No. 7 Indiana excited to be in Outback Bowl against Ole Miss

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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TAMPA, Fla. — No. 7 Indiana is not going to let anything dampen its enthusiasm.

Bypassed for a berth in a New Year’s Six game despite being off to their best start since 1993 and holding their own in a seven-point loss to CFP participant Ohio State, the Hoosiers (6-1) will close a breakout season against Mississippi (4-5) in Saturday’s Outback Bowl.

“We were definitely kind of bummed out about what happened with the New Year’s Six bowl game, but we just kind of used that as fuel to the fire,” running back Stevie Scott III said.

“It has been 29 years since we last won a bowl game,” quarterback Jack Tuttle said. “We are fighting and doing everything that we can to be in the best possible situation for Saturday to get the win.”

Indiana hasn’t won a postseason game since beating Baylor 24-0 in the 1991 Copper Bowl. The Hoosiers are appearing in consecutive January games for the first time in program history, and the trip to the Outback is a homecoming or sorts for coach Tom Allen and a number of his players.

Indiana’s roster includes 22 players from the start of Florida, 10 from the Tampa Bay area, where Allen once coached high school ball and later returned to work as an assistant coach at USF, which plays its home games in Raymond James Stadium.

Tuttle, a transfer from Utah, will make his second start for the Hoosiers in place of one of those Tampa area products, Michael Penix, Jr., who suffered a season-ending knee injury that could have derailed Indiana in late November. Instead, the Hoosiers rallied around Tuttle and beat Wisconsin 14-6 in what turned out to be the only game the team has played in the past month.

“That game helped me improve so much and gain confidence,” Tuttle said. “Now it’s not about it’s his first start, it’s time to get your feet wet.’ Now it’s just kind of playing football, improving from that game and prepping for Ole Miss.”

Mississippi, which will be short-handed due to some opt outs and injuries, is in a bowl game for the first time in five years. The Rebels have also been dealing with COVID-19 issues, but coach Lane Kiffin said there never was really a question whether the team would make the trip to Florida.

“This will be challenging. They are very good. … Their only loss is to Ohio State by one score,” Kiffin said of Indiana.

“We’re really struggling with injuries and opt outs and COVD,” Kiffin added. “We’re kind of running out of players, which is not ideal when you’re a tempo offense. But it is what it is.”

EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE

Despite losing five of nine games against an all-Southeastern Conference schedule, Mississippi had one of the nation’s most prolific offenses. The Rebels averaged 562.4 yards and 40.7 points per game, with quarterback Matt Corral throwing for 2,995 yards and 27 touchdowns while also rushing for 469 yards and four more TD’s.

The problem was a porous defense yielded 40.3 points and a nation’s-worst 535.7 yards per game in the team’s first season under Kiffin.

STOUT DEFENSE

Penix was a big part of Indiana’s success this season, however, the defense led by linebacker Micah McFadden did its part, too. The Hoosiers have allowed an average of 19.4 points and 361.7 total yards. They led the nation with 17 interceptions, even though Indiana played only seven games.

WE PLAY OFFENSE, TOO

Scott and wide receiver Ty Fryfogle are key components in Indiana’s offense. Scott rushed for 462 yards and eight touchdowns and Fryfogle has 34 receptions for 687 yards and seven TDs this season.

Tuttle calls Fryfogle, a native of Mississippi, a “special” player.

“He is great and makes my job a whole lot easier,” the quarterback said.

RARE MATCHUP

This will be the first meeting between the schools. In fact, it’s rare that Ole Miss is facing a Big Ten opponent at all.

The Rebels are 2-4 against current members of the Big Ten. They haven’t faced a team from that league since beating Nebraska in the 2002 Independence Bowl. The Cornhuskers actually were members of the Big 12 at that time.

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”