Utah holds off BYU to win Holy War

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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.

Conference USA releases 2018 schedule

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Conference USA released its 2018 schedule on Tuesday, confirming that once again the league will play football this fall.

The league slate kicks off Sept. 8 with FIU’s visit to Old Dominion, while the first game involving a C-USA team is set for Aug. 25, when Rice hosts Prairie View A&M. Conference games are scattered throughout the month of September, with the first full Saturday slate coming on Oct. 6 with Old Dominion at Florida Atlantic, UAB at Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee at Marshall, North Texas at UTEP and UTSA at Rice.

While the MAC has opted for a full embrace of midweek football, Conference USA has gone in the exact opposite direction. Not one C-USA game is scheduled as of today for a weeknight — Thursday or Friday included — and only one game will be played on a day other than Saturday, a Friday, Aug. 31 visit to Wisconsin by Western Kentucky.

The most-anticipated non-conference games involving C-USA teams are Florida Atlantic’s opener at Oklahoma and on Sept. 1 and the Owls’ Sept. 22 visit to reigning American and Peach Bowl champion UCF. North Texas also has two shots to win nationwide respect for the league in its opener against SMU on Sept. 1 in Denton and a Sept. 15 visit to retooling Arkansas.

The highlight of the league schedule comes on Nov. 17 with a rematch of the 2017 title game when Florida Atlantic visits North Texas. The Owls won both meetings last season by a combined score of 110-48.

The 14th C-USA Championship will be held on Dec. 1 at the home of the division winner with the best conference record. FAU will look to become the second straight back-to-back C-USA champion, joining Western Kentucky in 2015-16.

Former LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada reportedly lands at Maryland

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It’s good to be Matt Canada.

He parachuted into Baton Rouge for a year, got paid a bunch of money, then got paid even more money to leave. And now he’s set to get paid from another school.

According to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Canada is set to join the Maryland staff as offensive coordinator. Rittenberg notes that Canada signed a multi-year agreement with the Terps, though salary terms were not revealed. Walt Bell, who left to become the offensive coordinator at Florida State, made $500,000 in 2017, according to USA Today.

Maryland will be Canada’s seventh school to call plays for in this decade alone. He spent 2010 (and three years before that) at Indiana, then moved to Northern Illinois in 2011. He parlayed that into one season at Wisconsin, three at NC State, and then one season stints at Pittsburgh, LSU and now Maryland.

Report: Oklahoma State signs 27-year-old Australian punter

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Australian punters are the hot new commodity in college football, and word has made it back to the Land Down Under: punt the ball far and high enough and you, too, can receive a full scholarship to an American university.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express — which you now is legit, because its header as of press time already reads Wednesday, January 24 — 27-year-old Australian punter Tom Hutton has signed with Oklahoma State. Hutton hails from Newborough, Australia, about a two hour ride from Melbourne, and in December attended a training session at Prokick Australia.

“I was told about [American football] a few years ago so I thought ‘I’ll probably be too old for it now’, thinking that it was like Aussie Rules and that if you were over 21 then you had no chance,” Hutton told the paper. “But then I saw a few older blokes getting scholarships so I thought I may as well give it a go.”

Prokick Australia claims the last five Ray Guy Award winners as alums, including 2017 victor Michael Dickson of Texas. Oklahoma State saw his ability up close, as Dickson punted 11 times for a 50.9-yard average in October, nearly booting his way to victory in a 13-10 Cowboys overtime victory. “Their punter is — did he win the Ray Guy Award last year?” Mike Gundy said after that game. “He should have won it. He changed the field on us. I don’t know what the yardage is, I just know that every time we go a little bit of field position, he changed the field … he was fantastic for them.”

The story of how Hutton was approved for an Oklahoma State offer doesn’t go into details, but Hutton’s recollection of how Hutton, who works overnights at a paper mill in addition to playing Aussie rules football in the Mid Gippsland Football League, received the offer is perfect.

“I woke up after night shift on two hours sleep and this person said ‘we know where you’re going, you’re going to Oklahoma State and we’ve got the coach on the phone,'” he said. “I thought ‘Jesus Christ, can you give me half an hour? I need to have a shower and actually wake up and make sure this is not a dream.'”

According to the Oklahoma State blog Pistols Firing, Hutton will arrive in Stillwater in July and have four years of eligibility.

Arkansas adds TCU signee who signed with New York Yankees

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Austin Aune‘s circuitous sports journey, one which Chris Weinke and Brandon Weeden would approve, has taken its next stop in Fayetteville.

According to 247Sports.com, Aune has joined the Arkansas football program and is enrolled in classes at the university.  At least initially, the quarterback will be a part of the Razorbacks as a walk-on; it’s expected he’ll take the field with the rest of his new teammates when spring practice kicks off month after next.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Aune had also considered TCU and North Texas before the SEC’s mystique proved to be too much.

“The allure of the SEC and the SEC West and Chad [Morris] and Coach [Joe] Craddock, and everybody being on the same page up there as far as the opportunity goes,” the player’s father, Greg Aune, told the Democrat-Gazette. “He likes their system. It’s a fast-paced system, wide-open system. That’s what he played in high school. It’s a pass-oriented offense. He’s a read-run oriented guy, so that’s a lot of what those guys do.”

The fact that Aune considered TCU as a potential landing spot before settling on Morris and UA shouldn’t come as a surprise as he actually signed with the Horned Frogs back in 2012.  However, he was drafted by the New York Yankees that same year and, after signing a contract that included a $1 million signing bonus, embarked on what turned out to be a six-year career in the minor leagues.  Despite that financial commitment, Aune never made it past Single-A ball.