No. 8 Notre Dame moves to 3-0 after avoiding upset bid by Vanderbilt

8 Comments

No. 8 Notre Dame (3-0) won once again, but concerns about the offense are not about to go hiding just yet. Fortunately for Notre Dame, the defense and running game remain strengths as they managed to hold off Vanderbilt (2-1) in Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, winning 22-17.

Looking to push their lead to eight points in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame called on kicker Justin Yoon for a 32-yard field goal. After knocking down his three previous attempts for nine points, Yoon saw his fourth field goal try bounce off the bar, no good. Vanderbilt took over at their 24-yard yard line, needing a touchdown to win in the final moments.

Two plays later, Vanderbilt reached midfield with a 26-yard pass from Kyle Shurmur to Jared Pinkney. But the drive stalled soon after that with a run for no gain and two straight incomplete passes to set up a fourth down with 10 yards to go. A defensive penalty on Notre Dame allowed the drive to continue after an incomplete pass on fourth down. Three plays later, it was once again fourth down for Vandy. Shurmur connected for a big play to Kalija Lipscomb, but Lipscomb was unable to maintain possession of the football as he fell to the ground on the leaping catch.

Lipscomb had 11 catches for 89 yards in the game, but it will be what could have been the 12th that will haunt him after this one. Notre Dame managed to run off a good chunk of the clock after taking over on downs.

Brandon Wimbush was 13-of-23 for 122 yards with no touchdowns thrown, although this week he avoided throwing an interception. Ian Book got some opportunities in certain situations and cashed in on one with a touchdown pass to Nic Weishar to put the Irish up 12 in the fourth quarter. The pass came at the end of a drive with Wimbush leading the offense, but it was Book who ended it with a score and took a shot at a two-point conversion (which was no good). Book was effective in extreme moderation, and it remains to be seen if Kelly will begin giving him more opportunities. Wimbush had success running the ball, however. Wimbush rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown.

Shurmur passed for 315 yards and a touchdown with one interception for Vanderbilt. Notre Dame running back Tony Jones Jr. led all players with 116 rushing yards.

Notre Dame will go on the road next week to play at Wake Forest. Games against Stanford at home and at Virginia Tech follow.

Vanderbilt opens their SEC schedule at home against South Carolina in SEC East action.

Two FIU football players shot in drive-by attack, both in stable condition

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Troubling news out of South Florida as Florida International confirmed that two football players, including the team’s starting running back, were shot in an off-campus incident on Thursday afternoon.

The Associated Press relayed more details of the incident, which took place in an area north of campus:

Opa-locka police chief James Dobson identified the players as running back Anthony Jones and offensive lineman Mershawn Miller. Jones was shot in the face and back, while Miller was shot in the arm. Both players were taken to Ryder Trauma Center, Jones getting airlifted there and Miller taken by ambulance.

Dobson said the condition of both players is stable, and that the injuries were not life-threatening. Police believe that Jones and Miller were visiting a friend in Opa-locka when someone in another car opened fire and sped away.

What a scary situation to hear about but thankfully it’s good to see that both are in stable condition. FIU did not release a further statement beyond the one tweeted above but more information from head coach Butch Davis is expected in the coming days.

On the field for the Panthers, Jones’ absence from the lineup could be considerable as he rushed for a team-high 88 yards and scored two touchdowns in the team’s opener against Indiana. The senior from Miami appeared to be the starter at the position going forward, while Miller was set to be the backup guard for the team and contribute to the depth along the line.

FIU’s next game is on Saturday at Old Dominion.

Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson suffered torn ACL in Music City Bowl

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Clayton Thorson announced last month he will return to Northwestern for the 2018 season, but preparations for that season have become much more difficult. Northwestern announced Tuesday that Thorson suffered a torn ACL in the No. 21 Wildcats’ 24-23 win over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl on Friday.

Thorson exited the game after leading a touchdown drive early in the second quarter, with Northwestern leading 10-7. He completed 4-of-8 passes for 35 yards and was sacked twice. Matt Alviti nursed the game home, completing 4-of-11 throws for 50 yards, while Justin Jackson carried the load with 32 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns.

The junior finished his season hitting 60.4 percent of his throws for 2,844 yards (6.6 per attempt) with 15 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. He is the winningest quarterback in Northwestern history, and his 44 touchdown passes are a school record.

In a release, Northwestern said Thorson will spend the next two or three weeks in prehab with the anticipation of going under the knife in mid-January.

