NCAA Football

Notre Dame's Newfound Level of Offensive Efficiency Is Key to Making Playoff

With its 42-30 victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon, Notre Dame football accomplished part one of the four-stage sequence standing between the Irish and a playoff berth after they debuted at No. 5 in this week’s College Football Playoff ranking.

“We need to win three more games,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly answered succinctly when asked what Notre Dame needs to do to solidify playoff positioning.

And on Saturday in the Steel City, Notre Dame turned in a thorough offensive performance en route to the victory. The Irish chalked up 437 yards of total offense and committed just one turnover—backup quarterback Brandon Wimbush’s fumble with less than two minutes to play in regulation.

“We needed to be very efficient on offense today, and we were,” Kelly told reporters after the game. “I think that was the difference today. … I think that was the best performance of our offensive line to date this year—most consistent, I would say, probably the most consistent performance for four quarters.”

Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer completed 19 of 26 passes for 262 yards and five touchdowns through the air, plus a two-yard rumble in the fourth quarter to stretch Notre Dame’s lead to 42-17 at the time.

The Panthers entered Saturday tied for 37th in the country in scoring defense (22.1 points per game) and tied for 26th in total defense 325.3 (yards allowed per game).

But the Irish throttled Pittsburgh, as freshman running back Josh Adams collected 147 rushing yards on 20 attempts (7.3 yards per carry) with starter C.J. Prosise only playing the first quarter due to what Kelly later called an upper-body issue.

Star wide receiver Will Fuller hauled in three touchdowns in a seven-catch, 152-yard afternoon. Notre Dame, which began the day 85th in the country in red-zone touchdown percentage (57.6 percent), scored four touchdowns on four trips inside the Pittsburgh 20-yard line.

“As a unit we wanted them to be more alert and recognize play calls in that area and just a heightened awareness of where we were, when we were making these calls and more of a sense that we had to be more efficient in there,” Kelly said.

That efficiency helped Notre Dame to an 8-1 record, with regular-season games against Wake Forest, Boston College and Stanford remaining. While the Demon Deacons and Eagles are two of the 12 worst scoring offenses in the FBS, Stanford pairs a stout offense (36.4 points per game entering Saturday) with a strong defense (21.5 points per game).

The Cardinal, led by do-everything running back Christian McCaffrey, have the firepower to expose Notre Dame’s defense, which continues to show holes, especially on the back end of the unit. Against the Panthers, Notre Dame allowed plays of 37, 26, 27, 27, 21, 37, 20, 24, 21 and 51 yards.

But an increasingly efficient offense can help support a hit-or-miss defense. So can Notre Dame sustain its offensive efficiency over these final three weeks of the regular season? The Irish will be tested against three units—Wake Forest (45th in scoring defense), Boston College (third) and Stanford (33rd)—that rank among the better defenses in the country.

One down. Three to go.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Marcus Smith Injury: Updates on North Texas TE's Lower Back and Return

North Texas Mean Green tight end Marcus Smith suffered a lower-back injury during Saturday's 56-13 loss to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, according to the program's official Twitter account

Continue for updates. 

Smith Taken Off on Stretcher as a Precaution Saturday, Nov. 7

According to North Texas, Smith was moving around before being placed on the stretcher. Sean Isabella of the News-Star reported Smith was taken to the hospital to undergo tests.

A senior, Smith tied a season high with four catches for 37 yards before exiting Saturday's contest.

Considering Smith's freshman season was truncated because of injury, it would be a shame to see his final campaign with the Mean Green follow a similar route.

But given the events that unfolded Saturday, North Texas will be happy if the tight end can make a complete recovery following the scary scene.

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College Football Scores 2015: Week 10 Results and Top Stars for Top 25 Teams

Notre Dame was in a tricky position as it headed to Pittsburgh for its first game since landing the lofty No. 5 position in the season's first College Football Playoff poll.

The Fighting Irish are regularly in their opponents' sights when they head out on the road, and the Panthers had the firepower to put a crimp in the visitors' season. Running back Jordan Whitehead and wide receiver Tyler Boyd occupied Notre Dame's preparations. 

Notre Dame was more than up to the task as the Fighting Irish never trailed in registering a 42-30 victory. Quarterback DeShone Kizer threw five TD passes and ran for another to lead the way for the Irish.

The Panthers were able to fight back throughout the game as Whitehead ran for two touchdowns and Boyd caught three passes for 84 yards, but Notre Dame held the lead throughout the game.

Will Fuller dominated the Pittsburgh defense with seven catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns, while Torii Hunter Jr. also caught a TD pass.

