NCAA Football News

Baylor vs. TCU: Game Grades, Analysis for Bears and Horned Frogs

Revenge is a dish best served cold...and in a driving, frigid rain.

No. 19 TCU delivered that message to No. 7 Baylor Saturday night, avenging the only loss of its 2014 season in a 28-21 double-overtime victory in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Horned Frogs (10-2) used a stingy defense and some clutch play from Trevone Boykin in overtime to beat the Bears (9-2), who saw their playoff hopes wash away in the soggy Amon G. Carter Stadium turf.

Pass Offense

Chris Johnson stepped in and played well when Jarrett Stidham went down against Oklahoma State last week, but he struggled in the rain and against TCU's defense Saturday night. The sophomore signal-caller completed just seven of 24 passes for 62 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was particularly ineffective in the second half and the overtime periods, completing just one of his 11 passes for four yards.


Run Offense

Johnny Jefferson and Shock Linwood paced the most productive offensive attack of the game early as Baylor piled up 130 yards and both of its touchdowns on the ground in the first half. The Bears finished with 273 rushing yards with Devin Chafin leading the way with 119 yards and two touchdowns.


Pass Defense

Boykin returned to the TCU offense after missing last week's game against Oklahoma, but the Bears defense did a good job of limiting his production. The Horned Frogs managed just 148 yards through the air, but the secondary broke down in overtime when KaVontae Turpin got open for the easy go-ahead touchdown catch. 


Run Defense

With Boykin still hobbled with an ankle injury, Baylor was expecting to see a heavy dose of the run. The Bears front seven held its ground well, especially in the first half when it allowed an average of just 2.6 yards on 20 carries. The Horned Frogs ground game found some momentum in the second half as Aaron Green accounted for 72 of TCU's 154 rushing yards.


Special Teams

Baylor's special teams had a huge blunder early in the game when Lynx Hawthorne muffed a punt that set TCU up in scoring position in the first quarter. The unit made up for it in the third quarter when it flipped the field effectively after the Horned Frogs had pinned the Bears deep, and it nearly made the game's defining play when Terrance Williams blocked an Ethan Perry punt. 



Baylor came in with a conservative game plan, which was a smart play with the attrition at quarterback and the horrendous conditions. The Bears ran on 13 of their first 16 plays, helping them build an early 14-7 lead in the first quarter. But Art Briles maintained his aggressiveness, dialing up fourth-down conversions in key spots in the first and fourth quarters. But it wasn't enough against the Horned Frogs because Johnson wasn't ready for this stage. 


Pass Offense

Much like Baylor's Johnson, Boykin struggled with the elements and a defense that was able to pin its ears back and attack the pocket. The Horned Frogs were missing Josh Doctson as Boykin threw for just 148 yards, but he did toss two touchdowns, one of which was the go-ahead score in double overtime.


Run Offense

With the passing attack struggling, TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham leaned heavily on a running game that struggled to gain traction. The Horned Frogs ran for just 51 yards on 20 first-half carries, but Green continued to hammer away in the second half, helping TCU get 101 rushing yards in the second half and overtime. 


Pass Defense

Baylor came into the game ranked ninth nationally in passing yards per game, averaging an incredible 350.7 yards per game. But with Seth Russell and Stidham out, Johnson couldn't maintain the momentum as he completed a miserable seven of 24 passes for 64 yards with one touchdown and one interception. 


Run Defense

The Horned Frogs got bulldozed by the Bears Saturday night, surrendering 273 rushing yards on 71 carries. Chafin, Jefferson and Linwood pounded away at the Horned Frogs front seven, combining for 77.3 percent of Baylor's total offense on the night. 


Special Teams

It looked like special teams were going to lose TCU the game in regulation when Shawn Oakman devoured TCU punter Ethan Perry late in the fourth quarter, resulting in an eight-yard punt that set Baylor up at midfield. But that was the lone blip in an otherwise solid outing from the special teams units in a game where field position could have swung the outcome either direction. 



Gary Patterson and Meacham did what they could with Boykin, who was clearly hobbled and unable to run the offense as effectively as he usually does. The best coaching of the game came in overtime as the Horned Frogs scored with ease on their two possessions, while the defensive staff deserves credit for holding the Bears to a season-low 21 points. 

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Winners and Losers from Rivalry Week of the 2015 College Football Season

Here at Winners and Losers, we are thankful for many things: Washington State coach Mike Leach, undefeated Iowa, rivalry games and the fact you've decided to join us and partake in college football this weekend. 

And Week 13 of the college football season is a great one. The playoff race is coming down to the final games, and several teams jockeying for a spot have to play one another. Remember when the playoff was supposed to kill the regular season?

Yeah, me too. 

From Iowa's perfect 12-0 regular season to Central Florida's polar-opposite winless season, we break down all that's happening this weekend in college football. 

Note: No, the Thanksgiving punch didn't get to our heads. (OK, it did a little bit.) Though Winners and Losers is normally published Saturday, we're giving you an extra day to enjoy it. It's our gift to you, which means we're in the clear for Christmas. But fear not. We'll continue to update this post throughout the weekend as events warrant.

Begin Slideshow

Baylor vs. TCU: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

In an ugly, rain-plagued, turnover-filled game between two of the Big 12's best teams, TCU came out on top in double overtime, defeating Baylor 28-21.  

Even if you didn't watch this game, just knowing how prolific these two offenses are, the final score should indicate how rough the conditions were. Things were so bad early at Amon G. Carter Stadium that kickoff was delayed by nearly an hour. 

The two teams didn't seem fazed by the bad weather right out of the gate, trading touchdowns on the first three drives with Baylor holding a 14-7 advantage. TCU would tie the game in the second quarter on a 56-yard fumble return touchdown by Josh Carraway. 

Per ESPN Stats & Info, Baylor's next 14 drives after opening with two touchdowns were beyond inept:

Neither team would score again until overtime, with ESPN Stats & Info noting Baylor had not gone scoreless in consecutive quarters since an Oct. 2011 loss to Oklahoma State. 

The overtime resembled the start of the game, as the Bears and Horned Frogs traded touchdowns on their first three drives. After TCU took a 28-21 lead, Baylor was stopped on a 4th-and-1 running play to end the game. 

While neither team is known for its defensive prowess, TCU linebacker Ty Summers was a monster on this night, per's Max Olson:

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports sent out a simple question that would have had a completely different answer on any other day:

SportsCenter sent out a Vine video of the five combined turnovers in the first half:

Baylor and TCU finished with a combined seven turnovers, and one played a big role in the fourth quarter. TCU punter Ethan Perry mishandled a snap and only got off an eight-yard kick, giving Baylor the ball at its own 47. But on the next play, Baylor running back Devin Chafin fumbled to give the ball right back to TCU. 

