Associated Press

Oklahoma State rallies to stun No. 9 WVU, sends Big 12 race into chaos

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Four turnovers — three of them in their own territory — and a 31-14 halftime deficit put them in a huge hole, but Oklahoma State mounted a second half rally to stun No. 9 West Virginia, 45-41. In a battle of fifth-year senior quarterbacks, Oklahoma State’s Taylor Cornelius threw a touchdown pass with 42 seconds remaining to give the Cowboys their first — and only — lead, while Grier’s pass inside the Oklahoma State end zone that would have won the game with time expired was batted away.

The win clinches a 13th straight bowl trip for Oklahoma State (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) while eliminating West Virginia (8-2, 6-2 Big 12) from College Football Playoff contention. A West Virginia win would have set up a win-and-you’re-in showdown with No. 6 Oklahoma in Morgantown on Friday, but the Mountaineers’ loss opens the door for No. 15 Texas and No. 16 Iowa State, who play in Austin on Saturday night.

After waiting four years in the program to start and playing in his final home game, Cornelius overcame last week’s near-miss in Bedlam a week ago to out-play Grier down the stretch, throwing for 338 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 106 yards and another score.

But before Cornelius could save the game, he and his teammates first had to nearly give it away.

The first Cowboy turnover came with West Virginia already leading 14-7 late in the first quarter. Cornelius hit Wallace for a 13-yard gain to the Oklahoma State 40, but Wallace fumbled the ball over to the Mountaineers. Taking over in opponent territory, West Virginia quickly capitalized as Grier hit David Sillsfor a 22-yard touchdown pass to put WVU up 21-7.

Oklahoma State quickly answered by knifing 60 yards in five plays, scoring on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cornelius to Logan Carter. The Cowboy defense forced a West Virginia punt on the ensuing possession, allowing Oklahoma State to take over with a chance to tie the game, but Cornelius was intercepted, as Toyous Avery, Jr., punished him for forcing a 3rd-and-9 throw to Wallace.

Taking over inside Oklahoma State territory for the second time in the first half, West Virginia drove to the OSU 5-yard line but Grier was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 keeper.

Though West Virginia did not immediately score off the turnover, it did successfully allow WVU to play the game on Oklahoma State’s side of the field. After the teams traded three-and-outs over their next three chances, West Virginia pushed its lead to two touchdowns on a 3-play, 51-yard drive that was covered entirely by McKoy’s legs, racing for runs of seven, 14 and then 30 yards, the last of which crossed the goal line with 1:17 left in the first half.

Dashing to pull back within one score before the break, Oklahoma State crossed midfield into WVU territory, but Cornelius was again intercepted — while again looking for Wallace.

Taking over inside their own territory this time, West Virginia moved 39 yards in five plays and 61 seconds, setting up a 43-yard Evan Staley field goal on the final play of the first half.

On the whole, Wallace finished the half with three catches for 34 yards and a touchdown — and a total of three turnovers, either by him or to him.

Oklahoma State accepted the ball to open the second half and rolled 69 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 1-yard toss from Cornelius to Chuba Hubbard, reminiscent of the 2-point pass Cornelius missed to Wallace a week ago.

West Virginia threatened to push its lead back to 17 when the Cowboys forced WVU’s only turnover, a sack of Grier at the OSU 17 that turned into a sack upon review. Trailing 31-21 now, Oklahoma State again rushed up the field, but Hubbard was stuffed for a loss of a yard on a 3rd-and-goal from the 2, forcing a 20-yard Matt Ammendola field goal.

Continuing the theme of the third quarter, Oklahoma State forced a WVU three-and-out, setting the Cowboys up to receive the ball trailing 31-24… until Dillon Stoner fumbled the punt at his own 18, surrendering Oklahoma State’s fourth turnover of the game and third inside its own territory.

The Cowboy defense stiffened, forcing a 34-yard Staley field goal that pushed the score to 34-24 to open the fourth quarter. After a pair of punts, Cornelius pulled Oklahoma State within 34-31 with a 6-yard pass to Tyron Johnson in the back of the end zone.

After watching his lead dwindle from 31-14 to 34-31, Dana Holgorsen rolled the dice — twice. He went for a 4th-and-5 at the OSU 20 with 9:09 to play, which converted by way of a pass interference penalty in the end zone. Facing another 4th-and-medium, a 4th-and-goal from the 6, he again went for it, as Grier called his own number on an identical play to his 2-point conversion to beat No. 15 Texas two weeks ago, handing West Virginia a 41-31 lead with 7:37 remaining.

Oklahoma State answered, ripping off a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive in less than three minutes, scoring on a 9-yard Cornelius run with 4:47 to play.

Needing another touchdown to put the game away, West Virginia instead punted. Holgorsen actually elected to go for a 4th-and-6 from his own 49 with 2:45 left, but Sills started running his route before the rest of his teammates and forced Holgorsen’s hand, handing Oklahoma State the ball at its own 25 with a three-point deficit and 2:38 with which to work.

Oklahoma State gained 64 yards on six combined runs by Cornelius and Hubbard, throwing only once — an 11-yard scoring strike to Wallace, who carried his defender for the final five yards, putting Oklahoma State up four with 42 ticks remaining.

With the clock rolling inside of 20 seconds, Grier fired a bullet to Gary Jennings for a 33-yard gain, pushing WVU to the OSU 28. Grier then hit Sills at the 14 with two seconds remaining, setting up a do-or-die final play. After two WVU timeouts and with their College Football Playoff hopes on the line, Grier’s pass to Sills was broken up in the end zone, completing the Cowboy comeback.

