No. 5 Texas A&M escapes with 10-7 win over Colorado

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DENVER – Freshman quarterback Haynes King‘s backup started out slowly, finished precious few drives and even fumbled the football a whisker from the goal line.

Sophomore Zach Calzada came up clutch in the end, though, throwing an 18-yard touchdown pass to running back Isaiah Spiller with 2:41 remaining to help fifth-ranked Texas A&M edge Colorado 10-7 Saturday.

“The one thing you can say he made the plays on those drives that mattered, right there at the end,” Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher said.

And Fisher didn’t want to hear about how his Aggies should have walloped the Buffaloes, either.

“First and foremost, Colorado played a heck of a football game. We got a very good football team,” Fisher said. “They were a lot of the reason why we had issues today. We can sit here and say we blame it on ourselves, but they did a really, really good job, physically and schematically.

“We were fortunate to come out of that one.”

Unbeaten if not unscathed.

Spiller’s TD gave the Aggies (2-0) their first lead on a day in which they lost their star freshman starting quarterback to a lower right leg injury and eight of their first nine drives were three-and-outs.

Colorado’s hopes of an upset over the 17-point favorite Aggies ended when Brendon Lewis‘ pass to Dimitri Stanley on fourth-and-13 from his 22 covered just 12 yards before he was smothered by a bevy of defenders.

“It gives us an identity,” Spiller said of the hard-fought victory. “It was our first adversity game, it was a great challenge for us.”

Maybe it’ll give the Buffs an identity, too.

“There’s no reason to hang our head low for anything,” Colorado coach Karl Dorrell said. “We had a chance to win a game, a significant game, and our locker room is more disappointed about not finishing the game.

“I thought defensively we played really well, but offensively we had some good moments but struggled at times, couldn’t put anything together in the second half.”

The Aggies (2-0), whose 10-game winning streak is second longest in the nation to Alabama, took over with 1:39 left and ran out the clock on the Buffs (1-1), who managed just one first down after taking a 7-3 halftime lead.

The former Big 12 adversaries hadn’t played each other since 2009 before the Aggies bolted to the Southeastern Conference and the Buffs headed to the Pac-12.

The old rivals put on a dazzling defensive performance, but an offensive dud in front of 61,203 fans at the home of the Denver Broncos.

The Buffs had a chance to pull off their first win over a top-five team in 14 years when Joshka Gustav forced a fumble inches from the goal line and cornerback Mekhi Blackmon recovered it in the end zone to prevent a touchdown by the Aggies midway through the fourth quarter.

The Buffs went three-and-out again, however, and the Aggies began their game-winning drive from their 23 with 7:50 remaining.

The Buffs lost their best rusher, Jarek Broussard, to an unspecified injury midway through the third quarter after he was smoked by nickelback Antonio Johnson just as he caught a pass in the right flat. He slowly walked off and didn’t return.

King hobbled off the field favoring his right leg after a 2-yard keeper on the Aggies’ second possession. He spent the second half watching from the sideline in street clothes, on crutches and with a walking boot on his right foot. Fisher said he had no update after the game on King’s injury or his prognosis.

Calzada, a sophomore, completed just two of his first eight passes for 2 yards until heating up in the two-minute drill just before halftime and Seth Small’s 41-yard field goal pulled A&M to 7-3 at halftime.

That drive began with a 15-yard run by Devon Achane. Before that, the Aggies were in danger of becoming the first team to head into halftime without a first down against Colorado since Nebraska in 1961.

Broussard scored from 2 yards for Colorado in the first quarter, but another long drive ended with a missed field goal by Cole Becker and a third ended when Lewis was stuffed on back-to-back attempts to gain a few inches inside the Aggies 5-yard line.

Dorrell wasn’t second-guessing any calls.

“We lost a really tough game, where we had a great chance of winning, that’s really the bottom line,” he said.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Texas A&M escaped a huge upset and has big questions at quarterback. “Today is judgment day,” Fisher said. “We found out that we have heart, but we have to find out if we can get execution and precision.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Texas A&M: Although Calzada completed just 18 of 38 passes for 183 yards, he got it done in crunch time. And the Aggies limited Lewis to just 89 yards through the air and 76 on the ground. Johnson had nine solo tackles and two of A&M’s seven pass breakups, outshined only by Colorado LB Nate Landman (10 solo tackles, two of them for loss and two pass breakups).

Colorado: The Buffs still haven’t beaten a team in the top five since knocking off No. 3 Oklahoma 27-24 in Boulder on Sept. 29, 2007. But a defiant Dorrell insisted his team proved it’s on its way back: “Damn right I’m optimistic! I think everybody thought that we wouldn’t be close to this team. I told you all we’re a better team than you think.”

UP NEXT

Texas A&M hosts New Mexico on Sept. 18.

Colorado hosts Minnesota on Sept. 18.

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.