NCAA Football News

Dak Prescott vs. LSU: Stat Line, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

Did Dak Prescott just enter the Heisman Trophy discussion?

The Mississippi State quarterback was spectacular on Saturday night, throwing for 268 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-24 passing, in addition to 22 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown in the Bulldogs' 34-29 win over No. 8 LSU.

ESPN's Holly Rowe was succinct with her assessment of Prescott's performance:

Mississippi State had previously been on a 15-game losing streak against ranked opponents, per ESPN Stats and Info:

Also, Prescott wasn't even alive the last time the Bulldogs won in Death Valley:

Prescott gave the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead with a nine-yard touchdown pass to De'Runnya Wilson (via ESPN College Football):

Cameras quickly panned to Prescott's father, which Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer felt was a cool moment:

Little did the elder Prescott know what was in store for his son on Saturday night.

LSU was knocking on the door in the third quarter, closing its deficit to seven points after Danielle Hunter returned a fumble 25 yards for a touchdown.

With Mississippi State clinging to a 17-10 lead, Prescott was the man of the moment, running 56 yards to the end zone and putting the Bulldogs once again up double digits.

Prescott's mobility was again on show when he bought some time in the pocket before finding Jameon Lewis for a 74-yard touchdown pass:

Former Alabama QB and current SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy felt like he was seeing a Johnny Manziel clone in Tiger Stadium:

Prescott slowed down a bit in the fourth quarter as LSU made its final comeback, but he did just enough to hold on to the lead.

Looking the Heisman race, it's still way too early to insert Prescott as a serious contender. As NFL.com's Bryan Fischer alluded to, Prescott has plenty of competition from his own division in the form of Kenny Hill and Amari Cooper:

The beauty of the SEC is that Mississippi State has plenty more tough games down the road with which Prescott can build a strong Heisman resume.

If he follows up Saturday night with great showings against Texas A&M, Auburn, Alabama and Ole Miss, then we can really start talking about the QB getting a trip to New York City.

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Mississippi State vs. LSU: How Bulldogs' Win Reshapes Playoff Picture

The usual LSU comeback led by coach Les Miles was in full force Saturday night in the waning moments of a 34-29 home loss to Mississippi State that throws the inaugural playoff picture for a loop.

Led by sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings, the Tigers have had issues on offense all season long, but it is hard to remember the defense getting so thoroughly torched on the way to a loss. In total, the Tigers gave up 570 yards of offense.

Author Clay Travis put it best:

While Jennings fought through an injury scare to finish with a 13-of-26 mark for 157 yards, it was Bulldogs star quarterback Dak Prescott who put on arguably the best show of the week.

The junior dual-threat quarterback finished with a 15-of-24 line for 268 yards and two scores, while also making a fool of the LSU defense on the ground with 22 carries for 105 yards and a score—with his 56-yard scamper being one of the top highlights of the week.

To be blunt, the upset was not all that difficult to see coming given the well-known offensive issues for LSU. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs had held three opponents to a total of 37 points while posting 35 or more in each contest thanks to Prescott's explosiveness.

Before the contest, even Miles was wary of the strong roster Dan Mullen has crafted.

"I can tell you that this Mississippi State team is talented as any and is capable as any and maybe as complete, offense, defense, special teams, as any Mississippi State team we've seen," Miles said, per Michael Bonner of The Clarion-Ledger.

With LSU seemingly bowing out of the playoff picture for the time being, the Tigers will need to perform better in contests down the road against Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama and Texas A&M, with those final two being of particular importantance.

Nick Saban's Crimson Tide seems all but a lock to make a serious run at an undefeated mark by season's end—the quarterback question got an answer Saturday in a 42-21 win over Florida as Blake Sims threw for 445 yards and four scores.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M scoffs at the idea it would not have been a contender this year without Johnny Manziel. Quarterback Kenny Hill has had the look of an undercover Heisman contender so far and has the Aggies looking like a serious threat for the playoff.

Despite the strong showing from the Bulldogs Saturday night, they happen to share the same opponents named as hurdles for LSU above. Even worse, the team's next game comes at the start of October against the Aggies, followed by Auburn. The only saving grace? Both contests come at home.

On a day that Alabama emerged as the favorite once again, nothing short of running the table in the brutal SEC seems like the key to the playoff.

A note from Bryan Fischer of NFL.com puts things into perspective:

As if fans would want it any other way.

With LSU exposed in brutal fashion, Mississippi State is now one of the most dangerous teams in the nation, even in the playoff race. But so it goes in the SEC—we could just as easily be labeling the Bulldogs frauds after their upcoming encounter with Texas A&M.

For now, the inaugural playoff has a shocking entrant led by an unheralded quarterback who continues to run wild.

 

AP poll via The Associated Press. Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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Mississippi State vs. LSU: Score and Twitter Reaction

A clash of SEC teams can yield some unexpected results, and that was exactly the case on Saturday night when the Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated the No. 8 LSU Tigers by a score of 34-29. This outcome will surely shift the balance of power going forward in one of the nation's strongest conferences.

The Associated Press (via ESPN.com) supplied MSU head coach Dan Mullen's thoughts on the win after the game:

"I probably aged seven to 10 years in the final three minutes of the game," said sixth-year Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen. "We are trying to build a program and I'll take it. I guess everybody can now write now I have beaten LSU and Alabama once during my career."

"There was not one bit of panic or one bit of concern," Mullen said. "Our guys played with a lot of confidence. We made plays when we needed to. We have been doing that all year. When we need a big play, guys step up and make them."

LSU was put on upset alert from the onset of the game thanks to some accurate passing from Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott. The junior signal-caller completed four passes on the opening six-play, 51-yard drive capped off by a nine-yard touchdown strike to De'Runnya Wilson.

Rivals.com noted the game's early score:

Later in the opening quarter, LSU was halted by the Bulldogs defense after attempting to reach the end zone on a 4th-and-goal. After the turnover on downs, Mississippi State took over on their own 2-yard line. The Prescott-to-Wilson connection took over the game once again.

