Cody Sokol

Ex-Gator QB Jeff Driskel tabbed as LaTech’s starter

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Jeff Driskel left Florida in search of a better opportunity to start.  At least to start the 2015 season, he’ll get that opportunity.

Ahead of the start of Conference USA’s Media Days Wednesday, Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz confirmed to the Monroe News-Star that Driskel will be his starting quarterback heading into the 2015 opener against FCS Southern.  Driskel had been in a battle with Ryan Higgins throughout the spring and on into summer workouts for the opportunity to replace Cody Sokol under center for the Bulldogs.

“After spring practice we went through all the numbers and we met with all the players and all the quarterbacks on where they ranked and where they were,” Holtz said Monday. “Just looking at the numbers from the whole body of work through spring practice, I felt Jeff Driskel gave us the best opportunity as a quarterback. That’s when we looked at him and said he’ll be the starter.”

The fact that Holtz has named him as the starter was news to Driskel, with the graduate transfer claiming “[w]e’ve never had that discussion.”

In January of this year, new Gators head coach Jim McElwain confirmed that had been granted a release from his UF scholarship. Shortly thereafter, the reports began to surface that Driskel was bound for Tech. Because he is a grad transfer, he is eligible for the 2015 season.

Driskel was the Gators’ starter in 2012 as the team went 11-2.  His 2013 season ended after three games because of injury, however, and he lost his starting job last season after the Week 8 loss to Missouri.

Report: Former Florida QB Jeff Driskel is Louisiana Tech bound

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Well, that didn’t take long.

One day after Florida head coach Jim McElwain said he will release Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel from his scholarship, the embattled signal caller has found a destination.

According to J.C. Shurburtt of 247Sports.com, Driskel will enroll at Louisiana Tech for the 2015 season. “The Bulldogs have been considered the likely team of choice for the former five-star for the past 24 hours,” he writes.

A former blue-chipper led the Gators to an 11-2 mark in 2012, but struggled with injuries and inconsistent play as Florida slogged to a 10-13 mark over the 2013-14 seasons. For his career, Driskel has connected on 320-of-535 passes (59.8%) for 3,363 yards (6.29 per attempt) with 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions while rushing 217 times for 637 yards and nine touchdowns.

Louisiana Tech won Conference USA’s West Division and the Heart of Dallas Bowl in head coach Skip Holtz‘s second season. The Bullodgs will look to replace outgoing senior Cody Sokol, who completed 58 percent of his passes for 3,436 yards with 32 total touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season.

 

Illini kicks off B1G bowl season with loss to LaTech

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Coming into the 2014 postseason, the Big Ten as a conference was looking to get back some of the respect its lost over the last several years.  After Game 1?  Hey, at least there are nine, possibly 10 more remaining.

It wasn’t pretty as mistakes in all three phases littered the playing field, but Louisiana Tech, which had jumped out to a 21-9 halftime lead, was able to pull away to a 35-18 win over Illinois in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.  The win marks Tech’s first bowl victory since the 2008 season, and their ninth win this year after winning just four in 2013.

Were it not for one key fourth-quarter sequence, though, it might’ve been the Illini doing some postseason celebrating for the first time since 2011.

With just over nine minutes remaining and trailing 21-18, the Illini forced a fumble at around the Tech 40-yard line that was recovered by Jihad Ward and returned to the Tech 16-yard line.  However, Ward fumbled before he went down and the ball was recovered by, oddly enough, quarterback Cody Sokol, the player who originally fumbled it.  Five plays later, one of which was a 70-yard pass to Carlos Henderson, a Kenneth Dixon one-yard touchdown run with 6:15 remaining stretched the lead to 28-18 and essentially put the game out of reach.

The scoring icing on the cake was a 28-yard touchdown run by Blake Martin with 3:43 remaining.

While Sokol completed just 14 passes, he threw for 247 yards.  Dixon ended up scoring twice, one each rushing and receiving, in accumulating 142 yards from scrimmage.

