Omar Bayless

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Arkansas State survives late charge from FIU to capture Camellia Bowl win

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Head coaches across college football make it a refrain to treat every game the same. No highs, no lows, just one constant stretch of focus and preparation from the moment one game ends to the kickoff of the next.

Blake Anderson probably preached that bit all the time this season at Arkansas State but 2019 has been anything but standard for the Red Wolves after their head coach’s wife, Wendy, passed away earlier this year. While the team has been playing in her honor just about every game, their final time on the field together probably felt a little more emotional than the others as ASU closed out the year on a high note by beating Florida International 34-26 in a thrilling Camellia Bowl..

Layne Hatcher led the way most of the night for the Red Wolves in one of the best performances of the young bowl season. The freshman quarterback threw for 393 yards and four touchdowns (one INT) while leading the team in rushing at halftime and eventually winding up with 37 on the ground. Top target Omar Bayless was on the other end of most of those passes, winding up with 180 yards and one of those scores — numbers that could have been even better had he not had a few drops on a rainy night in Montgomery.

That combo helped Arkansas State lead the game throughout but FIU did make things interesting down the stretch in the second half. QB James Morgan threw for 312 yards and a touchdown but also tossed a pair of killer interceptions in the fourth quarter to hamper his own efforts. Napoleon Maxwell chipped in with 66 yards and a touchdown on the ground but it wasn’t enough as scoring drives stalled out in the red zone and Jose Borregales was called on to knock in four field goals. The, uh, confident kicker missed a 29 yard chip shot with five minutes to go however, which felt like it was a complete momentum killer for the Panthers after clawing back to make things close late.

Still, it just wasn’t going to be their night either way. Arkansas State was playing for a bit more than just a Camellia Bowl trophy and they got it on Saturday night as one win looked and felt like it meant a lot more to those on the Red Wolves sidelines than any other.

Arkansas State jumps out to halftime lead in the Camellia Bowl over FIU

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Butch Davis has been around the game football for a long time so chances are high that his message to his defensive staff in the locker room will be a simple one: stop Layne Hatcher.

The Arkansas State quarterback was a third down conversion machine to help Arkansas State take a 20-13 halftime lead over Davis’ FIU squad as the first Saturday of the postseason winds to a close in the Camellia Bowl.

Hatcher was already up to 164 yards and two touchdowns passing, leading the team in rushing for good measure as well with 49 yards. Top target Omar Bayless was heavily involved with his signal-caller as one would expect, hauling in four passes for 78 yards and a score while leaving two other big gains on the table with a pair of drops that were quite disappointing even if the conditions were rainy and a little chilly.

Still, things didn’t get completely out of hand thanks to the Panthers offense doing enough to keep pace. QB James Morgan didn’t find the end zone through the air but did throw for 141 yards and helped FIU go 4/9 on third down.

Things did get a little chippy with a few skirmishes beyond the whistle as things wore on which could only add to the intrigue of the second half. The Camellia Bowl has staged some classics in the past and both of these sides are hoping to play their part in creating another one when the second half rolls around in Montgomery.

LSU, Ohio State headline 130th Walter Camp All-American team

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Both No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Ohio State showed out well during the Home Depot College Football Awards Show Thursday night. Not surprisingly, both football programs did the same on one of the most prestigious teams in the sport as well.

Earlier tonight, the Walter Camp Football Foundation released its 2019 All-American teams, the 130th such squad recognized by the organization. LSU and Wisconsin led all schools with three first-team selections, while Ohio State led the way overall with five first- and second-team honorees (two on the first team, three on the second). LSU ended up with four overall, while Clemson had three (two first team, one second).

LSU and OSU were also one-two at the quarterback position, with Joe Burrow, also named the Camp Player of the Year, earning first-team honors and Justin Fields being the second-team selection.

Conference-wise, the Big Ten’s 15 selections on both teams led the way, followed by the SEC’s 13 and Pac-12’s seven. All told, eight of the 10 FBS conferences are represented — the Sun Belt’s Arkansas State (wide receiver Omar Bayless) claimed its first-ever Camp All-American — while 32 different schools claimed spots on one of the two teams. Two of those schools, Florida Atlantic (tight end Harrison Bryant) and Boise State (defensive end Curtis Weaver), had their first-ever first-team Camp All-Americans.

The AAC and MAC were the only FBS conferences without a player selected.

Individually, two players repeated as first-team All-Americans — Wisconsin running back and Doak Walker Award winner Jonathan Taylor, LSU safety and Jim Thorpe Award winner Grant Delpit. Taylor is actually a three-time Camp All-American as he was named to the second team as a true freshman in 2017.

Delpit’s teammate, defensive back Derek Stingley Jr., is the only freshman among the 51 All-Americans.

Biletnikoff Award whittles hunt for nation’s top receiver down to 12

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The Biletnikoff Award on Monday announced its list of 12 semifinalists for the 2019 award. The award specifies that any player who catches a pass is eligible to win — not just wideouts — but only wideouts have won the award through its 25-year history.

And for what has to be the first time in Biletnikoff history, both LSU and Alabama have two semifinalists, including 2018 winner Jerry Jeudy.

The semifinalists are:

Rashod Bateman, Minnesota: 44 catches for 945 yards (21.5 yards per) and seven touchdowns
Omar Bayless, Arkansas State: 73 catches for 1,262 yards (17.3 yards per) and 14 touchdowns
Ja'Marr Chase, LSU: 57 catches for 1,116 yards (19.6 yards per) and 13 touchdowns
Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty: 64 catches for 1,244 yards (19.4 yards per) and eight touchdowns
Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State: 73 catches for 1,021 yards (14 yards per) and 13 touchdowns
Justin Jefferson, LSU: 71 catches for 1,010 yards (14.2 yards per) and 11 touchdowns
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama: 64 catches for 867 yards (13.6 yards per) and nine touchdowns
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma: 44 catches for 983 yards (22.3 yards per) and 12 touchdowns
Michael Pittman, Jr., USC: 82 catches for 1,118 yards (13.6 yards per) and nine touchdowns
James Proche, SMU: 88 catches for 1,008 yards (11.5 yards per) and 12 touchdowns
Devonta Smith, Alabama: 56 catches for 1,026 yards (18.3 yards per) and 11 touchdowns
Sage Surratt, Wake Forest: 66 catches for 1,001 yards (15.2 yards per) and 11 touchdowns

The notable snub here is Devin Duvernay of Texas, who is one off the lead for catches (87) but could not crack the voters’ top 12. (Full disclosure: I am a Biletnikoff voter and had Duvernay on my semifinalist list.)

The 12 semifinalists will be chopped down to three next Monday, with the winner announced at the Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 12.