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Biletnikoff Award watch list highlighted by 2017 finalist David Sills

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  Yet another watch list.

The latest to release theirs is the Biletnikoff Award, with the honor going to the nation’s top receiver issuing a list consisting of 50 players from all nine FBS conferences as well as one independent (UMass).  Headlining this year’s preseason list is West Virginia’s David Sills, who was a finalist for the 2017 award claimed by Oklahoma State’s James Washington.  One other 2017 semifinalist is included as well, Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown.

A total of seven teams placed two receivers each on the watch list: Cal (Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton III), Louisville (Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith), Nebraska (Stanley Morgan Jr., JD Spielman), North Texas (Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence), Oklahoma (Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb), Toledo (Diontae Johnson, Cody Thompson) and West Virginia (Gary Jennings Jr., Sills).

Three conferences totaled seven players apiece, the ACC, Big 12 and MAC.  That trio is followed by five each from Conference USA and four apiece for the AAC, Pac-12 and Sun Belt.  The Big Ten and Mountain West each placed three.

Below is the complete list of 2018 Biletnikoff Award preseason watch listers:

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Tyre Brady, Marshall
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Trevon Brown, East Carolina
Ryan Davis, Auburn
Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
Terren Encalade, Tulane
Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville
James Gardner, Miami-Ohio
Jonathan Giles, LSU
Marcus Green, ULM
Jalen Guyton, North Texas
Emanuel Hall, Missouri
Justin Hall, Ball State
Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Penny Hart, Georgia State
Justin Hobbs, Tulsa
Andy Isabella, Massachusetts
Gary Jennings Jr., West Virginia
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
Collin Johnson, Texas
Diontae Johnson, Toledo
KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Michael Lawrence, North Texas
Ty Lee Middle, Tennessee
McLane Mannix, Nevada
Scott Miller, Bowling Green
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska
Kanawai Noa, California
James Proche, SMU
T.J. Rahming, Duke
Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
David Sills V, West Virginia
Steven Sims Jr., Kansas
Jaylen Smith, Louisville
Kwadarrius Smith, Akron
JD Spielman, Nebraska
Cody Thompson, Toledo
John Ursua, Hawaii
Teddy Veal, Louisiana Tech
Jamarius Way, South Alabama
Nick Westbrook, Indiana
Vic Wharton III, California
Malcolm Williams, Coastal Carolina
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia

Duke rolls past Northern Illinois in Quick Lane Bowl

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Duke used a big day from quarterback Thomas Jones and a baffling fake punt attempt to roll past Northern Illinois for a 36-14 win in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit.

Trailing 7-0 with 4:32 to play in the first quarter, Northern Illinois punter Matt Ference trotted onto the field for what everyone thought would be a boot from his own end zone. Everyone but him, that is.

Instead, Ference decided to pass. It was fourth and 18.

Duke (7-6) took over at the NIU 11-yard line and needed three plays to score, a 1-yard Shaun Wilson run that gave the Blue Devils a 14-0 lead a dozen minutes into the game.

Northern Illinois (8-5) struck back with two quick scoring drives. The first was a 2-play, 68-yard drive that saw Marcus Childers hit Spencer Tears for a 43-yard gain and then Tre Harbison score on a 25-yard rush. After forcing a three-and-out, the Huskies tied the game on a 67-yard strike from Childers to Jauan Wesley, knotting the score at 14-14 with 12:22 left in the first half.

Duke re-gained the lead on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Jones to T.J. Rahming, but William Holmquist‘s PAT missed. The Blue Devils pushed their lead back to two scores with an 11-yard swing pass from Jones to Wilson with 1:33 left before the break, but Jones’s 2-point pass was intercepted in the end zone.

 

Jones fumbled at the NIU 31-yard line to open the second half, but atoned for the mistake by leading an 11-play, 67-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 7-yard Brittain Brown run that put the Blue Devils up 33-14 at the 6:58 mark of the third quarter. Duke ended any chance of a Hail Mary comeback with a 16-play drive that consumed the entire first half of the fourth quarter, ending in a 24-yard Holmquist field goal to push the lead to 22. Derrick Tangelo all but ended the game with a sack of Childers on 4th-and-5 from midfield with six and a half minutes remaining.

