Rannell Hall

Paul Hornung Award watch list led by 2013 finalist Myles Jack

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Watchlist season gets into its midseason-form this week with watch lists coming out on a daily basis. Monday got started with the release of the Paul Hornung Award watch list by the Louisville Sports Commission. A grand total of 47 players were named to the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, which is awarded to the most versatile player in major college football and is named after Hornung, a Louisville native.

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack is the one finalist from last year’s award to appear on the watch list. In all, the list is composed of 22 seniors, 12 juniors and 13 sophomores from 43 different universities. Nebraska, Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Duke each have two players listed on the watch list. The ACC and Big Ten lead the way with watch list players, with 10 each. The Pac-12 has seven players, the Big 12 has five and the SEC has just four players listed.

LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was the 2013 Paul Hornung Award winner.

Here is the entire watch list fr the 2014 season:

Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

Nelson Agholor, Southern California

Kenny Bell, Nebraska

V’Angelo Bentley, Illinois

Victor Bolden, Oregon State

Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh

Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State

B.J. Catalon, TCU

Rashon Ceaser, Louisiana Monroe

Stacy Coley, Miami (FL)

James Conner, Pittsburgh

Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina

Jamison Crowder, Duke

Stefon Diggs, Maryland

Chris Dunkley, South Florida

DeVon Edwards, Duke

D.J. Foster, Arizona State

Charles Gaines, Louisville

Rannell Hall, Central Florida

Scott Harding, Hawaii

Justin Hardy, East Carolina

Akeem Hunt, Purdue

Myles Jack, UCLA

Christion Jones, Alabama

Jameon Lewis, Mississippi State

Tommylee Lewis, Northern Illinois

Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

T.J. Logan, North Carolina

Venric Mark, Northwestern

Kevonte Martin-Manley, Iowa

J.D. McKissic, Arkansas State

Ty Montgomery, Stanford

Khalfani Muhammad, California

Marcus Murphy, Missouri

Jamarcus Nelson, UAB

Levi Norwood, Baylor

Ryan Switzer, North Carolina

Shaq Thompson, Washington

Antonio Vaughan, Old Dominion

Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield, Florida State

Carlos Wiggins, New Mexico

Kenny Williams, Texas Tech

Shane Williams-Rhodes, Boise St.

Myles Willis, Boston College

Dontre Wilson, Ohio State

Aaron Wimberly, Iowa St.

Shane Wynn, Indiana

The watch lists for the Bednarik Award and Maxwell Award will also be released today.

UCF finishes off first year in American with Fiesta Bowl win

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Officially the result of the Fiesta Bowl will go down as a significant upset, but UCF left no doubt who the better team was in the Fiesta Bowl. The Knights pulled away in a shootout with Big 12 champion Baylor as quarterback Blake Bortles passed for 301 yards three touchdown passes and running back Storm Johnson rushed for 124 yards and three more in a 52-42 victory. It is UCF’s first BCS bowl appearance and victory, and it puts the cherry on top of the first year for the American Athletic Conference’s existence.

The scary part is UCF may just be getting started.

UCF is currently set up very well for long term success in the American Athletic Conference. With Louisville leaving the conference to join the ACC in 2014 and Rutgers leaving to join the Big Ten, the level of competition in the conference figures to be swinging more and more in favor of UCF given the resources and location for the program. Cincinnati should be a perennial contender as well, but UCF right now has all of the momentum in the conference as some new members will join the fray next season.

Now the question will be whether or not Bortles returns to the program for more in 2014. Bortles is being hyped as a rising quarterback prospect by NFL scouts and those who break down the NFL Draft, although he is officially waiting for the results of an official evaluation and review from the NFL before making any decision final. Against Baylor Bortles completed 20 of 31 passes for 301 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Two of those touchdown passes went to receiver Rannell Hall, the first a fine 50-yard pass in the first half.

Baylor opened the second half by tying the game at 28-28 with a Bryce Petty touchdown run. Petty rushed for three touchdowns in the game and passed for one more, but the high-scoring Baylor offense was unable to keep up with UCF in this one.UCF went on a 28-14 run to close out the game following that game-tying touchdown. The Knights put up 558 yards of offense in a game that saw the teams combine for over 1,000 yards.

