NCAA Football News

Michigan State Stuffs Stanford on 4th Down to Win 2014 Rose Bowl

Down 24-20 to Michigan State with just over three minutes left in the 2014 Rose Bowl, Stanford needed 66 yards to win the game.

With everything on the line, the Cardinal called three straight running plays to set up a crucial 4th-and-1 from their own 34-yard line with less than two minutes remaining. Both teams took a timeout leading up to the play.

When it came time to run the play, the Spartans stuffed Cardinal back Ryan Hewitt before he got to the first-down marker.

It came down to power against power. Michigan State's defense was able to jump over Stanford's offensive line and make the play. From there, a few kneel-downs ended the game.

The fourth-down stop was an incredible way to end the 100th Rose Bowl.


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Ty Montgomery Injury: Updates on Stanford WR's Knee and Return

Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery left the Cardinal's Rose Bowl matchup against Michigan State and is unlikely to return after sustaining what appears to be a left knee injury.  

ESPN's Joe Schad reported that Montgomery was wrapped in ice on the sideline, and the prognosis for Wednesday's contest did not look good:

Stanford WR Ty Montgomery consoled by teammates after left knee wrapped in ice. Appears done for day.

— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) January 2, 2014

Jon Wilner of the Mercury News had official word from Stanford on Montgomery's status:

Stanford official statement on Montgomery: "He will be re-evaluated soon." No other info.

— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) January 2, 2014

Montgomery sustained the injury on a kickoff return following a score that put the Spartans up 24-17 early in the fourth quarter. Although there was seemingly nothing atypical about the play, which featured a Montgomery return to the Stanford 30-yard line, the junior wideout was in obvious pain and laid on the field for multiple minutes.

He was then tended to by the Stanford medical staff before being taken off the field while putting little weight on his left leg. The severity of the injury is unknown at this time, and will likely take further testing to figure out its full extent.

Before going down, Michigan State had done a surprisingly solid job of keeping Montgomery in check. He had only three catches for 21 yards, as the Cardinal passing game struggled mightily. Looking for back-to-back Rose Bowl victories for the second time in school history, Stanford had been rendered mostly ineffective by a stout Spartans defense.

Montgomery had been the team's most explosive weapon on the outside all season. He came into January having set career-highs in catches (58), yards (937) and touchdowns (10). Without Montgomery, the onus will be on quarterback Kevin Hogan to find his secondary targets.

With the way the game has gone thus far, though, that task is going to be awfully difficult.

 

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Stanford Band Forms 'Snapchat' Logo During Rose Bowl Halftime Show

Halftime shows continue to sweep the nation. 

Stanford's marching band took advantage of its time on the national stage and formed the "Snapchat" ghost logo at halftime of the Rose Bowl, providing the country with another unique look at marching band formations.

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Michigan State's Connor Cook's Terrible Pass Turns into Pick-6 for Stanford

Michigan State was looking to score a touchdown to take a lead into halftime against Stanford in the Rose Bowl, but quarterback Connor Cook threw a terrible pass that turned into a pick-six.

Stanford's Kevin Anderson took the pass 40 yards for the touchdown, giving his team a 17-7 lead late in the second quarter.

The Cardinal defense pressured Cook, which caused a poor throw. His pass never came close to reaching a receiver, allowing Stanford to extend its lead to 10 points right before the half. 

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Texas A&M Football Recruiting: Updates on 2014 Commits and Targets

Bleacher Report brings constant news, updates and analysis on Texas A&M's 2014 recruiting class, ranging from the quarterback position to the secondary. Each section will be consistently updated through national signing day this February. 

 

*All rankings and information courtesy of 247sports.com.

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Connor Shaw Cements South Carolina Legacy in Capital One Bowl

So many times over the last three years, South Carolina has won football games largely because of the efforts of quarterback Connor Shaw.

Thus, it was only appropriate that Shaw conclude his college career with a virtuoso performance that not only won yet another game for the Gamecocks, but also sealed his status as the greatest quarterback in school history.

In his final college game, Shaw completed 22 of 25 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns, rushed 16 times for 47 yards and a touchdown and caught a nine-yard touchdown pass in South Carolina's 34-24 Capital One Bowl victory over Wisconsin.

It was an absolute slam dunk that he earned Capital One Bowl MVP honors.

He ends his career with a record of 27-5 as South Carolina's starting quarterback, the most victories and by far the best winning percentage in school history among quarterbacks who have won at least 20 games.

