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No. 16 SMU remains perfect with win at Houston

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No. 16 SMU’s perfect season lives for another week, barely. Sonny Dykes‘s Mustangs never trailed Thursday night in Houston, but two touchdown catches by Marquez Stevenson totaling 171 yards put the Cougars’ offense on the field with a chance to win the game — twice — inside the final three minutes. SMU’s defense held both times, and the Mustangs escaped with a 34-31 win.

SMU led 21-7 late in the first half before surrendering two late field goals, but the Mustangs wasted no time opening up their largest lead of the night when Patrick Nelson sacked Clayton Tune and forced a fumble, which SMU’s Richard McBryde recovered at the Houston 2-yard line. Xavier Jones pushed the Ponies’ lead to 28-13 one play later, but the 15-point cushion did not last long.

One play, in fact, as Stevenson caught the first of his two long touchdown passes, this one a 5-yard hitch at his own 30 that he raced 70 yards untouched to pull Houston within 28-20 at the 14:01 mark of the third quarter, 59 game seconds after the teams played a 21-13 first half.

From there, SMU’s shaky — the Mustangs came into Thursday night with 14 missed kicks — field goal unit came through with two field goals of 23 and 33 yards to give SMU a 34-23 lead with 8:56 to play.

When Rodney Clemons intercepted Tune — SMU’s third plus-territory takeaway of the game — the Mustangs had a golden opportunity to deliver a knockout blow. However, SMU could not move the ball and a 4th-and-8 completion to James Proche was called back for offensive pass interference, forcing a Trevor Denbow punt that was downed at the 4.

And for the second time of the second half, Houston needed only one play, one completion to Stevenson, to make it a game again, as Stevenson hauled in another short pass and raced all 96 yards for the touchdown. Tune’s pass to Christian Trahan brought Houston within 34-31 with 4:47 remaining. (Tune finished the game with 407 yards and two scores, both of the scorers and 211 yards — on five completions — were to Stevenson.)

SMU, which began the drive 1-of-6 on third down in the second half, converted a 3rd-and-7 from its own 16 but could not pull off a 3rd-and-10 from its 24, and the Mustangs punted the ball back to Houston with 2:21 left. Taking over at its own 24, Houston moved 20 yards in its first two snaps but advanced no further, as Tune fired incomplete on three straight passes to end the comeback effort 55 yards short of pay dirt.

SMU could not expire both of Houston’s two remaining timeouts, and Houston took over at its own 15 with 18 seconds and no timeouts. Tune hit Tre’von Bradley for 22 yards on the first play, and Jeremy Singleton for 18 yards on the second, taking the ball to the SMU 45 with four seconds left. On the final play of the game, a defense that came into the game second in the nation with 29 sacks recorded its seventh of the night, stripping Tune as time expired to secure the win.

SMU (8-0, 4-0 American) continues its best start since 1982’s 11-0-1 campaign and, perhaps more relevant and more impressive, matched the program’s most wins post-death penalty, pulling even with the 2009 and 2011 teams, both of which went 8-5. The victory also means SMU secured wins over TCU and Houston (3-5, 1-3 American) in the same season for the first time since 2005, and the second time since 1992.

The Mustangs accepted the ball to open the game and breezed down to a 1st-and-goal in just seven snaps, but then stalled out. Shane Buechele (20-of-38 for 203 yards with two touchdowns and one interception) threw incomplete on first down, and Xavier Jones (22 carries for 133 yards and two touchdowns) was stuffed for a 1-yard gain on second down from the Houston 8-yard line. Buechele found Kylen Granson for six yards on third down, taking the ball to the 1, where Dykes elected to roll the dice. Buechele hit Reggie Roberson, Jr., on a pick play, but Roberson dropped the ball and SMU came up empty.

The teams traded punts on the next three possessions before SMU finally broke through, moving 85 yards in seven plays — aided by 30 yards of Houston penalties — setting up a 3rd-and-10 strike from Buechele to Proche for a 15-yard touchdown.

