WVU’s season-opening opponent sees starting QB suspended

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In what could be a make or break year for head coach Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia may have caught a bit of a break to open the 2015 season.

Georgia Southern announced Wednesday that starting quarterback Kevin Ellison has been declared academically ineligible and will miss the first two games of the 2015 season.  The Sun Belt Conference school opens the year in Morgantown against WVU Sept. 5, following that up with a home game against Western Michigan Sept. 12.

Provided there are no further academic missteps, Ellison will be eligible to return for the Sept. 19 game against Citadel.

While Ellison passed for just 1,001 yards for the run-heavy Eagles, his 1,096 yards rushing were second on the team behind Matt Breida‘s 1,485 yards.  He ran for more than twice as many touchdowns (12) as he passed for (five), while his 172 carries were 44 more than his passing attempts.

Ellison, a second-team All-SBC selection, was one of just five FBS quarterbacks — Navy’s Keenan Reynolds (1,191), Boston College’s Tyler Murphy (1,184), Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas (1,086) and Nevada’s Cody Fajardo (1,046) being the others — to rush for more than 1,000 yards in 2014.  Ellison, Reynolds and Thomas all return for at least another season in 2015.

As for WVU’s rush defense, a similar one that will be going up against a GSU team that was second nationally at 381.1 yards per game?  The Mountaineers were 63rd in the country last year, giving up 168.2 ypg on the ground.

Hackenberg leads Penn State to overtime win over Boston College in Pinstripe Bowl

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It’s only fitting that a bowl game in Yankee Stadium ended with a walk-off in extra innings. Christian Hackenberg engineered a fourth-quarter comeback, his third this season and the fifth of his career, to lead Penn State past Boston College 31-30 in overtime in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

In a game that saw each team’s quarterbacks trade punches down the stretch, the deciding play came down to a missed extra point. Boston College accepted the ball to open overtime and scored in three plays after Tyler Murphy found David Dudek for a 21-yard touchdown pass – his first catch of the game – but kicker Mike Knoll pushed the extra point wide right. Knowing a touchdown and an extra point wins the game and a field goal does them no good, Hackenberg threw on five of Penn State’s six overtime plays, including a key 17-yard completion to Jesse James on 3rd and 15. He hit Kyle Carter for a 10-yard score to tie the game, and Sam Ficken‘s extra point won it.

Penn State opened the scoring with a 72-yard touchdown pass from Hackenberg to Chris Godwin, but Boston College seized control over the next two quarters and change with a string of three touchdowns. The first came two plays after Penn State’s score on a 49-yard run by Jon Hillman to knot the score at 7-7. The Eagles opened the third quarter with an 11-play, 60-yard drive that ate nearly half the frame and was punctuated by a pretty 19-yard pass from Murphy to Shakim Phillips. Murphy then ripped off a 40-yard touchdown dash on Boston College’s ensuing possession to push the Eagles’ lead to 21-7 with 2:12 to go in the third quarter.

Then Penn State responded. The Nittany Lions immediately raced 63 yards in six plays, and Hackenberg found Geno Lewis for a seven-yard score on the final play of the frame. Hackenberg tied the game again with his third touchdown pass of the day, a 16-yarder to DaeSean Hamilton (which came on second-and-goal after a personal foul flag).

Boston College moved 69 yards to set Knoll up for a 20-yard field goal, giving Boston College the lead again at 24-21 with 2:10 remaining. Hackenberg held serve again, rushing or passing on seven of the Nittany Lions’ eight plays in a 49-yard drive to set Ficken up with a game-tying 45-yard field goal with 20 seconds left on the clock.

Hackenberg earned MVP honors by completing 34-of-50 throws for 371 yards with four touchdowns and no picks, while Akeel Lynch carved out 75 yards on 14 carries. For the nation’s 120th-ranked rushing offense, 75 yards is an outstanding day. The three other Nittany Lions to tote the ball were credited with seven yards on 12 carries.

