Cameron Artis-Payne

Melvin Gordon’s grand finale ends with Wisconsin topping Auburn in OT for Outback Bowl win

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Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon rushed for 251 yards and three touchdowns, inching closer to the NCAA single-season rushing record, to help power No. 18 Wisconsin (11-3) past No. 19 Auburn (8-5) to an overtime victory in the Outback Bowl. A missed field goal by Auburn secured a bowl victory for Barry Alvarez and Wisconsin, 34-31, on New Years Day in Tampa, Florida.

Wisconsin and Auburn traded scored from start to finish, but Wisconsin turned a game of touchdowns into a game of field goal kicking down the final stretch of the game. Down 31-28 with just under three minutes to play, Wisconsin drove deep into the Auburn end of the field in the final moments of the fourth quarter before having to settle for a game-tying field goal from Rafael Gaglianone. Gaglianone opened the overtime session with his second field goal of the game to give the Badgers an overtime lead on the first possession. Auburn was unable to move the football on offense on their overtime possession, forcing Daniel Carlson to attempt a long field goal that bounced off the goal post, giving Wisconsin the win.

Wisconsin tried dabbling with the passing game in the first half, but Joel Stave was picked off three times before Alvarez started going back to the big running game with Gordon and Corey Clement. Gordon turned in what may have been a game-changing play when he took off for a powerful 53-yard run on fourth and one. It was a gutsy call by Alvarez, but he was rewarded by Gordon’s amazing effort to stay in bounds to score a touchdown that put the Badgers in front at the time, 21-17. It was the second rushing touchdown of the quarter from Gordon, adding to his 25-yard score earlier in the half. Gordon was the story of the second half, but Auburn came up with an answer every time for a while.

Auburn struck right back with Nick Marshall playing well under center and making some very good throws. C.J. Uzomah hauled in a 20-yard pass down the right sideline once his defender was caught taking a look back. That allowed him to create just enough separation to race down field and score a touchdown to give the Tigers a three-point lead. With the ball back in Wisconsin’s hands, Alvarez stuck to what works best, and that meant running the football with Gordon and Clement. That move paid off with Gordon adding his third touchdown of the afternoon on a six-yard push up the middle to reclaim the lead. As was the story of the second half, the lead would be short-lived, as Auburn responded on the ensuing possession. The Auburn go-ahead touchdown — coming on a short run by Cameron Artis-Payne — was given an extra chance following a somewhat questionable defensive pass interference called on the Badgers in the end zone on a fourth-down play.

The win was a big one for the Big Ten, although the conference’s other bowl teams in action at the time were staring down some double-digit losses. Auburn was the fourth team from the SEC West to suffer a loss this bowl season, joining LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Arkansas and Texas A&M won their bowl games, and Alabama will take on Ohio State later.

Moving forward, Wisconsin will hand the program over to Paul Chryst. Chryst will take over without Gordon, but Clement is a nice option to have in the backfield. Quarterback play will have to improve under Chryst, but this is one of his specialties. Auburn is not going anywhere either. The Tigers will once again be a dynamic team in the SEC in 2015, and the addition of Will Muschamp to the coaching staff figures to help the defense improve.

Alabama’s Amari Cooper, Mizzou’s Shane Ray headline AP All-SEC teams

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The regular season is over, which means awards season is here. In advance of his certain selection as a Heisman Trophy finalist (to be announced later Monday evening), Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper headlined the Associated Press All-SEC team by winning the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year award as well as being a unanimous selection as a First Team All-SEC wide receiver. Cooper is the first wideout to win the AP’s SEC Offensive Player of the Year award since LSU’s Wendell Davis back in 1987.

On the defensive side, Shane Ray broke a zero-year drought of Missouri defensive ends winning the AP SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He, of course, follows 2013 winner and former teammate Michael Sam.

