COLUMBUS, OH – NOVEMBER 24: Ohio State Buckeyes fans storm the field and hold a sign showing Ohio State’s season record after the Buckeyes defeated the Michigan Wolverines 26-21at Ohio Stadium on November 24, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. Despite a perfect record Ohio State is not eligible to play in a bowl game. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
That was very swift. And definitively resounding.
Earlier this afternoon, a report surfaced that Art Briles would be interviewing for the Houston job at some point in the not-too-distant future. Given Briles’ controversial departure from Baylor, and even given his past ties as the Cougars’ head coach, it was more than a mild surprise that he was even being considered.
As it turns out, he’s not.
In an unusual move, UH athletic director Hunter Yurachek released a statement a short time later in which he acknowledged that Briles had expressed interest earlier this week in returning as head coach. However, “after discussion with University of Houston leadership, we developed a list of candidates to be interviewed that did not include Art.”
Houston issues statement regarding Art Briles pic.twitter.com/VQ0LBc5CYf
— Joseph Duarte (@Joseph_Duarte) December 3, 2016
Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, ex-LSU head coach Les Miles, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and UH’s offensive and defensive coordinators, Major Applewhite and Todd Orlando, respectively, are believed to be on Yurachek’s short list.
With a playoff berth seemingly out of the question, all Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have left to battle for is conference pride. Well, that and the weather.
A rain-swept day in Norman begat a touchdown-less first quarter, which ultimately gave way to a quartet of touchdowns in a back and forth second quarter as the Sooners and Cowboys have slogged their way to a 17-17 halftime tie in the 111th edition of Bedlam. The most noteworthy development in the half, though, involved the player responsible for the first of those touchdowns.
With under seven minutes left in the second quarter, All-American wide receiver Dede Westbrook was hit on a pass across the middle. The combination of the legal hit plus his head bouncing of the turf led to the receiver laying briefly motionless as OU medical personnel rushed to his aid. Westbrook ultimately left the field under his own power, but his status for the remainder of the game moving forward is unknown as he is under observation for a potential concussion.
— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) December 3, 2016
Trailing 3-0 a few minutes earlier, Westbrook was on the receiving end of 69-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield. The quarterback bought time to find a wide-open Westbrook, who made a nifty juke on a Cowboy defender en route to the end zone.
— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) December 3, 2016
A field goal three minutes later, after a first and goal at the three, pushed the Sooners lead to 10-3. With 5:05 remaining in the half, a Chris Carson six-yard touchdown run knotted the score at 10-all; three minutes later, it was quarterback Mason Rudolph from six yards out to give the Cowboys their first lead of the quarter.
With under :30 remaining, Mayfield tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to knot it up at 17-all headed into the locker room.
Both quarterbacks have struggled in accuracy with a wet ball, with Mayfield hitting on just five of his 10 passes before going 3-3 on his final drive of the half while his OSU counterpart has connected on only five of 12 attempts. Mayfield, though, has thrown for 237 yards as he’s hit on a handful of chunk plays.
OSUs Justice Hill (92) and Carson (62) have combined for 154 yards on the ground. The Sooners have run for just 40 yards on 19 carries.
UPDATED 2:42 p.m. ET: OU has confirmed that Westbrook will not return to the game.
Navy will play the remainder of the American Athletic Conference championship game without starting quarterback Will Worth, Toneo Gulley or Daryll Bonner. All three left the game with injuries in the first half of the American Athletic Conference championship game in Annapolis. As if that were not enough, the Temple Owls were already up 21-0 at the time and looking to slam the door shut on Navy in its first conference championship game appearance in program history, and on Navy’s hopes of reaching the New Years Six by slipping past MAC champion Western Michigan. Temple leads Navy at the halftime break, 24-3.
Temple, playing in its second straight AAC game after losing at Houston last season, marched right down the field on the Midshipmen on the game’s opening drive. Jahad Thomas capped off the well-executed 12-play drive with a 15-yard touchdown run. The Owls pushed their lead to 14-0 on their next possession after the defense came up with a fourth-down stop at the Temple 41-yard line. Phillip Walker completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Ventell Bryant. Navy would then uncharacteristically fumble the football away on the fourth play of the ensuing drive, leading to a third Temple touchdown, a 56-yard touchdown pass from Walker to Keith Kirkwood.
Temple’s Avery Williams was ejected in the second quarter for a targeting foul on backup Navy quarterback Zach Abbey. The helmet-to-helmet hit left Williams thriving in pain after the play before walking off the field as the review was underway. Abbey was playing in place of a banged-up Worth, who hobbled off the field moments earlier. Abbey would toss his first completion of his college career later on the drive, which ended with a field goal to get Navy on the scoreboard.
A late interception thrown by Abbey allowed Temple a chance to tack on a late field goal by Aaron Boumerhi from 48 yards out. Just moments earlier, Boumerhi missed from 50 yards.
If Temple goes on to win the AAC championship, it would seem very likely Western Michigan will head to the Cotton Bowl as the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. Even with a win, there may not be enough Temple can do with three losses this season to wiggle past the Broncos.
At some point, scandal-stained Art Briles will be back at the FBS level as a head coach. It could happen, though, sooner than most everyone expected.
According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Briles is one of at least five candidates to fill the vacancy at Houston. Briles’ first job as an FBS head coach came at UH in 2003. In five seasons, Briles guided the Cougars to a 34-28 record during the time, a job that paved the way for him to take over at Baylor in 2008 and put that program on the national map.
Briles was fired earlier this year in the wake of the sexual assault scandal that rocked both the football program and university. UH regents chair Tim Fertitta confirmed this past week that the door hasn’t been shut on a Briles return, even as some “clarity” when it comes to his controversial ouster in Waco is needed.
“There’s a lot of administrator and ex-administrators and board of regents from Baylor that say that Art Briles was a scapegoat at Baylor,” Fertitta told the Houston Chronicle. “I’ve had calls from ex-chairman of the board of regents there, current big booster there, lawyers that represent Baylor. I have not had one negative call about Art Briles. But there still seems to be a clarity issue. …
“I would love for Art Briles to be on our super-short list. But until, or if, or when we can ever get full clarity, I can’t see us going there.”
For the record, UH’s president is Renu Khator, the second woman to ever hold that title at the university. She also holds the dual title of UH System chancellor, the first woman to do so.
It had previously been reported that Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will interview for the UH job as well. Per McMurphy, that interview will take place Sunday, after the SEC championship game this afternoon.
Additionally, former LSU head coach Les Miles and UH’s offensive and defensive coordinators, Major Applewhite and Todd Orlando, respectively, are candidates and will interview. On Miles, Fertitta publicly stated that the coach “has some interest in us” and confirmed that the interest was being reciprocated.