Officially the result of the Fiesta Bowl will go down as a significant upset, but UCF left no doubt who the better team was in the Fiesta Bowl. The Knights pulled away in a shootout with Big 12 champion Baylor as quarterback Blake Bortles passed for 301 yards three touchdown passes and running back Storm Johnson rushed for 124 yards and three more in a 52-42 victory. It is UCF’s first BCS bowl appearance and victory, and it puts the cherry on top of the first year for the American Athletic Conference’s existence.
The scary part is UCF may just be getting started.
UCF is currently set up very well for long term success in the American Athletic Conference. With Louisville leaving the conference to join the ACC in 2014 and Rutgers leaving to join the Big Ten, the level of competition in the conference figures to be swinging more and more in favor of UCF given the resources and location for the program. Cincinnati should be a perennial contender as well, but UCF right now has all of the momentum in the conference as some new members will join the fray next season.
Now the question will be whether or not Bortles returns to the program for more in 2014. Bortles is being hyped as a rising quarterback prospect by NFL scouts and those who break down the NFL Draft, although he is officially waiting for the results of an official evaluation and review from the NFL before making any decision final. Against Baylor Bortles completed 20 of 31 passes for 301 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Two of those touchdown passes went to receiver Rannell Hall, the first a fine 50-yard pass in the first half.
Baylor opened the second half by tying the game at 28-28 with a Bryce Petty touchdown run. Petty rushed for three touchdowns in the game and passed for one more, but the high-scoring Baylor offense was unable to keep up with UCF in this one.UCF went on a 28-14 run to close out the game following that game-tying touchdown. The Knights put up 558 yards of offense in a game that saw the teams combine for over 1,000 yards.
UCF will open the 2014 season across the Atlantic Ocean against Penn State in the Croke Park Classic in Ireland. In addition to that opening game, UCF will also play on the road at Missouri, who played for the SEC championship this season. UCF also hosts BYU in October. Are they set up for a run for another impressive season and perhaps sneak in to the new four-team playoff?
Baylor will enter next season as the defending Big 12 champions and expect to have Petty back. As long as the program keeps head coach Art Briles in Waco, instead of leaving for Austin or the NFL, the Bears should offer more of the same sort of offensive production. Defense, as usual, will be what keeps Baylor from being a true national title contender.
Raided by the ACC, UNLV has officially turned its eyes to the Ivy League for its coaching replacement.
Travis Burkett, the football program has announced, has been hired the Rebels’ running backs coach. Burkett will replace DeAndre Smith, who left last week for a job at North Carolina.
Smith had been with Tony Sanchez‘s program for just three months or so, coming to Las Vegas by way of Purdue.
The past 10 seasons, Burkett served as an assistant at Cornell. Prior to that, he was a graduate assistant at Bucknell.
This will be Burkett’s first job at any capacity at the FBS level. His new employer added the following in announcing his addition:
At UNLV, Burkett inherits a rushing attack that stood 15th in the nation last fall with 241.5 yards per game, which ranked fourth in program history and was the most since 1979. All three of the team’s top rushers return in 2017.
With an assistant fighting a significant health issue, Derek Mason has turned to someone very familiar with the Vanderbilt football program to fill the coaching void.
Vandy confirmed Monday that Warren Belin has been hired as the Commodores’ outside linebackers coach. Belin will, at least temporarily, replace Osia Lewis, who stepped down from his job as he battles liver cancer. Lewis will transition into an of-field role within the program as he fights the disease.
The announcement came on the same day Vandy kicked off spring practice.
From 2002 through 2009, Belin was Vandy’s linebacker’s coach under Bobby Johnson. He was at Wake Forest in the same role from 2013-15.
Last season, he was with the Demon Deacons in an off-field role as director of high school relations.
In opting to leave Miami in late January, Gus Edwards was restricted by the university from transferring to two of his top choices in Pittsburgh and Syracuse as they were on this coming season’s schedule. A little over a month later, the Staten Island native, who wanted to transfer and move closer to home as he was a new father, has found his new college football home in the same area of the country.
On its official Twitter account earlier Monday, Rutgers announced that Edwards has transferred into the Scarlet Knights football program. As Edwards will be coming in as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2017.
The upcoming season will be the running back’s final year of eligibility.
Edwards was third on the team this past season in rushing with 290 yards. For his Hurricanes career, the 6-1, 230-pound back ran for 977 yards and 12 touchdowns on 186 carries.
A foot injury suffered in summer camp cost Edwards the entire 2015 season. He received a medical redshirt for that season.
With its Egg Bowl rivals knee/neck-deep in controversy — and with said rival reportedly trying to bring it down as well at one point — Mississippi State has taken the time to put a positive face on the current state of its football program.
The Bulldogs announced Monday night that they have reached an agreement on a four-year contract extension with head football coach Dan Mullen. The new deal means Mullen is signed through February of 2021.
According to the school, Mullen’s financial package will be $4.5 million for 2017. Mullen was paid $4.2 million in 2016, a figure that was seventh in the SEC according to USA Today‘s salary database.
“I am very thankful to the University and athletic administration for their belief in me,” Mullen, the subject of myriad coaching carousel rumors the last handful of years, said in a statement. “We have built a special program over the last eight years, creating a culture where winning is expected while achieving that in the toughest division in college football. I am proud of what we have accomplished, and I am truly excited about the direction we are heading as a program. This extension allows my family a long-term future here in Starkville, a place we are proud to call home.”
Since taking over as MSU’s coach in 2009, Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to a 61-42 record overall and 29-35 in conference play. In those eight seasons, the best divisional finish was second in 2014. In the other seven seasons, they were either fifth (five times) or fourth (twice) in the SEC West.
The Bulldogs have gone to a bowl game each of the past seven seasons, the longest such streak in school history. They’re also 5-3 against Ole Miss under Mullen.
“Dan has brought unprecedented success to Bulldog football and is one of the elite coaches in the country,” athletic director John Cohen said. “From a school-record seven straight bowl games to our performance in the classroom, he continues to raise the standard of excellence.”