Even though the Bears defense forced a three-and-out after the turnover, that loss of field position proved to be critical and eventually led to overtime. 

TCU got star quarterback Trevone Boykin back this week after he missed the Oklahoma game with an ankle injury. The senior did not have great stats in his final home game, finishing 18-of-33 with 148 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. 

Boykin did come through in overtime, running for TCU's first touchdown and throwing an eight-yard score to KaVontae Turpin that proved to be the game-winner. 

Baylor relied heavily on the run, partly because of the weather and partly due to Chris Johnson making his first career start at quarterback. The sophomore struggled in the rain-soaked conditions, going 7-of-24 for 62 yards with one touchdown and one interception. 

However, before trying to evaluate Johnson's talent, Shehan Jeyarajah of the Dallas Morning News kept things in perspective:

It will be impossible to say which team is better this year because of the poor conditions. Last year's 61-58 matchup won by Baylor was an instant classic that led to the Bears winning the Big 12 championship. 

Baylor was down to its third-string quarterback because of injuries to Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham, so the Bears were at a disadvantage to start the game anyway. 

Meanwhile, TCU salvaged its season after injuries (that led to two losses) ended its dreams of winning a national title. The Horned Frogs aren't going to use this game tape on any highlight reel, but they literally weathered a storm to put away their conference rival. 

Style points may count for something when teams are fighting for a spot in the College Football Playoff, but TCU only had to worry about getting back on the right track to build momentum heading into its bowl game.


Postgame Reaction

There was a lot to say on both sides after a game like this. TCU head coach Gary Patterson was in a particularly jovial mood, even joking with the media about his team's first overtime possession, per Dan Wolken of USA Today:

Moving into more serious topics, per TCU 360 Sports, Patterson was appreciative of the players:

On the losing side, per Baylor's official Twitter account, head coach Art Briles noted the role turnovers played in the outcome:

Senior offensive tackle Spencer Drango was dejected about everything the Bears lost in this game, per Baylor's official Twitter account:

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Baylor's Shawn Oakman Absolutely Destroys TCU Punter Ethan Perry

Shawn Oakman is indiscriminate. He will destroy you, no matter who you are.

The Baylor defensive end absolutely lit up TCU's Ethan Perry when the punter bobbled the snap in the fourth quarter of Friday's game. Oakman decked him mid-punt with enough steam to make viewers cringe.

Here's another angle:


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Nick Rolovich Hired as Hawaii Head Coach: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors announced Friday that they hired familiar face Nick Rolovich as their football team's next head coach.

Rolovich was a Warriors assistant from 2003 to 2004 and from 2008 to 2011 before taking the offensive coordinator job for the Nevada Wolf Pack, his alma mater. He will replace Norm Chow, who was 10-36 during his tenure and was fired after a 2-7 start this year.

The Warriors will not only get someone they know in Rolovich, but they will also have a fresh start under a coach who was never part of the Chow era.

Hawaii was in the market for an offensive mind, given the ongoing struggles on that side of the ball under Chow, who oversaw three shutouts in 2015.

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Daily Fantasy CFB Week 13: DraftKings Value Guide and Top Sleepers

With Week 13 of the college football season already in full swing, there are plenty of potential sleepers out there for selection. 

What constitutes a sleeper? In the fantasy realm, a bargain-priced player surely constitutes a hidden gem—even if the player is from a high-profile conference or team. 

This week, there are plenty of bargain buys that make a ton of sense as we head into rivalry weekend.


QB Nick Stevens, Colorado State: $5,900

When making your selections at the quarterback position, Stevens may be someone to look into as a potential option.

The Colorado State signal-caller is not a big name by any stretch. However, his recent form has been impressive. The Rams have won three straight games, and Stevens has been both efficient and productive with the football.

On the season, he's accrued 20 touchdown tosses to only 11 interceptions. Stevens has thrown five touchdowns in the last two games and will be going up against a 3-8 Fresno State program. The Bulldogs rank No. 109 overall in total defense. As such, Stevens should outplay his somewhat low price. 


RB Tre Watson, Cal: $3,800

Watson is a deep sleeper this week for the Cal Golden Bears. If one were looking at his recent string of performances, he looks like a solid option. 

After being sparingly used throughout the year, Watson's had his two most productive games in back-to-back weeks—chocking up 110 and 87 rushing yards, respectively. 

Watson is quick, fast and elusive. Not only can he make people miss in space, but he can also catch passes out of the backfield. 

With starting running back Daniel Lasco a question mark for this weekend against Arizona State, Watson could be in line for a breakout effort. His paltry money total is also potentially worth the risk. 


RB Jacobi Owens, Air Force: $5,000

Hailing from Air Force, Owens has had a fantastic season for the Falcons—rushing for 818 yards and six touchdowns on only 159 carries. 

On Saturday, Owens gets a potentially tasty matchup against an average 6-5 New Mexico squad. In recent weeks, Owens has picked up his play. He's rushed for at least 137 yards in three of the past five games—including a season-high 145 yards last week in a win over Boise State. 

New Mexico ranks No. 95 overall in total defense. As a result, look for Owens to continue his hot streak and have another productive day. 


WR Jehu Chesson, Michigan: $4,500

Yes, Chesson is only Michigan's third-leading receiver in head coach Jim Harbaugh's run-happy offense. While he's somewhat of a high-risk selection, Chesson also has the ability to produce at a high level. 

In the last four games, Chesson has accumulated 20 catches. Seven of those grabs have been touchdowns. He's the perfect selection for a fantasy player wanting to "hit" on a boom for a relative low money total. 

Chesson is going up against a staunch Ohio State defense this weekend. With that said, he's the big-play threat the Wolverines will need in order to upend the Buckeyes.


RB Ronald Jones II, Southern Cal: $4,900

Due to the injury to Tre Madden, Jones II has been getting a good chunk of the carries for the Trojans. 

The true freshman out of Texas has an incredible burst—as evidenced by a 6.8 yards-per-carry average on the season. Jones II has at least 14 carries in four of the past five games and also has registered four touchdowns in the same time span.

This weekend in a crosstown rivalry, he'll be going up against a UCLA run defense ranked No. 83 in the country.

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2015 Civil War: Game Grades, Analysis for Oregon State vs. Oregon

The No. 17 Oregon Ducks (9-3, 7-2) won the 119th installment of the Civil War rivalry with a 52-42 victory over the Oregon State Beavers (2-10, 0-9) on Friday evening in Eugene, Oregon.

Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. passed for 366 yards and three touchdowns, while the Ducks rushed for 308 yards and four scores. Running back Royce Freeman led the Ducks with 167 yards on the ground.


Pass Offense: Oregon State quarterback Marcus McMaryion struggled in the first half and had just two completions heading into the locker room. However, in the second half he made some big throws. Backup quarterback Seth Collins operated from under center for several plays, but was used more in the running game.

