Travis Wilson

Utah holds off BYU to win Holy War


Travis Wilson threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns to lead Utah (3-1) to a 20-13 win over in-state rival BYU on Saturday. It was the Utes’ fourth-straight win over BYU (1-2) in the fabled ‘Holy War’ and Utah now leads the overall series, 58-34-4.

The teams started out rusty, with the first six possessions resulting in punts. But Utah jumped out to a 13-0 lead thanks to drives of 77, 64 and 80  in the first half, the last one comprised largely of a 74-yard pass from Wilson to Dres Anderson to set up a first-and-goal on the Cougars one-yard-line.

BYU never did get untracked in the first half. Quarterback Taysom Hill missed on his first four passes and three of his first 10 and the Cougars went 0-for-7 on third down conversions. As a result, the Utes took that 13-0 lead into the half.

The second half was a different story, though.

The Cougars came alive behind Hill, who rushed for 61 yards on the first two drives of the second half, both of which ended in BYU field goals. Suddenly, the score was 13-6 heading into the final quarter and Utah had gone cold. One of the field goals came at a price, though, as Cougar running back Jamaal Williams was knocked out after suffering a helmet to helmet collision while converting a key first down. Williams left the game on a stretcher midway through the third quarter and did not return.  It was later confirmed that he had movement in his extremities.

Meanwhile, Wilson got hot again, hitting five-straight passes on a 79-yard drive to give Utah a 20-6 lead.

BYU then attempted to mount a dramatic comeback.  J.D. Falslev returned a punt 58 yards to the Utah 13-yard line and suddenly Hill and the Cougars were in business with almost 10 minutes to play. But a rather curious series of play calls, including a run up the middle for two yards on third and six, resulted in Utah getting the set and BYU turning it over on downs.

The Cougar defense also got a set and Utah was forced to punt out of its own goal line. Hill, who had 260 passing yards and 99 rushing yards, then drove BYU 44 yards for a touchdown, going 3-for-3 for 32 yards along the way. Michael Alisa’s 1-yard run cut Utah’s lead to 20-13 with 5:13 left.

It truly looked like the Utes would give this one away after yet another punt left BYU in good shape at its own 38 yard line. A couple passes by Hill got BYU as far as the Utah 38, but his 4th and 13 pass  was intercepted. Hill got one more shot later to throw a Hail Mary or two, but Utah thwarted them.

This was a big win for Utah, which moved to 3-1 (an OT loss away from being undefeated), thanks to a sweep of in-state schools Utah State, BYU and Weber State. The continued development of Wilson has to have the Utah coaching staff fired up. And for the defense to rebound as it did after a rough outing last week against Oregon State is also encouraging. With UCLA and Stanford up next on the schedule, Utah needed this win to gain some confidence.

But it’s back to the drawing board for BYU. The Cougars have a stingy defense but the offense is still a work in progress. Until Taysom Hill becomes a more proficient passer — or his coaches figure out better ways to feature his talents — they’re going to continue to have spotty performances from time to time.

Report: Temple’s Matt Rhule stops talking to Missouri

Matt Rhule

The search for a new coach at Missouri continues, and apparently one candidate has backed away from the pursuit. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Temple head coach Matt Rhule has turned taken himself out of the mix for the job at Missouri, which likely means Rhule will stay put in South Philly during this coaching carousel cycle.

According to the report, Temple is also in the process of negotiating a new contract for Rhule. Rhule has already signed a contract extension with Temple that runs through 2021. Rhule’s Owls are also preparing to take on Houston in this week’s American Athletic Conference championship game. Rhule does not believe this will serve as a distraction to his team as they prepare for the Cougars.

“I think our team is way too strong to be distracted about anything with me,” Rhule said. “I am honest with our players and tell them everything.”

Ironically, Houston also received some encouraging news this week when head coach Tom Herman said he has an agreement in principle to stay at Houston. Not only is that good news for Houston and Temple, but that is outstanding news for the conference as a whole, although Memphis did lose Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech.

For Temple, this should be encouraging news as a program. The two coaches before Rhule took the job each left to take on power conference opportunities once they came along. Al Golden took an offer to coach Miami (that, uh, didn’t exactly pan out nicely) and Steve Addazio bolted for Boston College. Who knows if Rhule will stick around for the long haul, but it would seem just being able to get him to return in 2016 would be a major step in the right direction for Temple.

Texas Tech fires three defensive assistants

Kliff Kingsbury

Texas Tech may be getting ready for a bowl game, but they will do so without three defensive assistant coaches. Co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Mike Smith, cornerbacks coach Kevin Curtis and outside linebackers coach Trey Haverty have been cut from the coaching staff, head coach Kliff Kingsbury announced today.

“We appreciate all that Mike, Kevin and Trey have done at Texas Tech over the last three seasons,” Kingsbury said in a released statement. “All three are great Red Raiders and we wish them the very best.”

Texas Tech had the Big 12’s ninth-ranked total defense after allowing 540.2 yards per game. That was nearly 100 yards more per game than Iowa State’s eighth-ranked defense. Only Kansas had a worst defense, allowing 560.8 yards per game. Texas Tech’s defense ranked 126th in the nation out of 128 schools. The Red Raiders were torched through the air, allowing 268.3 yards per game through the air, which was ranked 113th in the nation.

Offense appears to be the key to success in the Big 12 and defense has tended to be a hurdle for the Red Raider program. This much appears to be clear though. Kingsbury is making moves with his roster to find a way to improve defensively and become a more well-rounded threat in the Big 12.

VIDEO: Western Michigan’s bowl reveal video was shark-infested


Forget about all of the talk regarding 5-7 teams going to bowl games or not, because teams that have actually qualified and deserved a bowl trip are starting to line up their postseason plans. Western Michigan confirmed today it will head to the Bahamas Bowl, where the Broncos will face Middle Tennessee of Conference USA.

There were three potential bowl destinations for Western Michigan. The two in addition to the Bahamas Bowl were the Boca Raton Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl. There really wasn’t a bad destination here for Western Michigan, but a chance to go to the Bahamas seemed to be a crowd pleaser, and how could it not?

After the video revealed the bowl destination for the program, head coach P.J. Fleck went on to commend the Broncos for accomplishing a number of firsts for the program this season, including its first win over a top 25 team, a share of the division crown for the first time in over a decade, and the first time going to bowl game sin back-to-back seasons. Now, Fleck wants his program to put together an eight-win season, which would mark the first back-to-back eight-win seasons. Keep rowing that boat, Western Michigan.

ECU says it would decline bowl invite after 5-7 season, but that invite was unlikely to come

James Summers, Ken Ekanem, Quincy McKinney
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The odds are pretty good East Carolina never would have received a bowl invitation as 5-7 teams wait in line for a rare bowl invitation to fill bowl vacancies. Either wayt, East Carolina is on the record now to say it would not accept any bowl invitation.

“While we understand there are still numerous programs with higher APR scores ahead of us who merit stronger consideration, we have already determined that we would decline an offer should one be extended,” East Carolina Director of Athletics Jeff Compher said in a released statement. “Our efforts should be centered on positioning the Pirates for future championships.”

With Nebraska and Illinois already reportedly ready to accept any bowl invitation they would receive, East Carolina was already going to eb locked out of the postseason as long as the Huskers and Illini stayed true to those reports. Missouri has publicly said it would turn down an ofer, but there are still other schools that would stand in the way of ECU, which is way down the order on the wait list.