAC and its member schools will still have to worry about last minute location changes for their Dec. 7 title tilt but at least now it will be of their own making and not somebody else’s.

Pair of Eastern Washington players who were shot are out of the hospital, expect to play in 2019

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After a scary incident over the weekend in Spokane, two Eastern Washington football players were released from the hospital earlier this week and appear well on their way to making a full recovery despite some life-threatening injuries sustained in a shooting.

Per The Spokesman-Review, safety Dehonta Hayes was discharged on Saturday evening and defensive lineman Keith Moore was released on Monday after both were shot.

“Keith had broken up a fight outside and the guys took off running,” Hayes told the paper. “I was outside looking for my car keys, and as I got to my car door that was locked, I walked away and heard two pops. They shot at us.”

Despite the serious nature of things, each player still expects to contribute for the Eagles this year after both were listed as a starter coming into 2019. Hayes, who remarkably confirmed he still has a bullet that remains in his neck (!!!), said he’ll be back by camp on August 1st. Moore, who took one to the chest, will return closer to the end of the month.

It goes without saying that both guys are incredibly lucky to not only survive a shooting with those injuries, but to be able to bounce-back and play football just over a month later.

Doak Walker Award releases 2019 watch list

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On Tuesday, we admired the Davey O’Brien Award’s restraint when it came to its watch list. The reason we did that was evident Wednesday, when the Doak Walker Award dropped its watch list.

A whopping 71 players are on alert to be proclaimed the nation’s top running back, compared to yesterday’s 30 quarterbacks. Basically — with one notable exception — if you’ve got a clear starter, he made the list.

The notable exception? Kansas’ Pooka Williams, perhaps because the selectors are concerned that missing the Indiana State game will hurt his numbers that badly.

Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor won the honor in 2018 and he’s back to defend it this year, which would make him the third player in the 30-year history of the award to repeat, joining Texas’ Ricky Williams (1997-98) and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden (2006-07). Taylor is the fourth Badger to win the Doak Walker, following Ron Dayne (1999), Montee Ball (2012) and Melvin Gordon (2014).

In addition to Taylor, returning finalist Travis Etienne (Clemson) made the list, alongside 2018 semifinalists Eno Benjamin (Arizona State), AJ Dillon (Boston College) and JJ Taylor (Arizona).

Ten semifinalists will be named in November, and three finalists will be announced Nov. 20. The winner will be named during the college football awards show on Dec. 12.

The full watch list is below:

Cam Akers, Florida State
Darius Anderson, TCU
Jafar Armstrong, Notre Dame
LaVante Bellamy, Western Michigan
Eno Benjamin, Arizona State
Max Borghi, Washington State
Isaiah Bowser, Northwestern
Rakeem Boyd, Arkansas
Darius Bradwell, Tulane
Shamari Brooks, Tulsa
Spencer Brown, UAB
Brittain Brown, Duke
Cade Carney, Wake Forest
Michael Carter, North Carolina
Ty Chandler, Tennessee
Andrew Clair, Bowling Green
Jashaun Corbin, Texas A&M
Reggie Corbin, Illinois
AJ Dillon, Boston College
J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
Travis Dye, Oregon
Travis Etienne , Clemson
Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State
Dayton Furuta, Hawaii
Tre Harbison, Northern Illinois
Najee Harris, Alabama
Kylin Hill, Mississippi State
Jerry Howard, Jr., Georgia Tech
Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota
Keaontay Ingram, Texas
Deon Jackson, Duke
Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State
Tony Jones, Jr., Notre Dame
Lopini Katoa, BYU
Joshua Kelley, UCLA
Bryant Koback, Toledo
Benny LeMay, Charlotte
Vavae Malepeai, USC
Kam Martin, Auburn
Jordan Mason, Georgia Tech
Greg McCrae, UCF
Anthony McFarland, Jr., Maryland
Tra Minter, South Alabama
Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana
Marcel Murray, Arkansas State
Moe Neal, Syracuse
Jaret Patterson, Buffalo
Lamical Perine, Florida
Scottie Phillips, Ole Miss
Trey Ragas, Louisiana
Ronnie Rivers, Fresno State
Larry Rountree III, Missouri
Mekhi Sargent, Iowa
Cameron Scarlett, Stanford
Stevie Scott III, Indiana
BJ Smith, Troy
Rodney Smith, Minnesota
Kesean Strong, Old Dominion
D’Andre Swift, Georgia
Toa Taua, Nevada
Corey Taylor II, Tulsa
J.J. Taylor, Arizona
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Patrick Taylor, Memphis
DeAndre Torrey, North Texas
Breck Turner, Eastern Michigan
KeShawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
CJ Verdell, Oregon
Quardraiz Wadley, UTEP
Michael Warren II, Cincinnati
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas

Alabama blames Clemson blowout on lack of preparation, focus

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Wouldn’t you have loved to be a fly on the wall in Alabama’s football offices as the Crimson Tide prepared for the national championship game against Clemson? How great would it be to be inside the inside, to know exactly how Nick Saban and his charges planned to attack Trevor Lawrence and neutralize the Tigers’ vaunted defensive line?

Well, to hear Alabama tell it six months after the fact, any flies inside the Mal Moore Athletic Complex in early January wouldn’t have seen any football prep at all. It seems the Tide actually spent the nine days between their Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma and their title game whupping at Clemson’s hand playing XBox and planning their summer vacations.

Saban expanded on that point in his time at the podium.

But I think that our players learned a lot from that experience. I think that we didn’t play with the discipline at the end of the season that we’d like to have as a team. I don’t think that our preparation, so that we can go in a game and be very responsible and accountable to do our job at a high level on a consistent basis, was what it needed to be.

And you know, whether or not people were worried about personal outcomes more than team outcomes, it’s always hard to judge that. But it seems like we had a lot of distractions at the end of the year. So hopefully we learned from those scenarios, and it will help us do the things that we need to do to be able to play to our full potential throughout this season.

And the head coach wasn’t the only one. Tide linebacker Dylan Moses said the club apparently didn’t prepare like their opponent was a 14-0 team that had won nine straight games by at least 20 points.

This has been a theme under Saban: any time Alabama loses a bowl game, it’s because it just wasn’t motivated and/or concerned about their next destination, whether it be the NFL draft or the next coaching job.

And, to be fair, there’s certainly a grain of truth in that. The coaching carousel spins all throughout December — remember, the 2016 loss to Clemson was blamed on Lane Kiffin‘s inability to juggle his dual jobs as Alabama’s offensive coordinator and Florida Atlantic’s head coach — and it would be impossible to not think about the possible life-changing event that is the NFL draft process lurking just around the corner.

But everyone goes through that stuff, not just Alabama.

Yes, Alabama was surely distracted, but this trope is evident of Alabama’s, and Nick Saban‘s specifically, apparent inability to come out and say, “We got beat by a better team.”

But, hey, maybe we’re reading too much into all this. Maybe Alabama’s coaches were really on Zillow when they should have been looking at film. After all, the 44-16 final score certainly tells the story of one team that was prepared to play and another that wasn’t.