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Red River Revenge: No. 5 OU moves to CFP doorstep with Big 12 title win over No. 14 Texas

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In their 59-56 win over West Virginia last week, the Oklahoma defense gave up yards in chunks (700 of them, in fact), but made plays when they needed to be made, registering two defensive touchdowns to put the Sooners in Saturday’s Big 12 Championship.

Again on Saturday, Oklahoma got a defensive score when they needed one. This one wasn’t a touchdown but did the trick just the same, as Tre Brown sacked Sam Ehlinger in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter, turning what could have been a 34-30 Texas lead into a 32-27 OU lead and putting Kyler Murray and company back on the field.

Given a chance to salt the game, the Big 12 championship, a College Football Playoff berth and perhaps the Heisman Trophy away, Murray came through with a touchdown pass at the 2-minute mark to hand the Sooners a 39-27 win.

Murray once again dazzled, completing 25-of-34 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 39 rushing yards, making up for the 2-turnover performance that allowed Texas to earn a 48-45 win in October.

With the SEC and Big Ten championship games looming, Oklahoma (12-1) can now argue it has beaten every team it’s played on their march to their fourth straight Big 12 title and perhaps their third Playoff trip over that span.

But before Oklahoma could make its Playoff argument, the Sooners first had to emerge with another hard-fought win.

Texas opened the game by rolling 75 yards in nine plays — going 3-of-3 on third down for 64 yards, including Ehlinger’s 16-yard touchdown run. The Longhorns appeared to have OU stopped on its first possession when Caden Sterns snared a deflected interception in the end zone, but the play was erased by Kris Boyd‘s facemask penalty on Marquise Brown, his second such foul of the drive. Still, Texas kept Oklahoma out of the end zone when Gary Johnson stuffed Trey Sermon on a 3rd-and-goal run from the 1 for a loss of two yards.

After forcing a Longhorns punt, Oklahoma again marched — methodically, needing 13 plays over more than five minutes — into the Texas red zone but the defense again held when Boyd knocked the ball away from Brown’s grasp in the end zone on third down, forcing Austin Seibert‘s second short field goal.

Given a second chance to punish an OU field goal, this time Texas capitalized. Keyed by a 23-yard completion to Collin Johnson on 4th-and-4, the ‘Horns again moved 75 yards in nine snaps, and again scored on an Ehlinger keeper, giving Texas a 14-6 lead at the 11:22 mark of the second quarter.

On its third possession of the game, Oklahoma was again held out of the end zone. Murray appeared to hit Brown for a 45-yard gain over the middle on 2nd-and-9, but review showed Texas cornerback Davante Davis jostled the ball loose before Brown could secure the catch. On third down, Davis nailed Brown on a screen pass short of the line to gain, forcing an Oklahoma punt, but the OU defense answered by forcing its second punt.

Thanks to two penalties, Oklahoma had its worst field position of the day, beginning its next drive at its own 13, but for the first time the Sooners’ offense looked like the typical OU offense, knifing the required 87 yards in six plays, two of them to CeeDee Lamb — a 46-yard gain on the first play of the drive, then a 28-yard score to pull OU within 14-13 with 5:01 left before halftime. Another key play on the drive was a missed false start on right tackle Cody Ford on a 4th-and-1 from the Texas 32, which ended in a 4-yard Sermon rush.

After another Texas punt, Oklahoma rolled 80 yards in five plays and just 41 seconds, taking its first lead on a 6-yard toss from Murray to Grant Calcaterra with 18 seconds left in the first half.

Oklahoma received the ball to open the second half and picked up where it left off, moving 75 yards in eight plays to turn a 14-6 deficit into a 27-14 lead. Needing a score to stay in the game, Texas leaned on Collin Johnson, who caught passes for 25, 21 and, finally a 27-yard touchdown to end the OU run. Johnson set a Big 12 Championship record with 177 receiving yards on eight catches.

The Texas defense, which seemed lifeless in allowing three straight touchdown drives covering 242 yards in 19 plays, rallied by sacking Murray, stuffing Sermon behind the line and then forcing a Murray throw away to avoid another sack, giving the Longhorns’ offense the ball back with a chance to re-take the lead. Over an 11-play, 64-yard drive, Texas got the touchdown it needed, a 3rd-and-goal 5-yard strike to Lil'Jordan Humphrey, but the Longhorns did not take the lead because Cameron Dicker‘s PAT was blocked, leaving the score tied at 27-27 with 2:44 left in the third quarter.

Oklahoma moved into the Texas red zone to open the fourth quarter, but again the Longhorns stiffened, forcing a 31-yard Seibert field goal that bounced off the left up right and in.

On the ensuing drive, Texas converted a 3rd-and-10 when Parnell Motley interfered with Johnson but, on a 3rd-and-9, the Sooners got a stop when Tre Norwood got away with a clear pass interference on Humphrey.

Looking for a touchdown to put the game away, Oklahoma appeared in position to have it when Lamb broke free of Davis down the sideline, but Gary Johnson raced down the field to force the ball free from behind, and Jones hopped on the loose ball at the Texas 13.

Now needing to make a play of its own, the Oklahoma defense got one when Norwood screamed in touched to nail Ehlinger for a safety, stretching the OU lead to 32-27 and putting the Sooner offense back on the field with 8:27 remaining.

Given a chance to clinch the game, the best offense in college football came through with a perfect drive. On two separate third downs, Murray found high school teammate Lee Morris — playing on the same field the pair won three high school state championships — then hit Calcaterra on a 3rd-and-10 for an 18-yard touchdown drive, capping a 11-play, 65-yard drive that put the Sooners up 39-27 with exactly two minutes remaining.

Humphrey returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but the play was called back for a penalty; it was the ‘Horns 13th flag, totaling 128 yards. Ehlinger moved Texas to the red zone, but the last-gasp drive ended when Norwood picked him off at the OU 5. Battling a bum shoulder, the sophomore completed 23-of-36 passes for 349 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while rushing a team-high 15 times for 42 yards and two scores.

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.