Marshall, North Texas tabbed as C-USA favorites

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Conference USA released its preseason poll on Sunday, and the league’s media sees some change at the top. UAB topped Middle Tennessee to win the conference crown a year ago, but voters don’t see either team repeating atop their respective decisions this season.

In the East Division, Marshall is a moderate favorite, garnering 14 first-place votes, ahead of FIU’s nine and 2017 C-USA champion Florida Atlantic’s three. In the West, North Texas was far ahead of the pack with 20 first-place votes, far outpacing Southern Miss’ four. Defending champion UAB earned three first-place votes, but Bill Clark‘s Blazers actually came in fourth place overall, behind Louisiana Tech.

EAST DIVISION
1. Marshall (14)
2. FIU (9)
3. Florida Atlantic (3)
4. Middle Tennessee
5. Western Kentucky
6. Old Dominion
7. Charlotte

WEST DIVISION
1. North Texas (20)
2. Southern Miss (4)
3. Louisiana Tech
4. UAB (3)
5. UTSA
6. Rice
7. UTEP

North Texas has yet to win the conference since joining the league in 2013, though Seth Littrell did guide the Mean Green to the West title in 2017. Marshall won the conference in 2014 and took the East Division in ’13.

One Nebraska DB cited for weed, another for driving under suspension following traffic stop

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One of these days, every single state in the Union — along with the federal government — will fall in line and come to their senses when it comes to weed.  Until then, we’ll continue bringing you stories like this one.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, two Nebraska football players, safety Marquel Dismuke (pictured) and walk-on defensive back Jeramiah Stovall, were cited by Lincoln Police Department officers Friday night. Stovall was cited for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana while Dismuke received a citation for driving on a suspended license.

The twin citations came after Dismuke’s vehicle was pulled over for failing to display  a front license plate.

“We are aware of the incident and are addressing it,” a Nebraska official said in a very brief statement.

After playing in 19 games (one start) the past two years, Dismuke is a front-runner for a starting job entering summer camp. This past season, Stovall was named as NU’s Special Teams Player of the Year.

Kentucky confirms addition of Troy transfer QB Sawyer Smith

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It’s now officially official.

In late April, Sawyer Smith took his first step in moving on from Troy by announcing on social media that he had placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  Two weeks later, the quarterback used social media to reveal that his next stop at the collegiate level would be at Kentucky.

Monday, Smith’s expected new home confirmed the player’s addition to the roster.

”We’re excited to have Sawyer join our program,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said in a statement. “It’s great to add a quarterback with his experience and success. He helped lead Troy to an outstanding season last year and we’re glad to have him here.”

As Smith comes to the Wildcats as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to compete for a starting job immediately.  Additionally, he’ll have another season of eligibility he could use in 2020.

Smith played in 13 games this past season, including starts in the last seven.  In those appearances, the Florida native completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,669 yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with six interceptions. He also rushed for 191 yards and another touchdown.

Terry Wilson started all 13 games for the Wildcats in a 2018 season that saw UK reach double digits in wins for the first time since Jimmy Carter was sitting in the Oval Office. Wilson, though, was 10th in the SEC and 63rd nationally with a 133.9 pass efficiency rating.

For what it’s worth, Smith’s 139 rating was fifth in the Sun Belt Conference and 47th in the country.

Lincoln Riley: Jalen Hurts must win starting job at Oklahoma

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Coaches say things to motivate their players even if nobody really believes it. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, entering his third season in charge of the Sooners this fall, is already proving to be a veteran when it comes to setting the bar high and motivating his quarterbacks in the offseason.

Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts will undoubtedly be the starting quarterback for Oklahoma when the 2019 season kicks off for the defending Big 12 champion on Sept. 1 against Houston. However, Riley is not prepared to publicly anoint his newest quarterback as the heir to the throne of the offense that has produced the last two Heisman Trophy winners at the quarterback position. Instead, Riley is telling media members at Big 12 media days Hurts will have to go out and earn the opportunity.

Don’t be shocked by seeing that quote, because that is what the best coaches will do no matter who is on their team. Except in certain situations where a proven starting quarterback is coming back to the program for a second or third (or fourth?) season, coaches will always hope to inspire healthy competition at every position, including quarterback. By not gifting Hurts the starting job in the middle of July, Riley is setting the tone that will keep Hurts pushing to improve his game and keep other quarterbacks like Class of 2019 five-star recruit Spencer Rattler and four-star Class of 2018 quarterback Tanner Mordecai working to get their shot.

But Hurts is far from any ordinary transfer quarterback. Hurts was the starter for Alabama for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, in which Alabama went to the national championship game both seasons, losing one and winning the other. Yes, Tua Tagovailoa replaced Hurts at quarterback for that national title win against Georgia, but Hurts was a major reason why Alabama was in the national title game two years in a row with him as the starter. Hurts brings multiple seasons of starting experience form one of the top programs in the sport with him. And after Oklahoma lost Kyler Murray to the NFL Draft a year after losing Baker Mayfield, Hurts is stepping right into a position that carried high expectations and demands results.

Hurts may have had a couple of bumps in the road in Tuscaloosa, but he didn’t come to Oklahoma to be a back-up. Riley knows that, but he has the responsibility to make sure everyone on his team is working hard to improve. That message should be heard loud and clear, even if media pundits don’t have to believe it.