The quarterback hit his favorite target for gains of 26 and 44 yards on a five-play, 98-yard drive that was finished with a three-yard touchdown run by Josh Robinson.

Shea Dixon of 247Sports gave his early take on Wilson's excellent play:

The game continued to get out of hand for the Tigers, as another punt from the offense led to a 27-yard field goal from Evan Sobiesk, increasing the Bulldogs' lead to 17-0. Luckily for the Tigers, Anthony Jennings was able to connect twice with Travin Dural to set up a Colby Delahoussaye 30-yard field goal that finally got LSU on the board.

Entering the second half, it was clear LSU would need to make significant adjustments to get back into the game, as the home team trailed 17-3.

Well, it only took one play for the Tigers to get right back into the mix. Kwon Alexander stripped Prescott, and Danielle Hunter scooped up the loose ball and returned it 25 yards for an LSU touchdown. Chad Washington of The Daily Advertiser tweeted the action:

Suddenly Mississippi State's lead dwindled to just seven points. Prescott made sure it didn't stay that way, quickly atoning for his fumble by bursting through the LSU defense for a 56-yard touchdown scamper.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee has been impressed with Prescott for quite some time now. He reminded everyone after the quarterback's scintillating score:

All it took was one more LSU punt for Prescott to continue his onslaught. He hooked up with Jameon Lewis for a 74-yard score. Facing plenty of pressure, Prescott eluded the rush, found some room to maneuver and hit a wide-open Lewis who ran to paydirt.

ESPN SEC tweeted what the score meant for LSU:

The fourth quarter began with Mississippi State knocking at the door once again. But LSU's winded defense held strong on a 3rd-and-goal from the 11-yard line, forcing a 28-yard field goal. Down by 24 points, the Tigers had little time remaining to make up their deficit and retain their position among the Top 10.

LSU answered the challenge on the ensuing drive. Jennings hooked up with Dural for a 49-yard gain deep into Mississippi State territory. Two Kenny Hilliard runs later, the Tigers were awarded six points—the team attempted a two-point conversion but failed.

While that touchdown gave LSU a bit of hope, the team's defense was just too tired to stop Robinson, who continued to bounce off would-be tacklers while allowing precious seconds to tick off the game clock.

ESPN SEC summed up the dangerous Robinson with this tweet:

With nine minutes remaining in the contest the Bulldogs sensed victory and allowed backups to enter the game—something not many onlookers would have thought before the team traveled to Baton Rouge. Although, that action may have been premature.

LSU reserve quarterback Brandon Harris was able to take advantage, gaining some positive yards late in the final quarter and tossing his team's first touchdown strike of the day—a 31-yarder to Malachi Dupre.

Dixon tweeted his take:

That appeared to be the final score of the contest; however, a botched snap on the ensuing possession led to another appearance from Harris. The freshman delivered once again, tossing a jump ball to Dupre in the corner of the end zone to get his team within five points of the Bulldogs.

ESPN SEC tweeted the implications of the quarterback's play:

From there, the Bulldogs ran down the clock well inside one minute but gave the Tigers offense one more chance. A laser from Harris advanced LSU into position for a Hail Mary, but his final deep attempt was intercepted. Mississippi State finally closed out their opponent, winning by a score of 34-29.

The loss is devastating to LSU, as the team is surely poised for a tumble down the rankings. Expect the Tigers to still hold a Top 25 standing; however, chances of the team entering the College Football Playoff may be rather slim at this point.

The Tigers will attempt to right the ship in Week 5 against New Mexico State, and they'll have to get things together in a hurry, as No. 5 Auburn will be waiting in Week 6.

A big win for Mississippi State virtually assures the team a Top 25 designation heading into Week 5 of the 2014 college football season. The Bulldogs generated enough points to rank 28th in the AP Poll heading into Week 4, and after this enormous victory, they'll surge up the rankings.

Although, a tough test lies ahead for this surging team. After a Week 5 bye, Kenny Hill and the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies are next on the slate and are coming off a 58-6 rout of SMU on Saturday. Hang on to your hats, because that will certainly be a good matchup.

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Will Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke Make It Through the 2014 Season?

Brady Hoke’s first game as head coach ended with an epic thunderstorm that canceled the rest of the game. Another thunderstorm suspended Michigan’s 26-10 loss to Utah that may mark the symbolic end of his tenure.

Brady Hoke has fumbled his chance to rebuild Michigan and it will cost him his job.

Over the last three seasons, Michigan fans have relied on an array of excuses to explain the team’s gradual slide under Hoke—he needed to restock the roster, the players needed to mature or his coaches (specifically offensive coordinator Al Borges) weren’t up to the task.

Sports Illustrated shared a tweet about Hoke's seat warming up after the Utah loss:

But after a shocking 31-0 loss to Notre Dame, a lackluster 34-10 victory over Miami University and an embarrassing 26-10 loss to Utah the pressure is squarely on Hoke to beat Michigan State and Ohio State—or else.

The heat turned up last season as Michigan stumbled through a 1-4 November stretch followed by a disappointing 31-14 bowl loss to Kansas State. A 7-6 finish in Hoke’s third season was not what fans expected. Athletic director David Brandon may have pledged his support for Hoke, but it didn’t extend to his staff.

Offensive coordinator Al Borges was replaced by Doug Nussmeier, and the defensive staff was shuffled.

Despite the turmoil, prior to the season Brandon called continued speculation that Hoke was on the hot seat, "nonsense," during a radio interview with Detroit Sports 105.1 FM, courtesy of MLive.com (via Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports):

That's websites and that's bloggers and that's social media and that's all part of the game that's played out there -- let's stir up controversy. This happens every year. I can't do very much about that, other than (say), that's nonsense. ... All this hot seat stuff, to me, is just nonsense. I don't pay any attention to it.

