South Carolina tailback Kevin Harris returns after back surgery

Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Kevin Harris is finally healthy enough to play college football again after his breakthrough season as one of the Southeastern Conference’s top rushers.

Harris finished with 1,138 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns, leading the SEC with 113.8 yards a game last season. His touchdowns were second only in the league to Alabama’s Najee Harris.

The 5-foot-10, 220-pound Gamecock was eager to keep that going this year. However, back surgery to correct what he and South Carolina coach Shane Beamer called a “minor procedure” led Harris to miss all of spring camp and much of the summer.

Harris will play for the Gamecocks (1-0) at East Carolina (0-1).

The tailback “looked good out there” for Tuesday’s practice, Beamer said. “He’ll help. It’s another back in the room.”

Harris was much more than just another back in the room last season; he was the brightest spot in an offense that was 10th in the SEC in both total yards and points.

He had five games with 100 yards or more last season, including a season high 243 against Mississippi and 210 against Kentucky. Harris became only the third South Carolina runner – Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers and Marcus Lattimore are the others – with multiple 200-yard rushing games.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Harris, who usually keeps his comments brief. “I want to do better than I did last year.”

Harris was scheduled to play in last week’s season-opening 46-0 victory over Eastern Illinois, but an illness kept him on the sideline.

It didn’t hurt South Carolina’s running game much, gaining 254 yards including 128 from ZaQuandre White and 63 from MarShawn Lloyd, who missed all of 2020 with an injury.

Harris’ return makes things complete and gives the Gamecocks an added dimension going forward. Just this morning, Beamer joked the running backs meeting room sounded like a “frat party” with the joy they all took in knowing Harris would play.

“It’s great to have all of us out there,” Lloyd said.

It hasn’t been the easiest road for Harris to follow, Beamer said. Harris lives to compete and him missing the spring under a new coaching staff was difficult for him, Beamer explained.

“It would be easy to get frustrated,” the first-year coach said. “He wanted to play during preseason camp. He certainly wanted to be out there Saturday night” for the opener.

Harris understood the operation would correct a problem and make him more effective going forward.

“He had a big smile out there today,” Beamer said. “It was great to see him in full pads and running the football like we know he can.”

Harris is not the fastest runner, but one with an ability to hit the right hole and cut into the open field. He had 31 of South Carolina’s 51 runs of at least 10 yards in 2020, including four TD runs of 44 yards or longer.

Harris showed that versatility against Vanderbilt last season. He escaped a pair of Commodore defenders for a 25-yard touchdown run then capped his game with an 88-yard score, bursting through the line and finding the clear path to the end zone.

“We know the kind of runner he is,” Beamer said.

There’s no medical restriction on Harris limiting his carries. Although Beamer, offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield and running backs coach Mario Hardesty will put their heads together this week about keeping Harris as fresh as possible throughout.

Satterfield was impressed with Harris’ ability when he could practice. Satterfield didn’t know Harris was in and was wowed by what he saw. “I had to do a double take,” Satterifled said.

“You can tell he’s ready to run,” Satterifield said.

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.