Jones finished the game hitting 27-of-40 throws for 252 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 16 times for a game-high 86 yards and a touchdown. Wilson and Brown combined to carry 29 times for 116 yards and two additional scores. Childers completed 15-of-26 passes for 234 yards with a touchdown and no picks, and Harbison rushed 13 times for 59 yards and a touchdown.

The win handed Duke its fifth bowl victory ever, and just its second since 1962. Northern Illinois dropped to 0-5 in bowl games under head coach Rod Carey. Not surprisingly, this was the first all-time meeting between the Blue Devils and the Huskies.

Fake punt gaffe helps Duke take halftime lead over NIU in Quick Lane Bowl

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A fake punt gaffe the likes of which you’ll probably never see again has pushed Duke to a 26-14 halftime lead over Northern Illinois in the Quick Lane Bowl.

Trailing 7-0 with 4:32 to play in the first quarter, Northern Illinois punter Matt Ference trotted onto the field for what everyone thought would be a boot from his own end zone. Everyone but him, that is.

Instead, Ference decided to pass. It was fourth and 18.

Duke took over at the NIU 11-yard line and needed three plays to score, a 1-yard Shaun Wilson run that gave the Blue Devils a 14-0 lead a dozen minutes into the game.

Northern Illinois struck back with two quick scoring drives. The first was a 2-play, 68-yard drive that saw Marcus Childers hit Spencer Tears for a 43-yard gain and then Tre Harbison score on a 25-yard rush. After forcing a three-and-out, the Huskies tied the game on a 67-yard strike from Childers to Jauan Wesley, knotting the score at 14-14 with 12:22 left in the first half.

Duke re-gained the lead on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Jones to T.J. Rahming, but William Holmquist‘s PAT missed. The Blue Devils pushed their lead back to two scores with an 11-yard swing pass from Jones to Wilson with 1:33 left before the break, but Jones’s 2-point pass was intercepted in the end zone.

Jones hit 16-of-23 passes for 178 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing six times for a team-high 28 yards and another score. Wilson added 10 carries for 23 yards and a touchdown.

For Northern Illinois, Childers connected on 6-of-10 passes for 141 yards with a touchdown with eight carries for 20 yards, while Harbison led all runners with 53 yards on nine carries with one touchdown.

Duke will receive to open the second half.

Duke upsets No. 17 North Carolina for first ACC win of the season

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It’s been a miserable season on the gridiron for Duke, which held such promise after beating Notre Dame earlier in the year but saw injuries put hopes of another bowl game in jeopardy.

On Thursday night however, the Blue Devils gave their fans one last highlight from the football field before attention on campus turned to the school’s basketball team by upsetting rival North Carolina 28-27 and causing a minor shakeup in the ACC standings.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones’ first action in the rivalry game was a memorable one, throwing for 240 yards and a touchdown while also extending drives with his legs (94 rushing, two scores). He did a good job spreading things out in the passing game, finding seven different receivers and helping T.J. Rahming hit the 100 yard receiving mark for the game.

With tailback Shaun Wilson also adding 107 yards on the ground, the Blue Devils went a remarkable 10-of-16 on third down and recorded a nearly seven minute drive in the fourth quarter to help salt away the win.

UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky had an efficient first half but didn’t come out as accurate in the second. He finished with 297 yards and three touchdowns but also tossed two interceptions, the latter of which was right into the arms of a Duke defender with the time winding down to end any hope of a comeback.

The victory is the Blue Devils’ first in ACC play and keeps their slim bowl hopes alive at 4-6 on the season. The team is on the road for their final two games of the year but could be in position to earn a postseason invite at 5-7 depending on how many teams become eligible.

As for North Carolina, the loss takes a return trip to the ACC title game even further out of reach. Virginia Tech owns the head-to-head between the two and only needs to beat Georgia Tech on Saturday or Virginia to end the regular season to clinch the ACC Coastal.