Texas A&M runs past North Carolina in Orange Bowl, 41-27

© Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Devon Achane had two late touchdown runs, including a 76-yarder with 3:44 left that put Texas A&M ahead to stay, and the fifth-ranked Aggies beat No. 14 North Carolina 41-27 in the Orange Bowl on Saturday night to cap a winless bowl season for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Kellen Mond passed for 232 yards and ran for a score for the Aggies (9-1), who were in the Orange Bowl for the first time since 1944. Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher improved to 3-0 in Orange Bowls, winning two previous ones at Florida State.

Achane’s go-ahead score came on a play where he darted left, nearly tripped over one of his own blockers, broke a tackle and then got loose down the sideline. The Aggies got a fourth-down stop on the ensuing possession, and Achane sealed the win on a 1-yard run with 1:34 left.

Sam Howell passed for 234 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Josh Downs, for the Tar Heels (8-4). North Carolina was without leading rushers Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, leading receiver Dyami Brown and top tackler Chazz Surratt — all of whom opted out of the bowl game.

It was a tough end to the season for the ACC, which sent two teams to the four-team College Football Playoff, yet still had a winless postseason by a combined 223-152 count. N.C. State lost 23-21 to Kentucky, Miami lost 37-34 to Oklahoma State, and the four other games — including losses by Notre Dame and Clemson in the CFP semifinals on Friday — were all decided by two touchdowns or more.

None of the other current Power 5 conferences has ever come close to going 0-6 in a bowl season. The last winless ACC bowl season was 1983, when the conference went 0-2.

Howell tied North Carolina’s career TD passing record of 68 with his three scoring throws, all of which gave the Tar Heels leads.

The first saw Dazz Newsome make a diving 28-yard grab with 4:56 left in the half to put the Tar Heels ahead 13-10. The next was a 10-yarder to Downs with 8:01 left in the third for a 20-17 lead, a drive extended when Texas A&M had an interception in the end zone waved off by penalty. And the third was a 75-yarder to Downs early in the fourth, when Howell saw him break free, point to him and let the ball fly.

Every time, though, Texas A&M answered.

A 3-yard run by Isaiah Spiller with 20 seconds left in the half sent the Aggies into the locker room up 17-13, and a chip-shot field goal by Seth Small tied the game at 20 with 14:02 remaining. Mond had a 4-yard scoring run with 10:11 left.

The rest was up to Achane, and the Aggies ended their season on an eight-game win streak.

THE TAKEAWAY

Texas A&M: Mond’s rushing score was the 93rd touchdown he was responsible for at Texas A&M, tying Johnny Manziel’s school record. Achane finished with 140 yards rushing, a stellar end to his freshman season.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels gave up 24 points in the fourth quarter, after allowing just 17 points in the first 45 minutes. It was a difficult end for a defense that forced five three-and-outs.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

At worst, Texas A&M should remain No. 5 and match its best AP poll finish since finishing No. 1 in 1939 (joining No. 5 rankings to end the 1956 and 2012 seasons). North Carolina still could finish ranked for only the fourth time in the last 27 seasons.

BOWL WOES

Of the 25 bowl games played so far, the ACC and Conference USA have had the losing team in 48% of them. Like the ACC, C-USA also went 0-6 this bowl season.

UP NEXT

Texas A&M: Scheduled to open 2021 against Kent State on Sept. 4.

North Carolina: An ACC opponent likely awaits in Week 1 next season. The Tar Heels’ first non-ACC game is currently set for Sept. 11 against Georgia State.

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

air force
Peter Joneleit/Getty Images
0 Comments

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

florida gators
Donald Page/Getty Images
0 Comments

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.”