Oops. Excuse me, that's right, the AAC, SBC, MWC, CUSA, and MAC aren't called the Little 5. They are officially known as the "Group of 5". That's because "Group of 5" sounds less disrespectful than "Little 5". But call them whatever you want, they're the have-nots of the FBS, and no team from one of them will ever even be considered for a playoff spot as long as the playoffs include only 4 teams. The best they can hope for is to claim the one bid (out of 12 total) reserved for a Little 5 team to one of the big New Year's 6 bowl games. The Houston Cougars earned that bid this season after upping their record to 12-1 with a 24-13 victory over Temple on Dec. 5 in the inaugural AAC championship game.
With Navy joining the league this season, the AAC expanded to 12 teams - the minimum number required for a conference to have an end-of-the-season championship game. The AAC schedule maker was very kind to Houston in this first season of two-division play. After wrapping up the AAC West Division crown thanks to home victories over contenders Memphis (in Week 11) and Navy (Week 13) - two games they likely would have lost if they had had to play them on the road - the Cougars found themselves at home for the title game too against surprise East winner Temple. Aided by turnovers on Temple's first two possessions of the game, UH jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the 2nd quarter, upped it to 24-3 in the 3rd, and held off a late rally by the Owls.
Senior LB Boomer Mays, a candidate for my all-America with dreads team, recorded a career high 16 tackles (9-7) for NIU, including 9 stops of Travis Greene, but only one of them (0-1) was a TFL. Sophomore CB Albert Smalls finished with 4 tackles (3-1) for the Huskies, and junior DT Mario Jones had 1 PBU. Junior WR Aregeros Turner had a tough time, finishing with 7 yards rushing on 4 carries along with 2 catches for only 8 yards. He also was charged with a fumble when he dropped the handoff on a jet sweep on 4th and 1 for a key turnover in the red zone late in the 1st quarter.
That rugged defense kept the Tide offense scoreless for the first 20 minutes, with a fumble by Henry at the UF 28-yard line on the first play of the 2nd quarter ending their only chance to score during their first 5 possessions of the game. Alabama scored 2 points during that span thanks to their special teams, getting the safety on a blocked punt that rolled out of the back of the end zone midway through the 1st quarter (it was almost a TD, but freshman RB Bo Scarbrough couldn't quite get a handle on the ball in time before it went beyond the end line (photo below)). Later in the 1st the Tide blocked a FG attempt to keep the score at 2-0. But then the Gators' special teams trumped those two plays with one of their own, taking a punt return 85 yards to the house for a 7-2 lead. But with Florida's offense doing nothing (Alabama finished with a 437-180 advantage in total yards), their defense - on the field for 43:29 of the 60 minutes - was like a dam trying to hold off the Tide offense. The dam never broke completely, but it sprung enough leaks that the Tide were able to score 2 TD and 2 FG in a span of 5 possessions to build to a 22-7 lead late in the 3rd quarter.
Junior LB Tim Williams finished with 2 tackles (2-0) for the Tide, and both were sacks. The first one (photo below) went for a 10-yard loss on 3rd and 20 (although it sure looked like he was offside on the play) as the Gators failed to cash in on the possession following Henry's fumble. The other one was a 4-yard loss on 4th and 11, ending the Gators' final possession of the game with 3:49 to play.
When the ACC championship game came to an end, the only thing on my mind was this one question: was the fix in? With #1 ranked Clemson likely to miss the playoffs with a loss and #8 North Carolina not likely to make the playoffs with a win, the league had a lot more to gain if Clemson won. So you couldn't help but wonder if the game officials weren't under an added little bit of pressure to help ensure a Clemson victory - especially after watching what went down in the closing moments at Charlotte.
The Tigers won all right, 45-37, but only after a controversial call went in their favor late, denying the Tar Heels a chance to tie the game. Clemson scored their 6th TD of the game to take a 42-23 lead with 11:34 remaining, but that lead was down to 45-37 after a UNC TD with 1:13 to play. And that lead seemingly was about to be gone altogether when the Tar Heels recovered an onside kickoff after the TD. But the recovery was nullified by an offside penalty against North Carolina. They had to do the kickoff again, and Clemson recovered that one, ending UNC's hopes for a miracle finish.
