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Four fumbles cost Buffalo in Dollar General Bowl as Troy celebrates third-straight bowl victory

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Buffalo (10-4) had a case of fumblitis in the Dollar General Bowl Saturday night, and it cost them. The Bulls were defeated by Troy (10-3), 42-32, as the Bulls fumbled the football six times, losing four.

In the third quarter, Troy managed to pull off the kind of feat you are probably more likely to see from a triple-option offense like Army. The Trojans managed to keep the Buffalo offense off the field for the entire third quarter. The Trojans opened the half with the football and scored. They then pulled off a brilliantly executed onside kick to keep possession of the football and drove the ball down to the six-yard line. But a fumble by B.J. Smith was picked up by Buffalo’s Tyrone Hill, who raced down the field 93 yards for a defensive touchdown to give Buffalo the lead, 24-21.

Troy’s offense went right back to work on the ensuing possession though, traveling 69 yards over 12 plays to retake the lead, 28-24, on a Damion Willis touchdown reception from the two-yard line. After sitting on the sideline or in the locker room for a little more than an hour, Buffalo’s offense finally got back on the field early in the fourth quarter, only to go three-and-out. Troy would add to their lead on the next drive with a quick three-play drive for a touchdown. Sawyer Smith completed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Davis to extend the lead to 35-24.

Buffalo was down but not out. The Bulls charged forward with a 10-play drive ending in the end zone with a Tyree Jackson touchdown pass to K.J. Osborn, and a successful two-point conversion brought Buffalo within three. The Buffalo defense then forced Troy to punt as the time was continuing to become a factor. Starting with the football at their 21-yard line and about three and a half minutes to play, Buffalo’s hopes of another score were quickly tossed aside when Jackson fumbled the ball away. It took Troy just one play to run right up the middle for a dagger of a touchdown with Sidney Davis reaching the end zone on a 20-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.

Although this was the most successful season in Buffalo history, the Bulls see their season left unfulfilled. Buffalo lost the MAC Championship Game against Northern Illinois that came into the game with five losses and then end the year with a loss in a bowl game. Buffalo’s search for their first bowl victory in program history continues. Things may have ended on a sour note for Buffalo this season, but that should not take away from the continued success head coach Lance Leipold is having with the program. In his fourth season on the job, Leipold has coached Buffalo to a school-record for wins in a single season and the bar has been raised moving forward.

Neal Brown continues to be doing a solid job at Troy as well. The win over Buffalo clinched a third-consecutive 10-win season for the Trojans, each finishing with a victory in a bowl game. Troy has gone a combined 31-8 in the past three seasons after going 4-8 in Brown’s first season as head coach of the program in 2015.

The loss by Buffalo dropped the MAC to a woeful bowl record of 1-5 as the conference wrapped up its bowl schedule. Ohio scored the only bowl victory for the conference this season while the rest of the MAC’s bowl teams lost by a combined 70 points, including losses by both division winners in the conference this season. The Sun Belt Conference has one more team in action this bowl season (Arkansas State), and currently holds a bowl record of 3-1. The win by Troy clinched a winning bowl season for the conference for the third straight season (11-4 in bowl games since 2017).

Michigan State RB Connor Heyward reverses course, pulls name from transfer portal

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Mel Tucker appears to have picked up his second personnel win as the Michigan State football head coach.

In September of last year, running back Connor Heyward took the first step in leaving the Michigan State football team by entering his name into the NCAA transfer database.  A little over four months later, after Mark Dantonio‘s abrupt retirement, Tucker took over in East Lansing.

On Twitter a week after Tucker came back to the Spartans, Heyward announced in a tweet that he has reversed course and will pull his name from the portal.  And, in his social-media missive, the running back credited Tucker for the personal reversal.

“After talking with [athletic director Bill] Beekman and Coach Tucker, I have decided to take my name out of the transfer portal and return to Michigan State University,” Heyward wrote. “It has been a long process, but I know this is home in my heart.

“I’m looking forward to what the future holds.  I can’t wait to get back to work with my brothers.

“Go Green!”

A three-star member of Michigan State’s 2017 recruiting class, Heyward was rated as the No. 72 player regardless of position in the state of Georgia.  In 2018, Heyward led MSU in rushing yards (529), rushing touchdowns (five), carries (118), all-purpose yards (1,065) and kick returns (13 for 287 yards; 22.1 avg.).  That year, he was named as a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the nation’s most versatile player.

This past season, Heyward ran for 79 yards on 24 carries.

All told, Heyward has ran for 618 yards and five touchdowns on 145 carries.  He’s also caught 43 passes for another 314 yards and two touchdowns.

Because he played in just four games in 2019, Heyward will be permitted to take a redshirt for last year.  That would make him a redshirt junior for the 2020 campaign and leave him with two years of eligibility to use.

USC officially replaces FCS school with San Jose State for 2021 game

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USC football has officially returned itself to elite scheduling company.

