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No. 4 Ohio State rallies from two double-digit deficits to beat No. 9 Penn State

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On a night when its offense struggled to get going and its defense lacked for answers, No. 4 Ohio State overcame a record crowd and a record night from Trace McSorley to rally back from two double-digit deficits to stun No. 9 Penn State, 27-26.

The Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) were out-gained by 100 yards and trailed 26-14 midway through the second quarter, but Dwayne Haskins tossed two late touchdown passes, engineering a 96-yard game-winning touchdown drive, to give Ohio State a crucial win in the Big Ten East race and the inside track to returning to the College Football Playoff.

After trading punts to open the game, Penn State struck the first blow of the game when McSorley found Juwan Johnson for a spectacular 31-yard gain, taking the ball from the Ohio State 48 to the 17.

But a gadget play to backup quarterback Tommy Stevens lost 13 yards on the next snap, and so the Nittany Lions (4-1, 2-1 Big Ten) settled for a 34-yard Jake Pinegar field goal.

After forcing a three-and-out, Penn State was moved in prime territory to take control of the game when McSorley dashed for a career-long 51-yard gain on the first play of the drive, but the march sputtered and Pinegar’s 46-yard field goal hooked wide left.

The teams traded three and outs after that, until Garrett Taylor intercepted a Haskins pass and returned it 45 yards to the Ohio State 28. Once again with a great chance to take control of the game, Penn State again couldn’t muster anything more than a glancing blow. The Nittany Lions could not gain a first down, and Pinegar’s 39-yard field goal pushed the lead to 6-0.

Though the offense couldn’t get anything going, Drue Chrisman tilted the game to Ohio State’s advantage with a pair of booming punts — a 44-yarder to pin the Nittany Lions to their own 12, and then a 58-yarder to the 2.

Pinned near their own end zone, it appeared Penn State was ready to give Ohio State good field position when facing a 3rd-and-5 from their own 7, but it was then that the Nittany Lions finally landed a knockdown punch — a slant to freshman K.J. Hamler who outraced the Buckeyes’ defense and raced it 93 yards for a touchdown. It was Penn State’s first third down conversion of the night.

Penn State forced Ohio State into a third consecutive three-and-out with 2:32 to go before the break, but a critical mistake allowed the Buckeyes back in the game. Miles Sanders coughed up the ball after being hit by Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland, and the Buckeyes’ Dre’Mont Jones hopped on the ball at the Penn State 25.

The Buckeyes finally got on the board two plays later when Haskins hit J.K. Dobbins on a screen pass, who carried it 26 yards for a touchdown with 1:50 to go before the break.

Ohio State took the ball to open the second half and sliced down the field, moving 75 yards in 13 plays to grab the lead, and it seemed like Haskins and company were finally back on track. It especially seemed that way on the following drive when Ohio State penetrated to the Penn State 16, but the Nittany Lions forced a Sean Nuernberger 33-yard field goal, but that score was wiped off the board due to a face mask call and Nuernberger’s ensuing 48-yard try was no good.

The teams traded three-and-outs over their next two possessions until Penn State moved from its own 38 to the Ohio State 24, when Franklin eschewed another Pinegar field goal to try a 4th-and-1, but Chase Young batted down McSorley’s pass, and Ohio State’s 14-13 lead held heading into the fourth quarter.

But Penn State forced a three-and-out and McSorley then found Hamler again for a 36-yard gain on a 3rd-and-13 from the Ohio State 30 — and a targeting call on Isaiah Pryor tacked on another 15 yards, moving the Nittany Lions into the red zone. McSorley covered the final 15 yards, first on a 13-yard keeper and then a 2-yard toss to tight end Pat Freiermuth, see-sawing Penn State back in front 20-14 with 12:22 remaining.

Ohio State moved near midfield on the ensuing possession, and Urban Meyer elected to go for a 4th-and-1 at the Penn State 48, and a Haskins keeper was stuffed. McSorley then covered 49 of the required 51 yards to put the Lions on the doorstep, and a 1-yard Sanders rush put Penn State back up two scores with eight minutes to play.

