Time to start taking West Virginia seriously in the Big 12

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West Virginia has an awful defense and its special teams, while not under the same degree of verbal scrutiny, is almost as bad. But, the Mountaineer offense is so good that for the second straight week, it didn’t make a difference in the final outcome of the game.

As far as game plans go, Texas had it drawn up as well as any team that’s faced WVU this season: cater to your offensive strengths (running the ball) and keep the ball out of Geno Smith‘s hands. On defense, get pressure on Smith, don’t allow the big plays and force a couple turnovers if you can.

The Longhorns did all of the above for the most part, but as is normally the case in close games, one mistake gets magnified when it becomes the difference in the game. That was a missed 41-yard field goal by Penn State transfer Anthony Fera. Of course, that miss was preceded by a botched snap for which UT quarterback David Ash apparently wasn’t ready. That resulted in a loss of 16 yards.

When Texas was able to drive the field in one minute to score one final touchdown, that missed field goal loomed.

It was an even, well-played game between two very good football teams. It came down to the last second and a failed onside kick gave the No. 8 Mountaineers a 48-45 win over the No. 11 Longhorns.

Smith wasn’t even the star. He didn’t do much to hurt his Heisman stock, going 25-of-35 for 268 yards, four touchdowns, and again, no interceptions — although he had the ball stripped a couple of times — but it wasn’t the video game numbers he’s been putting up. That’s to be expected; Texas is by far the best defense WVU has played all season.

No, it was running back Andrew Buie (pictured) who gets the game ball. The sophomore ran 31 times for 207 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His most important carries came at the end when Dana Holgorsen went out of his comfort zone and — gasp! — bled the clock (Nick Saban would have been proud). Buie carried the ball seven times on the team’s final offensive drive and scored a touchdown.

And that is the scariest thing about WVU’s offense: that it’s not just Smith. It’s Tavon Austin (who had 10 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown). It’s Stedman Bailey (who had three touchdown grabs). It’s Buie. That makes it difficult to slow and nearly impossible to stop.

The defense and special teams? They’re bad enough that they might cost WVU a couple games this season, but through two Big 12 matches, the offense has been able to get it done.

The next month holds some crucial games for WVU. The Mountaineers have to go on the road again to Texas Tech before a pair of home games against Kansas State and TCU. Then, there’s another road game at Oklahoma State before the big Nov. 3 game against Oklahoma. That’s a decently tough stretch, but one of the biggest questions WVU had heading into the season was whether it could play on the big stage after years in the Big East.

Considering its first Big 12 road game was in front of 100,000 people, I’d say yes.

UTEP mourns passing of TE Luke Laufenberg, 21, after two-year battle with leukemia

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For the second time this month, the insidiousness that is cancer has struck at the heart of college football.

Following a nearly two-year battle with leukemia, Luke Laufenberg passed away early Thursday morning, his father, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg, heartbreakingly revealed on Twitter. ” The hole in our hearts will never be filled,” Laufenberg wrote. “You are my hero. RIP my sweet Luke. See you on the other side.”

The younger Laufenberg had just signed with UTEP this past February as a tight end and was expected by many to win a starting job before his health began to fail again later on in the offseason.

Laufenberg actually began his collegiate career as a walk-on at Texas A&M. On the day after Christmas 2017, Laufenberg was diagnosed with leukemia; in May of the following year, he was declared cancer-free and, after the 230-pound player had regained the 90-plus pounds he had lost during chemotherapy, began his trek back to college football, first at a junior college in 2018 before signing with UTEP earlier this year.

By the summer, sadly, the disease had returned with a fatal ferocity, with doctors telling his family in July that “his condition was terminal and that he had just a few weeks left.”

Below is a statement from UTEP head coach Dana Dimel:

Luke Laufenberg touched our hearts and souls forever. His spirit and fight are reminders of what it means to play and coach the game of football. He was a fighter, a champion and a wonderful person. He was a very talented young man that lived his life and left a huge mark on everyone he came in contact with. He was a wonderful individual and will not be forgotten on our football team. Our student-athletes learned from how he prepared himself and the way he handled adversity. I know Luke loved playing football for UTEP and he will forever be a MINER!

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those affected by the young man’s way-too-early passing.­

Syracuse no longer calling the Carrier Dome the, uh, Carrier Dome

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Stadium names change all the time in college football and we’ve seen some strange mash ups over the past few decades but there’s been an interesting twist in upstate New York.

Thanks in part to a growing spat with the company over the naming rights to the aptly named Carrier Dome, Syracuse has embarked on a bit of a rebranding for their longtime football and basketball home by shortening things to just ‘The Dome.’

As spotted by Syracuse.com, the school has removed some 64 mentions of the word Carrier in their annual football media guide and have even gone as far as to leave out any mentions of the company in their season ticket materials too.

“We will be contacting the university to discuss further,” Carrier Senior Director of Communications Ashley Barrie said in a statement to the site.

Orange officials have said they are not de-emphasizing the ‘Carrier’ part of the Carrier Dome to send any sort of message but rather reinforcing the ‘Dome’ part of the stadium’s name.

Something says that as much as that may be their public stance, this rebranding battle is something that figures to get some lawyers involved in soon enough. The football team’s home opener isn’t until Sept. 14 against defending champion Clemson so there’s certainly some time to work things out but it sure seems like a new name for the venerable venue is something we’ll all have to start getting used to.

Ex-Auburn, Miami RB Asa Martin lands at Memphis

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After going from AU to the ACC, tailback Asa Martin is now ticketed for the AAC.

Got that?

Per 247Sports, Martin has apparently enrolled at Memphis for the 2019 season. Per transfer rules he’s sitting out the year either way unless there’s some sort of NCAA waiver involved but it’s still the sophomore’s third school in nine months.

Martin was originally a four-star recruit in the class of 2018 and saw action in five games for the SEC Tigers as a true freshman, rushing for 57 yards all told while catching two passes for 36 yards. He entered the transfer portal in late December though, just after Auburn’s season had concluded.

Eventually Martin found a home at Miami and enrolled in time for spring practice. Perhaps he was not thrilled at the situation because come mid-June the tailback was back in the transfer portal looking for a new program to play with.

We’ll see if this latest move to Memphis sticks because we’ve certainly seen that Martin is no stranger to moving around.

Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens gets the nod as Mississippi State’s starting QB

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Tommy Stevens’ reunion with Joe Moorhead has proven to be a fruitful one.

The Penn State transfer was named the starting quarterback on Thursday by the Mississippi State head coach, ending a camp battle with Keytaon Thompson and others in the bid to replace Nick Fitzgerald under center for the Bulldogs.

Stevens made his way to Starkville rather surprisingly this offseason after spring practice for the Nittany Lions wrapped up. While he was expected to be the heir apparent to Trace McSorley in State College for the 2019 campaign, it seems that a competitive battle with fellow Penn State QB Sean Clifford pushed him to enter the NCAA transfer portal instead.

While some may have questioned the move initially given that Thompson has starting experience at MSU and in Moorhead’s system, things apparently worked out in the end as Stevens takes over for Fitzgerald instead.

A noted dual-threat with the ball in his hands at PSU, Stevens rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns last year while also passing for 110 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Mississippi State opens the season against Louisiana-Lafayette in New Orleans on Aug. 31 before their home opener against Southern Miss on Sept. 7.