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Big (12) Statement: No. 15 Houston takes down No. 3 OU

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They didn’t just win it, they ran away with it.

No. 15 Houston raced past No. 3 Oklahoma on the back of a 30-7 run to beat the Sooners 33-23 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Greg Ward, Jr., led the day for Houston, hitting 23-of-40 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns, while Texas transfer Duke Catalon pounded out 88 yards on 22 carries. After a rough start, Houston’s defense proved stronger than Oklahoma’s offense, especially up front. Houston limited OU’s powerful running game to just 70 yards on 2.7 yards per carry while holding Oklahoma to just six points in the second half.

The win gives Houston back-to-back wins over AP Top 10 teams for the first time in school history, and will send the Cougars into the Top 10 in the regular season for just the second time since 1991. For Oklahoma, it’s the third time in the past 12 seasons the Sooners have started the season in the AP Top 10 and lost their opener to a non-Power 5 opponent, mirroring opening day losses to TCU in 2005 and to BYU in 2009.

Oklahoma’s offense started roaring out of the gate. The Sooners marched 79 yards on eight plays for an opening drive touchdown, capped by a 30-yard Joe Mixon run, then hit a 60-yard connection to Mixon from Baker Mayfield on their next snap. That drive ended in a field goal, giving OU a 10-3 lead at the time. Houston rallied to take a 13-10 lead, but Oklahoma ripped it right back on a 64-yard pitch-and-catch to a wiiiiiiide open Mark Andrews.

But Houston proved to be the deeper, more physical, better coached team.

The Cougars used two Ty Cummings field goal to take a 19-17 lead at the half, then pushed the advantage to 26-17 on a 109-yard — and, really, 109.999-yard — kick six by Brandon Wilson.

After forcing a fumble on their next defensive possession, Houston marched 51 yards in 12 plays, culminating in a two-yard toss from Ward to Tyler McCloskey to push the lead to 33-17 with 2:15 to play in the third quarter.

While Houston’s special teams and offense grabbed the lead, the defense maintained it. After allowing Andrews the uncovered touchdown, Houston limited Oklahoma to three punts, the kick six, two fumbles and a Hail Mary of a turnover on downs, in which Oklahoma felt its best option, trailing 33-17 midway through the fourth quarter, was to go for a 4th-and-16 at its own 44. The play ended in Yakety Sax fashion, with Mixon picking up a Mayfield fumble and running himself into a seven-yard loss. Mayfield, by the way, hit all nine of his passes in the first half and ended the day with a worse-than-it-looked-on-the-field 24-of-33 for 323 yards and two touchdowns. Mixon led Oklahoma with 124 total yards on 11 touches, and Samaje Perine posted a quiet six carries for 31 yards after missing most of the game with a shoulder injury.

Houston committed its only mistake of the day on the ensuing possession as Ward fumbled a zone read exchange near the Oklahoma goal line, turning a potential 40-17 coffin nail score into a breath of life for Oklahoma. The Sooners responded by marching 80 yards in eight plays, but Mayfield’s two-point pass fell incomplete.

The Cougars recovered the ensuing onside kick and exhausted the 2:05 remaining on the clock.

 

For Houston (1-0), it’s arguably the biggest win in school history. The win keeps their — however faint — national title hopes alive while also proving the program can match and better the Big 12’s premier program on the field. This game was not an audition, win or lose, but it is an incredibly nice showing in front of expansion power brokers in OU president David Boren and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

And for Oklahoma (0-1), it’s a scene from many recent horror movies. The 2005 and 2009 opening day upsets led to disappointing eight-win seasons for the Sooners. In fact, the last four seasons that opened with Oklahoma ranked in the AP’s top four, as they were today, ended in disappointment. This one appears headed that way as well, with a defense that couldn’t get Houston off the field, an offense that had no counter-punches to Houston’s defense and a schedule that sends Ohio State to Norman in two weeks.

 

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.

 

Notre Dame jumps to No. 9, Iowa State replaces Michigan in latest AP poll

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The most newsworthy changes in the latest AP poll come at the bottom. Michigan is out after falling 42-13 at No. 2 Penn State. Taking their place? The twisting Cyclones of Iowa State. Following a 31-13 win at Texas Tech and riding the crest of a 3-game winning streak that began at then-No. 3 OklahomaMatt Campbell‘s crew is off to its best start since 2002 and in the AP poll for the first time since Sept. 25, 2005. The Cyclones will have to earn their keep, though. Their next three games: No. 4 TCU, at No. 22 West Virginia and No. 11 Oklahoma State.

Elsewhere, Notre Dame jumped four spots to No. 9 after a 49-14 destruction of USC, a loss that pushed the Trojans down 10 spots to No. 21.

After a 31-21 win at Navy, Central Florida continues to track down I-4 rival South Florida as the top-ranked Group of 5 team; the Knights are up two spots to No. 18, while South Florida dropped a spot to No. 17.

The full poll:

1. Alabama — 1,525 total points (61 first-place votes)
2. Penn State — 1,444
3. Georgia — 1,409
4. TCU — 1,327
5. Wisconsin — 1,241
6. Ohio State — 1,165
7. Clemson — 1,113
8. Miami — 1,101
9. Notre Dame — 1,066
10. Oklahoma — 1,040
11. Oklahoma State — 894
12. Washington — 836
13. Virginia Tech — 791
14. NC State — 666
15. Washington State — 648
16. Michigan State — 615
17. South Florida — 604
18. Central Florida — 500
19. Auburn — 397
20. Stanford — 344
21. USC — 319
22. West Virginia — 196
23. LSU — 182
24. Memphis — 111
25. Iowa State — 98

Ranked-on-ranked action for Week 9:

No. 11 Oklahoma State at No. 22 West Virginia (noon ET, ABC)
No. 2 Penn State at No. 6 Ohio State (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
No. 4 TCU at No. 25 Iowa State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)
No. 14 NC State at No. 9 Notre Dame (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)