Sunday, September 14, 2014

Buffalo Bills cap magical week with emphatic victory

At the end of a magical week, you figured this might be a day when the 12th Man showed up in force, when the collective fury of a Buffalo Bills crowd lifted the team to a defining win.
The players didn’t realize it would begin a day early.
“I mean, they were rowdy on Saturday morning,” defensive end Jerry Hughes said after the Bills’ 29-10 victory over Miami. “We kind of picked up on that energy during our walkthrough.”
What? The fans were rowdy when?
“On Saturday morning,” Hughes said with a laugh. “We were driving down Southwestern to our practice facility and we saw them back up two or three miles in their RVs. So when you see that, you know the energy is real. You know it’s going to be an electric place.”
Oh, it was electric, all right. Sunday’s game against the Dolphins was the first regular-season home game since Ralph Wilson’s death. They honoured Wilson beforehand and gave his widow, Mary, a Wall of Fame ring. Jim Kelly, cancer-free and full of his old vigour, addressed the crowd in the ceremony.
But for fans, the knowledge that the Pegulas had won the bid and would keep their treasured NFL franchise in Buffalo took things to a new level. It was an emotional cyclone, one that began gathering steam when the happy news arrived last Tuesday and kept building right up until kickoff and beyond.
As the players discovered Saturday morning, some fans couldn’t wait to get there. That point was hammered home for veteran centre Eric Wood when he drove to The Ralph at 9 a.m. on Sunday.
“That’s the most traffic I ever fought,” Wood said. “I apologized to all the people I cut off in traffic coming off the 219. I skipped about 100 cars and asked somebody to let me in. They wouldn’t. Scott Chandler was riding in the back of my truck. I said, ‘He’ll give you an autograph if you let me in!’ ”
Russ Brandon, the president and CEO, has been with the Bills for 18 years. He has seen some unforgettable games at The Ralph. But after the events of the past year, and the past week, this felt different somehow.
“I was trying to explain to some of the young staff,” Brandon said. “Just being down there for pre-game, even before the gates opened. It was a different vibe, a different feel.”
Brandon hesitated when he spoke. His eyes were red, as if he had done his share of crying during the long day. It has been a gruelling, emotional six months for the Bills’ CEO, who had to deal with Wilson’s death, the renovation of the stadium, the establishment of a trust and the sale of the team over that relatively compacted period of time.
“I was a wreck today,” Brandon said. “A wreck. Yeah, it’s been an emotional week.”
So it was indeed moving to see the Bills feed off their home crowd and play a football game that rose up to the level of the celebration, a performance that honoured Wilson’s memory and the legacy of the Super Bowl teams of the 1990s.
Brandon is often brought to tears when he speaks of Wilson, who gave him control of the team on New Year’s Day, 2013. He cried on draft night, when he talked about how much Wilson would have loved the wheeling and dealing that brought rookie Sammy Watkins to town. He was thinking of him again when they crushed the Dolphins.
“I envisioned him walking in and doing his customary little fist pump,” Brandon said, gesturing with his right arm at the front of the Bills’ dressing room. “He just loved this so much, and he would have been very proud of the tribute today.”
Yes, Wilson would have been in his glory after this one. He would have gone from player to player, congratulating them and joking with them. There would have been countless heroes to embrace, from C.J. Spiller to Watkins to all the members of a defence that tore the Dolphins to shreds.
He would have wanted to salute the Buffalo fans, too. They were a big factor, as they were so often in the glory days. Almost everyone in the lower bowl stood for the entire game, as if physically trying to transfer their energy onto the playing field.
That’s the beauty of the 12th Man, which is mainly a defensive phenomenon. The fans literally affect the outcome by raising such a din that it’s difficult for the opposing offense to function. I remember being in the stands during the famous comeback game and feeling like part of a dynamic, living force.
Poor Ryan Tannehill wasn’t up to the challenge. Miami’s young quarterback was unsettled in the first half, when he was sacked three times and threw for 38 yards. He piled up a lot of garbage stats after halftime, but the stat that matters is this: He’s now 1-4 against the Bills. He hasn’t played well in any of them.
The Bills led at halftime, 9-0. At that point, they had outscored the Dolphins 28-0 over the last six quarters here and piled up 10 sacks. For the game, they didn’t allow a play longer than 18 yards, or a run longer than seven.
Quarterback EJ Manuel was good enough. He didn’t throw an interception and made a lot of sure, safe throws that went for good gains. Manuel had four completions of 20-plus yards, giving him eight in two games. Watkins had eight catches, two for 20-plus, and a career-high 117 yards.
You couldn’t have asked for a better end to an amazing week. The community was at an emotional peak because the team isn’t leaving town. They honoured the former owner in a pre-game celebration. And the team rose to the occasion. It’s enough to make you believe this year’s 2-0 start might actually be different.
“We felt that in the off-season,” said running back Fred Jackson. “We felt there was something different about this team. It’s early, though. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We got to keep coming to work.”
Whatever happens, people will remember this game, and this week, for years to come. Mary Wilson relished the moment, as her husband did so many times before. After the game, she came briefly to the locker room, where she stood near the entrance, congratulating Manuel on the win.
She didn’t do the fist pump. But at the end of an electric day, Mary was positively glowing.

Bills Rope Dolphins 29-10

The Buffalo Bills honored their past and celebrated their future with a win.
Fittingly, it was a good day for old and new players.
Sammy Watkins scored his first NFL touchdown, C.J. Spiller returned a kickoff 102 yards for a TD and the Bills blew past the Miami Dolphins 29-10 on Sunday in their home opener.
After holding a pregame ceremony to honor team founder Ralph Wilson, who died in March, everything went as planned for the Bills in a win that came five days after Sabres owner Terry Pegula reached an agreement to buy the team, ensuring they will remain in Buffalo.
EJ Manuel passed for 202 yards -- 117 of them to the No. 4 pick Watkins -- and Spiller's electric run led a good day for the Buffalo (2-0) special teams.
Former Dolphin Dan Carpenter kicked five field goals for the Bills, who could go 3-0 for the first time in three years next week with a win over San Diego.
Things fell apart for the Dolphins (1-1) after a Week 1 win over New England. Making matters worse, they lost running back Knowshon Moreno to an elbow injury in the first quarter.
Moreno's left arm bent back awkwardly as he was tackled at the end of a 4-yard run when the knee of Bills linebacker Nigel Bradham rammed into it. He was playing just his second game for Miami after rushing for 134 yards in his debut last week.
The Bills sacked Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill four times and picked him off once a week after he had two touchdown passes against the Patriots. He was 31-of-49 with a touchdown pass to Mike Wallace, who made a one-handed grab on the play.
The Bills kept Miami off the scoreboard until 5:25 into the third quarter when Caleb Sturgis kicked a 34-yard field goal.
But Spiller fielded the ensuing kickoff two yards deep in the end zone and made one cut to the right sideline, sprinting untouched for the score and a 16-3 Bills lead.
Miami responded with a 64-yard drive and pulled within 16-10 when Wallace -- covered closely by Stephon Gilmore -- made his one-handed catch in the left side of the end zone with 3:15 left in the quarter.
Buffalo went right back down the field, with Watkins scoring inside the right pylon on a 12-yard catch to cap a 77-yard drive and make it 23-10. Spiller had a bruising 47-yard run on the drive.
Carpenter kicked his fourth field goal early in the last quarter, a 32-yarder to push the lead to 16 points, and the big plays kept coming for Buffalo.
Safety Da'Norris Searcy stopped Tannehill on a 4th-and-1 play and the Bills recovered a fumble at the Miami 17-yard line after rookie Jarvis Landry let a punt go off his facemask.
Carpenter missed a 31-yarder after that, but the Bills stopped Miami on the ensuing possession and he kicked a 38-yarder for the 29-10 lead.
Carpenter kicked two 27-yard field goals in the first quarter, the second set up by Boobie Dixon's blocked punt. His 31-yarder in the second quarter came after a 30-yard catch by Watkins and gave Buffalo a 9-0 lead.
Game Notes
The Bills have won three in a row over the Dolphins ... Carpenter kicked for the Dolphins from 2008-12 ... Bradham was back after serving a one-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy ... After opening the season with back-to-back games against AFC East opponents, the Dolphins won't face another division rival until Week 11 when they host Buffalo.

Abilene Christian Stuns Troy

Abilene Christian rallied from an early 14-point deficit to stun Troy 38-35 Saturday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Nik Grau booted a 27-yard field goal with just over six minutes to play in the game to give Abilene Christian the lead and Adrian Duncan iced the game with a 9-yard touchdown run with just over a minute to play following a controversial pass interference call on an unsuccessful fake field goal attempt by the Wildcats.

Brandon Burks pulled Troy within the final three-point margin with a 1-yard plunge up the middle with 20 seconds to play. John Johnson set the score up one player earlier on a 49-yard reception from Dontreal Pruitt. The Trojans were not able to recover the on-side kick attempt and ACU ran out the clock for the victory.

After ACU (1-2) opened the scoring, Troy (0-3) rolled off 21 straight points on a pair of touchdown runs by Brandon Silvers and a 12-yard pass from Silvers to Burks. Silvers became the first Troy quarterback since Deon Anthony in 2012 to rush for a pair of touchdowns in a game.

Silvers finished 12-of-21 for 187 yards through the air before leaving the game midway through the third quarter with an injury. Pruitt was 9-of-17 for 99 yards in relief of the Troy starter. Burks caught four passes for 72 yards, while Johnson finished with 72 receiving yards and Chandler Worthy had a game-high 88 receiving yards.

The teams traded scores early in the third quarter as Demarcus Thompson took an end-around into the end zone from three yards out and Khary Frankin found the end zone from 11 yards out for the Trojans three minutes later; it was Franklin's first career rushing touchdown.

A pair of big plays by the Wildcat offense tied the game as Parker McKenzie and Cedric Gilbert hooked up for a 63-yard pass and catch midway through the third quarter and De'Andre Brown tied the game with a 47-yard touchdown run with just under two minutes to play in the third.

McKenzie finished 25-of-34 for 312 yards with a pair of touchdown passes and a pair of interceptions. Herschel Sims carried the ball 20 times for 96 yards, while Brown added 72 yards on eight carries.

Femi Odaibo was responsible for both of the interceptions thrown by McKenzie. He is the first Troy player with multiple interceptions in a game since Sherrod Martin intercepted three Alcorn State passes in 2008. It was the first time Troy intercepted multiple passes in a game since picking off a pair of South Alabama passes in 2012.

Troy travels to Athens, Ga., next Saturday for a showdown with Georgia its final non-conference game of the season. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. in a game that will be televised by the SEC Network.

ULM Falls to No. 10 LSU on the Road

A valiant effort by the Mitch Lane-led defense wasn’t enough as the ULM football team dropped its first game of the season 31-0 to No. 10 LSU on the road Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

ULM’s (2-1) Lane garnered a career-high 14 tackles, while Ray Stovall and Cordero Smith had 10 tackles each. Hunter Kissinger contributed nine tackles and one sack on the night.

