It took a little longer — okay, a lot longer — than West Virginia was hoping, but the Mountaineers are in fact going to a bowl game this season. It wasn’t pretty, though.
WVU was one of the hot teams in college football for the month of September. The Mountaineers were ranked fifth in the country and Geno Smith was the runaway leader in the Heisman discussion. Then the Mountaineers got blown out by Texas Tech, starting a five-game losing streak.
Part of the problem for West Virginia during that time was the defense. Giving up 42 points per game heading into Friday’s match against Iowa State was costing WVU when the offense wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders. That problem was thanks in part to the absence of running back Shawne Alston, who has been hampered with a thigh bruise. But against the Cyclones today, Alston rumbled for 130 yards and a touchdown while still visibly limited with his injury.
Mountaineers receiver Tavon Austin, who rushed for over 300 yards in last week’s loss to Oklahoma, had 74 yards on the ground. Austin’s big play came on a 75-yard “pass” — a forward toss from Smith that was lethal against Clemson in last January’s Orange Bowl — to put the Mountaineers up 31-24. That would be the final score of the game.
(Austin also had a punt return for a touchdown. However, that was called back because of a hold, proving that while WVU is still struggling to stop opposing offenses, it has no problem stopping its most electric playmaker.)
WVU is now 6-5 and finishes the season at home against Kansas. A win against the Jayhawks would likely put WVU in the Holliday Bowl against a Pac-12 opponent (Rich Rodriguez‘s Arizona Wildcats perhaps?).
Yet another FBS opening is reportedly on the verge of being closed.
According to a report from FootballScoop.com, Jay Norvell “will be the next head coach at Nevada.” The Reno Gazette-Journal writes that “Norvell, the third and final candidate to interview for the Wolf Pack football head-coaching vacancy, was so impressive he didn’t even leave Reno before being offered the job, which he quickly accepted.” Norvell was offered the job late Wednesday night.
The other two interviewed were Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin and Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. The former interviewed Monday, the latter Tuesday.
If/when hired, Norvell would replace Brian Polian, who “mutually parted ways” with the football program last month after four seasons. This would be Norvell’s first head-coaching job at any level.
Norvell just completed his first regular season as an assistant on Todd Graham‘s Arizona State coaching staff. With the Sun Devils, Norvell served as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator.
Norvell has spent most of his nearly three decades in coaching at Power Five programs, with stops that included Texas (2015), Oklahoma (2008-14), UCLA (2007), Nebraska (2004-06), Iowa State (1995-97), Wisconsin (1989-94) and Iowa (1986-87). He also spent six seasons as an assistant in the NFL — 1998-2001 as the wide receivers coach of the Indianapolis Colts, 2002-03 as tight ends coach of the Oakland Raiders.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher got together for a joint press conference in Miami today as the two coaches prepare to face one another in the Orange Bowl on December 30. Harbaugh said he is looking forward to the matchup but seemed to be much more interested in getting a chance to witness one of the pregame traditions of Florida State; Chief Osceola riding on Renegade and planting a spear in the turf.
“I’ve never been to a game at Florida State,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve always wanted to go there and see what that atmosphere was like in person. This will be as close as I’ve ever been to that. I’m excited for that. I know I’m going to get some chills when that Appaloosa comes riding out there.”
Of course, this isn’t exactly a home game for the Seminoles, so sometimes pregame traditions are put on ice for the bowl season. Knowing this, Harbaugh made his case and made sure everyone listening knows just how cool he thinks it is.
“I want to see that. That’s one of the cool things,” Harbaugh said. “We have cool things and other teams have cool things, but that is right up there as one of the coolest things.”
Fortunately for Harbaugh, he will indeed get a chance to witness this pregame routine in person. Florida State Associate Athletics Director Jason Dennard said on Twitter Chief Osceola and Renegade will make the trip to Miami from Tallahassee.
The Houston Cougars are reportedly hoping to have a new head coach named as soon as this coming weekend. As expected, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and former LSU head coach Les Miles are among the final candidates being considered for the job.
One candidate no longer to be in the mix, according to a report from Joseph Duarte of The Houston Chronicle, is Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. That should be good news for Oklahoma, as it likely means Riley will be back in Norman for at least one more season to run the offense (and with Baker Mayfield coming back for 2017, the Sooners offense should continue to rack up some big numbers).
As noted by Duarte, five total candidates were vetted by Houston for the head coaching job. Kiffin, Miles and interim Houston coach Todd Orlando and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite along with Riley all were checked by the university as a decision is approaching.
Baylor introduced new head coach Matt Rhule in a press conference setting today, and it would seem Rhule has already gotten some opportunities to speak to his new players in Waco. One player in particular delivered a promise to the new Bears head coach. Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon reportedly made a bowl game guarantee to Rhule.
Baylor started the season with a 6-0 record but dropped their last six games to enter the bowl season at just 6-6. The Broncos of Boise State finished the season with a 10-2 record and second in the Mountain Division behind Wyoming in the Mountain West Conference. Boise State has won six bowl game sin the last seven seasons between head coaches Chris Petersen (now at Washington) and Bryan Harsin.
Personally, I’m still trying to figure out how many people thought pairing Boise State and Baylor in a bowl game would be a good idea, considering the unfortunate story surrounding former Boise State and Baylor player Sam Ukwuachu. We can focus plenty on the non-controversial stuff leading up to the Cactus Bowl, but that is one story that cannot be totally overlooked either, especially given the current state of the Baylor football program.
Baylor and Boise State have never faced each other in football. The two will play in the Cactus Bowl in Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, Dec. 27.