No. 18 ECU Pirates may stumble in polls despite 31-21 victory over UConn

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The No. 18 East Carolina Pirates secured a 31-21 victory over the Connecticut Huskies Thursday. But was it enough for the Pirates to remain the top non-Power Five program and the favorite to claim an appearance in a contract bowl?

Sometimes a win can be viewed as a loss.

The Pirates struggled against a Huskies squad that entered the game 1-5 and didn’t have a victory against a single FBS opponent this season. It wasn’t until six minutes left in the game that East Carolina finally pulled away from UConn.

When a non-power conference team trying to impress the College Football Playoff gets an opportunity to add style points to their resume on national television, it has to do so. East Carolina didn’t.

The Pirates moved the ball and racked up 580 total yards, but they weren’t able to complete drives most of the evening. UConn employed a bend-but-don’t-break, and the scheme worked.

If East Carolina isn’t putting up big scoring and yardage numbers, the team is nowhere near as impressive.

East Carolina’s primary competition as the top non-Power Five program is the Marshall Thundering Herd. Marshall is currently ranked 23rd overall in the AP Top 25. The Thundering Herd’s underwhelming schedule has prevented them from legitimately entering the national conversation. Yet, Marshall’s schedule doesn’t feature a team ranked lower than Connecticut.

Despite the lackluster effort, East Carolina did win the game. Ruffin McNeill‘s squad overcame adversity and was able to win a close contest even though everything didn’t go in their favor. The program still holds victories over the Virginia Tech Hokies and the No. 25 North Carolina Tar Heels.

Plus, very few teams feature a dynamic duo like quarterback Shane Carden and Justin Hardy. Carden was 38-of-64 passing Thursday for 445 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hardy, meanwhile, grabbed 14 passes for 186 yards. The impressive effort moved Hardy into second place among the FBS’ all-time receptions list.

The Huskies deserve some credit for knocking down the Pirates a notch. First-year head coach Bob Diaco has his team playing hard, and they seem to be figuring some things out. The defense plays sound football, while the offense was finally able to move the ball in stretches against East Carolina.

In the end, East Carolina is still the top non-Power Five program in college football, but the margin between the top team and the second team is much closer after Thursday night’s effort.

Buffalo again extends Lance Leipold’s contract

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For the Buffalo Bulls football program, it’s lather, rinse, repeat on the contractual front.

In February of 2019, Buffalo announced a new five-year contract for Lance Leipold.  A year and a couple of weeks later, the Bulls have announced that Leipold has agreed to a new five-year contract.

Leipold is now signed through the 2024 season.

“I’d like to first thank President Satish Tripathi and Mark Alnutt for this extension for our staff,” the Buffalo Bulls football head coach said in a statement. “We greatly appreciate the continued support of our administration in our pursuit of MAC championships and bowl appearances.”

Leipold just completed his fifth season with the Bulls.

In 2019, Buffalo claimed the program’s first-ever bowl win.  The Bulls also set a program record with 10 wins the year before, breaking the old mark of eight set twice (2008, 2013).  Some of the luster was taken off that historic campaign, though, as Buffalo suffered a come-from-ahead loss to Northern Illinois in the conference championship game and then coughed up four fumbles in a Dollar General Bowl loss to Troy.

Buffalo has won 24 games over the last three seasons, the second-most of any school in the Mid-American Conference over the same time and the most wins over a three-year span in school history.

“I’m very appreciative of Lance Leipold’s unwavering commitment and dedication to building a championship-caliber football program here at UB,” Alnutt said. “This program has seen outstanding growth and success both on and off the field during his tenure. I’m excited to work with Lance and his staff as we continue this positive trajectory for many years to come.”

Contractual details of the extension have not yet been revealed.  In 2019, Leipold’s $615,000 in guaranteed compensation was fifth among the 12 MAC coaches listed in the USA Today coaches salary database.

The announcement of the contract extension comes two days before the Buffalo Bulls football team kicks off its sixth spring practice under Leipold.

Ex-Rice football player pleads guilty in death of former teammate Blain Padgett

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A former Rice football player has acknowledged his role in the death of an ex-teammate.

In early March of 2018, Rice football player Blain Padgett was found dead in his apartment after he failed to show for a football workout and a wellness check was performed. In late June, the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the 21-year-old defensive end’s death was caused by the toxic effects of carfentanil, which was described as being designed originally as an elephant tranquilizer.