The Fighting Irish also received a solid contribution on the ground from Josh Adams, who carried 20 times for 147 yards. Adams was thrust into action after starting running back C.J. Prosise left the game with a concussion and a shoulder injury, according to CBS Sports.

 

 

Stars of the Week

RB Justin Jackson, Northwestern

The No. 21 Northwestern Wildcats needed a late 35-yard field goal from Jack Mitchell to survive a tough battle with Penn State and emerge with a 23-21 victory.

Justin Jackson played a key role in the win, as he carried 28 times for 186 yards to give the Northwestern offense the push it needed. The Wildcats had built a 20-7 lead before Penn State came back to take a one-point lead, but Jackson's ability to carry the ball and grind out key first downs on the final drive helped set up Mitchell's game-winning field goal.

Northwestern's starting quarterback Clayton Thorson had to leave the game early with an injury, and backup Zack Oliver had to take his place. While Oliver did a serviceable job and threw a TD pass, the Wildcats needed a big game from Jackson and he came through with several big runs in the second half as the Wildcats earned the victory.

 

QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State 

While Trevone Boykin of TCU may be one of the leading quarterbacks in the nation and a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, it was Mason Rudolph who stole the show in 14th-ranked Oklahoma State's 49-29 victory over eighth-ranked TCU.

Rudolph was razor sharp in his passing throughout the game, and the Cowboys quarterback completed 16-of-24 passes for 352 yards and five TDs in the victory. 

The 6'4", 220-pound quarterback from Rock Hill, South Carolina has thrown 17 TD passes this season for the Cowboys.

 

QB Jake Rudock, Michigan

Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock was razor sharp as the 17th-ranked Wolverine ran roughshod over Rutgers in a 49-16 victory at Michigan Stadium.

Rudock completed 18-of-25 passes for 337 yards with two touchdowns and did not throw an interception. Rudock also scored a touchdown on a four-yard run in the first quarter.

After the game, Rudock explained on the Big Ten Network broadcast how he was able to throw for a career-high in yardage. "I give credit to the big guys up front," Rudock said. "They gave me the time I needed to find my receivers and deliver the ball."

 

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FSU vs. Clemson: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The top-ranked Clemson Tigers survived their final major regular-season hurdle with a gutsy 23-13 victory over the No. 16 Florida State Seminoles on Saturday in Death Valley, winning the ACC Atlantic Division and securing a spot in the conference title game in the process.

In gritty fashion, Clemson silenced its proverbial stigma of blowing its championship hopes late in the season—mostly based on past performances in this matchup—and verified its perch atop the College Football Playoff rankings.

Clemson is 9-0 for the first time since its 1981 national championship season, according to ESPN Stats & Info, and head coach Dabo Swinney is confident that this year will see a similar outcome, per ESPN College Football:

Clemson took its first lead of the game on a 38-yard touchdown reception from Deon Cain in the third quarter. The Tigers scored on a 25-yard run by Wayne Gallman with just over two minutes remaining in the game to take a 10-point lead, then recovered a fumble on the ensuing drive to secure the victory.

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports praised Clemson's play-calling after the Cain's touchdown:

The Tigers did look vulnerable, however. They trailed for most of the first 34-plus minutes and allowed 194 rushing yards to FSU Heisman Trophy hopeful Dalvin Cook.

The Seminoles were also without starting quarterback Everett Golson—though he was cleared to play, per Jared Shanker of ESPN.com—and backup Sean Maguire looked pedestrian, at best, finishing 16-of-29 for 165 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Lost Letterman highlighted that Maguire was holding the Seminoles back:

Florida State's hopes of reaching its second straight CFP are dashed after the team's second loss, which eliminated it from ACC championship contention. The Seminoles can play spoiler in their regular-season finale against the rival and SEC East champion Florida Gators. 

That’s not to say the Seminoles didn’t play respectably. They took an early lead in convincing fashion behind Cook in his first game back from an ankle injury that he suffered in Week 8. 

The sophomore gave the Seminoles a 7-0 lead on their second play from scrimmage with an explosive 75-yard touchdown run. SB Nation captured video of the run and explained how good Cook's start was against a Clemson defense that entered the game ranked 13th in the FBS against the ground attack:

Clemson's Heisman hopeful, quarterback Deshaun Watson, tallied 297 pass yards and a touchdown while adding another 107 yards on the ground. 

The win was Clemson’s first over Florida State since 2011. The Tigers will play Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina—a combined 9-18—to finish the regular season before the ACC title game Dec. 5 in Charlotte, likely against North Carolina.