Run Offense: Freshman running back Ryan Nall rushed for 174 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Collins rushed for three touchdowns, while McMaryion ran one in, too. Overall, the Beavers rushed for 228 yards and five touchdowns. 

Pass Defense: The Beavers struggled in pass defense all day. They couldn't force a turnover and rarely made Adams have to reset and throw. 

Run Defense: Whether it was inside runs, zone reads or the option, the Beavers were no match for Oregon's running game. Speed was the primary factor. 

Special Teams: Victor Bolden's punt return for a touchdown was impressive and came at an important time for the Beavers, as it cut the Oregon lead to three in the fourth quarter. Oregon State also blocked a first-quarter field goal. 

Coaching: Gary Andersen had his team prepared. The Beavers got down big but fought back and almost won. Oregon State's defense was overmatched and didn't try to shake things up by sending more blitzes at Adams. 


Pass Offense: Adams was terrific. He used his feet to make plays in the passing game and made several big throws moving to his left. He was accurate and took good care of the football, while still taking chances. Bralon Addison finished with 106 yards receiving and three touchdowns.

Run Offense: Freeman, the nation's No. 3 rusher, had another great game. Overall, the Ducks rushed for over 300 yards and four scores. Oregon dominated Oregon State's run defense for four quarters. 

Pass Defense: In the first half, Oregon State could not throw the football. The Ducks even forced a turnover. However, in the second half, the Ducks allowed a few big plays. Overall, it wasn't a bad effort though, as OSU passed for under 200 yards. 

Run Defense: The Ducks couldn't stop Nall or Collins in the red zone. After a strong defensive effort in the first half, Nall dominated Oregon throughout the second half. 

Special Teams: Oregon had a kick blocked and allowed a punt return for a touchdown. The punter had no hang time on his lone punt. The Ducks did have a pair of solid returns. Overall, Saturday was not Oregon's best effort on special teams.

Coaching: Mark Helfrich did an outstanding job of keeping the Ducks calm when Oregon State made it all the way back from a 31-7 deficit. The game plan was sound on offense. Defensively, Oregon needed to put more pressure on OSU's young quarterbacks. 


Bryan Manning is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report covering college football. You can follow him on Twitter @bdmanning4. 

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Iowa Now Just One Step from Playoff After Business-Like Win vs. Nebraska

It wasn’t easy. It never is with this Iowa football team.

That’s the reality of this unexpected 2015 season, a year that began with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz on the hot seat and might end with a most unlikely College Football Playoff berth.

The Hawkeyes aren’t flashy. They might not be as talented as other teams in the national title conversation. But they play with effort. They play efficiently. They don’t make mistakes, and that’s why they’re 12-0 and one step away from a playoff spot after Friday’s 28-20 win at Nebraska.

“They play hard,” Ferentz told ABC’s Olivia Harlan on-air following the game. “I’ve said it all along. I don’t know how good they are, but they play hard and they play together. It’s a lot of fun to be with them every day.”

Iowa was outgained by Nebraska, 433-250. The Hawkeyes didn’t convert a third down all day. Quarterback C.J. Beathard completed just nine of 16 passes for 97 yards with a touchdown. But aside from a Desmond King muffed punt that Nebraska turned into a touchdown, Ferentz and Co. didn’t do things to hurt themselves all day long.

You can’t say the same for the Cornhuskers, who committed eight penalties for 95 yards, including multiple silly personal fouls. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw for 296 yards, but he also tossed four interceptions.

Iowa linebacker Parker Hesse tipped an Armstrong pass and returned it three yards for a touchdown, giving the Hawkeyes a lead they would never relinquish.

The Hawks had an answer for everything Nebraska did. After the Huskers cut the lead to 21-17 in the third quarter, tailback Jordan Canzeri rushed 68 yards down the left sideline, (running what looked like the same play as a 29-yard touchdown run earlier in the quarter), for a dagger of a touchdown and a two-score lead.

One year after blowing a 17-point, second-half lead to the Huskers in Iowa City and falling 37-34 in overtime, Iowa simply looked more polished and disciplined than its western neighbors. Friday put the memories of 2014’s ugly 7-6 finish to rest for good. For those tuning in for a first look at Iowa, they got exactly what those who have followed more closely have received all year: smart, hard-nosed football.

“We look at it one week at a time, and we just try to prepare and play our best on Saturday,” Ferentz said. “These guys have handled it week by week. You start to stack them up and good things happen.”

Now it’s time to face reality: Iowa is one win away from the College Football Playoff. The Hawkeyes and Clemson are the only remaining FBS unbeatens, and it’s all but impossible that the selection committee would jump a one-loss team over the Hawkeyes at this point in the season, given their current ranking.

Iowa will face either Michigan State, Michigan or Ohio State in Indianapolis. The Spartans will clinch the East title by beating Penn State Saturday. If Michigan State falls, the winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game would reach Indy.

The Spartans stunned the Buckeyes in Columbus last week, but did so without their best player, senior quarterback Connor Cook, who sat with a shoulder injury. If Cook can’t go, Iowa’s chances of winning increase significantly.

Michigan has had an outstanding first season under Jim Harbaugh’s watch, but they’re quarterbacked by Jake Rudock, who has 16 touchdowns against nine interceptions this season. Rudock, of course, was encouraged to transfer from Iowa by Ferentz after Beathard passed him on the depth chart.

Iowa’s staff would surely have a book on Rudock, and Michigan’s struggling run game and run defense, which has given up multiple big plays in the past two weeks, is also enticing.

Ohio State, with its NFL-caliber talent across the board, from Ezekiel Elliott to J.T. Barrett to Joey Bosa, is the most intimidating foe. Its fast-paced scheme could seriously test Iowa’s opportunistic defense. But at this point, do you count Iowa out against anyone?

The Hawkeyes aren’t polished or pretty, but they’re 12-0 and 60 minutes away from playing in the College Football Playoff. It’s well past time for America to embrace that reality.

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Oregon State vs. Oregon: 2015 Civil War Score, Platypus Trophy Winner and More

The No. 18 Oregon Ducks escaped with their sixth straight win to close the season in the 119th edition of their Civil War rivalry game against the Oregon State Beavers, but the struggles that led to their stumbled start to the campaign resurfaced in Friday's closer-than-hoped 52-42 win.

The Beavers outscored the Ducks 35-21 in the second half, but a 24-point deficit at the break was too great to overcome, giving Oregon its eighth straight win in the one-sided in-state rivalry.

