Motivation is a big talking point when it comes to mid- and lower-tier bowl games. Which team is happy to be there? Which team isn’t? Who wants it more?
Safe to say that Virginia was properly motivated to secure their first postseason victory since 2005 on Saturday afternoon, controlling the Belk Bowl from start to finish in every phase to beat South Carolina 28-0.
Leading the way for the ‘Hoos was their terrific QB-WR combo of Bryce Perkins and Olamide Zaccheaus. The former threw for 208 yards and a trio of touchdowns passes while scrambling for another 81 yards on the ground, moving the chains quite a bit on third down to help the team dominate time of possession and more on the stat sheet. Playing in his final game with the program, Zaccheaus was not surprisingly the top target for many of those Perkins passes as he recorded 12 catches for an even 100 yards and all three of the touchdowns through the air.
Jordan Ellis was also impressive running the ball, gashing an SEC defense to the tune of 106 yards and a score.
Playing without star playmaker Deebo Samuel, South Carolina simply couldn’t get any consistency going on offense and failed to keep pace with their opponent. Signal-caller Jake Bentley was rattled constantly and completed just 17 passes for 218 yards with a pair of interceptions. Shi Smith had a nice game with 76 yards receiving but the Gamecocks were forced to be one-dimensional most of the day as Rico Dowdle managed only 21 yards rushing and the team converted on third down just twice.
The end result drops Will Muschamp’s squad to 7-6 on the year and caps off a disappointing final stretch that saw South Carolina lose three of their final five games, including an 0-3 mark against Power Five opponents in that span. While you can certainly understand the offense taking a step back without Samuel, the effort had to be disappointing on defense for their head coach as the program enters a big offseason in Columbia.
The convincing victory by the Cavaliers, meanwhile, gives UVA an eighth win for the first time since 2011 and completes an impressive turnaround in Charlottesville ever since Bronco Mendenhall was brought over from BYU. The Hoos have plenty of momentum now having improved their win total in each campaign under the new staff and will be looking for a lot more after this kind of performance in the Belk Bowl.
A year after significantly falling short of expectations, an offseason of change has commenced at Nebraska.
In one of the first big moves since Scott Frost took over at his alma mater, the Cornhuskers and offensive coordinator Troy Walters announced on Friday that they had ‘mutually agreed to part ways.’
“Troy has been a valued member of our coaching staff for the past four years,” Frost said in a statement. “Troy is a good mentor for his players, provides great energy on and off the field, and carries himself with a presence off the field that will be missed. I want to thank him for his work on our coaching staff, and wish him and his family all the best going forward.”
The duo first came together when Frost was hired at UCF and led a number of prolific offenses, including the undefeated 2017 team for the Knights. Walters was a finalist for the Broyles Award that same season though has not called plays for either team.
Walters had a distinguished career as a player at Stanford that included All-American honors and a Biletnikoff Award in 1999. He spent several years in the NFL before going into coaching during stops at Texas A&M, N.C. State and Colorado.
The departure of Walters could interestingly lead to a reunion between Frost and a familiar name in Mark Helfrich. The latter was head coach at Oregon when Frost was elevated to offensive coordinator for the Ducks and is in search of a job after being let go by the Chicago Bears from a similar role.
Clay Helton has been searching for a defensive coordinator the past several weeks and may need to expand his search to include an offensive coordinator as well.
According to a report out of Philadelphia, USC OC Graham Harrell has interviewed with the Eagles for a spot on Doug Pederson’s coaching staff in a similar role:
Harrell was retained this offseason amid plenty of fan fare (and money) in Los Angeles. He reportedly had interest from Texas in the same position on Tom Herman’s staff but a return to the Lone Star State was put off for a multi-year deal with the Trojans.
The former North Texas OC and Texas Tech quarterback oversaw one of the more impressive turnarounds in the country in 2019. Despite being forced to play true freshman Kedon Slovis at quarterback following J.T. Daniels injury, USC still added nearly a touchdown per game with the move to the Air Raid and rose from 91st in scoring offense to 35th.
This wouldn’t be the first time Helton and the Trojans will feel like the rug has been pulled out from under them by the NFL after a splashy move on offense. As many know, Kliff Kingsbury was on the job for a few weeks before moving on as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals last January. We’ll see if anything becomes of Harrell’s flirtation with the pros but there’s little doubt that this will not be the last time his name comes up for a bigger job going forward.
Thaddeus Moss is officially a one-and-done at LSU after declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft.
The star LSU tight end became the ninth underclassman for the national champions to leave campus for the pros this week. He made the announcement on social media in a letter thanking the fan base:
Moss played a pivotal role in the team’s record-setting offense in 2019. He caught 47 passes for 570 yards and had three of his four touchdowns come in the College Football Playoffs. That included a pair of scores in the title game, one of which doubled as the one that allowed QB Joe Burrow to set the FBS record for TD passes in a season.
The one-time North Carolina State transfer is no stranger to the pros either way. He’s the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss and will be part of an intriguing class of players at tight end this spring.
While it’s possible there will be an additional name or two that surfaces, Friday’s deadline for underclassmen to declare means Moss’ departure could be the last for LSU for the time being. Still, that’s a lot of talent to lose as Ed Orgeron embarks on an offseason full of changes right after reaching the top of the sport.
It’s not often you get a shocking announcement for a player returning for his senior year but this might qualify.
In an announcement posted on Twitter Friday afternoon, Clemson’s star tailback Travis Etienne surprised pretty much everybody by saying he would skip the 2020 NFL Draft and remain on campus for his senior season.
Etienne was a Heisman Trophy candidate for much of 2019 and has been a key cog in the Tigers’ incredible record the past few years. He’s rushed for over 1,600 yards each of the past two seasons and continued to become a threat as a pass catcher out of the backfield as well.
While many expected the junior to turn pro and join a deep class of running backs, apparently the taste left in his mouth by Monday’s national title game was just the extra push he needed to stay on campus to aim for another championship.
Though Dabo Swinney has to deal with a handful of departures from the two-deep this offseason, the return of Etienne should only further cement Clemson as the preseason No. 1 team for 2020. The tailback and quarterback Trevor Lawrence both figure to be high draft picks the following spring but for now they will be aiming for another ring with a team that just won 29 games in a row.