 

Postgame Reaction

Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated captured the Clemson crowd taking in its tradition of celebrating with the team following a big win:

Swinney hinted at his high hopes by citing Saturday’s game as the first among three major goals, along with winning the ACC title and reaching the playoff. Per Brett McMurphy of ESPN, Swinney crafted a creative metaphor on the Tigers' outlook:

It may seem like a cakewalk to the playoff, but Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde offered warranted speculation at Clemson’s likely opponent in the ACC title game: 

FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher fell to 4-2 in his career against Clemson but offered optimism about the Seminoles’ upcoming finish to the season, per Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation:

The Seminoles can still finish a very respectable 10-2, squander the playoff hopes of their in-state rivals at Florida and qualify for a top-tier bowl game.

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LSU vs. Alabama: Live Score and Highlights

LSU 0, Alabama 0—Early 1st Quarter

It's always fun when Alabama and LSU get together for their annual SEC West bash, but it's even more fun when there are massive postseason implications. Saturday night, the No. 4 LSU Tigers hit the road to take on the No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide.

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Kansas vs. Texas: Live Score and Highlights

Texas 10, Kansas 0—1st Quarter

A short Nick Rose field goal gives Texas an early double-digit lead.

Coverage of Saturday's Big 12 action can be found on the Longhorn Network. Follow this page throughout for live updates and analysis.

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Minnesota vs. Ohio State: Live Score and Highlights

Ohio State 0, Minnesota 0 — Early 1st quarter

Game action is now underway between No. 3 Ohio State (8-0) and Minnesota (4-4). ABC is televising the matchup nationally from Columbus, Ohio.

Here we provide live analysis as the action unfolds:

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Oxford Police Dept. Tells Ole Miss Fans to Stop Calling to Report Arkansas QB

No, Ole Miss fans, the Oxford Police Department cannot remove Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen from the stadium during the game—even if he is abusing the Rebels defense.

Allen has been terrorizing Ole Miss so much Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium that Rebels fans have apparently been calling the police to try to get him out of the game. Seriously.

Sorry, Rebels fans. It looks like the defense is going to have to figure out a way to stop Allen by itself.

Note: Allen was 26-of-33 with 339 yards and four touchdowns with 10 minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

[Oxford Police Department]

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Josh Doctson Injury: Updates on TCU Star's Wrist and Return

TCU Horned Frogs wide receiver Josh Doctson suffered an apparent wrist injury Saturday against Oklahoma State, according to ESPN.com's Travis Haney.  

Continue for updates.

Doctson Doubtful to Return Saturday, Nov. 7

ESPN.com's Chris Low provided the update on Doctson's status after the wideout hit the turf hard in the second quarter. 

Jared Christopher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram indicated TCU head coach Gary Patterson wasn't pleased with the play that produced the injury: 

TCU has one of the most dynamic offenses in the entire country, but Doctson’s injury represents a crucial blow if he is forced to miss significant time. He turned the corner during his junior season in 2014, with 1,018 receiving yards and 11 touchdown catches, more than doubling his production in both categories from the previous year.

He was expected to continue that production as one of the most talented wide receivers in the country, heading into the 2015 campaign as quarterback Trevone Boykin’s favorite target.

In fact, before the season started, Brandon Chatmon of ESPN.com wrote that Doctson could be the best wide receiver prospect for the 2016 NFL draft in the entire Big 12.

The loss of Doctson would hamper the Horned Frogs offense, and it hurts even more considering Emanuel Porter and Ty Slanina have both been plagued by injuries. 

However, it doesn’t hurt that Boykin is one of the best players in the country and can beat opposing defenses with his legs if Doctson isn’t there to get open downfield.

Still, life will be more difficult for TCU without its best wide receiver. Doctson’s presence alone creates openings for the other pass-catchers and the running game, because opposing defenses focus so much attention his way.

TCU held national championship aspirations entering the 2015 season. It needs Doctson back on the field if it hopes to turn those dreams into a reality.

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Auburn vs. Texas A&M: Live Score and Highlights

Auburn 14, Texas A&M 3—Mid 2nd Quarter

We are underway in College Station as the No. 19 Texas A&M Aggies (6-2, 3-2) host the Auburn Tigers (4-4, 1-4) in an SEC clash..

You can watch live on the SEC Network, but make sure to stay right here for the latest news, notes, analysis and the best postgame coverage around.

The official box score is available at NCAA.com

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Georgia Silences Critics for Now with Dominating Win over Kentucky

In the hours before Saturday afternoon's kickoff in Athens between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Kentucky Wildcats, rumors were swirling around the Bulldog program. 

