Ameer Abdullah earns Reese’s Senior Bowl MVP as North triumphs over South

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The 2014 season was one for the ages for Big Ten running backs, so it was fitting to see Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Minnesota’s David Cobb help lead the North to a Reese’s Senior Bowl victory Saturday in Mobile, Alabama. Abdullah, the game’s MVP, rushed for 73 yards and added 40 receiving yards and Cobb rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown. The North pulled away from the South in the second half for a 34-13 victory.

For Abdullah, the chance to wrap up his collegiate career before a large group of family and friends from his home state of Alabama was a special opportunity

“Being down here was much more than putting on a good performance for me,” Abdullah said after the game. “Leaving this state was something that was hard for me to do. You could write a movie about it, really, just coming back and playing on Alabama soil for my last time as a collegiate athlete. I couldn’t paint a better picture.”

The Senior Bowl performance was especially good for Abdullah, who had battled some injuries in 2014 and had a somewhat discouraging week of practice leading up to the game according to some scouting reports.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty also had a tough time in practices this week, missing out on an opportunity to shine in the spotlight for a game without two of the top quarterbacks entering the NFL Draft (Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston). Petty completed nine of his 13 pass attempts for 123 yards and was intercepted once. It was not a banner week for any of the quarterbacks in the game, to be fair. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion tossed the only touchdown pass of the afternoon, a 10-yard pass to Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack in the second quarter. Auburn’s Nick Marshall made the move to cornerback and recorded five tackles in the game, tied for the most tackles on the South team.

The Pac-12 had two players stand out in the game on defense as well. Utah defensive end Nate Orchard and Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton were among the defensive standouts with five tackles. Orchard had 1.5 tackles for a loss in his stat line.

How much stock is placed on one performance in the Senior Bowl varies by team and scout, but there were some players that stood out above most of the others on Saturday. Yale fullback Tyler Varga was one of them. Varga had four rushing attempts resulting in 31 yards and he was the North’s second leading receiver behind Abdullah with 39 receiving yards.

Nation’s top tight ends named semifinalists for John Mackey Award

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It is almost award season in college football. Today, the field of contenders for the John Mackey Award for bets tight end in college football was trimmed down to just eight semifinalists.

Jean Sifrin of Massachusetts leads all tight ends with 593 receiving yards this season. Miami’s Clive Walford, Minnesota’s Maxx Williams and Iowa State’s E.J. Bibbs are tied for the lead among the nation’s tight ends with seven touchdowns each. All four players were named semifinalists for the award.

Last year’s Mackey Award went to Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins. This year’s winner will be announced on December 10 and presented live on December 11 during the annual Home Depot College Football Awards Red Carpet Show. Finalists will be announced on November 24.

The finalists are:

E.J. Bibbs (SR, Iowa State)
Evan Engram (SO, Mississippi)
Ben Koyack (SR, Notre Dame)
Jimmay Mundine (SR, Kansas)
Nick O’Leary (SR, Florida State)
Jean Sifrin (JR, Massachusetts)
Clive Walford (SR, Miami)
Maxx Williams (SO, Minnesota).

Dad: DaVaris Daniels ‘done at Notre Dame’

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For the second and third times in a week, members of Notre Dame’s so-called “Frozen Five” have learned their respective fates.  For one, though, said fate doesn’t involve being in South Bend next season.

According to a tweet from Phillip Daniels, father of DaVaris Daniels, “[f]inally after over 4 months my son got an answer” on the Irish wide receiver’s status for 2014. Simply put, the former NFL defensive lineman stated, “[h]e is done at Notre Dame.”

The father added his son will now “weigh his options for the future.”  Based on a tweet posted to the player’s own Twitter account, that apparently won’t include playing at the collegiate level in 2015.

Daniels, along with linebacker Kendall Moore, defensive end Ishaq Williams and defensive backs Eilar Hardy and KeiVarae Russell, has not played at all this season as the university conducts an investigation into allegations of academic fraud. Late last week, it was reported that Russell would sit out the remainder of the 2014 season but would return to the Irish football team in 2015.

Earlier this month it was reported that Notre Dame will not publicly announce the results of its investigation. Instead, the school will allow the players caught up in the probe to disclose their statuses if they so desire.

Daniels was a four-star member of the Irish’s 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 21 receiver in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Illinois.  He was one of the highest-rated skill players in the Irish’s class that year, behind only tight end Ben Koyack.  In addition to ND, Daniels also held offers from, among others, Arkansas, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Wisconsin.