However, listing his career statistics is an almost mind-numbing enterprise that, in fact, does him a grave disservice because it limits the scope of his accomplishments.

Shaw's legacy transcends statistics. More impressive than the numbers is the manner in which he produced them—like playing on a bad knee and throwing three touchdown passes in a comeback victory over Missouri earlier this season.

Then, there are simply intangible, hard to describe moments in a game where Shaw shows his magic—a timely scramble for first-down yardage or a seemingly impossible completion on fourth down.

He is a playmaker with an uncanny instinct for improvisation, like the play against Wisconsin where he dropped back, took off as if he was running and lobbed the ball at the last second over the heads of defenders to a wide-open Jerell Adams for a critical first down.

Like a true maestro, Shaw has the uncanny ability of lifting up those around him, making them better and orchestrating a team effort that is nearly impossible to stop.

Those around him rise to the occasion—like receivers Bruce Ellington and Shaq Roland did against the Badgers.

Ellington caught six passes for a career-high 140 yards, and Roland caught a career-high six for 112. Each receiver had at least two receptions where Shaw threw the ball where only they could catch it.

And they did.

Not only that, but Ellington also threw the touchdown pass to Shaw off a reverse—a bit of trickery from South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.

Not surprisingly, Shaw, a perfectionist at quarterback, ran a perfect route and caught a perfect pass from Ellington.

For his entire career, Shaw has been an overlooked talent, playing in the shadow of more heralded teammates like former Gamecock running back Marcus Lattimore and All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

It was nice to see Shaw end his career with an effort that the entire college football world couldn't help but notice.

There may be more to come from Connor Shaw.

Some NFL team will give him a shot, if nothing more than as a training camp arm.

Don't be surprised if Shaw works his magic and turns it into more.

After what he has accomplished, only a fool would bet against him.

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Miami Football: 5 Best Moments of 2013

The Miami Hurricanes' 2013 campaign ended on a sour note, but a few moments highlight the 'Canes' 9-4 season.

Al Golden's team caught the nation's attention, defeating in-state rival Florida before the Gators had many key players fall to injury.

Though questions about the coaching staff arose by the end of the season, Golden has this team headed in the right direction. Miami started 7-0 for the first time in 10 years and won nine games for only the second time since 2005.

And when a program is improving, the players are making some things happen that are worth revisiting.

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Jadeveon Clowney's 2014 NFL Draft Stock After Declaring After Capital One Bowl

Welp. That sure didn't take long. Within seconds of the final whistle of South Carolina's 34-24 victory over Wisconsin, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was asked the question that has been on everyone's mind for months: Will he enter his name into the 2014 NFL draft?

The answer: an emphatic "Yes sir."

"It's been great. We've put everything into this," Clowney said, per CBS Sports' Will Brinson. "I'll miss everything about Carolina. I love it here."

This, of course, is about as surprising as a rash of DUI arrests on New Year's Eve.

Everyone knew Clowney was declaring—we just didn't know how soon or how he would do it. Barring catastrophic injury (and maybe even then), Clowney declaring for May's draft was about as close to a sure thing as you can get in college football.

What comes next, however, is the far more interesting question.

The reason everyone so expected Clowney to declare is because, at this time a year ago, we were still reacting to The Hit. You know, the time Clowney burst through the Michigan offensive line, collapsed a rushing play almost at the handoff, barreled through Wolverines running back Vincent Smith like a blow-up tackling dummy, and then caused and picked up a fumble to give the ball back to the Gamecocks.

It came in a season where Clowney set single-season sacks records at South Carolina, but that hit was his lasting legacy. 

SportsCenter's "Top 10 Plays" had to retire it because it won the "best of the best" vote so many times. Multiple highlights of said hit have more than a million views on YouTube. Clowney's hit was his version of Bo Jackson breaking a bat with his knee, his LeBron James scoring 25 straight points against the Detroit Pistons.

Like James and Jackson, Clowney was viewed as the prototype. A human specimen specifically designed to do right and kill everything on the football field. He would have been the No. 1 overall pick last year without question if he'd been eligible.

But, despite avoiding any major injuries and looking like the exact same player, there are few more polarizing prospects in this year's class. 

What gives?

Well, let's get this out of the way first: Clowney is still going to be a top-five selection. Teams still marvel at his combination of size, athleticism and strength. When engaged, there are few players in college football history who have been better at affecting a game from the three-point stance. He's a marvel to watch, and he has the type of infectious personality that could make him a franchise cornerstone.

