Associated Press

Oklahoma Statement: No. 14 Pokes thrash No. 8 TCU

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Who among us woke up this morning skeptical of Oklahoma State’s place among the Big 12 championship and College Football Playoff contenders? (Raises both hands and feet.) The Cowboys entered Saturday’s date with No. 8 TCU at the back of the line in the Big 12 and nationally, and with good reason: they needed significant help from the zebras to beat Texas and Kansas State, and needed overtime to dispatch a West Virginia team Baylor, Oklahoma and these Frogs crushed.

But Oklahoma State won those games, and Saturday they won another that announced themselves as serious contenders for the Big 12 championship and beyond. The 14th-ranked Cowboys jumped on the favored Frogs and never let up, stomping their way to a dominant 49-29 win.

Though Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson garnered most of the hype entering the game, it was the connection between Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and James Washington that proved unstoppable. Rudolph opened the scoring four minutes in with a 48-yard connection to Washington and, after a one-yard Boykin touchdown run, encored with a 50-yard score two plays later to push the Pokes’ lead to 14-6 with 6:02 remaining in the first quarter.

After a Jaden Oberkrom field goal pulled the Frogs within 14-9 to close the first quarter, Rudolph again tossed a pair of scoring strikes to give Oklahoma State complete control of the game. The first came on a 12-yard catch-and-dash to Jeff Carr with 13:37 to go before the half, and the second was an 82-yard bomb to Marcell Ateman with 7:57 remaining in the frame.

At the time of the Ateman touchdown, Rudolph had completed 9-of-13 throws for 231 yards and four touchdowns. But he didn’t stop there. Rudolph effectively closed his day – and the game – with another long distance gift to Washington, this time from 74 yards out to give the Cowboys a 42-16 lead with 8:07 remaining in the third quarter. The sophomore finished with 352 yards and five touchdowns (with no interceptions) on 16-of-24 passing, while Washington corralled five of those throws for 184 yards and three scores.

Thanks to a ball-hawking defense and a quick strike offense, Oklahoma State’s six touchdown drives covered a total of 332 yards and needed only 16 snaps to do so.

Boykin racked up his customary numbers (445 passing yards, 73 rushing, three total touchdowns), but he was just as much a help as a hindrance to the Frogs’ efforts. He tossed four interceptions on the day: the first led to Oklahoma State’s first touchdown, Chad Whitener returned the second to the 1-yard line (setting up a one-yard J.W. Walsh run), and Whitener finished the job on Boykin’s fourth pick, slamming the door with a pick six with just 44 seconds remaining. Boykin also saw two scoring chances end on failed fourth down conversions deep in Cowboy territory; the first on an incomplete pass to Kolby Listenbee from the OSU 14 with the score 21-9 in the second quarter, the second on a rush for no gain from the OSU 1 that ended any realistic comeback chance with 5:21 remaining.

Worst of all for TCU, Doctson (six grabs for 64 yards) left the game after injuring his left wrist securing a 12-yard reception late in the second quarter and did not return.

And that leads to the larger theme of the game: Oklahoma State (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) and TCU (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) effectively switched places in the Big 12’s round-robin title race. The Cowboys – this ferocious Cowboys team – jumps to the front of the line of contenders thanks to a schedule that sees Baylor visit Stillwater on Nov. 21 and Oklahoma follow a week after.

TCU will lick its wounds against Kansas next week in Fort Worth before again crossing the Red River to face Oklahoma on Nov. 21 before hosting Baylor six days later.

 

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.