Murphy led the way for Boston College, hitting 11-of-19 passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns and rushing 11 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Hillman added 25 carries for 148 yards and a score.

Penn State lost two fumbles while gaining no takeaways of their own, committed two more penalties and got out-rushed 285-82, but managed to string more drives together (24-16 first downs edge) by being better on third down, converting 9-of-17 tries compared to BC’s 5-of-16.

The result squares both teams at 7-6 records to finish the season – though each team will spend the next nine months with opposite feelings of how they got there. With Hackenberg set to return next season and a scholarship reinforcements on the way – James Franklin said the Nittany Lions entered Saturday’s game with 41 scholarship players – Penn State can use its Bronx comeback as a springboard into 2015.

Penn State and Boston College deadlocked at midpoint of Pinstripe Bowl

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How do you know the spirit of the Yankees lives in Yankee Stadium year-round? The New Era Pinstripe Bowl is playing out exactly like a July afternoon, as a team from Boston has conspired to create a 7-7 score midway through a slow-moving game. Instead of Red Sox and Bronx Bombers, this time it’s Penn State and Boston College deadlocked at seven apiece after a first half that took more than an hour and 40 minutes to complete.

Christian Hackenberg opened the scoring with a 72-yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin at the 5:22 mark of the first quarter, and Jon Hillman responded for B.C. with a 49-yard scoring dash just two snaps later.

Since then, Penn State has punted three times (with one combined first down on those three drives) and fumbled once, and Boston College has punted three times (with two three-and-outs) and allowed the clock to expire at the end of the half rather than punt a fourth consecutive time.

Hackenberg has completed 13-of-20 passes for 168 yards with a score, while the Nittany Lions’ putrid running game has produced just 26 yards on 16 carries.

Boston College has rushed 19 times for 145 yards and Hillman’s score while Tyler Murphy has completed just 4-of-11 passes for 19 yards. Boston College has produced as many first downs as penalties (five) while Penn State has 10 first downs against six flags.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 27 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 27 bowl menu, which among its five games features nine Power Five conference teams, the lone exception being Cincinnati.

WHO: Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
WHAT: The 7th Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman
WHERE: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland
WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Were it not for a four-point win over in-state rival Virginia in the regular season finale, Virginia Tech would’ve been home for the postseason holidays for the first time since 1992.  And this was a team that began the season 2-0, with the second win coming on the road by 14 points over College Football Playoff participant Ohio State.  The low point of a 4-6 skid to close the regular season was a 6-3 double overtime loss to Wake Forest in Week 13 that left Tech needing a win the following weekend to become bowl-eligible.  Cincinnati, meanwhile capped its second consecutive nine-win season with a co-AAC championship.  The Bearcats also come into this game on a veritable roll, following up a three-game losing streak in late September and early October with a seven-game winning streak.  The two teams had a trio of common opponents: Ohio State, Miami and East Carolina.  The Hokies were 1-2 against those teams (35-21 win over OSU, losses of 28-21 and 30-6 to ECU and The U, respectively) while the Bearcats went 1-2 as well (54-46 win over ECU, 50-28 and 55-34 losses to OSU and The U, respectively).
THE LINE: Virginia Tech, +3
THE PREDICTION: Cincinnati 31, Virginia Tech 20

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WHO: No. 15 Arizona State (9-3) vs. Duke (9-3)
WHAT: The 80th Hyundai Sun Bowl
WHERE: The Sun Bowl, El Paso, Tex.
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET on CBS
THE SKINNY: To say that Arizona State is disappointed with its bowl destination would be a massive understatement.  After nine games, ASU was looking at a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and, possibly, a berth in the College Football Playoff.  Two losses in their last three games — an inexplicable 35-27 loss to 5-7 Oregon State and a seven-point loss to in-state rival Arizona in the finale — shattered both of the dreams and sent them to this mid-major bowl.  How the Sun Devils respond to being sent to a lower profile bowl than what had been expected a month ago will go a long ways in determining the outcome.  Duke, though, is in a similar situation.  With three games remaining, all Duke needed was a pair of wins to clinch its second consecutive ACC Coastal title.  Instead, they lost two of three — 17-16 to Virginia Tech, 45-20 to North Carolina — to hand the division and a marquee bowl berth to Georgia Tech.  The Blue Devils, though, are playing in their third consecutive bowl game, the first time in the football program’s history that’s happened.  In fact, prior to the start of that streak in 2012, the program had a total of three bowl appearances in a span of 54 years. ASU will mark the first ranked opponent Duke has faced since Georgia Tech Oct. 11.
THE LINE: Duke, +7½
THE PREDICTION: Arizona State 34, Duke 24