Quarterback Pete Thomas completed 16 of 30 passes for 77 yards, with Rashon Ceaser catching six of those passes.

LSU’s (3-1) Anthony Jennings went 11-of-18 for 139 yards with one interception and two sacks.

The Warhawks’ defense started off strong as they forced back-to-back three and outs, but the Tigers managed to get on the board with a field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 3:20 left in the first quarter.

ULM continued to press defensively at the start of the second quarter. However, LSU’s Darrel Williams was able to break through on the left side and rushed for a touchdown to give the home team a 10-0 lead with 13:11 left in the second quarter.

Late in the second quarter, Mitch Lane intercepted a pass by LSU’s Jennings on the ULM 37 yard line, stopping the Tigers in their tracks with 0:42 left in the half. With this pick, the Warhawks have caused at least one turnover in 29 straight games.

LSU added three more touchdowns in the second half en route to victory.

After a break, the first of two off weeks of the season, ULM will take the field again on September 27 as they host Troy at 6:00 p.m. for the Warhawks’ second conference game of the season.

Defense Continues Dominance in Shutout of ULM

LSU's defense stole the show on Saturday night, posting a 31-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe that gave the Tigers shutouts in consecutive games in Tiger Stadium for the first time in 73 years.

In the process, LSU (3-0) extended its streak of scoreless possessions by its opponents to 31, allowing the ULM (2-1) only 93 yards of total offense and six first downs.

The victory was LSU's 400th all-time in Tiger Stadium dating back to its first in 1925. The last time the Tigers had consecutive home games that ended in shutouts was Oct. 11 and 18, 1941, against Mississippi State (0-0 tie) and Rice (27-0). It was also the first time since 1985 that LSU had back-to-back shutouts irrespective of venue.

The Tigers' offensive attack included five backs who carried at least seven times, as quarterback Anthony Jennings overcame a slow start to complete 11-of-18 passes for 139 yards.

Freshman running back Leonard Fournette led the way with 10 carries for 54 yards including a 24-yard touchdown, while senior Kenny Hilliard ran 12 times for 50 yards and scored from 4 yards in the fourth quarter. Terrence Magee added 43 net yards on 12 attempts, and freshman Darrel Williams scored twice and finished with 37 yards.

LSU scored touchdowns on three-straight drives over a 10-minute span of the second half to extend a 10-0 halftime lead to the final margin.

It was the LSU defense who dominated in every phase and kept the Warhawks off the field for most of the game. LSU forced 10 punts and three-and-outs on 7 of 12 drives. Linebacker Duke Riley had eight tackles to lead the Tigers, while Rickey Jefferson added five.

Since trailing Wisconsin 24-7 early in the third quarter of the season opener, LSU has outscored its opponents 108-0.

ULM quarterback Pete Thomas was 16-of-30 passing for 77 yards including a 12-yard pass to Kenzee Jackson that was the Warhawks longest play from scrimmage. He was sacked only once but hurried by the Tigers defense on four more attempts.

Running back Centarius Donald led the Warhawks in rushing with 24 yards on 10 attempts. ULM finished with 16 net yards on 18 carries.

Punter Justin Manton helped ULM maintain field position with 10 punts for a 40.2 average - including an 8-yarder that led to an LSU touchdown in the third quarter.

ULM won the coin toss and deferred its decision until the second half, while LSU received the opening kickoff with its back to the south endzone and facing a hefty north breeze.

A 40-yard kickoff return from the goal line by Fournette gave the Tigers excellent field position, however, Jennings' third-and-10 scramble came up a yard short of the marker.

The Tigers' was the first of four-straight combined to open the game, as the LSU defense refused to budge in the opening salvo.

On LSU's third drive of the game, a 16-yard punt return by Tre'Davious White put the Tigers at midfield. After Hilliard gained a first down with a 3-yard run to the ULM 39, Jennings and Dural connected for a 14-yard gain to the 23. Though the Tigers went backward with a pair of penalties, Jennings got it all back on third-and-23 with a 23-yard pass to John Diarse that was caught at the 12.

A third-and-5 pass to Trey Quinn came up short of the first down, and Colby Delahoussaye came on to make a 21-yard field goal. LSU led 3-0 with 3:20 left in the opening quarter.

ULM again went three-and-out, but a 56-yard punt by Justin Manton changed field position for the Warhawks.

Starting from its 15, LSU put together a 10-play, 85-yard drive to extend its advantage. A 20-yard catch and run by Fournette allowed the Tigers to cross midfield to the 44. On third-and-1, Darrel Williams lined up at the fullback position and took a handoff from Jennings to the right before bouncing off a tackle to the left and running around the end for a 22-yard touchdown.

LSU led 10-0 with 13:11 remaining in the half.

After two more punts, ULM got an LSU facemask penalty on a punt return and started from its 43. The Warhawks earned their first two first downs of the game and advanced into LSU territory. But, LSU stepped up its defensive pressure and forced another punt.

Jennings' 22-yard scramble when he looked to be sacked twice helped LSU get out of its red zone to its 44. The Tigers managed only one more yard and Jamie Keehn entered for a 50-yard punt to the ULM 5.

The Warhawks managed another first down on the ensuing drive before punting for the sixth time in the half.

LSU took over at its 39 and crossed midfield with a 16-yard catch by Diarse. On second-and-7 from the ULM 37, Jennings' pass in the direction of Quinn was intercepted by ULM's Mitch Lane. Lane was initially called for pass interference but the flag was waived off, the official citing feet tangled together as the reason for the contact.

Following Jennings' first interception of the season, ULM ran out the clock and LSU took a 10-0 lead into the lockerroom.

LSU held a 202-44 advantage in total offense at the break with 18:54 in possession.

LSU took control of the game with touchdowns on three-straight drives in the second half.

Williams capped an eight-play, 54-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown dive as a fullback. A third-and-5 catch and run by Quinn to the ULM 8 kept the drive alive and setup the score.

With 7:22 remaining in the third quarter, LSU led 17-0.

An 8-yard punt by Manton didn't reach the first-down marker and giving the Tigers a short field at the ULM 35. The last of five-straight runs was a 24-yard burst around the left side by Fournette, who was sprung loose by Evan Washington and Connor Neighbors' crushing blocks. LSU pushed its advantage to 24-0 with 3:26 left in the third quarter.

The Tigers slammed the door with a 10-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Hilliard.

Announced attendance was a record 101,194 in the newly expanded Tiger Stadium.

Gators Survive Kentucky For Wild 36-30 Triple-Overtime Victory

As satisfying a victory as it was, for the Florida Gators and a Swamp full of fans Saturday night, the takeaway of their pulsating defeat of the Kentucky Wildcats was far more about relief.

Junior tailback Matt Jones plowed into the end zone from 1 yard run for the game-clinching score out in the third overtime, as the Gators survived a monumental scare from Wildcats with a 36-30 victory that marked the longest game in UF football history.

The win, UF's 28th straight in the series dating to 1986, appeared in doubt several times -- including the first overtime -- but the Gators (2-0, 1-0) did just enough to get out of their home field alive in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

“It wasn’t always pretty,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “We just figured we’d give you guys an extra shot [of football]. Just paying the fans back.”

Free football, edge-of-your-seat style.

Jones, a junior from Seffner, Fla., carried 29 times for 156 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson tied Carlos Alvarez’s 45-year-old school record for single-game receptions by catching 15 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, including a mega-clutch 9-yard score from Jeff Driskel on fourth-and-goal in the first OT.

An incompletion there would have ended the game. Instead, it was Robinson to the rescue to give the Gators another chance.

“I was kind of expecting the ball,” Robinson said. “I just wanted Driskel to give me a chance to make a play.”

Driskel, after hitting seven of his 20 passes in the first half, finished 25 of 43 for a career-high 295 yards and three touchdowns. But it wasn't his arm that ultimately won the game. It was offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's decision to grind out the overtime with Jones, a decision that paid off in the end when Driskel fed Jones the final four carries of the game.

“He's an incredible player,” UF tight end Tevin Westbrook said of Jones.

Added offensive tackle Chaz Green: "We told him, 'We're riding you.' "

UF finished with 532 yards of total offense, including 237 rushing. UK cranked out 450 of its own, a week after the Gators held Eastern Michigan to 125 total yards. All but 81 of the Wildcats' yards came through the air, courtesy of quarterback Patrick Towles, who went 24 of 45 for 369 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.

“It was a difficult loss, as you can imagine,” Kentucky coach Mike Stoops said. “I felt like our players really grew up tonight and really came here to win the game and really believed we were going to win the game the whole way through. You have to give credit to Florida.”

When Austin Hardin's 52-yard field goal sailed wide right at the end of regulation, the two teams went to overtime tied at 20. Kentucky scored on its first play when Stanley "Boom" Williams caught a short pass from Towles and reversed his field to turn what looked like a sure-fire loss into a 25-yard touchdown and 27-20 UK lead.

The game easily could have ended in that period, and looked gloomy for the Gators after Kelvin Taylor lost three yards on third and six from the 6. On fourth-and-goal -- and with the play clock about to expire -- Driskel barely got the snap off and lofted a pass in the far left corner that Robinson skied for and finished the play.

“He’s obviously a playmaker who can win those one-on-one battles,” Muschamp said.

Frankie Velez's point-after pushed things into Overtime No. 2.

Both drives in that one ended in field goals; a 27-yarder by Velez and 26-yarder by Austin McGinnis. It was 30-all.
Kentucky started the third overtime, but Florida's defense amped up, almost coming up with a turnover (Jabari Gorman could not pull in a chance at an interception), but instead forced a 41-yard field goal attempt that McGinnis pushed right, much to the delight of the home crowd.

At that point, it was obvious what the Gators would do with the ball.

“We had a few plays we were sticking to based on the defense,” Green said. “Credit to Coach Roper. We had a great game plan and we tried to do what we could to execute best we could.”

It was nothing fancy. The Gators, with a chance to finish things, gave the ball to Jones four straight times; 3 yards, 16 yards, 5 yards, touchdown!

Thus ended the first triple-overtime game in UF history.

"It was a great feeling," Jones said. "I'd never been part of any game like that."

How it got to that point was nothing short of insane.

What was basically a kicking fest in the first half, turned into a shoot-out in the second. After the two teams combined for 11 punts and three field goals on their first 15 possessions, the lead changed hands four times over the final 5:32 of the third period, each time on touchdowns.

Garrett Johnson (6 catches, wasn't even listed on the Kentucky roster, but the crowd new his name well enough by the end of the third period. A true freshman from Winter Garden, Fla., Johnson touchdowns of 60 and 33 yards on back-to-back drives. Both gave the Wildcats (2-1, 0-1) the lead. Each time, Driskel answered with touchdown drives.

After the first Johnson TD, Driskel took advantage of a personal foul penalty assessed on the kickoff and 43-yard return by Andre Debose to move the Gators 44 yards in three plays, hitting senior tight end Tevin Westbrook for a 10-yard touchdown pass and 13-10 advantage. It was Westbrook's first catch of the season.