But Hoke's tenuous position was described perfectly by Martin Rickman at SI.com which listed him as one of the 10 coaches on the hot seat entering this season:

The bad news is Michigan just watched Michigan State win the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl while the Wolverines limped to a 7-6 season including a loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Michigan can’t finish barely above .500 again, not with the rest of the league getting better and Ohio State continuing to dominate the rivalry.

But with Michigan entering the Big Ten season with after two nonconference losses, the program appears to be sliding even further behind its key rivals.

Hoke now needs wins over both Michigan State and Ohio State to save his job.

Michigan is a paltry 4-6 versus Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State and 0-5 on the road versus those teams. The losses are bad enough, but Michigan has not been competitive in its two recent visits to East Lansing or this season versus Notre Dame.

Even before the loss to Utah, Bill Bender at Sporting News predicted that Hoke’s job would only be saved by wins over Michigan State and Ohio State.

Michigan might have 10 games left this season, but Brady Hoke's job evaluation comes down to just two of them. Hoke has to beat either Michigan State or Ohio State on the road after last week's 31-0 loss at Notre Dame. Given that Michigan is 0-5 against the Irish, Buckeyes and Spartans on the road since Hoke took over, it's a fair test.

The team's struggles have also caused Hoke to draw ire from a prominent member of the Michigan football family. Braylon Edwards voiced the sentiments of many fans in a recent interview with Matt Dery of FM105.1 (via Nick Baumgardner with MLive.com):

It's year four, people want to see results in year four. The first couple years they'll give you excuses ... but in year four, you've got your own guys, your own players, your own staff and we want to see the results of your program. A lot of pressure is on Brady to win three [rivalry ] games. He lost one. He lost one of the three and there's a lot of pressure on him to win the other two.

And you know which one I'm talking about. If he doesn't perform well in those games, he's going to be facing a lot of questions at the end of the season and they might not be questions he wants to face.

Hoke's failure versus rivals is even more disappointing to fans in the wake of Michigan State’s ascendance. Michigan has long dominated its “little brother,” but the tables have turned since the retirement of Lloyd Carr.

The Spartans have won the Big Ten twice (2010, 2013), while gaining victories in their last three bowl games and climbing to No. 3 in the national rankings last season.

With Michigan now sharing the Big Ten East division with Michigan State and Ohio State it will need to beat both to compete for the Big Ten Championship—one of Hoke's main goals since returning to Ann Arbor.

After two losses where Michigan has failed to even get in the red zone, the task looks insurmountable,  especially since both games are on the road. 

But Hoke remains undaunted.

"Our goal (of winning the Big Ten) is still out there," he said during his postgame press conference.

But now it's about more than just winning a conference title, it's about saving his job.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

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Mario Edwards Jr. Injury: Updates on FSU Star's Concussion and Return

Florida State will have to play the rest of its game against Clemson without star defender Mario Edwards Jr.

Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times notes the defensive end is out with a concussion:

The junior was a key part of the Seminoles defense thanks to his ability to get into the backfield and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He had one sack on the year coming into the Week 4 game against Clemson, but he was impressive early in the matchup against the Tigers, as noted by Jared Shanker of ESPN:

With Edwards out of the game, Florida State will need other players like DeMarcus Walker and Derrick Mitchell Jr. to step up defensively. Safety Jalen Ramsey has also shown the ability to get to the quarterback this season and could be helpful in blitz packages.

Regardless of what happens against Clemson, the defending national champions will hope the defensive end can return to the field before missing too much time.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Army Linebacker Blatantly Flops During Scrum vs. Wake Forest

Army linebacker Stephen Ricciardi's dive attempt won't earn him an Oscar and it definitely won't earn him a flag. 

In the final seconds of Army's 24-21 loss to Wake Forest on Saturday, Ricciardi dramatically flew out of the back of a scrum in an attempt to earn a personal foul flag on his opponents. It was painfully obvious that he was acting and the referee was having no part of it.

[via @SportsCenter]

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Sean Maguire vs. Clemson: Stat Line, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

With Jameis Winston serving a one-game suspension, Florida State watched backup quarterback Sean Maguire led the team to an overtime win over Clemson. 

It was certainly an up-and-down performance for the sophomore, but he did what was necessary to help his team come through in an important game.

These numbers seemed unrealistic at halftime after the quarterback completed just six of 17 passes in the first half for 106 yards as the Seminoles trailed 10-3 at home. While the statistics were bad, the quarterback did not deserve all the blame, as ESPN's Jared Shanker pointed out:

Benjamin Allbright of Yahoo Sports noted the offensive line was letting him down:

Without a rushing attack and facing pressure throughout the game, it was hard to have high expectations for a player making his first career start. Dan Wolken of USA Today explained that the first drive was nothing to write home about:

However, he bounced back on the second series, converting a third down early before completing a big, 27-yard pass to Karlos Williams. After that play, Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press was impressed:

ESPN's David Hale also noted that Florida State was not afraid to throw the ball early on with the inexperienced play:

This did not help much, as Maguire struggled to find much consistency in a disappointing first half.

Things looked better at the start of the second half as he was able to find his most talented teammates through the air, as Dane Brugler of NFL Draft Scout noted:

Unfortunately, trouble finally came in the form of a interception. The ball was tipped, but Kareem Copeland of the Associated Press still explained why it was the quarterback's fault:

Florida State trailed by seven points late in the fourth quarter and seemed unlikely to come from behind. This was until Maguire was able to even things up with a 74-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene, as described by Bonnie Bernstein of College Insiders:

ESPN's Skip Bayless provided his thoughts on the play:

A late interception put the team's backs against the wall, as noted by College GameDay:

However, the rest of the squad stepped up and found a way to pull out the overtime win.

The young quarterback came into the game excited about his chance to show what he can do on the big stage.

“It’s going to be pretty awesome, I’d like to imagine,” Maguire said before the game, via Tim Linafelt of the Miami Herald. “I’ve pictured this since I started playing little league ball, to be given an opportunity like this.”

