Santa Clarita Valley products made their presence felt in NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision games this weekend, and two of those players earned trips to conference championship games. Here’s a look at several SCV standouts:
Drew Wolitarsky (Canyon)
The Minnesota Golden Gophers wrapped up their regular season with a 31-17 loss to No. 6 Wisconsin on Saturday, but Wolitarsky continued his outstanding senior season when he led Minnesota with four catches for 76 yards and a first-quarter touchdown. In the second quarter, he somehow caught a 35-yard reception that he tipped to himself to set the Golden Gophers up for a crucial 3-yard touchdown by Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner.
The Golden Gophers named Wolitarsky the team’s best receiver at its annual team banquet Sunday. He played all 12 games this season and racked up a career-high 787 yards, 61 receptions and five touchdowns. Wolitarsky caught a pass in 24 straight games, the seventh-longest streak for games with at least one catch in school history. He also has 121 career catches, ninth all-time at Minnesota.
Leon Jacobs (Golden Valley)
Golden Valley grad and Wisconsin fullback/linebacker Leon Jacobs intercepted a pass intended for Wolitarsky with 6:26 left in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game. Wolitarsky ran an out route at Minnesota’s 28 yard line, but Leidner’s pass sailed high into Jacobs’ waiting arms at the 30-yard-line.
After Jacobs returned the ball 25 yards to the 5-yard line, Wisconsin was set up for its second fourth-quarter touchdown.
When asked whether he saw the ball or it fell into his arms, Jacobs said, according to uwbadgers.com, “A little bit of both. It was in my drop area and I just picked it off and ran with it.”
Jacobs, a redshirt junior, had five tackles, three of them solo tackles, during the game. He has 32 tackles this season, 22 of them of the solo variety, and the one interception. Jacobs began his career as an outside linebacker, but converted to inside linebacker in 2014. This spring he converted to a fullback, but does not have a rushing attempt or reception this season.
Wisconsin will play Penn State in the Big 10 Football Championship game at 5:17 p.m. Saturday on FOX.
Tedric Thompson (Valencia)
Thompson had two interceptions, one in the fourth quarter, to help No. 9 Colorado seal its 27-22 win over Utah on Saturday and send the Buffaloes to the Pac-12 Championship Football Game this Friday at 6 p.m. on FOX. The senior Valencia grad also broke up four passes and had four solo tackles.
“Nobody thought we’d be here, especially four years ago,” Thompson told the Associated Press.
On Monday, Thompson also earned his second Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week award of the season. He’s played in 10 games and has 55 tackles, 40 of which are solo tackles, and seven interceptions this season.
Tim White (Hart)
Hart grad Tim White’s strong redshirt senior season at Arizona State continued Saturday in ASU’s 56-35 loss to Arizona with four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Only Frederick Gammage had more receiving yards for ASU in the game with 116.
White leads ASU with 713 receiving yards on the season and is second in receptions with 56. N’Keal Harry leads ASU with 58 receptions.
Cole Murphy (Valencia)
Somehow, in a game that featured 137 points combined, junior Syracuse kicker and Valencia grad Cole Murphy did not attempt any field goals in the Orange’s 76-61 loss to No. 25 Pittsburgh on Saturday. Murphy still got plenty of chances to kick as he went 7-for-9 on extra points. Murphy has gone 36-for-39 on extra points and 10-for-18 on field goals attempted this year for a career low field goal percentage of just 55.6 percent.
Despite Murphy’s struggles, Syracuse coach Dino Babers said he had faith in Murphy after the Orange’s 54-0 loss to Clemson on Nov. 5, according to Syracuse’s Daily Orange student newspaper.
“You say he’s struggling, I think he’s doing OK,” Babers said. “Cole is our kicker. We’ll stay with him until he gets it right.”