Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Offenses coming alive in Liberty Bowl as Mizzou leads Oklahoma State at halftime

2 Comments

It took a little bit of time to warm up, but the offenses of Missouri and Oklahoma State reached halftime finally clicking. After a slow start to the game, Missouri leads Oklahoma State 16-14 at halftime in Memphis as the old Big 12 foes are reunited.

Oklahoma State opened the scoring in the first quarter with Dillon Stoner hauling in a 30-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Cornelius. The Tigers responded with a 24-yard field goal by Tucker McCann.

Missouri took their first lead of the game midway through the second quarter when Drew Lock finished off a 16-play drive with a touchdown pass to Dominic Gicinto for five yards. The drive started at the Missouri three-yard line after Oklahoma State downed a punt deep on that end of the field after having the ball at the Missouri 38-yard line.

Oklahoma State responded, however, with a touchdown drive of their own as the offenses for both teams really felt like they were getting in a rhythm. Taylor Cornelius juked under pressure for a key 12-yard gain and followed that with a touchdown pass to Tyron Johnson, which needed to be upheld by video review. Undeterred, Lock and the Mizzou offense went right back to work to drive down the field in short order and re-take the lead. A touchdown pass to Kendall Blanton from 16 yards gave the Tigers the 16-14 lead but a missed extra point attempt by McCann kept the lead at two points.

We’ll see if that comes back to haunt Missouri in the second half.

Oklahoma State rallies to stun No. 9 WVU, sends Big 12 race into chaos

Associated Press
3 Comments

Four turnovers — three of them in their own territory — and a 31-14 halftime deficit put them in a huge hole, but Oklahoma State mounted a second half rally to stun No. 9 West Virginia, 45-41. In a battle of fifth-year senior quarterbacks, Oklahoma State’s Taylor Cornelius threw a touchdown pass with 42 seconds remaining to give the Cowboys their first — and only — lead, while Grier’s pass inside the Oklahoma State end zone that would have won the game with time expired was batted away.

The win clinches a 13th straight bowl trip for Oklahoma State (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) while eliminating West Virginia (8-2, 6-2 Big 12) from College Football Playoff contention. A West Virginia win would have set up a win-and-you’re-in showdown with No. 6 Oklahoma in Morgantown on Friday, but the Mountaineers’ loss opens the door for No. 15 Texas and No. 16 Iowa State, who play in Austin on Saturday night.

After waiting four years in the program to start and playing in his final home game, Cornelius overcame last week’s near-miss in Bedlam a week ago to out-play Grier down the stretch, throwing for 338 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 106 yards and another score.

But before Cornelius could save the game, he and his teammates first had to nearly give it away.

The first Cowboy turnover came with West Virginia already leading 14-7 late in the first quarter. Cornelius hit Wallace for a 13-yard gain to the Oklahoma State 40, but Wallace fumbled the ball over to the Mountaineers. Taking over in opponent territory, West Virginia quickly capitalized as Grier hit David Sillsfor a 22-yard touchdown pass to put WVU up 21-7.

Oklahoma State quickly answered by knifing 60 yards in five plays, scoring on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cornelius to Logan Carter. The Cowboy defense forced a West Virginia punt on the ensuing possession, allowing Oklahoma State to take over with a chance to tie the game, but Cornelius was intercepted, as Toyous Avery, Jr., punished him for forcing a 3rd-and-9 throw to Wallace.

Taking over inside Oklahoma State territory for the second time in the first half, West Virginia drove to the OSU 5-yard line but Grier was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 keeper.

Though West Virginia did not immediately score off the turnover, it did successfully allow WVU to play the game on Oklahoma State’s side of the field. After the teams traded three-and-outs over their next three chances, West Virginia pushed its lead to two touchdowns on a 3-play, 51-yard drive that was covered entirely by McKoy’s legs, racing for runs of seven, 14 and then 30 yards, the last of which crossed the goal line with 1:17 left in the first half.

Dashing to pull back within one score before the break, Oklahoma State crossed midfield into WVU territory, but Cornelius was again intercepted — while again looking for Wallace.

Taking over inside their own territory this time, West Virginia moved 39 yards in five plays and 61 seconds, setting up a 43-yard Evan Staley field goal on the final play of the first half.

On the whole, Wallace finished the half with three catches for 34 yards and a touchdown — and a total of three turnovers, either by him or to him.

Oklahoma State accepted the ball to open the second half and rolled 69 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 1-yard toss from Cornelius to Chuba Hubbard, reminiscent of the 2-point pass Cornelius missed to Wallace a week ago.

West Virginia threatened to push its lead back to 17 when the Cowboys forced WVU’s only turnover, a sack of Grier at the OSU 17 that turned into a sack upon review. Trailing 31-21 now, Oklahoma State again rushed up the field, but Hubbard was stuffed for a loss of a yard on a 3rd-and-goal from the 2, forcing a 20-yard Matt Ammendola field goal.

Continuing the theme of the third quarter, Oklahoma State forced a WVU three-and-out, setting the Cowboys up to receive the ball trailing 31-24… until Dillon Stoner fumbled the punt at his own 18, surrendering Oklahoma State’s fourth turnover of the game and third inside its own territory.