Fortunately, he had a lot of support from the fans when he came out for warmups, according to Natalie Pierre of the Tallahassee Democrat:

Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post points out that this continued up until game time:

This seemed to help give Maguire some added confidence, as he took the field for the first time with the pressure on. There were certainly some ups and downs, but he did what was needed to help his team win.

Winston will return to the starting role in the next game as Florida State hopes to contend for another national championship. However, Maguire can be happy about coming through for his squad when needed.

If the young quarterback is ever asked to come through in the future, the Seminoles know they can trust him to provide a strong effort. 

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Has FSU QB Jameis Winston Learned Anything from Suspension?

Suspended Florida State QB Jameis Winston came out of the tunnel in full uniform prior to the Seminoles' game against Clemson on Saturday night.

Head Coach Jimbo Fisher, visibly upset, sent Winston back to the locker room to change. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee debate whether or not the troubled quarterback has learned from his suspension.

Do you think Fisher was right to send Winston back to the locker room?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Oregon vs. Washington State: Live Score and Highlights

Oregon 38, Washington State 31; FINAL

The No. 2 Oregon Ducks (4-0) were able to narrowly defeat the Washington State Cougars (1-3) by a score of 38-31. 

Marcus Mariota was absolutely masterful the entire night. Oregon's signal-caller went 21-of-25 for 329 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed for 58 yards on 13 carries. On a night in which Oregon struggled in all phases of the game, Mark Helfrich's team found a way to win. 

A full box score can be found here at NCAA.com

Bleacher Report appreciates you tuning in with us tonight. Stick around for score updates, social media, analysis and much more! 

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Utah vs. Michigan: Game Grades, Analysis for the Wolverines

With 7:51 to play in the fourth quarter on Saturday, the game between Michigan and Utah was suspended due to lightning/inclement weather.

Utah outlasted Michigan, taking the game 26-10. But it may as well have been 55-10. The Wolverines didn't put up much of a fight at all. 

Here are the grades, which are determined by various factors, including, but not limited to, stats, opportunity, opinion and perception. 

Pass Offense

Devin Gardner threw two interceptions. He completed 14 of 26 passes, which didn't include anything impressive, and he ended up stepping aside for Shane Morris, who also threw an interception. 

Michigan's pass offense failed Saturday. There's nothing else to say, really. But it did put up stats, such as 148 yards from Gardner, so giving it an "F" wouldn't be quite right. 

How's a D-minus? 

 

Pass Defense

If not for Jourdan Lewis' tackle, Bubba Poole's 67-yard reception would have been about a 90-yard touchdown. Lewis actually played some of the better football of his young career. The sophomore corner was one of the very few bright spots on the day for Michigan. And, really, they can't be called "bright." 

How's this? He was one of few who didn't fall flat. But the pass defense still gets a C-minus. Dres Anderson made the secondary look invisible with his 28-yard touchdown reception from Travis Wilson during the third quarter. 

That score was the proverbial nail in the coffin. 

 

Run Offense

Same story, different day: Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith aren't getting the job done. And when they do, it's too late and not enough. 

Including 29 yards from Gardner, Michigan rushed for 119 yards. Green had 59, while Smith had five. Justice Hayes had three carries for 19 yards. 

We'll go with a D-plus. 

 

Run Defense

Notre Dame couldn't do it. Miami (Ohio) couldn't do it. Appalachian State, while it doesn't really count, couldn't do it either.

No one's running the ball on Greg Mattison's defense. The Utes had roughly 70 yards on the ground prior to the delay. 

However, that doesn't matter when your team takes a beating. Mattison's run D gets an A-minus for total. That's it. Eighty-ish yards are 80-ish yards. But it's really difficult to see anything positive when the offense can't do a thing to score a few. 

 

Coaching 

This one is easy. D. 

Game plans? How about showing up for a change? After that, Brady Hoke and Doug Nussmeier can talk about improving and devising game plans. Mattison's defense held Utah to less than half of its average, so he'll get a C. 

Hoke and Nussmeier get matching grades of D-minus. They're not on the same page. Michigan is four games into the season and looks worse now than it did in Week 1, when it actually had promise. 

 

Special Teams

Matt Wile made his kicks. Good for him. So did Andy Phillips, who beat Michigan 12-10. But let's get back to the Wolverines special teams, which was OK. Will Hagerup had a nice punt that pinned the Utes at their 3-yard line. That was the highlight. 

Dennis Norfleet had 22 kick-return yards and three from punt returns. 

Special teams gets a B. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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Missouri Loss Proves It Won't Contend for SEC East Title

Sorry, Missouri, but the verdict is in following your 31-27 loss to Indiana: The Tigers will not contend for an SEC East title one year after taking the division by storm and reaching Atlanta.

Too early to make such a proclamation? Hardly. The mighty Hoosiers are coming off a 45-42 loss at Bowling Green. Yes, the very same Bowling Green that allowed Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon to rack up 253 yards on just 13 carries Saturday while giving up a total of 644 yards on the ground.

The transitive property is annoying and often flawed in college football, but it's pretty clear that if the Tigers can't take down Indiana at home, they won't have a chance at South Carolina or against teams like Georgia. The Gamecocks and Bulldogs are the next two opponents on the schedule, by the way.

Road tests against Florida, Texas A&M and Tennessee suddenly look a lot more difficult as well.

It seems hard to believe that Missouri could go from the doorstep of an SEC title to potentially the doormat of the entire league. Well, not counting Kentucky or Vanderbilt, of course. A depleted wide receiving corps combined with the loss of running back Henry Josey gives the offense an excuse, while former SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam's absence has hurt the defense.

But quarterback Maty Mauk stepped in for an injured James Franklin in 2013 and performed magnificently, which led many to believe the Tigers might only take a small step back, if at all. With several questions surrounding perennial contenders South Carolina and Georgia, the first few weeks of the season revealed a situation where Missouri had just as much of a chance as anyone to win the division crown.

Now, even after a nonconference loss, that scenario exists only in the dreams of Tigers fans.

