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No. 9 Penn State tops No. 11 Washington in Fiesta Bowl as B1G sweeps Pac-12

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No. 9 Penn State burst to a 28-7 lead and held on for a 35-28 win over No. 11 Washington to take the Fiesta Bowl. The triumph clinched back-to-back 11-win seasons for Penn State for the first time since 2008-09 and moved the Nittany Lions to 7-0 all-time in the Fiesta Bowl, but it was hard to limit Saturday’s result strictly to what happened on the field.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 were both left out of the College Football Playoff this winter, and the leagues responded in completely opposite fashions. Penn State’s win lifted the Big Ten to 6-0 with two games still to go, while the Pac-12 completed its postseason with a dismal 1-8 mark, including losses in all four contests against the Big Ten. According to a tweet from ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura, the 1-8 record is the worst bowl season ever by a Power 5 conference.

The Nittany Lions accepted the ball to open the game and promptly moved 83 yards in eight plays, the final 48 on a Trace McSorley dime to DaeSean Hamilton. McSorley fired an interception in the end zone on Penn State’s next possession, but made up for that mistake by piloting an 11-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in a 2-yard Saquon Barkley rush to put the Lions up 14-0 just over a dozen minutes into the game.

Needing a score, Chris Petersen cracked open his book of trick plays. Jake Browning fired a backward pass to wide receiver Andre Baccellia, who then lofted the ball to defensive lineman Will Dissly for a 52-yard gain down to the Penn State 12. Browning put the Huskies on the board two plays later on a 1-yard keeper. 

Though Washington (10-3) was back in the game, that didn’t last long. Penn State pushed the lead back to two scores with a 7-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, then broke it open when Barkley charged for a 92-yard touchdown run to give the Nittany Lions a 28-7 lead at the 9:01 mark of the second quarter.

The Huskies cut back into the deficit with help from Penn State, thanks to a fumbled exchange between McSorley and backup running back Miles Sanders at their own 33. Myles Gaskin pulled the Huskies back within 14 with a 13-yard scoring jaunt with 4:15 to play in the half. Washington then opened the second half with a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended on a 28-yard toss from Browning to Aaron Fuller.

Their deficit shrunk to seven points for the first time since it was 7-0, Penn State responded with a 70-yard touchdown drive, culminating in Hamilton’s second touchdown catch of the game and the 212th total grab of his career, setting the Penn State career record. The Nittany Lions had a chance to push their advantage to three scores early in the fourth quarter, marching to the Washington 18, but McSorley’s 2nd-and-5 pass was tipped and intercepted.

Washington could not immediately capitalize but did on its next possession, as Gaskin burst free for a 69-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 35-28 with 6:52 to play. Penn State consumed all but 34 remaining seconds on its ensuing drive, setting up a 4th-and-1 that would have clinched the game. However, the Nittany Lions were flagged for a false start and, faced now with a 4th-and-6, Tyler Davis‘s 45-yard field goal sailed wide right, giving Washington the ball back at its own 28.

Armed with no timeouts, Washington attempted a hook-and-ladder play but, playing on the same field as the mythic 2007 Fiesta Bowl, no miracle was in order for Petersen’s team this time. Dante Pettis crossed midfield with the opportunity to go out of bounds and regroup for a Hail Mary, but his lateral attempt back toward the middle of the field was intercepted by Penn State’s Brandon Smith.

In (probably) the final game for college football’s best backfield tandem, McSorley and Barkley were as good as ever. McSorley completed 32-of-41 passes — including a perfect 12-of-12 on third down — for 342 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing 12 times for 60 yards, and Barkley rushed 18 times for 137 yards and two scores while catching seven passes for 38 yards. Hamilton added five grabs for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Facing a defense that ranked in the top five nearly across the board, Penn State gained 545 yards on 6.9 yards per play with 25 first downs and 13 third-down conversions on 17 tries.

Browning completed 18-of-28 passes for 175 yards and a score, while Gaskin led the Huskies with 14 carries for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

Bowling Green loses part-time starting corner to transfer

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As you’re likely well aware already, it’s not just Power Five programs who see a roster reshuffling this time of the year.