The Cowboy defense stiffened, forcing a 34-yard Staley field goal that pushed the score to 34-24 to open the fourth quarter. After a pair of punts, Cornelius pulled Oklahoma State within 34-31 with a 6-yard pass to Tyron Johnson in the back of the end zone.

After watching his lead dwindle from 31-14 to 34-31, Dana Holgorsen rolled the dice — twice. He went for a 4th-and-5 at the OSU 20 with 9:09 to play, which converted by way of a pass interference penalty in the end zone. Facing another 4th-and-medium, a 4th-and-goal from the 6, he again went for it, as Grier called his own number on an identical play to his 2-point conversion to beat No. 15 Texas two weeks ago, handing West Virginia a 41-31 lead with 7:37 remaining.

Oklahoma State answered, ripping off a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive in less than three minutes, scoring on a 9-yard Cornelius run with 4:47 to play.

Needing another touchdown to put the game away, West Virginia instead punted. Holgorsen actually elected to go for a 4th-and-6 from his own 49 with 2:45 left, but Sills started running his route before the rest of his teammates and forced Holgorsen’s hand, handing Oklahoma State the ball at its own 25 with a three-point deficit and 2:38 with which to work.

Oklahoma State gained 64 yards on six combined runs by Cornelius and Hubbard, throwing only once — an 11-yard scoring strike to Wallace, who carried his defender for the final five yards, putting Oklahoma State up four with 42 ticks remaining.

With the clock rolling inside of 20 seconds, Grier fired a bullet to Gary Jennings for a 33-yard gain, pushing WVU to the OSU 28. Grier then hit Sills at the 14 with two seconds remaining, setting up a do-or-die final play. After two WVU timeouts and with their College Football Playoff hopes on the line, Grier’s pass to Sills was broken up in the end zone, completing the Cowboy comeback.

No. 19 Colorado knocked from unbeaten ranks as USC scores wild Saturday’s final upset

Getty Images
4 Comments

It was a wild Saturday in college football filled with top 25 upsets across the board. Pac-12 After Dark was sure to get a pelt on the wall as well.

USC quarterback J.T. Daniels threw two first quarter interceptions but bounced back in a big way as the Trojans knocked No. 19 Colorado from the ranks of the unbeaten 31-20 on Saturday night and managed to reinsert the defending champions back into the driver’s seat of the Pac-12 South.

Daniels, who tossed one of those picks on the first play of the game, basically was the Trojans offense on the night as the program known for ‘Student Body Right’ had just seven yards rushing at halftime and didn’t improve much on that number as the game wore on. The freshman signal-caller wound up with 272 yards passing and three touchdowns when all was said and done in the game, giving the half-full crowd a few things to cheer about while keeping head coach Clay Helton a perfect 19-0 at the L.A. Coliseum as head coach of the cardinal and gold.

Michael Pittman Jr. led the way as Daniels’ best friend, recording 144 yards on just five catches — two of which went for scores, one from 65 yards out. Tyler Vaughns also found the end zone through the air in an encouraging sign for USC’s receivers breaking out at the right time as they hit a critical stretch in conference play.

Defensively, the Trojans were able to put together one of the best efforts of the season. Ajene Harris recorded a pick-six in the second half that essentially put this result to bed and they held the Buffs to one of their worst performances on the offensive end in some time. That they did so without captain and star middle linebacker Cameron Smith spoke volumes and especially so given that his replacement, freshman Palaie Gaoteote, suffered a concussion (on a questionable play that also could have been called for targeting) and the team was forced to put a walk-on in the middle of the field.

As for Colorado, it was a night to forget for the program as they finally slipped up against a team with a winning record on the season. The big plays defensively were one thing but the lack of any real productivity on offense all but doomed Mike MacIntyre’s group in a game they generally had control of until a few minute stretch before halftime turned things on its head.

Quarterback Steven Montez threw for only 168 yards and one interception on a night where he mostly had to check it down whenever he wasn’t being pressured (which was quite often). He didn’t get any help from the rushing attack and the score made the Buffs one-dimensional as things wound down.

All-purpose star Laviska Shenault scored on a wild 49 yard run out of the wildcat formation to help lead the team in rushing and receiving (72 yards) but it wasn’t enough. He was one of a number of key players who got banged up during the game too, missing most of the fourth quarter with an injury that isn’t too concerning going forward but did keep him out down the stretch.

The end result not only gives CU their first loss of the season and keeps them from hitting bowl eligibility at the midway mark, but also shakes up the Pac-12 South race and all but certainly drops the Pac-12 out of the College Football Playoff race at the same time given events elsewhere in the league. The flip side is it makes USC the team to beat once again as they try to defend their crown following another slow start to the year. The trip to Salt Lake City next weekend to play Utah very well could determine the division and who makes that trip to Santa Clara as a result.

The Trojans seem to have a knack for getting better as the year gets going and the Buffs found that out first hand to cap off another crazy Saturday night.

