Getty Images

J.T. Barrett sets more records as No. 5 Ohio State tops No. 8 USC in the Cotton Bowl

20 Comments

There’s just something about Urban Meyer, Ohio State, AT&T Stadium and a Pac-12 team.

Proving that a Texas-flavored Rose Bowl matchup isn’t a terrible consolation prize for missing out on the College Football Playoff, the fifth-ranked Buckeyes returned to the scene of their last national title and jumped on No. 8 USC early before coasting to a 24-7 win in the Cotton Bowl.

It appeared initially that the game might be a rout for the Big Ten champions after they forced three first half turnovers to jump out to a 24 point lead just prior to halftime. That included a fumble recovery that setup a touchdown and a Damon Webb pick-six less than a minute into the second quarter. Those scores would have been enough to win the game given how well the defense was playing but really put the outing in perspective as things slowed down on the scoreboard after emerging from the JerryWorld locker room.

The second half offensive shutout put a bit of a damper on what was a career night for OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett. The senior, who celebrated that championship on the same turf in a boot back in 2014, threw for only 114 yards and ran for another 66 on the ground to lead the team in both yards and carries. Those marks allowed him to set a new school record for most total touchdowns in a season as well as pass former Purdue star Drew Brees on the all-time Big Ten list for career total offense. Though he leaves a bit of a mixed legacy on the grand stage of the College Football Playoff, there’s little question that he’s one of the best to ever suit up at the position for the scarlet and gray under center and has all the records to prove it.

Barrett’s opposite number wasn’t too shabby overall either and largely outplayed him in front of dozens of pro scouts and executives. USC signal-caller Sam Darnold (356 yards passing) had numerous throws that wowed those in attendance and looked like they were coming from the player that some think is the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft but his flaws also popped up at inopportune times. In addition to tossing the pick-six on a bad read, he fumbled twice — including once in the red zone to keep points off the board — and was generally under pressure all game long from that nasty Ohio State defensive line that recorded eight sacks.

Returning to the Dallas area not far from where he played high school football, Trojans tailback Ronald ‘Texas Tesla’ Jones had 64 yards and the team’s lone touchdown of the game in what could be his final appearance in the cardinal and gold. It wasn’t enough in the end to jump-start a comeback down the stretch though.

That’s because the night belonged to the other sideline as the tone was set early by the Buckeyes and they never seemed to let up. The offense as a whole for Meyer and company didn’t exactly state the team’s case that they should have gotten into the Playoff ahead of No. 4 Alabama but it was one of the best defensive efforts of the season all things considered to capture a marquee Cotton Bowl victory to cap off the 2017 campaign.

Arkansas kicker Cole Hedlund reportedly transfers to North Texas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

And you can pardon the whole of the state of Arkansas if they let out a collective “thank goodness.”

Citing multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle is reporting that Cole Hedlund is transferring to North Texas.  After redshirting as a true freshman in 2014 at Arkansas, Hedlund spent the next three seasons as a placekicker for the Razorbacks.

The Argyle, Tex., native opted to transfer from UA for his final season of eligibility.  He’s the youngest son of UNT women’s soccer coach John Hedlund.

For his career with the Razorbacks, Hedlund hit on 14 of his 24 field goal attempts.  He also connected on all 91 extra point attempts.  His best season came in 2015 when he led the team in scoring with 85 points.

The past season, however, was a rough one.  After missing both field goal attempts in a Sept. 9 loss to TCU — the misses came from 20 and 23 yards out — Hedlund never attempted another kick for the Razorbacks the rest of the season.

“It was basically a PAT, and it was a perfect protection and a perfect snap. It’s inexcusable,” then-head coach Bret Bielema said at the time.

Longtime BYU defensive assistant Steve Kaufusi steps down

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A constant on BYU’s defensive staff for nearly two decades has taken himself out of the football program’s equation.

The Cougars announced Friday that Steve Kaufusi has stepped down from his post as linebackers coach.  Per the school, Kaufusi’s departure was triggered by his desire to pursue other unspecified interests.

