Jalen McCleskey

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Tulane blows past Southern Miss in Armed Forces Bowl

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Two drives in, it appeared we had a blowout on our hands at the Armed Forces Bowl. We did, just not in the direction it appeared at the time.

Southern Miss jumped out to a 13-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game on two Jack Abraham touchdowns, a 44-yard strike to Quez Watkins and a 3-yard rush.

Over the final 50 minutes, though, Tulane ran off 30 unanswered points to score a 30-13 win.

The win moves Tulane to 7-6 on the season and gives the Green Wave bowl wins in consecutive seasons for the first time in the program’s 127-year history.

The comeback was slow moving. After gaining just 75 yards in the first half and scoring only on two 31-yard Merek Glover field goals, the Tulane offense caught fire in the third quarter behind the arm of Justin McMillan.

The Wave took the ball to open the second half and rolled 77 yards in five plays, scoring on a 52-yard strike to Oklahoma State transfer Jalen McCleskey. (That drive nearly perfectly mirrored Southern Miss’s drive to open the game.)

After a third Glover field goal put Tulane in the lead, the Wave defense broke the game open when Larry Brooks intercepted a pass and, combined with his return, an unsportsmanlike conduct flag gave Tulane the ball at the Southern Miss 2-yard line. After a false start, McMillan pushed Tulane’s lead to 23-13 with a 7-yard strike to Jacob Robertson, Jr.

McMillan then all but ended the game at the 1:54 mark of the third quarter when he fired his third touchdown pass of the frame, a 20-yard lob to a wide open Amare Jones.

After starting slowly, McMillan earned player of the game honors for hitting 13-of-18 passes for 215 yards and three scores. He also rushed 15 times for 39 yards.

A key moment in Tulane’s comeback, though, had very little to do with Tulane.

Abraham injured his shoulder on his final pass of the first half and did not return; he finished the game 17-of-23 for 167 yards with a touchdown. With Abraham out, backup Tate Whatley played the entire second half and simply was not ready for that level of exposure. The sophomore went 9-of-22 for 134 yards with two interceptions.

Neither quarterback got much help from the running game, as the Eagles (7-6) finished with 58 yards on 23 carries.

After gaining 139 yards on 19 plays over their first two drives, Southern Miss’ remaining 49 snaps gained just 220 yards and resulted in zero points. Tulane’s offense, meanwhile, gained 304 yards in the second half.

WVU starting S to reportedly sit vs. No. 11 Texas, considering pulling a D’Eriq King

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Following in the fresh footsteps of Houston quarterback D’Eriq King and wide receiver Keith Corbin, West Virginia safety JoVanni Stewart is considering pulling himself from the remainder of the season, using his redshirt and pursuing a graduate transfer elsewhere in 2020, according to multiple reports out of West Virginia.

Stewart will sit out WVU’s game Saturday versus No. 11 Texas (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) for “personal reasons” as he contemplates a transfer.

A 5-foot-8, 196-pound starter at West Virginia’s “spear” linebacker position, Stewart has started all four games to date for the Mountaineers this fall, collecting 17 tackles with one tackle for loss and two pass breakups. The Katy, Texas, native played in 37 games over his first three seasons, cracking the starting lineup as a Sam linebacker last season, a year in which he tied for fourth on the team with 54 tackles, four sacks, 10.5 TFLs and a fumble recovery.

Stewart has not used his redshirt year which means, per the NCAA’s new redshirt rule that passed last year, he can sit the rest of the season, count his four games in 2019 as a redshirt and transfer elsewhere to play in 2020.

Stewart is the third player to pursue such a move, following King and Corbin at Houston. All three players are fourth-year seniors, and all three are playing under new head coaches. Ironically, the situation all three find themselves in was triggered when Dana Holgorsen left West Virginia for Houston in January. Clemson-turned-Mizzou quarterback Kelly Bryant and Oklahoma State-turned-Tulane wide receiver Jalen McCleskey executed similar moves in 2018, though both players left due to a lack of playing time and King vacated a starting position in order to upgrade his personal situation.

Playing in another game would void those plans, which is why the underdog Mountaineers will be without one of their best, most experienced defenders as the Longhorns come to town on Saturday and, perhaps, in perpetuity.

Houston QB D’Eriq King considering leaving team to grad transfer elsewhere in 2020

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Houston quarterback D’Eriq King is considering leaving the team, counting this season as a redshirt and then graduate transferring elsewhere for the 2020 season. If such a move is completed, it’s believed to be a first in major college football.

King’s father, Eric King, told Mark Berman of the Fox affiliate in Houston that the move is a done deal.

However, King himself says the decision is not final.

