Getty Images

John Hightower one of three who’ll miss Boise State’s bowl game

Leave a comment

Clemson and Alabama aren’t the only schools with personnel concerns heading into its postseason matchup.

According to the Idaho Press-Tribune, head coach Bryan Harsin confirmed over the weekend that three players will miss Boise State’s matchup with Boston College in Wednesday’s First Responder Bowl — wide receivers John Hightower and Khalil Shakir, running back Robert Mahone. Hightower and Mahone will miss the bowl game because they have been ruled academically ineligible, while Shakir is injured.

When it comes to the duo who will be sidelined because they couldn’t keep their academic house in order, Harsin was decidedly disappointed.

“We take a lot of pride in what we do academically, we put a lot of work into it and in our culture is what we feel is extremely important,” the head coach stated. “We actually did really well with a lot of our guys, but we want it to be 100 percent. We want everybody to do well.

“Everybody has the same opportunities, we have really good resources there, and if you don’t make it into a bowl game because that, yes I’m disappointed. … You’ve got to take care of your business.”

Hightower is currently fourth on the team in both receptions (31) and receiving yards (504), while his six receiving touchdowns are third. At 16.3, Hightower also leads the Broncos in yards per catch. Additionally, his 163 yards rushing (on just eight carries) are tied for second, as is his two rushing touchdowns.

Mahone’s 128 yards on the ground are fourth on the team. Shakir has totaled 16 receptions for 170 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman. He’s also contributed a touchdown and 70 yards on 14 carries.

Hawaii forces three first-half turnovers by Louisiana Tech to lead at halftime of chippy Hawaii Bowl

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Defense has been the story of the half so far in the Hawaii Bowl, with Hawaii leading Louisiana tech 7-3 at halftime. From sacks to pass breakups, the defenses for both teams have been making some good plays.

Hawaii, playing without receiver John Ursua due to an injury, has the only touchdown so far. It came on a touchdown pass from Chevan Cordeiro, who has come in to replace Cole McDonald, to Jason-Matthew Sharsh in the second quarter. The Rainbow Warriors defense has forced three turnovers on three straight Louisiana Tech possessions to prevent the Bulldogs from establishing any offensive threat so far. The Bulldogs have fumbled twice and J’Mar Smith has thrown an interception.

Louisiana Tech defensive lineman Jaylon Ferguson ended the first quarter by tracking down Chevan Cordeiro for a sack that brought him within half a sack of the FBS career sack record of 44. The second half will see Ferguson try to pass Arizona State legend Terrell Suggs for the all-time record. He nearly set the record late in the second quarter with a takedown of Cordeiro but penalties on the play waved the sack off the record book due to a facemask penalty.

The tension on the line of scrimmage has started to see some extracurricular activity as well. The officials have been busy with the flags as a result.

Army routs Houston 70-14 in Armed Forces Bowl to cap off 11-2 season with ease

Getty Images
8 Comments

Houston failed to get the memo that the government shutdown didn’t apply to the Department of Defense. More specifically, the Army football team.

The Black Knights looked every bit of a top 25 caliber squad on Saturday as they closed out their 2018 season with an 11th win by way of a 70-14 rout of the Cougars in a game that somehow was even more lopsided than the score would have indicated.

Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. was naturally the triggerman making everything happen between the lines and capped off the year with one of his best performances yet. His three passes all wound up as completions (70 yards) and he ran for 170 yards and five touchdowns in the game on just 11 carries. His best run came as he embarrassed a trail of Cougars defenders on a zagging 77-yarder all the way to pay dirt and those final numbers allowed him to become the first player in school history to top the 1,000 yard mark both passing and rushing in a season.

While Hopkins was out of the game by the third quarter, a host of others were able to pick up the slack when he was out of the lineup to keep Army’s offense rolling. A total of eight players had at least one carry and fullback Darnell Woolfolk closed his career in black and gold with 71 yards on the ground. Artice Hobbs and Connor Slomka also found the end zone for the cadets and backup QB Cam Thomas threw a scoring strike and ran for another as the team tied an FBS record for most points in a bowl.

Playing without their starting quarterback and All-American Ed Oliver as well, Houston appeared to give up on the game just as it got going. They allowed quarterback Clayton Tune (230 yards, 1 TD) to take 10 sacks and the Cougars also fumbled twice, one of which was returned the other way for a touchdown. Tailback Patrick Carr ran for 52 yards and Tune added a score off a scramble but the first-team offense mustered just three third down conversions in a fairly lifeless performance that was made worse by their defense giving up a school record 507 yards rushing.

The effort was far from what head coach Major Applewhite likely envisioned and will certainly lead to a ton of questions this offseason over his longterm future with the program given how the team played in 2018.

That won’t be the case for the Black Knights, who secured a school-record for wins in their 11-2 campaign and should likely finish the year ranked for the first time since 1996. Army has put together back-to-back double-digit win seasons but this year’s squad can puff out their chest a bit bigger based on the way they closed things out against the AAC in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Utah State all over North Texas in New Mexico Bowl

Associated Press
1 Comment

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.

No. 25 Fresno State finally gets a win on the blue turf, tops No. 22 Boise State to win MWC Championship

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The road to the Mountain West title ran through the blue turf and that’s exactly where No. 25 Fresno State wanted it. Even if the final result took a little longer than expected.

The Bulldogs ended a 10-game losing streak on No. 22 Boise State’s home field and won for the first time ever on the artificial surface at Albertsons Stadium as they topped their Milk Can rivals 19-16 in overtime amid rain, snow and wind on Saturday night to capture the 2018 Mountain West Championship.

The conditions, which ranged from light rain early to full on snowstorm in the middle to windy and cold by the end, certainly were a factor in slowing down both offenses and playing right into the hands of two stout defenses. Each side did mount several lengthy drives but turnovers (two for Fresno State, a fumble for Boise State setting up a touchdown the other way), fourth down stops and a handful of missed field goals and extra points all put a damper on things as the two division winners slugged their way into free football.

The Broncos pinned much of their game plan on the shoulders of tailback Alexander Mattison, who fought for every inch of his 200 yards as part of a workhorse-like 40 carries. His efforts helped take the pressure off senior QB Brett Rypien, who started the game strong but later struggled to throw the ball as he finishes his career at the league’s most famous venue with a pedestrian 125 yards passing and one touchdown to top target Sean Modster.

It was the Bulldogs though, who just kept fighting and avenged two earlier losses in the past two months to their conference rivals. Signal-caller Marcus McMaryion only threw for 170 yards and a touchdown but helped on the game-winner in the extra frame with an option toss to Ronnie Rivers, who scooted into the corner of the end zone to set off a raucous celebration from the visitors. Even on a night where the offense wasn’t quite its usual self, it was appropriate that the team gutted things out to hoist the MWC trophy for the first time since 2013.

It also caps one of the most remarkable turnaround stories in all of college football, topped only by what has happened over in Orlando with UCF in recent years. Fresno State was 1-11 two years ago when head coach Jeff Tedford took over and have since gone 21-6 the past two seasons with just a pair of losses in the Mountain West during the regular season. In addition to capturing their first ever win on the blue turf since it was installed in Boise, the victory on Saturday night was also the program’s first in the city of Boise since 1984 and avenges two earlier losses to the Broncos in the past 12 months.

While the undefeated Knights earlier win against Memphis in the AAC title game will rule out any hopes of making into the Fiesta Bowl of the New Year’s Six, a very well deserved berth in the Las Vegas Bowl will likely be the next destination for the Bulldogs. After vanquishing their demons to the North, perhaps it will be easy to double down on 2018 and celebrate the team’s trophy in style down on the Strip later this month.