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College football notebook

No. 1 Georgia routs Georgia Tech, awaits Alabama in SEC Championship

Georgia offensive lineman Justin Shaffer (54) celebrates with fans after defeating intrastate rival Georgia Tech, 45-0, Saturday in Atlanta.John Bazemore/Associated Press

Stetson Bennett helped No. 1 Georgia finish a perfect regular season, and then shifted his attention to Alabama.

Bennett passed for 255 yards and four touchdowns, including a pair to tight end Brock Bowers, and No. 1 Georgia overwhelmed host Georgia Tech, 45-0, on Saturday in Atlanta.

“It’s a big accomplishment,” Bennett said. “Now the real fun starts.”

Georgia (12-0) gained momentum for next week’s much-anticipated Southeastern Conference championship game against No. 3 Alabama in Atlanta.

It is the first undefeated regular season for the Bulldogs since 1982, when they capped a streak of three consecutive SEC championships with tailback Herschel Walker.

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Georgia now can focus on its drive for SEC and national championships.

“What we have done in the regular season is all good, but if we don’t finish it the right way none of this matters,” said linebacker Nakobe Dean, who led the defense with six tackles and two quarterback hurries.

Georgia Tech (3-9) finished with three wins for the third consecutive season under coach Geoff Collins, who acknowledged this week he will need to show improvement next year. The Yellow Jackets, who closed the season with six consecutive losses following a 3-3 start, lost their last two games vs. No. 6 Notre Dame and the top-ranked Bulldogs by a combined margin of 100-0.

Holy Cross advances in FCS playoffs

Matthew Sluka connected with Jalen Coker for a 35-yard touchdown with 14 seconds left and Holy Cross beat Sacred Heart, 13-10, on Saturday in the first round of the FCS playoffs at Fitton Field in Worcester.

Sluka led Holy Cross on an 11-play, 80-yard drive, ending in the touchdown pass to Coker. Sluka threw it into double coverage and Coker came up with it at the goal line.

Holy Cross (10-2) advances to play No. 5 Villanova.

Sluka threw for 171 yards and carried it 23 times for 90 yards, and Coker caught five passes for 103 yards. Derek Ng made a 23-yard field goal to put Holy Cross on the board in the second quarter and added a 38-yarder with 8:27 to play.

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Rob McCoy carried seven times for 62 yards and a touchdown for Sacred Heart (8-4), which won the Northeast Conference.

Houston tunes up UConn

Clayton Tune threw for 301 yards and four touchdowns as No. 19 Houston completed its regular season with a 45-17 win over UConn to in cold and windy conditions in East Hartford, Conn. With the victory, the Cougars (11-1 8-0 American Athletic Conference) earned a berth in next weekend’s AAC championship game at No. 4 Cincinnati.

Nathaniel Dell caught two touchdowns and Jake Herslow and Jeremy Singleton each topped 100 receiving yards to go with a TD apiece for Houston.

“We knew we were going to be in this game, but yet we had to take care of business and play Memphis and then we had to take care of business and play at UConn,” said Houston coach Dana Holgorsen. “That’s tricky. Those are trap games and we didn’t fall for it.”

UConn’s Steven Krajewski had a 34-yard touchdown pass to Kevens Clercius before leaving the game in the second quarter with an injury. He was replaced by Micah Leon, who completed 10 of 13 passes for 62 yards for the Huskies (1-11) and departed with a left leg injury with 2 minutes left.

Jacob Drenn, a freshman walk-on, became the fifth UConn quarterback to see action this season for the Huskies, who lost their 14th consecutive games against an FBS opponent and 36 of their last 37 such games.

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At a news conference before the game, the Huskies introduced new coach Jim Mora. The former NFL and UCLA coach takes over the program on Monday.

“I like to go uphill,” Mora said. “I like things that are hard. Hard things motivate me. So, this is just another chance to walk up a hill.”

Florida tops Florida St.

Anthony Richardson came off the bench and led Florida to a 24-21 victory over rival Florida State on Saturday that made the Gators bowl eligible a week after firing coach Dan Mullen.

Richardson replaced turnover-prone Emory Jones early in third quarter and played significant snaps for the first time in a month. The dynamic freshman completed 5 of 7 passes for 55 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown to Justin Shorter that gave the Gators (6-6) some breathing room in a tight game.

Dameon Pierce took over from there, going untouched for a 2-yard score after running around and through the Seminoles (5-7). His touchdown came four plays after Pierce was penalized 15 yards for continuing to participate without a helmet; it was ripped off during an 8-yard run. Pierce finished with 62 yards on the ground.

The Seminoles scored to make it close in the final minutes, but they botched an onside kick. Florida then ran out the clock for their third straight victory in the series.

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This one included a pregame skirmish, countless exchanges and numerous mistakes — six turnovers and 21 penalties for 196 yards. Those were hardly surprising considering it was two mediocre teams vying for bowl eligibility and bragging rights.

Florida State, which entered the game as a 2½-point underdog despite winning its previous two games, will miss the postseason for the third time in four years.