That 12-point lead was short-lived, though, as two Haskins completions and a pass interference penalty put Ohio State back at midfield and then Binjimen Victor, normally a possession receiver, bobbed and weaved through the Penn State secondary for a 47-yard score, pulling the Buckeyes within five with 6:42 to play.

McSorley again scrambled Penn State into Ohio State territory, but the drive stalled and Penn State punted, pinning Ohio State at its own 4 with 4:35 to play. That field position was short lived; a Dobbins screen for 35 yards put Ohio State near the 40, and gains of 11 and 14 yards pushed the Buckeyes near the 30, setting up a go-head scoring toss from Haskins to K.J. Hill from 24 yards out. Haskins’s 2-point try sailed high, and Ohio State led 27-26 with 2:03 to go.

Armed with three timeouts, Penn State moved to the Ohio State 43, when, after a sack, McSorley gained nine yards on a 3rd-and-14 to set up a decisive 4th-and-5 with 1:22 to play. A total of three timeouts were called before the play, and Greg Schiano won the chess match when the Buckeyes baited McSorley, who set a school record with 461 yards of total offense, into handing the ball off to Sanders, who was stuffed behind the line by Young to complete the comeback.

Haskins closed the night hitting 22-of-39 passes for 270 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, while Dobbins and Weber combined to gain 174 yards on 29 total touches. McSorley, meanwhile, completed 16-of-32 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 25 times for 175 yards, a school record for a modern-day Penn State quarterback.

The Buckeyes will now be heavily favored in every game through the rest of the regular season, while Penn State will need Ohio State to lose twice to move atop the Big Ten East.

Florida State names James Blackman starting QB over Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook

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In this case, the transfer pastures weren’t any greener for a signal-caller — two, actually — who moved on from his first college football home.

Alex Hornibrook left Wisconsin this offseason and ultimately landed at Florida State as a graduate transfer.  Jordan Travis took his leave of Louisville earlier this year and ended up transferring to FSU; Travis was ultimately granted an immediate-eligibility waiver.

With those twin under-center developments, Willie Taggart and the Seminoles navigated a three-headed quarterback competition during the spring and on into summer camp: Hornibrook, Travis and one-time starter James Blackman.  Sunday night, FSU announced that Blackman is its QB1 heading into the opener against Boise State this coming Saturday night.

The naming of Blackman as the starter continues what’s been a roller coaster ride for the redshirt sophomore.

Blackman, who himself placed his name into the transfer portal earlier this year before undergoing a change of heart, started most of the 2017 season due to an injury to starter Deondre Francois, who regained the job in 2018 only to be dismissed from the football program in February of this year.

Blackman was a three-star member of FSU’s 2017 recruiting class. After Francois went down with what turned out to be a season-ending injury in the opener that year, Blackman started the remaining 12 games as a true freshman.  Francois returned as the starter for the vast majority of the 2018 season, missing one game in early November because of a concussion.  Blackman started the lone game Francois didn’t, throwing for 421 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to NC State.

In that initial season in 2017, Blackman completed almost 60 percent of his 297 passes for 2,230 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.  He was able to take a redshirt for this past season despite playing in four games.

Hornibrook, who battled concussion issues the latter half of the 2018 season but was cleared for winter workouts in January, spent the past three seasons as the Badgers’ starting quarterback.  In games in which Hornibrook started during that span, Wisconsin went 26-6.

In 35 career games played with the Badgers, Hornibrook passed for 5,438 yards, 47 touchdowns and 33 interceptions.

This coming season is Hornibrook’s final year of eligibility.

Travis, whose older brother played baseball at FSU a few years ago, was a three-star member of the Cardinals’ 2018 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 dual-threat quarterback in the country.  As a true freshman this past season, Jackson completed four-of-nine passes for 71 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Because he played in four or fewer games this past year, he took a redshirt for the 2018 season.

Calamity averted: Washington State flag’s College GameDay streak reaches 225 straight

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Courtesy of some expected common sense, a potential national nightmare was averted earlier this weekend.