The defense allowed running back Tevin Coleman to rack up 132 yards and a score, while Nate Sudfield threw for 252 yards and a score for the Hoosiers. If you're unfamiliar with the rushing abilities of Coleman, shame on you because he's a good one. But if he's capable of that type of performance, what will Todd Gurley do?

Once fans escape from that particular nightmarish thought, it will be difficult to see a path that has the Tigers turning things around. A record of 3-1 isn't a disastrous start, but with the upcoming slate it's certainly worrisome.

When you look at the box score from the game against Indiana, nothing jumps out that suggests the Hoosiers might have escaped with a win, and that's the scariest part.

If the Tigers had coughed up the ball four times or had numerous breakdowns in the secondary leading to four or five huge plays, that would be one thing. It would help explain the loss and reveal specific problems that are fixable.

But Missouri won the total yardage battle 506-493, lost the turnover battle 1-0 and even maintained possession for seven minutes longer than the Hoosiers.

So the conclusion upon looking at the numbers is that Indiana simply beat Missouri without any gimmick or fluke plays.

On Indiana's go-ahead drive, the Hoosiers were stopped on fourth down in their own territory before a flag came flying in from the secondary for pass interference. Even if you question the call, which effectively kept Indiana alive, it still doesn't change the fact that Kevin Wilson's squad was in this thing from start to finish.

The Tigers aren't going to win the SEC, but on the bright side they'll still have a chance to grow with Mauk at quarterback and a young defense getting a taste of football in the nation's best conference.

There should be more winning the rest of the way, but the losses could outnumber the wins, at least in conference play. In order for Missouri to overcome an embarrassing nonconference loss, it must retain the hunger that gave it an edge so often during the 2013 season.

For now, one thought reverberates throughout the conference: Missouri will not surprise anyone in 2014 by contending for an SEC East title, because the Tigers are already out of the race.

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Oklahoma Sooners Run Reverse Pass to Trevor Knight for Touchdown vs. WVU

The Oklahoma Sooners had an early deficit on Saturday night against the West Virginia Mountaineers, but this trick play helped them tie things up again.

In the second quarter, the Sooners ran a reverse pass that went straight to a wide-open Trevor Knight for the four-yard touchdown, giving the quarterback his first career reception.

That score helped the Sooners tie the game at 10-10.

 

 

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Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Finding Offensive Groove at Perfect Time

Don't look now, but the Big Ten may actually have a College Football Playoff contender. 

The Penn State Nittany Lions, who are now eligible for the postseason for the first time since the outbreak of the Jerry Sandusky scandal in 2011, are rolling after a 48-7 rout of UMass on Saturday and are now undefeated at 4-0. 

What's carried Penn State so far? Its prolific offense led by star quarterback Christian Hackenberg. 

On Saturday, the Nittany Lions manhandled a UMass team that gave both Colorado and Vanderbilt—granted two weak teams but still major conference opponents—all the trouble they could muster. They won the game 48-7 behind a balanced attack where everybody seemed to click. 

Hackenberg tossed for 179 yards, both Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton had over 75 yards on the ground and Geno Lewis hauled in 82 yards receiving. 

The Nittany Lions also had 23 first downs to UMass' 13, converted on 10 of 17 third downs and held the ball for 37 minutes. 

Everything is coming together for an offense that went into Week 4 ranked 10th in the nation in passing (360.7) and third in the Big Ten in total offense (436). 

The catalyst is undoubtedly Hackenberg. His best showing came in Week 1 in Ireland against reigning Fiesta Bowl champion UCF, where he threw for 454 yards en route to a 26-24 win that got Penn State rolling. Jeff Nelson provided Hackenberg's stats:

Back-to-back 300-yard showings against Akron and then on the road against Rutgers solidified his status as one of the best gunslingers in the conference. 

Hackenberg is complemented by two equally capable receivers in Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton, both of whom had over 300 yards receiving coming into Week 4. 

The 48 points the Nittany Lions tallied against UMass is a season-high, and it couldn't have come at a better time as Penn State is gearing up for the toughest part of its schedule. 

Next week they host Northwestern in a game that should be a win. But after a bye week, they face Michigan and Ohio State in consecutive weeks. 

Michigan always has offensive firepower to hang with any team, and you add in the fact that the Nittany Lions have to go to the Big House and the Wolverines need to be clicking on all cylinders. 

However, with Michigan struggling against Utah on Saturday, the Wolverines are looking more and more like the inferior team to Penn State this season, and the Nittany Lions should take care of business as long as they don't beat themselves. 

If they escape Ann Arbor, they'll host the Buckeyes. While Ohio State isn't the same without Braxton Miller, its defense is still giving up just 17 points a game through three contests. 

If—and that's a big if—Penn State can win those two, a regular-season finale with Michigan State will loom for the rest of the year. The Nittany Lions' opponents between Ohio State and Michigan State are Maryland, Indiana, Temple and Illinois. 

Those games should be easily winnable, barring any drastic changes in circumstances. Then we'll really see what the Nittany Lions are made of come Nov. 29, when Sparty visits Happy Valley. 

With the bowl ban lifted, this Penn State team has a renewed sense of optimism and a fresh set of expectations for this year. If it keeps rolling offensively like it has been, this team could be the feel-good story of 2014.

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Jameis Winston Sent Back to Locker Room by Jimbo Fisher After Dressing in Pads

Despite being suspended for Saturday night's game against the Clemson Tigers, according to Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples, Heisman winner Jameis Winston still came out onto the field dressed in full pads.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher was clearly not happy with that decision and appeared to express that to him. Winston was then seen heading back into the locker room to supposedly change.

[Vine, h/t Twitter]

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Lane Kiffin, Blake Sims and Amari Cooper Changing Alabama's Offensive Identity

They are Alabama’s two biggest storylines of the 2014 season: Lane Kiffin, the maligned offensive coordinator hired to bring some life to a stagnant Crimson Tide attack, and Blake Sims, the fifth-year senior who scoffed at preseason prognostication to grab hold of the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback job.