Mark Richt was on the hot seat, as was his defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, per Seth Emerson and Chip Towers of DawgNation.com

Last week on Twitter, talk surrounding the idea that Richt should be fired reached a boiling point. 

Richt even had to tweet that Pruitt was, in fact, still employed under him earlier this week. 

But then a torrential rain washed over the Bulldogs' home field on Saturday morning, and it seemed to wash away the growing concerns and loudening whispers at least for a week. 

Georgia pounded the ball, played unbelievably stout defense and calmly routed the Kentucky Wildcats—a team very much trending upwards under Mark Stoops in recent years—27-3 to gain bowl eligibility. 

Logan Booker of Cox Media Group indicated that the win, according to Richt, was the perfect solution to a very tumultuous week. 

While the scoreboard reads that it was just a three-score game, and the Bulldogs offense admittedly looked inconsistent at times, this win was total domination in an SEC game. 

The Wildcats were limited to just 180 yards of total offense, while the Bulldogs just wore down the front lines by running the ball 52 times. 

It was the type of dominant, old-school victory that has the ability to reset a program's mindset. 

With that reset comes a new dimension to Georgia's offense: The Wild Dawg, piloted by Terry Godwin. 

Essentially Georgia's version of the Wildcat formation, Godwin injected energy into a dying offense on Saturday. It was Godwin's 28-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that broke a touchdown-less streak that spanned over two games. 

A freshman with burner speed but limited by Georgia's quarterback struggles, Godwin adds a much-needed new look for opponents to scout as the Bulldogs look to salvage the season—this team can still win 10 games, by the way. 

Richt seemed pleased with the added emphasis on the Wild Dawg this week, per Booker, and even added that he's capable of passing the ball out of the formation: 

It was running back Sony Michel who ultimately was Georgia's brightest light under gloomy skies. He finished with 165 yards on 24 carries—nearly half of his squad's workload on the ground. That mark set a career high. 

This was despite wearing a cast on one hand that limited him to carrying the ball with just the other. 

The Bulldogs' problems, particularly at quarterback, aren't over. Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey combined for just 10-of-19 passing for 90 yards and one touchdown, although it's admittedly a relatively moot point against Kentucky, considering the Bulldogs racked up 300 yards on the ground. 

But Georgia, nonetheless, needs better play out of at least one of its gunslingers. Hell, fans are so desperate for it that some Bulldogs fans actually flew from Georgia to Seattle, Washington to catch top quarterback recruit Jacob Eason play, per the Seattle Times

Still, the remaining schedule for Georgia is very, very winnable. They play a fledging Auburn, followed by Georgia Southern then capped off with a rivalry matchup against Georgia Tech. Wins in those three games give the Bulldogs a 9-3 season—respectable by most barometers—and a chance to notch their 10th victory in a decent bowl game. 

 

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Notre Dame vs. Pitt: Game Grades, Analysis for the Fighting Irish

Whether you agree with Notre Dame's initial ranking in the College Football Playoff Top 25 as the No. 5 team in the nation or not, there was little question that the Fighting Irish appeared to be a team on a mission today against Pittsburgh.

Notre Dame, led by DeShone Kizer's six total touchdowns, kept the game out of reach of the Panthers during the entirety of the second half.

There were a few soft spots for the Irish today, but all in all, it was a solid performance that should have Irish fans excited about the playoff potential of Notre Dame.

Here is the box score from today's game, via NCAA.com.

 

Notre Dame Pass Offense

At one point during today's game, DeShone Kizer completed 10 straight passes en route to a 19-of-26 performance.  His 73 percent completion rating was overshadowed only by his five passing touchdowns. (He also added a score on the ground.)

That's some pretty efficient quarterbacking, and that has to make even Brian Kelly smile.

Will Fuller hauled in three of those touchdowns passes, along with four additional catches, amassing 152 yards on the day.

 

Notre Dame Run Offense

C.J. Prosise left the game in the first half with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.  Although Prosise did not return after his 28 yards on five carries, head coach Brian Kelly didn't seem overly concerned with his recovery prospects.

The real story became the impressive three quarters displayed by Josh Adams.  With 147 yards on 20 carries (plus a five-yard touchdown reception that was more of a rushing play than a pass), Adams showed that the Notre Dame running back stable is stocked with thoroughbreds.

Adams looked great in the red zone, where Prosise has struggled at times, and the Irish should feel very confident about the future of their running game in 2015 and beyond.

 

Notre Dame Pass Defense

The Irish defenders did a nice job of locking down receivers all afternoon.  After it became apparent that the officials weren't overly anxious to throw flags for hand-fighting, the Irish secondary blanketed Pitt's receivers and held Nate Peterman to just 12 completions on 31 attempts.

