Young holds up, No. 1 Alabama holds off No. 11 Florida 31-29

James Gilbert/Getty Images
0 Comments

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Bryce Young heard all about the Swamp. He knew it would be deafening at times and difficult, if not impossible, for a visiting quarterback to communicate.

He also understood the key to handling such a raucous environment: a fast start.

Young’s first collegiate road trip was a rousing success, a three-touchdown performance that helped top-ranked Alabama beat No. 11 Florida 31-29 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams Saturday.

“Crazy atmosphere,” Young said. “Those fans were really loud. We knew it was going to be a hostile environment coming in and they lived up to it for sure.”

The defending national champion Crimson Tide led 21-3 after the first quarter but failed to sustain its momentum and had to stop a botched 2-point conversion with 3:10 left to extend its winning streak to 17. Alabama has now won 32 in a row against teams from the SEC’s Eastern Division.

“I think the offense did a great job of answering the bell in the game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “But our team needs to learn to maintain intensity throughout the game. … We’ve got a lot of good players. We’ve just got to get them to play a little better.”

Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC) has won eight straight in the series, including a wild 52-46 victory in last year’s conference title game. The Gators (2-1, 0-1) fell to 0-5 against No. 1-ranked teams at Florida Field.

This one was closer than oddsmakers and just about everyone outside of Gainesville expected, with 14 1/2-point underdog Florida having a chance to tie the game in the closing minutes despite playing without dynamic backup quarterback Anthony Richardson.

Coach Dan Mullen held Richardson out as a precaution because of a strained right hamstring and said he would only be available in case of an emergency. Mullen said doctors told him Richardson “could definitely make it worse” by playing.

So Mullen went exclusively with starter Emory Jones instead of a two-QB rotation.

“I thought Emory really kind of stepped up his game,” Mullen said.

Jones completed 17 of 27 passes for 181 yards, with an interception. He was booed at times, partly because of the slow start and surely because of the home crowd’s disappointment in not seeing Richardson.

He was at his best late, directing a 99-yard drive in the third quarter and a 75-yarder that nearly knotted the game.

“I still made too many mistakes,” said Jones, who acknowledged a mistake on the 2-point conversion.

Young, meanwhile, avoided errors that typically plague young QBs on the road. He gave Alabama an early advantage with TD passes to Jase McClellan, Jahleel Billingsley and Brian Robinson.

But Florida had all the momentum late and was in position to pull off a shocker when Dameon Pierce went around the left end from 17 yards out, making it 31-29 in the waning minutes. But fellow running back Malik Davis was stopped short on the conversion after lining up on the wrong side of Jones.

“One thing a lot of teams do is play Alabama, they sometimes don’t think they’re going to win the game maybe,” Mullen said. “Our guys certainly expected to win the game and played that way. We did last year. We did this year. I think that’s maybe a big part of it.”

Florida came up short again, and many will point to a missed extra point in the third quarter as the difference. Had Chris Howard made that one, the Gators seemingly would have needed another to tie the game down the stretch.

The Gators had one final play deep in their territory and were sacked.

Young completed 22 of 35 passes for 233 yards, showing little issues in a hostile environment. The Swamp packed in 90,887 fans, the fifth most in program history and the most since 2015. The Gators hoped it would affect Young, a redshirt freshman who had never played in that kind of atmosphere.

But he handled it well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Alabama: Saban’s team looked susceptible after the first quarter, especially on defense. The Tide was gashed between the tackles and picked apart over the middle. There was no consistent pass rush, which has to give everyone in the SEC at least a little hope the rest of the way.

Florida: Mullen has completely changed his team offensively, switching from a passing attack that featured Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts to a ground game that rotates three running backs and two mobile quarterbacks. The Gators entered the game leading the nation in rushing and finished with 258 yards on the ground.

UP NEXT

Alabama hosts Southern Miss next Saturday. The Tide have won 15 of the last 16 in the series.

Florida hosts Tennessee next Saturday night. The Gators have won 15 of the last 16 in the series, which used to be more meaningful in the East.

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

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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
0 Comments

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.