Florida’s Greg Knox improved to 2-0 as an interim coach. He won the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl after Mullen left Mississippi State for Florida.

Baylor averts upset

Baylor coach Dave Aranda was well aware of the Big 12 ramifications for his ninth-ranked Bears in the outcome of a game later in the evening. In many ways, that didn’t really matter to him.

Blake Shapen threw for 254 yards and two touchdowns in his first start, Abram Smith ran for 11t7 yards with a score and Baylor held on to beat Texas Tech, 27-24, for its 10th win, which kept alive the Bears’ hopes of making the Big 12 championship game for the second time in three seasons.

Oklahoma State, which beat Baylor 24-14 in October, was already in its first Big 12 title game. A win by the Cowboys over six-time defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma would put Baylor (10-2, 7-2 Big 12, CFP No. 8) in next Saturday’s game with them.

“I’ve always [said], stuff you can’t control, you can’t control,” said Aranda, instead lauding his team for how it has grown since going 2-7 in his debut last year. “I think of those things, and so I think in that way we’re a winner.”

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The Red Raiders (6-6, 3-6) still had one more chance after stopping Baylor on fourth down on its 12 with 1:18 and no timeouts left. They got in position for a 53-yard field goal attempt by Jonathan Garibay, who had plenty of leg but pushed the kick wide left on the final play.Garibay, who was 13 of 13 on field goals before then, had a game-ending 62-yarder to beat Iowa State two weeks earlier.

UTSA no longer unbeaten

No. 15 UTSA’s undefeated season ended in a blowout as North Texas running backs DeAndre Torrey and Ikaika Ragsdale combined for five touchdowns in a 45-23 rout of the Roadrunners in Denton, Texas.

Quarterback Frank Harris had two of UTSA’s three lost fumbles among six overall before sitting the second half at UNT’s rain-soaked Apogee Stadium, a 10-year-old facility where a Top 25 team had never played.

UTSA (11-1, 7-1 Conference USA), which never started with more than five consecutive wins in the program’s first nine seasons, is still hosting the conference championship game Friday night against either Western Kentucky or Marshall. No. 1 Georgia and fourth-ranked Cincinnati are the remaining undefeated FBS teams.

The Roadrunners, ranked 10th nationally in rushing defense, had given up six touchdowns on the ground all season. The Mean Green (6-6, 5-3) matched that late in the third quarter of their fifth consecutive victory that followed a six-game losing streak as UNT earned bowl eligibility.

Ragsdale, a redshirt freshman, had a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns as North Texas’ conference-leading rushing offense finished with 340 yards a week after UTSA allowed its previous season high of 220 in a last-second victory over UAB.

Maryland bowl eligible

Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw three touchdowns, ran for another and grabbed the school’s single-season record for passing yards in a 40-16 win over host Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J. The victory enabled the Terrapins (6-6, 3-6 Big Ten) to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2016.

Tagovailoa had touchdown passes of 25 and 11 yards to Corey Dyches and 38 yards to Brian Cobbs. He also tallied on a 10-yard run as Maryland opened a 20-2 halftime lead and never looked back.

Tagovailoa finished 21 of 30 for 312 yards. The yardage gave him 3,595 yards, breaking the Terps’ single-season record of 3,499 set by Scott Milanovich in 1993.

“It means so much to get to a bowl game as a team,” Tagovailoa said. “We wanted to be the team that did it, not next year’s team. We wanted to be the team that started that.”

Maryland was certainly deserving after its lopsided win over Rutgers (5-7, 2-7) that sent the Scarlet Knights to their 19th straight loss at home against a Big Ten opponent.

Halfback Tayon Fleet-Davis also had a big-day with a bowl-bid on the line, rushing for a career-best 152 yards and touchdown runs of 13 and 2 yards in the fourth quarter as the Terps had 575 yards in total offense.

Kent State holds on

Dustin Crum scored from the 1 on a misdirection play in overtime, and Montre Miller broke up a two-point conversion pass attempt by Brett Gabbert as Kent State held off Miami (Ohio), 48-47, to earn a spot in the Mid-American Conference championship game.

The win, played in swirling snow flurries in Kent, Ohio, lofted Kent State (7-5, 6-2) to the MAC East title and set up a tilt against West champion, Northern Illinois, Saturday in Detroit for the conference crown.

Crum threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns, Keshunn Abram had seven catches for 138 yards and a TD. Xavier Williams carried 13 times for 168 yards and two scores, Marquez Cooper added 128 yards rushing and a touchdown.

Gabbert threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns for the RedHawks (6-6, 5-3) and lofted a pretty rainbow to Jalen Walker at the front of the end zone on Miami’s first play of overtime.

The RedHawks went for the win but Gabbert’s conversion pass to Walker was batted down by Miller.

UMass falters at end

Juwaun Price rushed for a 24 times for 156 yards and four touchdowns — on runs of 5,9, 24 and 26 yards — to lead host New Mexico State (2-10) to a 44-27 victory over UMass (1-11).

Price offset the effort of UMass running back Ellis Merriweather, who rushed 26 times for 168 yard and a pair of touchdowns on runs of 20 and 79 yards.