UCF will open the 2014 season across the Atlantic Ocean against Penn State in the Croke Park Classic in Ireland. In addition to that opening game, UCF will also play on the road at Missouri, who played for the SEC championship this season. UCF also hosts BYU in October. Are they set up for a run for another impressive season and perhaps sneak in to the new four-team playoff?

Baylor will enter next season as the defending Big 12 champions and expect to have Petty back. As long as the program keeps head coach Art Briles in Waco, instead of leaving for Austin or the NFL, the Bears should offer more of the same sort of offensive production. Defense, as usual, will be what keeps Baylor from being a true national title contender.

Big plays help UCF overcome turnovers for Fiesta Bowl halftime lead

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If you overlooked the Fiesta Bowl, you are missing out on some good, quality entertainment. UCF leads Baylor 28-20 at the half thanks to some big plays by the offense.

UCF running back Storm Johnson gave the Golden Knights an early spark. An 11-yard touchdown run gave UCF an early 7-0 lead following a 76-yard drive over six plays. Minutes later Johnson entered the end zone once again on a shorter run to capitalize on a drive that started at midfield. Quarterback Blake Bortles had 183 passing yards in the first half, highlighted by a 50-yard touchdown pass to Rannell Hall midway through the second quarter to build a 21-13 lead and another 34-yard touchdown play to Hall for the final score of the half.

Before it turned in to a lopsided half, Baylor managed to counter with their first touchdown of the game. Late in the first quarter, quarterback Bryce Petty picked up a short touchdown run to put the Bears on the scoreboard. Petty later helped Baylor capitalize on an interception thrown by UCF quarterback Blake Bortles. Petty completed a pass over the middle to Levi Norwood, who then maneuvered out of traffic and made a run for the end zone to bring Baylor to within one point. A botched extra point attempt left Baylor trailing by one, 14-13.

Baylor got another chance immediately following the ensuing kickoff though. Johnson had the ball punched out of hands by a Baylor defender and the Bears recovered in great field position. UCF returned the favor though by picking off a pass from Petty in the end zone to protect the 14-13 lead. Five plays later Bortles connected on the 50-yard touchdown pass to Hall for the 21-13 lead.

After Petty’s summersault in to the end zone brought the Bears to within one, Bortles again led UCF to a touchdown. He did so once again by connecting with Hall. Bortles completed a pass to Hall, who managed to find an open path to the end zone down the right sideline with a blocker in front of him down field. A leap in to the end zone extended UCF’s lead to 28-20 in the final minute of the half.

Baylor kicker Aaron Jones had a last-second field goal attempt sail just right of the uprights as the half came to a close.

South Carolina wins a tale of two halves vs UCF

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Central Florida made a statement in the first half, but South Carolina made the adjustments and got the last laugh. The Gamecocks focused more on the run game and it paid off as the Gamecocks stormed back for a 28-25 victory on the road Saturday afternoon. They had to hang on for it too.

South Carolina running back Mike Davis rushed for 169 yards and three touchdowns to fuel the second half charge. Dylan Thompson stepped in for an injured Connor Shaw and passed for 261 yards as South Carolina scored 28 straight points to take what seemed to be a commanding 28-10 lead in the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks were just a couple yards away from making it a 35-18 game in the fourth quarter but a fumble b Davis gave Central Florida a late chance for a rally, and they nearly managed to pull it off. Blake Bortles led a long scoring drive against the Gamecocks to make it a one-possession game, with a huge completion to Rannell Hall picking up 79 yards in a hurry. It took three plays to score the touchdown, allowing UCF to go for an onside kick for one last attempt with no timeouts remaining.

South Carolina recovered the kick and took a knee to wind down the clock and pick up what turned out to be a hard-fought victory.

Where South Carolina goes from here remains to be seen. The loss of Shaw under center could put the Gamecocks in an uphill battle in the SEC, already with a loss to Georgia in the standings as well. The defense was shredded at times by Bortles, who passed for 358 yards and two touchdowns, but when South Carolina was at their best they managed to limit the impact of Bortles. South Carolina is not going anywhere in the SEC East, but they may have been fortunate to escape with a victory on this one. Before that last touchdown by Central Florida, the Knights had come up with zero points off three turnovers by the Gamecocks.

What may have become evident, if not already, is that Central Florida is going to be a tough out in The American this season, and that includes Louisville. Central Florida travels to Louisville on October 18. That game could turn out to be the conference’s game of the year.