Oregon was on cruise control before the Beavers running backs awoke in the second half, combining for four touchdowns in the final two quarters. Ryan Nall turned in 174 rushing yards, with a long of 66, while Seth Collins took in three scores and showed some acrobatics in the process. The Pac-12 Networks shared replays of two touchdown runs by Collins:

The home run play that pulled the Beavers within a field goal was a huge punt return from Victor Bolden early in the fourth quarter, as shown by the Pac-12 Networks:

Oregon’s strong finish to the season has correlated with an outstanding second half from Vernon Adams Jr., who was 28-of-38 for 388 yards and three touchdowns Friday. During the Ducks’ winning streak, Adams has thrown 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Running back Royce Freeman turned in his 10th game exceeding triple digits on the ground, rushing for 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The sophomore now leads the nation with 1,706 rushing yards and took his place in the Oregon annals, per Andy McNamara of the school’s athletic department:

Freeman’s success was forecast. Adams' wasn't.

As the surprise successor to Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, Adams transferred to Oregon in August after spending three seasons at Eastern Washington. His topsy-turvy saga in Eugene reached a tipping point when the team benched him in Week 3 for backup Jeff Lockie.

The Ducks won’t be defending their Pac-12 title but are poised for a trip to a high-profile bowl game after a strong finish.

The Beavers put forth a valiant effort for a 2-10 team that hasn't won since Week 3, but their overall performance in 2015 wasn't what they had hoped for after signing head coach Gary Andersen away from Wisconsin in the offseason. The team probably won't fire Andersen after just one year, but he’ll need to show significant improvement in 2016 to cool his seat.

Even in a down year for the Pac-12 powerhouse, Oregon still found a way to once again seize the Platypus Trophy after defeating Oregon State in the Civil War for the eighth straight time. Oregon State will look to build upon its resilient performance next year.


Postgame Reaction

Oregon head coach Mike Helfrich acknowledged the game should’ve been out of reach much earlier, per Hayden Kim of the Daily Emerald:

But Helfrich also pointed out that the Ducks never surrendered the lead and came away in tact, per Rob Moseley of

For Duck Nation, the sky seemed to be falling following their 3-3 start, highlighted by a 62-20 drumming at the hands of then-No. 18 Utah. But, as Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports noted, Oregon will head into a formidable bowl game with the chance at 10 wins:

Though not up to par with their recent national title runs, a 9-3 finish to the regular season after losing Mariota is respectable. Adams will be gone next year, but with Freeman as one of seven offensive starters returning, the Ducks have a chance to return to their prolific status among college football’s elite in 2016.

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Baylor vs. TCU Delayed Due to Lightning: Latest Details and Comments

Weather was not being kind to Baylor and TCU ahead of their critical Big 12 matchup on Friday, as the start was delayed due to a lightning storm.  

TCU Football on Twitter confirmed the delay. According to Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News, players are scheduled to take the field at 7 p.m. local time with a "tentative" start scheduled for 7:20 p.m

Friday's matchup between the Bears and Horned Frogs has huge conference title implications. TCU is seeking to right the ship after two losses in the last three games. Baylor has an outside shot at winning the Big 12 with wins over TCU and Texas combined with an Oklahoma loss against Oklahoma State.


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2015 Apple Cup: Game Grades, Analysis for Washington State vs. Washington

With the Washington Huskies needing a win to get bowl eligibility, head coach Chris Petersen showed why he was worth the contract extension into 2020 on Friday, routing No. 20 Washington State 45-10. 

The Pac-12's best defense lived up to its name in the 2015 Apple Cup, forcing seven turnovers against a WSU offense led by backup quarterback Peyton Bender. 

With that, let's check out the grades for each team's positional units. 


Washington Huskies

Rush Offense: A

Led by true freshman running back Myles Gaskin, who racked up 138 yards and two scores on 32 carries, the Huskies set the tone of the game offensively by pounding the ball. Washington finished with 241 yards and three scores via the rushing attack while exposing a weak Cougar front line.  


Pass Offense: B

Jake Browning was undoubtedly efficient today, going 14-of-20 through the air for 203 yards although not having a single touchdown. Browning wasn't asked to do much today, and that's not a knock on him. The defense scored three times, and his rushing attack added another three. Browning's only job was to manage the game and ensure the momentum stayed with Washington, which he did. 


Rush Defense: A+

The Washington defensive line is owed dinner by the entire Husky fanbase—but don't, because NCAA—after their performance against the Cougars. Washington State had just 31 yards rushing on 12 carries, including minus-18 by Peyton Bender. That forced the backup quarterback to go to the air much more than even Washington State coach Mike Leach normally likes to, and that was a recipe for disaster. 


Pass Defense: B+

When your opponent passes the ball 58 times, you're bound to give up some yards. But the Huskies secondary still allowed just 288 yards and one touchdown through the air, while also picking Bender off twice. Both interceptions were taken to the house as well. 


Special Teams: D

This was one glaring area of concern for the Huskies, who were just 1-of-3 on field-goal attempts and also gave up a decent kick return. Perhaps with little to no pressure, it was tougher for the kickers to lock themselves in for the kicks. They grade out bad here, but it is essentially meaningless in a 45-10 rout. 


Coaching: A

Chris Petersen needed today's win to secure a bowl bid for the Huskies, and he delivered it in glorious fashion by routing his squad's in-state rival. This is exactly the type of game that buys you supporters and was the perfect ending to the regular season. 


Washington State Cougars

Rush Offense: F

What is there to say? Thirty-one yards on 12 carries is abysmal. Washington State's lack of a rushing attack forced Peyton Bender into 58 throws and ultimately buried the Cougars. 


Pass Offense: D

Perhaps we're being bit harsh on Bender. After all, he was a late sub for a scratched Luke Falk. But he still looked completely overmatched in the Pac-12, throwing two interceptions and only gaining 288 yards despite 58 pass attempts. Five fumbles lost surely didn't help his team either, but Bender clearly needs more grooming. 


Rush Defense: D

The Cougars defensive front was unable to contain Myles Gaskin and Co., giving up 241 yards on the ground as well as three scores. While it was the Huskies defense that ultimately put the game away, Washington controlled the pace of the game on the ground throughout the tilt. 


Pass Defense: C-

The secondary, despite only being asked to defend 20 passes, still gave up 203 yards through the air, although it did have one interception. Jake Browning is by no means an elite-level quarterback in college football, yet he was the perfect game manager against a mediocre secondary. 


Special Teams: B

A missed field goal is what is penalizing the Cougars in this category. Washington State's return game actually was impressive on Friday afternoon, but its offense just couldn't take advantage. 


Coaching: D

Mike Leach had built up a lot of support over the course of this season, winning eight games and being ranked 20th in the country. Had it not been for one loss to Stanford, the Cougars would have entered today playing for a berth into the Pac-12 title game. Instead, fans across the state will leave the regular season with a far lesser opinion of Leach than they had 24 hours ago. 

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Iowa vs. Nebraska: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

Behind running back Jordan Canzeri's big second half, the No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 28-20 on Friday to finish the regular season at 12-0. 

It is the first time in program history that Iowa has won 12 games. 

