Ridder, Pickett help lead National to 20-10 Senior Bowl win

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MOBILE, Ala. — The pass rushers did their best to steal the show from quarterbacks Desmond Ridder and Kenny Pickett in the Senior Bowl.

Cincinnati’s Ridder threw two touchdown passes and the National team had eight sacks in a 20-10 victory over the American team Saturday.

“We didn’t come out here to lollygag through it,” Minnesota defensive lineman Boye Mafe said. “We told each other to go out and have our best games and play our best football. This was our last time to get to represent our schools so why not go out on a good note.”

Ridder helped finish off a job started by Pittsburgh’s Pickett, a Heisman Trophy finalist who was 6-of-6 passing for 89 yards and a touchdown despite only playing the first quarter.

The National pass rushers made it a tough afternoon for their quarterback counterparts polishing off the weeklong showcase for top senior and graduated junior NFL prospects.

Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey, Penn State’s Jesse Luketa and Mafe each had two sacks. Luketa and Mafe also both forced a fumble on sacks of North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell.

Winfrey was the overall game MVP, while Mafe was the National player of the game and Western Kentucky defensive lineman Deangelo Malone was picked as the top American team player.

Winfrey wore a jersey signed by teammates and got to follow in the Senior Bowl footsteps of Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, a 2014 alum of the game.

“I’ve been dreaming about being in the Senior Bowl since I was a little kid,” Winfrey said. “I saw Aaron Donald dominate the Senior Bowl and I wanted to be the next to do that.”

Pickett and Liberty’s Malik Willis were among the Senior Bowl passers vying with Mississippi’s Matt Corral to be the first quarterback picked.

Willis started for the American team and mainly flashed his running and scrambling ability. He passed for just 11 yards but ran for a game-high 54 on four carries in the first quarter, flirting with a touchdown on a 27-yard scamper to end the first quarter.

Teams started each quarter with fresh possessions.

Ridder completed 4 of 6 passes for 68 yards to finish up with another win. He led Cincinnati to 44 wins in his career and to the College Football Playoffs this season, ending with a semifinal loss to Alabama.

The National team delivered most of the big plays, culminating with Ridder’s 25-yard touchdown to Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson in the fourth quarter.

Pickett, who led Pitt to its first ACC championship, capped his performance with a 20-yard touchdown to Baylor running back Abram Smith late in the first quarter.

Pickett spent the rest of the game as a spectator. But he’s hoping the week’s performance impressed NFL teams after making a huge leap as a player and a prospect in his senior season.

“Everyone was saying it was a flash in the pan season,” Pickett said. “Thirteen games playing at areally high level, I don’t think it is.

“So I wanted to come down here and continue on that, being a consistent player.”

Howell, who had teammates recover both of his fumbles, scrambled and passed the American team to its first score. He collected a wide snap and ran left for a 2-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.

Howell’s one completion on the drive was a 19-yarder to Utah running back TJ Pledger, a late sub who only arrived in time for Thursday’s practice and also had a 23-yard run.

North Dakota State’s Christian Watson caught an underthrown ball going to the ground and quickly popped up for a 38-yarder to set up the touchdown.

Then Ridder rolled right and hit Colorado State tight end Trey McBride for a 6-yard touchdown late in the second.

Bailey Zappe of Western Kentucky passed for a game-high 103 yards with an interception. Howell was 6 of 9 for 67 yards. Nevada’s Carson Strong also passed for 67 yards but threw an interception.

Winfrey got a trophy filled with peanut butter cups from sponsor Reese’s but had no plans to enjoy them.

“I’m not going to eat one of these,” he said.

Clemson gives raises, contract extensions to staff

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s board of trustees approved raises for special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Mike Reed and defensive tackles coach Nick Eason.

Reed and Eason also received one-year extensions keeping them tied to the Tigers through Jan. 31, 2026.

Reed, who’s been with the Tigers since 2013, had his yearly salary increased $50,000 to $800,000. Eason, the former Clemson standout defensive lineman, joined the staff this past season. He also had his compensation upped by $50,000 to $800,000.

Seven other assistants were given one-year extensions by the trustees’ compensation committee, but without a raise in salary.

Co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn had their contracts extended through Jan. 31, 2026.

Defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, tight ends coach Kyle Richardson, offensive line coach Thomas Austin, running backs coach C.J. Spiller and wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham all got one-year extensions through Jan. 31, 2025.

New offensive coordinator Garrett Riley last month received a three-year contract at $1.75 million per season.

Clemson will pay its 10 on-field assistants $7.475 million this season, an increase of $925,000 from the total for 2022.

The Tigers went 11-3 last season, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

South Carolina’s Beamer suspends three freshmen from program

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said freshmen Monteque Rhames II, Anthony Rose and Cameron Upshaw were suspended from the football program.

There was no reason given for the suspensions in the school’s statement Friday. Online records showed Rhames, 18, was booked last night and was being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on charges of carrying weapons on school property and obstructing justice.

“Our student-athletes know what is expected of them,” Beamer said. “They know that both the university and the football program will hold them accountable for their actions and decisions.”

None of the three have played for the Gamecocks.

Rose is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back from Miami who enrolled in January 2022 and redshirted this season. Rhames and Upshaw were part of South Carolina’s latest recruiting class and enrolled last month.

Rhames is a 6-5, 235-pound defensive lineman from Sumter and Upshaw is a 6-2, 193-pound safety from Perry, Florida.