Justin Jackson powers No. 21 Northwestern past Kentucky in Music City Bowl

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
3 Comments

It was a game marred by penalties, ejections and injuries, but No. 21 Northwestern (10-3) sifted through all of the hurdles to capture a 24-23 victory against Kentucky (7-6) to win the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Friday evening. Running back Justin Jackson finished off a brilliant college career by rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns to put Northwestern on his back for the win.

Northwestern needed Jackson to carry the load after quarterback Clayton Thorson was lost to a serious-looking leg injury in the first half. Thorson was replaced by Matt Alviti after being carted off the field in the second quarter. Jackson was not alone in pounding out yardage on the ground. Jeremy Larkin got involved in a big way with 112 yards. As much as the Northwestern running game carried the way to victory, it was a big play by the defense that seemingly would help lift Northwestern to a win. Kyle Queiro‘s 26-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter gave Northwestern a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. It was the second interception of the game thrown by Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson.

Northwestern gave Kentucky a chance to come back, however. After Kentucky kicked a field goal to create a seven-point deficit, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald made the incredibly bold decision to go for a first down on a 4th-and-1 on his own 39-yard line. After an instant replay upheld the fourth down stop, Kentucky went to work to try and get in the end zone. A pass interference penalty on a 3rd-and-6 by Northwestern gave Kentucky the ball at the nine-yard line, and Johnson ran it in for a score.

Rather than go for a tie in the final minute of the game, Kentucky opted to go for a two-point conversion, but the pass attempt by Johnson fell incomplete. Northwestern then recovered the kickoff to run out the clock.

Northwestern has now won bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. It is also the second time in three years Northwestern has hit 10 wins, and the third time under Fitzgerald. With the win, the Big Ten improves to 4-0 this bowl season, while the SEC drops to 0-3 out of the gates. Kentucky has not won a bowl game since 2008.

Northwestern will open the 2018 season with a conference game against Purdue on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. The Wildcats have a tough draw in cross-division play with Michigan and a road game at Michigan State in back-to-back weeks followed by a home game against Nebraska. Northwestern also hosts Notre Dame next November Kentucky begins the 2018 season at home on Sep. 1, 2018 against Central Michigan before a Week 2 road trip to Florida in SEC play.

Injuries, ejections and penalties the story of the first half of Music City Bowl

Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson was taken off the field for further medical examination after appearing to injure his right leg on a trick play. Not long after that, an official tossed Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. from the game after making contact with an official. It’s been quite a first half in the Music City Bowl, where Northwestern leads Kentucky by a score of 17-7 at the half.

After Thorson hauled in a pass from Jeremy Larkin, Thorson appeared to injure his right leg before contact was made by the nearby Kentucky defender. The 23-yard gain was the result of a brilliant play call from the Northwestern sideline, but the loss of starting quarterback put the game on pause for a few moments before play resumed after Thorson was carted off.

Justin Jackson scored a touchdown on a five-yard run shortly after the Thorson injury. The run gave Northwestern a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. Earlier in the drive, Jackson became the 10th all-time leading rusher in college football history, passing Damion Fletcher of Southern Miss and Anthony Thompson of Indiana to move to No. 10 among FBS players. Jackson would add a second touchdown later in the second quarter to extend the Northwestern lead to 17-7. Matt Alviti came in to play quarterback for the Northwestern Wildcats.

On the ensuing possession, Kentucky’s top running back was ejected from the game after making contact with an official. The call, however, has left many wondering if the ref went a tad overboard with his decision. You decide for yourself if Snell should have been ejected for this?

The ref show once again popped up late in the second half when Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops and the Kentucky sideline appeared to want a late hit out of bounds call against Northwestern when quarterback Stephen Johnson was taken down on the sideline. No flag was called, until a ref decided to throw one on the Kentucky sideline for unsportsmanlike conduct. Johnson was taken off the field for possible medical attention, and he was seen jawing at a ref on his way off the field.

The officials didn’t just have all of their controversial calls on the Kentucky side. Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fisher was tossed from the game late in the first half for targeting, although it was one of many very questionable targeting calls we have seen in college football. It has not been a great day for this officiating crew, to say the least.

As the Music City Bowl goes to the second half, it is still up for grabs between the Wildcats of the Big Ten and SEC, if there are enough players to actually finish this game. Kentucky is looking for their first bowl victory since 2008. Northwestern is looking for back-to-back bowl wins