Taywan Taylor

Getty Images

Biletnikoff, Mackey Award semifinalists announced

5 Comments

The semifinalists for the Biletnikoff and Mackey Awards, given annually to college football’s best pass-catcher (regardless of position, though only receivers have won it) and tight end, respectfully, were announced Monday morning as awards season (sort of) gears up in earnest.

Your Biletnikoff Award semifinalists:

Austin Carr, Northwestern (75 REC, 1,102 yards, 12 TDs)
Corey Davis, Western Michigan (62 REC, 1,029 yards, 14 TDs)
Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse (79 REC, 1,246 yards, 8 TDs)
Carlos Henderson, La. Tech (61 REC, 1,179 yards, 16 TDs*)
Zay Jones, East Carolina (139 REC*, 1,473 yards*, 6 TDs)
John Ross, Washington (52 REC, 896 yards, 15 TDs)
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky (77 REC, 1,340 yards, 13 TDs)
Trent Taylor, La. Tech (103 REC, 1,343 yards, 10 TDs)
James Washington, Oklahoma State (56 REC, 1,132 yards, 9 TDs)
Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma (68 REC, 1,254 yards, 14 TDs)

*= leads FBS

And for the Mackey Award:

Adam Breneman, UMass (58 REC, 699 yards, 7 TDs)
Jake Butt, Michigan (38 REC, 460 yards, 4 TDs)
Evan Engram, Ole Miss (59 REC, 824 yards, 7 TDs)
Gerald Everett, South Alabama (41 REC, 637 yards, 4 TDs)
Cole Hikutini, Louisville (38 REC, 526 yards, 6 TDs)
Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech (36 REC, 514 yards, 5 TDs)
O.J. Howard, Alabama (29 REC, 352 yards, 2 TDs)
Jordan Leggett, Clemson (28 REC, 480 yards, 4 TDs)

The Biletnikoff will announce its three finalists Nov. 21, while Mackey Award finalists will be announced Nov. 22. Winners of both the awards will be announcedDec. 8 on ESPNU.

 

South Florida-Western Kentucky should be an early bowl treat

Leave a comment

Two weeks from today, a game that should be among the best bowls of the season will take place. It’s one to mark down on your office calendar to throw on WatchESPN, or if you’re lucky enough to get the week off, make a point to have on TV.

Western Kentucky and South Florida kick off in the W̶i̶l̶l̶i̶e̶ ̶T̶a̶g̶g̶a̶r̶t̶  Miami Beach Bowl at 2:30 p.m. ET on Monday, Dec. 21. This is a plea to anyone who likes fun football to find a way to watch this game.

Western Kentucky beat Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA Championship Game last weekend, capping off an 11-2 regular season in which Jeff Brohm’s Hilltoppers averaged 44.2 points per game (4th among FBS teams). Senior quarterback Brandon Doughty completed 71.8 percent of his passes (1st among FBS QBs) for 4,594 yards (2nd) and 45 touchdowns (1st). Junior running back Anthony Wales averaged 6.99 yards per carry (6th among FBS players with 100+ carries) in this pass-happy offense, which consistently fed junior receiver Taywan Taylor, who racked up 79 receptions (21st), 1,363 yards (4th) and 17 touchdowns (2nd).

And this isn’t necessarily a team that only looks good thanks to a weak C-USA schedule — SB Nation’s Bill Connelly’s S&P+ numbers rate WKU as the 11th-best team in FBS. The Hilltoppers’ offense ranks 1st in efficiency, seventh in finishing drives and 11th in explosiveness. This is a top-five passing offense and a top-30 rushing offense, one which scored fewer than 35 points only twice this year (against Vanderbilt and LSU).

On the other sideline is a South Florida team coached by Taggart — who quickly built a solid foundation at WKU from 2010-2012 — who steered his team to a massive turnaround this fall. The Bulls lost three games in a row in the first quarter of the season, and while the opponents were Florida State, Maryland and Memphis, becoming bowl-eligible looked like a difficult task.

After that losing streak, though, the Bulls ripped off wins in seven of their final eight games, with the only loss in there to a very good Navy team. A 44-23 win over Temple nearly upended Matt Rhule’s bid for an conference title game appearance, and a 65-27 stomping of Cincinnati asserted South Florida as one of the better teams in the AAC.

South Florida is very much geared toward running the ball with sophomore running back Marlon Mack (193 carries, 1,273 yards, eight TDs) and quarterback Quinton Flowers (157 carries, 969 yards, 10 TDs). But Flowers has a penchant for throwing for big plays, too, throwing a dozen passes for 40 or more yards with 21 touchdowns against eight interceptions.

