Sunday, December 17, 2017

Marshall: 2017 New Mexico Bowl Champions



ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Leading up to the New Mexico Bowl, Marshall wide receiver Tyre Brady kept hearing about Colorado State's explosive offense. Doubters were overlooking the Thundering Herd's own weapons, he thought.

So when Brady's chance came in the second quarter, the junior separated himself from Rams coverages and sprinted to a 76-yard touchdown reception for the first of three big scoring plays that allowed Thundering Herd hold off the Rams 31-28 on Saturday in the New Mexico Bowl.

"Every time when you play for yourself, you force things, you press things," said Brady, who had 165 yards receiving. "But when you play for your teammates, things just fall into place the right way."

He was joined by Keion Davis, who rushed for 141 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown run . Tyler King added a 90-yard rushing touchdown for the Herd (8-5).

Chase Litton threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns, overshadowing the much-hyped Colorado State quarterback Nick Stevens, who was sacked five times.

"I think it's the entire defense played tremendous," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "That's an excellent offensive football team".

The Thundering Herd are 11-2 in bowl games -- 5-0 under Holliday.

For Colorado State (7-6), it was another disappointing postseason. The Rams have lost four straight bowl games, and lost four of their last five this season after a 6-2 start.

"Yeah, it's pretty much a microcosm of our season," Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo said. "Played pretty good at times, then giving up big plays, explosive plays for touchdowns. Those kill you defensively."

Stevens threw for 320 yards and ran for two touchdowns for the Rams, but was sacked five times. Olabisi Johnson had 119 yards receiving, but Stevens was unable to connect consistently with standout Michael Gallup.

"I got to hit Gallup in those shots. I think it's a different ballgame," Stevens said. "There were a number of them that he was open, and protection was solid."

Colorado State's offense began to surge in the fourth quarter with 14 points, but Marshall's defense was able to hold the Rams.

Colorado State is 6-11 in bowl games.

THE TAKEAWAY

Colorado State: The Rams continued to struggle despite having being ranked 10th in the FBS in yards per game with 501.1. Stevens and Gallup failed to challenge Marshall's stingy defense and couldn't respond to Marshall's big plays despite a late game scoring surge.

"This hurts but we'll regroup and get ready for next year," Bobo said.

Marshall: Marshall's defense also kept constant pressure on Colorado State's high-octane offense preventing the Rams from threatening with an air attack most of the game.

UP NEXT


Colorado State: Bobo has led the Rams to three bowl games in each of his first three seasons. He recently signed a contract extension where he will earn $2 million by 2020. But at the same time, he's only won seven games each season and lost all his bowl games so 2018 may be key season for him.

Marshall The Herd are losing 13 seniors, including key tight end Ryan Yurachek. The four-year players in that group won 34 games and a conference championship and went to three bowl games. But many key players are set to return.

Boise State: 2017 Las Vegas Bowl Champions



LAS VEGAS -- Bryan Harsin didn't have to say anything.

Boise State had committed two turnovers that were returned for touchdowns in the final minute of the first half, turning a 24-0 rout in the making into a competitive 24-14 contest and allowing Oregon back into the game.

Without any special speech from their head coach, the Broncos regrouped and responded.

Cedrick Wilson caught 10 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown, Kekaula Kaniho returned an interception 53 yards for a score and No. 25 Boise State beat Oregon 38-28 in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday.

"New slate. It's a whole different half. As far as we were concerned, it was 0-0," Broncos linebacker Leighton Vander Esch said.

Brett Rypien threw for 362 yards and two touchdown passes -- with two interceptions -- to help the Broncos (11-3) break a three-game losing streak against Power 5 opposition. Ryan Wolpin rushed for two touchdowns.

Troy Dye and Tyree Robinson each scored a defensive touchdown, and Justin Herbert was 26 of 36 passing for 233 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Ducks (7-6) in new head coach Mario Cristobal's debut.

Boise State forced four turnovers in the first half, taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on Wolpin's 1-yard touchdown run and Rypien's 26-yard scoring pass to Wilson. Haden Hoggarth added a 39-yard field goal before an off-balance Herbert heaved a pass toward the sideline that was easily picked off and run back by Kaniho, who also had a strip-sack.

Oregon clawed back after Dye recovered a fumble on a botched Statue of Liberty handoff and returned it 86 yards for a touchdown with 37 seconds remaining.