The Irish did, however, give up some chunk yardage on those 12 receptions, amounting to 223 yards.

Matthias Farley came away with the game's lone interception, a pick that came in the end zone and ended what had once appeared to be a promising Pitt drive.

 

Notre Dame Run Defense

Pitt ran the ball 31 times against the Irish defense and picked up a solid average of 5.6 yards per attempt for 175 yards.

While Pitt certainly has some athletes on the offensive line, it won't be the best line the Irish will see for the rest of 2015.  That might cause some concerns, as even when Notre Dame seemed to anticipate the play correctly, Pitt was still able to pick up much-needed yardage in crucial situations.

Pitt tends to run the ball left on short-yardage plays, and Notre Dame certainly was aware of the scheming.  Still, even on a 4th-and-1, where the Irish brought all their defensive weight to bear on the left side, the Panthers were still able to find a first down.

While it wasn't a game-breaking situation today, there may be a time (especially in a potential playoff game) where the inability to stop short-yardage plays will be a killer.

 

Notre Dame Special Teams

Admit it: We all hate to watch our team's punter trot out onto the field.  It always means our offense has failed in some way, shape or form.  But if you must have a punter in the game, Notre Dame is sure glad to have Tyler Newsome.

On his four punts today, Newsome averaged nearly 52 yards—and none of those kicks were touchbacks.

When your offense struggles, there's nothing better than a punter who can completely flip field position, and it makes the coaches' jobs much, much easier.

It also bails out the defense on the upcoming drive.

 

Notre Dame Coaching

Absolutely zero complaints today.  Kelly and company did a fine job of putting a solid game plan into effect, and that game plan was a good one.

Notre Dame's defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder again deserves special recognition.  Kelly and VanGorder are two guys who mesh together as well as Kelly did with former defensive coordinator Chuck Martin (now the head coach at Miami University).

VanGorder first joined Kelly's staff in 1989 as Kelly, the new head coach at Division II Grand Valley Statem hired the Florida prep coach.  VanGorder eventually found himself coaching against Kelly at conference foe Wayne State before moving on to other positions.  VanGorder was brought back on to Kelly's staff last season after spending seven seasons as an assistant in the NFL.

The defense has shined under VanGorder, and like Martin, it probably won't be long until he's offered his own FBS program.

 

Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.

Follow Bleacher Report's National College Football Featured Columnist David Luther on Twitter.

 

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Vanderbilt vs. Florida: Game Grades, Analysis for the Gators

No. 10 Florida clinched the SEC East and sealed its place in the conference title game with an ugly 9-7 win over Vanderbilt in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday afternoon.

The Gators (8-1) were shut down on offense by the stingy Commodores (3-6), gaining just 258 yards of total offense while committing a season-high four turnovers. But the Florida defense was even stingier, limiting Vanderbilt to 177 total yards, 74 of which came on one play in the first half.

Despite the sloppiness, the Gators are headed to the SEC title game for the first time since 2009. Here's how they graded out from the two-point win over the Commodores.

 

Florida Gators Grade Analysis

Pass Offense

One of Treon Harris' biggest strengths is his ability to take care of the ball, and he entered the game with zero interceptions on the season in 78 pass attempts. That streak ended at the tail end of the first half, and Harris threw for just 101 yards on seven completions before the break.

It didn't get better in the second half, as Harris finished the day completing just 50 percent of his passes for 158 yards and no touchdowns. Demarcus Robinson came up huge for the Gators, hauling in nine of the team's 13 receptions for 106 yards.

 

Run Offense

It looked like it was going to be a good day for Florida on the ground when Jordan Scarlett ripped off a 20-yard run on the game's first play. That was the highlight of the first half, though, as Vanderbilt's defense held strong. Florida finished with 93 rushing yards in the first half, but things turned dramatically in the second.

The Gators offense couldn't get anything going in the third quarter and registered minus-23 yards during the 15-minute period. The Gators finished with 93 rushing yards on 34 carries, averaging 2.7 yards per carry.

 

Pass Defense

Vanderbilt couldn't get anything going in the air against the Gators. It appeared as though Commodores head coach Derek Mason knew he wouldn't able to move the ball consistently through the air, as Johnny McCrary threw just four passes in the first half, completing one for six yards.

The numbers didn't improve in the second half. McCrary finished the day with 31 passing yards, completing just 3-of-14 passes. 

