Associated Press

No. 13 West Virginia pushes past No. 17 Texas on late 2-point conversion

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Trailing 41-34 with half a minute to play, Will Grier found Gary Jennings for a 33-yard touchdown pass for what seemed like the tying, overtime-forcing score. But Dana Holgorsen and No. 13 West Virginia came to Austin for the win, and the Mountaineers kept their offense on the field. After two defensive timeouts, Grier kept the ball, for the first time all game, around the left side to notch a game-winning 2-point conversion, helping the Mountaineers surge past No. 17 Texas, 42-41.

The score was necessary after Texas broke a 34-34 tie with Sam Ehlinger‘s 48-yard touchdown pass to Devin Duvernay with 2:34 to play, handing Texas fifth lead of the day. West Virginia’s resulting score marked the fifth time in two seasons Texas has blown a fourth quarter lead and the seventh time in that span the ‘Horns have lost a one-score game.

The win moves West Virginia to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in Big 12 play, putting the Mountaineers in prime position to reach the Big 12 championship. Texas, meanwhile, has now dropped two straight and will need help to reach the title game.

Despite a dry spell that covered most of the second half, West Virginia simply got what it wanted from the Texas defense. Grier completed 28-of-42 passes for 346 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions while the team ran 33 times for 232 yards and two touchdowns.

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 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 from there, 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.

After a first half that saw the officials call 18 combined penalties, they again intervened for a major call on the first drive of the second half. On a 4th-and-1 from the WVU 5, Ehlinger kept and was originally reviewed down two inches beyond the yard stick. However, after a lengthy review, officials ruled his helmet came off before he reached the line to gain, handing West Virginia a crucial stop.

Texas forced a West Virginia punt after the turnover on downs, stuffing a 3rd-and-2 run for a loss of three yards. The Longhorns again moved the ball and again failed to reach the end zone, settling for a 22-yard Cameron Dicker field goal to push the lead to 31-27 with 2:55 left in the third quarter.

West Virginia again moved the ball on its next possession — sensing a theme here? — but the drive came away scoreless when another short-yardage run was stuffed, this one a Kennedy McKoy run for no gain on 4th-and-1 on the final play of the third quarter.

Given a chance to deliver a knockout blow, Texas once again missed. After running the ball into WVU territory, a holding call on guard Elijah Rodriguez erased a run that would have given Texas 1st-and-10 in the red zone. WVU stiffened, forcing a 3rd-and-15, and an Ehlinger scramble came close to the first down but did not reach it, forcing a 38-yard Dicker field goal that snuck inside the left upright with 9:38 remaining.

Facing a second half shutout to that point, West Virginia got the answer it needed, relying mostly on the run to move 75 yards in 11 plays. Pettway strolled in untouched from 19 yards out for the equalizer with 5:40 to play, putting him over the 100-yard mark.

Ehlinger closed the day hitting 24-of-35 passes for 356 yards with three touchdowns plus another on the ground. Watson led Texas with 14 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown.

Wisconsin launches early Heisman campaign for RB Jonathan Taylor

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The Heisman Trophy has generally been synonymous with the best quarterback on one of the best teams in recent years but there have been a few running backs who have broken through to win the most prestigious award in all of college football.

Hoping to become the next tailback to break the signal-callers’ grip on the stiff arm? That would be Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, who appears to have a budding campaign for the trophy that was launched by the school on Thursday:

Herschel Walker. Ron Dayne. Ricky Williams. Adrian Peterson. LaDainian Tomlinson. Dominant running backs. Legendary names. Unrivaled production … until now,” one tagline reads. “There’s a new kid on the block and he’s “Bringing Running Back,” back into the spotlight, just like those that came before him. And his name is Jonathan Taylor.”

The website goes through all of the notable stats that Taylor has piled up in just two seasons in Madison and while it doesn’t explicitly say everything is designed to raise the junior’s awareness ahead of Big Ten Media Days and the upcoming 2019 campaign, it does note that his fellow Wisconsin Doak Walker Award winners have all been finalists in New York at some point in their career.

i.e. hint, hint media this guy is pretty good.

And nobody is debating that after he has set numerous records during his first two years on campus. Key to actually making it to New York though might be how Taylor’s team does around him. If the Badgers can get back to being in contention for the Big Ten title once again in 2019, chances are high that the tailback’s play will play a bigger part in getting him the attention he deserves than a website and a hashtag.