A 65-yard reception by Wilson to set the Boise State single-season record for yards receiving got the Broncos right back in the red zone, but Robinson picked off Rypien's pass in the end zone and took it back 100 yards on the longest interception return in school history with 7 seconds remaining to make it 24-14.

If not for those defensive scores, the full extent of Boise State's dominance would have been evident. The Broncos outgained the Ducks 294-77 in the first half and reached Ducks' territory on 10 of 15 meaningful possessions in the game. They held Oregon to 47 yards rushing and 1.7 yards per carry, recording nine tackles for loss with four sacks while outclassing their Pac-12 foe on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

"They are a great team, and we came out and we played some awesome football," said Vander Esch, who had 12 tackles, including three tackles for loss with one sack. "We didn't take any days off from the moment we won that Mountain West championship. We knew as soon as we won that we still had part of our goal left to go finish."

After Alec Dhaenens caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Rypien in the third quarter, the Ducks pulled back within 31-21 on a 24-yard scoring throw from Herbert to Brendan Schooler with 10:07 remaining.

Oregon had a chance to cut it to a one-possession game but Herbert was sacked near midfield, and Boise State drove 86 yards in 11 plays capped by Wolpin's second 1-yard touchdown run.

"I think a lot of teams would fold their tent when they're down 24-0 or things don't go their way," Cristobal said. "You look at the way they just kept fighting, scratching and clawing to make this thing a competitive game, to me, that's the positive."

THE TAKEAWAY

Boise State: The Broncos are still the class of the Mountain West. After being written off in September after losses to Washington State and Virginia, Boise State closed the season by winning nine of their last 10 games, including the conference title game and the conference's marquee bowl tie-in.

Oregon: The Ducks didn't exactly do much to back up their push for Cristobal's promotion to head coach. Oregon got pushed around on both lines of scrimmage and make plenty of ill-advised decisions, best exemplified by running back Tony Brooks-James throwing a ball at a defender in the third quarter to scuttle a promising drive.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

It wasn't a vintage season for Boise State, but the Broncos will finish ranked for the third time in the last six seasons. Oregon has plenty of work to do before making itself a regular in the top 25 again.

UP NEXT


Boise State: With 18 players that started the Las Vegas Bowl eligible to return next season, including all 11 defenders, the Broncos should be back in the mix to reach a New Year's 6 bowl game. An early road game at Oklahoma State will give a good indication of just how high Boise State's ceiling might be in Harsin's fifth season.

Oregon: A soft non-conference slate and favorable home schedule bodes well for Oregon's record in Cristobal's first season in change, but the Ducks need significant personnel upgrades over the long haul to compete in the loaded Pac-12 North.

Georgia State: 2017 Cure Bowl Champions



ORLANDO, Fla. -- From 0-12 to Cure Bowl champions in four years.

Georgia State's fledgling football program took a bow Saturday, celebrating a 27-17 victory over Western Kentucky -- the first postseason win in school history.

Conner Manning threw for 276 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers (7-5), who had a winning record for the second time in the program's eight-year history and set a school record for victories in a season.

"I told them before we stepped on the field that the team that wanted this game the most was going to win," first-year coach Shawn Elliott said.

"There was no doubt in my mind that we were the team that wanted it and we were going to win it," Elliott added. "We're a bunch of misfit coaches and misfit players that learned how to work hard and fight every day."

The Panthers (7-5) started their program from scratch in 2010, going 6-5 as an FCS independent. They began the transition to FBS with a 1-10 record in 2012, then sank to a program-worst 0-12 the following year -- Georgia State's first in the Sun Belt Conference.

Saturday's appearance in the Cure Bowl was the team's second in three years. The Panthers lost to San Jose State 27-16 here in 2015, finishing 6-7.

"Coming into the year a lot of us believed we could have a special year," Manning said. "The new coaches brought a lot of energy, and we started this during the winter. We got to work early with the goal of being in this position."

Manning threw a 42-yard TD pass to Roger Carter, Demarcus Kirk scored on a 26-yard run, and Kyler Neal finished a 16-play drive consuming nine minutes of the fourth quarter with a 1-yard TD run that put Georgia State up 27-10.

Mike White tossed TD passes of 54 and 4 yards to Deon Yelder, finishing with 351 yards -- the senior's eighth consecutive 300-yard game passing -- for Western Kentucky (6-7). Yelder had five receptions for 112 yards for the Hilltoppers.

Georgia State star Penny Hart, the Sun Belt Conference leading receiver, did not start and played sparingly because of an ankle injury. His lone reception -- for 27 yards midway through the third quarter -- came on the play before Manning threw his TD pass to Carter.