There were 10 yards short of 1,000 total yards of offense, including a new championship game record 608 for Clemson; but only and exactly 1 of them was by anybody with dreads. Junior RB Zac Brooks gained a yard on his only carry of the game for the Tigers. Freshman S Van Smith had 6 tackles (5-1) for the Clemson D, and freshman LB Jalen Williams had 1 tackle (0-1). For UNC sophomore DE Dajuan Drennon recorded 3 tackles (1-2); and Green finished with 6 tackles (5-1), the last of which (photo below) was a stop of RB Wayne Gallman at the 12-yard line for an 11-yard gain during Clemson's drive for a FG late in the 4th quarter.
If you enjoy watching football games featuring a lot of players with sick dreads, you might as well plan on doing something else while the telecast of the Rose Bowl is on. With Stanford and Iowa on opposing sidelines, you'd need just one hand to count the number of players with dreads on the two teams combined. The Cardinal and Hawkeyes would rather have met in the playoff semifinals, but the Rose Bowl isn't exactly a bad thing to have to settle for. Neither team had any players with dreads (as far as I know) on the stats sheet in their conference title games.
Stanford won their game, 41-22 over USC, for the Pac-12 crown. But with their overall record a not so sparkling 11-2, the Cardinal were the only champion of one of the Power 5 conferences to be left out of the playoffs. Freshman RB Ronald Jones rushed for 50 yards on 6 carries, including a 27-yard TD (photo below) that gave USC a 16-13 lead with 5:28 remaining in the 3rd quarter. But then the Cardinal scored touchdowns on all three of their drives the rest of the game and added another TD on a pick 6 to pull out the win. The only other player with dreads besides Jones with any stats was USC freshman S Marvell Tell, who finished with 7 tackles (0-7).
IN THE FCS
Week 14 was Week 2 of the playoffs, the round where the top 8 seeded teams hosted the winners of the 1st round games. Three of the seeded teams - JMU, McNeese State, and Portland State - were eliminated on their home fields. And it was very nearly four .....
When Jacksonville State went three-and-out and punted with 7:23 remaining in the game, it looked like the #1 seed was heading for an early exit. UT-Chattanooga had just scored on TD drives of 79, 45, and 80 yards on their preceding three possessions, turning a 28-14 deficit into a 35-28 lead, had all the momentum, and had JSU on the ropes. But the Mocs could not deliver the knockout blow. Instead they went three-and-out, with senior LB Brandon Bender making a crucial tackle for a 5-yard loss of sophomore RB Richardre Bagley after the catch on 3rd and 4. UTC punted, and the Gamecocks scored on a 75-yard run two plays later to tie it up at 35.
Chattanooga, who routed Fordham 50-20 in the 1st round, got 18 yards rushing on 3 carries and 3 catches for 1 yard from Bagley; sick sophomore WR Alphonso Stewart scored the 2nd TD during UTC's 21-0 run, catching a short pass and powering his way into the end zone from 15 yards out (photo below) on his only reception of the afternoon. Junior CB Dee Virgin had 1 tackle (1-0) and kickoff returns of 19 and 13 yards.
McNeese State was the only undefeated team entered in the playoffs. Of course, that 10-0 record came with an * because the Cowboys' season opener at LSU (which they had a pretty good chance of losing) got rained out shortly after the opening kickoff and was not rescheduled. En route to their SLC championship perhaps the biggest of those 10 wins was the 27-10 spanking of Sam Houston State in Week 10. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans the Bearkats were back in town and looking for revenge in round 2 after getting past Big Sky champ Southern Utah 42-39 in round 1. And they got it, dominating in total yards 494-372 and dealing McNeese their only loss of the season 34-29.
The boiling point of the game came with about 9 minutes to play. After scoring a TD a couple of minutes earlier to pull within 34-29, the Cowboys looked like they were going to take the lead; but a touchdown-saving tackle at the 1-yard line on a 78-yard catch and run on 3rd and 9 kept SHSU in the lead. And instead of getting the TD on the next play, the Cowboys incredibly melted down from then on. First a false start penalty on 1st and goal. Then a sack and a holding penalty moved the ball back to the 25-yard line. Then on 3rd down another sack, this one by star sophomore DE P.J. Hall for a 9-yard loss, took the Cowboys out of FG range and they had to punt. The Bearkats proceeded to kill the final 6:06 on their ensuing 11-play drive, picking up 3 first downs, two of which were 3rd down conversions, to make sure the Cowboys never got the ball back.
