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Mississippi State defense in control at Kansas State, Bulldogs lead 17-3 at half

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After serving his one-game suspension for a violation of team rules last week, quarterback Nick Fitzgerald made his 2018 season debut for Mississippi State this afternoon on the road against Kansas State. His first series of the year did not last very long, as the Bulldogs went three-and-out to open the game. Despite a tough first half of play, Fitzgerald and the Bulldogs do own a 17-3 lead on Kansas State at halftime in Manhattan, Kansas.

Mississippi State was able to open up a 14-point lead in the second quarter after the defense got an interception by Erroll Thompson, which led to a 28-yard touchdown run by Kylin Hill. Before that sequence, the game had been pretty close with defenses dictating the tempo of the game by not allowing many big-play opportunities.

Kansas State benefitted from the result of a controversial instant replay ruling. After appearing to have forced and recovered a fumble from Wildcats quarterback Skylar Thompson inside the red zone, officials ruled Thompson had enough control for a throwing motion and ruled the play an incomplete pass.

After being awarded possession of the football would tie the game with a 26-yard field goal by Blake Lynch.

Mississippi State appears to be in a comfortable spot with the way the defense is playing. Kansas State has 11 yards of total offense and has gone 2-of-7 on third down conversions. The Wildcats may not have the offense needed to come back so the Wildcats will have to make some big plays happen on defense to help out.

Michigan State RB Austin Andrews tweets transfer plans

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Austin Andrews’ career at Michigan State has been a winding road and now that road is leading out of East Lansing.

The sophomore took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to announce his transfer out of the program, even posting his permission to contact letter from MSU that signals he’s open to move to other schools.

Andrews has struggled to find a position and a role with the Spartans since arriving from, of all places, Columbus, Ohio as part of the class of 2016. Considered a three-star recruit, he primarily played defensive back for the team but redshirted during his first year on campus and then played in only one game in 2017. Perhaps his most notable accomplishment at Michigan State outside of recording a single tackle was getting suspended for the Holiday Bowl last December.

Interestingly, he was moved to running back during spring practice but it seems failing to crack the rotation there was writing on the wall for a fresh start somewhere else. 

It’s also notable that Andrews’ transfer is one of a long line of names who have left the program, including fellow tailback Madre London (to Tennessee) and wideout Hunter Rison (to Kansas State). While most of those moves came in the offseason, Andrews appears to have waited all the way up to the last day of fall camp for the Spartans and just one week before the team opens the 2018 season on Friday against Utah State.

Kyonta Stallworth is eighth player to transfer from Michigan State this offseason

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Another player has decided to leave behind his time in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State defensive lineman Kyonta Stallworth will continue his college football career at some other program. The redshirt junior announced his intent to transfer on Twitter Saturday morning.

“After much consideration and contemplation, I have decided to transfer from Michigan State University,” Stallworth said in a statement shared via Twitter. “Although I will play my remaining football elsewhere, I will always be a Spartan first.”

Stallworth switched positions for Michigan State after coming to the program in the Class of 2015, moving from offensive line to defensive line. He appeared in five games for the Spartans last season, in which he recorded 11 tackles. Due to the returning starters on the defensive line this season, it appeared Stallworth was not going to get much of a chance to crack the starting lineup on the defensive line.

As noted by MLive.com, Stallworth is the eighth player to transfer from Michigan State this offseason. Among the other players to transfer out of Michigan State include Jalen Watts-Jackson, Madre London, Darien Tipps-Clemons, Hunter Rison, and Trishton Jackson. The transfers come during a turbulent offseason that has seen Michigan State reach a $500 million settlement with victims of Larry Nassar and a report of 16 football players having been accused of sexual assault under head coach Mark Dantonio. Dantonio was given a contract extension in February.

Miami’s highest-rated 2017 defensive signee becomes third Hurricane to transfer in last day

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And it’s the attrition hat-trick for The U!

Monday afternoon and then again Tuesday morning, Miami announced that two of its football players have left Mark Richt‘s football program.  Tuesday afternoon, the Hurricanes confirmed that a third, DJ Johnson, has decided to leave as well.

“DJ indicated to me that he would like to continue his playing career closer to his family,” the head coach said in a brief statement.

A four-star member of the Hurricanes’ 2017 recruiting class, Johnson was rated as the No. 9 player at any position in the state of California.  Using 247Sports.com‘s rankings, no defensive player in The U’s class last year was rated higher than the weakside defensive end.

As a true freshman, the Sacramento native played in eight games.  He was credited with three tackles.

CFT Previews: Cactus Bowl

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WHO: Kansas State (7-5) vs. UCLA (6-6)

WHAT: The 4th Cactus Bowl

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

WHERE: Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona

THE SKINNY: Kansas State and UCLA are no strangers to playing each other in the postseason — they met just three seasons ago in the Alamo Bowl — but the situation around this year’s meeting could not be further from the last time they played.

While that meeting in San Antonio was marked by an ugly ending that saw a near fight and an angry handshake between head coaches, both programs still appeared to be on solid footing and aiming higher in the future after two pretty good campaigns. In sharp contrast, this game in Phoenix sees both sides limping along to the finish line of a season that had a few notable moments but was otherwise marred by misery, injuries and dysfunction.

Not that UCLA fans are complaining, however, as their .500 season was the impetus for the program to part ways with Jim Mora and make the biggest hire of the coaching carousel in landing Chip Kelly.

Kelly, however, won’t be leading the team onto the baseball field-turned-gridiron the day after Christmas. That would be interim coach Jeff Fisch, who did a good job getting his team bowl eligible in the first place directing the No. 5 passing offense in the country but still is leading a rag-tag group of coaches who are short-staffed and likely looking at other opportunities after the game.

What shouldn’t be lost on the UCLA faithful, however, is that this is almost assuredly the final game of Josh Rosen’s career in powder blues. The likely first-round pick in next spring’s NFL Draft has had a rocky tenure in Westwood due to injuries but a month full of rest before the game will allow him to leave one last impression for scouts against a pretty solid defense that has seen their fair share of good passers this season.

While Rosen is hoping to end the year on a high note, the Wildcats are hoping to keep their late surge going and do the same. The team was dreadful in the middle of the year as injuries hit at several key positions but third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson has proven to be the clutch play-maker Kansas State needed to turn around their season and has powered Bill Snyder’s club to four wins in their last five games. He forms quite the combo with running back Alex Barnes and wideout Byron Pringle, each of whom might not look like much getting off the bus but will easily take it to the house quickly if you don’t contain them early and often.

They could be doing quite a bit of that on Tuesday night. Even with Rosen back under center and making big plays, the Bruins have been unfocused this year. With all that is going on with coaches coming in and out, it remains to be seen if they can pull it all together and get the team’s only win on the road all season long. Perhaps more importantly, UCLA ranks second to last in the FBS in rushing defense while KSU averages 187 yards a game in one of the bigger statistical mismatches of the postseason.

The Kelly era can’t start soon enough for one team and something says that the old white and purple windbreaker on the other sideline ensures that happens quickly and politely out in the desert.

THE PICK: Kansas State 31, UCLA 24