Seven months later, former Owls defensive lineman Stuart Mouchantaf was charged with manufacturing or delivery of a controlled substance in connection to Padgett’s death.  Authorities allege that it was Mouchantaf who sold Padgett the pills that directly led to his death.  That charge was a second-degree felony that carries a penalty ranging from five years to 99 years or life in prison.

Thursday, however, Mouchantaf pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute causing death and possession with the intent to distribute causing death.  Mouchantaf will be sentenced May 14.  He is facing 20 years-to-life and a fine of up to $1 million.

The 27-year-old Mouchantaf was a defensive tackle at Rice from 2012-15 after beginning his collegiate career at Blinn College.

In 2016, the 6-5, 250-pound Padgett was second on the team in tackles for loss with 5½ and led all Owls defensive linemen with 41 tackles.  He played in just three games in 2017 before going down with a shoulder injury. He also played in eight games as a true freshman in 2015, Mouchantaf’s last season with the Owls.

“You’ve got to remember he played football with Blain for one year, so we saw him on the football field,” Wyndi Marsh-Padgett, Blain’s mother, told the Houston Chronicle. “It’d be different if we didn’t know him at all. It’s hard to see him and think about. He has family. …

“We just miss [Blain] terribly. Miss him every day.”

Four-star 2020 recruit and Florida commit Marc Britt flips to Ole Miss

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Just a couple of months into his tenure as the Ole Miss football head coach, Lane Kiffin is already leaving his recruiting mark.

In November of last year, Marc Britt committed to play his college football at Florida.  The Early Signing Period came and went without the four-star 2020 prospect signing with the Gators.  On National Signing Day earlier this month, Britt didn’t put his Herbie Hancock on a National Letter of Intent with UF either.

A little over two weeks later, at a signing ceremony at his Miami high school, though, Britt confirmed that he had flipped his commitment to Ole Miss football.

Ole Miss football has not yet confirmed Britt’s signing.  Kiffin, though, has been retweeting reports of Britt’s flip on his personal Twitter account as well as the recruit’s own tweets.

Britt is a four-star 2020 recruit.  Coming out of high school in Miami, he’s rated as the No. 44 player regardless of position in the state of Florida.  247Sports.com’s composite has him listed as the No. 9 athlete in the country. Only two signees in the Rebels’ class this year are rated higher than Britt.

At this point, it’s unclear whether Britt will start his collegiate career as a wide receiver or a defensive back.

Ole Miss football currently has the No. 34 recruiting class in the country.  That would also be 12th in the 14-team SEC.

Re-Buff’d? Eric Bieniemy reportedly pulls name from Colorado search

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We don’t know yet who will be the next Colorado football head coach.  We do know (again), though, who it won’t be.

When Mel Tucker left for the Michigan State head job earlier this month, it triggered an unexpected coaching search at Colorado.  Current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator and former Colorado football Eric Bieniemy was immediately considered the front-runner, although speculation of late had him staying in the NFL.

Overnight, Mike Klis of the NBC affiliate in Denver reported that Bieniemy “notified his alma mater Wednesday night he would no longer seek the job.” ESPN‘s Adam Schefter subsequently confirmed that Bieniemy has withdrawn his name from consideration.

Klis wrote that, “[a]lthough Bieniemy never formally interviewed for the CU head job, he and school officials stayed in contact either personally or through his agent, even while he and his family kept a long-scheduled, 5-day vacation.”

The 50-year-old Bieniemy was a running back with the Buffaloes in the late eighties, finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting his senior season.  He began his coaching career at his alma mater as running backs coach in 2001-02.  He returned to Colorado football in 2011-12 as offensive coordinator.

Since 2013, Bieniemy has been a member of the Chiefs coaching staff.

So, to where does Colorado football now turn?  Air Force’s Troy Calhoun has seemingly taken the front-runner mantle in some corners — he interviewed for the CU job this week — while former Arkansas and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is in the mix as well.  Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian also interviewed for the job this week.  Like Bieniemy, the former USC and Washington head coach has opted to remain in his current job.

Since being rebuffed by both Sarkisian and Bieniemy, it’s believed that Colorado has decided to expand its search for the next head football coach.  That, of course, would mean the search could drag on into next week.