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Red River Thriller: No. 19 Texas takes major step with win over No. 7 Oklahoma

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Kyler Murray nearly led No. 7 Oklahoma back from a three touchdown, fourth quarter deficit, but Cameron Dicker‘s 40-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining allowed No. 19 Texas to hang on for a crucial 48-45 win at the Red River Showdown.

Oklahoma trailed 45-24 with 13 minutes remaining, but Oklahoma needed only 10 minutes to come back and tie the game. Needing its own rally, Texas turned to the stellar Sam Ehlinger, who guided Texas 52 crucial yards to set up Dicker’s winning kick, handing Texas (5-1, 3-0 Big 12) its first win over Oklahoma as a ranked team since Colt McCoy did so in 2009.

Ehlinger out-dueled the elder Murray, completing 24-of-35 passes for 314 yards with two touchdowns while rushing for three more — the most scores by a single player in a Red River game since Sam Bradford did so in 2008.

Murray dazzled as well, throwing for 304 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 92 yards and another score — but his two turnovers accounted for 10 crucial Texas points.

Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) accepted the ball to open the game and faced zero resistance on its opening drive. The Sooners moved 65 yards in six plays, a drive in which the shortest gain was the scoring play — a 4-year toss from Murray to Marquise Brown.

Texas answered by turning to its big outside threats. Ehlinger hit Lil'Jordan Humphrey for a 29-yard gain on the Longhorns’ second play, and then a 36-yard gainer to Collin Johnson one snap later. Texas notched an early equalizer with a 3-yard jump pass from Humphrey to Johnson.

On the ensuing possession, Murray made his first mistake of the day, firing an interception to Texas safety Brandon Jones, who returned the ball to the OU 45, and a personal foul staked Texas deep in Sooner territory. But the OU defense stiffened, and Texas took a 10-7 lead on a 44-yard Cameron Dicker field goal.

Oklahoma then forged the game’s second tie with a 32-yard Austin Seibert field goal on the opening play of the second quarter.

Texas rolled down the field on the ensuing possession until a holding call on center Zach Shackelford turned a 2nd-and-1 at the OU 30 into a 1st-and-20 at the 49. But a 19-yard completion on Andrew Beck gave Texas a 4th-and-1 situation, which graduate transfer running back Tre Watson converted on a 3-yard swing pass. One play later, Watson broke free on a wheel route and Ehlinger dropped in a perfect 28-yard touchdown pass, putting Texas up 17-10 with 10:18 left in the first half.

After the touchdown, the Texas defense immediately forced a three-and-out, keyed by a 10-yard sack of Murray by defensive end Charles Omenihu. Given a chance to take control of the first half, the Texas offense took advantage, moving 75 yards in eight plays — 48 of them on the ground, including a 9-yard keeper by Ehlinger to, putting Texas up 24-10 with 5:12 left before the break.

Texas had a chance to seize complete control of the game when Oklahoma went for a 4th-and-3 at the Texas 29, but Murray hit CeeDee Lamb for a 12-yard gain, then hit him again for a 5-yard touchdown four plays later, pulling the Sooners back within a touchdown with 28 seconds left in the half.

Texas opened the second half the same way it finished the first — by churning the Oklahoma defense. The Longhorns rolled 75 yards in 11 plays, scoring on another 5-yard Ehlinger keeper.

Facing its second two touchdown deficit of the game, Oklahoma seized momentum, first when Murray nailed Brown for a 77-yard touchdown, and then when its defense forced its first punt of the game — on a three-and-out, no less.

That momentum was short lived, though.

Murray fumbled the ball on Oklahoma’s next play, handing Texas the ball at the Sooners’ 23. Ehlinger hit Johnson for a 10-yard gain on a 3rd-and-4, and the quarterback covered the rest himself over two plays. A 2-yard keeper gave Ehlinger his third rushing touchdown of the game and UT its third 14-point lead of the game, at 38-24 with 6:21 left in the third quarter.

Facing another 3rd-and-3 in his own territory, Murray put another deep throw right on the money — but Lee Morris dropped it. After a punt, Texas pummeled an overmatched and exhausted defense, coasting 82 yards down the field in nine plays to push the lead to 45-24 with 56 seconds left in the third quarter. Ehlinger notched his fifth touchdown of the day, hitting Humphrey on a 15-yard strike.

Texas forced another OU punt after B.J. Foster sacked Murray on a 3rd-and-14, and Texas took the ball deep in its own end with a 21-point lead and 13:33 to kill. Oklahoma made it difficult.

Two straight holding penalties killed the Texas possession, and OU scored in six plays to pull the game within 45-31 on an 18-yard pass from Murray to Morris with 8:28 to play.

Texas killed three minutes of clock after that, but the Longhorns punted and Murray needed only one play — a bobbing and weaving 67-yard run — to pull the Sooners within 45-38 with 5:11 still to play.

