CFB after dark: Houston falls to in-state underdog, Arizona’s offense still rolling

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Saturday may be the first full day of college football, but quality games were being played into the wee hours Friday night.

The biggest surprise on the night came from UTSA’s stunning 27-7 upset of the Houston Cougars. The Roadrunners are in their fourth season as a program and are led by head coach Larry Coker (remember him?). The program enters its first season as a full-fledged FBS member. Yet, UTSA dominated a Cougars squad that was expected to compete for an American Athletic Conference championship this year and features one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation in John O’Korn.

O’Korn and the Cougars couldn’t get on track on offense. Houston only managed 206 total yards. The Cougars were held to minus-26 yards rushing. The Roadrunners also intercepted O’Korn four times.

The Roadrunners, meanwhile, relied on a strong running game. UTSA accumulated 146 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns.

Coker is now 20-15 overall as he continues to build the Roadrunners program. Despite being 60-15 during his six seasons as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes and a national championship, Coker couldn’t be happier than he is today.

“It’s probably the most rewarding thing I’ve been involved with as far as coaching is concerned,” Coker told SI.com’s Pete Thamel.

In Las Vegas, the underdog UNLV Rebels didn’t have a chance against the Arizona Wildcats.

UNLV ran into a buzzsaw Friday night during a 58-13 loss to the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona’s redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon starred during his first start. Solomon threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns as the offense rolled up a school record 787 total yards. The performance was stunning after Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez waited until earlier in the week to finally name Solomon the starting quarterback.

During the Wildcats’ impressive offensive effort, two running backs, Terris Jones-Grigsby and Nick Wilson, as well as two receivers, Austin Hill and Samajie Grant, accumulated 100 yards on the ground and in the air.

The Wildcats added an exclamation point to start of their season. Arizona’s next opponent? The UTSA Roadrunners.

Alabama, USF schedule 2-for-1 series starting in 2023

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USF is on a scheduling roll with 2-for-1 series’ against major Power Five opponents. The latest to join the list of future Bulls opponents?

None other than the SEC’s dominant force in Alabama.

The two schools confirmed the details on Thursday afternoon, announcing the three-game set at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Sept. 16, 2023. The return pair of contests in Tuscaloosa will take place on Sept. 7, 2024 and Sept. 12, 2026.

“Our future non-conference schedules are really rounding out quite nicely with the addition of series such as this one with USF,” said Alabama Athletics Director Greg Byrne in a release. “We look forward to the early-season road test against a quality opponent in an NFL stadium in 2023 and will welcome them to Tuscaloosa for a pair of home games in 2024 and 2026.”

“We are very excited to open the Alabama series in Tampa in 2023 and to add one of the most successful brands in American sports to a very exciting list of future opponents that will give our student-athletes and coaches a great opportunity to compete against the best programs in the nation,” USF AD Michael Kelly added. “We now have 15 games scheduled vs. SEC and ACC opponents in the next 10 years and I think our fans are really excited to see those teams come to Tampa as well as the opportunity to travel and cheer on the Bulls in those destinations. It’s going to be a lot of fun to be a USF fan.”

The teams previously met in back in 2003, which resulted in a one-sided affair in favor of the Crimson Tide 40-17 in Birmingham. Alabama also notably visited Raymond James Stadium during the 2017 National Championship Game in a thrilling 35-31 last second loss to Clemson.

USF also announced a previously scheduled home game against FAU was moved to Sept. 5, 2026 to accommodate recently announced series against Florida, Miami and Alabama.

As a result of the 2-for-1 series with the Bulls, the Crimson Tide’s 2023 schedule appears to be complete with additional non-conference home games against Texas, Central Michigan and Western Kentucky. The 2024 date is the first on the docket for Alabama that year and the 2026 date complements a trip to West Virginia.

USF, meanwhile, will also play Western Kentucky in 2023 during non-conference play and has a completed slate of games in 2024 with this announcement (including an impressive run of the Hilltoppers, N.C. State and Louisville the same season. In 2026, the Bulls also play at Louisville in addition to going to Tuscaloosa.

Texas approves two-year contract extension for Tom Herman

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With Texas being back (?), the football program’s sideline boss is being rewarded for getting the Longhorns there.

Amidst speculation that surfaced earlier this month, the university confirmed Thursday that a two-year contract extension for Tom Herman has been approved.  The head coach is now signed through the 2023 season, the same season, incidentally, a home-and-home with Alabama will finish up.

According to the Associated Press, the two-year extension is worth a total of $13.25 million.  This past year, Herman’s $5.5 million in compensation was ninth nationally and tops among all Big 12 coaches.

“I’m so grateful for President [Greg] Fenves, [athletic director] Chris Del Conte and the UT Board of Regents, and for all the support they provide me, my family and our football program,” Herman said in a statement. “I truly love being the head football coach at Texas. I’m enjoying every minute of it, am so fortunate to have a tremendous staff, and the players in our program are just awesome to work with.

“We’ve done some good things, but have so much more we are preparing to accomplish. I’m excited for the future.”

After a 7-6 first season in Austin, Herman guided UT to a 10-4 record in 2018, which included a Sugar Bowl win over fifth-ranked Georgia.  The 10 wins marked the first time the Longhorns hit double-digits since going 13-1 in 2009 under Mack Brown.

K-State’s leading receiver last two years to transfer

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The latest addition to the portal is a rather significant one.

In somewhat of a surprising development, a Kansas State official confirmed to CFT that Isaiah Zuber is now listed in the NCAA transfer database.  The official made sure to note that Zuber could return to K-State by pulling his name from the database; conversely, CFT will make sure to note that K-State has the option to pull the wide receiver’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered the portal.

As a graduate transfer, Zuber will be allowed to use his final season of eligibility immediately at his next stop.  As a highly-productive player, Zuber should be a highly sought after player in college football’s version of the free agent market.

Zuber led the Wildcats in receptions each of the past two seasons — 52 in 2018, 51 in 2017.  During his time in Little Manhattan, Zuber totaled 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns on 127 receptions.

P.J. Fleck doesn’t practice what he preaches when it comes to commitment

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P.J. Fleck thinks there’s a problem in this country, and he doesn’t have a clue how correct he is.

As you may or may not have noticed, the NCAA transfer database is wide open and has been doing a significant amount of business.  There’s not a day goes by where there aren’t multiple posts on CFT about Player X entering — or reentering, as the case may be — his name into the portal. And then there are high school prospects committing to one school while (gasp!) still taking visits to others.

The personnel movement both before and after entering the collegiate ranks has caused significant angst within the coaching profession, not the least of whom is the current Minnesota head coach.  From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

I have a rule: You commit to me, you can’t go see another place,” Fleck said. “Not because I’m insecure. But if you want to be committed, you’re going to be committed. Too many people teach young people to be committed but also one foot in and one foot out. … You’ve got to be all in.”

Or as Fleck termed it: “We have a problem in our society. We don’t have a problem in our program.

The problem with that?

In December of 2014, Fleck signed a six-year contract extension as the head football coach at Western Michigan.  Less than two years later, speculation was running rampant that he was the frontrunner for the Minnesota job; in January of 2017, Fleck was named the head coach of the Golden Gophers.

It’s easy to talk about loyalty and commitment when it’s somebody else’s, right coach?  Coaches are free to move above the country at their leisure, while the vast majority of the very same profession will do anything and everything to restrict a player’s movement to a situation the student-athlete feels is better for his future.

Fleck is right about there being a problem in the sport, but it sure as hell isn’t limited to player movement.

(Tip O’ the Cap: @CFAAEliteClips)