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WHO: Miami (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
WHAT: The 39th Duck Commander Independence Bowl
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La.
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Boston College (7-5) vs. Penn State (6-6)
WHAT: The 5th New Era Pinstripe Bowl
WHERE: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: If you’re suffering with a bit of insomnia, boy do we have a cure for you.  Although, if you love tremendous defense, you’re in luck.  Boston College is 19th in the country in points allowed (20.5 ppg) while Penn State is even stingier, coming in at seventh (17.7 ppg).  The latter gave up more than 30 points just twice (Michigan State 34, Ohio State 31) and 20 or fewer eight times.  As good as they are defensively, both teams are woeful offensively.  BC is 123rd in passing yards (132 ypg) and 84th in scoring (25.9 ppg), with PSU a paltry 115th in scoring offense (19.8 ppg).  The lone redeeming offensive quality in this game will very likely be BC quarterback Tyler Murphy.  While he was just 111th among quarterbacks in passing yards (1,526), he was third to only Navy’s Keenan Reynolds (1,182) and Georgia Southern’s Kevin Ellison (1,096) in rushing yards at the position (1,079).  The best hope for the Nittany Lions?  That quarterback Christian Hackenberg reverts to the promising form he showed as a true freshman.  In 2013, Hackenberg tossed 20 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.  This season, it was eight touchdown passes and 15 interceptions in just 42 more attempts.  If Hackenberg can somehow recapture that 2013 magic, the Nittany Lions, playing in its first bowl game since being slapped with a postseason ban by the NCAA in 2012, could very well see their first bowl win since 2009.
THE LINE: Penn State, +3
THE PREDICTION: Boston College 13, Penn State 10

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WHO: Nebraska (9-3) vs. No. 24 USC (8-4)
WHAT: The 37th National University Holiday Bowl
WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

Week 14, Statistically Speaking

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

.2 — Yards per attempt for USF on its 22 carries in Friday’s 16-0 loss to UCF.

.611 – Winning percentage of visiting teams in Pac-12 road games (33-21) this season. The four teams ranked in last week’s Associated Press Top 25 (Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona) have a combined overall road record of 19-3 (.864).

5 — Single-game rushing performances Georgia Southern has placed in the Top 30 all-time at the FBS level this season alone.  Those are No. 2 (613, vs. Georgia State), No. 3 (564, vs. Savannah State), No. 21 (421, vs. Troy), T-No. 22 (419, vs. New Mexico State) and No. 30 (408, Appalachian State).

5 — Times during their 124 meetings Minnesota and Wisconsin have faced each other when both teams are ranked (1954, 1962, 1999, 2005, 2014).

6 — Consecutive losses to end the regular season for Kentucky after it began the season 5-1, leaving the Wildcats one win shy of bowl-eligibility.  UK was also 0-4 after the announcement of a contract extension for head coach Mark Stoops.

6-0 — UCF’s home record in 2014, its first perfect season at home since 2001.

7 — Consecutive seasons Alabama, Nebraska and Oregon have won at least nine games, the only teams in the country that can make that claim.

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptm5nju3zweyoduxyzrjmzfhnmrjnjnjzwjmntbiywfl7 — More wins Western Michigan and Air Force have in 2014 (8-4 and 9-3, respectively) than they did in 2013 (1-11 and 2-10, respectively), the biggest turnarounds this season.  TCU (4-8 last year, 10-1 this year) could reach that mark with a win in Week 15, while Memphis (9-3 in 2014, 3-9 in 2013) could do it in a bowl game.

