Arkansas Mississippi St Football

John L. Smith officially out as Hogs’ head coach


After back-to-back September weekends that saw Arkansas lose to Louisiana-Monroe and get blown out by Alabama at home, it was widely assumed and presumed that there was no chance John L. Smith would be back as the Razorbacks’ head coach.

The day after UA’s season came to an end with its eighth loss in 12 games, the John L. era in Fayetteville is officially over.

In a press release, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long announced that he has informed Smith that the school “would be making a change in leadership within our football program.”  Smith was hired in the wake of the Bobby Petrino scandal and was given a short leash from the get-go; Smith signed a 10-month contract after leaving his alma mater Weber State, where he had just been hired as head coach for less than five months before leaving for the Hogs in April.

“I am very grateful to Chancellor (David) Gearhart and Jeff Long for the opportunity they gave me to return to the University of Arkansas and coach this football team,” Smith said in a statement. “I have enjoyed guiding this group and I am extremely proud of how everyone in our program stuck together and showed tremendous character by competing throughout the season. Everyone on our staff has my appreciation as they all believed in our goals and stayed committed to the development of these young men.

“I would like to thank the Razorback fans for demonstrating their support for these student-athletes and this coaching staff during a challenging time. I enjoyed every day of this experience and this profession has been and will continue to be rewarding to me. During my time here, it has been incredible to be a part of helping this program grow and I wish everyone involved nothing but success in the future.”

As for which direction Arkansas will turn for a permanent replacement for Petrino, several names have already been bandied about even before Smith’s official dismissal.  From ESPN broadcaster Jon Gruden to Arkansas State’s Gus Malzahn to Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes, there is no shortage of reported contenders for the position.

While obviously not getting into specifics, Long stated that the new leader of the Razorbacks football program would possess “honesty and integrity.”  In other words, the anti-Petrino.

“Last April, when I appointed Coach Smith for the 2012 season, I indicated I thought this would provide us the opportunity to take the time necessary to identify the right coach for the future and to do so in a time that would allow us to attract quality candidates,” Long’s statement read. “Our new coach will be an individual who shares the passion for success our fans do and who is willing to work relentlessly to achieve our goals.  It will be someone who embraces the expectations of winning a national championship and succeeding in the classroom with discipline, honesty and integrity. The leader of our student-athletes will continuously stress academic accountability and the value of earning a degree from the University of Arkansas. Our new coach will embrace what this program means not just to the university, but to the entire state of Arkansas and will share the vision for the future success of Razorback Football.”

There is no timeline for the announcement of the new hire, although Long said back in mid-October that he would like the coach in place by early December.

Miami defense shutting down Pitt; Hurricanes lead 23-3 at half

Brad Kaaya
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It may be hard to believe, but Miami is in position to end the season with nine wins. That assumes, of course, the Hurricanes avoid a second half meltdown against Pittsburgh and close out the year with a bowl win. For now, Miami should be feeling pretty good as the Hurricanes have stomped Pitt in the first half of an early kickoff in western Pennsylvania. Miami took a 23-3 lead into the half.

Miami has more than doubled the total offensive production of the Panthers, outgaining Pitt at halftime 248 yards to 102. The Panthers have just 36 passing yards and 66 rushing yards in the half. Pitt also had a turnover with Nathan Peterman having a pass picked off by Artie Burns.

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has completed 13 of 23 pass attempts for 166 yards, with Rashawn Scott on the receiving end of the touchdown play and leading the team with 50 receiving yards. Miami’s Joseph Yardley leads all players with 64 rushing yards. Pitt’s star receiver, Tyler Boyd, has just one catch for eight yards.

Houston takes halftime lead on Navy in AAC West winner-takes-all contest

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If Houston is going to slow down Navy’s offense, keeping it off the field is a good way to go about it. In a battle for the American Athletic Conference West Division title, and home field advantage in the AAC Championship Game, Houston has used methodic ball control to its advantage and leads the Midshipmen 24-14 at halftime. Greg Ward Jr.‘s five-yard touchdown run gave the home team the lead just minutes after Houston successfully converted a fourth down and short after a timeout.

Houston took the game’s opening possession 82 yards for a touchdown after 13 plays for an early lead. Greg Ward Jr. completed a short pass to Steven Dunbar from five yards out for the score, but Navy answered with a touchdown drive on their opening possession. Keenan Reynolds ripped off a 52-yard run and later capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7.

Houston again put together a lengthy and time-consuming touchdown drive on the ensuing possession. The Cougars took 13 plays to move 76 yards for a score, this time seeing Brandon Wilson complete the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead. The two teams exchanged punts before Navy once again tied the game with Reynolds completing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jamir Tillman.

Report: Washington State QB Luke Falk won’t play in Apple Cup

Luke Falk
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Earlier this week it was looking as though Washington State quarterback Luke Falk might be available to play Washington in this year’s edition of the Apple Cup. Now the outlook is not so good.

According to a report from Stefanie Loh of The Seattle Times, Washington State will start Peyton Bender at quarterback against the Huskies. Falk, who is recovering form a concussion last week, is not expected to dress for the game. It will be the first start of the redshirt freshman’s career. Bender has appeared in four games this season serving as Falk’s backup. In his limited playing time, Bender has completed 17 of 33 pass attempts for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He has been picked off twice.

The loss of Falk is certainly a blow to Washington State’s offense, although we will see if Mike Leach has a system in place where he can plug in a quarterback and still get the production through the air as has been the case during his career. There is no word on whether or not Falk will be available for the bowl season, although that would seem to look possible given more time to recover from a concussion.

NCAA denies sixth-year for Syracuse QB Terrel Hunt

Terrel Hunt

Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt will not get a sixth year of eligibility. The NCAA has denied a request to extend Hunt’s eligibility by one more year, Syracuse announced today.

Hunt had his 2014 and 2015 seasons cut short due to injuries. A broken leg in 2014 forced Hunt to miss the final seven games of the season. An Achilles tendon injury against Rhode Island in the 2015 season opener has sidelined Hunt for the entire 2015 season, effectively.

“Obviously, it’s very disappointing but I want to thank my teammates, coaches and all the Syracuse fans who have supported me through this process and during my time here,” Hunt said in a statement shared by Syracuse athletics. “Even though my career didn’t turn how I thought it would, I still have a lot of great memories that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.

“Right now I’m focused on my rehab and on finishing graduate school. I’m getting better every day and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to continue my career at the professional level.”

Hunt’s Syracuse career will end with 2,621 passing yards and 24 touchdowns (11 passing, 13 rushing).