Houston then raced down the field even faster than SMU, gaining 31-yards on a pop pass from  Tune to tight end Trahan on the final play of the first quarter and then a 44-yard run by Mulbah Car on the first snap of the second quarter. Car’s run was ruled a touchdown, but replay brought it out to the 1. Bryson Smith completed the 5-play, 88-yard drive with a zone read keeper one play later, tying the game at 7-7 at the 14:28 mark of the second quarter.

The teams exchanged three-and-outs before Jones zigged and zagged 62 yards for a touchdown, putting SMU up 14-7, and then the Ponies’ defense brought out the bottle service when they recovered a backward pass by Smith, which slipped out of his hands just behind the Houston 47 and was recovered at the Cougars’ 32. Buechele put SMU up 21-7 five plays later with an 11-yard scoring toss to Granson.

Just as it seemed SMU had control of the game, a long drive and a turnover put Houston back in the game.

The Cougars gobbled up 6:18 of the 8:14 remaining in the second quarter to set up a 25-yard Dalton Witherspoon field goal, pulling Houston within 21-10. Amaud Willis-Dalton picked Buechele at the SMU 46 on the next offensive snap, allowing the Houston offense to set up a 34-yard Witherspoon field goal as time expired in the half.

RB Bradrick Shaw granted sixth season, won’t use it at Wisconsin

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The Wisconsin Badgers football program annually churns out highly-productive running backs. Friday, however, one of their current backs has taken the first step to being a former back.

On his personal Twitter account, Bradrick Shaw confirmed that he has been granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA thanks to a medical hardship waiver.  The back won’t be using that additional season with the Wisconsin Badgers football team, however, as Shaw further announced that he is entering his name into the NCAA transfer database.

Shaw, who has already earned two degrees from the university, will be immediately eligible to play for another FBS school in 2020.

“At this point in my life and my football career, it is best for me to pursue opportunities to play football elsewhere,” Shaw wrote. “I will forever be a Badgers and cherish these awesome memories for the rest of my life!”

Shaw came to the Wisconsin Badgers football team as a three-star 2015 signee.  He was rated as the No. 16 player regardless of position in the state of Wisconsin.  The back took a redshirt as a true freshman, then missed the entire 2018 season because of a knee injury.

In 2016, Shaw was third on the Badgers in rushing with 457 yards and tied for second in rushing touchdowns with five.  The following season, his 365 yards and four scores were both second behind Jonathan Taylor‘s 1,977 and 13 as a true freshman.

Coming off the injury, Shaw ran for 116 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in 2019.  All told, Shaw carried the ball 202 times for 938 yards and 10 touchdowns during his time with the Badgers.

Shaw’s social-media announcement comes exactly three weeks after Taylor confirmed he will be leaving UW early for the 2020 NFL Draft.  With the departures of Taylor and Shaw, the Badgers’ leading returning rushers in 2020 will be freshman Nakia Watson (331 yards) and junior Garrett Groshek (194).  UW also has a commitment from four-star 2020 running back Jalen Berger.

Kansas suspends starting corner Corione Harris following felony arrest

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Thanks to one Kansas Jayhawks football player, it’d be time to reset the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker.  If it still existed, of course.

According to the Lawrence Journal-World, Corione Harris was arrested Sunday on a pair of felony charges.  The cornerback is facing one count each of delivery of controlled substance except 35 grams or less of marijuana or synthetic cannabinoid and unlawful use of a weapon.

The specifics of what led to the arrest and charges have not yet been released.

As a result of the off-field incident, Kansas Jayhawks football head coach Les Miles confirmed that the program is aware of the charges “and have suspended him indefinitely from all team-related activities.”

This is Harris’ second brush with the law the past three months.  In October, the defensive back was arrested for failure to appear after missing a July court appearance in connection to a March speeding ticket.

A four-star member of the Jayhawks’ 2018 recruiting class, Harris was rated as the No. 27 corner in the country.  He was also the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Louisiana.  The only player rated higher than Harris in KU’s class that year was running back Pooka Williams.  Williams himself has dealt with  serious off-field issues.

The past two seasons, Harris has started 15 games for the Jayhawks.  He started six of the first nine games in 2019 before missing the last three because of a hamstring injury.