But just five plays later, the Gators blew a coverage and Towles found Johnson wide open in the end zone for a 30-yard score and 17-13 lead.

“We definitely saw progress in how we played tonight,” Johnson said.

But the Gators did, too. Muschamp even said in his post-game remarks that a year ago, while UF was struggling through that 4-8 season, there was just no confidence that the offense could hit enough plays to get back in games.

Such is not the case this fall.

“We’re explosive enough offensively to get in a game like that and know we can make some plays,” Muschamp said. “We gave up some things on the back end secondary-wise, but we didn’t blink.”

They just went back to work. Driskel marched his unit 62 yards in eight plays, hitting Robinson for the go-ahead score with 25 seconds to go in the quarter.

On Kentucky's next possession, UF's defense halted the back-and-forth when safety Keanu Neal intercepted a bomb that was tipped and landed in his arms deep in Florida territory.

Once again, Driskel moved the Gators, but pressure from a corner blitz that was troublesome all night forced an incompletion on third down and made UF settle for a 39-yard field goal try by Velez, who earlier was good from 35 and 22, to give his team a six-point lead.

This one missed.

McGinnis banged a 51-yard field goal with 3:52 to play to tie the game at 20.

That's where it stood until overtime.

That wild, wild overtime. Three of them, actually.

Kentucky Drops Triple-OT Thriller to Florida

Matt Jones' 1-yard plunge in triple overtime gave Florida a 36-30 victory over Kentucky on Saturday night, extending the Gators' winning streak in the Southeastern Conference series to 28 games.

Kentucky's Austin MacGinnis, who hit a 51-yarder to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, missed a 41-yarder to start the third extra frame.

Jones had consecutive big runs that put Florida at the 1 and then slammed through the line on second down for the game-winner.

The play of the game was Florida's fourth-and-7 conversion in the first overtime. Jeff Driskel floated a ball to the back corner of the end zone and found Demarcus Robinson for a 9-yard score.

Robinson finished with 15 receptions for 216 yards and two scores. He tied Carlos Alvarez's school record for catches in a single game.

No other Florida receiver caught more than two passes. Driskel completed 25 of 43 passes for 295 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception.

Jones finished with 29 carries for 156 yards and a score.

Florida (2-0, 1-0 SEC) was an 18-point favorite in the game, no surprise given how lopsided the series has been. The Gators haven't lost to Kentucky (2-1, 0-1) since 1986 and haven't lost a game against the Wildcats at Florida Field since 1979.

The streak looked to be in jeopardy several times late in the SEC opener for both teams.

On Kentucky's first play of overtime, Stanley Williams reversed field, outran several tackles and scored from 25 yards out. The Gators struggled to answer, but eventually did on the fourth-down play.

The teams exchanged field goals in the second overtime. Florida could have found the end zone, but Driskel was late delivering the ball to Robinson near the front pylon.

Frankie Velez hit from 20-yard out to send it to the third extra frame.

Velez missed from 39 yards out in the fourth quarter that would have given Florida a little breathing room.

Austin Hardin, Florida's stronger-legged kicker, had a chance to win it regulation. But he pushed his 52-yarder wide right.

Florida trailed twice in the third quarter, falling behind 10-6 and then 17-13 on touchdown passes from Patrick Towles to Garrett Johnson.

Towles picked apart Florida's inexperienced secondary, throwing for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson was his top target, finishing with six catches for 154 yards. He burned the Gators for a 60-yard touchdown, and then added a 33-yard score on the next drive.

Florida and coach Will Muschamp, who entered this season on the hot seat, looked to be in big trouble.

But Robinson bailed them out. He caught a ball that ricocheted off Fred Tiller's hands and turned it into a 33-yard gain. Driskel found Tevin Westbrook for a 10-yard score on the next play.

Robinson was even better on the next drive, catching three passes for 42 yards, including a 9-yard score that put Florida ahead. It looked like it would be for good, but Towles put the Wildcats in position for the game-tying field goal.

The Gators pulled it out in overtime.

They play at Alabama next week - arguably their toughest test of the season.

Kentucky, meanwhile, won't call this a morale victory. But the Wildcats are clearly making strides under second-year coach Mark Stoops.

Florida's first half - the whole game, really - was one the home crowd surely would like to forget.

The Gators were hampered by costly penalties, dropped passes, a missed call and poor play by Driskel.

Driskel completed 7 of 20 passes for 161 yards in the first half, but overthrew Quinton Dunbar twice, sailed one a couple yards out of bounds to Robinson and threw a wobbler that Nate Willis intercepted.

Florida made some plays, with Robinson catching just about everything thrown his way and Kelvin Taylor and Jones finding holes on the ground.

Robinson became the first Florida player with consecutive 100-yard receiving games since Jabar Gaffney in 2001.

Still, it wasn't enough to get the Gators in the end zone early.

Several plays contributed to Florida's woes. Latroy Pittman and tight end Clay Harbor dropped passes, and right tackle Rod Johnson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Brooks: Buffs Show Progress In Loss To Sun Devils

Coach Mike MacIntyre and his Colorado Buffaloes might prefer not to measure progress in defeat, but after Saturday night’s 38-24 loss to No. 16 Arizona State they might be forced to change their minds.

The Buffs (1-2, 0-1) spotted the undefeated Sun Devils (3-0, 1-0) a 17-0 lead before pulling to within 17-14 only to have a disastrous second-quarter fumble snuff their momentum and allow the visitors to begin pulling away.

CU never got that close again and ASU opened a 21-point third-quarter lead en route to defeating the Buffs for the sixth consecutive time, including four wins since CU joined the Pac-12 Conference. In all, the Buffs suffered three turnovers – the lost fumble by running back Michael Adkins and two interceptions by quarterback Sefo Liufau.

“Wow, that really hurts, really hurts,” MacIntyre said. “We can’t turn the ball over, but our kids kept fighting . . . we’re definitely improving. We’re playing faster, playing harder, tackling better . . . I think we’re improving, we’ve got a long way to go but I think we’re making strides. But we have to go get it done. There are a lot of great teams in our league.”

ASU coach Todd Graham praised the Buffs. He called MacIntyre “a tremendous football coach" and said CU "showed great heart and determination. They played extremely hard. We were rolling along there; we thought we would make it 21-0 but those guys were fighting and scratching. You can tell their coach has a lot of character and heart.”

After a punchless first quarter, the Buffs wound up outgaining the Sun Devils 545-426 in total offense and 28-18 in first downs. CU outrushed ASU 232-223, with the Buffs’ yardage a season high, and had a 313-203 advantage in passing.

But turnovers negated CU’s statistical advantages and forced the Buffs to play catchup for the entire night.

“We should have won that game, point blank,” Liufau said. “Too many turnovers, too many mistakes . . . we should have beat that team, point blank.”

Liufau said the Buffs “don’t want moral victories. That’s for people who want to be mediocre . . . the guys fought all game; you can’t take that away from us.”

MacIntyre called Adkins’ fumble at CU’s 10-yard line “huge, huge, huge . . . it’s the first one that Michael has had since he’s been here.” ASU parlayed the turnover into a quick touchdown, regained its 10-point advantage and quieted a raucous CU crowd.

Liufau finished 31-of-46 passing for 278 yards, three touchdowns and the two interceptions. Two of his scoring tosses went to Nelson Spruce, who now has caught a pair of TD passes in each of the season’s first three games. Spruce finished with a game-best seven catches for 97 yards, while freshman Shay Fields caught seven balls for 97 yards and his second collegiate score.

In the running game, Christian Powell led the Buffs with 11 carries for 118 yards – a season-best for CU. But the game’s top runner was ASU’s D.J. Foster, the Pac-12’s leading rusher with a 181.5 yard average. CU held him to 147 and a TD while keeping the Sun Devils 122 yards below their conference-leading average (345).

Still, with quarterback Taylor Kelly adding 70 rushing yards on six carries – including a 50-yard score that gave ASU its 21-point third-quarter lead – the Sun Devils had enough offensive punch to keep the Buffs in catchup mode. Kelly left the game late in the third quarter with a foot injury and was replaced in the fourth by Mike Bercovici.

Kelly’s night ended with him completing 13 of 21 passes for 195 yards and three TDs. One of them was a 5-yarder to Foster, who finished with four catches for 59 yards, giving him 206 yards in total offense.

The Buffs trailed 24-14 at the half – worlds away from their 47-6 halftime deficit last season in Tempe – but the score might have been different had it not been for a pair of turnovers that the Sun Devils converted into touchdowns.

ASU dominated the first quarter, outgaining CU 222-22 in total yards, piling up 11 first downs to the host team’s one and jumping ahead 14-0. The Sun Devils got their early touchdowns on a 15-yard run by Foster on ASU’s first possession and a 38-yard pass from Kelly to Kalen Ballage that was set up by defensive back Jordan Simone’s interception of Liufau.

His pass, intended for an open Fields, floated and forced Fields to slow down. That gave Simone time to catch up, cut in front of Fields and make the pick. It was Liufau’s second interception of the season, with another coming.

CU didn’t get its initial first down until 3:10 remained in the opening quarter and exited the period trailing 14-0, with Phillip Lindsay’s 46-yard kickoff return as its lone highlight.

Three plays into the second quarter, Zane Gonzalez sent ASU ahead 17-0 with a 31-yard field goal – and CU fans could be forgiven for thinking they’d seen this script before.

But they hadn’t.

After Gonzalez’s kick, Liufau drove the Buffs 77 yards in 10 plays, hitting Fields with a 4-yard pass for the TD. Will Oliver’s PAT brought CU to 17-7 and what had bordered on a being a listless student section sprang to life.

The Buffs defense took the cue, forcing the Sun Devils into their first three-and-out of the night. And Liufau & Co. took a cue from that defensive stand, fashioning an eight-play, 77-yard drive that Liufau capped with a 15-yard TD pass to Spruce – his fifth scoring catch of the season.

When Oliver kicked the extra point, CU had crept to 17-14 – and Blackout Night at Folsom was boiling over.

Once again, the Buffs defense stood strong and sent the Sun Devils back to the sideline with a second consecutive three-and-out. But after Matt Haack’s 57-yard punt was downed at the CU 10-yard line, the Buffs were bludgeoned by their second turnover.

This one was Adkins’ fumble, and it was recovered by linebacker D.J. Calhoun at the CU 9-yard line. Three plays later, Kelly and Foster teamed for a 5-yard TD pass. With Gonzalez’s PAT, ASU restored its 10-point lead (24-14), and the first half ended that way.

After their inept first quarter, the Buffs found life in the second, holding the Sun Devils to 20 yards of total offense while gaining 171 and pulling themselves back into the game with a half remaining.

But the Sun Devils received the second half kickoff and needed little time – 1:52 to be precise – to push their lead to 31-14. Fueled by a 45-yard Kelly-to-Jaelen Strong pitch-and-catch, ASU completed a 75-yard, six-play drive with a 1-yard Kelly-to-Strong TD.

