Louisville wins Keg of Nails, sends UCF to the BCS

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If this is the last Keg of Nails game for a long stretch of time, at least it is going out in style. No. 19 Louisville (11-1, 7-1 AAC) and Cincinnati (9-3, 6-2 AAC) exchanged scores in the fourth quarter, and the two rivals needed to settle the score in overtime. Louisville scored first in overtime and then held Cincinnati out of the end zone for a 31-24 victory. With the result, UCF clinched a spot in a BCS bowl game. Louisville has already accepted a spot in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando.

Louisville saw an early 10-0 lead slip away midway through the third quarter when Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay pushed forward just enough to pick up a short touchdown run, his second of the game, to give Cincinnati a 14-10 lead. That lead would hold in to the fourth quarter. Midway through the fourth quarter the fun got started. Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, one play after being taken down shy of a first down, worked some magic to escape would-be-tacklers to extend a 4th and 12 play for a first down and later tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Damian Copeland to cap a 13-play, 86-yard drive to regain the lead, 17-14. The play was a thing of beauty with Bridgewater again avoiding defenders to keep a play alive before heaving a rainbow to the right corner of the end zone for Copeland. Cincinnati wasted little time in striking back.

Kay completed a 57-yard pass to Mekale McKay to quickly enter the red zone, and one play later Ralph Abernathy rushed right up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown to take a 21-17 lead. As was the theme for the fourth quarter, this was not the end of the scoring. Bridgewater again drove Louisville’s offense down field, and he put Louisville back in front with a short touchdown pass to DeVante Parker on a play that appeared to have pass interference on both sides with no call. Up 24-21, Louisville could not hold on to the lead, with Cincinnati stretching the field in similar fashion to the way UCF defeated Louisville with a late score. This time Louisville managed to hold Cincinnati to a field goal, which led the game in to overtime tied at 24-24.

Louisville running back Dominique Brown scored a short touchdown run in the first overtime possession for a 31-24 lead, and Cincinnati’s final attempt on a fourth and long attempt fell incomplete to seal the fate of the game, and for UCF’s bowl plans.

UCF is now guaranteed the top spot in the American this season. No matter what happens at SMU on Saturday, UCF can do no worse than tie with Louisville for the conference crown. Thanks to an earlier head-to-head victory over the Cardinals, UCF wins the tiebreaker for the conference’s automatic BCS berth. UCF will play in their first BCS bowl game in bowl history.

Louisville finishes the regular season with a respectable 11-1 record but will not be in the BCS at-large conversation considering all of the teams still in front of them and the likelihood of Northern Illinois advancing to a BCS bowl game. Still, the success of the Cardinals this season will provide some momentum as they begin to shift conference affiliations from the AAC to the ACC next year. The big question left to answer for now is whether or not Bridgewater will be there or playing Sundays.

Bridgewater’s final game of the 2013 season may not have been overly impressive just by looking at the numbers, but he had his moments that make you say “wow.” Considering the shallow depth of the NFL’s quarterback class of 2014, Bridgewater could be a certain high draft pick.

Cincinnati had their shot to win a share of the conference championship, but the 10 wins achieved this season suggest this program will remain one of the top teams in the American in 2014.

Chad Morris finally finalizes $3.5 million contract with Arkansas

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Chad Morris was hired in early December and has already gone through his spring practice at Arkansas but just signed that big new contract with the school this week.

The practice of working for a new program but not formally signing a contract isn’t new (just ask Texas A&M and Jimbo Fisher) but all the parties in Fayetteville finally got pen to paper in recent days to finalize the deal, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The deal runs through the end of the 2023 season and will pay Morris roughly $3.5 million in base salary with plenty more available for the head coach to collect in bonuses:

Morris will be eligible for up to $1 million in competition-based bonuses and $200,000 in academic-based bonuses each year, and is eligible for three retention payments of $500,000 apiece, contingent that no “significant” NCAA violations have occurred and the program is not on NCAA probation at the time the payments are due in February of 2019, 2021 and 2023.

(AD Hunter) Yurachek said he signed the contract last Friday and it was executed with the signatures of University of Arkansas, Fayetteville chancellor Joseph Steinmetz and UA system president Donald Bobbitt this week.