12 — Bowl-eligible teams for the SEC, a conference record.  The only teams from the 14-team league that failed to qualify for the postseason were Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

12 — Consecutive games in which Jake Waters has thrown for 200 yards or more, the longest such streak during Bill Snyder‘s tenure at Kansas State.

12 — Points scored by Northern Illinois off of Western Michigan’s six turnovers in NIU’s 31-21 win Friday.

13 — Consecutive games in which TCU has scored 30 or more points, the longest such streak at the FBS level.

14 — Interceptions this season by Louisville’s Gerod Holliman, tying the FBS record set by Washington’s Al Worley in 1968.

15 — Combined touchdown passes for Marshall and Western Kentucky in Friday’s 67-66 game; Army has thrown 15 touchdown passes the last four seasons combined.

16 — Consecutive home wins for Alabama, the longest such streak in the country.  Baylor is next with 15 straight, followed by Florida State (14) and Boise State (14).

16 — Consecutive seasons Boise State has won eight or more games, the longest such streak in the country.  The Broncos went 6-5 in 1998 prior to starting their streak.

Jameis Winston
Jameis Winston

17 — Interceptions this season for Florida State’s Jameis Winston in 392 attempts, the most for any Power Five quarterback.  During his Heisman-winning 2013 season, Winston threw 10 interceptions in 384 attempts.

18 — Players in FBS history to run for 2,000-plus yards in the season, with Indiana’s Tevin Coleman becoming the most recent.  Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon had already surpassed that mark earlier this season.

19-4 — Kansas State’s record vs. Kansas under Bill Snyder, including a 19-1 record since 1993.  Prior to Snyder’s arrival, KU held a 59-23-5 advantage on K-State in the in-state rivalry.

23College GameDay appearances, home, road and neutral sites, for Alabama since Nick Saban took over as head coach in 2007, the most of any other team.  Oregon is next with 18 in that span, followed by LSU (16), Ohio State (13), and Oklahoma and Florida (12 each).

25 — Point deficit Rutgers overcame in 41-38 win over Maryland, the largest comeback in school history.  The previous largest was 24 against Vanderbilt in 2004.

38 — Yards for Melvin Gordon in a Week 2 win over FCS-level Western Carolina, averaging 2.2 yards on his 17 carries.  In his other 11 games, all against FBS competition, Gordon is averaging 202 yards per game and 8.3 yards per carry.

39 — Number of wins for Duke in David Cutcliffe‘s six-plus years as head coach. It’s also the number of wins the football program had in the previous 17 years prior to Cutcliffe’s arrival in 2008.

40 — Consecutive games Texas Tech has totaled at least 325 yards of total offense, the longest such streak in the country.

42 — Yards on a second-quarter completion by Navy’s Keenan Reynolds in a win over South Alabama, his only completion in four attempts in a game that helped the service academy become bowl-eligible.

43 — Years since Memphis won a conference title before clinching at least a share of the AAC in Week 14.

J.T. Barrett
J.T. Barrett

45 — Touchdowns responsible for in 2014 (34 passing, 11 rushing) for Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, breaking the Big Ten record of 42 set by Purdue’s Drew Brees in 1998 (39 passing, three rushing).

95 — Non-offensive touchdowns for Kansas State since 1999, the most of any FBS team in that span.

100 — Graduation rate percentage for Duke, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Stanford football for the most recent academic year, the only FBS programs that can make that claim.

124 — Including Saturday, games played in the Minnesota-Wisconsin series, the most-played rivalry at the FBS level.  It’s also the longest-running, consecutively-played rivalry at 108 straight; Clemson-South Carolina at 106 straight is the second-longest.

133 — Points scored in the Western Kentucky-Marshall football game, more than the the combined score of the former’s basketball game Thanksgiving Day (121) or the latter’s Black Friday hoops contest (127).