Western Kentucky finished with a losing record in their first season under coach Mike Sanford. The Hilltoppers also were denied in their bid to set a school record with four consecutive bowl wins.

"Today's game, honestly, it's been what's ailed us all year," Sanford said.

"We needed to identify opportunities to run the football, I thought we had some early opportunities but not enough," Sanford added. "That made us one dimensional and more difficult to throw the football. To win championships we have to run the ball effectively, and we didn't do that."

FAREWELL

White finished 26 of 39 passing and threw an interception on the final play of his career. He also lost a fumble late in the second quarter.

It wasn't the way the Hilltoppers envisioned him finishing up.

"Mike is up there with some of the best (quarterbacks) that I've ever been around," Sanford said. "It's disappointing for Mike to not go out the way he deserves to go out."

SETTING THE TONE

Georgia State DE Mackendy Cheridor had two sacks in the opening half, sending a message to White that the Western Kentucky quarterback could be in for a long day. Chase Middleton, Hardrick Willis, Terry Thomas and Dontae Wilson also had sacks for the Panthers.

TARGETING

Western Kentucky defensive end Julien Lewis was penalized for roughing the passer early in the second quarter. Officials reviewed the play and determined the 6-foot-3, 300 -pound redshirt junior should be ejected for targeting.

THE TAKEAWAY

Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers won the Bahamas, Miami Beach and Boca Raton bowls the past three seasons, joining Clemson, Georgia, Louisiana Tech, Stanford, Utah, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin as the only team with bowl wins each of the past three years. The chances for a fourth straight win were hindered by three turnovers -- one of them on a trick play early in the fourth quarter -- and six sacks.

Georgia State: Playing in the Cure Bowl for the second time in three seasons is a nice accomplishment for an eight-year-old program. The Panthers finished fourth in the Sun Belt under first-year coach Shawn Elliott, but placed nine players on the league's all-conference team.

UP NEXT


Western Kentucky: The game was the last for 19 seniors, including White, who began his career at nearby South Florida. The class won 37 games -- second-most by the Hilltoppers as a FBS program. In addition to a new starting quarterback, there will be opportunities to shine at wide receiver, where departing seniors Nacarius Fant, Cameron Echols-Luper and Kylen Towner combined to catch 134 passes for 1,423 yards and 10 TDs this season.

Georgia State: Like Western Kentucky, the Panthers will try to build off this year's success with a new quarterback. Manning's successor will have some productive players to work with, beginning with Hart -a 5-foot-8, 180-pound sophomore who led the Sun Belt in receiving with 74 receptions for 1,121 yards and eight TDs.

Troy: 2017 New Orleans Bowl Champions



NEW ORLEANS -- When Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers glanced around the Superdome, his eyes would stop on the name of Archie Manning, who has become one of his mentors, or on spots in the stands where he's sat during games he attended as a fan.

During his next visit, he'll be able to look at spots on the field where he threw four touchdown passes, as well as the end zone where he ran for a short score, to help the Trojans beat North Texas 50-30 in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday.

"Just being on that field today is going to be one of my great memories for a long time," Silvers said.

Silvers, a former counselor at Manning's football camp, threw for 305 yards, completing 24 of 31 passes. The Orange Beach, Alabama, native was intercepted once on a deep throw, but that hardly mattered in a game controlled by Troy's defense, which produced five North Texas turnovers.

"Our ability to get pressure on quarterback was probably the difference," said Troy coach Neal Brown, who has presided over 21 victories in the past two seasons.

Josh Anderson, filling in for injured starter Jordan Chunn, rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns for Troy (11-2).

Two of Silvers' TD passes went to Damion Willis, whom Silvers targeted more than usual because of an early injury to receiver Deondre Douglas. Willis had 136 yards on a New Orleans Bowl-record-tying 11 catches.

"I hated that Deandre went down, but like coach said, you can't flinch," Willis said. "I didn't flinch today."

Mason Fine passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns for North Texas (9-5), but was intercepted twice and fumbled twice. He finished with Mean Green single-season records of 4,052 yards and 31 TDs passing.

"Their font seven- that defensive line -- gave me fits all day," Fine said. "We never got in a rhythm. We never got comfortable."

The Trojans were threatening to take a three-touchdown lead in the second quarter when a bad snap sailed over Silvers' head and linebacker Colton McDonald scooped it for a 56-yard fumble return to make it 22-13. Fine later found Michael Lawrence for a 13-yard TD on a diving catch near the sideline, making it 22-20.

