Associated Press

No. 15 Michigan holds off Minnesota at the goal line to win Little Brown Jug

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Playing its first game since head coach Jerry Kill‘s abrupt and emotional retirement just three days prior, Minnesota mounted a dramatic comeback to take the lead with 19 seconds remaining, seemingly giving the Gophers an emotional win. But Drew Leidner‘s pass to Drew Wolitarsky was downgraded from a 23-yard touchdown to a 22-yard completion after an official review, and Minnesota had the ball at the Michigan one-yard line with 19 seconds left.

With a timeout remaining, Minnesota lined up to run a play… and shifted… and shifted… and shifted some more. Seventeen seconds later, Leidner’s pass fell incomplete in the end zone. After a timeout, interim head coach Tracy Claeys elected to eschew an overtime-forcing field goal and play for the win. The Gophers called for a Leidner sneak and Michigan, which entered the game with college football’s second-ranked rush defense, held. The spot was upheld upon review, and No. 15 Michigan held on for a 29-26 win.

The Wolverines led 14-3 in the second quarter and 21-16 in the third, but Minnesota re-took the lead on a 24-yard Leidner run, and then pushed the score to 26-21 with a 47-yard Ryan Santoso field goal.

Michigan mounted a comeback despite starting quarterback Jake Rudock knocked from the game after a shot to the head, as backup Wilton Speight (who hadn’t completed a pass this season before tonight) rebounded from four consecutive punts to move the Wolverines 40 yards in seven plays and more than three-and-a-half minutes, punctuated with a 12-yard scoring strike to Jehu Chesson on 3rd-and-10 with just 4:57 remaining. Speight finished the night 3-of-6 for 29 yards in urgent action, while Rudock connected on 13-of-21 throws for 140 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Minnesota accepted the ball at its own 25 on the ensuing possession and methodically moved its way down the field, converting a 3rd-and-17 at its own 18 and a 4th-and-5 at the Michigan 39. Two plays after Leidner hit K.J. Maye for a 12-yard gain on that do-or-die fourth down, he hit Wolitarsky for the apparent game-winning score.

And then, somehow, the Gophers snapped the ball only twice more in the final 19 seconds despite holding a timeout in its back pocket. One may wonder why Claeys, in his second stint now replacing Kill at Minnesota, did not call timeout from the sideline when it appeared Leidner (317 passing yards, 37 rushing, two total touchdowns) was unaware of  the rolling clock.

But he didn’t, and Michigan (6-2, 3-1) survived. The win reclaims some of the momentum lost in the shocking Michigan State loss two weeks ago and keeps the Wolverines alive in the Big Ten East race. Michigan will return to Ann Arbor next week to host Rutgers, then visit Penn State and Indiana in advance of Ohio State’s much-anticipated Nov. 28 visit to the Big House.

Minnesota drops to 4-4 (1-3 Big Ten) with the loss and puts the Gophers bowl hopes in jeopardy. Unless Minnesota pulls an upset at Ohio State next week or Iowa the week after, the Gophers will have to sweep Illinois and Wisconsin – winners of 11 straight in the series.

The loss also robbed Minnesota of its first back-to-back wins in the Little Brown Jug series since winning four straight from 1960-63. In a series dating back to 1892, Michigan now holds a 74-25-3 lead.

 

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas set to give DC Todd Orlando new contract with raise to $1.7 million a year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: “There are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC.”

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.