A unique Labor Day college football game pitted the Louisville Cardinals against the Miami (Florida) Hurricanes. After the Cardinals beat Miami 36-9 in last year's Russell Athletic Bowl, the Hurricanes were again dominated on Monday, 31-13, at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Beating Louisville at home with coach Bobby Petrino at the helm is a tall task, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out:
Both teams were starting freshman quarterbacks—Louisville's redshirt signal-caller Will Gardner and Miami's true first-year passer Brad Kaaya. Gardner was without his No. 1 receiving target in DeVante Parker, yet he showed superior poise and was more proficient than his overwhelmed counterpart.
Gardner, who went 20-of-28 for 206 yards with two touchdowns, also had the benefit of a superior running game, courtesy of Dominique Brown's 143 yards on 33 carries.
The Cardinals shut down Miami running back Duke Johnson for the most part. Johnson is one of the most explosive playmakers in college football, yet he had little room to run versus Louisville's front seven. He amassed just 69 yards on his first 19 carries—and that included a 24-yard scamper.
Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel lamented the tactics deployed by Miami's coaching staff:
Johnson didn't get going until the fourth quarter after the Hurricanes turned it over on downs, following a decent drive into Louisville territory. This included a long reception from Johnson negated by a penalty.
Former Louisville safety and current New York Jet Calvin Pryor was attuned to what the talented Johnson was doing:
The big momentum changer came earlier on special teams, when Louisville's Corvin Lamb took a kickoff 97 yards to the house with 4:37 remaining in the first half. It came just after Kaaya's best drive of the night—a nine-play, 88-yard jaunt that ended in three points and a 10-7 Hurricanes lead.
Then Miami found itself suddenly down and dejected from Lamb's playmaking in the return game. Adding insult to injury, Lamb was a product of the opposition's stomping grounds.
ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson supplied this keen bit of information:
As was the case in their last encounter with the Cardinals, the Hurricanes were unable to convert third-down opportunities. Miami missed in all 11 third-down situations in the Russell Athletic Bowl and missed on its first nine Monday evening.
Kaaya finally came through with a completion late in the third quarter, but it offered little consolation after such a terrible stretch of execution. On the very next play, a bad Kaaya throw was well behind his intended target and picked off by James Sample.
Maybe this is some consolation for Hurricanes fans from ESPN's Colin Cowherd:
An inauspicious three-and-out to start the game preceded Gardner's exceptional first touchdown drive in place of departed star QB Teddy Bridgewater. Gardner completed all five passes on the march, hitting freshman tight end Charles Standberry for a two-yard TD strike.
Although Kaaya would respond with a two-yard scoring toss of his own in the second quarter, he was badly outplayed by Gardner otherwise, posting a final line of 17-of-29 passing for 174 yards and two interceptions.
Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN empathized with Kaaya:
That doesn't mean the Hurricanes couldn't have found a way to claw back into the game, though. A couple of gift-wrapped turnovers generated chances to score. They just weren't taken advantage of.
Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead was critical of how Miami squandered golden opportunities to capitalize on turnovers with little ground to cover before paydirt:
Brown wore down the Hurricanes defense throughout, and when he scored a 15-yard TD to extend the lead to 21-13 late in the third, CardinalSports.com's Howie Lindsey compared Brown favorably to another physical Cardinals ball-carrier:
On Gardner's second TD pass of the night, Brown threw a great block after the play-action fake, as Gerald Christian hauled in the 10-yard strike with just 1:43 left in the game.
Petrino's return to the Louisville sidelines went smoothly enough, and he was excited to get the year underway with a high-profile game off the bat.
"I've always enjoyed opening with a game that had a lot at stake," said Petrino, per The Courier-Journal's Jeff Greer. "It really helps you in the offseason. It helps you with your motivation in the winter and getting up early for your workouts. It's a great opening for us. Our players are excited about it."