Along with Lee Corso, one of the constants you can count on seeing when you turn on ESPN‘s College GameDay Saturday mornings during the football season is the Washington State flag flying somewhere in the crowd, regardless of from where the show originates.  Ol’ Crimson first appeared around the GameDay set in Austin on Oct. 4, 2003, and has made it to every show since, a streak of 224 straight appearances.

Unfortunately, there was some serious concern earlier this month that the streak wouldn’t make it to 225.

ESPN announced Aug. 13 that College GameDay would set up camp and televise its popular pregame show from Walt Disney World ahead of the Week 0 Florida-Miami matchup at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium Aug. 24.  In a cruel and potentially streak-ending twist, the Magic Kingdom’s rules prohibit, among other things, flags from being flown on the Walt Disney World Resort Property.

All was right with the world in the end, though, as Ol’ Crimson was indeed front and center ahead of what would turn out to be a Gators win over the Hurricanes as, not surprisingly, Disney bent its rules regarding not only flags but signs as well.

From the Spokesman-Review:

Hey, look at this,” ESPN’s Rece Davis said as the flag was shown. “Look who made it into the Magic Kingdom.”

“The streak’s alive,” Kirk Herbstreit said.

“I want to point out, too, the streak is legit and authentic,” Davis added. “Now, we’ll cooperate with our friends, but Washington State has to do its part and they have.”

Herbstreit chimed in: “They’ve made big efforts throughout this streak and they made another one today.”

“Congrats to the Cougs,” ESPN’s Desmond Howard said.

Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick doesn’t sense momentum for CFB Playoff expansion

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We’re at the dawn of a new season in college football but for a lot of folks, the upcoming campaign is a lot more about the ending than the beginning. We’re talking of course about the thing that dominates the debate in the sport for much of the fall: the College Football Playoff.

Though it seems like we’re stuck at four teams in the postseason event for the foreseeable future, expansion of the playoff is a topic that seems like a never ending well. Most want it, but few in power seem to be pushing for it.

That point was reiterated this week by Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. The leader of a program who made last year’s edition of the final four and one of the more powerful people in college athletics recently told the South Bend Tribune that he doesn’t see a move to six or eight teams in the event anytime soon.

I don’t want to speculate on that. I don’t sense a lot of momentum,” Swarbrick said. “But again, this is a group of individuals who cares about college football and think about it all the time. And so that’s all you want, a process where people are always talking about how to make the game better. But I don’t sense any particular momentum for change right now.”

If anybody would have some insight into the thought process regarding expansion, it’s bound to be Swarbrick — who sits on the CFP Management Committee and has his school president on the overarching CFP Board of Managers.

Perhaps something will change by 2025 when the postseason contract comes up with ESPN but until then, get used to four teams.

Missouri AD Jim Sterk is even more mad about NCAA penalties after Mississippi State case

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At some point in the distant future, Missouri fans, coaches, players and administrators will forget about the sanctions that the NCAA handed out to their football program.

That day is not today however.

Hot on the heels of Friday’s decision by the NCAA to slap the wrist of Mississippi State over a somewhat similar academic fraud case, Tigers AD Jim Sterk is telling anybody who will listen just how wronged his school was in the wake of what happened at his SEC rival.

“We believe that the penalties imposed in the recently decided and factually similar case (at Mississippi State) further illustrate that the penalties imposed on Mizzou were excessive and inconsistent with previous case precedent,” Sterk told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. We have never wavered from our stance or the merits of our appeal and remain hopeful it will be successful.”

The Tigers are hopeful that an appeal will be decided in the fairly near future and, obviously, that it will be a favorable ruling.

There are a handful of differences between Mizzou’s and the Bulldogs’ cases and enough to make comparing them apples to oranges despite being under the broad umbrella of academic fraud. We’ll see what ultimately ends up happening but something says that short of a complete reversal, Tigers fans and others sporting the gold and black won’t be happy with the NCAA for a long, long time.