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Friday’s football: Stanford holds off North Carolina

Dan Greenspan
Associated Press

El Paso, Texas — Stanford got its usual dual-threat, standout performance from its running back Friday, but this time it wasn’t Christian McCaffrey.

Bryce Love took over for the absent McCaffrey in the backfield, running for 119 yards and catching a 49-yard touchdown pass to help No. 16 Stanford beat North Carolina 25-23 in the Sun Bowl.

“I always feel like my next game will be my best one,” said Love, channeling his inner Tom Brady when asked if this was his biggest game or best win. He then added, “But it’s always good to win.”

Stanford (10-3) held on after North Carolina (8-5) pulled within two with 25 seconds left on Mitch Trubisky’s 2-yard pass to Bug Howard, sacking Trubisky on the 2-point conversion try.

“When the game was on the line and we had to make a big play, we did,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “It was an outstanding football game. Two really tough, talented football teams played all the way to the end. Thankfully, our guys made enough plays at the end to seal the victory.”

McCaffrey skipped the bowl game to focus on his NFL career. Still, in the postgame press conference, Shaw made sure his contributions to the team weren’t overlooked.

“You heard my comments (in the postgame ceremony) thanking Christian,” he said. “When we weren’t playing well, he was playing great. At the end of the year, he played so well. He played so hard until the rest of us on offense started picking it up around him. So this six-game run that we finished the season on is a large part to him.”

Enter Love, who showed flashes of what he could do with a 100-yard-plus performance and a score against Notre Dame. He ran for more than 600 yards this season in a backup role, though everyone said they were excited to see what he could do. That included North Carolina, which also recruited the Wake Forest, North Carolina, product.

Stanford took a 25-17 lead on Conrad Ukropina’s 27-yard field goal with 3:23 left. North Carolina was forced to punt on its next series, but used two timeouts to get the ball back.

After taking over at their own 3, the Tar Heels drove 97 yards in 10 plays and 1:11. After competing passes of 44 and 27 yards, Trubisky capped the drive with the 2-yard scoring pass to Howard.

Stanford then sacked Trubisky on the 2-point try, a rush led by Solomon Thomas forcing the quarterback to retreat before being taken down. Thomas was selected the game’s MVP.

“It’s an honor to go out on a win,” said Solomon, a junior who also is considering entering the draft. “I’m in no rush. I just want to enjoy this victory with my teammates.”

Stanford safety Dallas Lloyd intercepted two of Trubisky’s passes, returning the second 19 yards for a touchdown to give Stanford a 22-17 lead early in the fourth quarter.

“If you’re in the right place at the right time, good things will happen,” Lloyd said.

Trubisky also is projected by some as a possible first-round pick if he declares for the NFL draft. But the junior and former Ohio Mr. Football wasn’t ready to even think about that after the game.

“I’m not going to think about it for a couple of days,” he said.

Trubisky finished 23 of 39 passing for 280 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Sun Bowl

Louisville 25, North Carolina 23: At El Paso, Texas, Bryce Love took over for the absent Christian McCaffrey in the Stanford backfield, running for 119 yards and catching a 49-yard touchdown pass. Stanford (10-3) held on after North Carolina (8-5) pulled within two with 25 seconds left on Mitch Trubisky’s 2-yard pass to Bug Howard, sacking Trubisky on the 2-point conversion try.

McCaffrey skipped the bowl game to focus on his NFL career.

Stanford took a 25-17 lead on Conrad Ukropina’s 27-yard field goal with 3:23 left. North Carolina was forced to punt on its next series, but used two timeouts to get the ball back.

After taking over at their own 3, the Tar Heels drove 97 yards in 10 plays and 1:11. After competing passes of 44 and 27 yards, Trubisky capped the drive with the 2-yard scoring pass to Howard.

Stanford then sacked Trubisky on the 2-point try, a rush led by Solomon Thomas forcing the quarterback to retreat before being taken down. Thomas was selected the game’s MVP.

Stanford safety Dallas Lloyd intercepted two of Trubisky’s passes, returning the second 19 yards for a touchdown to give Stanford a 22-17 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Music City Bowl

Tennessee 38, Nebraska 24: At Nashville, Tennessee, Joshua Dobbs ran for three touchdowns and 118 yards and threw for 291 yards and another score. The Volunteers (9-4) beat a Big Ten team in a bowl for the third straight season and notched their first win in three tries against the Cornhuskers. It’s the first time Tennessee has won three straight bowls since 1994-1996, when Peyton Manning was its quarterback.

Tennessee took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter and outgained Nebraska 521-318 in total offense.

Nebraska (9-4) ended the season with two straight losses. The Cornhuskers lost four of their final six after rising as high as No. 7 in the rankings.

Ryker Fyfe, the fifth-year former walk-on, started for injured quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. He pulled Nebraska within a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Fyfe threw two TD passes to Brandon Reilly and ran for a 9-yard TD with 10:02 left in the fourth to pull the Cornhuskers within 31-24.

Dobbs answered with a 59-yard TD pass to Josh Malone for the final margin.

Liberty Bowl

Georgia 31, TCU 23: At Memphis, Tennessee, Nick Chubb ran for 142 yards and a touchdown, sending Georgia to its third bowl victory in three years. Georgia (8-5) sent TCU (6-7) to its third losing year in Gary Patterson’s 16 full seasons as coach.

Rodrigo Blankenship put Georgia ahead for good with 13:27 left on a 30-yard field goal. Blankenship’s kick was set up by Chubb’s 48-yard burst on the final play of the third period.

Brandon Hatfield was wide right on a 47-yard field-goal attempt that would have put TCU ahead with 7:57 remaining. He earlier missed a 41-yard field goal and an extra point.

Jacob Eason threw touchdown passes to Javon Wims and Sony Michel. Isaiah McKenzie had four catches for 103 yards, including a 77-yarder that set up a touchdown.

Arizona Bowl

Air Force 45, South Alabama 21: At Tucson, Arizona, Arion Worthman threw for 207 yards to balance out Air Force’s run-heavy offense, Jacobi Owens scored two touchdowns. Air Force (10-3) struggled to get its triple-option going, falling into an 18-point first-half hole. Once the Falcons got rolling, they couldn’t be stopped, scoring 42 straight points. South Alabama finished 6-7.

SATURDAY'S BOWLS

Peach

Washington vs. Alabama

Kickoff: 3, Georgia Dome, Atlanta

TV: ESPN

Records: Washington 12-1, Alabama 13-0

Line: Alabama by 14

Outlook: Alabama is trying to preserve its hopes for its second straight national title and extend its 25-game winning streak. ... The Huskies’ last national championship came in 1991, when it shared the title with Miami.

Fiesta

Ohio State vs. Clemson

Kickoff: 7, Cardinals Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

TV: ESPN

Records: Ohio State 11-1, Clemson 12-1

Line: Ohio State by 2

Outlook: Clemson is trying to make the national championship game for a second straight season. ... Ohio State won the first College football playoff two seasons ago. ... A national title for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer would be his fourth.

Citrus 

LSU vs. Louisville

Kickoff: 11 a.m., Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.

TV: ABC

Records: LSU 7-4, Louisville 9-3

Line: LSU by 3

Outlook: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy. ... LSU has given up just 27 first-quarter points and 33 third-quarter points this season.

Taxslayer 

Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky

Kickoff: 11 a.m., EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida

TV: ESPN

Records: Georgia Tech 8-4, Kentucky 7-5

Line: Georgia Tech by 3

Outlook: Teams last met in 1960. ... Tech is 3-4 in the TaxSlayer Bowl, formerly the Gator Bowl.