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USF makes ignominious history with loss in Gasparilla Bowl to Marshall

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History was made on Thursday night in Tampa, but it was not the kind of history any program wants to make. South Florida (7-6) became the first program to start a season with a record of 7-0 before ending the year on a six-game losing streak. The latest loss for the Bulls came on their home field in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in the form of a 38-20 loss to Marshall (9-4) Thursday night.

At one point this season, it appeared as though USF may be able to play for at least a division title in the AAC East Division, but the second half of the season was not kind to Charlie Strong and his Bulls. The second-half slide finally came to a bumpy end in the bowl game that started off on an ominous note for USF. The Bulls fell behind the Thundering Herd 21-7 in the first quarter. A fumble shortly after falling behind 7-0 led to a quick Marshall touchdown and any momentum that appeared to be gained by coming back with a touchdown drive was quickly washed away in the rain as Marshall roared right back to regain a 14-point advantage.

USF did make things a little more interesting after halftime by cutting the Marshall lead to 31-20 with Blake Barnett completing a 33-yard touchdown pass to Randall St. Felix late in the third quarter, but that would be as close as they would get. Marshall’s offensive line paved open lanes for the running game and Keion Davis put the game out of reach with a 16-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter. It was the second touchdown of the game for Davis. Marshall proved to be too strong on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. The Herd combined for a rushing total of 282 yards while USF managed just 92 yards on the ground. Marshall did all of its scoring on the ground with Brenden Knox, Anthony Anderson and quarterback Isaiah Green all picking up rushing touchdowns to join Davis in the effort. Green also passed for 221 yards, with star receiver Tyre Brady accounting for 88 of those yards through the air.

For Marshall, although they have not played in a bowl game in seven consecutive seasons, they now own a seven-game winning streak in bowl games played that stems back to 2009. The last time Marshall ended the year with a loss in a bowl game was 2004 (of course, there were plenty of years without a bowl game at all). Doc Holliday has been the head coach for all but one of those bowl victories.

The American Athletic Conference is now 1-1 this bowl season with Tulane topping Louisiana of the Sun Belt in the Cure Bowl last weekend. Conference USA is now 2-2 this bowl season with Marshall joining UAB in the win column and North Texas and Middle Tennessee each unable to secure a bowl victory against their opponents. This was the only matchup between the AAC and Conference USA on the bowl schedule this season.

Marshall will begin the 2019 season at home on Aug. 31, 2019 with a game against VMI, followed by a road trip to Boise State in a fun little Group of Five matchup. The Herd will also face non-conference opponents from the MAC (Ohio) and AAC (Cincinnati) for a good chance to establish some bragging rights for Conference USA.

USF will also kick off the new season on Aug. 31, 2019 with a home game against the Big Ten’s Wisconsin, followed by a road game at Georgia Tech the next week.

Dad of former Northwestern QB donated a real, stuffed wildcat to ‘Cats new facility

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Northwestern’s state-of-the-art football facility, literally on the shore of Lake Michigan, is now fully operational, at a low, low cost of $260 million.

The facility has everything — including an actual wild cat.

According to a story by Yahoo‘s Eric Edholm, a stuffed cat was donated to the program by Walter Siemian, the father of former Wildcat quarterback Trevor Siemian. The plan was to originally sell it and use the proceeds to benefit the program, but apparently Pat Fitzgerald saw the cat and fell in love.

Walter Siemian took down the predator — legally, of course — last November, sent the cat of prey in question to a taxidermist and then donated it to the program.

The initial understanding was that it would be sold, with the proceeds benefitting the program. After all, these things draw some serious coin. (One current listing here for a mountain lion, which this mammal appears to be, is going for more than $12,000.) But once Fitzgerald saw it, the story goes, there was no way he was letting it leave.

The cat was staying put. That’s also easy to see why. And it’s now the first thing you see when you enter the coaches’ meeting rooms.

The hope with facilities like these is that the enhanced investment into football will lead to the Northwestern coaching staff singing a different class of recruit, which will in turn allow the program to pair their stuffed mascot with some Big Ten championship trophies.

That’s the hope, at least.

Illinois lands former USC WR Josh Imatorbhebhe

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The Los Angeles-to-Champaign pipeline is alive and well.

After landing wide receiver Trevon Sidney and defensive end Oluwole Betiku, Jr., the Fighting Illini have added wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, he announced Monday.

“Transitions are never easy, but the support has definitely helped lighten the load,” Imatorbhebhe, No. 17 above, wrote in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account. “Without further ado I’m pleased to announce my commitment to…

THE University of Illinois; with a plan to get my Masters (sic) in Strategic Brand Communications.”

A former 4-star recruit in the class of 2016 out of Suwanee, Ga., Imatorbehbhe redshirted in his first year on campus, then caught just two passes in his two seasons on the active roster, with his 2018 season slowed by an ankle injury.

Imatorbehbhe will have two seasons to play immediately for the Illini.

Trevor Lawrence once again says he has no desire to skip bowl games to protect NFL stock

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The trend of college football players with the NFL coming into view has become a growing one the last few seasons, but Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence says you won’t have to worry about missing him in a postseason bowl game.

“Sitting out bowl games and stuff, that’ll never be me,” Lawrence said in an interview with ESPN. “You won’t have to worry about writing those stories.”

This quote is nothing new from Lawrence. In March, Lawrence stressed a similar stance with regard to sitting out of college football bowl games to protect NFL draft stock.

From The Athletic‘s Grace Raynor in March:

Asked specifically if he would consider sitting out in an effort to protect his health for an NFL future, the Georgia native answered with two resounding “No’s.” That’s not in the cards, he says.

“Everyone’s talking about that, but I don’t really care about that,” Lawrence said Monday evening in his first public interview since the College Football Playoff.

“It’s definitely not coming from me, all that stuff, so (I’ll) just kind of ignore it. Just keep working.

Of course, there is something that needs to be pointed out here. A large majority of the players choosing to skip bowl games aren’t playing in the College Football Playoff and a national championship. While New Years Six bowl games are high in prestige even if not in the playoff rotation, they simply are not the same as playing in the playoff with a national title in sight.

Lawrence has played for and won the national championship in his freshman season and probably has two more seasons that could see Clemson continue to compete for a playoff spot. If Clemson is in the playoff the next two (or three years), the chances Lawrence skips a bowl game are reduced significantly.

Maybe Lawrence is just confident in Clemson’s ability to make the playoff the next couple of seasons. He’s not wrong though, right?

Syracuse seeing spike in football season ticket sales

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Dino Babers had Syracuse enjoying a 10-win season for the first time since 2001 last season. Fans of the Orange have had their enthusiasm for the football program rejuvenated and it shows in the season ticket sales this offseason.

According to a report from Syracuse.com, Syracuse has recorded 4,500 more season ticket sales this year than the school saw all of last year. To date, as of Friday, Syracuse has sold 6,800 season tickets for the 2019 season as the total inches closer and closet to a possible school record (8,000).

On top of the increased season ticket sales, Syracuse is also seeing a great retention rate through season ticket renewals. Syracuse has seen over 90 percent of season ticket holders renew their ticket packages for the 2019 season.

Syracuse ended the 2018 season ranked No. 15 in the final AP poll. IT is the highest Syracuse has ended a season in the AP Top 25 since the 2001 season (No. 14). Babers also ended Syracuse’s bowl drought in style by coaching Syracuse to a Camping World Victory in Syracuse’s first bowl game since 2013.

Syracuse opens the 2019 season on the road at Liberty on Aug. 31.