Derek Carr

Fresno State holds on against Utah State to win MWC title

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Derek Carr threw for 404 yards and three touchdowns and the Fresno State defense stepped up to the plate with nine sacks to lead the No. 23 Bulldogs to a 24-17 victory over Utah State in the first-ever Mountain West Conference title game on Saturday night.

FSU finishes 11-1, while Utah State falls to 8-5.

Carr’s first two touchdowns sparked FSU to a 17-0 lead, but Jake Doughty’s 86-yard return of a Josh Quezada fumble with seconds to play in the first half made the score 17-7 in favor of the Bulldogs. Carr’s third touchdown extended FSU’s lead to 24-7 in the third quarter and it looked like the Bulldogs would cruise to the win.

Things looked even more bleak for the Aggies when starting quarterback Darell Garretson was knocked out of the game on a sack with USU trying to finish off a drive deep in FSU territory early in the fourth quarter. Garretson — himself filling in for the injured Chuckie Keeton — was replaced by junior Craig Harrison. But the Aggies soon scored on Bruce Natson’s 10-yard touchdown run and the lead was 24-14 with 12 minutes to play.

Then the Aggies recovered the onside kick and things really started to get interesting.

Harrison drove the Aggies 35 yards in seven plays, leading to Nick Diaz’ 20-yard field goal. Suddenly, the score was 24-17 with plenty of time left. That was as close as it got, but the Bulldogs had some nervous moments before time expired.

Namely, USU stopped FSU on fourth down inside Aggie territory on its final two drives of the game (barring the one by the Bulldogs to drain the last few seconds off the clock). The last time came on a questionable decision by FSU coach Tim DeRuyter to pass up a makeable field goal to go for the first down at the USU 29 yard line. Quezada was stopped cold and USU took over with a chance to send the game to overtime.

The Aggies drove to the Bulldog 39, but Harrison’s final pass was intercepted by Dalen Jones on the FSU 17 yard line with 44 seconds to play.

Despite the loss, USU shouldn’t hang its heads. After all, the Aggies weren’t supposed to get this far after losing their star, Keeton. But they persevered and showed they weren’t just a one-man team.

Kudos to the Bulldogs defense, too, which gave up 304 total yards to the Aggies just one week after allowing 736 to San Jose State. While the loss to the Spartans will sting for a while, FSU finished with its best record since also going 11-1 in 1989. DeRuyter is 20-5 in his two seasons in Fresno and, if the school can keep him around, this should remain a program on the rise.

Jay Norvell reportedly set to be named head coach at Nevada

Jay Norvell, Jerrod Heard
Associated Press
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Yet another FBS opening is reportedly on the verge of being closed.

According to a report from FootballScoop.com, Jay Norvell “will be the next head coach at Nevada.” The Reno Gazette-Journal writes that “Norvell, the third and final candidate to interview for the Wolf Pack football head-coaching vacancy, was so impressive he didn’t even leave Reno before being offered the job, which he quickly accepted.” Norvell was offered the job late Wednesday night.

The other two interviewed were Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin and Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. The former interviewed Monday, the latter Tuesday.

If/when hired, Norvell would replace Brian Polian, who “mutually parted ways” with the football program last month after four seasons. This would be Norvell’s first head-coaching job at any level.

Norvell just completed his first regular season as an assistant on Todd Graham‘s Arizona State coaching staff.  With the Sun Devils, Norvell served as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator.

Norvell has spent most of his nearly three decades in coaching at Power Five programs, with stops that included Texas (2015), Oklahoma (2008-14), UCLA (2007), Nebraska (2004-06), Iowa State (1995-97), Wisconsin (1989-94) and Iowa (1986-87).  He also spent six seasons as an assistant in the NFL — 1998-2001 as the wide receivers coach of the Indianapolis Colts, 2002-03 as tight ends coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Jim Harbaugh is looking forward to seeing Chief Osceola and Renegade at the Orange Bowl

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Chief Osceola, mascot of the Florida State Seminoles plants a spear at midfield prior to a game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher got together for a joint press conference in Miami today as the two coaches prepare to face one another in the Orange Bowl on December 30. Harbaugh said he is looking forward to the matchup but seemed to be much more interested in getting a chance to witness one of the pregame traditions of Florida State; Chief Osceola riding on Renegade and planting a spear in the turf.

“I’ve never been to a game at Florida State,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve always wanted to go there and see what that atmosphere was like in person. This will be as close as I’ve ever been to that. I’m excited for that. I know I’m going to get some chills when that Appaloosa comes riding out there.”

Of course, this isn’t exactly a home game for the Seminoles, so sometimes pregame traditions are put on ice for the bowl season. Knowing this, Harbaugh made his case and made sure everyone listening knows just how cool he thinks it is.

“I want to see that. That’s one of the cool things,” Harbaugh said. “We have cool things and other teams have cool things, but that is right up there as one of the coolest things.”

Fortunately for Harbaugh, he will indeed get a chance to witness this pregame routine in person. Florida State Associate Athletics Director Jason Dennard said on Twitter Chief Osceola and Renegade will make the trip to Miami from Tallahassee.

Houston reportedly closing in on a head coach; Kiffin and Miles still being considered

TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 18:  Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin of the Alabama Crimson Tide watches action prior to the University of Alabama A Day spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 18, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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The Houston Cougars are reportedly hoping to have a new head coach named as soon as this coming weekend. As expected, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and former LSU head coach Les Miles are among the final candidates being considered for the job.

One candidate no longer to be in the mix, according to a report from Joseph Duarte of The Houston Chronicle, is Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. That should be good news for Oklahoma, as it likely means Riley will be back in Norman for at least one more season to run the offense (and with Baker Mayfield coming back for 2017, the Sooners offense should continue to rack up some big numbers).

As noted by Duarte, five total candidates were vetted by Houston for the head coaching job. Kiffin, Miles and interim Houston coach Todd Orlando and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite along with Riley all were checked by the university as a decision is approaching.

KD Cannon promised Matt Rhule Baylor will beat Boise State in Cactus Bowl

WACO, TX - SEPTEMBER 12:  KD Cannon #9 of the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Baylor introduced new head coach Matt Rhule in a press conference setting today, and it would seem Rhule has already gotten some opportunities to speak to his new players in Waco. One player in particular delivered a promise to the new Bears head coach. Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon reportedly made a bowl game guarantee to Rhule.

Baylor started the season with a 6-0 record but dropped their last six games to enter the bowl season at just 6-6. The Broncos of Boise State finished the season with a 10-2 record and second in the Mountain Division behind Wyoming in the Mountain West Conference. Boise State has won six bowl game sin the last seven seasons between head coaches Chris Petersen (now at Washington) and Bryan Harsin.

Personally, I’m still trying to figure out how many people thought pairing Boise State and Baylor in a bowl game would be a good idea, considering the unfortunate story surrounding former Boise State and Baylor player Sam Ukwuachu. We can focus plenty on the non-controversial stuff leading up to the Cactus Bowl, but that is one story that cannot be totally overlooked either, especially given the current state of the Baylor football program.

Baylor and Boise State have never faced each other in football. The two will play in the Cactus Bowl in Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, Dec. 27.