Newcomers lead Texas A&M past No. 15 Arizona State

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A year ago, Texas A&M could not have beaten No. 15 Arizona State the way it did on Saturday. Well, the Aggies probably couldn’t have beaten Arizona State at all in 2014, but definitely not this way. Because, a year ago, Texas A&M did not have John Chavis and it did not have Christian Kirk.

The Aggies used a fast, aggressive defense and the multidimensional Kirk to upend the Sun Devils, 38-17, in the Advocare Texas Kickoff at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Chavis, the high-priced defensive coordinator robbed away from LSU last December, guided a defense that ranked 97th nationally in yards per play and 111th in rushing into a strength – at least for one night. Behind All-America candidate Myles Garrett, Texas A&M forced eight sacks and two turnovers, limiting the Sun Devils to just 2.2 yards per carry and fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Bercovici to 25-of-40 passing for just 199 yards. Arizona State mounted only one sustained touchdown drive on the night – its first score came after a Kyle Allen fumble deep in Aggie territory – an eight play, 75-yard march that pulled the Devils to within 17-14 with 2:37 to go in the third quarter.

While the A&M defense did its job, freshman Christian Kirk carried the Aggies’ offense and special teams. A former five-star out of the Phoenix area, Kirk returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown to put Texas A&M up 14-0 with 12:51 in the second quarter, then put the game away for good with a 66-yard grab-and-weave with 3:45 to go in the game, giving the Aggies a 31-17 lead. After Texas A&M forced a turnover on downs deep in Arizona State territory on the ensuing possession, Tra Carson added a 10-yard insurance score with 1:38 remaining.

The sophomore Allen garnered the start for the Aggies and posted decent numbers – 15-of-26 passing for 198 yards and two touchdowns (he hit Carson for a 9-yard touchdown to open the scoring in the first quarter) and added a 12-yard touchdown run to put A&M up 24-14 – but committed two turnovers and was victimized by a swarming Arizona State defense. Head coach Kevin Sumlin turned to true freshman Kyler Murray for much of the night and he answered by dancing for 69 yards on six carries to go with 4-of-9 passing for 49 yards and an interception.

Arizona State successfully bottled up the Texas A&M running game for much of the evening – Carson gained 96 yards on 29 carries, and will have 29 lumps to show for it tomorrow morning – and Murray’s speed and elusiveness proved a successful antidote.

As dominant as the Arizona State front was, though, Texas A&M was even more so, limiting the Sun Devils to 92 yards on 41 carries. Overall, Texas A&M outgained Arizona State 425-291 and held the Sun Devils to 5-of-19 on third downs.

Texas A&M entered the season a dark horse to contend in the SEC West and beyond, and rewarded that faith Saturday night. And considering so many of tonight’s key pieces – Chavis, Murray, Kirk – are still feeling themselves out, here’s the scariest thought of the night: Texas A&M will probably get better from here.

Mario Cristobal reportedly reuniting with former assistant in Eugene

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The Oregon coaching staff is going to have a specific South Florida flavor to it. Head coach Mario Cristobal is a Miami native, a former Hurricanes player and assistant, and the former head coach at Florida International. On Tuesday, Cristobal moved to bring a fellow South Floridian with him to the Pacific Northwest.

According to Grant Traylor of the Huntington (W. Va.) Herald-Dispatch, Marshall offensive line coach Alex Mirabal is leaving the staff to reunite with Cristobal in Eugene.

Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman added Mirabal will work under Cristobal, who will handle the offensive line.

Mirabal is also a native of Miami and a Florida International graduate. He spent the first decade-plus of his career working in Miami’s high school ranks before joining Cristobal’s FIU staff as tight ends and later offensive line coach from 2007-12. He landed at Marshall in 2013 after Cristobal was forced out at FIU, where he remained until Tuesday.

Under Mirabal’s guidance, Marshall finished fourth nationally in sacks allowed at just 0.85 per game. Oregon finished 54th nationally in that same metric.

Trio of players transferring from Missouri

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As we trudge deeper into the college football offseason, roster attrition across the sport has shown no signs of slowing down.

It was confirmed Tuesday that three players have decided to take their leave of the Missouri football program.  Two of the departees are defensive backs (redshirt freshman Jerod Alton, redshirt sophomore TJ Warren) while the other is a wide receiver (redshirt junior Ray Wingo).

All three of the transferring players were three-star recruits coming out of high school.  Wingo, who moved to receiver after his redshirt season in 2014, was the highest-rated of the group, with 247Sports.com pegging him as the No. 24 cornerback in the country and the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Missouri.

After catching five passes for 143 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2016, Wingo didn’t record a reception at all in 2017.  He’ll finish the Mizzou portion of his playing career with 167 yards and those two touchdowns on his nine receptions.

Warren played in 18 games the past two seasons, including six last year.  He started one of those games, with that coming during the 2016 season.

Alton took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

LOOK: Minnesota unveils new uniforms for 2018

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If you’re into college football fashion — not that there’s anything thing wrong with that — today’s your lucky day.

At a team meeting Tuesday morning, Minnesota unveiled to its football players the new uniforms they will be wearing this coming season. Per the school’s release, “[t]he Gophers introduced three new jerseys (Maroon, White and Anthracite), three helmets (Maroon, White and Gold) and four pairs of pants (Maroon, White, Gold and Anthracite) to choose from next season in addition to an ever-changing array of shoes, socks, facemasks and other accoutrements.”

All told, the Gophers will have more than 100 different uniform combinations at their disposal.

Reflecting head coach P.J. Fleck‘s “row the boat” mantra he brought over from Western Michigan, two of the new helmets will feature an oar running down the middle of the lid, front to back.

Below is a brief look at the new duds the Gophers will wear in 2018.  For the complete fashion array, click HERE.

Michigan makes hiring of Jim McElwain official

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After a week’s worth of speculation and reports, the newest member of Jim Harbaugh‘s coaching staff is officially on board.

Tuesday afternoon, U-M confirmed that Harbaugh has completed his staff with the hiring of Jim McElwain.  The former Florida head coach will serve as U-M’s wide receivers coach, his first time as a position coach as his sole responsibility since he was the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2006.  On two other occasions, with Louisville from 2000-02 and again at Michigan State from 2003-05, McElwain was responsible for receivers at a Power Five school.

There has also been chatter that McElwain, the former offensive coordinator at Alabama, could take over play-calling duties, although that aspect hasn’t yet been addressed by the football program.

“I am excited to work with this offensive staff and Coach Harbaugh,” said McElwain in a statement. “There are a lot of great offensive minds in that coaching room and I look forward to learning from them.”

McElwain interviewed for the job earlier this month and, not long after, it was reported that McElwain was a “strong contender” for a position with the Wolverines.  Offered the job late last week, McElwain reportedly agreed to join the program this past weekend.

Under the direction of offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, Michigan’s offense was tied for 91st nationally in averaging 25.2 points per game this past season.  It’s that subpar performance offensively that has some pointing to McElwain as a very likely candidate to over calling plays.

In his three seasons at Florida, however, the Gators’ offense finished 109th (22.1 ppg, 2017), 107th (23.9 ppg, 2016) and 99th (23.2) in scoring.  Those numbers were with McElwain as head coach; calling plays at Alabama under the notoriously conservative Nick Saban from 2008-11, the Crimson Tide’s numbers went…

2008 — 30.1 ppg, 35th nationally
2009 — 32.1 ppg, 22nd
2010 — 35.5 ppg, 18th
2011 — 34.8 ppg, 20th