No. 19 Wake Forest stops Liberty’s late 2-point conversion

NCAA Football - Liberty vs Wake Forest - September 30, 2006
Getty Images
0 Comments

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Liberty scored with 1:11 left, but No. 19 Wake Forest stopped CJ Yarbrough‘s two-point conversion attempt several yards short of the goal line for a tight 37-36 home victory Saturday.

The Demon Deacons’ ground game was ineffective – 21 rushing yards on 26 attempts – so they turned to defense and a passing game, with quarterback Sam Hartman throwing for 325 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.

Hartman became the career passing leader for Wake Forest (3-0) with more than 9,700 yards.

Liberty (2-1) pulled within a single point on a late 18-yard, fourth-down touchdown grab by Demario Douglas, who jumped high and took the ball away from two Wake defenders in the end zone. But Yarbrough was cut off by several defenders as he ran for the right corner on the two-point try.

The second half turned out to be a shootout, pitting Hartman against elusive Liberty quarterback Kaidon Salter, a former Tennessee recruit. The winning point was provided on Matthew Dennis’ extra point after a 1-yard touchdown run from Justice Ellison with 3:39 left.

The Deacons made three first-half interceptions en route to a 20-8 halftime lead, despite rushing for only one yard and yielding a safety on a blocked punt.

The Flames took their first lead on a 43-yard run Dae Dae Hunter, who escaped the grasp of one defender and raced down the middle of the field. A two-point pass put Liberty in front 23-20 less than five minutes into the second half.

“In a lot of ways, they outplayed us,” Clawson said. “We just made so many mistakes.”

Salter ran for 77 yards and one TD and passed for 192 with two TDs, often scrambling to buy extra time to throw.

Hartman said he knows he’ll have to be sharper in next Saturday’s nationally televised game against Clemson, the program that had won six straight ACC titles prior to the Deacons winning the division last year.

“The past is the past,” Hartman said. “We have to move to the future.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Liberty: Liberty was riding momentum with a 23-20 lead in the final minute of the third quarter and had Wake pinned deep after sacking Hartman. But an unnecessary roughness call – the replay didn’t show much extra contact on the sack – gave Wake new life. The Deacons converted a fourth-down pass near midfield. Later in the drive, a Liberty interception was negated by a defensive holding call. The drive ended in Dennis’ 46-yard, tying field goal.

Wake Forest: The Deacons struggled on offense, especially in the running game, a source for worry with No. 5 Clemson next on the schedule. Wake, which averaged 181 yards rushing in victories over VMI and Vanderbilt, netted a single yard on its 10 first-half carries. Liberty shut down Wake’s read-option running attack. The Deacons had only one run of more than six yards, a 13-yard Hartman scramble.

GAMBLING MAN

Liberty coach Hugh Freeze, known since his days at Ole Miss for taking chances on fourth down, took one early against Wake and paid a price. A fourth-and-2 gamble was stopped near midfield, setting up Wake’s first field goal.

When the Flames took their first lead early in the third quarter, Freeze called for a two-point conversion try that resulted in a successful pass and a 23-20 Liberty lead.

The final gamble, choosing to opt for a two-point play rather than likely overtime, came up empty.

Clawson said he wasn’t surprised Freeze decided not to play for overtime: “You’re on the road, you’re a road (under)dog, you go for two.”

UP NEXT

Liberty: Hosts Akron next Saturday.

Wake Forest: Hosts No. 5 Clemson in its ACC opener.

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”