Louisville Football noted just how much fanfare followed the Cardinals to Monday's game:
This reaction from the New York Post's Brian Costello summarizes the probable sentiments in South Beach:
Hurricanes coach Al Golden was bold to start the untested Kaaya over fifth-year senior Jake Heaps. Based on how bad the offense looked Monday, perhaps Golden will turn to the more seasoned signal-caller in Heaps before handing the keys to Kaaya for good.
This is a momentous victory for Louisville against a traditionally quality opponent. The Cardinals needed a positive start to their inaugural season in the ACC, and they got it. In the process, they saw their young QB, Gardner, overcome the loss of his best receiver.
It was enough to suggest Louisville's offense can survive without Parker for the time being.
It will be interesting to see whether Miami keeps Kaaya in for what could be a confidence booster at home against Florida A&M. Meanwhile, Louisville remains at home and will improve to 2-0 versus Murray State on Saturday, barring an unbelievable upset.
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One week after landing 3-star California offensive lineman Dru Samia, the Oklahoma Sooners doubled down in the Golden State by offering a pair of 2015 standouts in 4-star receiver Ykili Ross and 4-star linebacker Khaylan Thomas.
The 6’2”, 185-pound Ross is a U.S. Army All-American with offers from powerhouses such as Notre Dame, UCLA, Oregon and Texas A&M among others.
Thomas, a 6’2”, 210-pound outside linebacker, holds offers from the likes of Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Miami among others.
The fact that Bob Stoops and his staff are active in California is not a new phenomenon.
As Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman described, the Sooners began to make a dent in the Golden State with a 2010 class that included future standouts such as Brennan Clay, Tony Jefferson and Kenny Stills.
“I think a lot of things,” Stoops said to Kersey. “Success, you know, the championships we've been in and won, and not won. And I think they pay attention and see a lot of the success California kids have had coming out here. I think it all goes together. And the fact that we're on TV every week.”
If Stoops is able to land a few more West Coast blue-chippers, expect the Sooners to make a run at landing the Big 12’s top class.
Stanford Offers Trio of 2016 4-Star Standouts
Things have started slowly for David Shaw and Stanford in the 2015 cycle, but it appears that the Cardinal are turning up the heat on some of the nation’s top juniors.
Texas 4-star wide receiver Devin Duvernay also picked up an offer from Stanford. The 5’11”, 185-pounder is the No. 38 player overall and the No. 5 wide receiver in the 2016 class. Duvernay has offers from powers such as Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Alabama and Auburn, among numerous others.
Finally, per Paul Strelow of TigerIllustrated, the Cardinal offered 4-star corner Tennessee native Nygel Edmonds. Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Clemson, Duke and Virginia Tech are among the schools who have offered the 5’11”, 181-pounder.
Ohio State Offers a Pair of 2016 Studs
Ohio State is the newest offer for 4-star corner Damar Hamlin.
The Buckeyes represent the fourth offer for the 6’0”, 175-pound Pittsburgh product. Penn State, Pittsburgh and Temple are his other three offers.
Hamlin camped at both Penn State and Ohio State in July, and he’s currently rated as the nation’s No. 12 corner in the 2016 class.
Urban Meyer also tendered an offer to 4-star North Carolina wide receiver Divine Deablo. The Buckeyes join Clemson, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia as a group of powers trying to land Deablo.
Alabama Offers 2015 Texas RB Commit
With T.J. Yeldon a potential candidate to turn pro after this season and the likely emergence of sophomore running back Derrick Henry this fall, a strong possibility exists that Nick Saban and his staff will look to use one of the last few 2015 scholarships available on a quality back.
The Tide offered 3-star Texas commitment Tristian Houston last week.
While pulling Houston away from Texas and landing Patrick over favorite Florida State would be upsets, the Tide may still be active in searching for another running back to complement Flowers in the 2015 class.
2016 Florida CB Saivion Smith Blowing Up
Miami and Tennessee are the latest schools to offer 2016 4-star corner Saivion Smith.