We won't need the Caveman to tell us he's All-Pro linebacker Brian Orakpo.

Yet the man who once seemed predestined to be the No. 1 pick in 2014 will have to play the catch-up game to regain his spot. That distinction will likely belong to Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, whose grip on the top spot has become something of a stranglehold. The Houston Texans need a franchise quarterback after their dumpster-fire duo of Matt Schaub and Case Keenum—to go from 12-4 division champions to 2-14 top-pick holders requires a special level of putridity. 

It's fair here to say that being taken first overall doesn't necessarily require being the best player. Quarterback is the most important position in football, and if you have the chance to grab someone at that position who can be a franchise guy, you take it; solid defensive ends are readily available in free agency. I also still have Clowney as the No. 1 prospect on my draft board.

But the reality is that Clowney wouldn't have to scramble had his 2013 season not been a complete and utter disappointment.

He finished with three sacks, 10 fewer than in 2012 for those who don't feel like doing math on a holiday. 

And it's not just that the numbers weren't there. The scary perception going on about Clowney now can be boiled down to an October quote from his head coach (via Josh Kendall of The State):

Effort. It's been the word hanging over Clowney's head since we all decided as a nation that he was out of shape for South Carolina's season-opening win over North Carolina. The reactionary sports kingdom, watching Clowney on his first national showcase since The Hit, deemed his performance unworthy. He was fat and happy with praise. He was saving his body for the NFL. He looked like someone who didn't remotely want to be wearing a Gamecocks jersey.

This would all be laughably written off as narrative if some of it didn't show up on film. Clowney did take plays off. There were times when he'd just disappears for quarters on end, as if we were all supposed to forget this athletic freak was on the field.

"What you're seeing right now with Jadeveon, you're starting to have questions about really what is he motivated by?" ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick said recently, per the Orlando Sentinel's Edgar Thompson

There are many excuses that could be written for Clowney's down season. He was facing double- and at times triple-teams while playing in the toughest conference in the nation. He battled through a series of injuries all season, a knee on top of ribs on top of a shoulder.

Those were all contributing factors, and smart teams will focus on those before casting any aspersions on a 20-year-old kid they just spent the past 12 months fawning over.

That said, "effort" is one of those unteachable traits that scare teams to death. You can't coast on talent the same way on Sundays—everyone is super awesome at playing football. When deciding between a Bridgewater or a Clowney, sometimes it's the tiniest swing factors that take a team in one direction.

Clowney's stock is slightly down because of that perception, and merely because of situation. The Texans have J.J. Watt. The St. Louis Rams have Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Defensive end is not a priority for either team. It seems that the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 3 are the first possibility, though it would shock no one if St. Louis decided to deal that selection.

And I suspect the team that drafts Clowney won't have many complaints. As noted by ESPN Stats & Info, Clowney showed just how dominant he can still be without sacking a quarterback against Wisconsin:

Anything can happen between now and May. Clowney's measurables at the combine will be something to watch, as a freakish performance could cause the Texans to consider a Long-Clowney pairing or a disappointing one could cause more handwringing.

The reality, though, is that Clowney is still the player he's always been. He "disappointed" only because of the absolutely unrealistic expectations his play caused.

He's not the Human Hit Parade like we all wanted, but don't be surprised when we're all marveling at this kid on Sundays—no matter where he winds up.

 

Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter:

 

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Fiesta Bowl 2014: Live Score, Highlights for UCF vs Baylor

The final showdown on New Year’s Day is the 2014 Fiesta Bowl. UCF and Baylor will battle it out starting at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Bryce Petty and the Bears’ high-powered offense have been a treat to watch throughout the year. However, one shouldn’t sleep on Blake Bortles and the Knights. After all, they did upset Teddy Bridgewater earlier in the season when nobody gave them a chance.

Bortles is gaining a great deal of buzz for the NFL draft, and his performance in the Fiesta Bowl will be heavily scrutinized. Of course, he does still have the option to return to school.

Art Briles vs. George O'Leary should be a fantastic showdown, as both head coaches aim to win a BCS Bowl for the first time in each of their school’s history. There's a lot on the line tonight! 

Keep it locked right here with Bleacher Report for live score updates, highlights and much more! 

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Mark Dantonio and Michigan State Reportedly Agree to New Contract

Mark Dantonio is getting a raise. 

