Arkansas State Red Wolves

MEMPHIS, TN - SEPTEMBER 21: Aaron Williams #67 of the Arkansas State Red Wolves blocks against Martin Ifedi #97 of the Memphis Tigers on September 21, 2013 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis beat Arkansas State 31-7. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
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Memphis, Arkansas State to resume series in 2020

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In their respective climbs out of the football wilderness and into the forefront, Memphis and Arkansas State were always there for each other. The programs, just an hour’s drive from northeast Arkansas to southwest Tennessee, began playing in 1914 and played semi-continuously save for a break in the 1960’s.

The Tigers and Red Wolves last played in 2013, a 31-7 Memphis win, but did not have plans to meet again.

That is, until yesterday.

Arkansas State announced a four-game home-and-home to resume their on-again, off-again rivalry with Memphis. The Tigers and Red Wolves will play annually from 2020 through 2023, with Memphis hosting the even years and Arkansas State the odd.

“It’s probably the most talked about and popular opponent when it comes to scheduling,” Arkansas State athletics director Terry Mohajir told Arkansas Online. “I think it’s good for their fan base; I think it’s good for our fan base. It’s a really good regional matchup.”

Memphis halted the series out of a desire to build a national schedule, but then reversed course after realizing that Arkansas State was an easy ticket sell. That, and a friendly game of shuffleboard between Mohajir and Memphis AD Tom Bowen at college football advisory board meetings this winter.

“I said, ‘If I beat you we’ll play; if you beat me, I’ll never ask you again,’ ” Mohajir said.

Memphis holds a 29-23-5 lead in the all-time series.

Idaho, NMSU out as Sun Belt members after 2017

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Apparently, Idaho’s sales pitch wasn’t as compelling as they’d like.

Two weeks ago, Idaho unveiled a 19-slide presentation aimed at continuing their football membership in the Sun Belt Conference, membership that was initially granted to both themselves and New Mexico State on four-year terms that are set to expire following the 2017 season.  Looking for an extension, both football programs will instead be looking for new homes in a couple of seasons.

What does the denial of extension do to the two football programs impacted by the decision? For the Vandals, it likely means dropping down to the FCS level and joining the Big Sky conference, where there other varsity sports are currently housed. For the Aggies, whose other sports play in the WAC, which doesn’t offer football, another go as an FBS independent will likely be in the offing.

With the impending departures of Idaho and New Mexico State after the 2017 season and the addition of Coastal Carolina for that season, the SBC will settle in with 10 members two years from now.  That 10-member lineup would feature teams from Texas (Texas State), Arkansas (Arkansas State), Louisiana (Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe), Alabama (South Alabama, Troy), Georgia (Georgia Southern, Georgia State), North Carolina (Appalachian State) and South Carolina (Coastal Carolina).

With the recent decision by the NCAA to deregulate conference championship games, the SBC will still be able to conduct such games with just 10 members instead of the previously-mandated 12.

UPDATED 2:51 p.m. ET: Idaho confirmed in a press release that the Sun Belt Conference has opted to go with a 10-team league following the 2017 season, putting them and New Mexico State on the outside of the conference looking in two seasons from now.  The release also stated that the university will now decide whether to accept an invitation to join the Big Sky of the FCS or compete as an independent at the FBS level.

D.J. Durkin adds three to finalize first Terps coaching staff

D.J. Durkin
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Five weeks after being introduced as Maryland’s next head coach, D.J. Durkin has completed his inaugural Terrapins coaching staff.

With three openings remaining, Durkin revealed the trio of assistants that will assume the positions in College Park — Chris Beatty, Anthony Tucker and Matt Barnes. Beatty will serve as wide receivers coach, Tucker will be in charge of running backs coach and Barnes will coach linebackers.

““These are three really quality additions to the coaching staff,” said Durkin. “All three are tremendous coaches who are really solid recruiters and truly care about and can relate to our players. I’m excited to have them on board.”

Beatty spent 2015 on Mike London‘s staff at Virginia; London was named as Durkin’s associate head coach and defensive line coach last month. In addition to UVa., Beatty spent time on staffs at Wisconsin (2013-14), Illinois (2012), Vanderbilt (2011), West Virginia (2008-10) and Northern Illinois (2007).

