No. 2 Oklahoma holds off Tulane 40-35 to avoid big upset

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma nearly took its hospitality too far.

The Sooners’ game against Tulane was relocated from New Orleans because of Hurricane Ida, and Oklahoma’s athletic department and fans went all out to make their guests feel at home. Oklahoma had the Green Wave painted on the 25-yard lines, and Sooners fans cheered when Tulane’s players ran into the field before the game.

The Sooners then nearly let the Green Wave claim their first win over a Top 10 opponent since 1973. Spencer Rattler passed for 304 yards and a touchdown and No. 2 Oklahoma, playing a road game on its home field, narrowly avoided a shocking upset by holding on for a 40-35 victory over Tulane on Saturday.

“That was one of the hardest hitting teams, one of the most physical teams I’ve played,” Rattler said. “They came out there, and they played great, better than us, for sure. They wanted to win more than us. You could tell it. We have to be cleaner, sharper, and have to be better.”

The Sooners, who led 40-22 early in the fourth quarter, gave up a pair of late touchdowns. Tulane had fourth-and-13 just short of midfield with just under two minutes to go when quarterback Michael Pratt ran for only 12 yards and the Green Wave turned the ball over on downs. The Sooners ran out the clock.

Oklahoma led 37-14 at halftime.

“The second half, I think clearly our team felt like the game was over,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “That’s obviously my job to make sure our mentality is right. I don’t think it was. I think we were playing well at that point and had separated a little bit. And then you could just see we weren’t quite the same team coming out.”

Oklahoma’s Gabe Brkic tied an FBS record with three field goals of 50 or more yards, and Marvin Mims had five catches for 117 yards.

Rattler, a preseason first-team AP All-American, completed 30 of 39 passes, ran for a score and threw for another, but he also threw two interceptions.

Pratt passed for 296 yards and three touchdowns for the Green Wave. He also ran for a score.

“Really proud of the effort,” Tulane coach Willie Fritz said. “Obviously, we didn’t come down here to play close. But we could have won the game. If we would had played better in the first half, I think we would have had a much better opportunity to do it. But we’re going to be able to watch the tape and build on it.”

Tulane opened the scoring on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Pratt to Cameron Carroll. The Green Wave went up 14-7 in the first quarter on a 15-yard touchdown run by Jaetavian Toles.

Oklahoma scored the next 30 points. Brkic made three field goals in the second quarter. His second was a 51-yarder, and he closed the half with a career-long 56-yarder. It was the longest field goal for an Oklahoma kicker since 1977.

Pratt scored on a 4-yard keeper, and the Green Wave got the 2-point conversion to make it 37-22.

Tulane cut it to 40-28 on Pratt’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Carroll. Pratt stumbled and fell in the backfield on the 2-point try.

Brkic missed a 31-yard field goal, giving Tulane a shot late. Pratt’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Will Wallace made it 40-35 with 2:18 remaining, and Tulane recovered the onside kick before failing to score.

Fritz said he loved how focused his players were, especially with so many having family and friends having issues back home.

“Our guys have handled it extremely well,” Fritz said. “They really have. I’ve got good young men. I have very few problems with our guys. And, you know, that’s what I’m most proud of. They can handle this kind of situation.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Tulane: The Green Wave played inspired football and nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in school history.

Oklahoma: The Sooners gained just 27 yards on 19 carries in the second half, so they couldn’t put the game away. Oklahoma went 2-for-7 on third down in the second half and was outgained 230 yards to 118. It was similar to some of the Sooners’ past collapses. Fritz even cited Oklahoma’s loss to Kansas State last season, when the Sooners squandered a 21-point lead, when trying to keep his team motivated.

BRKIC

Brkic made field goals of 56, 55 and 51 yards. He became the first Oklahoma kicker to make more than one field goal of 50 or more yards in a game. He fell just short of the school record for longest field goal – Tony DiRienzo hit a 60-yarder in 1973.

“He saved us today,” Oklahoma linebacker Nik Bonitto said. “I’m keeping it 100 with you. He made some timely field goals. He made some really long ones. I’m real happy for him. This is stuff that we see in practice all the time. It was nothing new to him and no surprise when he made those.”

Kennedy Brooks

Brooks returned for the Sooners after sitting out last season with COVID-19 concerns. He had 87 yards on 14 carries.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Sooners could drop after going to the wire against an unranked team.

UP NEXT

Tulane: Hosts Morgan State on Saturday.

Oklahoma: Hosts Western Carolina on Saturday.

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.