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Defense, special teams push No. 24 OK State past No. 17 Boise State

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A game pitting the highest-scoring teams of the decade was won on the other two phases, as No. 24 Oklahoma State used opportunistic special teams and bend-but-don’t-break special teams to grab control of the game and its running game to put it away, earning a key 44-21 win over No. 17 Boise State in Stillwater.

The Broncos (2-1) opened the scoring less than a minute into the second quarter as Brett Rypien found John Hightower for a 31-yard touchdown pass, but the lead could have been more. The first sustained drive of the day by either team, a 14-play, 42-yard march by Boise State midway through the first quarter, ended in a 27-yard Haden Hoggarth field goal try that doinked off the right upright.

Oklahoma State (3-0) notched the equalizer immediately after Boise State’s opening touchdown, as Taylor Cornelius found Tylan Wallace for a 43-yard connection, allowing Justice Hill to scamper in for an 8-yard touchdown run on the next play.

The Cowboys forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and Amen Ogbongbemiga bursted through the line to block Quinn Skillin‘s punt, which Ogbongbemiga recovered at the Boise State 7. Cornelius plunged in for a 1-yard rush three plays later to give Oklahoma State a 14-7 lead.

Boise State moved into Cowboy territory on their next touch, but Bryan Harsin elected to go for a 4th-and-6 at the OSU 37, and a group of Cowboys lassoed Alexander Mattison a yard short of the line to gain.

Cornelius hit Tyron Johnson for a 35-yard gain to put Oklahoma State back in Broncos territory, and Matt Ammendola booted a 22-yard field goal, his 15th straight successful try, to push the Cowboy lead to 10 to close the first half scoring.

Ammendola added a 48-yard kick to open the second half, but Boise State closed the Cowboys’ lead to 20-14 when Rypien hit A.J. Richardson for a 34-yard touchdown with 9:18 to play in the third quarter. Oklahoma State again responded immediately, moving 68 yards in eight plays, punctuated by a 32-yard scoring strike from Cornelius to Dillon Stoner.

And then history repeated itself. Just like in the first half, Oklahoma State followed a touchdown with a three-and-out, then blocked a Boise State punt deep in the Broncos’ end. This time, Jarrick Bernard blocked Joel Velazquez‘s punt, and Za’Carrius Green scooped the pigskin up and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown, pushing the Cowboy lead to 34-14 with 20 minutes and change remaining.

A third Rypien touchdown pass and a third Ammendola field goal gave Boise State the ball with a two-score deficit and plenty of time to erase it, but Calvin Bundage and Devin Harper combined to sack Rypien for the sixth time of the day, and Boise State punted. Oklahoma State put the game away on the ensuing possession, moving 72 yards in five rushes: 53 on one carry by Hill to move Oklahoma State from its own 28 to the Boise State red zone, and then Cornelius for the final 10, including a 6-yard score.

While not always pretty, Cornelius was effective in his first major appearance as a starting quarterback. He completed 15-of-26 passes for 243 yards with a touchdown while displaying an as-yet-unseen running ability, carrying 16 times for 41 yards and two touchdowns. Hill led all runners with 15 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown.

Rypien completed 39-of-56 passes for 380 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, but he was sacked seven times and lost a fumble on Boise State’s final drive. When including sack yardage, Boise State mustered only 34 yards on 30 credited carries.

The loss pushes Boise State behind No. 18 UCF for the top spot among Group of 5 programs in the race for the New Year’s Six, while a win opens up a world of opportunity for Mike Gundy‘s Cowboys. Oklahoma State does not face another ranked team until Nov. 10, when at that point the Pokes will close at No. 5 Oklahoma, versus No. 14 West Virginia and at No. 15 TCU.

Battle won: Alabama flips four-star DB commit from Ohio State

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In late June, four-star Florida defensive back Jordan Battle committed to Ohio State.  A little over five months later, Urban Meyer announced his retirement as OSU’s head coach; a couple of weeks later, Meyer’s replacement, Ryan Day, officially suffered his first big loss.

Even after Battle committed to OSU, and before Meyer’s retirement announcement, he took official visits to, among others, Alabama.  As the second Early National Signing Period kicked off Wednesday, the uncertainty for the Buckeyes over the level of Battle’s commitment morphed into a hard reality as the St. Thomas Aquinas product officially flipped his commitment from OSU and signed with the Crimson Tide.

It’s a big loss for Day as Battle had been the third-highest-rated commitment in OSU’s 2019 recruiting class, and the highest-rated recruit on the defensive side of the ball.  Battle becomes the first 2019 commit to decommit since Meyer announced he was stepping down, although two 2020 four-star prospects decommitted in the days after the announcement.

On the flip side, of course, Battle’s signing merely adds to an Alabama class that entered the day as the top-ranked group in the country.

Battle is a consensus four-star prospect, rated as the No. 6 safety in the country; the No. 10 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 77 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  As was the case with the Buckeyes, it’s believed he will, at least initially, play cornerback for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama enters Early Signing Day with nation’s top-ranked class, could add at least two five-star undecideds

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It appears very likely the 2018 cycle will indeed be but a hiccup for the recruiting machine that is the Alabama Crimson Tide.

