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Kevin Sumlin era gets off to tough start as BYU holds off Arizona in second half

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It was in many ways a season of change for both Arizona and BYU this year. The former swapped out coaching staffs completely while the latter re-tooled and notably hired a new offensive coordinator. We’re just one week into the young season so it can be easy to overreact but it sure seems like the Cougars have figured a few things out while the Wildcats are back at the drawing board.

Following a slow start on both sides early, BYU exploded out of the locker room and scored three straight touchdowns to begin the second half before holding off a late charge from Arizona on Saturday night to win 28-23 and ruin the debut of Kevin Sumlin down in Tucson.

Veteran quarterback Tanner Mangum threw for 209 yards and a touchdown as the Cougars looked vastly better on the offensive end after having one of the worst seasons in school history on that side of the ball. The senior completed nine straight passes at one point during the team’s second half outburst and he effectively spread the ball around to 10 different receivers in the game. His ability to go downfield helped open things up in the run game as BYU’s offensive line started to really open up some running lanes for Squally Canada, who finished with 98 yards on the ground and managed three trips to the end zone.

The defense was also a factor for the visitors, as they applied plenty of pressure and did a good job at the line of scrimmage too. Though there was only one sack for BYU, the team forced four hurries and generally kept Khalil Tate bottled up.

Speaking of the Arizona quarterback, one of the preseason Heisman favorites looked almost handcuffed in Sumlin’s new offense and failed to get much of anything going — certainly not any of the dazzling long runs we became used to last year. He finished with 197 yards and a touchdown through the air and hardly called his number on the ground either with just 14 yards on only eight carries. JJ Taylor broke off a handful of runs and recorded 85 yards rushing (plus a score) but the entire unit never did seem to click and averaged under five yards a play.

The performance is sure to elicit some grumbling out of the Wildcats fan base, who had high hopes coming into 2018 with Sumlin taking over the program but had to wonder what the coaching staff has been doing the past few months after keeping their playmaker in the pocket launching passes down field without much accuracy. Sustaining drives was a real issue in the game until the final few minutes and the schedule doesn’t get much easier either with a trip to Houston to face Ed Oliver looming for the team.

It was an encouraging game for BYU however, as the team looked much improved on both sides of the ball and perhaps far more capable of handling the tough upcoming slate better than expected. The defense can hang their hat on containing one of the game’s top quarterback and the offense looked surprisingly potent with a few new weapons. It’s cause for celebration in Provo deep into the night and cause for lament at Arizona as the Cougars leave town with a win.

Receiving star of Western Kentucky’s spring game enters NCAA transfer database

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As one of five wide receivers signed as part of Western Kentucky’s 2019 recruiting class, Manny Allen was a breakout star during the Hilltoppers’ spring game earlier this offseason. Now, it appears the receiver is seriously considering plying his football wares elsewhere.

According to 247Sports.com, Allen’s name is now listed in the NCAA transfer database, a move that allows other football programs to contact the player without receiving permission from WKU. Allen, of course, could also pull his name from the portal and remain with the Hilltoppers.

Conversely, the university can pull Allen’s scholarship during the semester in which he entered the portal.

Allen was a three-star member of WKU’s most recent recruiting class who put pen to paper during the December early signing period, which allowed him to participate in spring practice with his new teammates. Prior to signing with WKU, Allen, who at one point was rated as a four-star prospect by 247Sports.com, had committed to Louisville (August of 2017), Nebraska (April of 2017) and USC (January of 2017).

A native of California, Allen was the highest-rated of the five receivers signed by the Hilltoppers this cycle.

During WKU’s spring game, Allen was on the receiving end of a pair of touchdown passes.

Status of Southern Miss’ leading receiver still up in the air

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Whether Southern Miss has a very key cog in its passing attack remains, at least for now, very much undecided.

In late January, it was reported that Quez Watkins had been forced to withdraw from Southern Miss and enroll at a junior college in an effort to get his academic house in order. According to Patrick Magee of the Biloxi Sun Herald, there is some positive news on the Watkins front as he writes that the wide receiver “is back on campus and taking classes at USM this summer.”

