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College Gridiron 365

UCF Allows Baylor to Comeback from a Huge Deficit

Kevyn Bryant II

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© sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

On Saturday afternoon, Baylor staged a remarkable comeback in the face of a substantial third-quarter deficit of 35-7, ultimately triumphing over UCF, the recent addition to the Big 12, in the Knights’ inaugural conference home game. The Bears secured the victory by scoring 29 consecutive points, with the decisive moment being Isaiah Hankins’s 25-yard field goal with just 1:21 remaining in the game.

This victory marked Baylor’s most significant comeback ever, while UCF suffered their highest-ever points conceded in a comeback by an opposing team.

The UCF Knights made an impressive march down the field, with quarterback Timmy McClain’s fourth-down run to the Baylor 41-yard line as the highlight. On that play, McClain retreated all the way back to the 30-yard line, skillfully avoiding a tackle in the end zone before connecting with R.J. Harvey for a 16-yard gain at the UCF 46-yard line.

At the conclusion of the game, Colton Boomer’s attempt at a 59-yard field goal fell short, resulting in UCF’s loss.

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The Bears achieved this unexpected comeback through two turnovers and four consecutive scoring drives. They closed the gap to just two points, 35-33, with just over six minutes left when Caden Jenkins recovered a dropped snap and ran 72 yards for a touchdown.

Although the Bears faced a challenging game, their unwavering faith kept them in the competition. Wide receiver Monoray Baldwin emphasized their single-minded focus on victory and supporting each other throughout the game.

Johnny Richardson made an explosive start for UCF, scoring a 79-yard touchdown on the opening play of the game, giving the Knights a 21-0 lead. Demari Richardson added to their lead with an 87-yard fumble-recovery touchdown, extending their lead to 28-7 by halftime.

After an initial touchdown drive in the third quarter, the Knights’ offense struggled to gain momentum. UCF managed only 98 yards before their final drive, with two turnovers, including an interception that led to a Baylor touchdown, and a fumble returned for a score.

Gus Malzahn of UCF acknowledged that their own actions contributed to their defeat, while the opposing side did what was necessary to secure the victory.

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Blake Shapen’s return after missing three games due to an MCL strain brought stability to the Baylor offense. He completed 21 passes out of 34 attempts for 293 yards, with 105 of those yards coming in the second half. Baldwin had an impressive game, with seven receptions for 150 yards and one touchdown.

UCF’s McClain ended the game with 234 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

Recovering Quarterbacks:

Blake Shapen’s return was a welcome sight for Baylor after his MCL injury during the season opener against Texas State.

UCF’s starting quarterback, John Rhys Plumlee, was dressed and warmed up but did not take the field, despite being ready to play. Malzahn explained that Plumlee had been cleared to play on Friday but was hesitant to put him in without a practice session. Plumlee had only participated in 7-on-7 drills. His availability for the next match against Kansas remains uncertain and depends on his response to this week’s workouts.

Power for the Future

Baylor’s victory over UCF, following a disappointing 1-3 start to the season, gave the players hope for a successful remainder of the year. Shapen emphasized the importance of unity and using this victory as motivation for the future.

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Despite being predicted to finish sixth in the Big 12 before the season, Baylor currently holds a 1-1 record in conference play. They defeated the favored Knights by 11.5 points, marking their first victory over an FBS team this season.

A Swift Impact

UCF continued with its fast-paced offensive strategy, one of the most potent in the country. Johnny Richardson’s 79-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the game was the Knights’ longest play of the season and the first time they scored on the opening play in nine years.

UCF managed to score 28 points in the first half despite having possession of the ball for only 6 minutes and 58 seconds. Baylor controlled the ball for over 11 minutes in total, but UCF outperformed them in yardage, finishing with 469 yards compared to Baylor’s 446. UCF had an advantage in points and yards per game, but Baylor had more time of possession by a margin of 1 minute and 2 seconds per game.

UCF is quickly learning the distinct nature of football in the Big 12. Even with a home-field advantage, nothing is guaranteed in conference games.

