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Wake Forest holds off Texas A&M in wild defense-optional Belk Bowl

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If there were ever a game that was decidedly DBYOD (Don’t Bring Your Own Defense), this was it.

Twice in the first half of the Belk Bowl, Wake Forest (8-5) took 17-point leads on Texas A&M (7-6).  Instead of packing it in, though, the Aggies ratcheted up the effort under interim head coach Jeff Banks to turn a potential rout into a wildly tight affair, although in the end it was the Demon Deacons that prevailed and head home with a hard-fought 55-52 win stuffed into its back pocket.

The two teams combined for 1,260 yards of offense — 646 for Wake, 614 for A&M.  The combined yardage set a Belk Bowl record, as did the combined points and total plays (190).

Despite the offensive numbers, it was a pair of defensive plays on the part of the Aggies that shifted the momentum and nearly led to a disastrous Demon Deacons loss.  One forced fumble late in the third quarter led to a Keith Ford touchdown that, at 42-41, gave A&M its first lead of the game since the middle of the first quarter.  On the Demon Deacons’ ensuing possession, another forced fumble was recovered and ultimately led to a 19-yard field goal early in the fourth.

A one-yard touchdown run by Cade Carney four minutes later gave the lead back to Wake at 48-45 with 9:06 left in the game; Nick Starkel‘s touchdown pass a little over three minutes later pushed the lead back in favor of A&M at 52-48.

Once again it was Wake’s turn for a comeback, with a 13-play, 69-yard drive capped by Matt Colburn‘s one-yard touchdown run with just north of two minutes left proving to be the winning score.  A&M had one final chance to either tie it and send it into overtime or win it outright, but its last drive — and a questionable no-call on what appeared to be defensive pass interference — ended just shy of midfield as they turned the ball over on downs.

John Wolford passed for 400 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half, as part of the win.  On the ground, Colburn led all rushers with 150 yards on 21 carries.

Wolford, incidentally, continued his stunning turnaround regular season into the postseason.  Prior to 2017, Wolford had thrown more interceptions (35) than touchdowns (30) in three years; this season, including today’s game, he’s thrown 29 touchdowns against just six picks.

Aggies wide receiver Christian Kirk, playing in what’s expected to be his last game at the collegiate level, caught a career-high 13 passes for 182 yards and a Belk Bowl-record three touchdown catches.  The triggerman of A&M’s offense, the freshman Starkel, passed for a career-high 499 yards in a losing effort.

With the win, Wake won back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2007-08.

SMU WR Reggie Roberson, Jr., to return for senior season

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SMU wide receiver Reggie Roberson, Jr., will return for his senior season in 2020, he announced earlier this week.

Roberson did so through a statement that at first read as if he would leave the Hilltop. “In the past couple of weeks, it has come to my attention that I am able to forgo my senior year and enter the NFL draft. I want to thank Coach Dykes for giving me the opportunity to come to SMU, and play the game I love in my hometown in front of my family and friends,” it began.

However, like a a classic Roberson open field move, he quickly changed directions and sprinted toward opportunity. “I have decided to come back and play my senior year at SMU. There is a lot of unfinished business that I left on the field that I need to take care of next season.”

A native of DeSoto, Texas, just south of Dallas, Roberson was one of SMU’s top players before he was lost to a foot injury in October. He caught 11 passes for 180 yards in the Ponies’ opening week win over Arkansas State and hauled in eight passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-21 drubbing of Temple on Oct. 19.

For the year, Roberson caught 43 passes for 803 yards and six touchdowns over seven-plus games. Spread over a 13-game season, he was on pace to end the year in the neighborhood of 80 receptions for 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Roberson originally signed with West Virginia out of high school.

Zack Moss to play in Alamo Bowl

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It’s become A Thing ever since Christian McCaffrey bailed on Stanford for that Sun Bowl: Draft eligible players announcing whether or not their prep for the next level begins for or after their team’s upcoming bowl game.

For Utah running back Zack Moss, that will begin after the Alamo Bowl.

“I just wanted to play with my guys,” Moss told KSL Sports. “That was one of the reasons why I wanted to come back was to play with these guys and I definitely want to finish it off. I am healthy enough to play and that’s exactly what I want to do.

“I love this team, I love the program, coaching, fans and community, so why not give everyone one last game.”

Moss’s teammate Jaylon Johnson previously announced he will skip the game.

The senior will look to polish off a career in which he’s carried for 4,010 yards and 38 touchdowns.

No. 11 Utah will close the career of Moss and backfield mate Tyler Huntley opposite Texas on Dec. 31 (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

Tom Herman reportedly set to hire Chris Ash as defensive coordinator at Texas

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Sometimes it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to solve these equations. Tom Herman and Chris Ash worked together previously at Iowa State and Ohio State, and when Herman’s team couldn’t stop anyone and Ash found himself out of a job, it seemed like they would try to channel that 2014 energy for the 2020 Texas Longhorns.

And now it seems that’s about to happen.

Multiple reports out of Austin on Sunday indicate Ash is close to being named the new defensive coordinator on Herman’s staff at Texas.

Ash worked with Herman previously for two seasons at two separate stops. In 2009, Ash was the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator on a Paul Roads-led Iowa State staff for which Herman was the offensive coordinator, and in 2014 Herman and Ash led the offense and defense on a national championship Ohio State team.

Shortly after his firing at Rutgers, Ash was spotted in Austin, leading, well, pretty much everyone to start putting two and two together.

And that cliche is a good place to start, because Ash is expected to install a 4-man front, a welcome change in Austin from the 3-man scheme that grew unpopular under Todd Orlando. Texas finished 83rd in sacks, 70th in tackles for loss, 96th in pass efficiency defense, 105th in yards per play and 74th in scoring defense en route to one of the most disappointing seasons in school history.

Orlando was fired back on Dec. 1, and with Ash very much available, it would seem Herman conducted a search beyond his old colleague given that two full weeks passed without a defensive coordinator, though virtually no names beyond Ash circulated amongst the media.

With Ash coming aboard, the focus will now turn to the remainder of the UT defensive staff. Safeties coach Craig Naivar has been appointed interim coordinator for the upcoming bowl game, and cornerbacks coach Jason Washington and defensive line coach Oscar Giles remain in their posts. Ash’s speciality has been in the defensive backfield, so presumably Texas will be in the market for a linebackers coach while Naivar, Washington or both could possibly move on.

Transferring Florida QB Feleipe Franks to visit Kansas

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Does the Mad Hatter have a graduate transfer under center up his sleeve?

On a post on his Instagram story Saturday, Franks indicated that he is currently in Lawrence, Kansas. A Kansas official subsequently confirmed that the quarterback is in town for a visit to the Big 12 football program.

Adding to the intrigue, and according to 247Sports.com, Franks recently began following KU head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon on Twitter.

In early December, Franks had announced that he would be leaving Florida. At the time, it was unclear if Franks, who signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox this past summer, was leaving to play a professional sport or transfer to another school, although this latest development seems to indicate the latter is likely.

After starting eight games in 2017, Franks started all 13 for the Gators in 2018. He had started the first three games of 2019 before going down with a season-ending ankle injury.

During his time in Gainesville, Franks threw for 4,593 yards, 38 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in completing exactly 59 percent of his 622 passes.