Hall finished with 6 tackles (2-4), 2 TFL, 1.5 sacks, and a key blocked extra point attempt. Junior CB Darion Flowers led SHSU with 9 tackles (6-3), including 2 TFL. Junior S Tyrel Stokes had 1 tackle (1-0), and junior RB Jalen Overstreet got only 3 carries, finishing with 15 yards rushing. Sophomore CB Josh Washington had 3 tackles (3-0), including 1 sack, for McNeese State.
Smith's opening calling card didn't lead to any points; but he finished the Panthers' next drive with a 3-yard TD run (photo on right), putting them ahead (7-0) to stay. After the Vikings had cut their 16-3 halftime deficit to 22-17 in the 4th quarter, Smith broke free for a 59-yard TD run with 8:02 to play to give UNI some breathing room. And Tyvis then rushed for 2 first downs, one of them a 35-yard run on 2nd and 12, as the Panthers kept the ball for the last 5:54 of the game. The 35-yard run put Smith over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
Both of the running backs on the all-CAA 1st team have dreads, and they both were on the same field for round 2 of the playoffs. It was the 126th meeting between Richmond and William & Mary, but the first time the Spiders and Tribe ever faced each other in the playoffs. Richmond won this regular season's meeting at home 23-9 in Week 12 to finish in a 3-way tie with W&M and JMU for 1st place in the CAA; and they beat the Tribe even worse the second time, 48-13. W&M, who barely survived NEC champ Duquesne 52-49 in round 1, finished 9-4.
W&M junior Kendell Anderson and Richmond senior Jacobi Green both had huge breakout seasons to earn their all-league honors, with both rushing for over 1,200 yards during the regular season. Green, who torched the Tribe for 217 yards rushing two weeks earlier, drew first blood in the rematch, capping the Spiders' 5-play 30-yard opening drive (following a 50-yard punt return) with a 3-yard TD run. Anderson carried 6 times for 50 yards on the Tribe's ensuing possession to set up a 2nd down from the 1-yard line. But he was stuffed for no gain on 2nd down then tackled for a 3-yard loss on 3rd down, forcing W&M to settle for a FG. Green ran for 49 yards on the first play of UR's next drive then finished the drive 8 plays later with a 1-yard TD run on 4th down as the Spiders upped their lead to 14-3 late in the 1st quarter.
The game started to get away from W&M on their next possession. After driving to the Richmond 6-yard line, a pass on 2nd and goal was intercepted and returned 100 yards to the house at the other end of the field, making it 21-3. Anderson, who finished with 72 total yards, including 63 rushing on 14 carries, scored his 16th TD of the season on a 6-yard run (photo below) with 4:58 remaining in the 2nd quarter on the first play after a Richmond turnover to make it 21-10. But it would be the Tribe's only TD of the game. The Spiders answered back with a TD 28 seconds before halftime to make it 28-10.
The Richmond YouTube channel didn't do their usual highlight video of the game (for some reason the NCAA doesn't like schools showing a lot of highlights of playoff games on their websites), so on the short video (link below) from William & Mary's channel you get to see Green's dreads on some of his unsuccessful carries in the game.
The Citadel, who traveled only 100 miles for their 1st round upset of Coastal Carolina 41-38 in round 1, had an even shorter bus ride to their 2nd round game - just 17 miles across town to face Big South champ Charleston Southern. The Citadel, with no players with dreads (of course) because they are a military school, finished with a 267-199 advantage in total yards but were doomed by their 6 turnovers as CSU pulled out a 14-6 victory. Junior RB Darius Hammond, with the beginner dreads you can't see when his helmet is on, had 34 yards rushing on 12 carries for the Buccaneers. Sophomore DE Anthony Ellis almost made the dread stars list, finishing with 8 tackles (3-5), 1 TFL, and 2 FR. Senior CB Malcolm Jackson and freshman DE Johnny Robinson each had 3 tackles (1-2), with one of Robinson's being a TFL.
