Little Caesars Pizza Bowl - Western Kentucky v Central Michigan

CMU stops WKU’s bid for first FBS bowl win in last non-Petrino game


Interim Western Kentucky head coach Lance Guidry punctuated his fiery and emotional pregame speech to the Hilltoppers with a rousing battle cry of “LET’S GO GET OUR DAMN TROPHY!!!*

Instead, it was Central Michigan that got their damn trophy.

Thanks in part to what some have and will continue to label a questionable late-game decision on the part of WKU, the Chippewas claimed the Little Caesars Bowl with a 24-21 win over the Hilltoppers.  Senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff threw for 253 yards and accounted for all three of CMU’s touchdowns, while wide receivers Andrew Flory and Cody Wilson, taking on a bigger role in the passing game thanks to suspensions for the Chips’ top two receivers, combined for 13 receptions and 206 yards.  The duo was on the receiving end of all three of Radcliff’s scoring strikes.

The Hilltoppers were playing in their first bowl game at the FBS level.

Both CMU and WKU finish the season at 7-6, although it could’ve been a vastly different won-loss scenario had the final minute-plus played out differently.

After CMU went up 24-21 with 5:11 left in the fourth quarter, WKU drove down to the Chips’ 19-yard line with just over a minute to play.  Facing a fourth and two, the Hilltoppers called a timeout with :51 to discuss going for it or kicking what would’ve been a 36-yard field goal attempt that could’ve sent the game into overtime.  Landry opted for the former option and played for the win; defeat and the loss of the damn trophy became the reality as quarterback Kawaun Jakes‘ pass sailed incomplete.

For those screaming at your TV screen at the time or at your monitor at the moment that they should’ve kicked the “automatic” field goal to tie the game, WKU’s kicker was just 2-of-5 this season on kicks beyond 30 yards.  Personally, I applaud Guidry grabbing his post-Christmas jingle bells and going for the win — the play-call, on the other hand, left him open to criticism — but your mileage may vary.

Entering the game, the overriding storyline was WKU running back Antonio Andrews chasing history.  With 2,997 all-purpose yards, Andrews was just 274 yards behind the single-season mark set by Barry Sanders in 1988 during the legend’s final season at Oklahoma State.  Alas, Sanders’ record is safe for another season as Andrews finished the game with 184 yards — 119 rushing, 21 receiving, 40 on kick returns and four on punt returns.

Additionally, the game’s end marked the official beginning of the Bobby Petrino era at WKU.  The former Arkansas head coach, who left the Razorbacks in disgrace this past spring, was hired to replace Willie Taggart, who left the Hilltoppers to take over at USF.  Petrino was expected to be at the game, but travel issues prevented him from being there and no a motorcycle wasn’t involved so just stop it right now.

(*yes, Guidry screamed in italicized all-caps.  And exclamation points.)

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.