The latest Group of Five school to experience that personnel phenomenon is Bowling Green, with Cam Jefferies announcing on his personal Twitter account that, “[a]fter a countless amount of prayer and conversation with those closest to me,” he will be transferring from that Falcons. The cornerback gave no specific reason for the decision to move on from the MAC school.

According to his tweet, Jefferies is set to graduate from the university in August. He will have two years of eligibility remaining.

A two-star recruit coming out of high school in Ohio, Jefferies took a redshirt as a true freshman in 2015. The past two seasons, the defensive back started 12 of the 21 games in which he played. Seven of those starts came this past season.

Dabo Swinney, Hunter Johnson address QB’s transfer

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Clemson has officially bid adieu to a highly-touted member of its 2017 recruiting class.

Earlier in the day Monday, reports surfaced that Hunter Johnson had decided to transfer from the Tigers, with a couple of Big Ten schools already listed as potential landing spots. Not long after that news made the rounds, Dabo Swinney acknowledged the reports, calling the quarterback “one of the best young men I’ve ever coached” in sending his former player his well-wishes.

“While it is always disappointing to lose a great person and a great player, I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Hunter and watch him grow and develop over the last year and a half,” the full statement attributed to the head coach began. “Hunter is one of the best young men I have ever coached and has a very bright future ahead of him.

“I wish him all the best as he decides on his destination.”

Johnson himself issued his own statement through the school’s sports information department addressing the development.

“I want to thank Coach Swinney and the Clemson family for giving me the opportunity to be a part of something special,” said Johnson. “I’ve met some amazing people who I will forever call family. I am a better man and a better football player because of my time spent at Clemson. Go Tigers!”

The composite board on 247Sports.com had Johnson rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 30 player at any position for the Class of 2017. As a true freshman, Johnson completed 21 of his 27 passes for 234 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in seven appearances.

It’s believed that Johnson, who will have to sit out the 2018 season but would then have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2019, is eyeing Northwestern or Purdue as potential transfer destinations.

Former USC assistant coach Todd McNair loses defamation lawsuit vs. NCAA

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By a vote of 9-3, former USC running backs coach Todd McNair has lost his defamation lawsuit against the NCAA. Following six days of deliberation, the verdict brings to a close the Reggie Bush scandal that began more than a decade ago, a scandal that saw the Trojans lose their 2004 BCS national championship and Bush be stripped of his 2005 Heisman Trophy.

McNair sued the NCAA after it found him guilty of unethical conduct while Bush received impermissible benefits. He was given a 1-year show-cause penalty, and has not worked since his contract expired in the summer of 2010.

McNair sought $27 million in damages from the NCAA.

McNair’s attorney Bruce Broilett told ESPN his team was “very disappointed … disappointed in the result. Assessing the situation and considering our next steps.”

David Beaty releases statement on firing of KU AD Sheahon Zenger

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Kansas fired athletics director Sheahon Zenger earlier today. If the move was immediately greeted as a vote of no-confidence in Zenger’s ability to find and hire the next Jayhawks football coach — and, thus, a vote of no-confidence in the David Beaty era — that’s because it pretty much is.

“But Athletics continues to face a number of challenges, and progress in key areas has been elusive. To achieve the level of success we need and expect, I have determined a change in leadership is necessary,” KU chancellor Douglas Girod said in his statement announcing Zenger’s firing.

The playbook is well documented by now: to replace the head coach, you must first replace the AD who hired the head coach, and the replacement will then hire the new head coach. We’ve seen it play out at a number of places, most recently Nebraska, where Bill Moos was brought in to replace Shawn Eichorst, and Moos promptly fired Mike Riley and hired Scott Frost.

Beaty is a well-liked coach, but college football is a results business and a 3-33 record speaks for itself. Beaty surely knows that score better than anyone.

Hours after the news went public, Beaty released a statement of his own on Monday afternoon.

As if the 3-33 mark wasn’t obvious enough, the beginning of the end of the Beaty era likely came on Monday.