The Michigan State head coach, who led the Spartans to a Big Ten title and a spot in the Rose Bowl this season, has agreed to a new contract with the school, according to ESPN's Joe Schad. The new contract will make him one of the three highest-paid coaches in the Big Ten and will place his staff among the three-highest paid in all of college football, a source told Schad.

Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal adds more detail:

Hollis said the specifics of the deal are not ready for release, but he confirmed in a text message that Dantonio will be in the top three—which would mean an increase from $1.96 million (ninth in the Big Ten) to the $4 million range.

According to a recent USA Today report, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer is tops in the Big Ten at $4.6 million, Michigan’s Brady Hoke is second at $4.154 million and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz is third with a salary of $3.985 million.

Texas reportedly wanted to interview Dantonio for its vacancy at head coach, per Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com, but this news means it's presumably safe to cross the 57-year-old's name off that list. 

The raise is well-deserved. 

Since coming over from Cincinnati in 2007, Dantonio has led the Spartans to a combined 63-29 (.685) record. MSU made just one bowl in the four seasons preceding Dantonio's tenure, but he has brought consistency and stability to the program. During his reign, the Spartans have made a bowl every season, never winning fewer than six games and hitting double-digit victories in three of the past four years.

The year 2013 was a new high for Dantonio and Michigan State, though.

After a disappointing 7-6 campaign in 2012, the Spartans, who weren't ranked in the preseason, won 12 games, including a victory over previously undefeated Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, to climb to No. 4 in the rankings and earn a spot in "The Granddaddy of Them All" against Stanford. 

Dantonio credits the team's success to chemistry, via Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News:

We’ve had things that have disappointed us in the past, and we rally and close ranks and move forward. We’re going to protect our people in every sense of the way, the people that are here and the people that aren’t. We’ve always had great chemistry and we’ve won because of chemistry.

Whatever the reason for the success, Dantonio has established the Spartans as a legitimate force in the Big Ten. After signing this new contract, he's not going anywhere. 

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Capital One Bowl 2014: 10 Things We Learned from Wisconsin vs. South Carolina

South Carolina defeated Wisconsin 34-24 in the 2014 Capital One Bowl on January 1 thanks to a career day by senior quarterback Connor Shaw. In his last game in a South Carolina uniform, Shaw not only guided his team to another 11-win season (South Carolina's third consecutive), but also made a strong statement for NFL scouts and general managers.

But Shaw's audition for the NFL isn't the only thing we took away from this game.

Wisconsin's defense struggled against Shaw's accuracy and the speed of the Gamecocks receiving corps, while South Carolina's defense—Jadeveon Clowney included—had difficulty at times stopping the Badgers' power run game.

We'll discuss all this in greater detail and a whole lot more in our list of things we learned during the 2014 Capital One Bowl.

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Outback Bowl 2014: Even in Loss, Kirk Ferentz Restored Faith in Iowa's Future

Even thought Iowa fell short of the upset bid against LSU in Outback Bowl, the season should be viewed as an overwhelming success for a program (and a coach) that desperately needed it.

Kirk Ferentz makes a lot of money. You probably know this by now. In fact, his salary is typically a popular topic of conversation each time Iowa loses or underperforms.

In recent years, those instances to bring up his incredible compensation—nearly $4 million, according to USA Today's yearly database—have surfaced more times than they should.

Last season was the low point of his tenure. After making (and winning) the Orange Bowl following the 2009 season—followed by respectable eight- and seven-win seasons—Ferentz’s team won just four games. 

The offense struggled mightily, averaging under 20 points per game for the entire season. Defensively the team wasn’t awful, although it wasn’t good enough to take over games, either. The end result was a four-win season, the first losing season for Iowa since the year 2000.

In turn, expectations heading into 2013 were lower than they’d been in quite some time. “Make a bowl” served as an acceptable goal coming in.

Iowa did much more than that.

After losing a heartbreaker to Northern Illinois in the opener, the Hawkeyes won their next four. After battling against Michigan State and Ohio State in losses, Iowa closed out the regular season by winning four of its last five.

Making a New Year’s Day bowl was not in the cards before the season began. And while Iowa fell to LSU 21-14—unable to overcome early offensive woes and to slow down Jeremy Hill—there are plenty of positives to take away from both the game and the season.

For one, Iowa battled. This was a theme throughout the entire year, and this fight was on display yet again against the Tigers. These moral victories can often be over-hyped, but this team should be commended for the second-half surge. At halftime, it looked like it could get ugly.

