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Yes, Bryant is pretty good. The Bulldogs have been in three of the last four NCAA tournaments. Head coach Steve Owens is in his seventh season. He took Le Moyne to three NCAA regionals in 11 seasons, including a 2004 trip to Baum Stadium.
If there is anyone on the UA roster who knows more about Bryant, it would be Luke Bonfield, a native of Skillman, N.J.
“I grew up close to there,” Bonfield said of the Smithfield, R.I., school. “It’s not far from where I lived in New Jersey. And I saw them play every year since they usually came to play at Rutgers, about 15 minutes from my home.”
Bonfield was a blue-chip prospect with eyes set on the SEC from start to finish, but Bryant was not out of the question.
“I knew about them, because they were good,” he said. “They have good players.”
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said it’s a good baseball destination for New England talent.
“There are a lot of people close to them and there is a lot of baseball played there,” Van Horn said. “They are going to get a look at a lot of talent and they get a lot of it.”

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The funny thing about all this talent he’s accumulated is that Clay Helton doesn’t want to talk about it. Not the recruiting rankings or the NFL Draft projections — Smith-Schuster and electric cornerback Adoree’ Jackson are widely considered first-rounders — or how impressive-looking his team is walking off the bus.

“My least-favorite word is ‘talent,’ ” Helton said. “I heard, ‘Hey, we’re so talented’ for six years. When I think USC football, I think of the names Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott, Willie McGinest, Junior Seau, Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing. You think physicality, you think toughness.

“And that’s what we tried to do all spring. It was all about ball. It was getting rid of the hype and the flash and the music and just listen to your coach.”
Wander around a USC practice and ask an assistant, a player, a fan, a reporter, a high-dollar donor, or a sports-information staffer what Helton, who hovered under the radar in 10 years as an assistant at Memphis before landing in Hollywood, brings to the Trojans. Their answers all fall from the same tree: calm, competence, stability. All things that have been missing from the program since Pete Carroll beat the NCAA posse out of town.

“I believe the players trust him and will follow his lead because they see in him a person who is honest about his approach and what he wants to see,” former USC star and new athletic director Lynn Swann told SEC Country last week. “I think every day, Clay Helton goes out and believes in what he’s doing. If you’re not there, if you’re presenting a false image, it’s hard to maintain that. I think players see through it. Clay is very comfortable in his shoes.”

So is Swann. He wasn’t hired in time to pick this coach, but if he’s worried about his beloved football program in Helton’s hands, the AD’s relaxed vibe and red sneakers kicked up onto the coffee table in his new office do not give that away.

“He has 100 percent of my confidence,” Swann said.

Smith-Schuster called his coach a role model and father figure. Helton learned that from his own football-coaching father while playing quarterback for him at Houston. A 44-year-old Gainesville, Fla., native who began his college career at Auburn, Helton has some southern twang in his voice and seems better suited to the SEC.

But Southern California is “the most wonderful place in the world” to him, and the admiration is mutual.

“It’s just his personality, his demeanor, how he carries himself,” Jackson said. “Very humble guy but can be strict and get into you. And he’s putting the pieces together.”

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The Falcons might have had a better shot at preserving the healthy lead they maintained for much of Super Bowl LI if they’d just run the ball. The one thing the Falcons couldn’t afford to do with a 28-20 lead and 3:56 remaining in regulation was to let Matt Ryan take a critical sack, pushing the team out of field goal range. But that’s exactly what happened, and the result was a crushing and historic loss.

Situational football is not always sexy or exciting, but it wins games. Situational football would dictate that, holding a 28-12 lead with just under 10 minutes left to play, you run the dang ball.

Moving the ball on the ground, or even trying to, takes precious time off the clock. In this particular situation, it would have kept Tom Brady off the field, limiting his ability to do what Tom Brady does to devastate his opponents.

Tevin Coleman was injured, so that explains why he wasn’t getting carries. Devonta Freeman, however, had more success against the Patriots on the ground all day, with 75 rushing yards to Coleman’s 29.

The Falcons were up by eight points and got the ball on their own 10-yard line with 5:53 remaining, and they commenced a promising drive. The first play was a 39-yard pass to Freeman. The second was a Freeman carry for a 2-yard gain, and the third was this pass to Julio Jones.
That catch put Atlanta on the Patriots’ 22-yard line, well within field goal range for Matt Bryant, who hit 100 percent of his attempts from the 40-to 49-yard range this season.

All Atlanta needed to do was chew up some clock, keep Brady on the sideline, and get to fourth down to kick a game-sealing field goal.

That is not at all what the Falcons did.

On first down, it was a running play. Freeman carried the ball for a 1-yard loss. No big deal. It took 44 seconds off the clock, and the Falcons were still within field goal range.

The second down play call featured a five-step drop for Ryan. Right tackle Ryan Schraeder had left the game with a torn ankle ligament a couple of plays before this one, leaving the line more vulnerable. Ryan had a wide-open Taylor Gabriel just waiting for a pass from Ryan — but Trey Flowers got to him first.
The sack resulted in a loss of 12 yards, which was a nightmare scenario for a team that could have put the game on ice by adding three points.

So, facing a third-and-23 from the New England 35-yard line, the Falcons no longer had the luxury of just trying to move the ball on the ground and letting the clock run.

Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu for a 9-yard gain, getting the team at least close to field goal range again, but a holding penalty against left tackle Jake Matthews moved Atlanta back to the New England 45-yard line.

Kyle Shanahan said after the game that running the ball is always a priority, but the team was “trying to score.”

“You always want to run the ball if you can. You got to look at each situation when you’re getting the ball,” the Falcons’ then-offensive coordinator said. “We were trying to score there at the end. We got into field goal range where we would have ended it, but getting that sack and that holding call was tough.”

Shanahan didn’t explain why the team took risks that ended up eliminating the option of a field goal.

After the game, head coach Dan Quinn stood by the decisions the team made on that series.

“I don’t disagree with the call. As it turns out, the outcome is what gets you,” Quinn said. “So you look back and say well I could’ve done that one different or interjected and said hey, let’s do this differently.”

Quinn is correct that, had those plays gone as intended, nobody would have been talking about this series as the one that ruined the Falcons’ shot at a Lombardi Trophy. The fact remains that choosing to not run the ball led directly to that momentum-destroying sack. There’s no way the Falcons should have lost that game, and that play changed everything.

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Let’s recap: The Falcons pulled off a couple of characteristically explosive plays to get into comfortable field goal range with an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI. They then, for no discernible reason, decided to throw the ball, resulting in a catastrophic sack that led directly to the eventual loss in overtime.

Meanwhile, the defense was gassed, and the Patriots took advantage.

Moving away from the run wasn’t the only reason the Falcons lost. This was a perfect storm that led to a historically embarrassing defeat for the Falcons.

But while the defense did allow the Patriots’ offense to come surging back, the Falcons should never have been in that position. If you had to pinpoint the single play that turned the tide forever against Atlanta, it was that sack.