 

Run Defense

Florida's run defense was looking as sharp as the secondary for most of the first half, limiting Vanderbilt to a meager 43 yards on its first 22 carries. But after the Gators' third turnover of the first half, Ralph Webb found a seam and broke free on a breakaway 74-yard touchdown run that gave the Commodores a 7-6 halftime lead. 

The front seven stiffened in the second half, though, as Vanderbilt ran for just 29 yards on 26 carries in the final two quarters. 

 

Special Teams

The adventures of Florida's special teams continued against Vanderbilt.

The unit got off to a strong start when Brandon Powell ripped off a 71-yard kickoff return to open the game. That set the tone for an excellent day in the return game, as the Gators averaged 13.8 yards on punt returns.

But Florida's struggles in the kicking game haven't been resolved. New walk-on kicker Neil MacInnes was so erratic in warmups that McElwain didn't call his number on 4th-and-goal at the 5-yard line in the first quarter. MacInnes later missed his only extra point attempt.

Even when things went right, they ended wrong. Florida faked a field goal at the beginning of the second quarter, and CeCe Jefferson got the yardage needed to keep the drive going, but he fumbled and the Commodores pounced on it. 

But just when all hope looked lost, Austin Hardin came in cold off the bench and drilled the game-winning 43-yard field goal with under three minutes to go. 

 

Coaching

Florida came in uncharacteristically sloppy, turning the ball over three times in the first half after coughing it up just once in the previous 19 quarters. After the big win against Georgia last week and with the SEC East Division title on the line, it was surprising to see the Gators look so out of sorts.

Vanderbilt came in with an aggressive game plan on defense, and Jim McElwain failed to produce an answer for it all afternoon. 

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Florida State RB Dalvin Cook Takes Carry 75 Yards for TD on 2nd Play of the Game

Dalvin Cook runs hard.

On the second play of the game against No. 1 Clemson on Saturday, Florida State’s star running back took a carry 75 yards for a touchdown. He bounced off one defender, and then was gone.

Cook didn't slow down after that:

With the 16th-ranked Seminoles looking to take down the Tigers, Cook will be seeing a lot of work.

[Vine, Twitter]

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Notre Dame vs. Pitt: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

Will Fuller caught three touchdown passes Saturday afternoon as No. 5 Notre Dame (8-1) continued to build its College Football Playoff case with a 42-30 road victory over Pittsburgh (6-3, 4-1).

DeShone Kizer sparked an efficient Fighting Irish offensive attack by throwing for 262 yards and tallying six total touchdowns. Though it's not a major resume-building victory, it was much-needed, with the team already suffering one loss earlier in the campaign to Clemson.

Here's the quarter-by-quarter scoring recap from Saturday's clash:

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly felt coming into the game that Pitt represented a tougher test than it may have looked to be on paper—not only due to the Panthers' aggressive, physical brand of football, but also because it was a road game at a time his team isn't totally used to, as noted by Irish247.

"Again, I think more than anything else, our guys know what's in front of them. It's a noon start, which is a little bit different for us," Kelly said. "So we'll have to make some appropriate changes in our schedule. But we certainly believe that there won't be any excuses for the kind of play that we'll need against a very good Pitt team."

His group seemingly heeded that warning.

The Irish got on the scoreboard just over a minute into the contest courtesy of a three-play, 75-yard drive against the nation's 26th-ranked defense.

After C.J. Prosise ate up 28 quick yards on the first two plays, Kizer found Fuller open downfield for a 47-yard touchdown. It's exactly the type of start Kelly and Co. were hoping for to shake off any concerns about the early start.

ESPN College Football highlighted the lightning-quick scoring play:

The Panthers added a Chris Blewitt field goal late in the opening 15 minutes, but the Irish responded with a terrific second quarter.

A 10-play drive ended with Kizer finding Torii Hunter Jr. for a 12-yard touchdown. Then, after a key interception at the goal line by Matthias Farley with Pittsburgh driving, Notre Dame was able to stretch the lead to 18 in the first half.

Once again, it was Kizer finding Fuller over the top of the defense for a touchdown from 46 yards out. It was more contested than the first time, but the junior wideout made a nice play to secure the grab for his second score.

Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer discussed Pitt's mistake:

There was firm consensus on that point, as illustrated by Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports:

The only downside to the first half for Notre Dame was Prosise being forced to exit due to injury. Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated provided an update:

Fuller's third TD catch of the day was sandwiched by a pair of rushing touchdowns by Pitt's Jordan Whitehead, each of which cut the Notre Dame lead to 11 in the third.

Pitt Football spotlighted a unique stat combo for the freshman, who also plays defensive back:

The Panthers could never get any closer, however. The Irish opened the fourth with two more touchdowns—Kizer to Josh Adams and a Kizer run—to pull away.