Another holding penalty killed another Texas drive before it began, and all of a sudden, after being dead to rights 10 minutes of clock prior, Oklahoma took the field with a chance to tie the game at its own 43.

The Sooners had 3:34 to work with, but the needed only 56 seconds. Trey Sermon covered all 57 yards himself — 35 on a screen pass, and then 22 on a pair of runs, tying the game with 2:38 left in the game.

Texas mounted one more drive it when it needed it, though, setting up a possible new dimension in this storied rivalry: a Red River Rematch in the Big 12 Championship on Dec. 1 at AT&T Stadium.

Florida to host Florida Atlantic in 2021

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Florida will host Florida Atlantic in 2021, FAU announced Tuesday. The game will take place on Sept. 4 and serve as the season-opener for both schools.

The schools have met three times previously, all of them in Gainesville. Florida won 59-20 on Nov. 17, 2007, 41-3 on Sept. 3, 2011, and 20-14 on Nov. 21, 2015.

The game will round out both schools’ non-conference schedules.

Florida will visit USF on Sept. 11, host Florida State on Nov. 27 and has a TBD home game against Samford, most likely on Nov. 20.

Today’s news means Florida has a future game on the schedule with every FBS program in the Sunshine State except UCF and Florida International. Florida beat Miami in Orlando to open this season and will play a home-and-home with the ‘Canes in 2024-25.

Florida Atlantic will follow its Gainesville trip with an excursion to Colorado Springs to play Air Force. After that, the Owls will host Fordham and Georgia Southern to round out September.

 

With Husky mascot retiring in 2021, Northern Illinois to introduce successor on Tuesday

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Northern Illinois’ husky mascot, Mission, is retiring in 2021, and on Tuesday the school will introduce his successor.

Mission II, born on July 6 and weighing a tender 14.5 ounces, will replace Mission two years from now, and the puppy will begin his official duties as NIU’s next official mascot on Tuesday.

“We have long been searching for the heir apparent to Mission, and there is no question that we have found the right Huskie,” NIU Alumni Association Executive Director Reggie Bustinza said. “Mission has set very high expectations, but there is no doubt in my mind that Mission II cannot only meet those demands, but surpass them.

“We are happy that Mission will have plenty of years to enjoy his retirement.”

Mission will turn 10 years old in 2021, and by that time Mission II will be fully versed in all the expectations placed upon the Official Northern Illinois Husky.

Mission II, a Siberian husky born in southern Wisconsin, will accompany Mission “to all eligible events for experiential learning and proofing,” which begins at a tasting for an NIU-branded beer on Tuesday evening in DeKalb.

The school has not revealed when Mission II will make his debut at a Husky football game, and in the meantime he’ll continue training with Lisa Boland while also attending daily puppy classes.

“I’m most looking forward to seeing Mission and Mission II do the job together during the training period,” Boland said. “It will be wonderful to watch ‘Mini-Mish’ learn from Mission, and see them work as a team. Mission has set a very high bar in mascotting, and Mission II will be working very hard to follow in his footsteps. I am so proud of Mission and the work that he’s done as the official NIU mascot.

“I am thrilled to have the privilege of guiding his successor to best represent Huskie Nation.”

Troy loses RB B.J. Smith, SBC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, to season-ending injury

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This one will certainly leave a lasting mark.

Over the summer, Troy’s B.J. Smith was named as the Sun Belt Conference’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.  Two months later, the football program confirmed, the running back will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2019 season because of an injury sustained in the Week 3 loss to Southern Miss.

While the specific nature of the injury wasn’t divulged by the school, it’s believed Smith injured his knee midway through the second quarter of last Saturday’s game.

Last season, Smith led the Trojans with 1,186 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.  This season, the fourth-year senior had rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in two games.

Because of the timing of the injury, Smith can take a redshirt for the 2019 season and return to the Trojans next season.

Texas LB Caleb Johnson enters transfer portal

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Sitting at the quarter-pole of the 2019 regular season, and Texas is the latest FBS program to feel the pain of the portal.

Joe Cook of InsideTexas.com was the first to report that Caleb Johnson has placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  247Sports.com subsequently confirmed the initial report, writing that the junior linebacker “feels he has not fit in well since he arrived at Texas.”

247Sports provided further details as to the events leading up to Johnson’s decision.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Johnson met with the staff Monday morning to inform them of his intentions to enter the transfer portal. While the staff requested he think more about his decision, Johnson decided to enter his name into he NCAA Transfer Portal, and is listed in the portal as of Tuesday morning.

Johnson joined the Longhorns from the junior college level, enrolling early and taking part in spring practice this past offseason.  He was a three-star 2019 signee who was rated as the No. 3 JUCO outside linebacker in this past year’s class.

Through three games, Johnson hadn’t yet taken the field for the Big 12 program.