One of the best young(er-ish) head coaches in the game of college football is being rewarded after just one season on the job.
Utah State announced Thursday afternoon that it has reached an agreement on a contract extension with Matt Wells that will also include a raise. Wells will now be signed through the 2018 season, while his salary, which was just over $500,000 in 2013, has been increased to over $800,000 annually including incentives.
Wells was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach in December of 2012 after Gary Andersen left the Aggies to take over for Bret Bielema at Wisconsin.
“Matt had a great first year leading our football program. His commitment to our student-athletes has been tremendous and they’ve responded with great results in the classroom and on the field,” said athletic director Scott Barnes in a statement. “Matt has deep roots here as a former Aggie quarterback and he conveys his passion for our great university on a daily basis.”
The 40-year-old Wells, who has been a coach USU since 2011, went 9-5 in his first season as a head coach at any level, leading the Aggies to the inaugural Mountain West Championship game as well as the program’s third-ever bowl win a few weeks later. He played football at USU in the mid-90s.
During Andersen’s final season in 2012, the Aggies went 11-2.
“I’m very appreciative of the support shown by President Stan Albrecht and Scott Barnes in our staff and myself,” said Wells. “We are motivated daily to continue the culture that has been set here at Utah State in the football program and we will continue to strive toward our goals of graduating our student-athletes on time, and competing for and winning Mountain West Championships.”
Ticket punched? It looks that way out West.
No. 4 Washington stated their case for the College Football Playoff in impressive fashion on Friday night by blowing out No. 8 Colorado 41-10 to capture the program’s Pac-12 championship since 2000.
The Huskies struggled to move the ball against the stingy Buffs defense for most of the first half but broke things open with 24 consecutive points in the third quarter. That run was fueled in part by back-to-back interceptions from the defense to start the half, which clamped down on the South Division champions like they were the Colorado of old.
Quarterback Jake Browning had one of his worst outings of the season despite having the stage he needed to possibly get invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. The signal-caller finished just 9-of-24 for 118 yards but did throw two touchdowns on the night, one of which was a remarkable escape job from a sack before finding wideout John Ross for a 19 yard score.
Washington didn’t need their passing game with as effectively as they ran the ball however. Myles Gaskin picked up 159 yards on the night while backup Lavon Coleman added another 101 on the ground in addition to finding the end zone.
Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau was knocked out of the game with a lower leg injury in the first half but emerged from the locker room to start the third quarter. He promptly struggled upon his return, throwing an interception off a receiver’s hands that was returned for a score and tossing another on the next series. He finished the game with as many passes completed to the Buffs as he did to the Huskies.
To add injury to insult to Colorado and put a slight damper on their Cinderella season, the performance from Levi’s Stadium probably cost the Buffs a shot at the Rose Bowl. The selection committee could still keep them above red-hot USC in the rankings but based on the result in the title game, it seems likely that the Trojans will be smelling the roses in 2017.
Washington’s postseason destination won’t be known until Sunday either but they can rest easy after that outing in knowing they will all but assuredly go to either the Peach Bowl semifinal or stay closer to home for the Fiesta Bowl semifinal in the playoffs.
That will be a celebration for another day however, as all Chris Petersen and the Huskies could do on Friday was hoist a conference title and savor being champions of the Pac-12.
Colorado’s unlikely road to the Pac-12 title may have gotten a little bit harder on Friday night.
Buffaloes starting quarterback Sefo Liufau suffered a lower leg injury midway through the first quarter and missed most of the half as the unlikely South Division champions trailed Washington 14-7 in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Liufau eventually headed to the locker room before the whistle at the end of the second quarter but it’s possible he will return to the game.
Backup Steven Montez did lead the team down on a scoring drive shortly afterward (capped off by a Phillip Lindsay touchdown run) but was under pressure on nearly every snap by the Huskies’ pass rush.
His counterpart similarly didn’t have much luck against Colorado’s stingy defense either. Washington signal-caller Jake Browning finished the half just 4-of-12 for 38 yards but the Huskies didn’t bat much of an eye by doing what they wanted on ground — rushing for 148 yards behind the tough running of both Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman.
It should make for a fantastic second half from the Bay Area as both teams harbor hopes of making it into the College Football Playoff after capturing a Pac-12 title.
Still perfect. Still rowing.
Western Michigan completed a dream undefeated regular season on Friday night and captured the school’s first MAC Championship since 1988 with a 29-23 win over Ohio.
The Broncos led from wire-to-wire on Friday night but struggled to complete drives with touchdowns against a stingy Bobcats defense on a night where they needed all the style points they could get. WMU is the College Football Playoff’s highest ranked Group of Five team but are in a neck-and-neck battle with Navy for a bid to the Cotton Bowl this season.
Even if the final margin wasn’t what head coach P.J. Fleck wanted, he nevertheless was excited at the way his team played defensively in holding Ohio to just 213 yards on the night. The normally prolific offense had their moments too, with quarterback Zach Terrell finishing with 301 yards, two scores and two interceptions.
One of those touchdown passes from Terrell went to wide receiver Corey Davis, who continued to press his case that he’s a first-round pick in the spring. The pass-catcher scored the team’s first touchdown back in the second quarter on a 70-yard scamper and the all-time leader in FBS receiving yardage finished his MAC career with 155 yards on nine catches.
The Bobcats tried to use their normal formula of running the ball and playing defense to control the clock but failed to do much of the former. The team finished with just 37 yards on the ground (and 251 overall) but did manage to make things interesting with three second half touchdowns and a late drive that could have taken the lead but instead ended with a game-sealing interception.
That wasn’t exactly the kind of high-flying #MACtion game the conference record 45,615 fans at Ford Field were looking for, with many of them sporting WMU colors as the school looks ahead to Sunday and whether or not they’re headed to a New Year’s Six Bowl at the end of the month.
On Friday night however, they just had to soak in the remarkable run the Broncos are on and row that boat all the way to a championship.
One of the bigger storylines of this offseason is the annual coaching carousel and where former LSU head coach Les Miles will land.
The longtime coach has stated he wants to coach again in 2017, and has plenty of credentials — over 100 wins, SEC and national championships — but where he will find a fit is one of the bigger mysteries.
A lot of folks have noted that he could be in the running for the Purdue job (Miles is a Big Ten man at heart) but it appears that will not be the case. According to Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, a source told him to cross Miles’s name off of Purdue’s list.
There are not a ton of big openings at the moment so with the Boilermakers reportedly off the table, it might be a long offseason for the former LSU coach. Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm and Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck have been the two biggest names mentioned with the Purdue search but it appears unlikely any movement happens before this weekend.
Thamel also mentions Miles could be in the mix at Houston, which would be fascinating given his years at Oklahoma State and over a decade spent a few hours East in Baton Rouge. Either way, it looks like the carousel has a few more spins left in it this month.