The 6’1”, 175-pounder is rated as the No. 60 overall prospect in the 2016 class and the sixth-best corner.
Smith holds offers from Florida State, Florida, UCLA, Clemson and Ohio State, among others.
The IMG Academy standout attended a summer camp at Florida and came away impressed, according to GatorBait’s Luke Stampini (subscription required).
"I did a camp and then I did an unofficial visit after," Smith said. "It's real nice. Most schools are spread out. I like how the school is. All the athletes have easy access to all the classrooms, the dorms aren't spread out real far."
Best of the Rest
- Oregon offered 2015 3-star defensive tackle Raequan Williams.
- North Carolina offered 3-star 2015 defensive end Tyrone Riley, per Woody Wommack of Rivals. Kentucky, NC State and Mississippi State are among the suitors for the rising 6’6”, 230-pound pass-rusher.
- Temple is the first school to offer 2015 offensive lineman Calvin Taylor, according to Chris Smith of Vandy247Sports.
- Louisville offered 2016 3-star running back Alex Anderson, who is committed to West Virginia, according to Chris Anderson of EerSports. The Cardinals also offered 2015 3-star JUCO corner Justin Martin.
- Middle Tennessee State offered 2015 Atlanta (Westlake HS) 2-star wideout and Old Dominion commitment Hasaan Patterson.
- Miami (Ohio) offered 2015 sleeper Alabama tight end Kevin Marion, per Smith. His teammate at Spanish Fort High School, 2015 wide receiver Kristian Cotton, picked up an offer from UAB.
- Cincinnati is the first offer for 2016 offensive lineman Marcus Tatum, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.
- Mississippi State offered 2016 4-star wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, according to Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports.
- Mike Farrell of Rivals reported that Rutgers offered 2016 athlete Patrick Johnson.
- Southern Miss is the latest offer for 2016 3-star offensive tackle Parker Boudreaux.
- The fourth and latest offer for 2016 defensive end Christian Colon came from Boston College, per Adam Friedman of Rivals.
- South Carolina jumped into the Maleik Gray sweepstakes with an offer last week, per Barton Simmons of 247Sports. The Gamecocks join the likes of Alabama, Florida State, Georgia and Tennessee as programs chasing the 2017 4-star athlete.
- Tennessee offered 2017 defensive tackle Juan Harris, according to Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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Louisville and Miami (Florida) squared off on Labor Day in Kentucky, and Cardinals running back Corvin Lamb made a statement with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
The huge second-quarter run put the Cardinals up 14-10 over the Hurricanes.
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The entire narrative around the Texas football program changed Monday when head coach Charlie Strong announced the injuries to two key contributors on the Texas offense.
Redshirt junior quarterback David Ash suffered a head injury against North Texas last Saturday and will miss the BYU game on Sept. 6.
According to Strong, Ash believes the injury occurred on the first contact he faced in the first quarter, but he did not begin experiencing symptoms until after Saturday's game.
This injury is nothing new for the redshirt junior quarterback. Ash suffered a concussion against BYU last season, returned to the field two weeks later, only to have recurring concussion symptoms and was sidelined for the remainder of the season.
Strong does not know if Ash will miss more than one game.
But Ash's injury was just a portion of the bad news Strong delivered Monday.
Senior center Dominic Espinosa—who left Saturday's game with an injury—will undergo surgery Wednesday to repair a broken right ankle. No timetable has been set for his return.
Strong has only been in Austin for eight months, but it probably seems like an eternity for the head coach.
Whether it was getting adjusted to the extra attention or added pressure of public speaking, going on a 12-city publicity tour across the state of Texas or dismissing seven players for violating his rules, Strong's short career at Texas has not been a breeze.
The injuries to Ash and Espinosa is just another hiccup for the first-year head coach.
Losing a starting quarterback is a difficult blow for any team to overcome. Replacing a starter with a quarterback who's game experience primarily includes garbage-time play is even worse.
