Associated Press

No. 13 West Virginia and No. 17 Texas locked in a Big 12 shootout

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Through one half that saw seven touchdowns, seven lead changes and a whole bunch of flags, No. 17 Texas holds a 28-27 lead over No. 13 West Virginia at the half in Austin.

After a WVU field goal and two punts to open the game, the two teams were off to the races. Texas got on the board thanks to the first of two spectacular Sam Ehlinger-to-Lil'Jordan Humphrey connections, the first a 23-yard lob on 3rd-and-4 with four West Virginia defenders flushing Ehlinger out of the pocket. That play set Texas up at the WVU 1, and Ehlinger kept it the next play to put Texas up 7-3.

West Virginia then struck back with the first of two Will Grier-to-David Sills throws, the first going 60 yards for a touchdown. After taking a 10-7 lead, WVU was hit with two consecutive personal foul penalties, the second of which kicked All-Big 12 left tackle Yodney Cajuste out of the game. Humphrey took the ensuing short kickoff 29 yards to the WVU 39, then completed the short drive with a 21-yard touchdown grab.

Trailing for the second time, West Virginia quickly erased the deficit by moving 75 yards in nine plays, aided by a roughing the passer penalty on Texas linebacker Malcolm Roach that would have sentenced WVU into a 4th-and-15 at the Texas 37 with a stiff wind in their face. Given new life, West Virginia scored again on an 18-yard connection from Grier to Sills.

Another key Texas penalty gave WVU a chance to take a commanding lead, as an offensive pass interference penalty on Humphrey erased a 45-yard Collin Johnson touchdown catch. Rather than a 21-17 lead, Texas faced a 3rd-and-20 at its own 40, but a 17-yard connection from Ehlinger to Devin Duvernay gave Texas a 4th-and-3, which the Longhorns converted with a 26-yard catch by Johnson. Tre Watson punched in a 5-yard run two plays later, putting Texas up 21-17 with 10:04 left in the first half.

And yet again West Virginia came right back, converting two third-and-shorts to set up Martell Pettway‘s 55-yard touchdown run, staking the Mountaineers to a 24-21 lead with 7:36 before halftime. It was the second long score that came at the expense of freshman Texas safety Caden Sterns, who was beaten on the long Sills touchdown and then missed a tackle on Pettway.

Facing its fourth deficit of the first half, Texas once again answered. This time, a defensive holding call erased what would have been a three-and-out, and the Longhorns then rolled 65 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 32-yard swing pass from Ehlinger to Watson to give Texas a 28-24 advantage with 2:40 to play in the first half.

West Virginia again surged down the field to close the first half, but the drive stalled at the Texas 27 with 14 seconds to play. Texas head coach Tom Herman called a timeout to ice WVU kicker Evan Staley, whose kick sliced wide right. Given a second chance, Staley drilled a 44-yard field goal to cut the deficit to one.

If it seems like penalties played a huge factor in the first half, it’s because they did. The teams were flagged 18 times for a combined 154 yards.

After starting 2-of-6 for 15 yards, Ehlinger finished 13-of-10 for 189 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. Grier, meanwhile, was 17-of-29 for 206 yards and two scores. West Virginia out-rushed Texas, 142-73.

Texas will receive to open the second half.

 

Trevor Lawrence once again says he has no desire to skip bowl games to protect NFL stock

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The trend of college football players with the NFL coming into view has become a growing one the last few seasons, but Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence says you won’t have to worry about missing him in a postseason bowl game.

“Sitting out bowl games and stuff, that’ll never be me,” Lawrence said in an interview with ESPN. “You won’t have to worry about writing those stories.”

This quote is nothing new from Lawrence. In March, Lawrence stressed a similar stance with regard to sitting out of college football bowl games to protect NFL draft stock.

From The Athletic‘s Grace Raynor in March:

Asked specifically if he would consider sitting out in an effort to protect his health for an NFL future, the Georgia native answered with two resounding “No’s.” That’s not in the cards, he says.

“Everyone’s talking about that, but I don’t really care about that,” Lawrence said Monday evening in his first public interview since the College Football Playoff.

“It’s definitely not coming from me, all that stuff, so (I’ll) just kind of ignore it. Just keep working.

Of course, there is something that needs to be pointed out here. A large majority of the players choosing to skip bowl games aren’t playing in the College Football Playoff and a national championship. While New Years Six bowl games are high in prestige even if not in the playoff rotation, they simply are not the same as playing in the playoff with a national title in sight.