But early in the third quarter, Fine's short pass was deflected back to linebacker Hunter Reese, whose interception set up Silvers' keeper to make it 29-20.

Troy widened the lead when Silvers rifled a 59-yard TD pass down the middle to Tevaris McCormick, who had 107 yards on five catches.

Troy raced to a 15-0 lead, starting with Anderson's 1-yard run before converting Fine's first fumble -- forced by defensive tackle Jamal Stadom -- into Anderson's 2-yard touchdown.

THE TAKEAWAY

Troy: The Trojans received one vote in the last AP Poll, but might get more after arguably the greatest season in program history. One of the Trojans' 11 victories came on the road against, No. 16 LSU, which has a chance to finish with 10 wins.

North Texas: The Mean Green's struggles on defense this season meant its offense would need a clean, efficient performance. Instead, UNT was turnover-prone and struggled to protect Fine. Missing injured top rusher Jeffery Wilson only made matters worse as UNT had minus-8 yards rushing.

BATTERED

Fine was hit often and sacked six times, sometimes getting up slowly and limping -- but never leaving the game.

"Everybody who watched the game understands how tough he is," UNT coach Seth Littrell said. "He's not going to quit on his teammates. That's why he's so respected in our locker room."

Troy's sacks were split among six players.

"There's not a dominant guy on our defense because everybody makes plays," Stadom said.

DIVERGENT FORTUNES

A lingering knee injury denied senior Troy running back Jordan Chunn a chance to set a Sun Belt Conference career record for touchdowns rushing.

Troy did not reveal until kickoff that Chunn was unable to return from his Dec. 2 injury against Arkansas State.


Chunn has 47 career rushing TDs, one short of the league-record set by Tyrell Fenroy of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2008.

Chunn's absence, meanwhile, produced the first 100-yard day for Anderson, a fellow senior.

"I don't think you could really go out any (better) way," Anderson said.

UP NEXT

Troy's offense will have to move forward without Silvers and Chunn. Their replacements will debut in Troy's 2018 opener on Sept. 1 at home against Boise State.

North Texas has a relatively young squad with only a handful of senior starters. UNT will have to replace starters at safety, defensive end, linebacker and right tackle. North Texas opens 2018 at home on Sept. 1 vs. SMU.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

North Carolina A&T: 2017 Celebration Bowl Champions



The 2017 Celebration Bowl must have felt like deja vu all over again for North Carolina A&T quarterback Lamar Raynard and running back Marquell Cartwright. Four years ago, when Cartwright and Raynard were at High Point Andrews, this same situation played out.

Raynard, who threw a 38-yard touchdown pass with 1:02 remaining for his high school’s North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-AA title game, ran the ball in from 1 yard out to give the Aggies a 21-14 win over Grambling State on Saturday.

While Cartwright, who was awarded MVP honors in that state title game, won the Celebration Bowl’s Offensive Player of the Game award thanks to one rushing touchdown, one passing touchdown and 110 yards on the ground.

“We started together playing together in ninth grade,” Raynard said. “We decided to come to college together because we thought that we could do really great together. I just want to tip my hat to this guy, because they really tried to take the game away from my boy, and he came back and fought even harder. People who doubted him they said after Tariq left, we weren’t going to have a running game. … This guy right here, that’s my brother. We stay right down the street from each other. It’s a lot I could say. I’m going to keep it short, but I love him.”

It’s official. North Carolina A&T is no longer up-and-coming. The Aggies are a certified college football name brand. And they’re not taking a back seat to anybody. Anymore. Ever.

They came into Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium looking for respect as they prepared to battle the perennial historically black college football powerhouse Grambling. Now N.C. A&T will be heading back to Greensboro, North Carolina, as the Celebration Bowl champion for the second time in three years.

Raynard, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Offensive Player of the Year, was responsible for two more touchdowns in the Celebration Bowl, bringing his season total to 31 with multiple touchdowns in 10 of 12 games this season.

In winning the third annual Celebration Bowl and historically black college and university (HBCU) national championship, the Aggies also became the first MEAC football team to finish its season undefeated at 12-0. N.C. A&T did it twice before, but that was before the creation of the MEAC.

While Raynard scored the points that would ultimately put the team over the hump in a game they led from start to finish, it was Cartwright who carried N.C. A&T for much of the game. His receiving touchdown opened up the scoring and his touchdown on the ground were the only two scores the team had until 38 seconds remained in the game and Raynard found the end zone.

Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs must not have known how wise and insightful his answer was when he explained that the Tigers and N.C. A&T are essentially mirrors of each other’s program.

“I really didn’t [have any doubts.] I didn’t get very nervous today,” N.C. A&T coach Rod Broadway said. “I knew we was playing an outstanding football team, but I also knew we had an outstanding football team. We could’ve separated a little bit, if we had been a little bit better in the kicking game.”

Anything the Aggies did, Grambling State did almost the same thing and vice versa. The Tigers bench erupted when N.C. A&T’s Raynard threw an interception to Grambling’s De’Andre Hogues as the Aggies began to sniff Grambling’s red zone.

That euphoria lasted maybe a minute at most, as Tigers running back Martez Carter coughed up the ball following an eight-yard reception and N.C. A&T went right back into business from the Grambling 25. Five plays later and with 4:58 left in the half, fans at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium finally saw their first score of the game.

Three minutes and 15 seconds later, Fobbs’ team finally got itself on the board thanks to Kincade finding Jordan Jones for a two-yard touchdown pass to tie it up just before the half.

The Aggies worked themselves down the field with 2 seconds to spare for a field goal attempt, but the Grambling front blocked the kick. Similarly, the Tigers made their way into the Aggies red zone on their first drive of the second half, but a poorly placed Kincade pass was intercepted by Franklin McCain III in spectacular, one-hand, one-toe inbounds fashion.

The one thing both teams stressed was that the team who made the fewest mistakes was going to win the game. While Grambling finished with three turnovers, N.C. A&T ended the game with two, and a pair of missed field goals.

What this game truly came down to was who was going to make the most of the opportunities afforded to them, and without question that was the Aggies. One doesn’t have to love the Aggies. They don’t even care if y’all like them.

However, after this Celebration Bowl victory, y’all will respect them.

N.C. A&T had more success running between the tackles Saturday, averaging 2.3 yards before contact per rush. The Aggies’ Cartwright had more yards between the tackles (57) than Grambling had as a team.

Designed rushes inside tackles

GRAMBLING … N.C. A&T

Rushes 13 … 25

Yards 44 … 87

YBC per rush 0.9 … 2.3

Touchdowns 0 … 2

Grambling committed three turnovers Saturday, allowing 14 points off those turnovers. The Tigers entered the game having committed 10 turnovers all season, tied for third-fewest in the FCS.
Turnover comparison

GRAMBLING N.C. A&T

Turnovers 3 … 2

Opp Pts off TOs 14 … 0

N.C. A&T averages 10.6 points a game off turnovers

Texas A&M Commerce - 2017 NCAA Division II Football National Champions



KANSAS CITY — The Texas A&M University-Commerce Lion football team won their first NCAA National Championship in school history Saturday night with a 37-27 victory over the West Florida Argonauts.

The title makes A&M-Commerce only the second team to win football national titles in both the NAIA and NCAA.

The Lions were backed by a raucous crowd at Children’s Mercy Park as they took the lead early with a 50-yard catch-and-run by Shawn Hooks in his first action in multiple weeks. The Argos did answer late in the first, but were burned on the ensuing kickoff as Reggie Kincade showcased his sprinting talents with a 99-yard touchdown return. After a pair of Kristov Martinez field goals, West Florida climbed back into close contention with a score in the game’s final minute, leaving the Lions with a 20-14 lead at halftime.

A&M-Commerce began to take control in the second half and stretched their lead to as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter. The Argonauts launched a solid comeback effort with a score in the final five minutes, but the Lions defense prevailed and the teal closed out their first NCAA National Championship in school history.

Argos’ quarterback Mike Beaudry was put under immense pressure all night, and was sacked five times by the Lion defense. He completed 22 of 48 passes for one score and one interception. Receiver Antoine Griffin hauled in eight of those passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. West Florida struggled on the ground, with Chris Schwarz gaining 45 yards on 14 carries, but he also found the end zone twice.

Harlon Hill-winner Perez completed 23 of 30 passes for 323 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Perez becomes the first quarterback to pass for more than 300 yards in a national championship game since 2005. E. J. Thompson gained 110 yards on 21 carries to go with a score. Martinez converted three field goals in the game, which tied a record for most made in a championship game. Martinez also tied the Lone Star Conference record for most field goals made in a season with 24. The Lions overcame four turnovers to win the contest.

The Lions finish off the season at 14-1, the most wins in any single season in A&M-Commerce football history.