On Saturday, in Alabama’s 42-21 stomping of the Florida Gators, Kiffin and Sims—with help from the best player in the country, wide receiver Amari Cooper—teamed up for a devastating offensive effort, racking up 645 total yards.

The Alabama offense, led by that trio, looked unstoppable when it wasn’t getting in its own way. And it’s an attack that at times looked drastically different from Crimson Tide offenses of old under Saban. College Football Talk provided impressive Alabama stats:

Let’s start with Sims, the unlikely heir to AJ McCarron, who has Alabama firing on all cylinders.

The knock on Sims was that he couldn’t throw the ball downfield, that most of his early success came on short throws to playmakers in open space.

Sims came out firing in his first SEC game, with an 87-yard touchdown to Kenyan Drake on a beautifully designed play.

He went on to hit throws of 26 and 37 yards and finished the first quarter with a 79-yard strike to a wide-open Cooper. Sims finished the day with 445 passing yards—the most ever for an Alabama quarterback under Saban and the second-most all time—with four touchdowns and an interception. Aaron Suttles of The Tuscaloosa News provided Saban's comments about Sims as a passer:

Those downfield passing questions were shot down in a hurry. Sims made every throw he was asked to. He showed great touch on sideline throws and a laser arm over the middle. His only miscues were a tipped-ball interception on the run and a fumble on a botched read option.

It all came through a brilliant game plan from Kiffin.

On the first play of the game, Alabama showed a screen to Cooper on the left side. But lightning-quick running back Kenyan Drake was split out wide on the other side against a linebacker in open space, and Sims dropped in a perfect throw as Drake sprinted down the sideline.

Two drives later, Sims hit Cooper on the 87-yard score, and somehow he was this open, as shared by Cork Gaines of BusinessInsider.com:

Kiffin also didn’t completely abandon the run—even when it wasn’t working early and the passing game was clicking—and kept it simple when Alabama was trying to put the game away. The Crimson Tide rushed for 166 yards in the second half, including 91 by Derrick Henry in that half.

The only thing that could seemingly stop Alabama was itself.

It lost three fumbles in the first half, one that was returned for a touchdown and the other two set up the Gators with great field position. They were the only thing that kept Florida in the game, despite the Gators finishing the day with just 200 yards of total offense.

Otherwise, it was a massive day for the Crimson Tide offense against a good defensive team. Richard Johnson of Jacksonville.com shared the historical significance of the Crimson Tide's performance:

And it kept getting the ball to its best offensive weapon.

Cooper continued his incredible start to the season, catching 10 balls for 201 yards and three touchdowns. His best catch of the day was a fade route over Vernon Hargreaves III in the end zone for his second touchdown.

Led by Kiffin, Sims and Cooper—and surrounded by a complementary cast that makes up arguably the best skill group in college football—Alabama’s offense looked truly terrifying in many different ways.

This isn’t your grandmother’s Alabama offense that will run, run, run and set up play action. It will attack you in every way it can, and it has many ways to do so.

On Saturday, it showed just how dangerous it can be.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from Alabama notes. All recruiting information came from 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Alabama's Amari Cooper Vaults into Heisman Consideration vs. Florida

Heisman consideration, meet Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. Amari Cooper, meet Heisman consideration.

The Crimson Tide junior had a phenomenal game in the 42-21 win over Florida in Tuscaloosa on Saturday afternoon, catching 10 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns, including 175 yards in the first half.

This performance vs. Florida and third-team All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, on top of a nation's-best 33 catches in three games coming into the game, should vault Cooper squarely into the discussion for the Heisman Trophy. Aaron Suttles of The Tuscaloosa News provided Saban's comments on the team's strategic plan:

No, the Heisman Trophy hasn't gone to a wide receiver since Desmond Howard in 1991, and part of his resume included 694 yards and two touchdowns on special teams.

This is a different day and age, though.

Sure, the Heisman has become a quarterback-driven award, but it has also become an award where nontraditional candidates can make an impact. Former Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch went to New York as a finalist out of the MAC last year, former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o did the same in 2012 and former LSU cornerback/punt returner Tyrann Mathieu did it in 2011.

Why not Cooper?

All he's done this season is stabilize an Alabama offense that was in desperate need of stability.

With Blake Sims taking the reins at quarterback after AJ McCarron's successful career, new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin needed someone to help Sims ease into the transition of the starting quarterback role.

He needed somebody to provide that outlet early in games to get Sims into rhythm. He needed somebody to build Sims' confidence so that, when it became time to stretch the field, Sims had the comfort and confidence to do so.

It became time to do so against Florida.

Cooper averaged 20.1 yards per catch and had a big 79-yard touchdown catch to tie the game at 14 late in the first quarter.

With reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston being suspended for the Clemson game, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley's injury and early struggles and Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall not getting much help from his wide receivers (and, consequently, not putting up big numbers), quarterbacks are doing more to lose the award than they are to win it.

So let's get weird.

If there has been a wide receiver in recent years that deserves to get in the conversation, it's Cooper.

He has 655 yards and five touchdowns in four games this year, he has been an integral part of Alabama's transition to Kiffin and Sims and that production is only going to go up now that Kiffin knows that Sims can stretch the field in addition to managing the game.

The Heisman Trust states that the trophy "recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity." 

It'd be hard, if not impossible, to make a case that Cooper isn't one of the most outstanding college football players in the country through the first four weeks of the season.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Indiana vs. Missouri: Score and Twitter Reaction

The No. 18 Missouri Tigers were given everything they could handle on Saturday by the surprising Indiana Hoosiers. After a full 60 minutes of back-and-forth action, Missouri was shocked by Indiana, falling at home by a score of 31-27.

Steve Walentik of the Columbia Daily-Tribune had Missouri offensive tackle Mitch Morse's thoughts:

After the Tigers notched three decisive wins against South Dakota State, Toledo and UCF, it appeared as though Saturday's impending contest against Indiana would yield the same result. Well, the Hoosiers had a different idea.

