Jakeem Grant

Texas Tech wins crazy penalty-filled Big 12 opener vs TCU


There was a time not so long ago we lauded the Big 12 for their quarterback arsenal. The 2013 season is certainly painting a different picture early on. Thursday night’s Big 12 contest between Texas Tech and TCU was more of a defensive exhibition but did provide some late offensive highlights as Texas Tech moved to 3-0 with a 20-10 victory over the visiting Horned Frogs.

While we generally tune in to see what Texas Tech will do on offense, Thursday night was all about the defense. TCU picked off three passes from Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield and managed to get just three points out of it. Mayfield later had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with an injury. Davis Webb came in to continue leading the offense and he soon had an impact when a tipped pass was hauled in by Deandre Washington, who then dashed down the left sideline for a 46-yard touchdown, or so it seemed. Washington dropped the football just before crossing the goal line and an official review marked the football at the 16-yard line thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Texas Tech tacked on to the play. A holding penalty would later push Texas Tech back to the 21-yard line but Webb completed a pass to Bradley Marquez for a touchdown and late 17-10 lead.

On this night, that was enough to hold on for the win, but TCU may have some griping to do with the officials late in the game. A TCU punt saw a kick-catch interference called against the Horned Frogs that looked to be non-existent on a video replay. On the ensuing Texas Tech possession a late fumble recovery by TCU was not awarded even after an official video review despite Texas Tech already having run a play. Texas Tech kept the football and added a field goal to build a ten-point lead.

Penalties were everywhere in this game as well. The two teams combined for 23 penalties which accounted for 205 yards. It was a long night for all.

TCU will return home next weekend to play SMU. The Mustangs are struggling at the start of the year, entering the weekend with a 1-1 record boosted by a 31-30 victory over Montana State. TCU’s defense will continue to be the strength of the Horned Frogs this season, as expected. Nothing from Thursday night’s game suggested otherwise, but without Casey Pachall at quarterback it is clear the Horned Frogs are struggling on offense. That is an area that could take time before TCU can be a regular threat in the Big 12. But Gary Patterson is a good coach. Give him time and he’ll get something going.

Texas Tech will stay home for another in-state showdown next week. The Red Raiders will host Texas State, playing their second season at the FBS level. Texas State is off to a 2-0 start with wins over Southern Mississippi and Prairie View A&M and they will be coming off a bye week before making the trip to Lubbock. This should be a game that sees Mayfield calm down a bit and play closer to what we saw in the first couple of games.

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 ESPN.com, 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.