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.

Washington State coach Mike Leach fires a shot at the SEC

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 19: Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Washington State coach Mike Leach is known across the country as one of college football’s most interesting characters, rambling on from time-to-time about everything from pirates to the history of Geronimo. The latest subject the quirky head coach has turned his sights on? The big ol’ SEC.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger spoke to Leach recently as part of a profile on new Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo, and let’s just say the Air Raid guru of the Palouse didn’t hold back when discussing the state of offenses in the league widely considered to be the best in the sport.

“I’ve got bad news for all these levels people,” Leach said. “Your level isn’t special, your conference isn’t special. All this different level this, different level that. That’s crazy.

 

“This is a great time to be in the SEC, everybody’s got the same offense: run right, run left, play action. And they tease themselves  and say we threw it four more times a game this year than we did last year.”

Leach, who coached in the league at Kentucky, also added some other, more colorful language to describe his impression of the SEC and the offenses teams run. While he did play at Auburn with the Cougars a few years ago, he clearly hasn’t kept up with the way things are trending down south as even pro-style stalwarts like Alabama and Arkansas are using more and more tempo and spread principles on a weekly basis.

Either way, let’s hope the Washington State athletic director is already making calls to schedule an SEC opponent in the coming years. If nothing else, any future appearance by Leach on the Paul Finebaum Show should be must-see entertainment.

Willie Taggart completes Oregon coaching staff with familiar face from USF

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 26: South Florida Bulls head coach Willie Taggart during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images)
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It probably took a little longer than most to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, but Willie Taggart has completed his coaching staff at Oregon and the latest addition is a familiar face.

The school announced Thursday afternoon that Raymond Woodie would be taking over as the Ducks’ new special teams coordinator, having previously spent the past four seasons at USF with Taggart and three more before that together at Western Kentucky.

Woodie most recently served as the Bulls’ defensive coordinator this past season but has been a linebackers coach dating back to 2012. He is regarded by many to be a quality recruiter with good ties to the state of Florida in particular and has also coached the defensive line. While his title makes him responsible for the third phase of the game for Oregon, he figures to also help out new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt in some fashion as well.

The announcement is a bit of positive news for Taggart and the Ducks this week after a considerable bit of bad press for the program stemming from the revelation that multiple Oregon players wound up in the hospital following offseason workouts. New strength coach Irele Oderinde (who also came over from USF) was eventually suspended for one month without pay by the school as a result..

Despite Auburn interest, Texas A&M OC Noel Mazzone staying put in College Station

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 14:  The Texas A&M Aggies offense huddles against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on October 14, 2006 in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M won 25-19. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Gus Malzahn’s quest to find a new offensive coordinator has zigged and zagged in the past few days since the surprising departure of Rhett Lashlee to UConn. One place it will not be going however, is to a fellow SEC West school.

Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle reports that despite some interest in Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the Aggies’ coach is staying put in College Station.

Mazzone arrived at A&M prior to this past season from UCLA and found early success with the Aggies and transfer quarterback Trevor Knight before a late slide in 2016. Travis Haney of 247Sports reported earlier Thursday that he could be considered the leader in the search to replace Lashlee, but it appears that will not be the case.

The longtime coaching veteran’s name being linked to Auburn isn’t too surprising considering he was the OC there from 1999-2001 but Mazzone’s hefty salary and likely high buyout figure provided some big obstacles if he wanted to reunite with the school.

Instead, it’s on to the next one for Malzahn and company.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan coaches ride go-karts with five-star recruit in Georgia

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 17:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts during the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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National Signing Day is just around the corner and that means a flurry of in-home visits by coaches across the country trying to lock up the next class of impact players for their program.

We’ve seen plenty of unique attempts by coaches to impress prospects over the years as a result, from often used cookie cakes to sleepovers and limo rides. When it comes to this subject though, few have been as creative as Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. This week, he certainly cemented that reputation.

According to the Detroit News, Harbaugh and several Wolverines coaches took an in-home visit with five-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon out of Leesburg, Georgia and went bowling with the recruit’s family before finally racing go-karts together.

And even better, there’s video via ESPN:

Solomon is also strongly considering Alabama and Georgia in addition to Michigan, but something says neither Nick Saban or Kirby Smart will be heading to the race track with the big defensive tackle on their visit. You have to love recruiting either way.