For the second season in a row, Missouri ended its season with a win in a bowl game while representing the SEC. No. 16 Missouri pulled away from No. 25 Minnesota in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl Thursday afternoon in Orlando, Florida, winning 33-17 to even the SEC’s record against the Big Ten this bowl season.
Russell Hansbrough ripped off a 78-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to boost a two-point advantage over the Gophers to a 26-17 lead, and Maty Mauk completed a seven-yard touchdown pass to Bud Sasser later in the fourth quarter for what was effectively a knockout blow for the Tigers. Missouri shrugged aside a sluggish start to the game with a pair of turnovers by way of intercepted passes on the first two possessions of the afternoon, and came back to play a physical game. Mauk played a role in that as well with 38 hard-earned rushing yards and a touchdown that saw Mauk being the last man standing despite being tackled by one Minnesota player and another coming in for a helmet-to-helmet hit. Mauk was charged with emotion as his touchdown run gave Missouri a 19-14 lead following a failed two-point conversion attempt.
Minnesota may not have had many highlights, but tight end Maxx Williams may have turned in one of the best plays of the bowl season. Williams caught a pass and started to work his way down the left sideline. With a Missouri defended looking to force him out of bounds from the front, Williams took to the air to hurdle the defender. He then raced down field and left the Missouri defenders in the dust en route to an amazing 54-yards touchdown pass from Mitch Leidner.
The Tigers owned the advantage on the ground too. Marcus Murphy led all players with 157 rushing yards and Hansbrough added another 114 yards on the ground. Minnesota’s David Cobb ended his day with 81 rushing yards.
The win by Missouri was the fifth by the SEC this bowl season, improving the SEC’s bowl record to 5-4. That includes winning records against the ACC and Big 12 and a .500 mark against the Big Ten (with two more match-ups against the Big Ten to be played). The SEC East is now 3-0 in bowl action as well.
The Big Ten dropped to 3-4 as a result of this game, and with Michigan State trailing Baylor it looks as though the Big Ten is in at risk of a losing record this bowl season (Well, Michigan State just won, so forget about that thought for now). Ohio State and Iowa are the only two bowl teams remaining for the conference.
At some point this week, it’s expected UConn will confirm that its non-football sports will be leaving the American Athletic Conference and rejoining the Big East. It’s also expected that the AAC will not allow UConn to remain as a football-only member, creating a void for what would be an 11-team conference that would seemingly need to be filled.
As for who would replace UConn as a 12th team in the AAC, the rumor mill has run the gamut from current members of Conference USA to current members of the MAC to current members of the Sun Belt. However, a pair of FBS independents are currently the top choices to slide into that 12th slot — if they want it.
Of the two, Army would far and away make the most sense on multiple levels, given the geography — and the inherent travel costs — and the built-in rivalry with Navy. Of course, the addition of that service academy would also bring into question the timing of the annual mid-December Army-Navy game, which would normally be played after the AAC championship game.
Obviously, you couldn’t play a conference game, storied rivalry or not, after your league’s title game, so those logistics — and decades worth of history — would have to be worked out.
Then again, the AAC could move forward with 11 teams and not add any members, at least for now, as it mulls its football future. As one AAC official explained to CFT, going with one less than a dozen in football is much more desirable than adding an inferior fit just to keep the league at an even-number members.
As for UConn football? With the MAC and Conference USA reportedly not in the cards, it appears either FBS independence or dropping back down to the FCS level would be its only legitimate options moving forward.
Derrek Pitts was one of three safeties who opted to transfer from West Virginia within days of each other earlier this month. While Pitts may have left Morgantown, he won’t, as it turns out, be leaving God’s Country.
Monday, a Marshall official confirmed reports that had surfaced last week that Pitts has enrolled in classes at the university and will continue his collegiate playing career for the Thundering Herd.
Because of NCAA transfer rules, Pitts will very likely have to sit out the 2019 season. If that turns out to be the case, the defensive back would then have two seasons of eligibility beginning with the 2020 season.
A three-star member of the Mountaineers’ 2017 recruiting class, Pitts was the No. 2 player at any position in the state of West Virginia coming out of high school in Charleston.
Pitts played in 19 games during his time at WVU, starting a pair of those contests. He recorded his first and only interception at WVU in the Camping World Bowl loss to Syracuse last December, while he returned a blocked field goal 72 yards for a touchdown against Iowa State a couple of months earlier.
And then there were two.
As we noted last week, linebacker Shyheim Cullen, who had been academically suspended at Syracuse earlier in the offseason, announced that he had been “excepted” into the 2019 NFL supplemental draft. A day before that, however, it was reported that former West Virginia wide receiver Marcus Simms had filed his paperwork to enter the same draft in early July as well.
In late April, Simms seemed to indicate on his personal Twitter account that he would be transferring from the Mountaineers, although the “another chapter” to which he referred turned into leaving the collegiate game early for a shot at the NFL.
Simms finished his time in Morgantown with 1,457 yards and eight touchdowns on 87 receptions. The would’ve-been fourth-year senior set career-highs with 46 receptions for 699 yards this past season, totals that were both good for third on the Mountaineers.
Being a head football coach that is connected on Twitter can lead to some unfortunate moments you’d like to have back. In the case of UConn head coach Randy Edsall on Monday evening, a possible quick retweet of a link definitely came at the wrong time.
In a flurry of retweets showing off the recently renovated locker rooms the UConn Huskies will be using, it seems Edsall may have accidentally retweeted a link to a story that essentially suggests UConn is passing on its chance to be a big-time college football program. A tweet briefly retweeted by Edsall linked to a column by Mark Blaudschun of College Sports Maven. In his column, Blaudschun wrote about the recent headlines about UConn leaving the AAC to join the Big East in basketball and leave the football program stranded in uncharted waters.
“But the issue of football remains and there is really no answer that can make UConn a major player in the wide world of big time college football,” Blaudschun writes. “The dye has been cast. Big time football at UConn, RIP.”
Certainly, had Edsall read the story, then he would have refrained from retweeting the story. It didn’t take long for Edsall to remove the retweet from his Twitter timeline either.
Edsall has been busy on Twitter over the last couple of days following the reports the school was setting up to rejoin the Big East for basketball without a concrete plan for what will happen with the football program.
When you are tweeting as often as Edsall has been while trying to keep the spirits up for the Huskies football program and their fans, an accidental retweet is easy to let slip by. Mistakes happen. Edsall corrected this one and moved on doing what he needs to do to keep UConn football moving forward regardless of where “forward” actually leads for the program.