The Buffs answered with a 27-yard field goal by Oliver (31-17), but the quick-striking Sun Devils had a more potent response. On first down from midfield, Kelly executed a perfect read-option, kept the ball after a fake to Foster and sprinted 50 yards to the end zone.

With 8:05 left in the third quarter, ASU’s lead ballooned to 21 points (38-17), but CU wasn’t in a cash-it-in mood. The Buffs marched from their own 18 to the Sun Devils 5-yard line, where on fourth-and-one Lindsay lost a yard.

MacIntyre said the Buffs “have got to find a way to get it in down there . . . we’ll work on that.”

The play was pivotal. ASU maintained its 38-17 lead and CU’s students and some fans began thinking of other ways to finish their Saturday night. The quarter ended with the Buffs trailing by 21 and the crowd beginning to thin.

With Kelly sidelined by his foot injury, Bercovici took over as ASU’s quarterback for the fourth quarter. Enjoying a 21-point cushion, it didn’t appear that Bercovici didn’t need to finish with anything spectacular, only to not to give away any points.

He didn’t, but it put the onus on ASU’s defense to not give away any either – and that proved to be a problem.

The Buffs pulled to within two touchdowns (38-24) by driving 99 yards – the seventh 99-yard march in school history – and scoring on a 31-yard Liufau-to-Spruce pass with 8:38 to play.

After CU’s defense forced another ASU three-and-out, the Buffs took over with 6:46 remaining. They drove as far as the Sun Devils before Liufau suffered his second interception – this one by linebacker Christian Sam – with 4:44 to play. MacIntyre said when Liufau views the game tape he’ll see “busted coverage and a man wide open for a touchdown . . . he’ll be upset.”

The Buffs hopes of a comeback were all but snuffed. With 2:10 left, needing 14 points to tie, their final possession began at their own 7-yard line. Jordan Gehrke replaced Liufau at quarterback and marched CU as far as the ASU 48 before turning the ball over on downs with 15 seconds to play.


Saturday night’s attendance was 38,547 . . . . The Buffs return to Folsom Field next Saturday to play Hawaii at noon . . . . Freshman receiver Donovan Lee made his CU debut Saturday night, his highlight a 45-yard reverse in the third quarter . . . . MacIntyre opened his postgame press conference by congratulating UCLA backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel, whose father, Rick, is a former CU and UCLA coach. Jerry Neuheisel led the Bruins to a victory at Texas, replacing injured starter Brent Hundley . . . . The Sun Devils are now 6-0 against the Buffs and have outscored them 244-78. In three meetings since CU joined the Pac-12, ASU owns a 191-61 scoring advantage. The Sun Devils’ three previous wins were 48-14 (2011), 51-17 (2012) and 54-13 (2013).

Devils Bend But Don't Break, Drop CU in Boulder

For the second straight game, D.J. Foster went over 200 all-purpose yards and the Arizona State University football team held off a scrappy Colorado squad for a 38-24 victory on Saturday at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo.

The Sun Devils (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have now won three of their last four Pac-12 openers and seven of the last 11 Pac-12 road openers.

Foster rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown and had four receptions for 59 yards and another touchdown, accounting for 206 of ASU 426 total yards of offense. He has now scored in eight straight games and has 13 touchdowns in that span.

Taylor Kelly finished 13-of-21 for 195 yards and three touchdowns before leaving the game with a leg injury in the second half.

The Sun Devil defense got by on a ‘bend but don’t break’ mentality, giving up a season-high 545 yards of total offense but forced three takeaways and three turnovers on downs in the contest.

Jordan Simone paced the way with an interception, a forced fumble, a tackle that led to one of those turnovers on downs and a team-high 13 tackles. It was the fourth-highest single game tackle tally by a Todd Graham-coached defensive player at ASU and the game also marked the first time under Graham that three players recorded double-digit tackles as Damarious Randall had 11 and Antonio Longino had a career-high 10.

ASU also got it done on special teams with Matt Haack punting seven times for 337 yards and 48.1 average that ranks as the third highest single-game yards per punt average in Graham’s tenure at ASU and the most since Oct. 27, 2012 against UCLA.

Despite the effort, the Buffaloes (1-2, 0-1 Pac-12) were still very much in the game in the fourth quarter, trailing by 14 and driving into Arizona State territory with a chance to make things interesting and cut things to one possession. But Christian Sam picked up the first interception of his career with 4:44 left in regulation to stifle the CU rally.

The Sun Devils wasted little time putting some space between themselves and the Buffaloes in the second half with a big 45-yard reception by Jaelen Strong leading to a short one-yard touchdown reception and a 31-14 lead for the Sun Devils.

Colorado would answer with a field goal on the following drive but that just paved the way for an exception read-option keeper by Kelly on the following Sun Devil drive that took him 50 yards to pay dirt and a 38-17 advantage.

The Buffaloes would not go quietly into the night, however, driving nearly 80 yards to the Sun Devil three-yard-line before the Sun Devil defense clamped down to force a turnover on downs with Simone getting the decisive tackle to stump the drive.

Colorado would get back within 14 after posting just the seventh 99-yard scoring drive in program history that was capped by a 31-yard touchdown reception by Spruce to bring CU back within 38-24.

Colorado would drive against into ASU territory with under five minutes left in the game to try and cut things to a one-possession game but Sam’s interception put the game away for the Devils.

As has become the norm for Sun Devil teams in recent years, the Sun Devils came storming out of the gates and jumped to a 14-0 lead with 8:39 left in the first quarter.

ASU took its first drive of the game 69 yards and capped it with a 15-yard D.J. Foster touchdown rush for an early 7-0 lead. The drive lasted 3:07 and was the first scoring drive of the season that lasted over three minutes this season.

On the very first play of Colorado’s ensuing possession, Simone intercepted Liufau’s deep pass down the middle for the first pick of his career and ASU capitalized with a three-play, 65 yard drive in 54 seconds that culminated in a 38-yard Kalen Ballage touchdown reception to put ASU up 14-0.

ASU would add a 31-yard Zane Gonzalez field goal two drives later for a 17-0 lead with 14:12 remaining in the half but Colorado would answer with a methodical 77-yard drive over the next 3:59 to get on the board with a four-yard touchdown reception by Shay Fields to bring Colorado back within 17-7.

A Sun Devil three-and-out on the following drive set Colorado up for an eight-play, 77-yard drive and a 15-yard Nelson Spruce touchdown reception to cut the lead to three points.

ASU had its second consecutive three-and-out following the touchdown but a career-long 57-yard Matt Haack punt pinned Colorado deep in their own territory and set up a Simone forced fumble and DJ Calhoun recovery at the Colorado nine-yard-line. As the Sun Devils tend to do under Graham, the squad capitalized on a five-yard Foster reception three plays later to secure a 24-14 lead heading into the half time break.

The Sun Devils will enjoy a bye week this coming weekend before a key Pac-12 tilt against UCLA on Thursday, Sept. 25 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe on Fox Sports 1.

Cougar Offense Sets Records in 59-21 Win

Connor Halliday, the nation's leading passer, threw for 544 yards and six touchdowns on Saturday as Washington State beat Portland State 59-21.

Isiah Myers caught 11 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns for Washington State (1-2), which had opened the season with losses to Rutgers and Nevada but proved too much for FCS Portland State.

Kieran McDonagh led Portland State (1-2) with 269 passing yards and a touchdown. Alex Toureen caught seven passes for 100 yards.

Halliday, a senior, completed 41 of 62 passes and was intercepted twice. Washington State piled up 706 yards of offense while holding Portland State to 362 yards.

Dom Williams caught four passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns for the Cougars.

Halliday came into the game leading the nation with 921 passing yards.

Rainbow Warriors Notch First Win; 27-24 Over Northern Iowa

After two agonizing losses to Pac-12 teams to open the season, the University of Hawai'i Rainbow Warrior football team notched its first win of the season with a 27-24 victory over Northern Iowa, Saturday night in a non-conference match-up at Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium.

The Rainbow Warriors' (1-2) were led offensively by running back Steven Lakalaka, who rushed for a career-high 124 yards on 32 carries and one touchdown. The sophomore from Honolulu got the start in place of injured starter Joey Iosefa. Quarterback Ikaika Woolsey passed for 188 yards and one touchdown before being replaced by back-up Jeremy Higgins midway through the third quarter. Higgins finished 3-of-6 for 37 yards and directed two second half scoring drives.

Multi-purpose player Scott Harding made his presence felt on all three phases. His rugby-style punting pinned the Panthers inside their own 20 seven times and averaged 10.9 yards on seven punt returns. He also caught a career-long 52-yard reception in the second quarter.

Defensively, the Warriors held UNI to 320 yards of total offense, including only 55 yards on the ground. The defense also scored the game's first points as lineman Beau Yap recovered an errant snap in the end zone to give UH an early 7-0 lead.

The teams combined to punt 24 times – 13 by UNI and 11 by UH.

Without a completion in the first quarter, Woolsey connected with wideout Marcus Kemp on a 50-yard pass play early in the second quarter, setting up a 36-yard Tyler Hadden field goal. The Warriors tacked on another score when Woolsey found tight end Harold Moleni for his first career touchdown pass. On that drive, Woolsey connected with Harding for a 52-yard reception.

Just before the half, the Panthers added a Michael Schamdeke field goal from 41-yards out to cut the deficit to 17-10.

UH punted on its first four possessions of the third quarter before Lakalaka busted a 30-yard touchdown run. The score was set up on the previous UNI possession when the Panthers started at their own 1 after a Harding punt. UH forced a three-and-out and Harding's 13-yard return gave the Warriors the ball at the UNI 30-yard line.

With UH leading 24-17, Harding's 11 punt of the game hit UNI returner Darrien Miller as he attempted to scoop up the bouncing ball and was recovered by UH's Ne'Quan Phillips. Four plays later Hadden booted a 37-yard field goal to make it 27-17 with 3:19 to play.

The Panthers again closed to within one touchdown after Kollmorgen's second touchdown but the Warriors recovered the onside kick attempt and ran out the clock.

The Rainbow Warriors continue their non-conference schedule with a road game at Colorado, Saturday, Sept. 20 in Boulder, Colo.

Arizona Downs Nevada, 35-28

Anu Solomon threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns, and Nick Wilson ran for 171 yards and two scores as the Arizona football team ran its record to 3-0 with a 35-28 win over Nevada on Saturday night.

The win moved Arizona to 11-0 against non-conference opponents under head coach Rich Rodriguez.

“It was a hard-fought game, and we were very fortunate to win,” Rodriguez said. “That’s a good football team, and we’ll take it. I felt comfortable that when we had the ball, we could make first downs and change field position. As I told the team in the locker room, we have to get a whole lot better. We have bigger goals, and that really starts this weekend.”

UA racked up 507 yards of total offense, with Solomon adding 60 rushing yards to his total through the air and completing 22-of-26 passes among six different receivers. Cayleb Jones game highs of nine catches and 116 yards, his second-straight 100-yard receiving game, and caught two of Solomon’s three touchdown throws.

