Fantastic finish for Friends of Coal Bowl


Not to be confused with the Coal Bowl, the Friends of Coal Bowl has been all West Virginiain the nine meetings between the Mountaineers and Marshall. In the five meetingsprior to the establishment of the Friends of Coal Bowl, WVU had beaten Marshallby an average score of 50-10. The last four games have been slightly closer (35-11)with tonight’s match-up the closest since 1911.

For three and a half quarters it looked like Marshall University would steal theirfirst-ever victory against West Virginia. Ultimately, West Virginia would take theirfirst lead of the game during their first possession in overtime, and run away with itfor a 24-21 win and ownership of the Governor’s Cup.

With two 95-plus-yard fourth-quarter drives resulting in touchdowns and aconverted two-point conversion, the Mountaineers escaped with a victory over theThundering Herd Friday night at John C. Edwards Stadium.

West Virginia running back Noel Devine capped a 96-yard drive byscampering four yards into the end zone with 5:12 remaining in the game to bring thescore to 21-13.

Despite fumbling four times, Marshall limited costly mistakes, turning the ballover only once. But that lone turnover was the difference maker. Freshman Herdrunning back Tron Martinez fumbled and lost the ball on the WestVirginia four yard line with ten minutes to play. Instead of scoring a touchdownand going up 28-6, the Mountaineers’ ensuing drive resulted in Devine’stouchdown run.

The following Marshall drive lasted only four plays before Herd punter KaseWhitehead pinned the Mountaineers at their own two-yard line.

The entire game was a battle of field position. Whitehead had previously pinnedWest Virginia within their own five-yard line twice. The Mountaineersaverage starting spot was their own 26-yard line. As for the Herd, their averagestarting position was their own 31-yard line. Holliday once relied on his puntingunit rather than his kicking unit late in the game due to place kicker TylerWarner‘s career long of 37 yards.

Starting from their own two, the Mountaineers capped a fifteen-play, 98-yard drivewith a five-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith to Will Johnsonwith just 0:12 remaining in the game. Wide receiver Jock Sanders hauledin the two-point conversion to tie the game at 21.

Earlier in the week, Marshall head coach Doc Holliday mentioned thatthis rivalry had not yet officially become a rivalry. “We have to win this gameat some point. For it to be a rivalry we have got to go win thatgame.”

Holliday is a former West Virginia assistant whom many thought shouldhave been named head coach upon current Michigan head coach RichRodriguez‘s departure from Morgantown. He has taken serious control of the program and has themheaded down the right path. They were embarrassed last weekend in a 45-7 loss toOhio State, but rebounded nicely tonight to almost beat a ranked opponent for thefirst time since 2003 (27-20 victory at Kansas State).

Once WVU started giving their playmakers the ball, they settled down. Star widereceivers Sanders and Tavon Austin caught eight of their combined 13passes in the second half, and Sanders added his two-point conversion catch as well.Devine added more than three-quarters of his rushing total in the second half andovertime period, along with his touchdown run.

In the overtime period, Mountaineer kicker Tyler Bitancurt added a fieldgoal on West Virginia’s first possession. When given the opportunity, Herd placekicker Warner failed to extend his career long to 40 yards, missing and losing thegame for Marshall.

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles
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Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.

Penn State fires offensive coordinator John Donovan

Penn State football practice, Sept 9, 2015

Penn State has fired offensive coordinator John Donovan, the program announced Sunday.

“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in the last five years,” head coach James Franklin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Donovan originally hooked up with Franklin when the two were at Maryland, then coordinated his offenses at Vanderbilt and later Penn State.

Despite playing with what many project to be a future first-round pick in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ranked 101st nationally in scoring, 108th in total offense and 80th in yards per play.

Penn State dropped its final three games of the regular season and averaged only 14.6 points in its five losses.

Purdue retains head coach Darrell Hazell, fires both coordinators

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It’s never a good thing when a head coach has to fire both of his coordinators on the same day. Of course, it’s never a good thing to be 6-30, either.

Both are realities at Purdue, as the Boilers announced Sunday head coach Darrell Hazell will return for a fourth season in 2016, but offensive coordinator John Shoop, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and defensive line coach Rubin Carter will not.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in a statement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

Purdue, 2-10 in 2015, ranked 115th nationally in yards per play and 112th in yards per play allowed.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

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Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.