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No. 6 Oklahoma wins shootout over No. 13 WVU, setting up a Red River Rematch

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In a typical Big 12 shootout that saw more than 110 points and 1,300 yards of total offense, No. 6 Oklahoma received and made its own breaks in outlasting No. 13 West Virginia, 59-56 in Morgantown.

While the Sooners’ offense was as efficient and explosive as always in putting up 668 yards on 10.3 yards a play, it was the plays made when Kyler Murray and company were on the sideline that tilted the game in Oklahoma’s favor. The beleaguered Oklahoma defense forced two Will Grier fumbles and returned both for touchdowns and benefitted from two West Virginia touchdowns (or almost certain touchdowns) getting wiped off the board due to penalties. It was the type of game where an OU defensive back was blocked into and beyond the opposing bench — and it turned into the crucial play of the game in Oklahoma’s favor.

The win pushes Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) into a rematch with No. 14 Texas, giving the Sooners a chance to avenge their only loss of the season, win their fourth straight Big 12 title and 12th Big 12 crown overall while keeping hope alive of a third College Football Playoff berth in Lincoln Riley‘s four years in the program.

Both teams opened the game with consecutive touchdown drives and West Virginia momentarily added a third until Grier’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Gary Jennings, Jr. was wiped off the board due the first game-changing WVU mistake — an offensive pass interference penalty on David Sills V. Rather than owning a 21-14 lead three minutes into the second quarter, West Virginia faced a 3rd-and-19. The Mountaineers picked up 13 yards on a Kennedy McKoy run, but, knowing only touchdowns would beat Oklahoma, WVU dialed up a 4th-and-6 pass, but Grier overshot his intended receiver, giving the OU defense the first stop of the game.

After its defense held serve, Oklahoma’s offense issued its first mistake of the game when Murray fumbled the ball on a 16-yard run to the WVU 22, keeping the score at 14-14.

Given a second chance to take its third lead of the first half, West Virginia again was stopped, posting the game’s first three-and-out and its first punt. Oklahoma needed only two plays to grab its first lead, hitting Marquise Brown for a 65-yard catch-and-run to the WVU 1, which set up a Trey Sermon plunge to put the Sooners up 21-14 with 7:12 left in the first half.

After two straight scoreless drives, West Virginia answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by the second Grier-to-Sills scoring strike of the night, evening the score at 21-21 with 4:14 left in the first half.

Oklahoma wasted no time in retaking the lead when Kennedy Brooks raced 68 yards for a touchdown, putting the Sooners back in front at 28-21. After the Murray fumble, Oklahoma’s next two possessions both found the end zone in just two plays. After its offense made a big play, the much-maligned defense came up with its biggest of the season when linebacker Caleb Kelly stripped Grier of the ball and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown, pushing the OU edge to 35-21.

West Virginia rebounded to go 81 yards in 13 plays, scoring on a 1-yard McKoy plunge with 18 seconds left in the half to pull within 35-28, then, after Kenny Robinson, Jr. intercepted Murray in the end zone to open the second half, Jennings tied it with a 57-yard touchdown pass.

Another red zone mistake took points off the board for Oklahoma when tight end Carson Meier false started on a 4th-and-1 at the WVU 15, forcing a 37-yard Austin Seibert field goal, which was the closest thing to an Oklahoma punt to that point in the game.

Given a chance to take its third lead — and first since the opening frame — West Virginia capitalized. Grier found Jennings for a 52-yard gain on 3rd-and-18, taking the ball from his own 45 to the OU 2, setting up a Grier sneak to put the Mountaineers up 42-38 with 1:52 to play in the third quarter.

Oklahoma surged back in front when, one play after hitting him for a 30-yard gain on a 3rd-and-10, Murray hit Brown for a 45-yard catch-and-run score with 35 seconds left in the frame — but the scoring wasn’t done for the quarter. Facing another third-and-long, Grier again found a streaking Jennings, this time for a 75-yard score to put WVU up 49-45 with nine seconds left in the third quarter.

Again, Oklahoma immediately answered. The Sooners avoided another red zone disaster when Murray hit a wide open Grant Calcaterra for a 1-yard touchdown toss on fourth-and-goal, putting OU back in front and the game over the century mark, 52-49 with 11:19 to play.

West Virginia (8-3, 6-3 Big 12) was seemingly in place to re-take the lead when McKoy busted through the Oklahoma secondary to set up a first-and-goal, but WVU wide receiver TJ Simmons was flagged for a personal foul for blocking OU cornerback Tre Brown out of bounds, taking the ball from the OU 5 back to the WVU 43. A pass interference penalty pushed the ball into Oklahoma territory, but Grier was stripped for the second time of the night, which turned into the second Sooner defensive touchdown of the night when Curtis Bolton picked up the pigskin and raced it 52 yards to the house.

Unlike after his first fumble-six, Grier did not lead WVU to an immediate touchdown. Instead, three straight incomplete passes forced Billy Kenney‘s second punt, giving Oklahoma the ball with a 10-point lead. But the Sooners could not shut the door, instead punting for the first time of the game. This time, WVU went 80 yards in nine plays, pulling back within 59-56 on Martell Pettway‘s 17-yard run with 4:20 left in the game.

Rather than bank on his defense getting a stop, Dana Holgorsen elected to try and onside kick — which Oklahoma recovered. West Virginia’s defense answered the bell by pushing the Sooners into a 4th-and-5 situation, but, with the ball at the opponent’s 45, Riley elected keep his offense on the field, a choice Murray validated with an 8-yard completion to CeeDee Lamb. Murray salted the game away with a 17-yard run to the WVU 14 with under two minutes away, allowing the Sooners to kneel the ball and the quarterback to improve his Heisman resume with another sparkling night — throwing for 364 yards with three touchdowns and one interception on 20-of-27 passing plus 114 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

In his final home game, Grier posted a career high 539 passing yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, but his two fumbles proved the difference in the game.

The win is Oklahoma’s 17th straight victory in the month of November and 19th consecutive win in true road games. It was also the fourth consecutive game and fifth in seven outings the Sooners have surrendered at least 40 points. That’s a run that began with a 48-45 loss to Texas on Oct. 6, a loss the Sooners will get a chance to avenge next Saturday 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.