Whether it happens or not, that such a move is being considered is a radical (and, depending on your perspective) cynical use of the new redshirt rule, passed in 2018, that allows players to compete in up to four games and still count the season as a redshirt.

Kelly Bryant did at Clemson, as did Jalen McCleskey at Oklahoma State. (Ironically, King played McCleskey, now at Tulane, on Thursday night.)

But neither of those players were starting quarterbacks. Bryant’s departure happened after he had just been demoted in favor of Trevor Lawrence.

King is Houston’s starter, and its best player. He has 36 games’ experience under his belt; only one other Cougar has thrown pass this season, freshman Logan Holgorsen. (He’s 1-of-1 for 5 yards.)

King threw for 2,982 yards and 36 touchdowns and rushed for 674 yards and 14 scores last season before missing the final portion to a knee injury. On Thursday he passed Tim Tebow to become the first player in FBS history to rush and throw for a touchdown in 15 consecutive games.

Houston is off to a 1-3 start under new head coach Dana Holgorsen, and it’s clear that the King camp doesn’t believe he’s clicking with the new coaching staff.

And while King’s decision would be treated in some corners of the college football world as a sky-is-falling scenario, it’s telling that King’s experience at Houston is chalked up as business as usual. A product of Manvel, Texas, King was recruited, signed and played his first season for Tom Herman. Herman left for Texas and was replaced by Major Applewhite, but he was fired after two seasons and replaced by Holgorsen.

It appears now that King would like a do-over on the end of his college career, and would like to do so for a coaching staff that he can actually choose to play for.

D’Eriq King breaks Tim Tebow TD record, but Houston stunned on last-second TD by Tulane

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Last week, D’Eriq King tied one of the records set by an all-time college football great.  Thursday night, he broke it — and then he and his teammates had their collective hearts broken.

In Houston’s 38-31 loss to Tulane — Green Wave’s come-from-behind win, on the last drive of the game, featured both a trick play and game-winning touchdown pass with just seconds — King accounted for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing).  This marks the 15th straight game in which the Cougars quarterback has accounted for at least one passing and one rushing touchdown in the same game.

King now owns the FBS record for such a streak, breaking the record of 14 in a row previously set by Florida’s Tim Tebow more than a decade ago.

In 15 games the past one-plus seasons, the under-the-radar King has accounted for 62 total touchdowns — 42 passing, 20 rushing.  In an injury-shortened 2018 campaign, King threw for 36 touchdowns and put up 14 on the ground.

Despite the record, it’s likely a night King will want to forget.

In the second quarter, Houston held a seemingly comfortable 28-7 lead, but three Tulane touchdowns over the next quarter and a half tied the game; a field goal with 6:10 left in the AAC matchup gave the Green Wave their first lead of the contest.  With just 21 seconds left, however, the Cougars’ own field goal tied it back up at 31-all and we appeared headed for some extra football.

That, though, is when insanity ensued.

The ensuing kickoff gave Tulane the ball at its own 29-yard line.  Seemingly content to let the clock run out and go into overtime, the Green Wave lined up as if they were just going to take a knee… except they didn’t, with Amare Jones taking a handoff and scampering 18 yards 15 seconds left…

… and then, on the very next play, Justin McMillan hit Jalen McCleskey for a 53-yard catch-and-run, aided greatly by poor tackling on the part of the Cougars, that proved to be the game-winning score with just three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Suffice to say, Houston’s first-year head coach was far from pleased with how the game played out.

The Cougars are now 1-3 on the season — after firing their head coach, Major Applewhite, for having the audacity to go 8-5 last season — while the Green Wave improved to 3-1.

That 1-3 start, incidentally, is UH’s worst since 2012.

Mike Gundy rants on ‘liberalism’ and ‘the snowflake’ in question about transfers

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On Sunday, Oklahoma State safety Thabo Mwaniki announced his intention to transfer. On Monday, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy was asked about his decision, and Gundy had plenty of thoughts about it.

While insisting he’s not talking about Mwaniki specifically, Gundy launched into a soliloquy about “liberalism” and “the snowflake.”

“I’m talking about every millennial young person. Generation Z, I think is what they ‘call em,” Gundy said. “It’s the world we live in because if they say, ‘Well, it’s a little bit hard,’ we say, ‘OK, well, let’s go try something else’ vs. ‘Hey, let’s bear down and let’s fight and do this.’

Here’s the full quote, via The Oklahoman‘s Nathan Ruiz:

Mwaniki is the second Cowboy to announce a transfer during this season. Wideout Jalen McCleskey left the team earlier this year.

By the way, Gundy, who is paid $5 million a year, has attempted to use his post to transfer to similar jobs at Arkansas and Tennessee in order to leverage more money out of Oklahoma State.