In July of last year, USC football angered a sizable portion of its fan base as well as former players by announcing that it had scheduled a 2021 game against UC-Davis.  The Trojans had been one of three FBS programs that had never scheduled a game against an FCS team.

Wednesday, however, new athletic director Mike Bohn confirmed that the Trojans are on the verge of canceling that football game and replacing it with another.  Thursday night, USC football made it official as both they and San Jose State confirmed a Sept. 4, 2021, game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

San Jose State had originally been scheduled to face Georgia on that date.  Last week, however, UGA canceled the game in order to play Clemson in that season’s opener.  For that cancellation, San Jose State will receive $1.8 million from UGA.

“Facing USC in Los Angeles is a great opportunity for our student-athletes and fans,” SJSU athletic director Marie Tuite said in a statement. “Southern California is an important footprint for us in recruiting and we’re very excited to add this game to our 2021 football schedule.”

Tuite was also very complimentary of her UGA counterpart for his transparency throughout the process.

“I’d like to thank Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity for being transparent with us during the process,” said the AD. “I’ve experienced the atmosphere in Athens on gameday and it’s a special place. Maybe one day in the future the Spartans will make the trip.”

As for USC football, they officially rejoin Notre Dame and UCLA as the only FBS schools that have never played a game against an FCS team.  They are, however, in denial about never having scheduled an FCS school.

Be that as it may, USC will pay UC-Davis $750,000 for the game-that-was-never-scheduled-but-actually-was.

USC and San Jose State have met four times previously, with the Trojans winning all four of those matchups.  The two schools are also scheduled to play in 2024.

Clemson, Georgia paying seven-figures to make 2021 opener happen

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Clemson and Georgia are both spending money to make money.

In the wake of the two schools announcing a highly anticipated 2021 season opener in Charlotte, news has now surfaced at just how badly the two programs wanted to play each other.

The total tab: roughly $2.9 million.

That’s the combined amount the Tigers and Bulldogs will be paying to get out of their previously scheduled Group of Five games set for the same date.

Per the Greenville News, Clemson is ponying $1.1 million to cancel their contract with Wyoming. The Athletic reports Georgia is cutting a $1.8 million check to San Jose State.

“This is another great opportunity to schedule a national non-conference game with a top-level opponent,” UGA head coach Kirby Smart said in a release announcing the game. “Playing a regular-season game in Charlotte will give our fans the opportunity for a completely new experience in a great city and top-level stadium. I know our coaches and players will be excited for the challenge to kick off the season in this kind of environment.”

Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. will host the regional rivals on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021.

Georgia and Clemson have met 64 times over the years, most recently in 2014. The 2021 date is a one-off but the programs are still scheduled to meet five more times between 2021 and 2033. This includes the 2024 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game and a pair of home-and-home series scheduled for 2029/2033 (in Death Valley) and 2030/2032 (between the hedges).

The Tigers will also take on fellow SEC program South Carolina in those years and will host UConn and FCS South Carolina State to round out their 2021 non-conference slate. The Bulldogs have their annual game against Georgia Tech plus UAB and Charleston Southern in 2021 as well.

Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer says he could have coached Vols again but it ‘didn’t appeal’ to him

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Could Tennessee have had Phillip Fulmer back on the sidelines at Neyland Stadium coaching again?

There was speculation that he could have done just that from the moment he took over as athletic director at the school. Actually having it happen in Knoxville though? It apparently was not on the table due more to the necessity of Jimmy and Joe’s as opposed to X’s and O’s.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Tennessean about his on-going tenure as AD, Fulmer was asked if he ever considered putting the whistle back on for the team he led to the national title over two decades ago. Though it crossed the minds of many at the school, it didn’t for the man himself thanks largely to the rigors of the profession changing from 2008 to now.

“No. I mean, that energy level that it takes to do that. Could have coached and wanted to coach, that’s two different things, right?” Fulmer told the paper. “I certainly could have come coached the team or whatever, but the recruiting and the staffing and all those things, I’ve done my time, and I had a great run. That didn’t appeal to me, nor did I ever lose confidence that Jeremy (Pruitt) was going to do it.”

While that latter line is notable for the team’s current head coach after a historically bad start to the 2019 season, don’t gloss over his earlier comments. In fact, it says plenty about the situation on Rocky Top in recent years that Fulmer directly confirms that he “could have” come down from the AD box to the sidelines.

The only thing that stopped him? Not optics, but just the time a head coach has to devote to things like recruiting. While there’s no doubt that is pretty much a 24/7 operation nowadays at SEC schools like Tennessee, it’s interesting that was one of the few things preventing a move many in orange and white clamored (or at least expected) to see at some point.

Instead, Fulmer will have to make do with his 152–52 overall record at the school and a national title in the 1998 season. That forever cemented his status in Knoxville as one of the program’s greats and it appears he’s content to let things end there despite not having the ending he wanted back in the day.