UCF had hoped to commemorate their first Big 12 win against the same team they made a splash against 10 years ago in the Fiesta Bowl. However, they are still adjusting to playing full games in conference play and dropped to 0-2 in their initial Big 12 experience. UCF will visit No. 24 Kansas in the upcoming week, while Texas Tech will face Baylor in a home game.

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College Gridiron 365

Kansas State Triumphs 28-19 Over NC State in Pop-Tarts Bowl Clash

Kevyn Bryant II

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© sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

Kansas State emerges victorious with a 28-19 win over NC State in the highly anticipated Pop-Tarts Bowl, setting Orlando abuzz with excitement.

Despite a valiant effort in the Pop-Tarts Bowl on Thursday night, the Wolfpack fell short in overcoming an early deficit, succumbing to Kansas State with a final score of 28-19.

The Wolfpack concludes their season with a 9-4 record, narrowly missing the chance to etch their name in school history with only the second 10-win campaign. The elusive feat was last achieved in 2002 with Philip Rivers at the helm, guiding the team to an impressive 11-3 record.

Facing the challenge without their All-America linebacker Payton Wilson, who opted to sit out the game in preparation for the draft, the No. 19 NC State struggled to contain the running game early on. The Pack found themselves in a tough spot as Wildcats quarterback Avery Johnson connected with DJ Giddens for a 37-yard score on fourth down, establishing a 7-0 lead.

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With Wilson absent from the lineup, Kansas State exploited the gap, amassing 258 yards on the ground, with Giddens contributing 151 yards. Despite NC State quarterback Brennan Armstrong’s 31-yard touchdown run against Kansas State on Thursday night, the Wolfpack was unable to seize control, never holding an advantage and only narrowing the gap to a two-point margin.

At the close of the second quarter, Kansas State maintained a lead of 21-7, with the halftime score standing at 21-10. NC State injected some intrigue into the game in the third quarter with a bit of trickery. Trent Pennix’s 60-yard touchdown run off a fake punt reduced the deficit to 21-19 with 1:50 left in the period.

The Wolfpack’s attempt to level the score was thwarted as Armstrong was taken down during the two-point conversion attempt. In his inaugural game as a freshman, quarterback Johnson, stepping in after Will Howard’s departure, threw for 178 yards, ran for an additional 71 yards, and orchestrated a decisive 15-play, 72-yard drive in the fourth quarter.

The game-clinching moment came as Jayce Brown secured an 8-yard TD pass from Johnson with a mere 2:48 left on the clock. Any hopes of a Wolfpack comeback were dashed when Parrish intercepted Armstrong on their subsequent offensive play.

Armstrong’s performance in the final game included running for 121 yards, scoring one touchdown, and passing for 164 yards. The Wildcats of Kansas State concluded the season with a commendable 9-4 record.

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College Gridiron 365

USF Bulls Secure Bowl Glory: Crush Syracuse 45-0

Kevyn Bryant II

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© sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

In a spectacular display of prowess, the USF football team, under first-year head coach Alex Golesh, ended its season on a high note with a resounding 45-0 victory over Syracuse in the Boca Raton Bowl. The win marked USF’s first bowl victory since 2017 and a significant turnaround, securing a winning record for the first time since 2018.

The Bulls’ defense played a pivotal role in the triumph, forcing four turnovers, including two scoop-and-score touchdowns, and orchestrating their first complete game shutout since 2009. Defensive MVP Daquan Evans led the charge with five tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble returned for a touchdown. Special Teams MVP Aamaris Brown-Bunkley contributed by returning a botched field goal attempt for a touchdown and adding three tackles.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Byrum Brown, named Offensive MVP, delivered a stellar performance, completing 19 of 26 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns. Brown also showcased his versatility by rushing for a team-best 64 yards on 14 carries and even catching a 21-yard pass from Sean Atkins. Brown became only the second Bull to surpass 4,000 total yards in a season, finishing with 4,101 yards.