Iowa responded with a takeaway, however, as safety John Lowdermilk picked off young Anthony Jennings and took it the other way. He didn’t take it back all the way, though. 

In one of the strangest plays you’ll see all season—and one that the sport is somehow familiar with—Lowdermilk dropped the ball before crossing the goal line.

Thankfully, no one picked up the “loose” ball, and Iowa got it back on the 1-yard line. Running back Mark Weisman punched it in, making the blunder a moot point. 

Despite a late touchdown to make things interesting—especially for those invested in the point spread—Iowa could not recover the onside kick. The game effort and comeback attempt fell just short.

While the loss should sting, Ferentz delivered in a critical year. Following the game, Ferentz was emotional when talking about the path to get there:

Coach Ferentz very emotional when talking about this team and where it's come the last 13 months.

— Rick Brown (@ByRickBrown) January 1, 2014

Some will say that this kind of performance should be the floor, given Ferentz's salary, and perhaps that’s difficult to argue against. The improvement in this team—particularly the offense—was noteworthy, however, and suddenly Iowa can again feel good about where it is.

More importantly, it can feel better about where it's headed. 

Does this mean that it will be Rose Bowl or bust for the Hawkeyes next year? Unlikely. But the offense and the defense will get some nice pieces back.

At the very least, the storied program has stability. Ferentz will continue to make a large sum of money and will be expected to deliver. Given the improvements on display this season, there’s no reason to expect otherwise.

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Miami Football: The Regression of Stephen Morris in 2013


There really is no other way to pose the question, so I may as well just throw it out there.

What the hell happened to Miami Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris between his junior and senior seasons?

The overall stats between both campaigns weren't worlds apart. In 2012, Morris threw for 3,345 yards, completing 421 passes with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions. This year, 344 completions led to a 3,028-yard, 21-touchdown and 12-interception showing, including the recent bowl loss to Louisville.

Numbers aside, the quarterback's lost his mojo and there was noticeable regression in just about every aspect of his game.

As a freshman in 2010, Morris' redshirt was burned at halftime against Virginia after starter Jacory Harris was knocked out of the game. The newbie almost led the Hurricanes back from a 24-point deficit in his first career start.

A week later, Morris tossed a 35-yard game-winning touchdown with half-a-minute remaining in his first-ever start—a thrilling comeback against Maryland. Next up, a crisp 230-yard performance at Georgia Tech for a convincing win, Miami's first in Atlanta since 2004.

Morris played sparingly for the rest of the season and again backed up Harris in 2011, but earned his shot as a junior and appeared primed for a solid senior year.

The most obvious reason for Morris' regression in 2013—an ankle injury suffered in late September, which continued nagging him throughout the season.

 

Where Does Miami's Season Go Had Offensive Stars Remained Healthy? 

Morris played sparingly in the opener against Florida Atlantic and was handcuffed a bit the following week in what coaches expected to be a slugfest against a defensively sound Florida team. Miami then welcomed a bye before taking on Savannah State, where Morris was rolled up and his night over after a few early possessions.

The severity of the injury, his inability to heal in-season and the limited mobility because of it all played a part in Morris being unable to rediscover his groove, as did setbacks with other key offensive personnel.

Rashawn Scott hit the turf with a shoulder injury on opening night after two receptions and was a non-factor after a midseason return.

A year before, the up-and-coming wide receiver was good for three to six receptions per game—including a 180-yard, two-touchdown performance against North Carolina State. Morris also lost deep threat Phillip Dorsett to a torn MCL six games into 2013, with the junior merely used as a decoy upon his return in the regular-season finale.

Duke Johnson's ankle injury in early November proved even more detrimental, making the Miami offense one-dimesional when no other running back was able to fill the sophomore's shoes.

The Hurricanes were a completely different team offensively for the final five games of the year, with issues much bigger than just quarterback play. The injury bug was the most glaring, obvious reason for Morris' setback, but behind the scenes it's impossible to ignore the coaching effect—especially with rotating offensive coordinators.

Morris cut his teeth under the air-it-out stylings of Mark Whipple in 2010. The former NFL coordinator preferred Morris' rocket-arm ability to Harris' style of play. When the true freshman saw the field by way of a starter's injury, Whipple suddenly had a player capable of throwing deep every other play. 

