Associated Press

No. 13 Memphis sees 15-game winning streak snapped in blowout loss to Navy

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It’s been a dream season – heck, a dream calendar year – for Memphis football. Winners of all eight games this season and 15 in a row, including a massive win over Ole Miss last month, the Tigers worked their way into the College Football Playoff conversation. But Navy has a way of nullifying past success, pulling opponents into one week seasons where defending the triple option is the only thing that matters.

The 13th-ranked Tigers learned that lesson the hard way Saturday night, falling to Navy 45-20.

Memphis opened the game in vintage fashion, slicing through the Midshipmen defense with a four-play, 75-yard drive punctuated by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Paxton Lynch to Anthony Miller.

But Navy quickly gained control of the contest, immediately mounting a 16-play, 75-yard march that consumed more than nine minutes of the first quarter, tying the score while at the same time signaling the game would be played on its terms.

After a Jake Elliott 40-yard field goal gave Memphis a 10-7 lead, Navy stole the lead when Chris Swain rumbled in for his second touchdown of the game with 3:07 left in the second quarter. A late interception allowed Navy to tack on a field goal, pushing the lead to 17-10 as time expired in the second quarter.

Memphis tied the game with a one-yard Miller run at the 6:53 mark of the third quarter, but then Navy went on a run of its own, starting with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Keenan Reynolds to DeBrandon Sanders. The Middies followed that score with Swain’s third scoring dash of the night, this time from 40 yards out, pushing the lead to 31-20 after three quarters.

Calvin Crass, Jr., added to the lead with an eight-yard scoring jaunt with 10 minutes remaining, and the capper came nearly seven minutes later when Demond Brown rumbled in from one yard out with 3:20 remaining.

Reynolds entered the night needing just one rushing touchdown to snap Montee Ball‘s FBS career record and saw his quest extend one more week as he carried 17 times for 38 yards and no touchdowns to go with 3-of-5 passing for 85 yards and a score. Overall, Navy rushed 65 times for 375 yards and five touchdowns, led by Swain’s 18 carries for 108 yards and three scores. It was the most rushing yards by a Memphis opponent in eight seasons.

Lynch most likely saw his darkhorse Heisman candidacy end  with a quiet (by his standards) 26-of-42 night for 305 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Navy’s win spoils what could have been the biggest game in the short history of the American Athletic Conference, as no-longer-undefeated Memphis (8-1, 4-1 AAC) visits undefeated and 25th-ranked Houston next week.

Instead, it perhaps just prolongs it. The Midshipmen move to 7-1 overall for the first time in 11 years and 5-0 in the AAC which, with only a loss at No. 5 Notre Dame on the wrong side of their ledger, should be good enough to vault them into the rankings. The Middies face SMU and Tulsa the next two weeks before visiting Houston on Black Friday for a game that should have the AAC West title and perhaps a Group of Five bowl berth on the line.

Arkansas dismisses Bret Bielema as head coach

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Well, that didn’t take very long at all. Or, for some Arkansas fans, maybe it took too long.

Arkansas has officially parted ways with Bret Bielema as head coach of the Razorbacks. The official announcement was made minutes after Arkansas ended their regular season with a home loss to Missouri, with a press conference scheduled for Friday evening.

Bielema came to Arkansas with as solid reputation as you could find at the time at the end of the 2012 season. After guiding Wisconsin to a third-straight Rose Bowl appearance (Bielema left Wisconsin prior to coaching the third Rose Bowl in that run), Bielema was expected to be able to bring a model of consistent winning to the Arkansas program. Bielema claimed he made the decision to leave Wisconsin for Arkansas because he would have a better chance to compete for a national championship with the Razorbacks, but the wins never piled up the way he and Arkansas leaders and fans envisioned.

In five years at Arkansas, Bielema was 29-24 with an even more lopsided result in SEC play over the years. In 2017, Arkansas finished the year with a second losing season under Bielema, and late in the season the school also fired the man who originally hired Bielema, former athletics director Jeff Long.