Indiana's talented running back, Tevin Coleman, helped his team strike first. With five minutes remaining in the opening quarter, the ball-carrier capped off a six-play, 66-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge. The score earned him a spot in the school's history books, according to David Woods of The Indianapolis Star:

Not to be outdone, Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk engineered a five-play, 90-yard scoring drive after completing a 45-yard touchdown strike to senior wide receiver Jimmie Hunt. No stranger to the end zone, Hunt has gained a reputation for his scoring prowess. Missouri's Twitter account had something to say about that:

Much to the chagrin of the Tigers, Indiana just wouldn't go away.

The Hoosiers marched down their field on the ensuing possession, running 16 plays and covering 75 yards on a clock-killing drive. D'Angelo Roberts put his team back on top with a one-yard touchdown scamper of his own.

Indiana Football's Twitter account posted a picture of the score:

The scoring continued shortly after, thanks to Missouri's speedy running back, Russell Hansbrough. After an 11-yard completion from Mauk to Bud Sasser, Hansbrough took the option handoff and cruised 68 yards for a touchdown.

Here's a look at the play, courtesy of ESPN:

At that point of the game, Hansbrough had carried only three times, but he accumulated a stunning 111 yards on the day.

The Tigers took their first lead of the game after driving 67 yards down the field and settling for an Andrew Baggett 27-yard field goal. That lead was short-lived, as the Hoosiers followed that up with a 69-yard drive that resulted in a 23-yard field goal by Aaron Del Grosso as time expired at the half.

After halftime, Missouri found itself in a scary situation, as Mauk was picked off by Mark Murphy to give the Hoosiers some great field position. Three lackluster offensive plays later and Indiana appeared ready to settle for a field goal. However, that wasn't to be, as Del Grosso missed his 41-yard attempt.

With an interception already in the books, Indiana's defense kept up a great deal of pressure on Mauk. The quarterback was forced to scramble out of the pocket more than he would have liked, and the end result was several punts.

The Hoosiers ended the deadlock in the waning minutes of the quarter.

Coleman rattled off a 49-yard run all the way down to Missouri's 33-yard line, and quarterback Nate Sudfeld completed a touchdown strike to J-Shun Harris II one play later to take a seven-point lead. Eye on College Football tweeted the upset alert:

Missouri needed to rally, and it did on the first drive of the fourth quarter. Mauk and Co. answered quickly with an eight-play, 71-yard drive that resulted in a one-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Sean Culkin. Take a look at the play, via ESPN College Football:

After some nice defensive stands by both teams, Missouri was finally able to claim its second lead of the game. Mauk led an 11-play, 70-yard drive that stalled inside Indiana territory, leaving a 40-yard attempt for Baggett. The kicker split the uprights, and the game appeared to be heavily in favor of the Tigers.

Indiana began its attempt at a late game-winning drive from its own 25-yard line. Coleman struggled to find his receivers, quickly bringing up a fourth down for the Hoosiers. A throw over the middle resulted in an incomplete pass; however, a yellow flag signified pass interference, giving Indiana a first down.

Indiana Football tweeted another impressive stat on Coleman:

That's all the team needed. Coleman burst into Missouri's secondary, ripping off a 44-yard scamper deep into Tigers territory. Two plays later, Roberts capped off the drive with what turned out to be a game-winning three-yard touchdown dive with just 22 seconds remaining.

The Hoosiers now move to 2-1 on the season, with their lone defeat coming in a close contest at the hands of Bowling Green. According to NCAA Football, Sunday marked the first time Indiana defeated a ranked team since 2006:

Indiana will attempt to continue establishing its momentum in Week 5 against Maryland. The Terrapins are capable of putting up points—they defeated Syracuse by a score of 34-20 on Saturday—so we should be in for some compelling football.

As for Missouri, this loss may all but end its chances of maintaining a Top 25 status for the remainder of the season. The team earned its spot as the No. 18-ranked team in the nation by rattling off three consecutive wins to start the season, but one devastating loss can quickly alter the course of a season.

The Tigers will try to right the ship against No. 14-ranked South Carolina next week before a much-needed bye in Week 6. After that, they face Heisman-hopeful Todd Gurley and the Georgia Bulldogs on October 11.

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Sean Maguire Will Struggle to Replicate Jameis Winston's Success vs. Clemson

Florida State quarterback Sean Maguire has had very little time to adjust to his role in the national spotlight for Saturday night's clash against Clemson.

He's gone from opening act to star of the show in the wake of Jameis Winston's one-game suspension for shouting obscenities, up from a half-game due to a "continuing investigation," according to the university (via USA Today's Dan Wolken).

As if the rapidly evolving situation weren't enough, Winston is a decidedly difficult act to follow.

Last year, Winston had one of the finest games of his Heisman-winning campaign against the Tigers. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns against just one interception. The Seminoles embarrassed the Tigers in their own stadium by a final score of 51-14. The inexperienced Maguire puts Clemson very much in contention to pull off an upset victory.

This isn't to say Florida State is incapable of ending Saturday night with their 19th-straight win, but a win will be a struggle and likely by a slim margin—much to the delight of neutral football fans curious as to how a top-ranked team fares when it is suddenly and unexpectedly forced to compete without its best player.

Maguire is facing an entirely different set of circumstances and will be working through his own lack of experience. He's been in the Seminoles program for two seasons but has attempted just 26 passes in his career. In fact, his lack of extensive experience throwing the ball extends back to high school, per CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli:

Maguire arrived on campus at the same time as Jameis Winston, as both were members of Florida State's 2012 recruiting class. Winston was obviously the quarterback everyone paid attention to, as he was a five-star recruit.

Maguire, on the other hand, was only a three-star recruit out of Seton Hall Prep in West Orange, New Jersey (where he rarely threw as the team ran the Wing-T according to the Florida State website).

He also doesn't have the luxury of facing a tune-up opponent to warm up to calling the shots for a major college football program.

Clemson is the No. 22 team in the nation, per the The Associated Press poll (h/t ESPN.com). The Tigers are 1-1 on the season, but that loss was courtesy of a collapse against Georgia, another ranked team that unleashed star running back Todd Gurley on the nation at the expense of the Tigers' D.

