Little Caesars Pizza Bowl - Western Kentucky v Central Michigan

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

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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.)

Temple adds recent NFL assistant, long-time college coach

MIAMI - 2009:  George DeLeone of the Miami Dolphins poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by NFL Photos)
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With the Cleveland Browns (again) changing regimes, George DeLeone found himself on the outside of the coaching profession looking in.  A couple of weeks later, DeLeone is back on the inside, and in a familiar locale at that.

While the school has yet to officially confirm it, the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that DeLeone has been added to Matt Rhule‘s coaching staff at Temple.  Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com subsequently confirmed the report.

According to both outlets, DeLeone will serve as the Owls’ running-game coordinator.

The past two seasons, DeLeone worked as an assistant line coach with the Browns.  Prior to that, however, the vast majority of his 46-year coaching career had been spent at the collegiate level.  And a sizable chunk of that time was spent in the Northeast.

DeLeone’s first FBS job came at Rutgers from 1980-83.  Two different stints at Syracuse (1985-96, 1998-2004) were sandwiched between his the job at the NFL level with the Miami Dolphins (1997).  Temple was his home from 2006-07, and then UConn from 2011-13 before the Browns called.

Demoted by BC, Todd Fitch takes over as LaTech’s OC

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 19:  Head coach Skip Holtz of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs objects to a call during the first half of the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 19, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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A promotion in 2015 was quickly followed by a demotion a year later for Todd Fitch.  Not long after the latter went down, Fitch left town for a fresh start to his coaching career.

Friday, Skip Holtz announced that Fitch has been hired as his offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech.  Additionally, Fitch will serve as the wide receivers coach for the Bulldogs.

Fitch had spent the past three seasons at Boston College, first as receivers coach and passing-game coordinator in 2013-14 before being promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2015.  However, BC head coach Steve Addazio announced in mid-January that he had hired Scott Loeffler as his coordinator, effectively demoting Fitch back to receivers coach.

Three weeks later, Fitch headed south.

“I am excited to be joining a staff that is part of growing something special,” Fitch said. “This coaching staff has laid the groundwork for a program that has already done some great things and is building a foundation for future success. I am excited for the opportunity to be on a staff with Skip Holtz again and to keep growing this program.”

In addition to BC, Fitch had also been a coordinator at East Carolina and USF. Holtz was the head coach at both of those stops.

San Jose State QB Malik Watson latest to take grad transfer route

SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 29:  The San Jose State Spartans marching band plays their fight song against the Fresno State Bulldogs in the second quarter on November 29, 2013 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, California.  The Spartans won 62-52.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a college football player has decided to ply his final season of college football wares elsewhere.

The latest to take that tack is Malik Watson, who announced via Twitter that he has “decided that I will not be returning to San Jose State for my senior and will be seeking elsewhere to pursue my dream.”  As Watson will graduate from SJSU this May, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2016 if he lands at another FBS school and enrolls in a grad program not offered at his former school.

Watson added that, as he awaits a new destination, he “will continue to train with my private QB coach in this meantime.”

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A California high school product who was born in Hawaii, Watson transferred from the junior college ranks to SJSU in 2014. After redshirting that first year, the 6-3, 208-pound Watson played in two games as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart.

In that time, Watson completed 9-of-15 passes for 59 yards and an interception. Of the 15 attempts, 14 came in the Week 3 loss to Oregon State.

Illini grad transfer T.J. Neal to visit WVU, Auburn

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMPER 27: Linebacker T.J. Neal #52 of the Illinois Fighting Illini arches of running back Ameer Abdullah #8 of the Nebraska Cornhuskersduring their game at Memorial Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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T.J. Neal does not yet know where he will continue his collegiate career, but it appears the linebacker has significantly narrowed the field.

A little less than two weeks ago, Neal, after being told by the coaching staff that they were planning to move him from middle to strongside linebacker, decided to transfer out of the Illinois football program.  As he will be a graduate transfer upon earning his degree in May, Neal will be eligible to play at another FBS program in 2016.

Enter West Virginia and Auburn, two teams which have been in contact with Neal and vice versa.  According to al.com, Neal will visit Morgantown this coming Monday, then head to The Plains a week later.

Upon the announcement of an impending departure, Illini head coach Bill Cubit said the Pennsylvania native “was talking about playing closer to home.”  Even as a move to Auburn would be the exact opposite of that, Neal seems genuinely excited over the prospects.

“Being able to play down there in Alabama, it’s like a dream come true,” Neal told Brandon Marcello of al.com. “From my high school, I never thought I’d play at a big-time school like Auburn. To have a chance now, it’s exciting to play against some of the top players in the country.”

According to blueandgoldsports.com, Penn State and Pittsburgh are/were also in play. It’s unclear if he’s visited or plans to visit those schools in his home state, although it was originally thought that the Nittany Lions could be high on Neal’s to-do list.

Not only is Neal a native of McKeesport, Pa., but Tim Banks, the Illini’s co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach the past four seasons, left in December to become the Nittany Lions’ coordinator.  PSU has also seen a pair of linebackers, Troy Reeder and Gary Wooten Jr., transfer out this month, meaning the opportunity for a starting job would certainly be on the table.

Regardless, Neal expects to make a decision shortly after the Feb. 15 visit to Auburn. He would then enroll in his new school of choice shortly after his graduation from Illinois.

Neal was a two-year starter for the Illini who finished second on the team in tackles (109) this past season.  He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten for his play in 2015.