Storm Johnson, Steven Taylor, Derrick Mathews,achary McMillian

UCF makes late stand, beats Houston to gain inside track on AAC title

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UCF got 127 yards rushing from Storm Johnson and its defense made a game-saving stand in the final seconds to beat Houston, 19-14, and grab the inside track for the American Athletic Conference title.

The Knights improved to 7-1 and 4-0 in conference and edged closer to its first BCS bowl game. Houston fell to 7-2 and 4-1.

UCF featured a balanced attack, getting 210 passing yards from quarterback Blake Bortles and 188 rushing yards thanks to Johnson and his backup, freshman William Stanback, who had 74 yards and two key TDs on nine carries.

The Knights held a 6-0 lead at the half courtesy of two Shawn Moffitt field goals, but Houston came back to take the lead in the third quarter on a 24-yard touchdown run by quarterback John O’Korn, who also threw for 231 yards and a touchdown on 24 of 46 passing.

Down 7-6, UCF stormed back with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was aided by a personal foul penalty on Houston before Stanback scored from 15 yards out. The Knights led 13-7 as the fourth quarter dawned, but were pinned down at their own 2-yard line when they got the ball back. No matter — UCF went 98 yards in seven plays, with Stanback going in from 38 yards this time to put his team up, 19-7 (a two-point conversion pass attempt by Bortles failed).

That’s when Houston stormed back. After O’Korn’s pass was intercepted on the ensuing drive, the Knights drove to the Houston 33 and attempted a 50-yard field goal. But it was blocked! O’Korn then drove the Cougars 53 yards in eight plays, culminating in a 12-yard touchdown pass to Wayne Beadle. Suddenly, it was 19-14. The Knights got the ball back with a little over four minutes to play.

Houston’s defense forced a three-and-out and UCF punted the ball away to the Cougar 38-yard line. O’Korn found Kenneth Farrow on completions of six and 22 yards and then hit Deonte Greenberry on a clutch 14-yard pass on third and 10 to set the Cougars up at the UCF 20-yard line. Two rushes produced a first and goal at the 10 and Houston had four plays to get it into the end zone. But the Knights defense stiffened when it mattered and O’Korn’s fourth-down pass sailed over the end line and that was the ball game.

UCF has now beaten Louisville and Houston, which should leave a clear path to the league title. Games against Temple, Rutgers, South Florida and SMU remain, but the Knights would have to lose twice to not get it done and make it to a BCS bowl.

Illinois announces two-year extension for interim head coach Bill Cubit

Bill Cubit
Associated Press
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Illinois has extended year-long interim head coach Bill Cubit for another two seasons, the program announced Saturday afternoon. Does that make him a short-term full-time head coach or a long-term interim coach? Or a combination of the two?

Either way, Cubit is in Champaign to stay through the 2017 season.

A mitigating factor here, undoubtedly, is the absence of a full-time chancellor and a full-time athletics director.

“Bill has stepped in during an extremely difficult period and done an outstanding job in leading our football program since August,” interim athletics director Paul Kowalczyk said in a statement. “Our student-athletes have responded in a positive manner and we feel he is the best person at this time to be the head coach. We wanted to allow Bill to make decisions regarding the program as the head coach without the interim title, and lead the Fighting Illini into Saturday’s game without speculation.”

Cubit’s extended contract will pay him $1.2 million annually. Former Illini head coach Tim Beckman made a reported $1.8 million.

“During the past three months, Coach Cubit has led this team with a steady and experienced hand,” interim chancellor Barbara Wilson said. “He has earned respect and appreciation from all of us. This move will allow the permanent Athletics Director to evaluate the program at his or her own schedule and make decisions based on those evaluations once that search is completed.”

Illinois is 5-6 this season, playing to extend its season at home against No. 16 Northwestern (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

Tulane announces Curtis Johnson officially out as head coach

Curtis Johnson
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Confirming what was reported earlier this week, Tulane announced Saturday morning it had relieved head coach Curtis Johnson of duties.

Johnson closed his four-year tenure with a 45-34 loss to Tulsa Friday night, a game where the Green Wave led midway though the fourth quarter but were undone by two pick-sixes. He closes his run with a 15-34 record, peaking with a 7-6 mark and a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning only eight games in his other three seasons.

“I want to thank CJ for his hard work and his dedication to rebuilding the Green Wave football program,” Tulane AD Rick Dickson said in a statement. “His efforts were rewarded in 2013 when Tulane reached its first bowl in 11 years. Since then, however, the program has not progressed to the level that we aspire to.”

Similar to Illinois, Central Florida and possibly Rutgers, Tulane says it will find a replacement for Dickson (who originally said he’d step down mid-2016) before finding a new head coach.

Report: Rutgers AD Juile Hermann could be on the chopping block this weekend

Julie Hermann
Associated Press

Many assume Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood won’t survive this disappointing and scandal-ridden fourth season of his. But it could be his boss, the highly controversial Julie Hermann, that receives the ax first.

According to a report from Keith Sargeant of, Hermann could see her 30-month tenure end as soon as this weekend.

“Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann is expected to meet with university President Robert Barchi before the end of the weekend, three people familiar with the situation told NJ Advance Media on Friday,” Sargeant wrote. “The meeting, presumably called by Barchi, is the first evidence the university’s administration is preparing to act.”

Sargeant writes that Hermann has been kept in the dark while the university conducts a top-to-bottom investigation into the football program’s compliance efforts. Flood was suspended three games and fined $50,000 earlier this season for overriding the church-state relationship between football and academics.

The results of that investigation could find Rutgers joining the ranks of Illinois and Central Florida among schools looking to hire an AD and head football coach at the same time.

“The futures of Flood and Hermann could hang on a report being compiled by the university’s office of enterprise risk management, ethics and compliance,” wrote Sargeant. “The report is expected to detail allegations of failed drug tests and other issues that could result in NCAA infractions and possible sanctions, multiple people familiar with the situation have told NJ Advance Media.”

In addition to a losing season on the field, Rutgers football has dealt with drug suspensions and player arrests off the field this fall.


AD says San Jose State coach Ron Caragher safe for 2016 despite missing bowl game

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A 40-23 loss to Boise State Friday condemned San Jose State to a third straight bowl-less season, but Spartans AD Gene Bleymaier said afterwards the setback would not result in a change in job status for head coach Ron Caragher.

“There’s no question about his status,” Bleymaier told the Contra Costa Times. “Ron’s our coach, and he’ll be our coach going forward.”

Hired away from San Diego to replace the departed Mike MacIntyre, Caragher is just 14-22 in three seasons leading the Spartans.

San Jose State did go 6-6 in his debut season of 2013 but did not garner a bowl invite.