Last season, Daniels was second on the team in receptions (49), receiving yards (745) and receiving yards (seven).  He will presumably conclude his Irish career with 80 catches for 1,235 yards and seven touchdowns.

During a press conference ahead of a showdown with Florida State dripping with College Football Playoff implications, Brian Kelly also revealed the 2014 fate of another of the sidelined players.

John Mackey Award announces 33-member midseason Watch List

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The John Mackey Award released its 33-name midseason Watch List on Monday and, considering the state of the position in college football, this may very well be the only 33 names that meet its criteria.

We all remember the Jace Amaro fiasco last year, where the Texas Tech tight end was first deemed not eligible for the award, then granted eligibility, only to be snubbed from the finalist list despite ranking sixth nationally with 106 catches, while North Carolina’s Eric Ebron ranked second among tight ends at 62. Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins took home the 2013 trophy.

Wake Forest’s Cam Serigne leads all tight ends with 29 catches for 282 yards and one touchdown. He ranks 78th nationally among all pass-catchers, and stands as the only tight end in the top 100.

Here is the full list, presented in alphabetical order:

– Rory Anderson – South Carolina
– Kennard Backman – UAB
– E.J. Bibbs – Iowa State
– Gerald Christian – Louisville
– Evan Engram – Ole Miss
– Billy Freeman – San Jose State
– David Grinnage – N.C. State
– Connor Hamlett – Oregon State
– Mitchell Henry – Western Kentucky
– Jeff Heuerman – Ohio State
– Bucky Hodges – Virginia Tech
– Austin Hooper – Stanford
– O.J. Howard – Alabama
– Jesse James – Penn State
– Malcolm Johnson – Missisippi State
– Ben Koyack – Notre Dame
– Tyler Kroft – Rutgers
– Jimmay Mundine – Kansas
– Nick O’Leary – Florida State
– Casey Pierce – Kent State
– Joel Ruiz – Georgia State
– Tyreese Russell – Eastern Michigan
– Wes Saxton – South Alabama
– Cam Serigne – Wake Forest
– Jean Sifrin – Massachusetts
– Justin Sinz – Purdue
– Jonnu Smith – Florida International
– Randall Telfer – USC
– Eric Tomlinson – UTEP
– C.J. Uzomah – Auburn
– Clive Walford – Miami (Fla.)
– Alex Welch – Miami (Ohio)
– Maxx Williams – Minnesota

Semifinalists will be announced Nov. 17, finalists a week after that, and the winner will be revealed at ESPN’s college football awards show on Dec. 11.

No. 9 Notre Dame survives No. 14 Stanford 17-14 as special season continues

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It’s quickly developing into a special season in South Bend. The last time the Notre Dame Fighting Irish eked by the Stanford Cardinal it became a precursor to Brian Kelly‘s squad eventually playing for a national championship.

Could Notre Dame be a team of fate again this season?

RELATED: Watch a full replay of the game

With their backs against the wall and trailing 14-10, the Fighting Irish faced a 4th-and-11 situation from Stanford’s 23-yard line. Golson dropped back to pass as the clock neared one minute remaining. No receiver was open as Golson worked thorugh his initial progressions. The quarterback rolled to his left after feeling pressure. Golson spotted tight end Ben Koyack wide open in the corner of the end zone. The quarterback unleashed the most critical pass of the season and connected with the big target for the game-winning touchdown.

Notre Dame faced the nation’s No. 1 defense and still came away with a 17-14 victory. Even on a rain-soaked field and multiple mistakes couldn’t stop the Fighting Irish offense from amassing 370 total yards against David Shaw‘s defense.

Kelly can now look toward the future with two concerns despite a 5-0 start.

While Golson eventually became the hero of Saturday’s contest, he could have easily been the goat. Six turnovers in two games generally equates to losing football. The talent around Golson continues to pick the him up, but there are talented programs still on Notre Dame’s schedule which will eventually take advantage of the quarterback’s mistakes.

The upcoming schedule is certainly daunting.

The Cardinal were ranked 14th in the nation, but Stanford isn’t playing at the same level as the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles, who Notre Dame faces in two weeks. Also the other team to beat Stanford, the USC Trojans, are also on the Fighting Irish’s schedule.

Notre Dame prides itself on a tough schedule, and this year’s version will be difficult to navigate.

But like the 2012 team, Notre Dame can hang its hat on a strong defense and a quarterback that makes clutch plays at key moments. It also helps that four of the nation’s Top 6 teams lost this weekend too.