Atkins, the Bulls’ first 1,000-yard receiver, secured six passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulls’ offensive prowess propelled them to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. Brown’s connection with Atkins and a 31-yard touchdown pass to Khafre Brown highlighted the offensive dominance. John Cannon’s 40-yard field goal further extended the lead to 24-0.

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The defense continued its relentless performance, with Evans forcing another fumble, and Tramel Logan returning it 61 yards for a touchdown, making it 31-0 at halftime. USF’s defense held Syracuse to just 159 yards, 10 punts, and a mere nine first downs throughout the game, limiting them to 1-of-17 on third downs.

The second half saw Tavin Ward intercepting Syracuse’s first possession, setting up Brown for a 35-yard touchdown pass to Atkins, further widening the gap to 38-0. Nay’Quan Wright’s two-yard touchdown plunge in the early fourth quarter sealed the deal at 45-0.

The victory marked USF’s largest margin of victory in a bowl game and its fourth bowl win against an autonomous “power” conference program. The Bulls outgained Syracuse 407 to 159, with notable individual achievements from Brown, Atkins, and Logan.

Looking ahead, USF has already welcomed 25 new recruits on the first day of the NCAA Early Signing period, securing a top-class ranking in The American and among non-autonomous “power” programs. The Bulls will shift their focus to spring practice in March, building on the momentum gained from their outstanding Boca Raton Bowl triumph.

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College Gridiron 365

USF Bulls Secure Bowl Berth with Dominant Victory Over Charlotte

Kevyn Bryant II

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© sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

In a triumphant display on Senior Night at Raymond James Stadium, the USF football team (6-6; 4-4 American) punched their ticket to the postseason, securing a resounding 48-14 victory over Charlotte (3-9; 2-6 American). The Bulls celebrated not only the achievements of 16 seniors but also the program’s 11th bowl berth, marking the end of a drought since 2018.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Byrum Brown led the charge with another stellar performance, throwing for 253 yards and four touchdowns. Brown’s remarkable day also included 43 yards rushing and a touchdown, making him the first Bull to surpass 3,000 passing yards in a season, with his 2023 total reaching an impressive 3,078.

A standout throughout the season, wide receiver Sean Atkins continued his impressive run, logging his seventh-straight game with seven or more receptions. Atkins made seven grabs for 61 yards and a touchdown. Notably, he also showcased his versatility by throwing a 62-yard touchdown pass, becoming the first Bull since 1998 to both catch and throw a touchdown in a single game.

Running back Michel Dukes contributed significantly to the offensive prowess, running for a career-best 104 yards on 15 carries. The Bulls’ offensive excellence was complemented by a robust defensive effort that saw Logan Berryhill securing his third interception of the season, while Mac Harris and Daquan Evans notched their first interceptions.

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Jhalyn Shuler and D.J. Harris led the defensive charge with nine tackles each, playing a crucial role in holding Charlotte to less than 300 yards of offense and forcing three turnovers.

The turning point in the game came just 20 seconds into the second half when Brown connected with Jaden Alexis on a deep pass. Alexis, in a spectacular display of skill, spun his defender around and zigzagged for a 60-yard touchdown, giving USF a commanding 28-7 lead.

Although Charlotte managed a response with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Jairus Mack, the Bulls remained undeterred. Brown orchestrated a drive resulting in a field goal and followed it up with a daring onside kick, which USF successfully recovered at their own 46. Brown then capped off the drive with a 35-yard touchdown run, extending the lead to 38-14.

As the Bulls continued to dominate, John Cannon added his second field goal of the day, and USF entered the fourth quarter with a commanding 41-14 lead. The victory marked a five-win turnaround from the previous year, the largest in program history, and a return to the bowl season for the Bulls.

Reflecting on the game and the historic season turnaround, USF fans began to celebrate a bright future for their football program. The Bulls now eagerly await the official announcement of their bowl destination on December 3, savoring the prospect of postseason action for the first time in five seasons.

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