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Memphis hangs on in wild one vs. Cincinnati, keeps eyes on New Year’s Six prize

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With the scary situation involving Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel going from worrisome to basically a sigh of relief, UC and Memphis got down to the matter of deciding a key AAC matchup — and did so in highly-entertaining fashion.

An offensive first half morphed into a defensive third quarter and then swung wildly and delightfully violently back toward the offensive in the fourth, with the Tigers hanging on for dear life and getting the best of the Bearcats 53-46 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis.  The win was Memphis’ 11th straight, tying it (for the moment) for second-best in the country with TCU behind Ohio State’s 16 in a row.

As alluded to earlier, this was a tale of one half and two quarters.

In the first two quarters, the teams combined for 58 points and 683 yards of offense, with the Bearcats claiming 30 of the former and 419 of the latter in staking itself to the two-point halftime lead.  The third quarter saw just a pair of field goals — one for each team — and less than 150 yards of offense combined.  The fourth quarter, though, was a first-half remake.

On back-to-back-to-back-to-back possessions to open the fourth quarter, the teams split four touchdowns — and combined for 316 yards — with one converting on a two-point conversion (Tigers) and one failing on theirs (Bearcats), leaving the two knotted up at 46-all and Memphis in possession of the ball with 5:56 remaining.

After driving down to the UC 35-yard line and facing a fourth and two, the Tigers eschewed a field goal attempt but failed to convert, handing the ball back to the Bearcats with 3:11 remaining to win it in regulation.  One first down and three incompletions later, the Bearcats punted the ball back to the Tigers with 2:27 left in the fourth.

Taking over at their own 20, the Tigers first avoided disaster as a called fumble on a 13-yard Roderick Proctor reception was (somewhat surprisingly) overturned upon further review.  Four plays from there got the ball inside the UC five-yard line, with Sam Craft taking it in from three yards out to give U of M a 53-46 lead with :53 left.

Cincinnati was far from done, however, as, after taking over at their own 25-yard line, they drove down to the Memphis 19-yard line with :18 left.  On first and 10, Hayden Moore, who set a school record with 557 yards passing in less than four quarters worth of work, went all freshman on the ending, tossing up an ill-advised sideways, backwards pass as he was being sacked that was intercepted by Memphis’ Leonard Pegues and sealed the win for the Tigers.

Cincinnati finished with a school-record 752 yards of offense in the loss.  Moore broke the old passing standard of 554 yards set by Greg Cook in 1968.  Paxton Lynch threw for 412 of Memphis’ 572 yards of offense.

The win was huge for Memphis’ postseason aspirations as the Tigers remain perfect at 4-0 on the season, maintaining their standing as one of a handful of Group of Five teams still in line for a lone slot in the New Year’s Six bowls.  For Cincinnati, it’s a damaging blow to their AAC East hopes already as they fell to 0-2 in the conference on the season, with one of those losses coming in their own division to Temple.

 

No. 17 South Florida breaks AP Poll-era record of consecutive games with 30-plus points

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South Florida has been viewed by most as a bit of a disappointment this season. Such is the burden of perfection, because a so-called disappointing start still sees Charlie Strong‘s Bulls sitting at No. 16 in the AP poll with a 6-0 start and its streak of scoring 30-plus points still intact.

Correction: South Florida’s AP Poll-era record streak of scoring 30-plus points is still intact.

The Bulls beat Tulane 34-28 on Saturday, pushing the streak to 24 games. And according to ESPN’s Stats and Information department, that is now the FBS record for the AP poll era, which dates back to 1936.

For the year, South Florida is tied for ninth in FBS with a 41.6 scoring average. The Bulls are one of seven FBS teams to average more than 300 rushing yards per game, and one of just three non-triple option teams to accomplish the feat, joining Arizona and No. 13 Notre Dame.

The streak could actually be at 25 games right now if not for Hurricane Irma. The storm forced South Florida to push back at trip to Connecticut from Sept. 9 to Nov. 4 and in the process eliminated a scheduled Oct. 14 game against UMass. UConn and UMass both allow more than 30 points per game.

As it stands, South Florida has a great shot to push the record to at least 27 games. The Bulls’ next opponent, Houston, allows 24 points a game and just surrendered 42 points in one half in a home loss to No. 25 Memphis. USF visits UConn on Nov. 4, and then concludes its home schedule against Tulsa, who ranks No. 117 nationally with a 37.6 scoring defense average.

Then comes the big test: the regular season finale at No. 20 Central Florida. The Knights rank 16th nationally with 17.5 points per game allowed and have not allowed more than 23 points in a game this season (a game in which they scored 51).