Notre Dame Football celebrated the triumph:

CSN Chicago's Notre Dame Talk passed along a note about the Irish's winning margin:

Notre Dame now faces extremely winnable meetings with Wake Forest and Boston College. If the Irish fail to win either of those games, their playoff hopes would vanish. Should they survive, the marquee matchup awaits in the finale, as they will square off with No. 11 Stanford.

Pittsburgh put up a better fight in the second half but simply had too much ground to make up against a contending Notre Dame squad. The Panthers return to action next week with another difficult test, this one on the road against ACC rival Duke. They need a win to stay firmly in the Coastal Division mix.

 

Postgame Reaction

ESPN provided comments from Kelly after the win:

Brian Batko of Panther Lair passed along reaction from Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi, who praised the Fighting Irish:

Notre Dame didn't play a perfect game, especially on the defensive side of the ball. So there are definitely some things to clean up in practice over the next week. That said, the Irish got the victory, and that's the most important thing at this stage of the season.

 

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Florida Locks Up SEC East, but Gators Prove They're Not Playoff-Worthy

The story of the 2015 SEC East division champion Florida Gators will be filled with the phrase, "well, actually."

Florida's defense didn't miss a beat from the one former head coach Will Muschamp produced that was consistently great.

"Well, actually, slowing down the likes of Georgia, Missouri and Vanderbilt isn't exactly the football equivalent of landing a man on the moon."

Any win is a good win, and Florida should enter the rivalry with Florida State at the end of the year with 10 already on its resume, despite an offense that struggled on Saturday.

"Well, actually, the SEC East is a joke, and Florida needed a late field goal to beat the 3-6 Commodores—who had 31 passing yards...for the game."

Florida got over another hurdle on Saturday when it survived a scare from Vanderbilt, and now quarterback Treon Harris has the chance to get right against South Carolina and Florida Atlantic.

"Well, actually, how come Florida only beat the Commodores 9-7 and Harris regressed in his third straight start?"

Saturday's win over Vandy—which included four turnovers, only 93 rushing yards and a rather lackluster 3-for-13 mark on third downs—was so painful to watch, that McElwain was forced to apologize for his team's performance according to Zach Abolverdi of the Gainesville Sun.

This Florida team has gone through enough adversity during the 11-month McElwain experience to fill a central Florida lake, and now it's limping into the home stretch with a one- (or "no")-dimensional offense, massive kicker problems and a running game that's as Jekyll-and-Hyde as any in the country.

Heading into mid-November, the Gators have one loss and could enter the Georgia Dome on Dec. 5 with College Football Playoff hopes on paper.

That's about the only place they exist, though, because the Gators have proven over the last two games that the passing game Harris showed against LSU when he tossed for 271 yards and two touchdowns—his first start since the suspension of starter Will Grier—was more the exception than the rule.

Nobody had a clue what would happen at quarterback even through two games this year in Gainesville.

Grier won the job on the road in the SEC opener vs. Kentucky, promptly tossed 10 touchdowns in six games, led a remarkable comeback against Tennessee in the closing minutes and was promptly suspended for a year for violation of the NCAA's policy on performance enhancing drugs.

In his absence, Florida has started to resemble those teams of the Muschamp era rather than the one that averaged 31 points per game coming into Saturday's game.

On special teams, it's even more depressing. 

Injuries had forced Florida to hold open kicker tryouts, and the uncertainty of newcomer/future dentist Neil MacInnes was a prevailing storyline in Saturday's win over Vandy. When forced into a huge decision, McElwain went with injured veteran Austin Hardin to nail the 43-yard game-winner. 

If touchdowns are a struggle and field goals are a question mark, Florida's trip to the Georgia Dome will look more like a victory lap for the SEC West champion than a de facto playoff quarterfinal.

Luckily for Florida, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic should provide the opportunity for the Gators to fix their glitches before the biggest games of the year.

After Saturday's performance, though, that seems easier said than done.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

 

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Vanderbilt vs. Florida: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

It wasn't a pretty performance from Florida, but Austin Hardin's 43-yard field goal with two minutes and 22 seconds left in the game gave the Gators a 9-7 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon. 

With the win, No. 10 Florida clinched the SEC East and will play for the conference championship come season's end. 

Bleacher Report had the replay of Hardin's game-winner:

With Vanderbilt entering with just one conference win, the game felt like it would be more of a coronation than a contested matchup. 