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy headlines 2019 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

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Media Day season is also Watch List season and the latest to surface for the 2019 campaign comes out of Tallahassee in the form of the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver, includes the defending winner in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and fellow semifinalist Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State, as well as a number of other talented pass-catchers from around the country.

Here’s the full list, which is a good general overview of the best wide receivers and tight ends for the upcoming season even if a few names can gripe about being left off:

Lynn Bowden, Jr. (Kentucky)

Rico Bussey, Jr. (North Texas)

Cedric Byrd (Hawaii)

Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma)

Damonte Coxie (Memphis)

Gabriel Davis (UCF)

Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)

D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan)

Aaron Fuller (Washington)

Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty)

KJ Hamler (Penn State)

Adrian Hardy (Louisiana Tech)

Damon Hazelton (Virginia Tech)

Tee Higgins (Clemson)

K.J. Hill (Ohio State)

Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State)

Justin Jefferson (LSU)

Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)

Collin Johnson (Texas)

CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

Ty Lee (Middle Tennessee State)

Kalija Lipscomb (Vanderbilt)

McLane Mannix (Texas Tech)

Kirk Merritt (Arkansas State)

Riley Miller (Ball State)

Denzel Mims (Baylor)

Darnell Mooney (Tulane)

Rondale Moore (Purdue)

Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)

K.J. Osborn (Miami)

Dezmon Patmon (Washington State)

Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)

Michael Pittman, Jr. (USC)

James Proche (SMU)

Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jared Rice (Fresno State)

Sean Riley (Syracuse)

Reggie Roberson, Jr. (SMU)

Justyn Ross (Clemson)

Henry Ruggs III (Alabama)

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Colorado)

JD Spielman (Nebraska)

Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC)

Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Tamorrion Terry (Florida State)

Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)

Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

JoJo Ward (Hawaii)

Quez Watkins (Southern Miss)

Ryan Day isn’t going to name Justin Fields as Ohio State’s starting QB just yet

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Almost as soon as Justin Fields’ waiver to play right away in 2019 was approved, the Georgia transfer was pegged as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.

Ryan Day, however, is picking up this whole being a head coach at media day thing pretty good because the new leader of the Buckeyes offense declined to anoint Fields as the starter despite ample evidence that he’s the guy for the job.

“It’s an interesting situation. Whoever is playing in that first game will be the first time. Justin and Gunnar (Hoak) are going to compete like heck to go win the job,” Day said from the podium at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday. “At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to who can play the game.”

Hoak, who grad transferred over from Kentucky, was a key pickup for the program in the offseason not just to provide some competition for Fields but to provide much-needed depth after a host of quarterbacks left for other schools. While he has experience playing in five games last year with the Wildcats, there’s a gap in terms of natural talent between him and Fields.

Day seems likely to stick to his timetable of naming the starter a few weeks into camp but it still seems pretty clear as to who eventually will take over for Dwayne Haskins under center for the scarlet and gray.

Still though, you have to hand it to the rookie for going full on coach-speak when it came to his signal-caller at his very first media day in charge.

Big Ten’s Jim Delany upset with College Football Playoff Selection Committee

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Thursday marked the final Big Ten Media Days press conference for outgoing commissioner Jim Delany.

While his appearance was fairly low-key all things considered, the longtime college athletics stalwart didn’t hold back when it came to discussing his league and the College Football Playoff, lobbing some critical comments towards the Selection Committee in particular.

“I wish we had a little more continuity. I wish they would demonstrate as well as state the stronger commitment to strength of schedule,” Delany said. “We should be playing comparable schedules and if we’re not, there should be somewhat to differentiate that.”

The Big Ten has missed out on the playoff the past two seasons and saw its champion be skipped over in another year for a divisional runner-up.

Delany also voiced support for something suggested by Big 12 counterpart Bob Bowlsby to require all teams to play at least 10 Power Five opponents in a season, helping even out the difference between eight and nine conference slates.

“I’ve been disappointed, quite honestly, about the strength of schedule,” he added. “We’re not going to change. There may be pressure to change, but I think that’s short-selling our fans, our players, our TV partners. I’m hoping that the committee catches up with the intent of the founders.”