Thankfully, there’s no complicated buyout structure like there was with former head coach Bret Bielema. If Morris wants to leave for another job, he’d owe $3 million prior to Dec. 31, 2019 and decreasing amounts each year afterward. If he’s fired by the school before the final day of 2022, he will receive 70 percent of his $3.5 million annual salary until the end of 2023. If he is fired on or after Jan. 1, 2023, he will take the full $3.5 million he’s owed.

Funny enough though, according to the Democrat Gazette, his boss still hasn’t signed his own deal with the school despite being formally hired the day before Morris was last December. One down, one to go we guess.

Clemson AD Dan Radakovich rules out alcohol sales at Memorial Stadium

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Death Valley is staying dry.

Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich spoke to the Post and Courier this week and pretty flatly rejected joining the burgeoning bandwagon in college athletics and allowing beer and/or alcohol sales at the Tigers’ football stadium.

“It hasn’t been a huge topic here because we really don’t look at that as something moving forward inside Memorial Stadium that is on our list of things to get done,” Radakovich said. “There’s a different atmosphere at our games.”

Alcohol is not sold anywhere at the stadium for Clemson home games though there are some unique cases where fan can bring some to specific areas prior to game day for consumption after kickoff.

The policy stands in stark contrast to some of their fellow ACC schools, as everybody from Pitt to Louisville to Wake Forest have begun sales. There’s been significant debate in the SEC on opening things up on the same front and major programs like Penn State to smaller ones like Fresno State are cashing in on the new revenue stream.

It doesn’t sound like the Tigers will be joining them anytime soon.

“Our people in the parking lot have a good time. There’s no question about that,” Radakovich added. “But inside the stadium, I think it’s a little different.”

Mike Gundy and AD Mike Holder will be together at Oklahoma State at least through 2021

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Mike Gundy and Mike Holder better patch up their relationship because both are set to be in Stillwater a lot longer.

Days after the Cowboys head coach and athletic director got into an interesting back-and-forth over the former’s recruiting prowess following the latter’s comments, Holder received a new contract extension that will keep him at the school through 2021.

Gundy himself is signed a year beyond that as part of the new five-year deal he inked after the 2017 season.

The new deal with Holder includes a hefty six-figure raise from the $644,371 he made from the school last year. There was a point early in his tenure where he was one of the Big 12’s lowest paid AD’s but that story has shifted significantly over the years as OSU’s budget has climbed, with the school taking in some $93 million in revenue according to the latest figures.

Given all of the new contracts, hopefully both Holder and Gundy will both have a conversation in the coming months to get back on the same page and patch up their relationship — because both are set to be attached at the hip in Stillwater for several more years.

Alabama’s check for season-opening game significantly bigger than Louisville’s

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Louisville hasn’t even started the season and they’re already behind Alabama. Well, at least when it comes to their bank accounts.

The Louisville Courier Journal obtained the contracts for the Tide and Cardinals game in Orlando that will kick off the 2018 season for both in September and found that Alabama’s payout is $4.5 million — nearly double Louisville’s $2.75 million that they are taking home.

The disparity can probably be chalked up to one team being the national champions and a bigger draw for the game itself but it turns out there’s another reason Nick Saban’s side has a few more dollars on their side of the ledger: tickets.

Alabama’s contract obliges the school to buy 18,000 tickets for distribution to its fans, while Louisville agreed to purchase only 10,000. Both schools will be granted two 20-person suites, 25 parking passes and 200 complimentary tickets, as well as 1,000 tickets at $25 each for students.

While selling 8,000 more tickets could add up to that difference (at roughly $218 a piece) in guarantees, it’s nevertheless a little unusual to hear of such a large disparity between teams. As the Courier Journal notes, Alabama received the same amount as their opponent for neutral site games in 2017, 2015, 2014 and 2012.

Louisville’s game against Auburn also had a bigger pay day than what they’re getting from the folks in Orlando but they were on the hook for three times the number of tickets back in 2015. Perhaps the smaller ticket package this year is a bit of a sign that even the school itself knows this is rebuilding season for Bobby Petrino and opening against the defending champs is going to be a steep challenge between the lines.