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Utah State bowls over North Texas in New Mexico

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As if there was ever any doubt, players are more important than coaches in college football. Despite the fact Matt Wells and the majority of his coaching staff bailed early, Utah State rolled over an overmatched and undermanned North Texas team, cruising to a 52-13 win in the New Mexico Bowl presented by Progressive.

The win was a fitting close to one of the best seasons in school history for Utah State. The Aggies (11-2) tied a school record for wins and will likely become the fourth team in school history to finish the season ranked in the AP poll, joining John Ralston‘s 1960-61 teams that went a combined 18-3-1 and former and future head coach Gary Andersen‘s 2012 squad that also went 11-2.

The points started early for the Aggies, finding pay dirt on their third play of the game — a 72-yard strike from Jordan Love to Aaren Vaughns — and ripped off 31 unanswered points over the first and second quarters to break the game open for good.

In addition to the 72-yarder to open the game, Utah State scored touchdowns from 26, 37 and 67 yards in the first half (plus another score on a 10-play, 78-yard drive), as the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense played to its paper throughout the day. Love completed 21-of-43 passes for 361 yards with four touchdowns (plus one rushing) and an interception inside the UNT end zone that robbed him of a sixth score, while Gerold Bright and Darwin Thompson combined to rush 37 times for 196 yards and two touchdowns.

In all, the Aggies rolled up 556 yards of total offense — 360 of them in the first half.

As the score indicates, the game was a complete nightmare for North Texas. The Mean Green entered the game without leading receiver Rico Bussey (1,017 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns) and played the majority of the day without franchise quarterback Mason Fine. Visibly hobbled by a bum hamstring, Fine threw only 12 passes and left the game in the second quarter when he had to limp his way to recover an errant snap — a theme for UNT during the game — near his own goal line.

Fine was replaced by senior backup Quinn Shanbour, who completed 2-of-8 passes for 24 yards with three interceptions. Shanbour was replaced by freshman Jason Bean, whose only completion in his two passes was to Utah State safety DJ Williams, setting up a field goal on the final play of the half that pushed UNT’s deficit to 38-7.

Fellow freshman Kason Martin played the bulk of the second half, and hit Jalen Guyton for a 75-yard touchdown on his first pass. After that throw, Martin went 6-of-11 for 36 yards.

The loss served as a bitter end to a bittersweet season for North Texas. Though the Mean Green (9-4) increased or matched their win total for the third time in as many seasons under Seth Littrell, North Texas saw three double-digit leads turn into losses and then closed with a second consecutive bowl loss in which the opponent hit half a hundred, following a 50-30 loss to Troy in the 2017 New Orleans Bowl.

Utah State all over North Texas in New Mexico Bowl

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Utah State is without head coach Matt Wells and six of his assistant coaches, but quarterback Jordan Love, running back Gerold Bright and the rest of the Aggies players are still in uniform, and that has proven more than enough so far at the New Mexico Bowl. Utah State leads North Texas 38-7 at the half in Albuquerque.

Love completed 13-of-26 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns while Bright carried seven times for 59 yards and a touchdown, allowing the Aggies to roll up 360 yards of total offense in the half.

The Aggies offense started rolling early. On a 3rd-and-7 on the game’s opening possession, Love found Aeren Vaughns for a 72-yard touchdown toss.

After two punts and a North Texas score, Utah State started in UNT territory after a 48-yard kickoff return, and five plays later Bright strolled in untouched for a 26-yard touchdown run.

Most of Utah State’s scores came via explosive plays. Love again found Vaughns, this time from 37 yards out, to put the Aggies up 28-7, and then hit Jalen Greene for an easy 67-yard pitch-and-catch score to push the lead to 35-7 at the 8:55 mark of the second quarter.

While Utah State’s offense did anything and everything it wanted, the UNT offense sputtered without its two most important players. The Mean Green entered the game without leading receiver Rico Bussey (68 catches for 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns) and played most of the game without quarterback Mason Fine. He was visibly hobbled by a hamstring issue and left the game for good when he could not run after an errant snap — a theme for the Mean Green — sailed over his head.

Senior backup Quinn Shanbour replaced Fine and went 2-of-7 for 24 yards and two interceptions, and he was replaced by freshman Jason Bean, whose second pass was intercepted and returned 31 yards by Utah State’s DJ Williams to the UNT 48-yard line.