Both WKU and USF have decent-to-mediocre defenses — WKU’s ranks 53rd in S&P+, while USF’s is 39th — that may not provide a whole lot of resistance against the powerful offenses in this game. It’ll be played at Marlins Park during the afternoon on a Monday — insert your baseball joke here, mine is that the poor Marlins, with Giancarlo Stanton only playing half a season, hit the second-fewest home runs in the majors this summer — but from afar looks like one of the most entertaining games of bowl season.

 

Art Briles confirms WR Corey Coleman will leave early for NFL

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Before the Texas game, junior Corey Coleman was honored along with the Baylor seniors, a clear signal that the talented wide receiver’s playing career with the Bears was winding.  After the loss, his head coach cleared up any lingering doubt.

Following quarterback-challenged BU’s upset at the hands of Texas that cost the Bears a New Year’s Six bowl bid, Art Briles confirmed that Coleman will indeed be leaving eligibility on the table and making himself available for the April NFL draft.  The 5-10, 190-pound Coleman is generally considered one of the top five receivers that could be available, and should be taken no later than the end of the second round.

Subsequently, Coleman himself made the announcement.

Coleman, a Biletnikoff finalist, began the season with at least two receiving touchdowns in the first seven of the first eight games.  However, as injuries hit the quarterback position, Coleman’s production fell off the cliff —  the last four games he was held to zero touchdown catches.

Still, his 20 receiving touchdowns in 12 games are easily tops in the country (Western Kentucky’s Taywan Taylor has 17 in 13 games).  He finished the regular season with 74 receptions for 1,363 yards, totals that would be good for 26th and third, respectively, at the moment nationally.

Western Kentucky pulls away for first Conference USA championship

Leave a comment

Western Kentucky (11-2, 8-0 Conference USA) needed some big plays late in the first half to pull even with Southern Mississippi (9-3, 7-1 Conference USA), but it was all Hilltoppers in the second half as the home team captured its first Conference USA championship in school history.

WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty passed for 410 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another score in the conference championship victory. Western Kentucky’s defense made plays as well, forcing four Southern Mississippi turnovers in the win. That included three interceptions of Nick Mullens. For WKU, Doughty’s top target was Taywan Taylor, who ended the game with 165 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. D’Andre Ferby helped ice the game for Western Kentucky with a pair of rushing touchdowns.

Western Kentucky added on to its school record for wins in a single season since jumping up to the FBS by picking up its 11th win of the season. Before winning 10 game sin the regular season this fall, the most wins WKU had in a season since making the move up was eight wins, which were earned each of the past two seasons.

The result of the win could also help keep WKU head coach Jeff Brohm on the radar for future coaching searches. Brohm will get a chance to pick up his second bowl win in as many seasons as a head coach.

Despite taking the loss in the conference championship game, there should be no reason to be disappointed at Southern Mississippi. Head coach Todd Monken has done an admirable job turning things around with the program since taking over in 2013. A year after Larry Fedora left for UNC after winning the Conference USA championship, Southern Miss went 0-12 in 2012. Monken won just one game in his first season and three game sin his second. The foundation appeared to be laid and the growing pains worked out for a nine-win season this fall and a chance to win a 10th game once again in a bowl game.

Big plays for Western Kentucky seize momentum from Southern Miss in C-USA Championship Game

Leave a comment

Southern Mississippi had scored 21 straight points to take a solid 21-7 lead on Western Kentucky, but big plays in the final minutes of the half have made for a much more wide-open Conference USA Championship Game. Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty completed a long pass down the right side of the field to Taywan Taylor for a 49-yard gain, and two plays later the two connected again for a game-tying touchdown (21-21) that gave the home team all of the momentum going to halftime.

Western Kentucky struck early to capitalize on an early miscue by Southern Miss. Nick Mullens was picked off by Branden Leston to put the Hilltoppers right at the Southern Miss 28-yard line. A 21-yard run by Anthony Wales put WKU at the five-yard line and Antwane Grant pulled in a short touchdown pass from Brandon Doughty for the first score of the game.

The teams exchanged punts on the next couple of possessions, but the Golden Eagles got things going on their next possession, which started just on Western Kentucky’s side of the 50, from the 45-yard line. Mullens redeemed himself with a pair of passes for first downs on successive plays and Jalen Richard picked up a short two-yard touchdown run to draw even at 7-7. The Golden Eagles took their first lead, 14-7, when Michael Thomas caught a rocket across the middle fo the field for a five-yard touchdown to cap a short 32-yard touchdown drive following a 27-yard Western Kentucky punt from their five-yard line. The lead was soon expanded to 21-7 when Doughty’s pass was picked off by Kalan Reed and returned 40 yards for a touchdown.

Doughty made sure Western Kentucky got to halftime with some reason for optimism. Doughty took off for a touchdown run late in the first half to cut the deficit to 21-14.