With top to bottom staff changes in 2011, Morris was then under the tutelage of Jedd Fisch, who had nine years of NFL experience and spent the previous season coaching up quarterbacks for Seattle. As a backup to Harris, Morris spent his sophomore season learning Fisch's system from a true quarterback guru, and the message resonated, as proven by the junior's efforts in 2012.

 

After Departure of Fisch, Coley's Arrival Greatly Impacted Morris' Progress

Fisch's return to the NFL in January had Miami scrambling for a replacement. Head coach Al Golden tapped the inexperienced James Coley to call the shots on offense. Coley spent time as Florida State's coordinator, with a caveat that head coach Jimbo Fisher called all the plays on game day.

The South Florida native was also the Seminoles' chief recruiting coordinator, which wasn't lost on Golden's decision to give Coley a shot. Especially with "signing day" weeks out and both the Hurricanes and Seminoles battling over some key recruits—like the prized Stacy Coley, who now had one more reason to choose "The U".

While Coley brought Miami his recruiting prowess, it's been a slow learn on the coaching front. Fisch's innovation was missed this past season and a quick look at 2012 shows a more diverse Hurricanes offense that helped Morris thrive.

In a fourth-quarter comeback and overtime win at Georgia Tech in his final season, Fisch pulled out some wrinkles unseen up to that point.

Morris hit speedy receiver Davon Johnson on a slant route four plays in a row as the Yellow Jackets had no way to stop it. There were also consistent passes to both running backs—Johnson and Mike James—including a 16-yard pass to Johnson and a 10-yard dump-off to James for the tying score.

As running backs, James and Johnson combined for 57 receptions in Fisch's second-year offense. Under Coley, the explosive Johnson only hauled in four grabs, while three other backs combined for 20.

Fisch also opened up the Miami offense with some calculated trickery during his short-lived stint. Over a three-game span in 2012, Johnson, Dorsett and running back Dallas Crawford threw a combined four passes. Dorsett threw to a wide-open Morris for a 20-yard gain in a win over Virginia Tech, while Johnson hit Allen Hurns for an eight-yard touchdown at Virginia, after convincing coaches the play would work.

"I told the whole offense the first time we get inside the 10-yard line we're calling this play. And when we got to the 10-yard line, I didn’t want to be a liar," Fisch told the Miami Herald's Manny Navarro two Novembers back. "You have to hold your breath and say 'We're going to call it.' And he executed fantastically well, threw a beautiful ball."

 

Miami Chapter Closed But Morris Can Rise From Ashes

Two head coaches and three coordinators over four years, multiple changes in offensive philosophies and injuries to both himself and a handful of key teammates needed to move the ball.

All played a role in the senior's regression, which is unfortunate considering expectations were so high coming into the season—yet all make the senior's struggles that much easier to accept and understand. 

Morris was also considered a quality NFL prospect. ESPN analyst Todd McShay had the quarterback third behind Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) and Brett Hudley (UCLA), but ahead of AJ McCarron (Alabama), Tajh Boyd (Clemson), Marcus Mariota (Oregon), Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech), Braxton Miller (Ohio State) and Aaron Murray (Georgia).

While the ending at Miami was far from fairy-tale, it's far from the end of the football road for Morris. The next several months will be spent getting NFL draft-ready, and with some proper guidance, training and the cleaning-up of some bad habits, what's been broken can still be repaired.

Three years ago, Sam Shields ended a disappointing four-year career at Miami. Originally recruited as a wide receiver, Shields failed to live up to expectations and converted to defensive back as a senior.

Always a superior athlete, Shields had the speed, but at times lacked the desire, which made it difficult for Hurricanes assistants to properly coach him up.

Shields went undrafted in 2010 as a pot-related arrest hurt his stock. Green Bay signed him as a free agent. Four seasons later, Shields is a decorated NFL cornerback, having won Super Bowl XLV while earning Defensive MVP honors in the NFL championship in his rookie season.

Morris has the arm and at one point of his career had the head for better decision-making. For his sake, here's hoping a Shields-like opportunity presents itself, as well as a coaching staff that can pull the most out of him next season.

Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog.

 

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UCF Coach George O'Leary Compliments Blake Bortles' Girlfriend

"She deserves six million Googles."

Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles isn't quite as popular as his girlfriend, Lindsey Duke. 

When Googling the two, Duke easily wins in terms of results. UCF coach George O'Leary would like it to be the other way around. However, he definitely understands why it's that way, as his quote up top shows.

Thanks to College Spun's Tyler Moorehead for the video, and hat tip to The Big Lead's Stephen Douglas for the find.