Sokol’s counterpart, Reilly O’Toole, took a severe, game-long beating but still passed for 295 yards and a touchdown.

Houston Bates, who transferred from Illinois to Tech earlier this year, totaled 4.5 sacks in the game, with another being wiped out late in the game by a penalty.  The senior came into the game with 5.5 this season.

While the Big Ten is 0-1, Conference USA moved to an impressive 4-1 with Tech’s win.  Through 11 bowl games, that conference as well as the ACC (1-0) are the only ones that are above .500.

Conference USA announces Player of the Year awards

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The Big 12 did it earlier today, and now one of the Group of Five leagues has followed suit as well.

As selected by the league’s 13 head coaches, Conferences USA announced on Wednesday its 2014 Players of the Year.  The six major awards were spread out among five different schools, with conference champion Marshall the only one to garner more than one.

Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty was named the league’s Most Valuable Player, the sixth time in the last seven years a quarterback has been accorded that honor.  Another quarterback, Marshall’s Rakeem Cato, was named as the Offensive Player of the Year for a second season in a row.

Below are the other four honors announced today.

Defensive Player of the Year: Marshall linebacker Neville Hewitt
Special Teams Player of the Year: UAB wide receiver J.J. Nelson
Freshman of the Year: Old Dominion running back Ray Lawry
Newcomer of the Year: Louisiana Tech quarterback Cody Sokol

Rakeem Cato’s late heroics leads Marshall to Conference USA title

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A week after their big bowl dreams appeared to go up in flames with an offensive shootout and overtime loss at home to Western Kentucky, Marshall may still be in the mix.

Marshall (12-1, 7-1 Conference USA) needed its star quarterback to make a play, and Rakeem Cato delivered.  On second and goal from the Louisiana Tech (8-5, 7-1 Conference USA) five-yard line, Cato completed a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to Deon-Tay McManus for a go-ahead touchdown with just under two minutes to play. After securing its first lead of the afternoon, the defense went to work and Evan McKelvey picked off a pass from Cody Sokol on Louisiana Tech’s first play on the ensuing possession, thus wrapping up the win for the Conference USA championship. Marshall erased the pain of last year’s Conference USA championship game loss to Rice with a gutsy 26-23 victory in this year’s title game. Now, Marshall awaits its bowl fate.

It was far from a pretty performance by Marshall, playing at home, but the end result was all that truly mattered most. Cato was not particularly accurate at times, but he ended the day with 308 passing yards and two touchdowns to overcome a sluggish start and an interception. Offense tends to be the story for Marshall, but it was the defense that kept the game within reach for its offense and it was the defense that made some key plays. Marshall had four turnovers in the game, but the defense stood tall often enough.Louisiana Tech jumped out to a 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter, but the visiting Bulldogs scored just one other time in the game, late in the third quarter with

Louisiana Tech jumped out to a 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter, but the visiting Bulldogs scored just one other time in the game, late in the third quarter with Kenneth Dixon’s third touchdown of the game. Dixon was the only Louisiana Tech to contribute on offense, and he nearly carried the team to victory with 156 yards and three touchdowns. The rest of the team managed to add just 112 yards of offense against Marshall.

Marshall is now eligible for consideration in the College Football Playoff selection committee’s process to determine which Group of Five conference champion may be invited to a New Years Six Bowl. Boise State appears to be in the best position, and a win in the Mountain West Conference will likely wrap up that big bowl spot tonight. But if the Broncos stumble, the bowl invite could be there for 12-1 Marshall. Other teams in the running are Northern Illinois (won the MAC championship Friday night), Memphis, UCF and Cincinnati. The three AAC schools ended the year with a share of the conference title.

If Marshall is not chosen to play in the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or Peach Bowl, then it will be likely the Thundering Herd are sent to either the Bahamas Bowl or Boca Raton Bowl or the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl may also be an option. Louisiana Tech should also expect to play in one of those three bowl games as well. Bowl arrangements will be finalized on Sunday.