“It’s a great feeling,” Jones said. “I’ll enjoy it, but we have a great team coming in next week. We could have been better tonight and we have to get better. That’s our focus right now.”

Wilson posted his third 100-yard rushing game in as many career contests, following up his 174-yard performance last week with 171 on 29 carries on Saturday. His effort gave Arizona a 100-yard rusher in 20-consecutive games, tying the longest streak in college football since 1996. He scored the Wildcats’ first two touchdowns on the night, giving him four on the year.

“Nick plays hard,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a freshman and he’s still learning, but he plays hard. We’ll have to watch the film and see how he blocked up front, but he did some real good things.”

In addition to Jones’ nine receptions, Samajie Grant caught four passes for 50 yards, Nate Phillips had three catches for 40 yards and Tyrell Johnson had two catches for 40 yards and a touchdown.

Scooby Wright III led all tacklers with a career-high 14 tackles, while Jake Matthews also set a career mark with 10 stops and Jared Tevis added 10 tackles of his own. Matthews and Derrick Turituri each posted a sack on the evening.

Nevada drove to the Arizona three yard line on the game’s opening possession, but the UA defense held the Wolf Pack out of the end zone and forced a field goal to opening the scoring. The Wildcats answered with a 12-play, 86-yard touchdown drive capped by a two-yard Wilson run.

Solomon was 5-of-6 for 68 yards on the drive, finding Grant three times for 45 yards, including a 27-yard catch on third down to keep the drive alive.

After a second Nevada field goal, Wilson put up his second touchdown of the night, a 28-yard burst to cap an eight-play, 76-yard drive and put Arizona up by a 14-6 margin. Wilson accounted for 40 total yards on the drive, running for 32 and catching one pass for eight.

Solomon hooked up with Johnson for the latter’s first-career touchdown catch, a 35-yard strike, with 2:08 left in the first half to increase Arizona’s lead to 21-6. The drive, which started after the UA defense forced Nevada into a three-and-out, covered 65 yards in just five plays and 1:12 of game time.

Nevada was able to find the end zone for the first time in the waning seconds of the first half, making the score 21-13 at the intermission.

The Wolf Pack tied the score at 21-21 with 6:03 left in the third quarter, but UA answered with a touchdown of its own the next time it touched the ball to regain a seven-point lead. The scoring play came by way of a 22-yard pass from Solomon to Jones, one play after the duo connected on a third-down pass to keep the drive going.

Solomon and Jones teamed up for another score after the Wildcats forced a Nevada three-and-out, connecting on a 24-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to give UA a 35-21 advantage.

Nevada cut into the deficit with a touchdown with 6:01 left to play, but could draw no closer as UA came up with a key defensive stop late in the game and was able to run out the clock on the strength of Wilson’s legs.

The Wildcats will play in front of their home crowd for the second-straight week on Sat., Sept. 20, opening Pac-12 play against California at 7 p.m. MST. The game will be televised on Pac-12 Networks and carried on the Arizona IMG Sports Radio Network.

Nevada Falls to Wildcats, 35-28

Anu Solomon threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns, Nick Wilson ran for 171 yards and Arizona held off Nevada 35-28 Saturday night.
Arizona (3-0) came into the game with the nation's fifth-best offense and had another big night against the Wolfpack, rolling up 507 yards.
Wilson ran for a pair of touchdowns and gave Arizona a 100-yard rusher for the 20th straight game, tied for longest in the FBS since 1996. Solomon finished 22-of-26 passing and threw two second-half touchdown passes to Cayleb Jones, who had nine catches for 116 yards.
Cody Fajardo kept Nevada (2-1) in it, throwing for 321 yards and three touchdowns, but the Wolfpack turned the ball over on downs their last drive.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said after the 2012 New Mexico Bowl that he hoped to never face Fajardo again. The Wolfpack quarterback lit up the Wildcats in that game, throwing for 256 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 140 and another score.
Fajardo, on the other hand, was looking forward to facing Arizona again. Despite having what may have been the best game of his career in the bowl game, Nevada lost the game 49-48 after the Wildcats scored two touchdowns in the final minute.
Fajardo had some success against Arizona early as the Wolfpack picked their way down the field.
Nevada held the ball for the game's opening 9:33 and had another scoring drive that lasted 6:08.
The problem for the Wolfpack was how both ended: in field goals.
Thirty-two plays, 141 yards and more than 15 minutes resulting in just six points - a dangerous game against an explosive offense like Arizona's.
The Wildcats needed just 1:50 to score their first touchdown, a 2-yard run by Wilson. The freshman scored the next one, too, bursting off left tackle for a 28-yard score.
Solomon, who threw an ill-advised interception early in the second quarter, showed off his athletic ability just before halftime, rolling to the left and throwing off his back foot to hit Tyrell Johnson perfectly in stride for a 35-yard touchdown.
Fajardo finally got the Wolfpack into the endzone after that, orchestrating a quick 75-yard drive capped by his 7-yard touchdown pass to Jarred Gipson that cut Arizona's halftime lead to 21-13.
The confidence of seeing six points go up on the board instead of three carried over into the third quarter, when Fajardo opened with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Hasaan Henderson.
Arizona had an answer. Two, in fact.
Solomon threw another touchdown on the run, this one going the other way, this one a 22-yarder to Jones. The Solomon-Jones connection worked again on the first play of the fourth quarter, a 24-yarder that put the Wildcats up 35-21.
Nevada and Fajardo still weren't done.
He found Jarred Gipson on a 6-yard touchdown pass that cut Arizona's lead to 35-28 and the Wolfpack got the ball back at their own 17-yard line with 3:04 left.
Fajardo took Nevada to near midfield, but his fourth-down attempt was just out of Jericho Richardson's reach.

UNLV Drops Close Contest Against NIU

orthern Illinois ran up more than 600 yards in total offense Saturday night, but the Huskies still needed to hold off a furious rally by UNLV to beat the Rebels 48-34 Saturday night.

The victory extended Northern Illinois' streak to 17 consecutive road wins, dating to 2012.

The Huskies (3-0) held a 23-point lead in the third quarter before UNLV (1-2) scored three touchdowns and eventually tied the game 34-34 on a 9-yard scoring run by Shaquille Murray-Lawrence and a two-point conversion in the fourth period.

But Northern Illinois broke the tie quickly on its next drive, getting a 54-yard touchdown pass from Drew Hare to Da'Ron Brown to regain the lead, 41-34.

The Huskies gave themselves an additional cushion with an 80-yard scoring drive after safety Marlon Moore intercepted a pass by UNLV's Blake Decker in the end zone.

Hare completed 18 of 28 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns as the Huskies finished with 616 total yards. Hare also ran for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Northern Illinois rushed for 331 yards, with Cameron Stingily leading a group of nine rushers with 102 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns.

Decker led the Rebels with 397 yards passing, completing 24 of 42 passes for two touchdowns. UNLV had 499 yards of total offense.

The Rebels almost pulled off a comeback after scoring three times in the third quarter. A roughing-the-punter call on Northern Illinois gave UNLV new life when the Rebels were deep in their own territory, and they converted it into a 53-yard scoring pass from Decker to Devante Davis.

Davis finished with six catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns.

Rebels defensive end Jordan Sparkman recovered a fumble by Hare at the Northern Illiniois 10-yard line, leading to a 2-yard touchdown run by Murray-Lawrence that pulled the Rebels to within five points, 31-26.

But the closest UNLV could get was the tie game.

Northern Illinois appeared to take control of the game in the first half, scoring three times for a 21-5 lead and totaling 271 yards in total offense.

After UNLV scored first on a 25-yard field goal by Jonathan Leiva, Northern Illinois grabbed the lead with a 15-play, 76-yard drive that ended with Stingily scoring from five yards out with 7 minute 26 seconds left in the opening quarter.

UNLV cut its deficit to 7-5 late in the first quarter on a safety, but the Huskies ground out two 80-yard scoring drives in the second period to pull away.

Hare, who came off the bench the previous week to lead a 23-15 win over Northwestern, threw TD passes of 12 yards to Keith Harris and 10 yards to Juwa Brescacin.


The Northern Illinois University Huskies fought off a third-quarter comeback by UNLV to claim a 48-34 victory over the Rebels and improve to 3-0 on the 2014 season Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
After extending a 21-5 halftime lead to 28-5 on its first drive of the second quarter, the Huskies saw UNLV come all the way back to tie the game, 34-34 with 9:18 to play. But NIU's playmakers on offense and defense answered the challenge over the final minutes for the hard-fought win.

"We knew it was going to be a four-quarter battle," said NIU Head Coach Rod Carey. "I'm proud of our guys. They fought through adversity. Give [UNLV] credit, they fought back and played a heck of a third-quarter. Give us credit, we made plays when we had to."

UNLV tied the game on a nine-yard pass from quarterback Blake Decker to Shaquille Murray-Lawrence to finish off a seven-play, 75-yard drive. One play earlier, Decker had hit Kendal Keys on a 41-yard bomb to the nine. A two-point conversion pass to Devante Davis completed the comeback.

The Huskies, who extended their nation-leading 17th straight road game, were not done. In his first career start, sophomore quarterback Drew Hare calmly set the NIU offense. After a pair of Keith Harris Jr. runs netted a first down, Hare set his sights on senior receiver Da'Ron Brown down the sidelines. Brown out-leaped the defender, spun and took off for a 54-yard touchdown and the Huskies were back on top, 41-34, with 8:23 to play.

Then it was the NIU defense's turn to thwart UNLV's game-tying drive attempt. With Decker narrowly avoiding a ferocious Huskie rush to hit receivers all over the field, the Rebels drove down to the NIU seven. On first and goal, Decker targeted All-America candidate Davis in the end zone. Davis, who caught six passes for 150 yards and two scores in the game, was covered by junior Paris Logan, who turned at the perfect moment, and tipped the ball into the diving arms of NIU safety Marlon Moore.

"I think [UNLV's Davis] is as good as there is in the country at wide receiver," Carey said. "He and Paris had been going at it all night and [Davis] had probably been getting the better of him for the most part. But then, there's Paris. He made a great tip and Marlon made a great catch. Give our kids credit, they were focused when they need to be."

The Huskies got the ball with 5:22 to play and used the rushing of big back Cameron Stingily and Hare, and a big third-down completion to Aregeros Turner to drive down the field. Stingily's 22-yard run put NIU on the UNLV four-yard line with 2:18 to play and he scored his first touchdown of the year three plays later, giving the Huskies a 48-34 margin.

Hare completed 18-of-28 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns, and added 74 rushing yards on 14 carries with a score. Stingily led the Huskies' 331-yard rushing attack with 102 yards on 17 carries and two scores. Brown recorded his second consecutive 100-yard receiving game with six catches for 138 yards.

After NIU took a 28-5 lead on Hare's 12-yard touchdown run on NIU's initial drive of the second half, the third quarter belonged to UNLV. The Rebels outscored the Huskies 21-3 during the rest of the quarter as Decker hit Davis for scores of 26 and 53 yards, and Murray-Lawrence scored on a two-yard run. The latter score came after NIU committed its first turnover of the season when Hare fumbled and UNLV recovered and returned it to the Huskie 10-yard line. After the Murray-Lawrence run, NIU led just 31-26.

