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Déjà vu: No.1 Alabama rallies again behind backup QB to deny No. 4 Georgia another (SEC) title

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11 months ago, Nick Saban turned to his backup quarterback to lead a remarkable comeback with everything on the line and captured a national title in the process. Against the same team, in the same venue, with an SEC championship on the line, the Alabama head coach had to do so once again on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta.

Jalen Hurts entered off the bench and sparked an incredible storybook comeback against the Bulldogs in the process to capture a 35-28 victory and return the Crimson Tide to the top of the SEC once again. 

Even the legions of script writers in Hollywood who have moved to the Peach State wouldn’t have been able to spin this tale and get it into production.

Hurts, who was 26-2 as a starter for the team but was benched at halftime of last year’s national title game, entered in the fourth quarter to replace an injured Tua Tagovailoa. This year’s starter was fairly ineffective most of the game (10/25, 164 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) after being hobbled on an early sack and the Heisman Trophy favorite was carried off the field late after his ankle was rolled up on by one of his offensive linemen.

That was just the opening that the junior from Texas needed, entering to huge applause from the Alabama faithful at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Hurts finished the game with 82 yards through the air and had the game-tying touchdown on a scramble to Jerry Jeudy. Then, to cap things off as only he could, Hurts ran it in across the goal line for the exclamation point of the comeback with the game-winner from 15 yards out.

There will be plenty of questioning from Athens to Atlanta (and beyond) over the play calling for the Dawgs down the stretch after they built a 28-14 lead in the third quarter. That included an inexplicable fake punt at midfield in the final few minutes — that went nowhere — and the abandoning of the run in favor of downfield passes that just weren’t there like they were in the first half.

Quarterback Jake Fromm was not to blame all things considered as he was pinpoint with his passing most of the game and finished with 301 yards and three touchdowns. It wasn’t enough though as he suffered yet another heart-break at the hands of UGA’s SEC West rivals.

Tailback D’Andre Swift also played well with 75 yards and a touchdown while Elijah Holyfield added another 60 hard-fought yards between the tackles.

The loss will likely knock the Bulldogs out of the College Football Playoff race with No. 5 Oklahoma winning the Big 12 title earlier on Saturday. Even so, a Sugar Bowl berth isn’t a terrible consolation prize but the psyche of fans in red and black might need a few years to recover from what Alabama did to them in two games spanning 2018.

The Tide, meanwhile, will not only hoist their eighth SEC championship under Saban, but will all but assuredly move on as the No. 1 seed in the Playoff come Sunday afternoon. That means a berth in the Orange Bowl if the No. 4 seed is Oklahoma or the Cotton Bowl if it’s Ohio State or even Notre Dame. Also something to keep track of is what kind of effect the performance will have on Tagovailoa’s Heisman chances and whether he will be healthy come semifinal time too.

That will be a conversation for the coming weeks though as Alabama will celebrate yet another title in Atlanta thanks to their second incredible rally of the year over the Dawgs.

Arkansas loses starting WR to torn ACL

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Entering summer camp, Deon Stewart was the most senior member of a very young receiving corps. Unfortunately for all involved, Stewart will exit camp on the sidelines and will remain there for the foreseeable future.

Multiple media outlets in the area initially reported that Stewart suffered a torn ACL during Arkansas’ scrimmage this past Saturday; Monday, head coach Chad Morris confirmed the initial reports, saying that an MRI showed a tear in the ligament.

Suffice to say, the fifth-year senior, who posted an ominous one-word tweet over the weekend portending the development, will miss the entire 2019 season.

Morris also confirmed that Stewart will pursue a sixth season of eligibility.

Stewart played in 36 games the past three seasons, starting 14 of those contests in 2017 (six) and 2018 (eight). This past season, Stewart was fourth on the Razorbacks in receptions (22) and sixth in yards (178).

Of the 17 receivers listed on the Razorbacks’ preseason roster, 13 of them are either freshmen or sophomores. Stewart is one of two seniors at the position, the other being Jimmie Stoudemire, who didn’t catch a pass during his first season in Fayetteville after transferring in from a California junior college.

Iowa confirmed Jayden McDonald cannonballed into transfer portal

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Pardon me while I clean up a bit of personnel news from late last week during these early-morning hours.

Early last week, speculation was making the rounds that Jayden McDonald was considering a transfer away from Iowa. Friday evening, the speculation became a reality as the football program confirmed in a press release that the redshirt freshman linebacker has entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.