The odds are against Maguire putting up big numbers, but there is a precedent for him to find relative success against Clemson. ESPN College Football noted Seminoles quarterbacks have fared well against the Tigers in recent years:

Of course, Maguire needs only 85 yards to produce a personal career best, and that sum would be highly unlikely to deliver the victory the Seminoles need, let alone measure up to Winston's own performances.

Former Florida State wide receiver Kenny Shaw is also tipping Maguire to find success:

The 'Noles will have to contain Clemson's formidable pass rush as well, as they did last season, for Maguire to find success. Tigers defensive end Vic Beasley is a menacing presence on the gridiron and will be the main conduit through which defensive coordinator Brent Venables channels his blitzes and pass-rushing schemes.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher is adamant his team will run the same offense with Maguire in the game.

"Those [regular starters] rally around them,” Fisher said, reports Tim Linafelt of the Miami Herald. “We have good players. We’ll do what we do. We’ll run our offense. Sean has been running the same offense that Jameis has been running in practice."

It's the same offense no doubt, but likely with a greater emphasis on the run. Fisher should take note of Gurley's success against Clemson in Week 1 and adjust to do the same type of damage on the ground.

Karlos Williams is averaging 4.1 yards per carry, and Mario Pender and Dalvin Cook are sturdy backups capable of knifing through opposing defenses. Williams is very reliable, but he may not be explosive enough to force the Clemson defense to back off from creating pressure.

It should also be noted that some of the tailbacks' success is likely due to Winston's presence (and of course the monstrous offensive line), so they may face more eight-man fronts should the Tigers dare Maguire to beat them with his arm.

Maguire must simply contend with the rush in obvious passing situations, a difficult task for a player with limited experience.

Clemson is also coming off a strong offensive performance against South Carolina State. The Tigers put up 70 points in that contest, despite the fact the team is still trying to strike the right balance between quarterbacks Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson.

The improved play of their own quarterbacks should help the Tigers control the ball and prevent Maguire from getting too many opportunities to put up big numbers in this game.

Should Florida State pull out a victory, it could boost the team to reach even greater heights this season. The confidence coming from winning a game against a ranked opponent with a green quarterback could help the team move on from its (relatively) tepid start to the season.

The Seminoles were hardly convincing in Week 1 against Oklahoma State and cruised past—rather than blowing out—a pedestrian Citadel team. Still, their winning record and overall success as a program is nearly impossible to argue against.

If Winston returns to take over a 3-0 football team, the Seminoles should be all set to reach the NCAA playoffs and make a run at a second-consecutive championship.

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Blake Sims Is the Man to Lead Alabama to the College Football Playoff

The Alabama Crimson Tide took care of business on Saturday, beating Florida 42-21 behind a huge performance from quarterback Blake Sims.

Do you think Sims will be able to lead Alabama to the College Football Playoff?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barett Sallee discusses the talented senior quarterback in the video above.

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SMU vs. Texas A&M: Game Grades, Analysis for the Aggies

On a steamy afternoon in Dallas, Texas A&M had little trouble with in-state foe SMU. The Aggies were able to upend the Mustangs by a score of 58-6.

From the opening snap, the Aggies' speed overwhelmed the opposition. Wide receivers were picking up yards after the catch in big chunks. The run game was spurred on by domination up front by the offensive line. 

The defensive line was also able to bring pressure early and often to SMU's signal-callers Garrett Krstich and Kolney Cassel. The unit had eight sacks on the afternoon. 

Final stats from the game can be found here at NCAA.com.

Check out the first-half grades and final grades for the Aggies. Additional analysis for different position units will also be addressed. 

 

Texas A&M Aggies Game Grades

Passing Offense

The slight blemish on the afternoon came on Kenny Hill's first career interception (which was the result of a misunderstanding between him and a receiver). However, the passing game was clicking throughout the day. 

Jeremy Tabuyo was absolutely electric with his ability to run after the catch. On the day, Hill and Kyle Allen combined to go 24-of-37 for 395 yards and three touchdowns. 

 

Pass Defense

Outside of a 53-yard reception by SMU receiver Der'rikk Thompson, the secondary did a great job of shutting down the SMU passing game. Mustang receivers weren't able to get any sort of separation. The unit was disciplined and had no noticeable breakdowns in coverage.

Again, Armani Watts played exceptionally well. SMU signal-callers only threw for 137 yards on the day. 

 

Rushing Offense

The Aggies' dominance up front on both sides of the ball started with their offensive line. The unit was opening up gaping holes all afternoon. A&M running backs were able to use their speed in order to bounce outside and gash the SMU defense. 

Seven rushers combined for 268 rushing yards on 31 carries. This equates to an impressive 8.6 yards-per-carry average. 

 

Run Defense

SMU came into today's game averaging negative seven rushing yards per game through the first two contests. As the game became more out of reach, the A&M defense naturally schemed to protect against the pass. Due to this, Krstich and Kevin Pope were able to pick up yardage with their legs. 

However, the defensive line was dominant. The unit was able to notch eight sacks against a severely undermanned SMU offensive line. SMU rushed for a paltry 103 yards on 42 carries. The "A-" grade strictly correlates with SMU's immense struggles rushing the football heading into today. Against virtually any other opponent, the Aggies would've received an "A" grade. 

 

Special Teams

Kicker Josh Lambo was perfect on the afternoon, connecting on all three of his field-goal attempts. The one flub came towards the end of the first half. After an SMU field goal, the Mustangs executed a pooch kick to perfection. 

The Aggies' coverage team wasn't able to come up with the ball. Although no points came of the unconventional onside kick, it's a play which prevented an "A" grade for the unit. 

 

Coaching

Sumlin simply let his athletes take over in space. It truly was a simple and somewhat vanilla game plan. With the advantage from a talent and athleticism standpoint, Sumlin didn't need to reinvent the proverbial wheel.

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