Wedel hit his second field goal of the game - from 33 yards out - to extend the lead to 34-26 with 11:11 to play in the game before UNLV began its game-tying drive.

Hare and the Huskie offense put together a textbook two-minute drive to give NIU a 21-5 lead heading into halftime. After UNLV missed a 33-yard field goal, NIU marched 80 yards in 10 plays and 2:32 with Hare hitting Brescacin and Brown on completions of eight and 11 yards, respectively. Two plays later, Hare and Brown hooked up again, this time for 26 yards to the UNLV 31-yard line. Hare converted a third and eight with a 14-yard run and two plays later, hit Brescacin for the 10-yard touchdown.

UNLV started the scoring with a 25-yard field goal by kicker Jonathan Leiva. The Rebels drove 50 yards on eight plays in 2:54 to become the first opponent to score first on the Huskies this year.

NIU responded immediately with a 15-play, 76-yard drive. Hare hit Chad Beebe for 21 yards for the biggest play of the drive, and Stingily scored his first touchdown of the season on a five-yard run to give the Huskies a 7-3 lead.

The Huskies began their next drive inside their own one-yard line after a 41-yard punt by UNLV was downed, and a penalty in the end zone quickly led to a UNLV safety.

UNLV fell to 1-2 on the year. In addition to extending its road winning streak, NIU stretched its regular season win streak to 26 games.

Next Saturday, NIU travels to Fayetteville, Ark. for a match-up with the Arkansas Razorbacks. The game kicks off at 6 p.m. (CT) and will be televised on ESPNU.


Coming into Saturday's game, Texas State felt it was about as prepared as it could be for Navy's triple option attack. Unfortunately, for the Bobcats, it was not enough as the Midshipmen ran their way to 35-21 victory over Texas State Saturday before 32,007 fans. It was the second largest attendance in school history.

"First off just let me say what a great crowd," head coach Dennis Franchione said. "It was super to see Bobcat Stadium like that and I wish we could have played a little better for them. Still, they made a big difference and it was exciting."

Penalties stalled a number of drives for the Bobcats, who finished the night with 11 penalties for 124 yards.

"Penalties hurt us," Franchione said. "We kind of shot ourselves in the foot offensively. It should've been a 21-10 game at halftime, 28-14, and as you guys heard me say this week you can't play these guys and miss opportunities."

On Texas State's second drive, the team had the ball inside the 2-yard line of Navy, before a facemask call pushed it back to the 17-yard line. On the next play, the Bobcats were called for holding and the sideline was then assessed 15 yards for a delay of game, making it 3rd and 39 from the Navy 42. Tyler Jones hit Jafus Gaines for 27 yards down the middle, but Jason Dann missed the ensuing field goal.

The Texas State offense tried to do its part, amassing 442 yards of total offense, including 231 through the air by quarterback Tyler Jones who also added a career-high 82 yards on the ground. Robert Lowe added 92 yards on the ground and a touchdown, giving him 12 for his career.

"We kept shooting ourselves in the foot," Jones said. "I thought we could have had a couple of scores in the first half that we took away with penalties. We just have to come back next week and regroup."

Navy scored on its first four possessions of the game, led by backup quarterback Tago Smith, playing in place of Keenan Reynolds who was out with an injury. Smith had 85 yards on the ground and 117 threw the air, account for four touchdowns. With Smith's dual threat abilities, the Midshipmen took a 28-7 lead into the locker room and didn't look back.

The Bobcats will be back in action next Saturday at 3:00 p.m., at Illinois. The game can be seen on ESPNews.

Navy Tops Texas State, 35-21

Playing without the leader of its offense put a scare in Navy, but Tago Smith quickly put those fears to rest with a stellar outing in his first career start.

Smith amassed 202 total yards and scored four touchdowns in place of injured starter Keenan Reynolds as the Midshipmen rolled to a 35-21 victory over Texas State Saturday night.

"I thought he played great under the circumstances," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "He came in and played well against a very aggressive defense."

The Midshipmen (2-1) had 469 total yards, including 352 rushing yards, before the second-largest crowd in Texas State's history.

"We held them to 352 yards in rushing, that's the lowest in three games (for Navy), so we did some good things," Bobcats coach Dennis Franchione said. "We just needed to score more points and take advantage of our opportunities offensively in order to beat a team like this tonight."

Reynolds did not play after taking helmet to his right knee last week in Navy's victory over Temple.

Niumatalolo offered an incredulous look when asked if Smith's performance could spark a quarterback controversy. Still, the sophomore proved almost as adept at running the Midshipmen's triple-option attack as the three-year starter.

Smith rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 85 yards and two more scores, including a 67-yarder - the longest for Navy since 2010.

His only hiccup came on an underthrown pass a few minutes into the third quarter that was intercepted by Germond Williams. Navy's defense softened the blow, forcing a punt on fourth-and-28 on Texas State's drive following the turnover.

Noah Copeland, from nearby San Antonio, rushed for a game-high 116 yards on 11 carries for Navy.

Texas State quarterback Tyler Jones completed 24 of 36 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Robert Lowe added 92 yards and a touchdown for the Bobcats (1-1).

Smith led the Midshipmen to touchdowns on their first four possessions of the game, averaging just under 4 minutes and 60 yards on each drive.

"I think the most important part was just being focused," Smith said. "I had to realize I had one job, and I needed to get it done. Of course you have nerves, but after that first play they go away. I had confidence in myself, and the coaches had confidence in me; that made me play better."

Chris Swain opened the scoring with a 14-yard run with 4 minutes, 2 seconds left in the first quarter, capping a seven-play, 59-yard drive for the Midshipmen. Smith rushed for 19 yards on three carries and completed his only passing attempt in the drive for three yards.

Brendan Dudeck then slipped behind the defense after Navy stormed the middle on its previous two plays, leaving him wide open in the right corner of the end zone for a six-yard reception from Smith. It was Dudeck's first touchdown reception and Smith's first touchdown pass.

Smith's first rushing touchdown of the season came on a 1-yard run early in the second quarter. Geoffrey Whiteside accounted for 57 yards in the drive, cutting back at Texas State's and Navy's 45-yard lines on a 38-yard run. He also had a step on two defenders and appeared heading for a touchdown but stumbled after having to twist backwards and fell for a 19-yard reception.

Smith followed with his second rushing touchdown on the next possession, scoring again on a 1-yard run.

Texas State took advantage of a late hit on a punt return to cut Navy's lead in half at 28-14 with 13:36 remaining. Robert Lowe scored on a 1-yard run, nine plays after a 15-yard penalty set up the Bobcats at the 29-yard line.

"I feel like the defense was playing pretty good in the second half," Lowe said. "They were getting us the ball back, we just have to maximize our opportunities when we have the ball and we didn't do that a couple of times when we had the ball."

Navy regained its momentum quickly as Smith found Jamir Tillman wide open along the left sideline for a 67-yard touchdown pass.

"They are heavy on run support," Midshipmen offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper said. "We had to throw a couple of balls deep, something game plan wise we didn't call it any differently because he's that type of player."

Navy did not punt until there were about 7 minutes left in the third quarter.


Kenny Hill threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns and No. 7 Texas A&M overcame a slow start for a 38-10 win over Rice on Saturday night.

The win gives the Aggies a 3-0 record for the first time since 2010.

Texas A&M led by 14 points at halftime, but struggled at times to sustain drives and committed several costly penalties, including one that resulted in a touchdown being called back, in the first half.

They got going after halftime with Hill finding Josh Reynolds on a 20-yard touchdown on the first drive of the third quarter. A 1-yard touchdown run by Tra Carson pushed the lead to 35-10 later in the third.
Hill also had TD passes of 14, 13 and 48 yards and has 1,094 yards passing this season to become the first player in school history to throw for 1,000 yards in the first three games of a season.

Driphus Jackson threw for 212 yards and a touchdown and ran for 84 yards for Rice (0-2).

There was heavy rain in College Station on Friday night and there were a number of divots on the grass field. Rice coach David Bailiff went on the field near some of them at the start of halftime and talked to several people for a couple of minutes before going into the locker room.

Members of the grounds crew ran onto the field during many of the stops in play in the second half to fill the holes. At one point in the third quarter there were 10 people spread across the field working on it.

Reynolds had just two catches but they were both for touchdowns and he finished with 68 yards receiving.

Hill had a nifty run to set up Carson's score in the third quarter. He zig-zagged his way around several Rice defenders before being tripped up from behind at the 1. The play was initially ruled a touchdown, but it was reviewed and overturned.

Hill was replaced by freshman Kyle Allen with about five minutes remaining. Allen threw an interception to end his only drive.

James Hairston made a 33-yard field goal with less than a minute left in the third quarter for Rice. A career-long 47-yard field goal by Josh Lambo pushed the lead to 38-10 early in the fourth quarter.

A&M took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Speedy Noil grabbed a 14-yard pass for his first career touchdown.

The Aggies made it 14-0 on their next possession when Hill found Ricky Seals-Jones for a 13-yard touchdown pass.

The Owls got within a touchdown when Jackson threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Mario Hull.

Reynolds came back to get the ball and then juked Malcolm Hill to evade a tackle on his way to the end zone on a 48-yard touchdown reception that made it 21-7 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the first half.

Hairston hit a 53-yard field goal seconds before halftime that would have made it 21-10, but A&M was flagged for having 12 men on the field and the Owls had to kick again.

The second time it was blocked by Seals-Jones and Armani Watts returned it 93 yards for a touchdown. But those points would be taken away, too. There was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the A&M bench and the would-be TD run became a 35-yard return.

Hairston also missed a 22-yard field goal attempt early in the first quarter.
Postgame Quotes

Texas A&M

On the slow start…
"I think people have become spoiled with our offense. If we don't score on the first play then the sky is falling. To have the ball for sixteen minutes and score 38 points, I can't be mad at that."

On Myles Garrett…
"He's tied the school record for most sacks in a season by a freshman and we've only played three games. I think it's safe to say the future is bright for that young man."

On the defensive performance…
"Well just look at the scoreboard. We held them to ten points.”

On Armani Watts…
"You're never going to accuse him of not playing hard."

On Tra Carson…
"Tra was very good. He was very physical, and it pulled the defense in, that's why you saw the deep ball being thrown."

"I think we did good but I know we can do better as a whole. Next week we have to play better and prepare better."

On playing again…

"It felt great. Last week it was kind of hard to sit out there and watch my team go to war and not being able to play with them. So it felt great."

On ankle tackles…

"I was very close, I think that comes with not playing last week. I feel like I was rusty so hopefully that gets better next week."

"I think we started off slow. We never want to start it off slow. We are going to work on that and fix that and be better next week. We just weren't really clicking and we weren't executing the way that we want to. Like I said we are going to get that fixed and be ready to go. All the stuff we were doing offensively was working."