That final pick led to yet another Utah State score, a 42-yard Dominik Eberle field goal as time expired in the first half.

Fine did manage to engineer one North Texas scoring drive. Aided by two Utah State personal fouls, the Mean Green moved 78 yards in 10 plays to tie the score at 7-7 at the 2:52 mark of the first quarter.

Barring a miraculous turnaround, that will go down as the highpoint of the day for the Mean Green.

Missouri adds Arkansas transfer WR Jonathan Nance as well

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In October, Arkansas transfer wide receiver Jonathan Nance took a visit to Missouri at the same time as Clemson transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant.  Tuesday, Bryant announced he would continue his collegiate playing career with the Tigers; the same day, Nance did likewise.

On his personal Twitter account, Nance confirmed that has committed to Missouri and head coach Barry Odom.  Because Nance did not play in more than four games this past season, he’s eligible to take advantage of the NCAA’s new redshirt rule. The fact that he is headed to Columbia as a graduate transfer will allow the receiver to play in 2019, which will serve as his final season of eligibility.

Last season, Nance led the Razorbacks in receptions (37), receiving yards (539) and receiving touchdowns (five). He also accounted for 62 yards on the ground on just five carries.

This season, Nance had just one catch for minus-two yards before he announced his decision to transfer from the Razorbacks.

Arkansas’ leading rusher still not cleared from concussion protocol

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With top-ranked Alabama on tap, Arkansas, a five-touchdown underdog, is going to need all hands on deck if they hope to pull off a huge Week 6 upset.  Unfortunately for the Hogs, that likely won’t be the case.

Devwah Whaley suffered a concussion during the Sept. 22 loss to Auburn, and then missed the following weekend’s loss to Texas A&M because of the ongoing issue.  As the clock ticks down toward Saturday’s noon ET kickoff in Fayetteville, first-year head coach Chad Morris confirmed that the running back is doubtful to play against the Crimson Tide.

Per Morris, Whaley has not yet been cleared from concussion protocol and hasn’t even practiced with the team since sustaining the head injury.

Whaley currently leads the Razorbacks with 231 yards rushing and is tied for the team lead with a pair of rushing touchdowns.  Sophomore Rakeem Boyd is second on the team with 192 yards on the ground, and his 6.2 yards per carry leads all runners with 20 or more carries.

In addition to the update on Whaley, Morris also confirmed a pair of players, tight end Jeremy Patton and defensive tackle Briston Guidry, recently underwent surgeries but are expected back at some point this season.  Patton suffered an ankle injury in the A&M game, while Guidry had his knee cleaned up from a previous injury.

Patton’s five receptions this season are the most for any Razorbacks tight end.  Guidry has played in all five games this season and is listed as a backup defensive tackle.

Arkansas WR Jonathan Nance announces transfer after slow start with Hogs

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The 2018 season has not gotten off to the start Arkansas fans were hoping to see. After three straight losses have dropped the Razorbacks to a woeful 1-3 record, wide receiver Jonathan Nance has decided he is ready to move on from the program and look for a fresh slate.

Nance took to Twitter to announce his intention to transfer from the Razorbacks. He also noted he will use the 2018 season as a redshirt season, as he qualifies for that redshirt eligibility after appearing in the maximum games allowed before being forced to burn a year of eligibility under the NCAA’s new redshirt rule.

“I want to thank Arkansas and my coaches for giving me [an] opportunity to compete on this level,” Nance said in his Twitter statement.”It has been a great ride and have made life long friends that I will never take for granted.”

After leading Arkansas in receiving in 2017 with 37 receptions for 539 yards and five touchdowns, Nance caught just one pass for a loss of two yards in 2018. Nance will have one final year of eligibility to use wherever he lands next. There has been no indication of where his next stop may be at this time.

Nance’s announcement to transfer after four games may be a hint of things to come under the new redshirt rule. Because players can appear in up to four games before eligibility for the year is officially used up, it would not be shocking to see more players decide to make their transfer plans around this time of year after getting a sense of how the season may be going for them and having an idea where they fit in, or in Nance’s case, don’t fit in under a new scheme or a new coach.