Utah State routs No. 19 San Diego State, wins Mountain West Championship

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CARSON, Calif. — Brandon Bowling caught two touchdown passes from Logan Bonner during the decisive third quarter, and Utah State won its first Mountain West Conference title with a 46-13 rout of No. 19 San Diego State on Saturday.

Bonner passed for 318 yards and four TDs, while fellow Arkansas State transfer Bowling had eight catches for a career-high 154 yards. The Aggies (10-3) punctuated their inspiring turnaround under first-year coach Blake Anderson by blowing out the short-handed Aztecs (11-2) for their first win over an AP Top 25 opponent since 2015.

Utah State earned a berth in the inaugural LA Bowl on Dec. 18 at SoFi Stadium, the Los Angeles Rams’ multibillion-dollar arena located about 12 miles northwest of the site of this victory at San Diego State’s temporary home. The Aggies are likely to face Oregon State.

Jordon Brookshire passed for 117 yards before getting replaced by Jalen Mayden for San Diego State, which had its four-game winning streak snapped in the school’s most lopsided loss since a 35-point defeat at Ohio State in September 2013.

Utah State’s 46 points were the most allowed in Aztecs coach Brady Hoke‘s two stints and four seasons at SDSU.

The Aztecs played without starting tight end Daniel Bellinger, two additional tight ends, receiver Tyrell Shavers and at roughly a dozen other backups due to what the school termed “a medical concern.” San Diego State has declined to explicitly confirm any COVID-19 issues this season, but the current problems prevented the Aztecs from holding a full practice all week.

Bonner and Bowling followed Anderson from Arkansas State to Utah State, which hadn’t won a league title since its final year in the WAC in 2012. This surprisingly one-sided victory is the latest remarkable feat the Aggies’ first season under a coach who moved across the country a year ago still mourning the death of his wife, Wendy, from breast cancer in 2019.

Bowling caught a 58-yard TD pass moments after halftime, and he added a toe-tapping 18-yard TD grab late in the period that essentially finished the mistake-prone Aztecs, whose sturdy defense faltered on the brink of their first conference title since 2016.

Derek Wright and Justin McGriff also caught TD passes from Bonner, who went 29 for 42. Utah State’s high-powered offense decisively won its matchup with San Diego State’s elite defense, which had allowed a conference-low 17.3 points per game this season before getting shredded by the Aggies.

Bellinger was the Aztecs’ second-leading receiver this season with a modest 29 catches in an offense that didn’t produce a 400-yard receiver. The backup absences also could have affected the Aztecs’ special teams mistakes, which included a punt that went off the back of Matt Araiza’s blockers and through the end zone for a safety in the third quarter.

Bowling put the Aggies up 21-3 less than two minutes after halftime when the Aztecs’ defense lost track of him running alone down the middle of their secondary. San Diego State’s Jordan Byrd muffed a punt later in the third quarter, and Bowling made his second TD grab shortly afterward.

THE TAKEAWAY

Utah State: What a finish for the Aggies, who sprinted past the frontrunners at the tape to win it all. Anderson took over a team that went 1-5 amid a tumultuous coaching change last season, but his group already exceeded all expectations by making the Aggies’ first conference title game since their inaugural year in the Mountain West in 2013.

San Diego State: The Aztecs had a massive letdown after a resilient season under Hoke, who produced the first 11-win season in the school’s 99 years of football competition. The COVID problems mostly didn’t affect their starters, which means no asterisk should be attached to this dispiriting loss.

UP NEXT

Utah State: The first Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl on Dec. 18, likely against Oregon State.

San Diego State: Most likely the Arizona Bowl or the Frisco Bowl.

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

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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.