But that's the reality for the Texas offense.
The Longhorns will rely on sophomore Tyrone Swoopes to lead the charge against BYU Saturday.
Nobody truly knows what Swoopes is capable of doing at the college level because of his lack of playing time. And kneeling on the ball to run out the clock in the Longhorns game versus North Texas hardly counts as game experience.
The Longhorns' ground game will need to be utilized more than ever with the inexperienced quarterback under center.
Senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray are two of the best one-two punches in the Big 12, and the pressure will be on both running backs to carry the Texas offense moving forward.
But opening up holes to allow the duo to run wild will be a greater task without Espinosa.
The fifth-year senior has 40 career starts for the Longhorns. His backup, redshirt freshman Jake Raulerson, has yet to start a game.
Espinosa's experience is impossible to replace on the offensive line, which is one of the least seasoned position groups on the team.
Time to Step Up
One could argue losing Espinosa is just as big of a blow as losing Ash.
Throughout the offseason, Strong has constantly said he does not need Ash to carry the offense. In fact, the head coach specifically told the quarterback that all he truly needs him to be is a game manager.
But the reasons why Strong did not need Ash to be outstanding was because of the talent Texas has at running back and the leadership the offense had with Espinosa at the helm.
Strong needs his players to step up and help the team move forward with Ash and Espinosa's futures unknown.
"We have a football team, and we have to go play," Strong said. "Other players have to step up and other players have to go play. It's no different. Now the challenge of this football team is how well we can bounce back and what we're all about."
One positive note for the offensive line is senior Desmond Harrison, who was suspended for the first game of the season after violating team rules, will return to the team for the BYU game, per Wescott Eberts of SB Nation (via Yahoo Sports).
Many Texas players and coaches mentioned Harrison as one of the best players on the offensive line throughout fall camp. And senior defensive end Cedric Reed—whom ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has listed as the No. 1 senior DE for the 2015 NFL draft—said Harrison is one of the toughest opponents to face.
The 6'8", 313-pound senior needs to play up to his potential to protect Swoopes and block for the Longhorns' run game.
Tough Road Ahead
Much of the offense's success is dependent on offensive line coach Joe Wickline's ability to find the right group to help the ground game. And he will need to find that solution as soon as possible as the Longhorns prepare to face some of the toughest opponents on its schedule in the coming weeks.
The next opponent on the schedule is the same team that embarrassed Texas last season and ultimately cost the job of former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. BYU is coming off of a road victory against UConn, which saw the Cougars defense hold its opponent's offense to only 74 rushing yards.
But BYU is only the first hurdle the Longhorns will need to overcome over the next few weeks.
Strong's job got a lot tougher following the 38-7 blowout over North Texas. And the damages from Saturday's win could very well impact the Longhorns' success for the rest of the season.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow her on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.
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On Saturday in Eugene, Oregon a team will claim an inside track to the first ever College Football Playoff. Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon will host Big-10 co-favorite Michigan State in a battle of Top 10 programs.
Let's just call it flash versus smash.
Oregon, currently ranked third in the country according to the Associated Press, comes in fresh off a 62-13 blowout over South Dakota. Michigan State, the defending Rose Bowl champion, is ranked eighth in the country and took down Jacksonville State 45-7 this past weekend.
The Ducks come in featuring one of the best offenses in college football. The offense ranked second in the nation in total yards in 2013 and third in points per game. Meanwhile, the Spartans defense was ranked third in the country last season in points per game and second in total yards.
It’s a clash of clashes and should be treated as such. ESPN’s College Gameday will be broadcasting from the University of Oregon campus on Saturday morning. This will be the sixth consecutive year that the program has taken its talents to Eugene, though it will be the first featuring Oregon and a non-Pac-12 opponent.
In terms of the actual game, here’s what you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 6th
Time: 3:30 p.m. PT
Place: Autzen Stadium (Eugene, OR)
Spread: Oregon -11 according to 5dimes.eu