Another dreadless team saw their season continue. Patriot League champ Colgate, a 27-20 winner over New Hampshire in round 1, eliminated a CAA team for the second week in a row, defeating JMU 44-38. After seeing their 17-0 lead vanish and turn into a 28-24 deficit thanks to 4 TD by JMU in the 2nd quarter, the Raiders broke a 38-38 tie on a TD with 9:15 remaining in the game. But they missed the extra point, making for a very nervous finish for CU fans. JMU drove to the 3-yard line with 3 minutes to play but came up empty when a pass on 4th and goal was incomplete. Junior RB Khalid Abdullah, bringing his dreads back this season after cutting them off before last season, came close to the dread stars list, finishing with 73 yards rushing, 2 catches for 22 yards, and 1 TD for the Dukes. Sick junior S Raven Greene had 6 tackles (4-2) and 1 PBU; and senior DE Alex Mosley had 5 tackles (2-3), a half TFL, and 1 PBU in his final game in a JMU uniform.
4-time defending champ North Dakota State began their attempt for a five-peat, avenging their 38-35 road loss to Montana in the season opener with a 37-6 rout of the Grizzlies. The Bison gained only 316 total yards but scored 2 TD on defense (both were pick sixes) and another one on special teams (kickoff return). Senior CB Jordan Champion had 4 tackles (2-2) for the Bison, and sophomore DE Greg Menard got a sack on his only tackle (1-0).
Illinois State made it 3 teams from the MVFC advancing to the quarterfinals, joining North Dakota State and Northern Iowa, with a 36-19 home win over MVFC foe Western Illinois. ISU dominated WIU 350-18 in yards rushing; but WIU hung tough until the Redbirds put them away with TD drives of 55, 74, and 72 yards in the 4th quarter. Sophomore CB Davontae Harris had 7 tackles (6-1) and 2 PBU for ISU. Freshman CB Timothy Smith had 3 tackles (3-0) and got his 4th INT of the season for Western, who eliminated Pioneer League champ Dayton 24-7 in the 1st round.
Three WRs with dreads accounted for roughly half of Grambling's yards. Sophomore Chad Williams had 5 catches for 64 yards; junior Verlan Hunter had 3 catches for 57 yards, including a 24-yard TD in the 2nd quarter (photo on left) that cut ASU's lead to 21-14; and senior Ka'Jandre Domino had 4 catches for 43 yards, along with 67 yards on 3 kickoff returns in his final game for the Tigers.
Junior S Guy Stallworth led the Grambling D with a game high 15 tackles (9-6) (but of course, it's usually a bad thing when your safety has that many tackles). Sophomore CB Ja'Terious Pouncey had 4 tackles (2-2), and freshman LB Malcolm Williams had 2 tackles (0-2), including a half TFL. Sophomore DE Michael Brooks was the only Alcorn player with dreads on the stats sheet. He had 3 tackles (3-0), 2 TFL, and 1 sack. I suppose that junior OT Detonio Dade might have had a good game too, as 3 ASU players finished with over 100 yards rushing.
Hair yesterday, gone today .....
I was going to wait until my Week 15 report to do the list of this season's ex-dreads; but since it's taken me so long to finish Week 14, it's now too late for a Week 15 report.
We welcomed some very good players to the house in 2015 after they began growing dreads; but it really hurt to have to say goodbye to so many players who cut their dreads off prior to the start of the season. I mean, there are a lot (too many) of really good players who decided to lose their dreads. Here is the entire list that I have. There likely are even more that I don't know of.
Kendell Beckwith - LSU T.J. Simmons - Indiana
Briean Boddy-Calhoun - Minnesota Chris Thompson - Florida
Devon Breaux - Tulane Gary Thompson - Marshall
Jamie Byrd - South Florida (before and after Steven West - Kansas State
photos below) Aeris Williams - Mississippi State
Brandon Cox - Utah Brandon Williams - Texas A&M
Eric Finney - Illinois Kennedy Williams - Utah State
Perez Ford - Northern Illinois Kalib Woods - FAU
Daeshon Hall - Texas A&M
Nigel Harris - South Florida FCS
Steve Ishmael - Syracuse Jabari Bothwell - Coastal Carolina
Angelo Jean-Louis - ex-Marshall (transferred Devin Brown - Coastal Carolina
to Division 2 school Shepherd) Lamont Brown - Morgan State
Jakob Johnson - Tennessee Je Ryan Butler - South Dakota State
Tiquan Lang - Marshall Brandon Eldemire - Alabama A&M
Alex Lyons - Rice Justin Grier - Morehead State
Jay Jay McCullough - Clemson Anthony Jordan - Bethune-Cookman
Darion Monroe - Tulane Dominique Miller - Richmond
Claude Pelon - USC Kevin Rucker - Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Brandon Powell - Florida Ja'Vonta Swinton - Stetson
Zack Sanchez - Oklahoma Ladarius Vanlier - Tennessee Tech
Kevon Seymour - USC Brandon Wells - Alabama A&M
Shamawn Wright - UC-Davis
|Jamie Byrd - Week 3 in 2015|
|Jamie Bryd - Week 13 in 2014|
8. ..... On the next play the Spartans convert on 3rd and 15, as freshman WR Felton Davis, lined up in the slot, gets open and makes the catch, with star CB Desmond King making the tackle at the 10-yard line. The 22-yard reception was the first of Davis' career and his only one in this game. The Spartans settled for a FG 4 plays later to take a 3-0 lead on their opening drive of the game. Michigan State scored their only TD of the game with 27 seconds remaining in the game, as they improved to 12-1 with a 16-13 victory, handing the Hawkeyes their 1st defeat of the season.