LSU confirms six-year, $42 million contract extension for Ed Orgeron

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LSU has made certain that Ed Orgeron will be rewarded for the football program’s historic 2019 campaign.

Earlier Friday, it was reported that LSU and Ed Orgeron had reached an agreement on a new deal for the head coach.  A short time ago, the school confirmed that an extended deal with Orgeron is indeed in place.

Per the school, the new six-year agreement includes a base annual salary of $6 million. In addition, Orgeron will receive a $5 million split-dollar life insurance policy payable over the first two years of the agreement. In total, the agreement is worth more than $42 million, before bonuses.

This past season, his third full year at the school, Orgeron earned $4 million in total pay.  That was tied for 28th nationally — Chad Morris, fired by Arkansas, was one of them with whom Orgeron was tied — and tied for eighth in the SEC according to the USA Today coaching salary database.

“Coach O has set a new standard at LSU,” said LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said in a statement. “He has proven that he is not only a championship coach, but also a leader of a program committed to doing things the right way. He has represented our institution and our state with great pride, on and off the field of play. He is well-deserving of this new contract, which should make clear our commitment to Coach O and the direction of our football program.”

The new deal between LSU and Ed Orgeron is pending the approval of the school’s board of supervisors.

In three-plus seasons with the Bayou Bengals — he served as interim head coach after Les Miles was fired in September of 2016 — Orgeron has gone 40-9 overall and 23-7 in SEC play.  During the run to an undefeated 2019 campaign, LSU beat seven teams ranked in the Top 10 at the time the game was played.  That’s the first time in the history of college football that’s happened.

Along the way to that perfect 15-0 season, Orgeron collected a handful of honors, including being named the SEC (HERE), Home Depot (HERE), Associated Press, Eddie Robinson (HERE) and Walter Camp Coach of the Year (HERE).

“I’m very appreciative of Scott Woodward, the LSU Board of Supervisors and the state of Louisiana,” Orgeron said. “I’m happy to represent LSU and this great state. My family and I are very grateful, and I look forward to working as hard as possible to continue to win championships at LSU.”

Vanderbilt potential landing spot for Clemson transfer QB Chase Brice

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A high-profile transfer from the Clemson football team has kicked off in earnest the process of finding a new college football home.

Jan. 16, Chase Brice announced on Twitter that he has decided to transfer out of the Clemson football program.  Almost immediately, speculation turned to USF as a potential landing spot as Jeff Scott, the former Clemson football assistant, is now the head coach of the Bulls.  Georgia was also mentioned as a possibility because it’s his home state, although that would seem highly unlikely as UGA is the new home for Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman.

Thursday, however, the quarterback confirmed to SI.com that he has “been talking with Vanderbilt.” Just how far along the discussions are with the SEC school is unclear.

In a conversation with The State earlier this week, Brice stated that there are “about five, six, seven schools that have a great opportunity for me to go in.” The names of that handful of schools weren’t detailed.

The quarterback also delved into what he’s looking for in a new school.

“The right fit for me that fits my abilities and strengths. An offense that is QB friendly. Not really worried about where it’s at at this point. I’m looking everywhere,” Brice told the newspaper. “A good coaching staff. I’ve been around a great coaching staff for three years, and I want to have the opportunity to continue that. Coaches that will put you in the best position to win, love their jobs and love coaching, enjoy coaching quarterbacks. Someone that I can really learn from and take a lot away from the next two years.”

Brice was a three-star 2017 signee for Clemson football, rated as the No. 17 pro-style quarterback in the country. He was also the No. 40 player regardless of position in the state of Georgia.

The past two seasons, Brice went 75-of-124 for 896 yards with nine touchdowns against four interceptions while adding another 179 rushing yards. He memorably saved Clemson’s 2018 national championship run, stepping in for an injured Trevor Lawrence in the game immediately following Kelly Bryant‘s midseason departure, leading the Tigers from a 23-13 fourth-quarter deficit to a 27-23 win over Syracuse.

As he will play for his next school as a graduate transfer, Brice will have two seasons of eligibility to use wherever he lands.