Without further ado, here’s how the whole team shakes out:

Offensive Player of the Year: Amari Cooper, Alabama
Defensive Player of the Year: Shane Ray, Missouri
Coach of the Year: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Freshman of the Year: Nick Chubb, Georgia

Offense – First Team
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
RB Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn
RB Nick Chubb, Georgia
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina/Bud Sasser, Missouri
TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss
C Reese Dismukes, Auburn
OL La’El Collins, LSU
OL Ben Beckwith, Mississippi State
OL Arie Kouandjio, Alabama
OL Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
PK Austin MacGinnis, Kentucky
AP Marcus Murphy, Missouri

First Team – Defense
LB Martrell Spaight, Arkansas
LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
LB Amarlo Herrera, Georgia
CB Senquez Golson, Ole Miss
CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
S Landon Collins, Alabama
S Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
DE Shane Ray, Missouri
DE Bud Dupree, Kentucky
DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
DT  Johnathan Allen, Alabama
P J.K. Scott, Alabama

Second Team – Offense
QB Blake Sims, Alabama
RB Josh Robinson, Mississippi State
RB Jonathan Williams, Arkansas
WR Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
WR Sammie Coates, Auburn
TE Steven Scheu, Vanderbilt
C David Andrews, Georgia
OL Greg Pyke, Georgia
OL A.J. Cann, South Carolina
OL Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
OL Austin Shepherd, Alabama
PK Josh Lambo, Texas A&M
AP Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina

Second Team – Defense
LB Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
LB Kwon Alexander, LSU
LB Kentrell Brothers, Missouri
LB Antonio Morrisson, Florida
LB Curt Maggitt, Tennessee
LB Ramik Wilson, Georgia
CB Cyrus Jones, Alabama
CB Damian Swann, Georgia
CB Jonathan Jones, Auburn
S Braylon Webb, Missouri
S Ronald Martin, LSU
S Tony Conner, Ole Miss
P Kyle Christy, Florida

Doak Walker semifinalists headlined by B1G contingent

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For pretty much the entire 2014 season, four Big Ten running backs have been among the top 10 rushers yardage-wise at the FBS level.  For three of them, their in-season production has the potential to be rewarded in the postseason.

Of the 10 semifinalists for the 2014 Doak Walk Award, three came from the Big Ten: Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Indiana’s Tevin Coleman and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah.  Those three are first, second and ninth, respectively, in  rushing yards.

That conference could actually make a case that it was gypped as Minnesota’s David Cobb, seventh nationally in rushing, wasn’t named a semifinalist.  The only other conference outside of the B1G with more than one semifinalist was the ACC with two (Pittsburgh’s James Conner, Miami’s Duke Johnson).

Another fair gripe would be Western Michigan true freshman Jarvion Franklin, who is sixth in rushing and second in rushing touchdowns.  The same could be said for San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey, fifth in rushing.  Cobb, Franklin and Pumphrey are the only players in the top 10 in rushing not named as semifinalists.

There are six junior semifinalists, with two each for the senior and sophomore classes.

Gordon and Abdullah are the only 2013 semifinalists named again in 2014.  Neither were finalists for the award won by Boston College’s Andre Williams.

Gordon and Johnson were also named as semifinalists for the prestigious Walter Camp Award Wednesday as well.

Below are the 10 semifinalists for the 2014 Doak Walker Award.

Ameer Abdullah (Sr.) Nebraska
Jay Ajayi (Jr.) Boise State
Javorius Allen (Jr.) USC
Cameron Artis-Payne (Sr.) Auburn
Matt Breida (So.) Georgia Southern
Tevin Coleman (Jr.) Indiana
James Conner (So.) Pittsburgh
Melvin Gordon (Jr.) Wisconsin
Devon Johnson (Jr.) Marshall
Duke Johnson (Jr.) Miami

With Todd Gurley back, it’s Nick Chubb powering Georgia to haltime lead on Auburn

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Todd Gurley may be back for Georgia, but Nick Chubb has been leading the way on the ground for the Bulldogs in the first half while Gurley gets back in the mix. Behind the running of Chubb and Gurley, Georgia owns a 17-7 halftime lead on the visiting Tigers.