J.T. Daniels bounces back to help USC to halftime lead over No. 19 Colorado

Getty Images
Leave a comment

USC’s true freshman quarterback bounced back from a rough first quarter to throw a trio touchdown passes and help the Trojans secure a 21-7 lead at halftime in a pivotal Pac-12 South battle with No. 19 Colorado at the Coliseum on Saturday night.

After an extremely ugly (and slow) start for both sides, it was the Buffs that started to get things going in the second quarter thanks to, who else, all-everything star Laviska Shenault. The receiver not only led his team in yardage through the air, but he was also CU’s leading rusher thanks to a 49 yard rushing touchdown for the game’s first points. QB Steven Montez couldn’t find his favorite target as much as he would have liked to, being forced to check down plenty while completing 14 passes for only 60 yards and taking a number of sacks.

Opposite number J.T. Daniels wasn’t any sharper early for USC but rebounded as the game went on deep into the cool Los Angeles night. Following two first quarter interceptions (one of the first offensive snap of the game), the freshman signal-caller started launching bombs to his wideouts down the field and seemed to find plenty of success as a result. All told, Daniels threw for 255 yards in the half and found both Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman Jr. (twice) for a trio of touchdowns all told.

The Trojans didn’t have any sort of ground game to lean on at all with a paltry seven yards rushing, making the throws their quarterback was making even more impressive. They also limited the Buffs’ ground attack, aside from the Shenault run, despite the absence of senior linebacker Cameron Smithwho was in street clothes for the game with an injury.

This is the biggest test yet for undefeated Colorado against the defending conference champions and doubles as the first of several key games in the South Division for both sides. There was already a shakeup in the North earlier in the day and as #Pac12AfterDark started setting in L.A., it appears one on the other side of the league is starting to take hold as well given the way this one is trending.

Texas scores 34 straight to blow by No. 22 USC

Getty Images
10 Comments

J.T. Daniels staked No. 22 USC to an early lead, but Texas scored 34 straight points to blow past the Trojans for an important 37-14 win in Austin.

It was clear from the first snap Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando‘s game plan was to rattle the true freshman Daniels through a number of blitz looks. The plan didn’t work early, as USC converted six of its first seven third downs, Daniels hit 12 of his first 17 throws and USC raced to a 14-3 first quarter lead.

Suddenly, Texas (2-1) needed a touchdown drive or the game — and perhaps the season — would quickly get away from them, and a touchdown drive is what they got. Sam Ehlinger found Lil'Jordan Humphrey for a 47-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass, pulling the Longhorns within 14-10 with 13:23 to play in the opening half. Texas cornerback Kris Boyd intercepted Daniels on the next snap from scrimmage, but Collin Johnson dropped a would-be first down catch on 3rd and 8, forcing Cameron Dicker to convert a 46-yard field goal.

Hooking up twice with favorite target Amon-Ra St. Brown, Daniels moved USC (1-2) into a 1st and goal at the Texas 9, but Texas stuffed consecutive runs from the 1 to turn the Trojans away empty handed with 7:14 left in the first half. On the ensuing possession, the Trojans appeared to sack Ehlinger inside his own end zone, but officials ruled him out of the end zone and the call was upheld upon review. The drive was actually given new life twice when USC was flagged for roughing the punter, but Texas punted anyway.

Still, the lack of a safety call worked in Texas’s favor when the ‘Horns forced a three-and-out and Chris Tilbey gave Texas the ball with 2:20 to play before the break at its own 49 after a 13-yard punt. Ehlinger eventually guided Texas to the USC 33, and Dicker nailed a 46-yarder as time expired to give Texas its first lead of the night.

Texas carried its momentum into the second half, ripping off a 21-0 third quarter to put the game away. The Horns accepted the ball to open the half and moved 74 yards in 10 plays, scoring on a 27-yard pass from Ehlinger to Joshua Moore. After a Daniel Young fumble at the USC 15 handed the Trojans the ball and a chance to climb back in the game, USC moved to the Texas 32, setting up a 50-yard Chase McGrath field goal try, but the kick was blocked by Caden Sterns and returned by Anthony Wheeler 46 yards for a touchdown.

Ehlinger put the game away at the 1:42 mark of the third quarter with a 4-yard touchdown run.

Though Daniels started hot, USC’s inability to run the ball eventually did him in. The Trojans were credited with only 16 runs for minus-6 yards, forcing Daniels to throw the ball 48 times. He completed 30 for 322 yards — nine of which went to St. Brown for 167 yards — but the Trojans went dark on the scoreboard over the final three frames. Stephen Carr opened the scoring with a 23-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the game, but finished with six carries for 13 yards. He was USC’s leading rusher.

Ehlinger, meanwhile, completed 15-of-33 passes for 223 yards with two touchdowns while rushing 17 times for 35 yards and a score. Tre Watson carried 18 times for 72 yards, and Young rushed 12 times for 57 yards.

The win was Texas’s 900th in program history; win No. 800 came in the 2006 Rose Bowl over USC.

The Trojans, meanwhile, have dropped back-to-back games by double digits for the first time since 2000, the year prior to Pete Carroll‘s arrival.