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Utah State bowls over North Texas in New Mexico

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As if there was ever any doubt, players are more important than coaches in college football. Despite the fact Matt Wells and the majority of his coaching staff bailed early, Utah State rolled over an overmatched and undermanned North Texas team, cruising to a 52-13 win in the New Mexico Bowl presented by Progressive.

The win was a fitting close to one of the best seasons in school history for Utah State. The Aggies (11-2) tied a school record for wins and will likely become the fourth team in school history to finish the season ranked in the AP poll, joining John Ralston‘s 1960-61 teams that went a combined 18-3-1 and former and future head coach Gary Andersen‘s 2012 squad that also went 11-2.

The points started early for the Aggies, finding pay dirt on their third play of the game — a 72-yard strike from Jordan Love to Aaren Vaughns — and ripped off 31 unanswered points over the first and second quarters to break the game open for good.

In addition to the 72-yarder to open the game, Utah State scored touchdowns from 26, 37 and 67 yards in the first half (plus another score on a 10-play, 78-yard drive), as the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense played to its paper throughout the day. Love completed 21-of-43 passes for 361 yards with four touchdowns (plus one rushing) and an interception inside the UNT end zone that robbed him of a sixth score, while Gerold Bright and Darwin Thompson combined to rush 37 times for 196 yards and two touchdowns.

In all, the Aggies rolled up 556 yards of total offense — 360 of them in the first half.

As the score indicates, the game was a complete nightmare for North Texas. The Mean Green entered the game without leading receiver Rico Bussey (1,017 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns) and played the majority of the day without franchise quarterback Mason Fine. Visibly hobbled by a bum hamstring, Fine threw only 12 passes and left the game in the second quarter when he had to limp his way to recover an errant snap — a theme for UNT during the game — near his own goal line.

Fine was replaced by senior backup Quinn Shanbour, who completed 2-of-8 passes for 24 yards with three interceptions. Shanbour was replaced by freshman Jason Bean, whose only completion in his two passes was to Utah State safety DJ Williams, setting up a field goal on the final play of the half that pushed UNT’s deficit to 38-7.

Fellow freshman Kason Martin played the bulk of the second half, and hit Jalen Guyton for a 75-yard touchdown on his first pass. After that throw, Martin went 6-of-11 for 36 yards.

The loss served as a bitter end to a bittersweet season for North Texas. Though the Mean Green (9-4) increased or matched their win total for the third time in as many seasons under Seth Littrell, North Texas saw three double-digit leads turn into losses and then closed with a second consecutive bowl loss in which the opponent hit half a hundred, following a 50-30 loss to Troy in the 2017 New Orleans Bowl.

No. 8 Florida does just enough to top rival Miami and kickoff 2019 college football season

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College football is finally, and officially, back.

In their first meeting in six years, No. 8 Florida did just enough to escape Orlando with a hard-fought 24-20 comeback victory over in-state rival Miami to kick off the 2019 season. Like many other Week 0 meetings too, the game had a bit of everything even if sharp play throughout was not one of them.

Turnovers, bone-headed penalties and a number of incredible touchdown scampers all served as highlights for the very first FBS game of the year and one that could set the tone for both programs in good ways and bad over the coming few months.

Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks was good early and late even if he was just so-so in the middle against a feisty ‘Canes defense. He wound up throwing for 254 yards, two touchdowns and two picks (with a rushing score as well) in the win, looking every bit like a player who may be better than a year ago but is playing behind a ton of new faces along the offensive line.

Wideout Kadarius Toney had the early highlight of the night when he weaved and spun out for a 66 yard touchdown catch while tailback Lamichael Perine was all over the field in rushing for 42 yards and catching a team-high six passes for 25 yards and a score as well.

If only Dan Mullen’s squad would have been able to hold onto the ball the final scoreline might not have looked so close. UF turned the ball over four times total, leading to quite a few appearances from the new-look Miami turnover chain.

That aggressive ‘Canes defense was as advertised for most of the contest even if they came up a bit short. While everybody knew that unit would hold up their end of the bargain, it was the offense that was the more pleasant surprise — and encouraging longterm development for new coach Manny Diaz. Quarterback Jarren Williams was sharp early and didn’t seem rattled at all by the stage in throwing for 214 yards and a touchdown. He did trail off a bit after halftime but considering the offensive line he was playing behind (one that gave up 10 sacks), it was still a fairly nice debut behind center and lends more credence to the thinking that Miami is the team to beat in the ACC Coastal.

