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Defense leads Minnesota to Holiday Bowl win over Washington State

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The Holiday Bowl built its reputation over 39 Decembers by producing wild results. Tuesday night’s definition of wild was a game involving Mike Leach that didn’t produce a touchdown for either side until the 3:23 mark of the third quarter.

Minnesota’s defense shut down Washington State like few clubs have this season, leading the Gophers to a 17-12 victory in San Diego.

The game started as a typical outing for Washington State, as its first possession moved 76 yards over 17 plays and ended in a 26-yard Erik Powell field goal. A string of four straight punts was ended when Minnesota matched Wazzu’s field goal, a 43-yarder from Emmit Carpenter at the 7:26 mark of the second quarter.

Washington State led 6-3 at the half, but a pair of bad luck plays in the same corner of the same end zone defined the night for both teams. Facing a 3rd-and-22 with 38 seconds left in the first half, Washington State quarterback Luke Falk was ruled to have completed a 23-yard strike to C.J. Dimry, momentarily setting the Cougars up with a 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line. But the completion was overturned upon review, forcing Wazzu to settle for a 41-yard Powell field goal.

After a long Washington State drive to open the second half produced no points, Minnesota took its time crossing the field when it found itself facing its own third down at the Wazzu 13. Mitch Leidner overthrew a streaking Shannon Brooks in the end zone, but Marcellus Pittman inadvertently deflected the ball right into Brooks’s outstretched arms, literally handing Minnesota (9-4) what turned out to be the game’s deciding touchdown.

The clubs traded punts on the next six possessions until Washington State (8-5) went for a 4th-and-6 near midfield with 3:05 remaining. Falk had all day to throw but no one to throw the ball to, and his desperation heave was intercepted by Adekunle Ayinde and returned to the Wazzu 30. Four rushes later, Rodney Smith raced in for a 9-yard insurance touchdown with 2:06 to play. Washington State finally found the end zone with 19 ticks remaining on an 8-yard pass from Falk to Kyle Sweet, but his 2-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful. Falk came in needing two touchdown passes to match the Washington State school record of 92, but that record will have to wait until next season.

Minnesota defended 51 passes from Falk, surrendering 30 completions for only 264 yards — a 5.2 yards per attempt average that stands as the lowest of Falk’s season. Wazzu ran the ball 23 times for 39 yards on the night.

That performance allowed Minnesota to win a game in which Leidner completed 11-of-20 passes for only 129 yards with a touchdown while the Gophers mustered only 151 rushing yards on 3.8 yards per carry as a team.

Report: Oregon State paying search firm up to $200k to find new head football coach

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We’re all in the wrong business.

Earlier this month, Gary Andersen abruptly stepped down as Oregon State’s head football coach.  While cornerbacks coach Cory Hall was named interim head coach, the football program is on the hunt for a permanent replacement.

To aid in that search, OSU has hired the search firm of DH International, Inc.  And, according to information obtained by The Oregonian, that Chicago-based company could potentially get paid for its efforts.

DHR International, Inc. will conduct the search for a fee that “shall not exceed $200,000,” although Oregon State redacted the value of each fee installment in its response to a public records request.

The newspaper also wrote that “[athletic director Rick] Barnes… previously worked with DHR International when finding a new athletic director when he left Pitt for OSU.” It was DH International that also recommended Barnes for the Pitt job.

Alabama WR Donnie Lee Jr. charged with domestic violence, dismissed

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That didn’t take long.  At all.

According to WBRC-TV in Tuscaloosa, Donnie Lee Jr. was arrested early Thursday morning on one count of third-degree domestic violence.  It’s alleged that a verbal confrontation turned physical and resulted in his girlfriend sustaining unspecified injuries.

From the television station’s report:

Police responded to a domestic call in the 900 block of 12th Street around 1 a.m.

The arrest report states there was a verbal disagreement between Lee and a female he was dating. The disagreement resulted in a physical altercation and caused injuries.

Lee is — or was — a senior walk-on for the Crimson Tide.  He suffered a torn ACL during summer camp earlier this year, making it an easy decision for the football program to dismiss him from the team, which they did shortly after word of the situation surfaced.

“Donnie Lee Jr., a walk-on who has not been participating in team activities since a knee injury in August, has been dismissed from our football team and is no longer part of our program,” a statement from head coach Nick Saban began. “This behavior will not be tolerated from anyone and is not representative of our football program.”

Phil Fulmer can feel Butch Jones’ hot-seat pain

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With each passing week, the heat underneath Butch Jones‘ coaching seat only intensifies. One former Tennessee head coach, for what it’s worth, can feel the pain of a man who many feel will join him in the ex-UT coach’s club sooner rather than later.

Phil Fulmer, who played his college football for the Vols, was the head coach at his alma mater from 1992 to 2008, finishing with a 152-52 record, nine double-digit win seasons, two conference championships, six division titles and one national championship. Despite that success, Fulmer was fired following a 5-7 2008 season.

Butch Jones, in the midst of his fifth season at the school, has a 33-24 overall record and a 14-21 mark in SEC play, including an 0-3 start this season. The Vols have yet to place higher than tied for second in the SEC East under Jones, one of myriad factors that have him facing the firing squad at season’s end, if not before.

Asked this week about the storm of criticism enveloping the beleaguered coach, the former coach commiserated with one of his Rocky Top predecessors.

“I understand exactly where he is,” Fulmer told the Citizen Tribune of Morristown, Tenn. “It’s a tough time for him. …

“Nobody ever promised anybody that every day is going to be good. Everybody has difficulties, it’s just that in athletics, and particularly at a place like Tennessee, it is so exposed.”

When asked about quality replacements should the trigger be pulled on Jones, Fulmer told the paper “I wouldn’t begin to go there.”

“There’s so much football to be played and that’s not my responsibility anyway,” Fulmer said, adding, “My hope is that the players will run out, and make a good year out of it.”

For the record, the Vols are 56-51 and are on their third head coach since Fulmer was fired. That’s the worst 10-year stretch, winning percentage-wise, for the football program since the early 1900s.

Florida loses starting DE to season-ending hip surgery

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The injury-plagued career of Jordan Sherit (pictured, right) has come to an end because of, you guessed it, another injury.

Sherit suffered an injury in last Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M that dropped Florida 1½ games behind Georgia in the SEC’s East division.  Wednesday, Jim McElwain confirmed that the starting defensive end will miss the remainder of the year after undergoing season-ending hip surgery because of the injury sustained in that game.

As this is the lineman’s final season of eligibility, the collegiate portion of his playing career is over as well.

It’s a bad deal, man,” the head coach said of the situation.

Sherit’s 2.5 sacks are currently second on the Gators, while his five tackles for loss are tied for third.  The redshirt senior missed a handful of games in the 2014 and 2016 seasons because of a variety of injuries.  He also missed the last half of his senior season of high school because of a torn ACL