On sophomore wide receiver Edward Pope…

“He is very important to our offense. He is a great player and he loves to play. He comes out there and plays hard every single day. He is a baller. He is someone you can send out there and if you need a big play you can trust him to get things done."

"Rice is a really good team. We knew what we were getting ourselves into. We knew that they might get some yardage on us and they did. When they got into the redzone we just buckled down and made sure that they didn't get any more yardage and made sure not to let them convert."

On the field conditions…

"It’s a new field. We have to get used to it. Conditions are not always perfect."


“The field was kind of bad but both teams had to play on it so you can't say that the field was bad and that's why we didn't play as good as we could have. Both teams had to play on it and perform on it.”

On what improvements can be made…
“I think we did good but we can always be better so we've just got to go back in on Monday, watch film, and get back to work and get ready for next week’s game.”


“It was decent but I feel like we could have played better. We need to be sharper on our assignments, better execution, just be a smart defense overall.”

On the Rice offense…

“Anytime you play a dual threat quarterback there is some difficulty to it. I mean I've been used to it since I've played him in high school so I was kind of expecting that coming out, but it's just being more disciplined being able to know when he might break down and try to make a play.”

On how the defense can improve…
“It's more being smarter, executing better, knowing what you have and where your eyes are supposed to be, just a more focused defense. Because that's what coach asks us to play smart and play fast and we didn't play as smart as we could tonight.”



“Coming here knowing they are the seventh ranked team in the country, but you come here dreaming big, hoping to win this one. I thought our players really prepared to come here and win a football game. I was extremely proud of this football team with the effort we played with offensively and defensively, and on special teams. Where it went wrong, we had six drives of over eight plays where we only had three points. We had a drive of 14 plays where we didn’t get points. Time of possession, we had the ball for 43 minutes. Time of possession is important when you’re getting points out of those drives. If you’re not scoring points, then it really doesn’t help you. One of the things we did last year is we got points at the end of those drives. We’ll get better. We’re going to be a good football team. All of our goals are intact.”


On finishing drives…

“We just have to finish the drive. It’s a little disappointing to be out there for 43 minutes and only put up 10 points. But, I think the offense played well. We responded from last weekend, especially the receivers. Even with the field conditions, they were able to keep their feet and make plays. We just have to do a better job of putting points on the board. We have to take the stress off of the defense. I think we will do that going forward. It hurts not winning. You always want to win the big games. But, we understand this is a learning process, and our goals are still intact. We want to be conference champions.”


On keeping the game close…

“We wanted to keep executing what was called. Obviously, they are a high-powered offense, so keeping them contained was our main goal. I felt like we hunted together very well. We executed calls, kept up with their pace. I was proud of the defense today.”

Owls Fall at No. 7 Texas A&M

Rice University football's offense put together a strong ground game, but was unable to overcome the seventh-ranked Texas A&M Aggies in a 38-10 setback on Saturday night in front of 103,867 fans at Kyle Field.

The Owls (0-2) held the ball for a whopping 43:14 on the night, tallying 481 yards, including a balanced 241 through the air and 240 on the ground.

Sophomore Jowan Davis carried the ball a career-high 23 times for 86 yards, followed by another career rushing performance by junior quarterback Driphus Jackson, who totaled 84 yards on 13 rushes.

Jackson completed 21-of-32 passes for 212 yards and a score. Senior Mario Hull found himself on the receiving end of Rice's lone touchdown, a 20-yard strike in the second quarter to pull the Owls within 14-7. It was Hull's first-career score, and his 57 yards on three catches led the team.

After the Owls narrowed the margin with the score, the Aggies (3-0, 1-0 SEC) rattled off 21-straight points in the second and third quarters to regain control of the game at 35-7.

James Hairston then knocked through a 33-yard field goal to break the streak. Rice then held the Aggies to just one more score in the fourth quarter. It was TAMU's lowest-scoring output of the season as the squad entered the game averaging 62.5 points per game.

On defense, Gabe Baker and Jaylon Finner led the team with six tackles each. Malcolm Hill forced the team's first turnover of the season with a fourth-quarter interception. It was the sixth theft of the senior's career.

Defensive linemen Dylan Klare and Brian Nordstrom each recorded a sack as the Owls recorded four tackles in the backfield.

Rice opens its home slate next Saturday against Old Dominion in the Conference USA opener for both teams.

Aggies Fall 42-24 to I-10 Rivals, 2-1 on the Year

The New Mexico State Aggies suffered a 42-24 loss to the UTEP Miners in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, September 13. NM State falls to 2-1 on the season, while falling to 35-55-2 in the overall series with UTEP, having lost the last six meetings between the two teams.

The Aggies showed signs of coming to life, but could never really get the run game going, having to relay fully on their passing attack. Head Coach Doug Martin said, “The third downs; when you can’t run the ball you are going to have a lot of third downs. A lot of third and longs and couldn’t convert. We also dropped a lot of passes that I thought hurt us. Overall, offensively we were just very ineffective.”

Aggies’ sophomore quarterback Tyler Rogers finished the game 22-40 for 324 yards with two interceptions and two touchdowns. Sophomore running back Xavier Hall lead NM State’s ground game with 44 yards on 10 carries. Brandon Bettencourt added 35 yards on eight carries. Redshirt sophomore Teldrick Morgan led all receivers with a career-high 202 yards on eight catches, while scoring one touchdown.

The Miner’s Jameill Showers threw for 126 yards on 13-16 passing, with one touchdown and one interception. Aaron Jones, the No. 1 rusher in the nation, ran for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries for UTEP.

NM State opened the game with a good offensive drive, highlighted by a 17 yard touchdown pass from Rogers to Matthews to put the Aggies up 7-0. The Aggies were at third and long late in the drive and drew a personal foul from UTEP when a Miners defender hit an unprotected Rogers after the ball was blown dead, setting up the NM State score.

UTEP’s first drive down the field saw Showers go a perfect 3-3 for 41 yards. The drive was capped off by a six yard rush by Jones on a play fake who ran into the end zone untouched. The remainder of the first quarter saw both the Aggies and Miners go three and out on their subsequent drives, with the quarter ending on a NM State drive to the UTEP 39 and the game tied 7-7.

To start the second quarter the Aggies continued their drive down the field, threatening early. Rogers connected with Morgan for a 34 yard pass, setting the Aggies up on the UTEP five. After a rush by NM State for no gain, the next play drew a 5-yard penalty for an ineligible receiver downfield, pushing the Aggies back to the UTEP 10. The Aggies would fail to score and instead settled for a field goal making it 10-7 NM State.

UTEP’s second quarter drive saw Showers continue his perfect completion rate, connecting twice for 25 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Jones also carried the ball three times for 27 yards. The drive ended with a touchdown from Showers to UTEP’s Autry Golden on the slant route for 15 yards to put the Miners up 14-10.

The following Aggie drive ended with Rogers throwing an interception in the end zone. The pass was intercepted by the Wesley Miller who was down in the end zone for a touchback. After the Miners drove down the field, highlighted by a 24 yard rush by Nathan Jeffery, Laufasa ran it in on a one yard rush to put the Miners up 21-10 going into the half.

The second half started with Showers throwing two incomplete passes in a row, breaking his perfect night, and ended the UTEP drive with his first interception of the year to Aggies corner Lewis Hill. The interception was Hill’s first of the season as well as the Miners first turnover of the year.

The Aggies failed to score on the ensuing drive, ending with a missed field goal by Maxwell Johnson from the 50-yard line. The missed opportunity for the Aggies put a lot of pressure on them going forward. “It was a key moment. Have to score a touchdown there,” said Martin. “Got the ball close to the 50-yard line and we only moved it 12 yards. That would have made it a 4-point game. Our defense gave us an opportunity right there and we did not take advantage of it.”

The next UTEP drive ended in similar fashion, with the Miners kicker missing a 49-yard field goal attempt. After a failed drive by the Aggies, the Miners drove the ball down the field and ended the third quarter with the ball and the NM State 7-yard line.

The opening play of the fourth quarter saw Showers run for seven yards on a quarterback keeper for the score to add to the Miners lead, 28-10. The Aggies following drive would go 75 yards on six plays, capped off by Rogers connecting with Morgan for a 57-yard TD. The PAT attempt by Johnson would be good, making the score 17-28 UTEP.

The Miners would answer though, driving up the field and eating valuable clock the whole way. On 12 plays, the miners drove the ball 70 yards in 7:35, ending the drive with a 1-yard rush by Jones to extend the Miners lead, 35-17.

The Aggies would look deep on their next drive and Rogers would be picked off for the second time of the night by UTEP’s Damian Payne, who would return the ball 28 yards to the NM State 13 yard line. The Miners then rushed the ball four times, finally scoring on a 1-yard rush by Garret Simpson, furthering the UTEP lead 42-17.

NM State’s last drive of the game would see the Aggies hurry down the field and score on a quarterback keeper by Rogers for a 1-yard TD. The score would cut the miners lead to 42-24 and be Rogers first rushing TD as an Aggie. The last drive of the game would see the miners run down the clock, ending the game on a final score of 42-24 UTEP.

UTEP rushed for 344 yard to NM State’s 90. NM State threw for 335 yard on 41 attempts and 23 completions. The Miners won the battle of possession, holding on to the ball for 39:26. Both teams were perfect in the red zone with UTEP going 6-6 and NM State 3-3. Third down conversions were scarce for the Aggies, only going 5-of-12.

Miners Ride Ground Game to Sixth Straight Win Over NM State

UTEP rushed for 344 yards, its most in a game versus a Division I opponent since 1991, in a 42-24 throttling of NM State on Saturday in the Sun Bowl.
The Miners (2-1) matched their 2013 victory total while beating the I-10 rival Aggies (2-1) for the sixth straight time - tying their second-longest winning streak in the series. UTEP beat NMSU seven consecutive times from 1927-33 and six straight from 1986-91.

After the Aggies took a 10-7 lead on a 28-yard field goal by Maxwell Johnson early in the second quarter, UTEP scored 35 of the next 42 points.

Darrin Laufasa accounted for two of the five touchdowns during that stretch, both in the second quarter. He reeled in a two-yard pass from Jameill Showers and later punched it in from the goal line.

UTEP was up 21-10 at the break and, following a scoreless third quarter by both teams, put the pedal to the metal over the final 15 minutes.

The Miners tallied 21 points in the final period, with Jameill Showers, Aaron Jones and reserve quarterback Garrett Simpson all rushing for short scores.

Jones (25 carries-168 yards-two TDs) recorded his third straight 100-yard rushing game to open the season. He is the first Miner to go over the century mark in three consecutive outings since Donald Buckram in 2009.

Nathan Jeffery chipped in with 79 yards on 12 carries, and Showers gained 41 yards on six attempts.

Despite throwing his first interception of the season, Showers had efficient numbers at 13-for-16 passing for 126 yards. The Miners have one turnover in three games.

Ian Hamilton (three catches-45 yards) was UTEP's top receiver, and Nick Usher was a standout on defense with nine tackles, including two for losses, and a forced fumble.

