On an opening night that saw Kent State escape an upset bid by an FCS opponent, the UConn Huskies were not as fortunate. Towson upset the host Huskies 33-18. UConn was later joined by South Alabama, who lost on the final play of the game to Southern Utah.
UConn opened the scoring in the first half but Towson’s Sterlin Phifer caught one touchdown pass from 23 yards and rushed for a five-yard score to give the Tigers their first lead and they never looked back. Towson shut down the Huskies in the second half and held them to fewer than 100 rushing yards.
Towson is certainly a respectable program in the FCS ranks, ranked 11th in the nation by The Sports Network, and UConn certainly has some rebuilding to go so the upset should not be considered too shocking. But this was hardly the sort of debut the brand new American Athletic Conference (old Big East with some Conference USA mixed in) would have wanted to see. Paul Pasqualoni would have preferred a better outcome as well as the pressure on his job is already elevating before the first college football Saturday. Not too look too far ahead, but Louisville also would have preferred to see a different outcome as well. You know, strength of schedule and conference respectability and all…
Connecticut will have some extra time to let this all sink in before returning to the field against another team from the state of Maryland. The Huskies host the Maryland Terrapins on September 14 after a bye week next week.
There were some other close calls for FBS teams taking on FCS opponents on college football’s opening night. As referenced earlier, Kent State managed to survive a scare from Liberty but had to do so largely without Dri Archer. Illinois State gave Ball State a battle in the first half but Ball State pulled away in the second half for a win.
Other FCS teams did not fare so well. Indiana State was blown out by Indiana, although one Sycamore player did manage to get ejected as a result of the new targeting rules.
UPDATE (11:56 p.m. ET): Southern Utah pulled off a second FCS victory against an FBS program. Colton Cook‘s 28-yard field goal gave the visiting Southern Utah a 29-28 victory at South Alabama as time expired.
Central Michigan has their replacement for star quarterback Cooper Rush and didn’t have to go far to get him.
Former Michigan signal-caller and recent graduate transfer Shane Morris announced Saturday on Twitter that he would be making the move up the road to play for the Chippewas in 2017.
Morris was a former four-star recruit coming out of high school in the state but never quite lived up to those expectations with the Wolverines. He did start two games for the team over the course of his career but was third on the depth chart in 2016 behind Wilton Speight and John O’Korn.
As a result, he wraps up his time in Ann Arbor by completing 47 of 92 passes for 434 yards, with no touchdowns and five interceptions. He’ll be eligible right away for Central Michigan, which is a great landing spot for an incoming quarterback with almost all of the offensive starters returning from last season’s team.
With Mike DeBord off to Indiana, Butch Jones is staying in-house for his next offensive coordinator.
Tennessee announced Friday it has promoted Larry Scott to be its new offensive coordinator. Scott joined the staff before last season as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator. He spent the previous three seasons coaching tight ends at Miami, and racked up a 4-2 mark as the ‘Canes interim head coach after Al Golden‘s mid-season 2015 firing.
To replace DeBord in the quarterbacks room, Tennessee has hired long-time offensive coordinator Mike Canales as quarterbacks coach, and handed defensive backs coach Charlton Warren special teams coordinator duties to free Scott to focus on the offense.
Canales has previously served as offensive coordinator at Snow College, South Florida, Arizona and North Texas. He deposited two separate stints as the interim head coach at North Texas, and spent the ’16 campaign as assistant head coach, running backs and tight ends coach at Utah State.
“We spoke to a lot of very quality candidates,” Jones said in a statement. “Our goal was to gather as much information as possible in a timely manner but also go through a detailed process, which we did. We feel strongly about our offensive staff and that Larry Scott is the best fit moving forward to lead the unit.
“Larry played an important role in the success we had offensively last year and was heavily involved in all aspects of our game plan, both during the week and on game day. We felt it was vital to maintain our continuity on offense and keep building on what we have established the past four seasons.
“I’m also really excited about adding Mike Canales to our staff. Mike has recruited, coached and developed numerous quarterbacks at the collegiate level. He will be of great benefit to our players and staff with his extensive experience and knowledge of the quarterback position.”
The Vols finished the 2016 season ranked 24th nationally in both yards per play and scoring
Washington State has hired Jeff Phelps to coach its defensive line, the program announced late Friday night.
Phelps arrives from Minnesota, where he spent the past six seasons in the same capacity. Ironically, Phelps’s final game as a Gopher came against… Washington State. His defensive line finished the 2016 season ranking 12th nationally in tackles for loss, 14th in rushing defense and 22nd in sacks.
“Jeff is a passionate football coach and a true technician of the game,” Wazzu head coach Mike Leach said in a statement. “He coaches with great energy, is a strong recruiter and brings with him a track record of being a part of great defenses.”
Phelps takes over for Joe Salave’a, who reportedly signed a new deal with the Cougars in December before leaving for Oregon earlier this month.
Washington State finished last season ranked 29th nationally in rushing defense (up from 95th in 2015), but 103rd in sacks and tied for 67th in tackles for loss.
Well, so much for all that.
Amid reports of a tug-of-war between Gus Malzahn and the Auburn administration, it appears the coach has got his man.
Auburn will hire Arizona State offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to the same post, the Tigers announced Saturday.
“I’m excited to welcome Chip Lindsey to the Auburn family,” Malzahn said in a statement. “I have the utmost confidence in his ability to lead our offense and his strength in developing quarterbacks makes him the perfect fit. Chip is a man of integrity and character who will fit well within our staff. He has great knowledge and enthusiasm for the game and is a rising star in this profession.”
Like Malzahn, Lindsey is a longtime high school coach. His break came when Malzahn hired him to his original staff as an analyst; the Tigers’ improbable worst-to-first run to the SEC championship and BCS national title game spring-boarded Lindsey to the offensive coordinator post at Southern Miss, where he helped the Eagles jump from 102nd nationally in yards per play in Lindsey’s first season to sixth in his second and final season in Hattiesburg.
Lindsey spent but one season at Arizona State, where the Sun Devils finished 103rd in yards per play.
He’ll take over a jekyll-and-hyde offense that ranked 87th in yards per play in September and 83rd in November, but placed sixth in October. The Tigers have added a high-wattage transfer in former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
“My family and I are very excited to return to Auburn and our home state,” Lindsey said. “Both are very special places to us. I looking forward to reuniting with Coach Malzahn and his staff. They are great coaches and great people. I look forward to being part of something special and helping Auburn win championships.”