Kaufusi, whose wife Michelle is the mayor of Provo and has two sons who will play for the Cougars this season, had spent the past 16 seasons with BYU.  From 2002-16, he coached the defensive line; he took over linebackers in 2017 and spent one season overseeing that position.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to coach at BYU for the past 16 seasons,” Kaufusi said. “I’m honored to have had the opportunity to represent the University and everything it stands for. I will always be a Cougar and look forward to watching my sons play at BYU.”

“Anyone who knows Steve knows he is an exceptional coach and mentor to young men, which you can see in the players he has coached over the years and also in his own family,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I wish Steve nothing but the best for his future.”

In tandem with the Kaufusi announcement, the program also confirmed that Preston Hadley has been hired.  Hadley, who played defensive back for the Cougars and coached at Weber State the past two seasons, will coach safeties in his return.

Ed Lamb, who was responsible for safeties, will take over Kaufusi’s linebackers.  All other coaches on the defensive side of the ball will maintain their current positions.

Michigan State promotes Mike Tressel to DC, adds ex-Kent State HC as DBs coach

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mark Dantonio looked inside and out of his football program to fill some holes in his Michigan State staff.

Nearly two weeks ago, Harlon Barnett left as MSU’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach to take a job at Florida State.  That left Dantonio with two openings, one of which the head coach closed Friday by promoting Mike Tressel to defensive coordinator.

Tressel and Barnett had served as co-coordinators the past three seasons; the nephew of former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel will now serve as the Spartans’ solo coordinator moving forward.

“Mike has done a tremendous job working with the defense,” said Dantonio in a statement. “He’s been deeply involved with everything with the defense since we first arrived here, and has helped coach some championship defenses that have been ranked consistently among the best in the nation, year in and year out. He did a great job as co-coordinator the past three years. He’s certainly earned this opportunity and I think he’ll do an outstanding job.”

To replace Barnett as defensive backs coach, Dantonio turned to Paul Haynes.  The past five years, Haynes was the head coach at Kent State before being dismissed at the end of the 2017 regular season.

This serves as a homecoming of sorts for Haynes as well.  From 2003-04, he was the defensive backs coach for the Spartans under John Smith.

The 48-year-old Haynes has also been a secondary coach at Arkansas (2012), Ohio State (2005-10), Louisville (2002) and Kent State (1999).

“We’re very, very excited about Paul,” said Dantonio. “He’s coached here before so he’s got a Spartan background. He was secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, so he’s coached on the highest level with the secondary. He was a defensive coordinator at Arkansas as well. He’s been a head coach at Kent State, so I think that gives him a big picture feel. I think he’s an excellent recruiter. He’s a dynamic person as well, so we’re excited to have him on campus.”

Willie Taggart finalizes first Florida State coaching staff

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Exactly 45 days after being announced as Florida State’s new head coach, Willie Taggart has put the finishing touches on his first Seminoles staff.

Friday night, FSU confirmed that Taggart has completed his 10-man staff with the additions of five new assistants.  It was reported this week that Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell would be taking the same job at FSU; the school confirmed as much today, with Bell also taking over as quarterbacks coach.

The other four hires consisted of Greg Frey (offensive line/running-game coordinator), David Kelly (wide receivers/recruiting coordinator), Mark Snyder (defensive ends) and Alonzo Hampton (special teams coordinator).

That fivesome joins the other five assistants previously announced:

  • Harlon Barnett, defensive coordinator and defensive back
  • Odell Haggins, associate head coach and defensive tackles
  • Raymond Woodie, linebackers
  • Telly Lockette, tight ends
  • Donte’ Pimpleton, running backs

Haggins is the lone holdover from Jimbo Fisher‘s last staff.

“From the beginning of this process, my goal was to bring in the best coaches for our program and I believe we have done that,” Taggart said. “This group will do a great job of recruiting, developing, coaching and mentoring our student-athletes to reach their highest potential. I’m excited for the next few weeks as we are finalizing our 2018 signing class and then working with our team as we prepare for spring practice.”