It’s at this point in the program where we remind our readers that entering a name into the portal doesn’t guarantee a departure, even as it allows other programs to contact the player without receiving permission from his current school. McDonald could also reverse course, pull his name from the database and return to the Hawkeyes.

Conversely, the university can take away McDonald’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered the portal.

After originally committing to Rutgers, McDonald signed with Iowa as a three-star recruit in 2018. The Georgia high schooler opted for Iowa over Kansas State, Ole Miss and Purdue.

McDonald didn’t see the field as a true freshman and, with the Hawkeyes moving to a 4-2-5 base defense this season, he saw his opportunities for playing time in Iowa City narrowed even further.

Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson takes leave of absence as wife fights cancer

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With his wife fighting cancer, Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson is stepping away from the football part of his life temporarily to be with his family. Arkansas State announced the news Monday evening. Defensive coordinator David Duggan will take over as the interim head coach until Anderson is ready to return to the team.

“Coach Anderson has decided to take a leave of absence during this difficult time to be with his wife, Wendy, and his family,” a statement from Arkansas State Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Terry Mohajir said in a released statement. “We will continue to pray for peace for his family and provide assistance any way we can.”

Anderson has been dividing his time between football and being with his wife, but there comes a time when you have to realize there is much more to focus on than football. This is certainly one of those times, and good for Arkansas State to allow their head coach to do what he needs to do during this troubling time for his family.

Cancer sucks, plain and simple.

Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list includes 2018 finalist Shea Patterson, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert and more

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And now for a quarterback award watch list that won’t include a certain starting quarterback form Clemson or Alabama. The Johnny Unitas Foundation has released the watch list for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented annually to college football’s top senior or fourth-year quarterback. This year’s watch list includes some recognizable names such as Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Oregon’s Justin Herbert.

Former Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew was named the winner of the award in 2018. Just one finalist for the 2018 award is on the watch list this season. Michigan’s Shea Patterson is that player (UCF’s McKenzie Milton was a finalist last year but is not expected to play this season despite still being at UCF as he recovers from his season-ending injury from late in 2018).

Other past winners include Deshaun Watson (2016), Marcus Mariota (2014), Andrew Luck (2011), Matt Ryan (2007), Eli Manning (2003), Carson Palmer (2002) and Peyton Manning (1997).

2019 Golden Arm Award Watch List Presented by A. O. Smith

  • Jack Abraham, Southern Mississippi
  • Blake Barnett, University of South Florida
  • Woody Barrett, Kent State
  • Jake Bentley, University of South Carolina
  • Anthony Brown, Boston College
  • Kelly Bryant, Missouri
  • Joe Burrow, LSU
  • Stephen Buckshot Calvert, Liberty
  • Marcus Childers, Northern Illinois
  • K.J. Costello, Stanford Unversity
  • Jacob Eason, Washington University
  • Caleb Evans, University of Louisiana Monroe
  • Mason Fine, North Texas
  • Feleipe Franks, University of Florida
  • Mitchell Guadagni, Toledo
  • Jarrett Guarantano, University of Tennessee
  • Gage Gubrud, Washington State University
  • Quentin Harris, Duke University
  • Justin Herbert, University of Oregon
  • Kelvin Hopkins, Jr., Army
  • Tyler Huntley, University of Utah
  • Jalen Hurts, University of Oklahoma
  • Josh Jackson, University of Maryland
  • D’Eriq King, Houston
  • Brian Lewerke, Michigan State University
  • Jordan Love, Utah State University
  • Jake Luton, Oregon State University
  • Cole McDonald, University of Hawaii
  • Justin McMillan, Tulane
  • Steven Montez, University of Colorado
  • James Morgan, FIU
  • Riley Neal, Vanderbilt University
  • Kato Nelson, Akron
  • Shea Patterson, University of Michigan
  • Bryce Perkins, University of Virginia
  • Malcolm Perry, Navy
  • Peyton Ramsey, Indiana University
  • Armani Rogers, UNLV
  • Nathan Rourke, Ohio
  • Anthony Russo, Temple University
  • J’Mar Smith, Louisiana Tech
  • Nate Stanley, University of Iowa
  • Dillon Sterling-Cole, Arizona State University
  • Khalil Tate, University of Arizona
  • Zac Thomas, Appalachian State University
  • Skylar Thompson, Kansas State
  • Brady White, University of Memphis
  • Ryan Willis, Virginia Tech
  • Brandon Wimbush, University of Central Florida