Canzeri carried the Hawkeyes offense in the second half, scoring two touchdowns on his way to 140 yards on 17 carries. Another big factor in Iowa's win was the turnover battle, as the team intercepted Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. four times.

In Nebraska's cold, overcast Memorial Stadium, neither offense could get anything going early, combining for a total of 83 yards in the first quarter. The quarter also included an Armstrong interception, a 17-yard punt from Iowa's Marshall Koehn and five penalties for 50 yards. 

Yet some, like KOCO's Carson Cunningham, couldn't turn off the game:

Iowa provided the breakthrough a little more than a minute into the second quarter, when quarterback C.J. Beathard hit tight end George Kittle from 10 yards out. It was Kittle's sixth touchdown of the season on just his 17th reception.

ESPN showed the replay:

With 44 yards of total offense through the game's first 18 minutes, Nebraska got a gift when Iowa's Desmond King fumbled a punt, which the Huskers recovered on the 31-yard line. It wasn't a good first half for King, who was suspended for the first quarter of the game for breaking team rules.

ESPN College Football showed King's error:

CBS Sports' Doug Gottlieb joked about King's status for the rest of the game after his gaffe:

Thanks to a short field and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Iowa sideline, Nebraska tied the game with Imani Cross' four-yard touchdown run and Drew Brown's ensuing extra point.

It was a fitting score for Cross, who got Memorial Stadium rocking during his final home game. ESPN provided video of the run and the celebration that followed (via Hawk Eye):

Following a punt that pinned the Huskers inside the 10-yard line, Iowa's defense made up for King's mistake. Parker Hesse showed off his athleticism and hands when he picked off Armstrong's pass at the 4-yard line and returned it for a score.

ESPN showed the replay:

The play was quintessential Iowa football, according to Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer:

After seeing Nate Gerry, the team's top defensive back, ejected for a targeting call, Nebraska stopped Iowa toward the end of the first half, got the ball back and drove down the field for three points to end the second quarter down 14-10.

Iowa came out firing to start the second half and expanded its lead less than three minutes in. Canzeri put the exclamation point on Iowa's opening drive, scampering 29 yards for a touchdown. He had just 33 yards before his touchdown run.

Cross then got his second touchdown of the game at the end of the 75-yard drive that followed, helping bring Nebraska back within four points. It was much like his first of the day, as he powered up the middle and shed tacklers on his way to paydirt. 

Canzeri's monstrous second half continued on Iowa's next play from scrimmage, as the senior went 68 yards for a score to answer Nebraska's touchdown.

ESPN showed a replay of his second score (via Aaron Van Noy):

It was clinical blocking from the Hawkeyes offensive line, as Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel pointed out:

Nebraska attempted a last-gasp comeback with less than two minutes to go, kicking a field goal to bring the game to within eight points, but the Hawkeyes recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win.

After the loss, Nebraska will not be bowl-eligible this season, having finished the year at 5-7. It's the first time since 2007 that the team has finished a season with fewer than six wins. 

Iowa, on the other hand, will set its sights on the Big Ten Championship Game, where they will face Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan, depending on how Saturday plays out. It will be the Hawkeyes' biggest test of the season, and a win would cement their place in the College Football Playoff.

Post-Game Reaction

A four interception game won't sit well with any quarterback, especially in a losing effort. It holds true with Armstrong after Saturday's game as he spoke with the Lincoln Journal Star's Brian Christopherson:

But Cross, who had both of Nebraska's touchdowns on the day, was quick to take some heat off of Armstrong, per Christopherson:

In the other locker room, spirits were much higher as Iowa completed a historic regular season. Head coach Kirk Ferentz wasn't sure what to tell his team after the game, per's Pat Harty:

Though they aren't the flashiest team in the nation, Ferentz is getting things done, per Harty:

It's working, as Iowa is on the cusp of a Big 10 championship. They now have to wait on who they are playing. The Hawkeyes have an opportunity to silence a lot of doubters who believe they shouldn't be ranked so high due to their strength of schedule. 

But if Iowa is able to win the conference by beating either Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan, there should be no reason why they aren't competing for a national championship in January. 

Stats courtesy of

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Missouri vs. Arkansas: Game Grades and Analysis for Tigers and Razorbacks

The Arkansas Razorbacks cruised to a 28-3 win over the Missouri Tigers Saturday in soggy Razorback Stadium. 

Alex Collins and the Arkansas running attack spoiled Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel’s likely final game on the Tigers’ sideline. Missouri falls to 5-7 with the loss, but could possibly still be offered a bowl bid depending on the remaining results from this week across the nation. Arkansas finishes its regular season at 7-5. 

Here is a look at how each team graded out by unit: 

Pass Offense

True freshman quarterback Drew Lock has struggled greatly since taking over for the suspended Maty Mauk halfway through the season and Saturday was more of the same. After getting a very minor rhythm going to end the half with a big throw to Wesley Leftwich, Lock was ineffective for the rest of the game. He finished with a measly 83 yards and an interception on 9-of-27 passing, which is just abysmal. It was not all on the quarterback, as the receivers had a tough time getting open all game. Lock is a talented player and many, including KTGR Sportswire's Brandon Kiley, are hoping he remains Missouri's quarterback: 

Run Offense

In order to have any success on offense, Missouri needed to establish a running game to take the pressure off of Lock, especially in the rainy conditions. The Tigers have the talent to do so with Russell Hansbrough and Ish Witter, but the unit only amassed 88 yards on the ground. The entire offense was anemic and the rush offense faded as Arkansas’ lead grew. 


Pass Defense

Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen entered the day among the SEC’s leaders in passing, and the Missouri pass defense had some mild success against him. Arkansas only totaled 102 passing yards with a pick, but that was largely due to the Razorbacks focus on the ground game. Still, this unit was at least respectable for the Tigers. 


Run Defense

Missouri entered the game in the top 30 nationally in rush defense, but it was gashed by Arkansas. Collins was able to burst through open holes and carry defenders for extra yards with ease as the Razorbacks averaged more than four yards per carry. Arkansas’ advantage in this aspect of the game gave the Razorbacks complete control as they milked the clock and held the ball for long stretches of time. Given Missouri’s lackluster offense, the Tigers had no chance once Collins got going. 


Special Teams

It was a busy day for the Missouri punting unit, as most of the Tigers’ drives ended in this fashion. As a result of Missouri’s offense, punter Corey Fatony was able to set a record for most punts in a season, per Austin Kim of ABC 17: 

Fatony punted eight times and kicker Andrew Baggett was good from 35 yards away. While the special teams’ contributions were rather insignificant, it was still solid. 