222 — Rushing yards as a team for Western Kentucky in its win over Marshall, even as Leon Allen had 237 on his own.  The only other Hilltopper credited with a run was quarterback Brandon Doughty, whose statline read two carries for minus-15 yards.

317 — Number of yards rushing Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine ran for in the second and third quarters alone in his record-setting 427-yard rushing performance in Week 13.

320.2Logan Woodside‘s pass efficiency rating in Toledo’s 52-16 win over Eastern Michigan Friday.  Woodside, who came into the game with a 131.2 rating, completed 14-of-18 passes for 323 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.

340 — Consecutive games Nebraska has sold-out Memorial Stadium, a streak that dates back to Nov. 3, 1962.

Kyle Bolin, Mike Douglas, John Miller
Kyle Bolin

381 — After replacing the injured Reggie Bonnafon, career-high passing yards for Louisville freshman Kyle Bolin in the 44-40 win over Kentucky.  Bolin, who entered the 2014 season as the Cardinals’ No. 3 quarterback, entered Saturday’s game with 35 career passing yards.

456 — Passing yards for Auburn’s Nick Marshall in the Iron Bowl loss to Alabama, his first career 400-yard passing game.  In fact, it was just his second career 300-yard passing game, with the first (339) coming Sept. 14 of last year vs. Mississippi State.

469 — Rushing yards for Arkansas State in its 68-35 rout of New Mexico State.  Three different Red Wolves players rushed for 100-plus yards: quarterback Fredi Knighten (153) and running backs Michael Gordon (143) and Johnston White (110).  Knighten and Gordon combined for eight touchdowns as well, two passing and two rushing for the former and three rushing and one receiving for the latter.

598 — Passing yards for Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes in the two-point loss to Baylor, setting a Big 12 freshman record.  The previous record of 462 was set last season by Tech quarterback Davis Webb, whose injury earlier this season opened the starting door for Mahomes.  It was also the fourth-highest single-game total in Red Raider history.

1,074 — Rushing yards in 2014 for Boston College’s Tyler Murphy, breaking the single-season ACC record for a quarterback of 1,061 set by Clemson’s Woodrow Dantzler in 2001.

1,773 — Yards passing for Washington State’s Luke Falk in the four games since Connor Halliday went down with a season-ending injury.  That’s more than nine FBS teams had in 12 games this season, and nearly more than a 10th (Wisconsin, 1,774).

1933-35 — Last time a Big Ten team (Minnesota) went three straight years without a regular-season loss in conference play prior to Ohio State pulling that trick in 2012-14. The Buckeyes are also the first team ever to produce no ties or losses in conference contests over a three-year period in Big Ten history.

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwvinzjjnmiwyzc4y2riodmwotk1n2rinmixmgq0nju31940s — Last decade in which Indiana had a winning record over Purdue in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket (7-3).  With Saturday’s win, the Hoosiers now have a 3-2 record in the rivalry game in the 2010s.

1968 — Prior to CBS airing it Saturday, the last year the Mississippi State-Ole Miss Egg Bowl was aired on a broadcast network, with that network being NBC.

1983 — Last season LSU played on Thanksgiving Day prior to Thursday’s win over Texas A&M.  The Tigers have played on Turkey Day a total of 26 times in their history, the first coming in 1899.

1986 — Last season Arizona State (No. 13) and Arizona (No. 15) both entered the Territorial Cup as ranked teams prior to this year’s rivalry game.

1998 — Last season prior to this year that Arizona won at least 10 games in the regular season.  It’s also just the second time ever 116-year history of the program the Wildcats have pulled off that feat.

2,260 — Rushing yards in 2014 for Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, surpassing the Big Ten single-season record of 2,109 of former UW running back Ron Dayne in 1996. Gordon’s total currently stands fourth-best in FBS history, behind only Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders (2,628 in 1988), UCF’s Kevin Smith (2,567 in 2007) and USC’s Marcus Allen (2,342 in 1981).

3,387 — Career rushing yards for Miami’s Duke Johnson, breaking the school record of 3,331 yards set by Ottis Anderson.