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Todd Graham takes blame for Arizona State’s mismanagement in Cactus Bowl

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For those who stayed up late enough to experience Pac-12 bowl action after dark on Saturday night and into the early Sunday hours, you were witness to some poor game management by Arizona State and head coach Todd Graham. Arizona State (6-7) lost to West Virginia (8-5) in the Cactus Bowl in Phoenix, 43-42, in part because Graham opted to kick an extra point to build a late six-point lead. Given the offensive trends in the game and the timing of the situation, going for two points was an easy call, and Graham blew it.

It’s my fault,” Graham said, accepting blame for the kicking of an extra-point instead of opting for a two-point conversion attempt with 4:56 to play. “We have a chart in the (coaches) box that we go by. We’re supposed to be going for two. We didn’t. Mismanagement on my part. That’s my responsibility.”

“Ball was snapped, kicked the extra point, tried to call a timeout. We had several things like that today. Not much to say about that—just mismanagement.”

There was more mismanagement, as Graham calls it, in the fourth quarter that resulted in a burned timeout. Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez kicked a 48-yard field goal to pull the Sun Devils to within one point of the Mountaineers in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Before the ensuing kickoff, Graham called for a timeout because Graham wanted to attempt an onsides kick but the wrong kickoff team was on the field.

“We were fixing to do an onside kick and we didn’t have the right personnel on the field,” he said. “Another mismanagement deal.”

That was quite a blunder of its own. The mistakes were there all night for Graham and the Sun Devils, such as a delay of game penalty on the first play of a drive, a false start penalty on third down that likely killed another drive that ended in a missed 40-yard field goal, and the list goes on.

Of course, you knew it wouldn’t be Arizona State’s night when plays like this were happening for West Virginia…

You can blame Graham for much more than those mental and coaching blunders (and one Arizona outlet is already calling it the lowest point of Graham’s career at Arizona State). Arizona State’s defense was ripped to shreds by Dana Holgorsen‘s West Virginia offense. The Mountaineers totaled 676 yards of offense, including 532 yards through the air by Skyler Howard (five touchdowns as well) with receivers Shelton Gibson and Ka’Raun White each going off for 100-yard nights 29 first downs.

It gets tiring watching coaches getting paid big money make such silly mistakes the way Graham made them last night.

Michigan, USC added to Fresno State’s future schedules

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A common opponent has been added to the schedules of both the Michigan and USC football teams.

Thursday, Fresno State announced that it has reached an agreement with the Michigan and USC football programs for future games.  The Wolverines game will be played in 2024 while the Bulldogs will face the Trojans.

Obviously, both of those contests will be road games for Fresno State.

The game against Michigan will mark the first-ever meeting between the schools.  Fresno State and USC have met five times previously, the first coming the first in 1992 and the most recent in 2019.  The Trojans own a 4-1 record in the mini-series, with that lone loss coming in the first-ever meeting.

This past season, the Trojans got past the Bulldogs but lost starting quarterback JT Daniels to torn ACL.

Fresno State and USC had also been scheduled to meet again in 2022 and 2025.  According to USC, that 2025 game has been moved to 2026.

Texas A&M pulls LBs coach from Wake Forest

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For its newest assistant, Texas A&M football turned to an ACC school.  And, a familiar face for that matter.

Thursday, A&M announced that Tyler Santucci has been hired by Fisher as linebackers coach.  Santucci will replace Bradley Dale Peveto, who was still under contract but won’t return for the 2020 season.

Santucci’s hiring marks a homecoming of sorts as the assistant spent the 2018 season as a defensive analyst for the Texas A&M football program.

Last season, Santucci was the linebackers coach at Wake Forest.  That was his first on-field job at the Power Five level.  His first on-field job at the FBS level came as linebackers coach at Texas State in 2016.

In 2017, Santucci was a defensive analyst at Notre Dame.  During that brief stint in South bend, Mike Elko was the Fighting Irish’s defensive coordinator, the same position he’s held with the Aggies since he was hired in January of 2018.

The first coaching job for Santucci, who played his college football at Stony Brook, was at his alma mater as safeties coach.

In Jimbo Fisher‘s second season in College Station, the Aggies posted an 8-5 record.  A&M has won both bowl games since Fisher took over the program.  After finishing tied for second in the SEC West his Fisher’s inaugural season, the Aggies dipped to fourth in 2019.

Ex-Michigan RB Jordan Castleberry transfers to Maryland

Jordan Castleberry is transferring from Michigan to Maryland.
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After one semester at Michigan, freshman running back Jordan Castleberry has transferred to Maryland. Castleberry announced his transfer decision on his Twitter account on Thursday.

Castleberry originally committed to West Virginia during his recruiting process out of high school. Shortly after his commitment to West Virginia, Michigan became a more likely recruiting victor. Castleberry enrolled at Michigan in July 2019.

Castleberry did not play for Michigan in 2019, so he can use the 2019 season as a redshirt year to preserve a year of eligibility. However, NCAA transfer rules will force Castleberry to sit out the 2020 season. This will not make Castleberry eligible for Maryland until the 2021 season, at which point he will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Ruffin McNeill steps away from Oklahoma and football to be with family

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Family will always be more important than football, which is why Ruffin McNeill will be putting football on hold for an undetermined amount of time. Oklahoma announced on Thursday that assistant head coach and outside linebackers coach McNeill will leave football to help take care of his father.

“This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make,” McNeill said in a statement released by Oklahoma. “But in the end, being near my dad was a necessary choice. Right now I need to be a son again and I need to help my brother and other family members take care of my dad, who is battling significant health issues. This is not retirement for me. I still want to coach in some form or fashion. But right now that can’t be the case. My focus needs to be on my dad back in North Carolina.”

“Ruffin means so much to me and to my family, and his family means so much to him,” Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said in a statement. “I know his decision to leave OU was a very difficult one, but was one he felt he had to make.”

Although McNeill said this is not a retirement decision and expressed a desire to continue coaching when the time is right, Riley confirmed the Sooners will be looking for a replacement on the staff.

“I still want to coach in some form or fashion,” McNeill said. “But right now that can’t be the case.”

McNeill joined the Oklahoma coaching staff under Riley in 2017.