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No. 3 Clemson loses Lawrence but avoids upset with fourth-quarter rally vs. Syracuse

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Some games just don’t go according to the script. No. 3 Clemson (5-0, 2-0 ACC) had to dig deep and rally in the fourth quarter at home after being down by 10 to avoid being upset at home by Syracuse (4-1, 1-1 ACC), and they did it despite losing starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the first half. Clemson scored a go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of the game with Travis Etienne scoring his third touchdown of the game for a wild 27-23 victory.

Lawrence, in the same week he was named the team’s starting quarterback, was knocked out of the game for good in the second quarter when he took a blow to the head while running with the football. After an examination in the medical tent on the sidelines, Lawrence had his helmet taken away and he left the field to the locker room for more examination shortly before halftime. As the second half opened, it was reported he was done for the day. Chase Brice, another freshman, took over on offense, but the Tigers went to rely on the defense and the running game for the bulk of the second half.

Syracuse took a 10-point lead shortly after a muffed punt return by Clemson’s Amari Rodgers gave the Orange a 1st-and-Goal with a fourth down push up the middle with quarterback Eric Dungey handling the football early in the fourth quarter. Clemson running back Travis Etienne led the charge for a quick response though, cutting the lead back down to just three points on a quick six-play drive that took under fewer than two minutes to execute.

As the Syracuse defense was growing tired, Etienne became the difference-maker on his way to over 200 rushing yards. Etienne finished with 203 yards to go with his three touchdowns. Clemson needed it, as Syracuse played well defensively for much of the game until wearing down against a deeper team loaded with more talent.

Brice took a while to get comfortable, but came through with flying colors on Clemson’s late touchdown drive, completing a key pass on fourth down and picking up more yards on the ground on the very next play to get Clemson on the doorstep of a touchdown.

Next up for Clemson is a road trip to Wake Forest. The Tigers will wait to see what the status of Lawrence is, but Clemson will look to extend their winning streak against Wake Forest to 10 next Saturday regardless of who the quarterback is. Clemson has won 25 straight meetings against Wake Forest when the Tigers are ranked. The last loss to Wake Forest by a ranked Clemson team was in 1945, when No. 18 Clemson lost 13-6.

Syracuse will also be on the road next week. The Orange travel to Pittsburgh next weekend for another ACC matchup, this one a cross-division showdown between old Big East foes. Syracuse won last year’s meeting, 27-24, but the last time the game was played in Pittsburgh turned into an epic shootout. Syracuse lost their 2016 meeting at Pitt by a score of 76-61.

UTEP’s leading rusher in 2017 moves on to Georgia Southern

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A key cog in UTEP’s running game the season before last, Joshua Fields has decided to move on from the Miners after he was a less than a key cog the following year.

According to reports coming out of El Paso, Fields will transfer from the Conference USA school and continue his collegiate playing career at Georgia Southern. It’s expected that the running back, who will be a true junior this fall, will seek a waiver that would afford him immediate eligibility.

It’s unclear what specifics the El Paso native will cite in his appeal to the NCAA.

In 2017, Fields’ 362 yards rushing (on 89 carries) were tops on the team. According to the school, Fields was the first true freshman to lead the team in rushing since 2013.

This past season, however, Fields’ production dipped to 57 yards on 31 attempts, which works out to just 1.8 yards per carry. That yards-per-attempt figure was the lowest among all FBS running backs with at least 30 carries last year.

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.