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No. 14 Kentucky holds off rally by No. 12 Penn State for Citrus Bowl victory

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Despite a furious effort by Trace McSorley on a broken foot, No. 12 Penn State (9-4) was unable to dig out of a big hole in the second half as No. 14 Kentucky (10-3) celebrated a rare 10-win season with a 27-24 victory in the VRBO Citrus Bowl. A record-setting day by running back Benny Snell and a dominating performance by linebacker Josh Allen were key in the victory for the Wildcats.

Snell rushed for a game-high 140 yards and two touchdowns to lead the charge. Kentucky’s offense was not a threat at all until the second half when Snell provided a much-needed charge after a tough first half. Kentucky bewildered Penn State to build a 27-7 lead late in the third quarter.

In that third quarter, Trace McSorley was reportedly being taken out of the game with a broken foot. But just moments after that information was relayed by Penn State beat reporters following an update from a Penn State spokesperson, McSorley appeared to talk his way right back onto the field with Penn State down 20-7. That drive did not last long and it did not end well for McSorley as he tossed up an interception to Lonnie Johnson, who returned the football to the Kentucky 34-yard line. After a quick 54-yard pass from Terry Wilson to Lynn Bowden Jr., Snell rushed up the middle for a 12-yard touchdown run to push Kentucky’s lead to 27-7.

The touchdown run by Snell also set the new Kentucky career rushing record. Snell passed the previous school record held by Sonny Collins, who held the record of 3,835 career rushing yards for 44 years in Lexington.

But after going down 27-7, McSorley and Penn State somehow came to life. Penn State scored on a short McSorley run early in the fourth quarter and McSorley completed a touchdown pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth with nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter to cut the Kentucky lead to 27-20. Nearly five minutes later, Penn State settled for a field goal by Jake Pinegar to trim the lead to three points for Kentucky rather than take a chance on a fourth down play. Kentucky would drain the clock on the ensuing possession with Snell handling things on the ground and forcing Penn State to use their three timeouts. The Wildcats did have to give the ball back to the Nittany Lions, with one second left on the clock after a punt.

This was Kentucky’s first time winning 10 games in a single season since 1977. The goal of hitting the 10-win mark was not one taken lightly by Kentucky either, as the Wildcats were extremely motivated to do something rarely done in this program’s history. It was part of the reason why a player like linebacker Josh Allen, with all the hardware to show off and nothing more to prove, decided to play in the bowl game when the trend is for potential first-round draft prospects to sit out of what many consider to be a meaningless bowl game. But this wasn’t a meaningless bowl for the Wildcats. This was a bar the team wanted to clear, and now they have.

What does it mean moving forward? For Mark Stoops, the bar has been set and now he must continue to work recruiting and player development to ensure there isn’t a dropoff in 2019. Doing so may prove to be difficult, but the Kentucky football program has been taking small steps forward every season under Stoops and it reached new heights this season. In a division that is already pretty challenging and could potentially get tougher, Kentucky does not look like it might be ready to start taking backseats in the division mix just yet.

Penn State falls shy of winning 10 or more games in three straight seasons for the first time since 1980-1982.

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.