Associated Press

Michigan spoils Big Ten’s perfect bowl season with Outback Bowl meltdown

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The Big Ten did not have a perfect 2017-18 bowl season. Though, to be fair, there are plenty in the Midwest who might argue that winning every bowl game except the one Michigan and Jim Harbaugh compete in is actually the perfect bowl season. However, South Carolina’s 26-19 Outback Bowl comeback over Michigan spoiled the league’s shot at winning every bowl game in a season in which it was shut out of the College Football Playoff for the first time in the 4-year history of the system.

And, like many defeats in the 3-year Harbaugh era, it was one in which the Wolverines grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory.

Quinn Nordin‘s fourth field goal of the afternoon pushed Michigan’s lead to 19-3 with 5:42 to play in the third quarter; considering the state of South Carolina’s offense to that point, Nordin’s kick relegated the Outback Bowl to “I’ll check back in if something happens” for New Year’s Day viewers with the Citrus and Peach bowls on simultaneously.

Needless to say, something happened.

The Gamecocks moved 77 yards in a half-dozen plays, finally crossing pay dirt on a 17-yard Rico Dowdle option rush. A failed 2-point conversion kept Michigan’s lead at two scores at 19-9. However, Michigan immediately gave the ball back on a botched 3rd-and-1 exchange, and one play later Jake Bentley pulled South Carolina within 19-16 on a 21-yard touchdown strike to Bryan Edwards.

Michigan punted on its next possession, and South Carolina took the lead on a 53-yard strike from Bentley to Shi Smith. Trailing 23-19 early in the fourth quarter, Michigan penetrated South Carolina’s red zone with a chance to re-gain the lead but, flushed to his left, Brandon Peters elected to force a 3rd-and-goal pass from the 5-yard line rather than accepted defeat and bring on the field goal time. It was intercepted by JaMarcus King in the end zone.

Michigan’s defense immediately forced a three-and-out, but the ensuing punt was muffed. Taking over at the Michigan 14, South Carolina bit off 90 seconds of the remaining 5:15, taking a touchdown lead on a 22-yard Parker White field goal.

The maize and blue took over at their 25 with 3:42 and needing a touchdown to force overtime, but could not get as much as a completed pass. Peters fired four straight incomplete passes. White missed a 48-yard field goal that would have ended the game at the 1:43 mark of the fourth quarter, and Michigan marched near midfield with one final chance to tie the game. However, Peters’s 4th-and-1 pass was intercepted with 1:05 to play, thereby ending the game.

The loss concludes a bitterly disappointing season in which Michigan accomplished nothing of significance. The Wolverines went 8-5 but beat just one opponent with a winning record, 7-6 Purdue. Most importantly, Michigan did not find a quarterback answer for 2018. Peters’s performance — he was 20-of-44 for 186 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions — proves that the answer lies in either redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey or Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson, assuming the NCAA grants him eligibility.

South Carolina (9-4) has no such issues. The ‘Cocks won 15 games in Will Muschamp‘s first two seasons, something only two other South Carolina coaches have done. And in Bentley — 19-of-32 for 239 yards with two touchdowns and one interception — the Gamecocks have their quarterback of the present and the future.

Arkansas kicker Cole Hedlund reportedly transfers to North Texas

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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

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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

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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

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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.”