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Jadeveon Clowney's Greatest College Football Moments

Jadeveon Clowney is the latest big name to throw his name into the NFL hat, as he made his announcement after South Carolina's bowl victory over Wisconsin. This move shouldn't come as a surprise with Clowney widely being considered a surefire Top 10 pick and a franchise changer at the next level. 

In his three-year career, Clowney racked up 24 sacks and had three straight seasons of double-digit tackles for a loss. He's a once-in-a-generation type player and should impact the NFL in a big way. 

But before he gets on his way and leaves college ball completely, let's take a look at some of his best moments.

Spoiler alert: The top moment is a hit you've probably seen 748 times. 

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Capital One Bowl Proves Wisconsin Needs More from the QB Position

For the fourth straight season, the Wisconsin Badgers played in a New Year's Day bowl, and for the fourth straight season, they came away losers—going down to South Carolina, 34-24, in the Capital One Bowl. 

Wisconsin also left a lot of opportunities for victory on the field for the fourth straight year, none more glaring than the plays missed by quarterbacks Joel Stave and Curt Phillips. 

Starter Joel Stave finished his day 9-of-13 but managed only 80 yards with two touchdowns. He also threw a fluke interception that bounced off an offensive lineman's foot and suffered a shoulder injury thanks to a vicious hit on a scramble attempt in the second half.

It meant sixth-year senior Curt Phillips, who had all of two passes to his name coming in, would have to put the Badgers on his back, down 20-17. 

No doubt Phillips was put in a tough situation, coming in cold and expected to get a passing game going, but he also missed opportunities to win the game for the Badgers—including throwing a game-deciding interception with Wisconsin needing a touchdown, down 34-24 with under two minutes remaining. 

Phillips finished the day 7-of-12 for just 37 yards and two interceptions. 

In total the Badgers finished 16-of-26 for 117 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. That doesn't get it done when you are trying to play comeback football, as the Badgers were for most of the second half.

Wisconsin was able to lean on a very strong run game against the stout South Carolina defense—rushing for 293 yards as a team. 

However, when the Badgers needed something extra from their quarterback, it just wasn't there. 

That fact was no more evident than in the final five minutes, when the Badgers, trailing by 10, were forced to pound the football thanks to the inconsistent play of their quarterbacks. 

All Wisconsin needed to do was to look to the other sideline for a glimpse of what a good running game combined with a dynamic quarterback can do for a team. 

South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw torched the Badgers for 312 yards on 22-of-25 passing with three touchdowns thrown, one receiving and one rushing. Shaw also added 47 yards on the ground to go with the rushing touchdown. 

Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen has said since day one that he would like to have a run option in his quarterback, telling the world at his introductory press conference as much:

I do want to have a touch of option within the game, the game plan every week to force defenses to deal with it. But we're going to line up and let those big kids work. That's what they like to do, and we should be able to recruit and get in any recruiting battle in the country with a quality running back.

Year one didn't provide that option, as Joel Stave proved to be the only quarterback with an ability to accurately hit the deep ball and manage the game to the coaches' satisfaction.

Andersen may have been forced to work with what was around the program in year one, but come next year the Badgers are going to need a lot more out of the position if they want to stay in the Big Ten title hunt and the national conversation. 

The question is whether or not the Badgers have that dynamic quarterback in the fold. 

Bart Houston, an elite-11 quarterback in 2011, may be someone the Badgers can turn to that's already in house. 

He redshirted in 2012 after a shoulder surgery and has only been cleared to resume throwing for just over a year now. Houston spent this season running the scout team for Wisconsin, and the coaches have taken notice of his improvement. 

"He is markedly better than he was when we came in in the spring," Ludwig said, according to Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "and even through the course of the summer."

One thing that Houston and most good quarterbacks don't lack for is confidence, and he believes himself able to take the starting job in 2014. 

"It's within my reach; I know that," Houston told Potrykus. "Joel has got the experience. And that's what he's got over me. Experience goes a long way."

Houston comes from the famed De La Salle High School program in Concord, California—where they run the veer offense—so he is familiar with the concepts needed to read defenses in the run game.

Wisconsin also has another option already playing this season, safety Tanner McEvoy. 

His situation was a unique one from the word go. McEvoy, a JUCO transfer, made the decision to sign with Wisconsin just before national signing day as one of Gary Andersen's lone "gets" in the 2013 class. 