NM State got on the scoreboard first, driving 75 yards on eight plays and going ahead 7-0 on a 17-yard pass from Tyler Rogers to Joseph Matthews.

But after that, UTEP kept the Aggies out of the end zone until the final quarter.

Rogers was 22-for-40 passing for NMSU with 324 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, which the Miners both turned into touchdowns.

Teldrick Morgan had eight receptions for 202 yards and a TD for NM State.

The last time UTEP had more rushing yards against a Division I opponent was on Aug. 31, 1991 versus New Mexico (349). The Miners gained 470 yards, and NMSU collected 425.

UTEP is averaging 317 yards rushing through three games, with Jones leading the way at 184 per contest with seven touchdowns.

The Miners will enjoy the first of two bye weeks this season before hitting the road to face Kansas State on Sept. 27 in Manhattan. UTEP last played at Kansas State during the 1999 season and lost 40-7. The Miners are 1-1 all-time versus the Wildcats, including a 20-6 win at El Paso in 1947 and a 40-7 loss at Manhattan in 1999.


Middle Tennessee quarterback Austin Grammer ran for three touchdowns and threw for another as the Blue Raiders turned back rival WKU, 50-47, in three overtimes in front of 24,911 at Floyd Stadium Saturday.

It was the C-USA opener for both teams and proved to be another epic battle in the 64th meeting between the rivals. Middle Tennessee (2-1) leads the all-time series 34-29-1 and dealt the Hilltoppers (1-2) the setback in their first game as a C-USA member.

Grammer, who rushed for 125 yards and threw for 218, completed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ed'Marques Batties in the third overtime to send Middle Tennessee to victory. Batties' second reception of the game followed Garrett Schwettman's 27-yard field goal that had provided the Hilltoppers a 47-44 lead.

Grammer ran for a career-high 125 yards and his three rushing touchdowns also were a career best. He accounted for 343 yards total offense to lead the Blue Raider offensive attack. Middle Tennessee piled up 541 yards total offense.

WKU managed 718 yards total offense, including quarterback Brandon Doughty completing 43-of-66 passes for 593 yards; however, Middle Tennessee's defense rose to the occasion when it mattered most.

In addition to Grammer, tailback Reggie Whatley ran for 74 yards and Shane Tucker finished with 67 yards and a touchdown.

Middle Tennessee had taken a 34-31 lead on Cody Clark's 29-yard field goal with 2:39 remaining, but WKU answered when Schwettman connected from 24 yards out with 20 seconds remaining to force overtime.

The Hilltoppers went on top 41-34 on their first possession of the first overtime but the Blue Raiders answered when Grammer ran in from the 1 to even the slate.

The teams traded field goals in the second overtime to send the game into a third OT tied a 41-41.

WKU took a 47-44 lead on Schwettman's 27-yard field goal to start the overtime but Middle Tennessee secured victory when Grammer found Batties in the middle of the field. Batties hauled in the reception and rambled into the end zone where he was mobbed by his Blue Raider teammates.

After a high-scoring first half neither team was able to get on the scoreboard in the third quarter. Middle Tennessee went ahead 31-24 on Tucker's 2-yard run with 11:37 remaining in regulation. WKU came right back and evened the score when Doughty hit Mitchell Henry from 19 yards out.

Clark's 29-yard field goal had given Middle Tennessee a 34-31 lead with 2:29 remaining but the Hilltoppers forced OT when Schwettman connected on a 24-yard effort with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.

The first half was highlighted with offensive superlatives as the rivals combined for 664 yards total offense by halftime. WKU racked up 393 yards on 50 offensive plays in the first half and Middle Tennessee totaled 271 yards in the first two quarters.

The Hilltoppers went to the air for the majority of its first-half success with Brandon Doughty throwing for 324 yards and two touchdowns. His counterpart, Grammer, was equally impressive although he did most of his damage on the ground. Grammer rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns in the first half to lead a Raider ground game that accounted for 167 yards.

Middle Tennessee jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter. Grammer's career-long 59 yard run put the Blue Raiders on the board with 7:20 remaining in the opening frame. Cody Clark's PAT capped a two-play, 67-yard drive.

After WKU's Garrett Schwettman put the Hilltoppers on the board with a 20-yard field goal, Middle Tennessee came back with another quick scoring drive. Parker's 7-yard run capped a four-play, 65-yard drive in just one minute that provided a 14-3 cushion with 1:23 remaining in the first quarter.

WKU got hot in the second quarter and scored on three straight drives to vault to a 24-14 lead but the Blue Raiders scored the final 10 points of the half to even the score, 24-24, at intermission. Clark's 37-yard field goal pulled the Blue Raiders to within 24-17 with 1:58 to play.

Even though the first half didn't contain many defensive highlights the biggest was turned in by Middle Tennessee's Shane Tucker, who intercepted Doughty in the waning stages of the half to give the Blue Raiders possession. Grammer's second rushing touchdown of the half capped a seven-play, 54-yard drive and Clark added the point after as Middle Tennessee rallied to tie the game 24-24 with 13 seconds remaining.

The Blue Raiders will step out of conference when they face in-state rival Memphis on the road Saturday. Kickoff is 6 p.m.

CAPTAINS: Today's game captains were S Kevin Byard, OL Isaiah Anderson, and FB Chase Pennycuff.

8TH LARGEST: Middle Tennessee's announced crowd of 24,911 ranked as the eighth largest crowd in school history. It was the most in Floyd since 25,908 came to see the Blue Raiders' 2010 opener against Minnesota.

GRAMMER TOPS 100: For the second time in his career and the first of the season, quarterback Austin Grammer topped the 100-yard rushing mark. Grammer finished the game with a career-high 125 yards and a a personal-best three rushing touchdowns.

ANOTHER PICK FOR D: With Jared Singletary's interception in the second quarter, the Blue Raiders have now collected 27 interceptions in its last 21 games. MT now has three on the season after registering 15 in 2013.

GOAL LINE STAND: Late in the third quarter, the Blue Raider defense came up with a big goal line stand when WKU had it 1st and Goal from the 6-yard line. On second down, WKU's Leon Allen was ruled as scoring a touchdown but after a review it was ruled he fell short at the 1-yard line. MT then held on the next two plays to regain possession. LB Trey Wafford made the stop on 4th down.

WORKING OT: Middle Tennessee and WKU needed three overtimes to decide Saturday's C-USA opener. It marked Middle Tennessee's seventh OT game as an FBS member. The Blue Raiders are now 4-3 in those games. It marked the Blue Raiders' third OT game in three seasons. Prior to 2011, MT had not played an OT game since 2003 when it played three. It marked the second time in three seasons MT and WKU played into OT. WKU beat Middle Tennessee 36-33 in double OT Oct. 6, 2011. The three OTs are the second-most of the FBS era. Middle Tennessee and UL-Lafayette played four overtimes in 2003.

QUICK HITTERS: Max Ugboaja, Shubert Bastien, Christian Henry and Leighton Gasque played in their team leading 40th career game today… Isaiah Anderson, Kevin Byard and Darius Johnson all made their 28th straight start to lead the Raiders … WR Marcus Henry has now caught at least one pass in 16 straight games which leads the Raiders … Austin Grammer's 59-yard TD run in the first quarter was the longest run of his career … Senior Chris Sharpe played in his first game of the season tonight after suffering a stress fracture in fall camp … RB Shane Tucker's 52-yard reception was the longest of his career … Jimal McBride recorded his first sack of the season and the second of his career during the second quarter … Jared Singletary came up with the second interception of his career in the second quarter … The Blue Raiders have now scored in 98 straight home games … This marked the first time an opponent has thrown for over 400 yards since Louisville in 2007

MT Quotes
Coach Stock:
On win vs Western Kentucky:
"It was a heck of a game. I give Western Kentucky a lot of credit. They competed and battled ahead, but our guys' mental toughness showed tonight. I told our guys when we went up there in 2012 it was tied at halftime, and we won the second half because of our toughness. It was tied 24-24 at the half, and we came away with another one. We were warriors out there. I'm extremely proud of the way our guys competed tonight. It was a heck of a football game. I'm ecstatic.

On defensive efforts:
"We stopped the run pretty good. Their quarterback is really good, the tight end made some good catches. The goal line stand really showed great toughness. We overcame fourth down there in the first overtime and they score on the first play and we get to fourth down and punch it in. This team's energy and toughness that we play with is awesome. I hope people understand how big this win was tonight. It wasn't just beating your rival, this is a conference game who had a really good football team. We played smarter. We protected the ball. We didn't have foolish penalties where they did a couple times. They also had the one turnover and we were able to take it down before the half and score. I'm just really proud of this football team."

On touchdown pass from Grammer to Batties in OT:
"They played us man free in the overtimes and we took a shot. Ed did a nice job at the line of scrimmage and Austin gave him a catchable ball. It was a great play to fight and get in the end zone. I wish you guys could be in that locker room and experience it because there's some special people in there."

On Grammer's performance:
"They did a lot better job the second half of stopping our quarterback runs. The first half we got out of there with the long TD run, and the quarterback run that he scored on. I hate singling out people, and Austin played a good game, but the people around him, the o-line, did a great job tonight, the backs ran hard. This was a perfect example of a team win. To go to 3 overtimes and come out of it with a win against a team like Western Kentucky – just a a heck of a win."

On injuries throughout the game:
"I know we lost Lucas Hamilton in there, we lost Chris Sharpe. Duvall hurt his ankle a little bit then Kahari caught a cramp. When you throw the ball as much as them, that's a long night for those DBs to cover, so rightfully so they have a reason to be tired."

On the fans:
"I don't know why you wouldn't come to see us play. It's a great team to watch, if you're a student, live here in Murfreesboro, or just a fan, you're going to see a good team. I hope everybody continues to come out and have the same enthusiasm. Let's sell the thing out!"

Shane Tucker:
On game vs WKU:
"I was just joking with Grammer, and this was the most fun game I've ever played in. Games don't even get that fun on the video games."

On the team's bond:
I love every player on the team. All of us have a bond. Coach does a great job of putting us in environments where we all are connected. We don't care who gets the ball, the glory, whatever. We are just trying to win."

On preparing for the game:
"We came into this game thinking it would be a dogfight. It was a rivalry game, conference game. We knew we were going into a heavyweight fight out there. Coaches did a great job of preparing us this whole week and we just went out there and executed."

On team win:
"Grammer did a great job of putting it on my back shoulder. Line did a great job of blocking. It was a great team win. Everybody put in work today. Everybody contributed to this win."

Austin Grammer:
On team bond:
"Like Shane (Tucker) said, we work so hard and build that bond like we're brothers. It really is a family."

On offensive line:
"I say all the time that we get even more comfortable with each and every snap, even in practice. Our o-line makes it so easy. They kept me pretty clean tonight. They're definitely one of the best in the conference, if not the best, and definitely one of the best in the country. It gets a lot easier from snap to snap."

On the Blue Zoo:
"We love those guys. We love their support. They always come out in full force and we definitely appreciate the support. It was really loud in there. We were pleased with the crowd and really working on a sellout."