But it turned into a defensive affair, as the teams were hard-pressed for points. Florida was held to 258 total yards, while Vanderbilt churned out 145 yards on the ground but had just 30 passing yards.

Florida had the better start, scoring on its second drive after a 41-yard march was capped off by a three-yard touchdown run by Kelvin Taylor. But Florida's Neil MacInnes missed the ensuing extra point, which kept the game at 6-0.

ESPN College Football had the replay:

Then the Gators offense fell apart, as turnovers allowed Vanderbilt to stay in the game. On its next four drives, Florida fumbled away the ball twice and had a pass intercepted. 

It was a reversal of fortune, as the Tennessean's Adam Sparks pointed out:

Vanderbilt finally cashed in after Florida's third turnover. On the first play of the drive after the interception, Gainesville, Florida, native Ralph Webb scampered 74 yards for a touchdown and a 7-6 Vanderbilt lead. 

Bleacher Report had the replay:

It was a historic run for Webb, as ESPN Stats & Info highlighted:

That was it until the fourth quarter, with both teams combining for eight punts on the next nine drives as the defenses continued to excel. 

Florida looked to have something brewing to start the fourth quarter, driving to the Vanderbilt 19-yard line, but a fumble from wide receiver Demarcus Robinson popped right into the hands of Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham. 

It was the Gators' fourth turnover of the day, as ESPN 30 for 30's Billy Corben noted:

Florida stopped Vanderbilt's ensuing drive, and the Commodores' subsequent punt went just 12 yards to set the Gators up at Vandy's 45-yard line with 5:37 left in the game.  

For SB Nation's Peter Berkes, the punt was a perfect symbol of the entire game:

The Gators were able to drive 20 yards to set up a 43-yard field-goal attempt for Hardin, who was benched earlier this season but was called into action after MacInnes' missed extra point.

After Hardin's field goal, Vanderbilt was forced to try to find an answer through the air, which was a recipe for disaster, as it entered the final drive with just six passing yards.

The Commodores looked to have been stopped, throwing an incompletion on 4th-and-10, but a holding call on Florida gave them a fresh set of downs.

Florida's Jordan Sherit then came up with a sack on quarterback Johnny McCrary, but he was called for targeting and ejected from the game with 1:10 left. Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley didn't agree:

But even after benefiting from two penalties, Vanderbilt's passing game was just too inept to get anything going, as the team turned the ball over on downs. Florida ran out the clock from there to secure the win. 

 

Postgame Reaction

Regardless of the quality of play of Saturday's game, it goes down in the book as a win for the Gators as they keep their national championship hopes alive. 

That being said, head coach Jim McElwain knew it was an ugly win as he spoke to the media after the game, via the Times-Union's Garry Smits:

He continued:

But according to Alligator Sports' Graham Hack, McElwain believes that this team is on to bigger and better things:

While it awaits the conference final in Atlanta, Florida still has two games to play against weaker teams in South Carolina and Florida Atlantic. It's imperative that the Gators maintain an elite level of play and don't drop off. 

If they do struggle, the Gators are in for a rude awakening as either Alabama or LSU will most likely be waiting for them in the SEC Championship Game where they are going to be underdogs. And that's not to mention the regular-season finale against Florida State. 

A game like this won't do much to build confidence moving toward those big games, but clinching a chance to play for the toughest conference in football is quite an accomplishment. 

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com

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Georgia RB Keith Marshall Violently Stiff-Arms Defender to Ground on TD Run

Georgia running back Keith Marshall wanted to score against Kentucky on Saturday, and he didn’t care who was in his way.

Well, cornerback Chris Westry tried to invade Marshall’s personal space—and he paid the price.

The running back unloaded on the DB with as powerful a stiff arm as you’ll ever see. After tossing Westry down, Marshall toe-tapped his way into the end zone.

[Vine]

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South Carolina vs. Tennessee: Live Score and Highlights

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Volunteers will attempt to continue their recent dominance of the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday in what is shaping up to be a wet game at Neyland Stadium.

Since Butch Jones arrived to coach the Vols, UT has yet to lose to the Gamecocks, completing a major upset with a Michael Palardy last-second field goal the last time these two teams met on this field.

The Gamecocks will try to stop a year-long slide that has them 1-5 in the conference.

 

TENNESSEE 14, SOUTH CAROLINA 0 2nd Quarter

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Florida State vs. Clemson: Live Score and Highlights

CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson is playing its first game ever as the nation's No. 1 team, hosting No. 16 Florida State in a critical ACC Atlantic Division clash at a sold-out Memorial Stadium. ABC has the national telecast.

Bleacher Report will provide scoring updates, highlights and analysis. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments.

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