McEvoy broke his hand during fall practice and was ruled out of the battle because of it. However, the staff knew that his athletic ability couldn't be kept off the field, and after trying him at wide receiver for a bit, he was moved to safety. 

He would see the field in 10 games, eventually becoming a regular starter at safety for the Badgers. 

The future for McEvoy will be at quarterback though, as he split the bowl prep time, according to Potrykus, between safety and QB. 

If his arm and mental game can match the clear athletic ability he demonstrated in 2013, McEvoy could well be Wisconsin's starter in 2014. 

The Badgers will also welcome highly touted 2014 recruit D.J. Gillins to the fold when the spring semester starts up at the end of January. He is currently ranked as the fourth-best dual-threat quarterback, according to 247sports' composite rankings.

Getting an early start in the playbook and weight room will help Gillins' ability to fight for the starting job come fall camp. 

The good news is that the coaching staff knows it needs more out of the quarterback position going forward and that there are clearly options to turn to outside of what Stave gave the team this season. 

After a year of being stuck with what was ready to play at Wisconsin, 2014 could lead the Badgers in a more dynamic direction at quarterback—and after their Capital One Bowl performance, probably not a moment too soon. 

 

*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops Says Alabama Is Still Best Team in the Country

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops continues to shower praise on his upcoming opponent, the Alabama Crimson Tide, in the run-up to Thursday evening's Sugar Bowl.

According to B/R's Marc Torrence, Stoops called Alabama the best team in the country, despite its last-second loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl:

Stoops' opinion is not an unpopular one. The Crimson Tide lost one game last season too, but with enough breaks they were able to make the national title game against undefeated Notre Dame. And after they beat the Irish 42-14, no one was arguing their supremacy.

That Alabama led for most of the game, on the road, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn leads many to believe it is actually the stronger team. College football is a sport where one week can ruin your season—but that's not necessarily a foolproof way to judge a team's merit.

According to Football Outsiders' F/+ ratings, Alabama is indeed a better team than Auburn, ranking No. 2 in the country. Auburn checks in at No. 4—though it was far lower before beating Alabama and Missouri—and Florida State is No. 1.

Oklahoma, for what it's worth, ranks all the way down at No. 23, behind the likes of Virginia Tech. According to Vegas Insider, the Sooners are 16.5-point underdogs, though Alabama's motivation has been called into question. After contending for a national title for most of the season, it remains to be seen how much the Crimson Tide care about a "meaningless" bowl game.

Under similar circumstances, Utah upset the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl in 2009, beating a far superior team by two touchdowns.

If his opponent shows up ready to play, Stoops will likely be proven correct in his assessment of its talent. But he'd gladly be proven wrong.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Army All-America Bowl 2014: Ranking the Top 8 Offensive Recruits

The Army All-American Bowl annually features phenomenal football talent from every region of the country. Kickoff occurs Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio, broadcast live at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.

Offensive fireworks are expected in a contest that has featured Adrian Peterson, AJ McCarron, Andrew Luck and LeSean McCoy in past years. The 2014 game is filled with playmakers who follow in line with that legacy, and here we rate the top offensive prospects to watch.

*Ratings based on 247 Sports' composite rankings.

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Outback Bowl 2014: 10 Things We Learned from Iowa vs. LSU

With a 200-yard rushing performance by Jeremy Hill, the LSU Tigers proved capable of defeating a hard-nosed Iowa team in the 2014 Outback Bowl without Zach Mettenberger.

In a 21-14 victory, Hill carried the Tigers with 216 yards rushing and two rushing touchdowns. His performance paved the way for the offense, while LSU's defense had one of its best showings of the season.

Still, Iowa didn't go down without a fight, as James Morris and the defense kept the Hawkeyes in the game all the way until the end. It was a defensive struggle that saw LSU outgain Iowa 302 to 233 in total yards.

With a Tiger victory over a physical Iowa bunch, here are the greatest takeaways from the 2014 Outback Bowl.

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Gator Bowl 2014: 10 Things We Learned in Nebraska vs. Georgia

In the bowl rematch from last year, the Georgia Bulldogs fell to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the 2014 Gator Bowl.

It was not a pretty game to say the least, but the Cornhuskers were able to capitalize on the Bulldogs' mistakes. And because of that, they end the season on a very positive note and are headed in the right direction.

As for Georgia, there's a lot to take away from this game, as well as this season. A lot of young players played, and they will be a better team because of it moving forward.

Here are 10 things we learned in the game.

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