West Virginia beats down Clemson on way to the Big 12 (maybe)

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We’re assuming that latter portion of the headline holds up the way West Virginia admins are insisting it will.

The first half, though, held true and No. 23 West Virginia shattered just about every Orange Bowl and BCS record that has ever existed as part of their 70-33 beat down of No. 14 Clemson.

Geno Smith‘s 6 passing touchdowns — four of which were little flips on fly sweeps that count as passes — and 401 passing yards broke Orange Bowl records. Smith’s six TD’s also tied an all-bowl record. Tavon Austin‘s four receiving touchdowns — again, three of which were those little direct flips from Smith — were also an Orange Bowl record.

West Virginia’s 70 points were an all-bowl record, beating out Baylor’s Alamo Bowl win just last week.

Not bad for a team many didn’t think should have been in the BCS — myself included.

But the Mountaineers didn’t make it look that easy at first. WVU fell behind early when Clemson running back Andre Ellington ripped off 68-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead. WVU and Clemson exchanged scores in what looked like another bowl shootout until the second quarter.

But it wasn’t until WVU safety Darwin Cook took an Ellington fumble 99 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter that the Mountaineers began to take over.

Oh yeah, that fumble recovery for a touchdown was a record too.

Then, quarterback Tajh Boyd committed two lethal turnovers deep in his team’s own territory that led to two more WVU touchdowns. The Mountaineers scored 35 second-quarter touchdowns and took a 49-20 lead into the half.  But it was that Cook fumble recovery for a touchdown that set the tone; the Mountaineers outscored Clemson (10-4) 42-17 after that moment.

WVU didn’t cut the Tigers any slack in the second half and rolled into Year 2 of the Dana Holgorsen era — and the Big 12, barring legal holdups — with style.

I’d say Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas is happy right now.

The Mountaineers will have Smith and a solid group of receivers back next year. Combine that with a 10-win season and a spanking of a Top 15 opponent on national TV, and WVU has a one-way ticket to a ton of preseaon kudos in 2012.

Shoot, they may not need a defensive coordinator like Jeff Casteel, who, it should be noted, did as good of a job of slowing  All-Americans Sammy Watkins and Dwayne Allen as anybody this season.

It could be a matter of days before Casteel moves on to Arizona with former WVU coach Rich Rodriguez as he’s been rumored to do. If he does, WVU has lost one of the best DC’s in the business.

Not that defense is much of priority in the Big 12 anyway.

If WVU does begin Big 12 play next season like they think they will, they’ll take with them the resume as one of only a handful of college football programs to win the Sugar, Fiesta and Orange Bowls.

Purdue QB David Blough cleared for spring practice

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In a stark change from most offseason news in the sport, Purdue has something positive personnel-wise to hang its hat on moving forward.

By way of the Indianapolis Star, head coach Jeff Brohm revealed Friday that David Blough is “way ahead of schedule” and has been cleared to participate in spring practice, which kicks off this coming Monday, for the Boilermakers.  Just how much of a participant the quarterback will be remains to be seen, though.

“He’s doing a great job and he will be out there at spring practice and will be participating,” Brohm said according to the Star. ‘Whether it will be fully that remains to be seen. He will be out there Day 1 and doing some portions of practice.

“We’ve got to make sure we protect him, especially in 11-on-11 settings. We’ll see how the first week goes if we can progress on that.”

Blough suffered a dislocated ankle in a November win over Illinois and missed the remainder of the 2017 season.  At the time of the injury, it was thought that it and the subsequent recovery process would keep the junior out of spring practice.

Blough had started the two games leading up to his season-ending injury, with Brohm confirming that the rising senior will be the starter as this offseason kicks off in earnest.  Elijah Sindelar, who reclaimed the starting job after Blough’s injury, will miss spring practice as he continues to recover from a torn ACL on which he played for the last month of the regular season plus the Boilermakers’ bowl game.

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.