Special teams were the key to North Carolina’s 39-17 victory over Cincinnati in the 2013 Belk Bowl on Saturday.
Ryan Switzer — the game’s MVP — returned his NCAA-record-tying fifth punt return for a touchdown and T.J. Logan took back a kickoff 78 yards for a score as the Tar Heels surged to a 29-3 lead then survived a special teams mistake of their own to notch their first bowl win since 2010.
UNC finishes the season at 7-6, while Cincinnati closes out at 9-4.
The game turned in favor of the Tar Heels during a key first quarter sequence. With UNC up, 7-0, punter Tommy Hibbard nailed a 59-yard punt that pinned the Bearcats at their own six. Three plays later, Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay was sacked by Brandon Ellerbee and Kareem Martin for a safety to make the score, 9-0. The Bearcats free-kicked back to the Tar Heels and that’s when Logan weaved his way to a 78-yard kickoff return. Suddenly, it was 16-0 and the Bearcats were stunned.
UNC opened its lead to 36-10 before Cincinnati regained its composure. Receiver Shaq Washington moved over to quarterback and promptly ripped off a 52-yard run. Two plays later, he was in the end zone after a nifty 10-yard scamper and the score was 36-17 with the fourth quarter barely underway.
Things got more interesting when Leviticus Payne recovered a fumble by T.J. Thorpe on the ensuing kickoff. The Bearcats had a first and goal at the UNC five yard line with plenty of time left. Would UNC choke this one away?
Not this time. The Tar Heels held when Kay’s fourth-down pass fell off the hands of Washington in the corner of the end zone.
It was a flat performance by the Bearcats, who came into the game as winners of six of their last seven. UC will try to regroup next year, most likely with touted Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel taking over at quarterback.
North Carolina finished up the season on a hot note, winning six of its last seven games (the one loss was by two points to Duke). A 1-5 start prevented this talented team from reaching its potential, but Larry Fedora has to be happy with how things worked out in the end, winning his first bowl game as the Tar Heels head coach.
Penn State defensive tackle Antoine White will plug gaps and chase passers in a new destination next season. White revealed he will leave Happy Valley to play for Albany in 2017. As a redshirt sophomore in 2016, White would lose a year of eligibility if he left for an FBS school.
White announced the transfer on his Twitter account.
“My past 3 years at Penn State have been filled with so many great experiences as a student-athlete, in school, sports, as well as in life,” White wrote.
“I am forever grateful for all of these and I have built relationships that I know will last a life time.”
White collected 17 tackles with 1.5 sacks as a sophomore this fall. He was a second-team tackle for Penn State’s Big Ten championship squad in 2016 and was expected to assume the same role next season.
New Cal head coach Justin Wilcox‘s first hire is a big one.
Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin has left his red field of fire to become the offensive coordinator in Berkeley. “This one is right, it’s an incredible opportunity,” Baldwin said, via the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
He leaves Eastern Washington with an 85-32 record, including six FCS playoffs appearances with four trips to the FCS semifinals and a national championship in 2010. Baldwin’s 2016 Eastern Washington team finished 12-2, won the Big Sky championship and reached the FCS semifinals.
Baldwin, of course, isn’t being hired for his head coaching acumen. He’s being brought to Berkeley to move the ball and score points — and on that front Baldwin is one of the best in college football. Eastern Washington finished the season ranked among the top three in FCS in total offense (529.6 yards per game), passing offense (401 yards per game), third down conversions (52.1 percent), completion percentage (67.9), passing efficiency (168.2) and scoring offense (42.4 points per game).
He’ll inherit an offense that finished tied for 54th in yards per play, 22nd in scoring and 51st in passing efficiency running Sonny Dykes‘s Air Raid system.
Baldwin joins a growing group of FCS or Group of 5 coaches leaving head coaching spots to become Power 5 coordinators, following Dan Enos (Central Michigan to Arkansas), Joe Moorhead (Fordham to Penn State) and Pete Lembo (Ball State to Maryland). Baldwin also interviewed for the Nevada head coaching job that ultimately went to Jay Norvell.
The Willie Taggart era at Oregon is barely a month old, and already the first crisis has arrived.
A report from The Oregonian uncovered that at least three Ducks football players have been sent to the hospital after undergoing grueling workouts administered by new strength coach Irele Oderinde, who followed Taggart from South Florida. Offensive linemen Doug Brenner and Sam Poutasi and tight end Cam McCormick are in “fair condition” at Springfield’s PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend, where they have remained since late last week.
Poutasi has reportedly been diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a soft tissue condition triggered by overwork that can lead to kidney damage.
While those three players remained hospitalized, The Oregonian reports the rest of the team was required to complete the same workouts this week:
The sources said that some players “passed out” and others later complained of discolored urine, which is a common symptom of rhabdomyolysis. After testing, others were found to have highly elevated levels of creatine kinase, an indicator of the syndrome.
“The safety and welfare of all of our student-athletes is paramount in all that we do,” Oregon said in a statement to The Oregonian. “While we cannot comment on the health of our individual students, we have implemented modifications as we transition back into full training to prevent further occurrences.
“We thank our medical staff and trainers for their continued monitoring of the students and we will continue to support our young men as they recover.”
Taggart visited the players in Riverbend before leaving the state to recruit, the paper reported.
Brenner is entering his senior season, while Poutasi and McCormick redshirted last fall.
Tennessee is still in search of its next athletics director, which has become a point of contention lately — and especially over the past 24 hours.
Alabama hired Greg Byrne away from Arizona without ever letting the job hit the open market, which begs the question, just what the heck are they doing in Knoxville? Outgoing AD Dave Hart has been outgoing since before football season started. Getting outmaneuvered by their rivals to the south — their immensely more successful rivals to the south, at least in the sport that matters in Tennessee — has created turmoil for an athletics department that majors in it.
As an apparent slice of red meet to the fans, the Vols let it be known Monday Phillip Fulmer is a serious candidate for their AD job.
“Fulmer has grown close to Tennessee President Joe DiPietro and a group of influential boosters have been working behind the scenes to help install him as Dave Hart’s replacement, according to people close to the situation,” Wolken writes.
Fulmer has exactly zero athletics director experience, but he is a harken back to the glory days of yonder for the Volunteers. He went 152-52 in 17 seasons with six top-10 finishes, three SEC titles, six SEC East crowns and a national championship in 1998.
In fact, even the “bad” Fulmer seasons — a .531 SEC winning percentage with one top-15 finish and one SEC East championship from 2005-08 — compare favorably with the marks of his three successors. Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and Butch Jones have collectively posted a .349 SEC winning percentage with zero top-15 finishes and zero SEC East championships in the eight seasons since Fulmer’s dumping.
It’s not clear what Fulmer brings to the department beyond a familiar face and a living, breathing link to the glory days, but perhaps those attributes are good enough at Tennessee.