Georgia Southern confirms firing of head coach Tyson Summers

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As was reported by a handful of outlets moments ago, Georgia Southern has now confirmed that Tyson Summers is out as head coach.

Summers went 5-13 as head coach, including an 0-6 mark this season after falling to previously winless Massachusetts 55-20 on Saturday.

“I thank Tyson and his family for their contributions to Georgia Southern,” AD Tom Kleinlein said in a statement. “Being the leader of a college football program is more than just coaching games; it’s managing academics and leading 120 young men. Tyson did a great job in areas that the public doesn’t see, but at the end of the day, the results on the field weren’t where we needed them to be as we continue our growth as an FBS program. I wish he and his family all the best moving forward in their future endeavors.”

Kleinlein also confirmed that assistant head coach Chad Lunsford will be bumped to interim head coach.

“Chad is as ‘True Blue’ as they come and I’m excited to have him lead our team for the remainder of the 2017 season,” Kleinlein said. “The players respect him and I have full confidence in his abilities as we head into the final six games of the season.”

Lunsford will begin his tenure as interim head coach at Troy on Saturday.

Reports: Tyson Summers out at Georgia Southern

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One of the least surprising coaching moves of the 2017 cycle has now been made. As first reported by FootballScoop and since confirmed by Brett McMurphy and SB Nation’s Steven GodfreyTyson Summers is out at Georgia Southern. (Full disclosure: I also work for FootballScoop.)

The one-and-a-half-season Summers era was nothing short of disaster in Statesboro. Hired away after serving one season as Colorado State’s defensive coordinator, Summers turned away from the Eagles’ traditional triple option and immediately paid the price. Georgia Southern’s rushing average fell nearly 150 yards per game and its scoring average shrunk by nearly 10 points as the Eagles sputtered to a 5-7 record.

Summers replaced co-offensive coordinators David Dean and Rance Gillespie after the season, and was promptly sued by both for alleged breach of contract.

Summers returned to the triple option in 2017, hiring Bryan Cook away from Georgia Tech, and has still seen the Eagles’ rushing average fall by close to 50 more yards. A team that averaged 36.5 points and 363 rushing yards two years ago now amasses close to half of that — 18 points a game on 200 rushing yards.

The final straw came Saturday, when the Eagles were blasted 55-20 by previously winless Massachusetts, securing the title as the worst team in FBS in 2017, dropping to 0-6 on the year and 5-13 overall under Summers.

Assistant head coach Chad Lundsford will reportedly serve as interim head coach as Georgia Southern begins the second half of its season at Troy on Saturday.

 

Carla Williams becomes first African-American female Power 5 AD

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Virginia has hired Carla Williams as its new athletics director, the program announced Sunday. The hire makes Williams the fifth female AD at the Power 5 level and the first African-American female AD ever at a Power 5 school.

A press conference to introduce Williams will be held on Monday.

“I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to lead one of the nation’s elite athletics programs,” Williams said in a statement. “Academic achievement, athletic excellence, operating with integrity, a commitment to maximum effort at all times and a strong sense of teamwork and unity are the core principles that will guide our athletics department under my leadership.”

Williams spent 13 years in the athletics administration at Georgia, and was promoted to deputy AD in 2015.

“I am so happy for Carla,” Georgia AD Greg McGarity said in a statement. “She has worked so hard for this opportunity and will be a dynamic leader for the University of Virginia athletics program. Carla has been a tremendous asset to our staff in all areas of the UGA program and her skill set is remarkable. She has experience in virtually every part of our athletic program — from a student-athlete all the way to Deputy Director.  I know I’ll miss working alongside my good friend. We are very proud of Carla and wish her the very best in her role as Director of Athletics at the University of Virginia.”

Williams helped Georgia teams claim 16 NCAA championships and 37 SEC titles during her tenure. At Virginia, she’ll inherit a school with a broad athletics portfolio. The Cavaliers compete in 25 varsity sports and are traditionally strong in men’s and women’s lacrosse. The Hoos claimed their first College World Series championship in 2015, reached the Elite Eight of the 2016 men’s basketball tournament, and stand at 5-2 in Bronco Mendenhall‘s second season as head football coach.

“I think Carla is spectacular,” UVa president-elect Jim Ryan said in a statement. “She is exceedingly well-prepared for this role, but more than that, she is fiercely committed to excellence in both athletics and academics and has a track record of success in both arenas. I cannot wait to work with Carla, a kindred spirit who sees leadership as a chance to serve those around her and to create the conditions for their success.”

Williams succeeds Craig Littlepage, the first African-American AD ever in the ACC, who announced his retirement after 16 years atop the department in September.