Tailback DeeJay Dallas also contributed a nifty 50 yard touchdown as part of a 95 yard night on 12 carries while seven different receivers wound up catching a pass for a very new look offense.

The Hurricanes will still look back and think about all the ‘what if’s’ given the number of chances they had down the stretch in the fourth quarter but losing a close one to a top 10 team — even a rival like UF — doesn’t sting quite as bad when put in the perspective of last year’s disastrous run.

As for the victors, Mullen and company have to thank their lucky stars they escaped with the first win of the entire 2019 season in FBS given all the mistakes that were made. The Gators have plenty to clean up before the heart of their SEC slate approaches but it’s hard to fault the team too much for prevailing in a sloppy Week 0 meeting.

QB Jarren Williams off to a good start as Miami leads No. 8 Florida at halftime

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The 2019 FBS college football season is officially underway.

No. 8 Florida was aggressive early on but missed a number chances to really take control of their much-anticipated opener against rival Miami as the Hurricanes scored late to take a 13-7 lead going into halftime of the Week 0 matchup down in Orlando.

Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks had a solid start to the game with 96 yards through the air and a touchdown pass to Kadarius Toneywho did most of the work in shedding tackles and weaving his way 66 yards for the score. Yards were predictably hard to come by on the ground against one of the best front sevens in the country and the Gators recorded only 49 yards on 16 carries at the break.

The story of the game though will undoubtedly prove to be the Hurricanes much maligned offense. Starting freshman signal-caller Jarren Williams had his moments and didn’t seem rattled at all, throwing for 158 yards on 12-of-14 passing with a late touchdown to boot. He engineered a game-opening field goal drive for the first points of the season and seemed to really settle in as the clocked kept ticking as the ceiling for the program seemed to elevate with each passing series.

Of course it helps when you can lean on a feisty defense that forced two turnovers, breaking out the latest edition of the turnover chain on fumble recoveries by Scott Patchan and Shaq Quarterman.

While we were not treated to the most entertaining first half of college football all things considered… does it really matter? These two rivals are certainly setting the stage for the rest of the 2019 season and doing so in an aggressive manner with plenty on the line despite the low score.

Urban Meyer is in Florida gear. Miami has a new Turnover Chain. Welcome back college football!

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College football is back. Officially and absolutely back.

Yes the 2019 campaign is here in the sport that we all know and love and it has returned with a bang in Orlando as old rivals Miami and Florida kick off the 150 anniversary season. While the meeting between the Gators and Hurricanes is appetizing enough, we’re barely 30 minutes into the season and the two have already raised a few eyebrows around the country.

First off, let’s note that one Urban Meyer is at the game. It’s probably not all that surprising to hear considering the recently retired Ohio State head coach is now working for Fox Sports as an analyst. What is interesting is his choice of attire, in this case a Florida polo:

While some Gators fans are appreciative of him winning a pair of national titles in Gainesville, the ending did leave things a little sour so it will be interesting to see what kind of reaction the fan base has to their old coach showing up to watch his former assistant lead the program on Saturday night.

On the other sideline, it didn’t take long for Miami to breakout their newest edition of the famed ‘Turnover Chain.’ In this case the necklace is as gaudy as ever and quite a nod to the local area code. Defensive end Scott Patchan was the first of the season to be able to wear it when he recovered a fumble.

Welcome back college football, we’ve missed you for reasons like the ones above.

Miami CB D.J. Ivey suspended for opener, Florida adds four suspensions of their own

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A time-honored tradition in college football is underway: Florida-based schools announcing suspensions as their opening game kicks off.

On Saturday in Orlando, both Miami and Florida confirmed a number of players would miss the Week 0 opener at Camping World Stadium that is serving as the first FBS game of the 2019 season.

Confirming earlier reports, the Hurricanes announced that likely starting cornerback D.J. Ivey did not make the trip for a violation of team rules. Al Blades Jr. got the nod in his place opposite veteran corner Trajan Bandy against the Gators.

Scoring perhaps the first victory of the night over their rivals, Florida appeared to one-up the visitors from Coral Gables with not one but four suspensions. Safety Brad Stewart, wideout Rick Wells, defensive back Pat Moorer and defensive tackle T.J. Slaton were held out “for not living up to the Gators standard” but no specifics were issued.

The old in-state rivals are meeting for the first time since 2013 and will shift to an on-campus set in 2024 and 2025 as part of a recently confirmed home-and-home series.