Lawrence has played for and won the national championship in his freshman season and probably has two more seasons that could see Clemson continue to compete for a playoff spot. If Clemson is in the playoff the next two (or three years), the chances Lawrence skips a bowl game are reduced significantly.

Maybe Lawrence is just confident in Clemson’s ability to make the playoff the next couple of seasons. He’s not wrong though, right?

Syracuse seeing spike in football season ticket sales

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Dino Babers had Syracuse enjoying a 10-win season for the first time since 2001 last season. Fans of the Orange have had their enthusiasm for the football program rejuvenated and it shows in the season ticket sales this offseason.

According to a report from Syracuse.com, Syracuse has recorded 4,500 more season ticket sales this year than the school saw all of last year. To date, as of Friday, Syracuse has sold 6,800 season tickets for the 2019 season as the total inches closer and closet to a possible school record (8,000).

On top of the increased season ticket sales, Syracuse is also seeing a great retention rate through season ticket renewals. Syracuse has seen over 90 percent of season ticket holders renew their ticket packages for the 2019 season.

Syracuse ended the 2018 season ranked No. 15 in the final AP poll. IT is the highest Syracuse has ended a season in the AP Top 25 since the 2001 season (No. 14). Babers also ended Syracuse’s bowl drought in style by coaching Syracuse to a Camping World Victory in Syracuse’s first bowl game since 2013.

Syracuse opens the 2019 season on the road at Liberty on Aug. 31.

Auburn four-star linebacker Richard Jibunor enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal never takes a day off in college football. Auburn linebacker Richard Jibunor is one of the latest players to add his name to the list. Matt Zenitz of Al.com reported the transfer portal news, via Twitter.

Coincidentally enough, Auburn received a commitment from a four-star linebacker yesterday (Cameron Riley), but you can make your own guess as to whether those two developments were related in any way. Regardless, Auburn is still potentially about to lose a linebacker off the roster.

A player is free to make contact with any other football program looking to recruit him once his name is officially added to the NCAA’s transfer portal. But adding a name to the portal doesn’t necessarily mean this is the end of the line for Jibunor at Auburn, because a player can always take their name out of the portal and decide to stay with their current program. However, Auburn also has the option of dropping Jibunor from his scholarship now that he is in the transfer portal.

Jibunor was a four-star recruit in Auburn’s Class of 2018. As a true freshman last season, Jibunor appeared in 10 games and recorded eight tackles and two sacks. He also forced a fumble for the Tigers defense. The Athens, Georgia native chose Auburn, who seemingly had the lead in his recruiting for a while. He committed to the Tiger sin Nov. 2017 after two previous unofficial visits earlier in the 2017 season.

Jibunor will have to sit out the 2019 season if he transfers to another FBS program unless there is a waiver approval in the works with the NCAA offices. There is no suggestion at this time that is an option in play. Jibunor still has a redshirt to burn, so he will still have three years of eligibility to use beginning in 2020.

Mike Gundy inspired to improve after Oklahoma State’s 2018 failures

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The best college football coaches are always learning and adjusting over time rather than stick to their guns no matter what. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy had the Cowboys humming along as a typical 10-win program until hitting a speed bump last season. Now, after winning just seven games last season, Gundy is feeling as energized as ever going into a new season, if not more.

In an interview with The Oklahoman, Gundy made it clear he was inspired to get going in 2019 after seeing his program take a few more lumps than they were accustomed the last few years.

“It energized me, because I failed to get our team to play at the highest level last year,” Gundy said to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. “We were a very undisciplined football team, and we were not a very tough football team. And those two things fall on the head coach.”

Oklahoma State was ninth in the Big 12 with 70.5 penalty yards per game, with an average of 6.8 penalties called against them per game, which is more in the middle of the Big 12. In Oklahoma State’s case, it wasn’t so much the number of penalties received per game, but the yardage tacked on to those penalties. In 2017, Oklahoma State had the second-fewest penalty yards per game assessed to them in the Big 12, and in 2016 they led the Big 12 with the fewest penalty yards per game.

“So when I see mistakes that can be corrected and should be corrected, and when I go back and see the reasons for those mistakes were me, the head coach, it energizes me to come up with a solution, put a plan in place, solve the problem and make it better,” Gundy said. “Moreso than even an 11 or 12-win season, just for me.”

Gundy is about to embark on his 15th season as the head coach in Stillwater. The last time Oklahoma State recorded a seven-win season, the Cowboys ripped off three consecutive 10-win seasons.