Tucker spent the past three seasons as the wide receivers coach at Arkansas State, while Barnes was a defensive analyst at Michigan, where Durkin served as defensive coordinator.

Maryland announces Walt Bell as offensive coordinator

COLLEGE PARK, MD - DECEMBER 04: Newly hired Maryland football coach DJ Durkin holds his son Luke while being introduced during the Maryland Terrapins and St. Francis (Pa) Red Flash game at Xfinity Center on December 4, 2015 in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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For any coordinator-turned-first time head coach, hiring a coordinator to run the opposite side of the ball is the most important decision he’ll ever make. In many ways, it is that opposite-side coordinator who will decide the fate of his tenure, not the head coach.

Michigan defensive coordinator-turned-Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin (pictured) has made his call for offensive coordinator, and he’s going with Walt Bell, the Terps announced Sunday.

Bell spent the past two seasons as assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arkansas State, concluding his tenure with last night’s loss to Louisiana Tech in the New Orleans Bowl.

“Walt is one of the brightest offensive minds in college football and I’m excited to have him on my staff,” Durkin said in a statement. “He has a track record of being part of some of the most potent offenses in college football and he’s going to bring that exciting brand of football to Maryland.”

His Red Wolves ranked 47th nationally in yards per play, 36th in total offense and 14th in scoring this fall, helping Arkansas State finish 9-4 with a Sun Belt championship.

Prior to Arkansas State, Bell served as Eric Ebron‘s position coach at North Carolina, then as an offensive staff member on Larry Fedora‘s Southern Miss teams. He is a former Middle Tennessee wide receiver, earning his bachelor’s degree in 2005.

At Maryland, Bell will work to rehabilitate an offense that finished 95th nationally in scoring and 84th in yards per play in 2015.

Driskel’s 457 yards, Dixon’s four TDs power LaTech to dominating New Orleans Bowl win

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 19:  Jeff Driskel #6 of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs is pursued by Cody Brown #21 of the Arkansas State Red Wolves during the first quarter of the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 19, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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If you’re a Florida fan, and you’ve watched Louisiana Tech at all this season, you’ve probably wondered “where the hell was that?” when it came to Jeff Driskel‘s play. If you watched the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, you were probably in that very same choir singing from a strikingly similar hymnal.

Thanks to a heaping helping of Driskel — and a healthy dose of the record-setting Kenneth Dixon for good measure — Tech was able to pull away from Arkansas State in a dominant second half and secure a 47-28 win in the 15th R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. The Bulldogs also won the Heart of Dallas Bowl last year, giving Tech back-to-back bowl wins for the first time in the program’s history.

It also served as an exorcising of demons of sorts for Driskel, whose last trip to the Superdome was a two-pick performance in a 10-point loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl following the 2012 season. This time around, Driskel, as he has been for most of this season, was superb, completing 26-of-37 passes for a career-high 457 yards and three touchdowns. Most impressively, especially considering the Red Wolves’ defense came into the game leading the country in interceptions, Driskel was turnover-free.

Driskel, a graduate transfer in his first year with the Bulldogs, salvaged not only his collegiate career in Ruston but also set himself up for a shot at being a mid-round NFL draft pick next April with his performance this season. In 13 games in 2015, Driskel threw for 300-plus yards eight times; in 29 career games with the Gators, he never hit that mark.

Not to be outdone, Driskel’s teammate left a record-setting mark in what has been a phenomenal and prolific under-the-radar career.

Dixon, a senior running back, accounted for four touchdowns on the day, two each rushing and receiving. That gives the Arkansas native 87 career touchdowns rushing and receiving, giving him — for the moment — the all-time FBS record. Whether that remains the all-time FBS record, though, is to be determined as Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds will enter the Midshipmen’s bowl game with 85 total touchdowns (all on the ground).

All told, Dixon accounted for 203 all-purpose yards — 112 receiving, 91 rushing.  That effort was a part of a Tech offensive explosion that gave the Bulldogs a whopping 673-323 advantage in total yards.

Both Tech and ASU finish their respective seasons at 9-4.  The Bulldogs have now won nine games in back-to-back seasons under Skip Holtz, while the Red Wolves have won 16 games in two seasons with Blake Anderson at the helm.