From 2011-17, Nick Saban pulled in the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class to Tuscaloosa.  Last year, however, Georgia and former UA defensive coordinator Kirby Smart knocked Saban off his recruiting perch and claimed the top class in 2018.

As we head into the second Early National Signing Day, Alabama once again sits atop 247Sports.com‘s team rankings with 304.52 points (24 commits, including two five-stars and 21 four-stars).  The Tide is also poised to add to their recruiting riches as they are in play for five uncommitted five-star prospects:

  • Florida running back Trey Sanders — No. 5 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board
  • Louisiana defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher — No. 9 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board
  • West Virginia offensive tackle Darnell Wright — No. 10 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board
  • Mississippi linebacker Nakobe Dean — No. 14 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board
  • Florida offensive tackle Evan Neal — No. 20 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board

Of the five, though, Alabama is only currently projected to corral two of them (Sanders, Neal).  LSU is in line to land Sopsher (per 247 crystal ball projections), who is expected to wait until the February signing period to put pen to paper, while Tennessee is an overwhelming favorite for Wright.  Dean is viewed to be a near tossup between UA and Georgia, with a slight lean toward UGA but also with other SEC schools (Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss) in the mix.

After Alabama, the rest of the current Top 10 consists of, in order from Nos. 2-10, Georgia (287.38), Texas A&M (282.55), LSU (274.12), Oregon (272.07), Clemson (269.57), Texas (268.18), Oklahoma (263.03), Michigan (262.36) and Ohio State (255.99).

Those last two rivals, incidentally, could make a big early splash as both are in the mix for the top uncommitted 2019 prospect, Ohio defensive end Zach Harrison (No. 4 on 247′s composite board).  While Penn State is also a finalist, the home-state Buckeyes are the projected front-runners for Harrison, who will tweet his school of choice around 12:30 ET this afternoon.

And that’s it.  A tweet.  No dog-and-pony show, no elaborate signing ceremony.  Just a tweet to announce where he will spend at least the next three years.  Refreshing.

Oklahoma losing WR A.D. Miller to transfer

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As Oklahoma is set to add players as part of the Early Signing Period later on today, it appears the Sooners will also see one leave its roster as well.

According to a tweet from Brett McMurphy of WatchStadium.com, A.D. Miller has decided to transfer from Lincoln Riley‘s OU football program.  247Sports.com subsequently confirmed that “Miller is looking to transfer and has entered his name into the NCAA transfer pool.”

No specific reason for the departure was given.

A three-star 2015 signee, Miller started 10 games during his time with the Sooners.  The wide receiver made four of those starts during his redshirt junior season this past year.

The Dallas native will finish his time in Norman with 236 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns on 21 catches during his 27 appearances with the Sooners.

UAB caps best season in school history with first bowl win

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Sometimes the first play from scrimmage is a mirage for what’s to come, like Ted Ginn, Jr.’s opening kickoff touchdown in the 2007 BCS National Championship. Other times, it tells the entire story.

When Tyler Johnston hit Xavier Ubosi for a 70-yard touchdown pass on the first play of Tuesday night’s Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, it told you pretty much all you needed to know. Johnston would hook up with Ubosi for two more long touchdown passes throughout the night, and UAB blasted Northern Illinois, 37-13.

The win bolstered what was already the best season in school history for Bill Clark‘s Blazers. Just two years back from the dead, UAB had already secured its first conference championship and its first 10-win season; now, the program has its first bowl win to boot.

The Boca Raton Bowl was one of just three bowl games pitting conference champions against each other, the others being the Orange (SEC vs. Big 12) and Rose (Big Ten vs. Pac-12) bowls.

UAB (11-3) came into the game averaging less than 200 passing yards per game, but the redshirt freshman Johnston went off for easily the best game of his young career, hitting 17-of-28 passes for 373 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. The bulk of the damage went to Ubosi, who snared seven passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns. Ubosi entered the game with 28 grabs for 610 yards and five touchdowns, including four catches for 24 yards in his two most recent games.

After the 70-yard score put UAB up 7-0 (and, it turns out, for good), the Johnston-to-Ubosi connection put the game away for good with 5:11 to go in the second quarter with a 46-yard strike that gave the Blazers a 24-10 lead.

A 66-yard bomb at the 5:15 mark of the third quarter concluded Ubosi’s night and gave UAB a 34-13 lead. Johnston’s other touchdown pass was a 3-yard shovel to running back Spencer Brown at the 12:08 mark of the second quarter, turning a 10-7 UAB lead back into a comfortable 10-point spread.

As the score indicates, Northern Illinois (8-6) struggled to get anything going offensively. Marcus Childers completed 22 of his 29 passes but gained just 179 yards on those completions. NIU entered the night with the nation’s 118th most efficient passing attack, so a 6.2 yards per attempt average wouldn’t necessarily spell doom as long as the Huskies managed to run the ball, but that was a struggle as well. Against UAB’s top-20 rushing defense, NIU mustered just 108 yards on 44 carries. Tre Harbison tied Childers for the team lead with 35 yards (he had a team-high six yards at halftime) and scored the Huskies’ lone touchdown, a 1-yarder to pull them within 10-7 in the final minute of the first quarter.

Given a chance to add a cosmetic score midway through the fourth quarter, Jordan Nettles fumbled a 4th-and-goal run out the side of the end zone.