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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.

Florida State AD says Urban Meyer won’t be the target if Willie Taggart gets fired

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It’s an open question right now as to whether or not Willie Taggart gets a third chance to turn Florida State’s football program around. But, in the event he doesn’t, Urban Meyer won’t be the target of the hypothetical coaching search.

And neither will Steve Spurrier, for that matter.

That’s on the authority of FSU AD David Coburn, who went on record with the Tallahassee Democrat Tuesday to dispute a FootballScoop report that Meyer would be the target of the search. (Full disclosure: I also work for FootballScoop.)

“If Coach were hit by a bus tomorrow, we would not target Coach Meyer, period,” Coburn told the paper. “I say that with all due respect to Coach Meyer, but we would not target Steve Spurrier either.”

Florida State is desperate to party like it’s 1999 again, to the point where Coburn didn’t throw out the prospect of paying Taggart’s $17-plus million buyout if Taggart doesn’t turn this season around. (The furthest Coburn would go on that point is this non-denial denial: “For the record, we have not been in contact with our Coach’s agent, period,” Coburn said.)

But they’re evidently not desperate enough to hire their former archnemesis.

Ex-assistant lands South Carolina on probation for recruiting violations

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The NCAA’s committee on infractions hit South Carolina for multiple sanctions stemming from violations by a former assistant coach, the organization announced Tuesday. The assistant was not named in the probe, but I reported at FootballScoop that former Gamecocks assistant Lance Thompson was the source of the probe.

The NCAA, South Carolina and Thompson engaged in a “negotiated resolution process,” in which the parties agreed Thompson texted a sophomore recruit following his official visit, and also sent a text notifying the recruit he would be at his high school the following day and would like to meet face-to-face.

NCAA rules prohibit coaches from texting recruits until their junior year, and from face-to-face off-campus visits until their senior year.

Thompson worked as South Carolina’s assistant head coach for defense and defensive line coach from 2016-18. He is now the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at Florida Atlantic.

A veteran college assistant, Thompson has coached at Georgia Tech (in two different stints), UCF, LSU, Tennessee, Alabama and Auburn in addition to South Carolina and FAU. He has been recognized for his work as a recruiter by ESPN and Rivals.

As part of the negotiated settlement, South Carolina has been hit with the following sanctions:

  • A $10,000 fine.
  • A prohibition of off-campus football recruiting activity during the first two weeks of the spring 2019 evaluation period and the first four weeks of the fall 2019 evaluation period.
  • A reduction of football evaluation days by 12 for the 2018-19 academic year.
  • A restriction on all telephone and text communications with football prospects for two weeks beginning Sept. 1, 2019.
  • The head football coach may have only off-campus contact with 10 prospects during the fall 2019 contact period.
  • One year of probation.
  • One-on-one rules education for the head coach regarding NCAA contact and evaluation rules, completed in May 2019.
  • The university ended the recruitment of the prospect.

Additionally, the assistant has been hit with a 1-year show-cause penalty. He will be suspended one game for the 2019 season and may not engage in off-campus recruiting during the fall 2019 evaluation period.

Florida AD Scott Stricklin posts Games Wanted ad to Twitter

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For decades, Florida avoided playing major non-conference games outside of the Sunshine State, citing their ongoing rivalry with Florida State and their annual Jacksonville game against Georgia.

The Gators still play Florida State every year, and they still play Georgia in Jacksonville on the first Saturday of November. But they’ve decided to stop letting that prevent them from playing interesting non-conference games across this great land.

AD Scott Stricklin has scheduled series with Texas, Colorado and Utah (in addition to a home-and-home with Miami) and he’s looking for more. And he wants everyone to know he’s looking for more.

“Attention ADs from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 … @GatorsFB is looking to add additional Home-and-Home series against P5 opponents. Let’s connect and schedule quality games the fans want to see!” Stricklin tweeted Tuesday.

Unless Stricklin is willing to cancel on-the-books games for 2020 or ’21, the next opening Florida has on its schedule is 2026-27. The Gators will play Utah in 2022-23, Miami in 2024-25, Colorado in 2028-29 and Texas in 2030-31.

In 2032 and beyond, though, Stricklin’s schedule is wide open. And while Stricklin is throwing bottles into the proverbial ocean, let’s throw another note in there — it sure would be nice to see Florida go north, particularly to Lincoln, Madison, South Bend, Columbus, Ann Arbor or State College.

 

Big 12’s 2020 schedule sees Bedlam move to October for first time since 2004

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The Big 12 is in the midst of its 2019 season, but on Tuesday the league took a break to release its 2020 schedule.

The conference season will begin early, Sept. 12, with Kansas at Baylor. It will conclude at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with the Big 12 Championship.

It would be the ultimate fool’s errand to wade through which games will determine the conference’s 2020 champion and which ones won’t a full year in advance, but we can go ahead and safely assume Oklahoma’s October will go a long way toward determining that. The Sooners’ October slate runs straight through what appear to be their top four challengers for the throne:

Oct. 3: vs. Baylor
Oct. 10: vs. Texas (at Dallas)
Oct. 17: at Iowa State
Oct. 24: vs. Oklahoma State

That last bit is interesting, as the conference has moved Bedlam to October for the first time since 2004. In fact, the Oct. 24 kick is the earliest since the two rivals met on Oct. 24, 1998; to find the last time Bedlam was played on a date earlier than Oct. 24, you’d have to go all the way back to Oct. 6, 1990.

It is worth noting, though, Bedlam has not been played in its traditional Thanksgiving weekend and/or final regular season weekend slot since the Big 12 revived its championship game two years ago. The 2017 game, a 62-52 OU win, was played Nov. 4, and last year’s 48-47 thriller occurred on Nov. 10.

The Big 12’s thinking appears to be the desire to avoid an immediate rematch between two likely contenders for the Big 12 Championship and, if that’s the case, the Thanksgiving weekend schedule is all the more puzzling as Oklahoma State will host Texas on Nov. 28. The Nov. 28 kickoff (or Nov. 27, if the game gets moved to Black Friday) will be the earliest in 35 all-time games between the ‘Horns and Pokes.

The full schedule can be found below: