Miami v North Carolina

The U may not be back, but Miami is undefeated


Miami had one lead in the second half Thursday night at North Carolina. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, it came at the time it mattered most. Miami kept their undefeated season alive by coming from behind in the final minute of the game to escape Chapel Hill with a 27-23 victory, improving to 6-0. The victory may have come at a costly price though, as running back Duke Johnson and receiver Phillip Dorsett left the game with injuries and never returned after the first quarter.

Dorsett looked to have a knee injury and returned to the sidelines on crutches and out of uniform. Johnson appeared to take a knee to the head.

Miami trailed North Carolina by ten point sin the fourth quarter but turned to back-up running back Dallas Crawford for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to cap two separate drives of 75 and 90 yards on a night the Miami offense was full of frustration. Crawford stepped up in a big way with 33 carries for a game-high 137 yards. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris was intercepted four times but the Tar Heels were unable to take advantage of the turnovers. Miami managed to hold North Carolina to two field goals and twice had the defense return the favor with an interception of North Carolina quarterbacks Bryn Renner and Marquise Williams.

Remarkably, Miami still managed to pile up 556 yards of total offense. Most of those yards may have come while you were still scratching your heads wondering what was going on in this game. You would not be alone, that is for sure.

So now we are left wondering just what to make of Miami. With what we have seen this season int he ACC it still looks clear that Clemson and Florida State, who play each other Saturday night, are on a different level from the rest of the conference. Whichever team wins that game Saturday night will be the prohibitive favorite in the ACC the rest of the way. But can Miami take on the role of spoiler in the conference, not just for the winner of Clemson-Florida State but for the conference’s national image? This Miami team looks to be beatable, but they have proven they can scratch and claw their way to a win if they need to get a little scrappy (see: Florida, North Carolina). Depending on the status of Johnson and if they can get a semi-adequate performance out of Morris (who did pass for 322 yards, it should be noted), if Miami paired up with Clemson or Florida State on the right day, it would not be impossible to see the Hurricanes come up with a win.

It would not be likely, but it would not be impossible. Miami gets a chance to improve to 7-0 for the first time since 2005 when they host Wake Forest next week. Regardless of how banged up they may be, a win should be expected for an 8-0 start. Then things get interesting. A road game at Florida State could serve as an ACC Championship Game preview and the following week Miami hosts Virginia Tech. The Hokies and Hurricanes have been in this sort of position before, with a conference or division on the line. If Miami can earn a split, they should be in good shape to at least get to Charlotte for their first ACC Championship Game appearance in program history.

Assuming they are eligible for postseason play, of course.

Though it was in a losing effort, it should be mentioned that North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron was nearly unstoppable in the passing game. Ebron recorded 199 receiving yards and one touchdown. North Carolina’s season may not be going to plan, but Ebron continues to draw attention from NFL scouts, and for good reason.

North Carolina is now closing in on the brink of missing out on postseason eligibility. The Thursday night loss sinks the Tar Heels to 1-5. Just two more losses and North Carolina will be eliminated from postseason consideration.

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles
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Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.

Penn State fires offensive coordinator John Donovan

Penn State football practice, Sept 9, 2015

Penn State has fired offensive coordinator John Donovan, the program announced Sunday.

“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in the last five years,” head coach James Franklin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Donovan originally hooked up with Franklin when the two were at Maryland, then coordinated his offenses at Vanderbilt and later Penn State.

Despite playing with what many project to be a future first-round pick in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ranked 101st nationally in scoring, 108th in total offense and 80th in yards per play.

Penn State dropped its final three games of the regular season and averaged only 14.6 points in its five losses.

Purdue retains head coach Darrell Hazell, fires both coordinators

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It’s never a good thing when a head coach has to fire both of his coordinators on the same day. Of course, it’s never a good thing to be 6-30, either.

Both are realities at Purdue, as the Boilers announced Sunday head coach Darrell Hazell will return for a fourth season in 2016, but offensive coordinator John Shoop, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and defensive line coach Rubin Carter will not.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in a statement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

Purdue, 2-10 in 2015, ranked 115th nationally in yards per play and 112th in yards per play allowed.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

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Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.