It is tough to lay any criticism on Missouri on Pinkel’s final game, but the Tigers’ game plan was not too strong. The offense had its most success when the ball was spread out to the perimeter to give the Tigers’ playmakers space to run. However, Missouri continued to run dives and clog the middle of the field with receivers. A greater emphasis on zone reads and screen passes could have created more explosive plays. On defense, Missouri was simply outmatched by Arkansas’ massive offensive line and there was not much the coaching staff could do about it. Regardless, Pinkel still received praise for a great coaching career: 

Pass Offense

Allen was quiet on the day, but he only threw 17 passes as Arkansas pounded the ball on the ground. He did not add to his 29 touchdown passes on the season and his lone interception came late in the game when Arkansas was in total command. However, Allen would have liked to play a better second half, as he only completed three passes. 


Run Offense

Collins proved his dominance Saturday, finishing with 130 yards and three touchdowns, with all of the scores coming before halftime. He also climbed the school record book with his performance:

Head coach Bret Bielema implied after the game that Collins may leave for the NFL following this season, per Sports Talk With Bo's Bo Mattingly:

He certainly showed all of the qualities of a great NFL running back with his quick burst through the line of scrimmage, deft footwork and powerful running style. Arkansas’ rushing unit established the tone of the afternoon and carried the offense to victory. 


Pass Defense

Missouri struggled immensely to move the ball through the air. Much of that was due to Lock’s inaccuracy and the Tigers’ inability to create separation from the Arkansas secondary. The wet conditions also played a role. Regardless, this unit did its job against a shaky passing attack. 


Run Offense

Against a veteran offensive line, Arkansas controlled the line of scrimmage and severely limited Missouri’s rushing attack. The Tigers came in with one of the worst ground games statistically in America and Arkansas continued that trend. It was a solid effort that forced Missouri to throw often with an inexperienced quarterback on the road. 


Special Teams

With no field goal attempts and not many punts, Arkansas did not have much to show for on special teams. This is generally a good sign of a team’s performance. However, the unit got away with a major blemish as a first half punt from Missouri bounced off of Santos Ramirez’s leg, but no call was made. The ensuing drive then turned into the game’s first touchdown, but it was a major break for the Razorbacks that cannot happen again. 



It became apparent early on that Arkansas was the better team and Bielema and his staff took advantage of Arkansas’ strengths. The offense continued to feed Collins in the rainy weather to control the game while also pressuring Lock and deploying a simple defensive game plan. Credit Bielema for a strong SEC season that resulted in five conference wins.

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Jim Harbaugh Posts Video of Migos Dabbing in Support of Michigan

Michigan and Ohio State will clash Saturday, but the Wolverines have already won.

On Friday, head coach Jim Harbaugh tweeted a video of two members of Migos—yes, the inventors of the "Dab"—touting Michigan with their insanely popular dance move.

Let's be honest: The Buckeyes don't stand a chance now.


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Baylor vs. TCU: Live Score and Highlights

Baylor shocked TCU with a furious 21-point fourth-quarter rally to win last year’s matchup—a stunning win that ultimately kept Gary Patterson’s squad out of the first-ever College Football Playoff.

On Friday night, the 19th-ranked Horned Frogs (9-2) will look to return the favor when they host the No. 7 Bears (9-1), who are one of a handful of contenders to make this year’s playoff.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 ET and will be televised nationally by ESPN.

We’ll be watching the matchup and providing live analysis as the action unfolds:

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Nebraska WR Brandon Reilly Makes Juggling Catch by Corralling Ball Around Legs

During a game against Iowa on Friday, Nebraska wide receiver Brandon Reilly made a mind-boggling catch despite Desmond King's solid defense.

It took place in the third quarter, when quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. floated a ball toward the sideline on second down.

Reilly leaped, got a hand on the rock and then hauled it in around his legs while lying on the turf.

Just like the Cornhuskers drew it up.


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LSU's Sloppy Handling of Les Miles Situation Unfair to Him, Players and Fans

LSU head coach Les Miles will coach his last game Saturday against Texas A&M. Or he won't. It depends which report you believe.

Rumors of Miles' job security—or lack thereof—have been circulating for the better part of two weeks. Scott Rabalais of the Advocate reported on Nov. 17 that there were "strong indications" Miles was coaching for his job in the final two games of the season.

A later report from's Joe Schad corroborated the notion that Miles was on his way out after losing consecutive games to Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss. James Smith of the Times-Picayune reported that Miles' astonishing $15 million buyout was not a "hindrance" in the decision-making process.

However, Miles himself said he had "no idea" what his future would be. "Certainly we've run into distractions before, but this seems to be a pretty prevailing and evident distraction," he said, per David Ching of

The overwhelming belief is that Miles will no longer coach LSU after this season. But the frustrating part of this story has been the inconsistency in reporting, which seems to change not just on a day-to-day basis, but also an hour-to-hour one.

On Friday, Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett Louisiana reported that Saturday's game against the Aggies would be Miles' last. Shortly thereafter, Ross Dellenger of the Advocate reported the exact opposite:

All the while, LSU has not offered a formal statement on Miles' future. Other than's reporting that the athletic department's sports information director denied any truth to Schad's report, the university's brass has been silent.

This is beyond unfair to Miles, the football players at LSU and even the fanbase.

Miles has coached LSU to a pair of national championship appearances—winning one in 2007—along with three SEC West titles and two SEC titles. His record of 110-32 in 11 seasons at LSU means he's averaging 10 wins per season. He puts players into the NFL regularly.

His 48 wins in the past five years tie the same number of wins Alabama head coach Nick Saban had when he coached the Tigers from 2000-04. One more win would surpass that total, as Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports tweeted:

It's true that times have been leaner in Baton Rouge lately. Regardless of what happens against the Aggies, LSU will win no more than eight regular-season games for the second straight year. What's more, LSU has lost five straight games to Alabama, dating back to the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.

The offense has failed to develop a quarterback over the past couple of years, and this past offseason, heralded defensive coordinator John Chavis left for the same job at Texas A&M.

It's rare for even great programs to maintain a dynastic level of success annually. What Miles has been able to do over the course of 11 years—and 11 years is an eternity to stay at one place these days—is a remarkable achievement.

If LSU is in fact pushing Miles out the door, the least it can do is be entirely upfront with him about its intentions.

Just a month ago, LSU was the No. 2 team in the College Football Playoff rankings:

And this is how LSU treats Miles in return? By leaving him to fend for himself in press conferences and to fans at radio call-in shows?

“I don’t know how you keep smiling, but you do,” one emotional person said at Miles' call-in show this week, via Dellenger. “That’s why we love you. … We’re not going to let you leave town.”

What fans are owed pales in comparison to what Miles is owed. However, with the amount of money poured into athletics—and the part fans play in that, what with season tickets and donations to the athletic department—they have the right to know what the university's plans are for its head coach.

That's not to say fans should have a say in the outcome, but they shouldn't be left in the dark about what it will be.