10. This time it's a Clemson S with dreads who can't prevent the TD, as QB Marquise Williams falls into the end zone while being tackled by freshman Van Smith. The 1-yard TD run on 3rd and goal cut Clemson's lead to 35-23 late in 3rd quarter. Same as Green, Smith finished the game with 6 tackles (5-1).
After picking up a punt that bounced on the ground then deflected off the hand of a Clemson player late in 2nd quarter, sick junior RB Khris Francis grabs the ball and tries to return it but is stopped by S Jadar Johnson at the UNC 40-yard line after only a 2-yard return. The play wasn't listed on the box score because the return didn't count, as WR Ryan Switzer (#3), who was supposed to catch the punt, had called for a fair catch. He was unable to catch it, however, after teammate Mack Hollins (#13) got blocked into him. The ball hit the ground then deflected over to Francis; but since a fair catch had been called for, neither he nor any other UNC player was allowed to return it. Got that?
As mentioned earlier, Clemson improved to 13-0, holding off a late UNC comeback to win 45-37 and clinch their 15th all-time ACC championship.
- Derrick Henry - Alabama - named MVP of SEC championship game - 189 yards and 1 TD rushing in 29-15 W over Florida
- Na'im McGee - San Diego State - named defensive MVP of MWC championship game - led team with 10 tackles (5-5) and 1 TFL in 27-24 home W over Air Force
- Tyvis Smith - Northern Iowa - 21 carries for career high 207 yards rushing and 2 TD, and 2 receptions for 4 yards in 29-17 road W over Portland State in 2nd round of FCS playoffs
- Brandon Bender - Jacksonville State - led team 11 tackles (3-8), including 1.5 TFL, and had huge INT in overtime in 41-35 home W over UT-Chattanooga in 2nd round of FCS playoffs
- Jacobi Green - Richmond - 25 carries for 141 yards and 3 TD rushing in 48-13 home W over William & Mary in 2nd round of FCS playoffs
HOUSE OF DREAD
The end zone at Robins Stadium, home of the Richmond Spiders, had more TD scored by players with dreads - 4 - than any other in Week 14 in the Spiders' 48-13 romp over William & Mary in an FCS playoff game. Senior RB and dread star Jacobi Green scored on runs of 3 yards and 1 yards in the 1st quarter and on another 1-yard TD run (photo below) in the 4th quarter. And junior RB Kendell Anderson scored on a 6-yard run for W&M.
Unlike Smith, Greene did not get off to a great start, catching a pass for a 2-yard loss on his first touch of the game and finishing the 1st quarter with just 3 total yards. Doing most of his damage on draw plays up the middle, the 5-foot-10, 189-pounder from Miami got going in the 2nd, rushing for 6 first downs in the quarter, the last of which was a 25-yard TD (photo below, and don't worry, he was well past the goal line before letting go of the ball) that upped the BG lead to 21-0 with 1:04 to play until halftime.
If you have 5 minutes, I encourage you to click on the link below for an all-access video of the game from the Bowling Green website that has a couple of shots of Greene, including a ground-level look at his 2 TD (and, if you watch closely enough, a shot of him removing the band from around his dreads after the game).
3 weeks - that's all folks. Out of a 15-week season, all I could do was 3 reports. I keep hitting new all-time lows. Please accept my apologies, but I don't see things getting any better in the future. Right now I don't even know if I'm going to go through the stats of all the weeks I missed, but I am still planning on doing my annual all-America teams (next spring sometime). I also promised I would do some stuff on the NFL. Hopefully I'll be able to do some of that over the next few weeks.