South Carolina names former grad assistant its starting QB

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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COLUMBIA, S.C. – In less than two weeks, Zeb Noland has gone of from helping South Carolina players prepare for the season to being named the Gamecocks starting quarterback.

In an odd twist, the one-time team grad assistant will start the year as South Carolina’s QB against Eastern Illinois on Saturday night.

Noland wasn’t even part of the mix earlier this month until expected starter Luke Doty suffered a mid-foot sprain and the Gamecocks had no one in the quarterback room who had taken snaps in a major college football game.

That is, until Noland gave up his spot on staff to put the pads back on.

“Is it a little bit unique? Yes,” South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer said Tuesday. “But remember he played in a game a few months ago.”

That’s not something you hear everyday from a coach in the SEC.

Noland’s last game action was at North Dakota State where Noland started seven games in the spring season and led the team with 740 yards of total offense. He could’ve remained with the Bison, but gave up his eligibility to join Beamer’s first year program.

In a numbers crunch as a result of Doty’s injury two weeks ago, Beamer looked to Noland to fill in. Right from the start, Beamer said, Noland gave the offense a snap that was missing in workouts – and the coach and Noland’s teammates say it has continued.

“You can tell he knows his stuff,” Gamecocks receiver Jalen Brooks said. “It’s been very impressive.”

Noland, a 6-foot-2, 232-pound player from Watkinsville, Georgia, began his college career at Iowa State, where he threw for 1,255 yards and six touchdowns as a reserve before transferring to North Dakota State.

Noland worked alongside San Francisco 49ers first-round draft pick Trey Lance with the Bison and assumed the starting role when Lance opted out of the team’s spring season.

Noland joined the Gamecocks staff in June and worked at putting together game plans among other things. Brooks recalled how he’d stay after workouts to do extra drills with Doty while Noland would oversee and help on throws. That, wide receiver said, gave him an on-field connection with Noland that has gotten better the past two weeks.

“I already got a head start” on bonding with the new quarterback, Brooks explained.

When Noland took the field at South Carolina, Beamer saw a polished, efficient player who got the team in and out of its schemes quickly and with the demeanor of a leader.

Beamer said Noland’s first practice period during which he faced only blitzes was the most impressive performance by any group in camp.

Noland also has experience playing in a Power Five conference.

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell texted with Noland when he was heading to join Beamer’s staff and Campbell thought it was a great opportunity for Noland to start a coaching career. Noland is always prepared for the situation, Campbell said.

“I think it makes sense that that this opportunity came his way and he was able to capitalize on it,” Campbell said.

It’s the second straight season South Carolina has opened the season with a grad transfer as starting quarterback. A year ago, it was fifth-year senior Collin Hill from Colorado State who began the season.

Hill lasted until coach Will Muschamp‘s dismissal in mid-November when interim coach Mike Bobo had Doty start the final two games in South Carolina’s 2-8 season.

Beamer told Noland and St. Francis (PA) transfer Jason Brown, who were vying to replace Doty, about the decision Monday.

Brown was disappointed he lost out, but said he will stay ready and support Noland.

“I love Zeb and I hope he does the best,” Brown said.

Beamer told Brown that he’d see action Saturday against Eastern Illinois as well.

Doty’s recovery from his foot injury is progressing well, Beamer said, and he may be ready to go when South Carolina plays at East Carolina on Sept. 11.

Doty is wearing tennis shoes at practice and no longer needs a walking boot, a soft cast or a scooter to get around as he recovers.

Beamer was asked twice if Doty, a sophomore who can run as well as pass, would regain the starting spot once healthy or would he have to compete with Noland for the job. Beamer, coaching his first game as a college head coach this week, wouldn’t bite.

“That’s for another time,” Beamer said. “We concentrating fully on Eastern Illinois.”

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.