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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.

Oregon State adds second Power Five transfer WR, this one from Florida State

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A personnel loss for Florida State will apparently be a gain for the Oregon State football program.

Last month, Tre'Shaun Harrison placed his name into the NCAA transfer database. This past week, it was reported that Harrison has been added to the OSU student directory.

According to Oregon Live, “Harrison and his mom took a visit to Corvallis from January 3-5 and the trip left him encouraged about a future with the Beavers.”

As of yet, the Oregon State football program has not addressed any roster development involving Harrison. Barring the unexpected, the receiver will have to sit out the 2020 season. That would then leave him with two years of eligibility starting in 2021.

A four-star 2018 signee, Harrison was rated as the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Washington. Harrison was originally committed to Oregon before flipping and following Willie Taggart to FSU.

In 2019, Harrison caught 27 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns.  He was third on the Seminoles in both catches and yards.

Harrison is the second Power Five wide receiver transfer added by the Oregon State football program this month. After opting to leave Washington, Trey Lowe ultimately moved on and transferred to OSU. Like Harrison, Lowe will have to sit out the upcoming season.

After announcing move to Baylor, Temple transfer TE Kenny Yeboah flips to Ole Miss

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A couple of weeks ahead of National Signing Day for high schoolers, the Ole Miss football program is the beneficiary of a different type of flip.

In late December, Kenny Yeboah announced on Twitter that he would be transferring from Temple to Baylor. Three weeks after that, however, Matt Rhule took the head job with the Carolina Panthers, and was quickly replaced by LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda late last week.

Coincidentally or not, Yeboah utilized the same social media website a day after Aranda was confirmed as Rhule’s replacement to announce that he has decommitted from Baylor and instead plans to sign with the Ole Miss football team. The tight end would be coming to the Rebels as a graduate transfer.

“With ALOT… of thought and prayer.  And talking it over with my parents, thinking deeply about my decision,” Yeboah wrote in his post. “We have concluded that I should decommit from Baylor [U]niversity. …

“After much thought and prayer. I have decided to earn my [master’s] in Health Promotions at Ole Miss University to play for Coach Lane Kiffin and his great staff.  I know this is a great opportunity for me. …

“I can’t wait to begin my new journey and grind with my teammates.”

For what it’s worth, Ole Miss hasn’t yet officially announced Yeboah’s addition to the roster.

A two-star 2016 signee, the 6-5, 240-pound Yeboah took a redshirt as a true freshman with the Owls. His head coach that season? Matt Rhule.

The past three years, Yeboah caught 47 passes for 538 yards and six touchdowns. In 2019, he set career-highs in receptions (19), receiving yards (233) and receiving touchdowns (five).

With two in a mid-November win over Tulane, the Allentown, Penn., product became the first tight end in school history with a multi-touchdown game.

Alabama transfer Scott Lashley headed to Mississippi State

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If you had the Alabama Crimson Tide football team in the “Next FBS School Featured in a Portal Post” lottery, collect your winnings. And if you had him staying in the SEC West as well?  Play the lottery.

An Alabama Crimson Tide football official confirmed this weekend that Scott Lashley was officially listed in the NCAA transfer database. Subsequent to that, it was reported that Lashley had already decided to transfer to Mississippi State.

According to 247Sports.com, Lashley is expected to begin classes at MSU this coming week.

Lashley graduated from Alabama last month. That will give the 6-7, 307-pound offensive tackle immediate eligibility at Mississippi State.  The upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

A four-star 2016 signee, Lashley was rated as the No. 20 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 8 player regardless of position in the state of Mississippi. The past three seasons, Lashley appeared in a total of 19 games.

Eight of those appearances for Lashley came at right tackle in 2019. Earlier this month, the Tide’s starting right tackle, Jedrick Wills Jr., announced he was leaving early for the NFL.  It had been expected that Lashley would compete for the starting job vacated by Wills.

Lashley is the second Tide player this month to enter the portal and then quickly move on to another school. Two weeks ago, Jerome Ford signaled his intention to leave Tuscaloosa by entering the database. Last week, the running back moved on to the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Virginia Tech joins Ball State in losing WR Damon Hazelton to transfer

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When it comes to Damon Hazelton, the Virginia Tech football team has some transfer company.

Back in May of 2017, the Virginia Tech football team announced that Ball State transfer wide receiver Damon Hazelton had been officially added to the roster. Three years and two on-field seasons later, however, Hazelton took to Twitter to announce that he will be transferring from the Hokies as well.

“Want to say thank you to Virginia Tech, coaches and community for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this University athletically and earn my degree,” the receiver wrote. “It has been an unbelievable time here. To all my brothers and teammates, I love each and every one of you and know this year will be nothing short of amazing.”

As he indicated in his post, Hazelton will be leaving as a graduate transfer.

After sitting out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Hazelton led the Hokies in catches (51), yards (802) and touchdowns (eight) in 2018. This past season, he again led the Hokies in receiving touchdowns (eight), while he was second in yards (527) and tied for second in receptions (31).

Including his time at Ball State, Hazelton has totaled 1,834 yards and 20 touchdowns on 133 catches. The 2020 season will be his final year of eligibility.