Miles is also a player's coach. If it were up to him, Saturday's home game against A&M would be all about those players and the departing seniors. Instead, the overtone of the game will be wrapped around Miles' future—not the kids who gave everything they could for him.

College football asks a lot of its players. It asks them to sacrifice and play through injury. It asks them to be as perfect as they can possibly be. At a place like LSU, it also asks them to win national championships.

So, yes, LSU needs to have a clear plan so the players who do everything for Miles can know who their head coach will be.

If LSU has a plan, it's not doing a good job of relaying it. How else do you describe unconfirmed, conflicting reports and secrecy from the school? The whole situation screams of a hasty reaction with no real long-term vision.

If LSU does fire Miles, it must have an ace hire ready to go. And then a good Plan B. And a good Plan C. Elite jobs don't always get their first choice, either. Letting a coach go is the easy part; it's finding the next guy that's difficult.

Upgrading from a bad coach/situation to a good coach/situation would be one thing, but LSU would be attempting to upgrade from a good/very good situation to an even better one. That's not as easy as you think because it limits the pool of coaching candidates. Chances are most of those candidates have good jobs already.

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher, a former assistant for the Tigers under Saban and Miles, has been connected to the LSU job, per Safid Deen of the Tallahassee Democrat. For what it's worth, Fisher said, “I’m happy where I’m at. I’m very happy here. I’ve got a great job. I love this place. It is a great place and it has been very good to me."

But think of it this way: Fisher is two seasons removed from a national championship and is recruiting well enough to win more. It's not like Fisher would be upgrading in either of those areas. LSU has the No. 2 class for 2016, according to 247Sports, and regularly pulls in blue-chip talent, but you could also say the same thing about Florida State.

When you think of it that way, that seems like a lateral move for Fisher. If LSU can't lure him away, whom exactly are they going to get who's just as good and still considered an upgrade over Miles?

Forget money—there's only so much one can do with it—and forget recruiting, as Florida is actually a better state for it than Louisiana. Would you want that job knowing why your predecessor was let go?

These are the things LSU has to think about if it's going in a new direction. But first, it needs to think about Miles—you know, the guy who may or may not still be the coach there—and the lack of respect it is showing him after all he's done.


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All records courtesy of

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Miami vs. Pittsburgh: Game Grades and Analysis for the Hurricanes

The Miami Hurricanes got a big win against the Pittsburgh Panthers to finish the regular season 8-4. Now they'll wait and see which bowl game they'll participate in.

Quarterback Brad Kaaya was able to have a very productive game, and the defense was able to get off to a fast start. And credit has to go to kicker Michael Badgley, who scored just as many points as the Hurricanes offense.

The Hurricanes may have let the Panthers back in the game in the second half, but they were able to do just enough to earn their eighth win of the season. So here are some game grades to hand out for the Hurricanes.


Passing Offense

Brad Kaaya was as efficient as you could ask for a veteran quarterback. He completed 21 of his 35 passes for 261 yards and one touchdown. He was able to target Rashawn Scott for seven catches for 74 yards and one score.

Kaaya was a big reason the Hurricanes were able to win the game. His presence in the pocket helped the Hurricanes moved the ball consistently, which helped Badgley kick five field goals.


Rushing Offense

However, the run game was nothing to sneeze about as the Hurricanes ended the day with 116 yards. Joe Yearby led the Hurricanes with 99 yards on 22 carries. He was able to run between the tackles and kept the chains moving when Miami needed it the most.

The Hurricanes would have loved to have gotten more out of Mark Walton, who only had 13 yards on 19 carries, but because Kaaya was able to move the ball through the air, the run game did not have to be as effective as it could have been.


Passing Defense

Miami did a good job keeping Pittsburgh quarterback Nate Peterman in check. He finished the afternoon completing 13 of his 27 passes for 142 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The Hurricanes were able to sack Peterman three times, and Artie Burns got an early interception on Peterman, his sixth of the season. 

Peterman is not the best quarterback in the ACC, but he was able to do some good things this season. And while he was able to help the Panthers get back in the game in the second half, the Hurricanes frustrated him all game long.


Rushing Defense

If there was one thing the Hurricanes did not do well, it would have to be shutting down the Panthers ground game. As a team, the Panthers rushed for 189 yards and Darrin Hall had 103 yards on 12 carries and one score.

The Hurricanes also had trouble stopping Tyler Boyd, who had 47 yards on just three carries. The Hurricanes were able to make stops when they needed it most, but if the Panthers gave the ball to Hall 10 more times in the game, the outcome probably would have been different.


Special Teams

Anytime your kicker is able to nail five field goals in a game, you are doing something right. Badgley scored 15 points for the Hurricanes, and all of his field goals split the uprights. The only bad play the special teams had was allowing a 91-yard kick return in the fourth quarter, which set up a Panthers touchdown to get the back in the game.

But the Hurricanes recovered an onside kick afterwards to make up for the mistake. Overall, it was a very good day for special teams, which was much needed in a game like this.



Credit has to go to Larry Scott, who led the Hurricanes to a 4-1 record after the firing of Al Golden. This team still made some mistakes, but they are playing inspired football and will play in a good bowl game because of the coaching staff.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the coaching staff at the end of the season. Scott proved that he can turn a program around, but there are also some good candidates out there. If Scott is able to win the bowl game, he will have to be a finalist for the job.


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Keenan Reynolds Ties Montee Ball for Most Career TDs in FBS History

While his team lost an opportunity to play in the American Athletic Conference's title game, Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds made some history during Friday's 52-31 loss to Houston. 

With a four-yard rushing touchdown with 6:46 left in the game, he tied former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball for most career touchdowns in FBS history with 83, per SportsCenter

Reynolds had a career day in the loss, passing for 312 yards and another touchdown. It was the first time in his career that he had a game of 250 passing yards or more. 

Playing in a run-heavy offense, Reynolds recorded 84 yards on the ground Friday, the third straight season in which he's eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark. He is also one rushing touchdown away from a third consecutive season of 20 or more scores. In his sophomore season in 2013, Reynolds led the nation with 31 rushing touchdowns. 

While he's garnered some talk about being in the running for the Heisman Trophy, it sounds like he isn't sure if he'll be pursuing football after college, as he told Jay Mohr on Fox Sports Radio:

Regardless of what happens after his college playing career, though, Reynolds has been one of the most explosive players in college football over the past three years.

He helped put Navy back on the national map, leading the team to a No. 15 ranking before the loss to Houston. A win against Army on December 12 would ensure Navy's first 10-win season since 2009 and just its third since 1905. 


Stats courtesy of

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Navy vs. Houston: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

In a Black Friday battle for supremacy in the American Athletic Conference's West Division, the Houston Cougars defeated the No. 15 Navy Midshipmen 52-31 at TDECU Stadium in Houston.