Magee adds that, “[i]f the redshirt junior hits all his marks in the classroom, he’ll be ready to take the field for the 2019 season.”

That said, the football program is still awaiting official word on Watkins’ status for the 2019 season, word that may not come until, at its outer reaches, sometime in August.

As a redshirt sophomore last season, Watkins led the Golden Eagles in receptions (72), receiving yards (889) and receiving touchdowns (nine). Watkins’ nine scores accounted for nearly half of the team’s 19 touchdowns through the air.

BREAKING! Baker Mayfield still not a fan of Texas Longhorn football — or UT QB Sam Ehlinger

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We’ve reached that point of the college football offseason where a former college football player spitting vitriol in the general direction of a former college football rival is a prominent part of the news cycle.

Or, put another way: You can take the player out of college football, but you can’t take the rivalry out of the player.

As a Heisman-winning quarterback at Oklahoma, Baker Mayfield went 3-0 as the starter under center against OU’s hated rival Texas. Even after his collegiate career culminated with a Heisman Trophy, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft wasn’t averse to throwing up a Horns Down gesture at the Longhorns…

In the here and now, Mayfield is set to enter his first full season as the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. Also in the here and now, Mayfield is also/still not averse to teaching impressionable and aspiring young football players the proper permutations of a perfectly-executed Horns Down.

Doubling down on that Horns Down lifestyle a week later, Mayfield, during an interview with a Norman radio station Wednesday, scoffed in the general direction of the “Texas is back” sentiment that surfaced following UT’s win over Georgia in last year’s Sugar Bowl.

“They said that when they beat Notre Dame a couple years ago [in 2016] and they won two or three games after that. I’m sick of that crap,” Mayfield, a Lake Travis High School product, said, before going on to excoriate UT starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger, a product of Lake Travis rival Westlake who has been a previous target of the Heisman winner’s jabs.

“He couldn’t even beat Lake Travis, so I don’t really care. His opinion on anything winning [doesn’t matter],” Mayfield said of Ehlinger during the interview. “Westlake is a great program, but the two best quarterbacks to come out of there are Drew Brees and Nick Foles. Sam can stay down there in Texas.”

“That will stir the pot. He doesn’t like me and I hope he knows I don’t like him either,” Mayfield added.

For those keeping score at home, the Ehlinger-led Texas Longhorns will face the Mayfield-less Oklahoma Sooners Oct. 12 in the 115th renewal of the Red River Shootout this season.  That next day, Mayfield’s Cleveland Browns will play host to the Seattle Seahawks, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll see the Horns Down agitator at the State Fair of Texas that weekend.

Probably.

Three-star 2019 Michigan State signee signs MLB contract

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Michigan State has become the latest FBS program to lose a player, albeit not through what’s become the standard portal exit.

In December of last year, Jase Bowen signed on as a member of MSU’s 2019 recruiting class and had intended to play both football and baseball for the Spartans.  Earlier this month, however, Brown was selected with the 334th overall pick (11th round) by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Major League Baseball draft.

On his Twitter account Wednesday evening, Bowen, a shortstop in the stick-and-ball sport, indicated that he has signed with the MLB club and will be, at least for now, eschewing a collegiate football career.

“Michigan State will always hold a special place in my heart, but today a childhood dream of mine came true,” Bowen wrote as he shared photos of himself signing his professional baseball contract.

Coming out of high school in Toledo, Bowen, who had been committed to play baseball at Notre Dame before interest in him as a football prospect ratcheted up, was a three-star recruit who was rated as the No. 25 football player at any position in the state of Ohio.  Bowen was the lowest-rated of the three receivers MSU added in the most recent signing cycle.

It should be noted that, should Bowen’s MLB career not play out in the manner in which he hopes, he could always return to the collegiate level and play football, at either MSU or elsewhere.