Arkansas joins Florida, Tennessee, and Ole Miss among SEC schools now looking for a new head coach.

Arkansas fires Bret Bielema after season-ending loss to Missouri

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The Bret Bielema era at Arkansas has officially come to an end, but at least Arkansas went down fighting. Arkansas (4-8, 1-7 SEC) came up just short at home against Missouri (7-5, 4-4 SEC) in the regular season finale as a late go-ahead field goal lifted the Tigers to a 48-45 victory. Arkansas announced a press conference for later in the evening to officially address the dismissal of Bielema.

The win clinched a winning season for Missouri, which is an incredible feat given how this season started out. The Tigers were really struggling in the first half of the season after suffering blowout losses at home to South Carolina, Purdue, and Auburn and on the road against Georgia. During that rough stretch, head coach Barry Odom came off sounding like he was under extreme pressure when he passionately defending himself as being the right coach for the job. Turns out, he was right. Missouri ended the season on a six-game winning streak as they now prepare to go to a bowl game few would have seen coming back in October.

Missouri quarterback Drew Lock passed for 448 yards and five touchdowns in the game as the Tigers managed to dig out of an early hole and then come up with just a few more plays than the Razorbacks. Missouri racked up 696 yards of offense and 35 first downs. And it didn’t hurt when Bielema made some bizarre coaching decisions in the fourth quarter.

As Missouri goes on to prepare for whatever bowl game may be coming their way, Arkansas has some work to do with its football program. This is the second losing season under Bielema for Arkansas, with the first being in his first season on the job since leaving Wisconsin and the Big Ten. In five seasons at Arkansas, Bielema was 29-34.

San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny becomes 22nd 2,000-yard rusher in FBS history

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San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny became the 22nd player in FBS history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a single season when he rattled off a 51-yard touchdown in the third quarter of a game against New Mexico.

Penny eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark a season after former Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey accomplished the same feat. That also made some history, with San Diego State becoming the first school in FBS history to have two different players run for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

We may not be quite done with the 2,000-yard rushers this season either. Stanford running back Bryce Love begins the week with 1,723 rushing yards this season. This week, Stanford faces a Notre Dame team that has allowed 200+ rushing yards each of the past three weeks. There is also the possibility Love gets to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game for another opportunity to tack on the yardage. Wisconsin freshman Jonathan Taylor is also in striking distance with 1,657 yards this season, and he is guaranteed a chance in the Big Ten championship game.

Penny had been on the Heisman Trophy radar earlier in the season, and some will argue he is worthy of a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation as much as any other players who may be heading there. Penny was not named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back. Love, Taylor and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley were named finalists for the award earlier this week.

Toledo punches ticket to MAC Championship Game to face Akron

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The preseason favorite to win the MAC is now one step closer to coming through on that expectation. Toledo (10-2, 7-1 MAC) clinched the MAC West Division on Friday afternoon by defeating the defending MAC champ, Western Michigan (6-6, 4-4 MAC), by a score of 37-10.

Toledo will play Akron, the East Division champion, in the MAC Championship Game on Dec. 2 at Ford Field in Detroit. Toledo will be playing in the MAC Championship Game for the fifth time, but this will be their first trip since 2004. Akron is also ending a championship game drought by making their second appearance and their first since 2005. The two schools have not faced each other in the MAC Championship Game until this season.

Western Michigan represented the MAC in the New Years Six bowl lineup a year ago after going undefeated in the regular season and being the highest-ranked conference champion among the Group of Five conferences. The stakes will not be that high this season for Toledo or Akron. With two ranked teams in the American Athletic Conference expected to play for the AAC championship (UCF and Memphis are currently ranked, but USF would likely be ranked with a win over UCF), and Boise state floating in the bottom of the top 25 from the selection committee, even a Toledo blowout of the Zips would not likely be enough to make a push in the final week.

Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The Rockets were 7-of-14 on third down conversions in the game. The Rockets are expected to be a sizable favorite against Akron next week.

At 6-6, Western Michigan is bowl eligible.