With the win, the Cougars improved to 11-1 on the season and clinched the right to host the AAC Conference Championship Game next weekend, while the Midshipmen fell to 9-2 and suffered their first conference loss of the 2015 campaign.

Junior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. led the way for Houston with 308 passing yards and three touchdowns to go along with 83 rushing yards and another score. 

The biggest key to the team's success, though, may have been the play of junior cornerback Brandon Wilson, who played running back for the first time at the collegiate level and thrived to the tune of 111 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

The Cougars' options were limited, with star running back Kenneth Farrow out due to an ankle injury, but as Mark Berman of Fox 26 KRIV pointed out, Houston head coach Tom Herman made an innovative and effective decision by inserting Wilson into the lineup:


Houston came out of the gates firing, as their opening drive lasted over five minutes on 13 plays for 82 yards. It culminated in a five-yard scoring strike from Ward to Steven Dunbar.

It didn't take long for Navy to answer, though, as its first play from scrimmage was a 52-yard run by senior quarterback Keenan Reynolds, which set the stage for a four-yard touchdown tote by senior fullback Chris Swain.

The scoring binge continued on Houston's ensuing drive in the form of a 17-yard run to paydirt by Wilson to cap another series that took more than five minutes off the clock.

Navy tied things up once again with just over nine minutes remaining in the first half. The Midshipmen decided to dial up the passing game, as Reynolds connected with Tyler Carmona for 41 yards before throwing a 26-yard touchdown to Jamir Tillman.

With that, Reynolds tied Navy's all-time record with 29 career touchdown passes, per Gene Wang of the Washington Post.

He ended the day with a season-high 312 passing yards, 84 rushing yards and two total touchdowns in a losing effort, and his seasonal stats are impressive as well. The NCAA's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns has 25 total touchdowns in 2015, which prompted John McClain of the Houston Chronicle to suggest him as a Heisman Trophy candidate:


While it seemed as though the momentum was starting to shift in Navy's favor, Houston put a stop to that with its third double-digit-play scoring drive of the first half.

This time, Ward finished it off on his own with the most impressive five-yard scoring scamper college football observers will ever see, as evidenced by this video courtesy of ESPN:


The Cougars quickly shut down Navy's running game on the next drive, which was among the biggest storylines of the contest.

Aside from Reynolds' long run early in the game, Houston did well to limit big plays, and Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports praised the manner in which it defended the option:


Houston got the ball back with just one minute and 30 seconds remaining in the half at its own 29-yard line, but Ward managed to orchestrate a masterful drive down to the Navy 28, with two long scrambles playing a significant role.

Cougars kicker Ty Cummings hadn't made a field goal longer than 37 yards on the season entering the game, but he nailed a 45-yarder before halftime to give Houston a 24-14 advantage.

As seen in this graphic from the University of Houston football's official Twitter account, the Cougs dominated in essentially every facet in the first half, including rushing and time of possession, which is rare against Navy:


The Midshipmen got the ball to open the second half, but Reynolds misfired for the first time in the game on Navy's second play from scrimmage, which resulted in senior safety Trevon Stewart intercepting him at the Navy 46.

Houston did well to cash in on the mistake, as Ward completed a six-play drive with a beautiful fade-route touchdown pass to Linell Bonner in the back of the end zone to make it 31-14.

Navy's next drive lasted 11 plays as it continued to pound the rock, but the Midshipmen had to settle for a 39-yard field goal from Austin Grebe after things stalled out.

That pulled Navy to within two touchdowns, but failing to pick up six proved costly, as the Cougars scored another touchdown soon after.

Ward threw his third touchdown pass of the day, but junior wide receiver Demarcus Ayers did most of the work, as he remarkably made a one-handed grab and ran 62 yards for the score, as seen in this video from ESPN's Sam Khan Jr.:


Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports 1 was among those who could barely believe what they witnessed:


The Midshipmen were forced into desperation mode from that point forward, as they trailed 38-17. That was apparent when they went for it on a 4th-and-8 from Houston's 31 on the next drive. They were able to convert it on a pass to Thomas Wilson, and Swain then kept Navy's hopes alive with his second touchdown run of the game to make it 38-24.

The Cougars were pinned down at their own 4-yard line after a penalty on the kick return, but it took them just three minutes and 30 seconds to drive 96 yards for yet another touchdown.

Ayers was once again involved in the scoring play, but this time, the former high school quarterback was the passer, as he threw a 29-yard touchdown to Bonner to put Houston up 45-24.

The never-say-die Midshipmen continued to fight, as they answered once again on the next drive by virtue of a four-yard touchdown run by Reynolds.

While it ultimately didn't spur a comeback, the scoring run was a historic one, as it tied Reynolds with former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball for the most career touchdowns in FBS history with 83, according to the AAC on Twitter.

Navy had a chance to make things interesting, as it trailed by 14, but its defense once again couldn't stop the Cougs, who orchestrated a 12-play, six-minute drive that culminated in a Wilson touchdown run with 41 seconds left to cap the scoring.

Many were down on Houston after it was upset last week by UConn, but the Cougars clearly weren't down on themselves, as they turned in arguably their most impressive showing of the season Friday.

With the victory, Houston is likely one win away from playing in a major bowl game.

The Cougars will host either Temple or South Florida next weekend in the AAC Championship Game, and while neither opponent would be a gimme by any means, Houston will certainly be favored at home.

If Ward and the offense as a whole continue to play like they did against Navy, then Houston may have a legitimate shot to knock off a big-conference team in a significant bowl game to close the campaign.


Post-Game Reaction

Friday's game between Navy and Houston was easily the biggest contest of the year in the AAC. Not only did the winner earn a berth into the AAC Championship Game, but it also kept their hopes alive in terms of playing in one of the top bowls.

The Cougars undoubtedly earned their way into the title game with a sterling performance, and they enjoyed a fitting celebration afterward, as seen in this video courtesy of Houston recruiting assistant Bryan Carrington:

The University of Houston players were also given the AAC West championship trophy, which junior defensive end Cameron Malveaux carried off the field, according to Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle:

Herman, who served as Ohio State's offensive coordinator from 2012 through 2014, received no shortage of praise on Twitter after the win.

Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones was among those who tipped their cap in his direction:

OSU running back Ezekiel Elliott did the same:

During his press conference, Herman was extremely complimentary of all facets of his team's performance against a tough Midshipmen squad.

He was especially happy with the offense as it bounced back one week after scoring just 17 points against UConn due largely to Ward suffering an injury:

Herman praised the defense as well, citing the fact that it forced Navy to deviate from its usual game plan:

Such a complete performance bodes well for Houston moving forward as it will face either Temple or South Florida in next week's AAC Championship Game before competing in a bowl.

While the level of competition has been suspect at times, the Cougars have looked like one of the best teams in college football all season long.

That was the case Friday, and they'll have a chance to prove it in their next two games as well, which will both carry major implications.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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