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College Gridiron 365

FSU Resurgence: ACC Title Game Bound After Pitt Victory

Kevyn Bryant II

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Photo Credit: sportsclubflorida.com

In the realm of college football, resilience often writes the most captivating narratives. For Ja’Khi Douglas and the Florida State Seminoles, the journey from darkness to dazzling glory has been an arduous one. It’s a journey that reached a pivotal milestone when they clinched a spot in the ACC title game for the first time in almost a decade after dispatching Pittsburgh with a resounding 24-7 victory on a Saturday night.

Ja’Khi Douglas, a redshirt junior wide receiver, epitomizes the dedication and unwavering spirit that has fueled the Seminoles’ resurgence. Stepping up in the absence of the injured star Keon Coleman, Douglas displayed his mettle by reeling in a career-high six passes for an impressive 115 yards. As he stood there, basking in the glow of victory, he summed up the sentiment of the entire team, “It’s great that we get a chance to show the ACC, the whole world that Florida State is back.”

The Seminoles’ redemption story has been under the astute leadership of Coach Norvell, who arrived in 2020 with the mission of resurrecting a once-mighty program. The journey hasn’t been without its share of trials, but the Seminoles now find themselves on the cusp of rejoining the national conversation.

“A lot of work goes into (reaching the ACC championship),” Norvell emphasized. “To know we are going to get another game at the end of the regular season is big.”

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With an impressive 15-game winning streak, Florida State is poised to make even more noise in the college football landscape. Their victory over Pittsburgh showcased the depth and resilience that Coach Norvell has cultivated within the team.

Quarterback Jordan Travis had a standout performance, passing for a season-high 360 yards and contributing both a touchdown pass and a rushing touchdown. These crucial plays secured the Seminoles’ place in the ACC title game, a feat they hadn’t achieved since 2014.

The game, however, was not without its challenges. The Seminoles had to face the formidable Panthers without leading receivers Coleman and Johnny Wilson. Despite this adversity, Florida State demonstrated their grit and resourcefulness.

In the end, it was the Seminoles’ defense that sealed the victory. They forced three turnovers and kept the Panthers from converting any of their 10 third-down attempts.

For Pitt, the game was marked by costly penalties and mistakes. The Panthers were flagged 11 times for 91 yards, including a pivotal unsportsmanlike conduct call that pushed them out of field-goal range, squandering a scoring opportunity.

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In a turning point of the game, Florida State’s Fentrell Cypress II made a remarkable effort to chase down Pitt’s Konata Mumpfield, who appeared to be on his way to an 81-yard touchdown. Cypress stripped the ball just before the goal line, recovering it for a touchback and thwarting the Panther’s scoring opportunity.

The win signifies a significant turnaround for Florida State, as they have progressed from being thrashed by the Panthers in 2020 during Coach Norvell’s inaugural year.

As for Pitt, their commendable effort reflects the resilience instilled by Coach Pat Narduzzi, despite earlier suggestions that the team lacked the talent necessary for success. Nonetheless, Pitt will miss a bowl game for only the second time during Narduzzi’s nine-year tenure.

While the Seminoles may not have made a compelling argument for a top-three ranking in the polls, their journey from despair to triumph is a testament to their unwavering determination. They now look ahead to a crucial matchup against archrival Miami as they continue their quest to reclaim their position among college football’s elite.

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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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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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