After being upset at home last week by unranked Texas A&M, No. 9 Auburn made sure to get off on the right foot this week on the road against No. 15 Georgia. On the opening offensive possession of the game, Auburn marched right down the field on Georgia’s defense. Cameron Artis-Payne capped a 10-play, 70-yard drive with a 26-yard touchdown run for the first score of the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, Todd Gurley made his return official by returning the Auburn kickoff 32 yards. An offensive holding penalty brought the ball back to the Georgia 22-yard line, but Gurley was back. He did not touch the football on Georgia’s first possession, but he did on Georgia’s second possession. Auburn knew it was coming though, stuffing both Gurley runs for a total loss of three yards. Georgia ended up having to punt the ball away, but Auburn’s Quan Bray fumbled away the football to Georgia’s punt coverage team.

Starting just inside the red zone, Gurley carried the football for an 11-yard gain to help set up a Hutson Mason touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell three plays later to tie the game at 7-7. Chubb later added a touchdown run to go with his team-high 67 yards. Georgia added a late field goal by Marshall Morgan to take a 17-7 lead.

Both teams need a win to keep their respective division championship hopes alive. With Mississippi State’s loss to Alabama, Auburn needs to keep pace with the Crimson Tide. The Iron Bowl once again could determine the SEC West, just as it did a year ago. Georgia is also looking to keep pace with Missouri. Missouri leads the SEC East by one game and is currently playing at Texas A&M.

Week 11, Statistically Speaking

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A statistical snapshot of the week that was in college football…

-9 — Rushing yards for Northwestern in the one-point loss to Michigan.  Quarterback Trevor Siemian totaled minus-37 yards rushing, while the Wildcats’ leading rusher, Justin Jackson, had plus-35.

.844 — Overall career winning percentage (54-10, fifth season) for Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, the best for any ACC head coach with three or more seasons.  His winning percentage of .842 in ACC games is best of all-time, ahead of the legend he replaced at FSU, Bobby Bowden (.814).

1.3 — Interceptions for Louisville’s Gerod Holliman after a three-pick performance against Boston College.  Holliman now has 12 interceptions with two regular season games and a bowl game remaining; the all-time FBS record for interceptions in a season is 14 by Washington’s Al Worley in 1968.  Incidentally, there are only 17 FBS teams with more interceptions this season than Holliman.

2 — FBS players and who have accounted for more than 9,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing in a career, and both played at Nevada: Cody Fajardo (9,084 and 3,025, 2011-present) and Colin Kaepernick (10,098 and 4,112, 2007-10). Kaepernick’s 14,210 yard of total offense is No. 1 in FBS history, while Fajardo’s (12,109) is currently 16th.

2 — Rushing touchdowns allowed by Alabama’s defense this season, the fewest in the FBS.  Next lowest?  Utah’s allowed five.

2-7 — Record of teams the game after playing Navy this season.  That includes Notre Dame’s second loss of the season, a 55-31 decision to Arizona State this weekend.

Tevin Coleman
Tevin Coleman

3 — Weeks in a row a player from Rutgers’ opponent has been named as the Big Ten’s Player of the Week.  That streak temporarily came to an end this week as the Scarlet Knights are on a bye, although Indiana — and the nation’s second-leading rusher Tevin Coleman — await next week and could easily extend the streak to four straight.

4-3 — Touchdowns vs. incompletions for Hutson Mason in Georgia’s blowout win over Kentucky.

5 — FBS players who have ever totaled 200-plus yards rushing and 100-plus yards receiving in a single game: Brian Hill, Wyoming vs. Fresno State, Nov. 1, 2014 (281 rushing, 106 receiving); Donald Buckram, UTEP vs. Tulane, Nov. 7, 2009 (234, 109); Steve Slaton, West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh, Nov. 16, 2006 (215, 130); Emmett White, Utah St. vs. New Mexico St., Nov. 4, 2000 (322, 134); and Thomas Jones, Virginia vs. Buffalo, Nov. 13, 1999 (221, 110).

10.1 — Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett leads the FBS in passing touchdown percentage (26 TDs on 233 attempts; 11.1 percent).

11 — Games in a row Oregon’s Marcus Mariota has thrown two or more touchdown passes, the longest such streak for an FBS quarterback.

13.1Nick Chubb‘s yards per carry average as he ran for 170 yards on just 13 rushes in Georgia’s blowout win over Kentucky.

14 — 300-yard passing games for Baylor’s Bryce Petty, breaking the school record of 13 previously held by Heisman winner Robert Griffin III.

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