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Big (12) Statement: No. 15 Houston takes down No. 3 OU

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They didn’t just win it, they ran away with it.

No. 15 Houston raced past No. 3 Oklahoma on the back of a 30-7 run to beat the Sooners 33-23 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Greg Ward, Jr., led the day for Houston, hitting 23-of-40 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns, while Texas transfer Duke Catalon pounded out 88 yards on 22 carries. After a rough start, Houston’s defense proved stronger than Oklahoma’s offense, especially up front. Houston limited OU’s powerful running game to just 70 yards on 2.7 yards per carry while holding Oklahoma to just six points in the second half.

The win gives Houston back-to-back wins over AP Top 10 teams for the first time in school history, and will send the Cougars into the Top 10 in the regular season for just the second time since 1991. For Oklahoma, it’s the third time in the past 12 seasons the Sooners have started the season in the AP Top 10 and lost their opener to a non-Power 5 opponent, mirroring opening day losses to TCU in 2005 and to BYU in 2009.

Oklahoma’s offense started roaring out of the gate. The Sooners marched 79 yards on eight plays for an opening drive touchdown, capped by a 30-yard Joe Mixon run, then hit a 60-yard connection to Mixon from Baker Mayfield on their next snap. That drive ended in a field goal, giving OU a 10-3 lead at the time. Houston rallied to take a 13-10 lead, but Oklahoma ripped it right back on a 64-yard pitch-and-catch to a wiiiiiiide open Mark Andrews.

But Houston proved to be the deeper, more physical, better coached team.

The Cougars used two Ty Cummings field goal to take a 19-17 lead at the half, then pushed the advantage to 26-17 on a 109-yard — and, really, 109.999-yard — kick six by Brandon Wilson.

After forcing a fumble on their next defensive possession, Houston marched 51 yards in 12 plays, culminating in a two-yard toss from Ward to Tyler McCloskey to push the lead to 33-17 with 2:15 to play in the third quarter.

While Houston’s special teams and offense grabbed the lead, the defense maintained it. After allowing Andrews the uncovered touchdown, Houston limited Oklahoma to three punts, the kick six, two fumbles and a Hail Mary of a turnover on downs, in which Oklahoma felt its best option, trailing 33-17 midway through the fourth quarter, was to go for a 4th-and-16 at its own 44. The play ended in Yakety Sax fashion, with Mixon picking up a Mayfield fumble and running himself into a seven-yard loss. Mayfield, by the way, hit all nine of his passes in the first half and ended the day with a worse-than-it-looked-on-the-field 24-of-33 for 323 yards and two touchdowns. Mixon led Oklahoma with 124 total yards on 11 touches, and Samaje Perine posted a quiet six carries for 31 yards after missing most of the game with a shoulder injury.

Houston committed its only mistake of the day on the ensuing possession as Ward fumbled a zone read exchange near the Oklahoma goal line, turning a potential 40-17 coffin nail score into a breath of life for Oklahoma. The Sooners responded by marching 80 yards in eight plays, but Mayfield’s two-point pass fell incomplete.

The Cougars recovered the ensuing onside kick and exhausted the 2:05 remaining on the clock.

 

For Houston (1-0), it’s arguably the biggest win in school history. The win keeps their — however faint — national title hopes alive while also proving the program can match and better the Big 12’s premier program on the field. This game was not an audition, win or lose, but it is an incredibly nice showing in front of expansion power brokers in OU president David Boren and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

And for Oklahoma (0-1), it’s a scene from many recent horror movies. The 2005 and 2009 opening day upsets led to disappointing eight-win seasons for the Sooners. In fact, the last four seasons that opened with Oklahoma ranked in the AP’s top four, as they were today, ended in disappointment. This one appears headed that way as well, with a defense that couldn’t get Houston off the field, an offense that had no counter-punches to Houston’s defense and a schedule that sends Ohio State to Norman in two weeks.

 

Rutgers AD takes to Twitter to support head coach Chris Ash, downplay any hot seat talk

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We’re weeks away from the 2018 season beginning and with media days underway across the country, there’s inevitably some talk of which coaches are on the hot seat and who might be a few losses away from feeling the heat.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd complies a list every year of who might be feeling some pressure and who is safer than can be around the sport. One of the coaches who he listed as ‘start improving now’ (or a 4 on a 1-5 hot seat scale) was Rutgers head coach Chris Ash. The Scarlet Knights job is one of the hardest in football given their place in the Big Ten and while there has been some progress in the rebuild, Ash is 6-18 overall and only picked up his first conference win last season.

It’s only Year 3 of Ash’s tenure though and it seems that kind of pressure isn’t quite reflecting reality from the administration as athletic director Pat Hobbs took to his Twitter account on Saturday to say that there’s no hot seat at all for the young head coach:

We’re sure that Ash appreciates the extra bit of support publicly in what he’s doing with the program but something says he’ll be asked to comment about the whole thing next week at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. The Scarlet Knights certainly looked much improved in 2017 between the lines but digging out of such a big hole for the program is going to only get tougher as they try to get over the hump and make a bowl game in 2018.

Bowling Green dismisses two players for illegal use of school credit cards

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We’re just over a few weeks from fall camp starting around the country so needless to say, it’s a bad time to lose some players. Such is unfortunately the case for Mike Jinks at Bowling Green however as the program just dismissed two members of the team’s defense.

According to The Toledo Blade, redshirt sophomore linebackers Armani Posey and Dirion Hutchins were both dismissed “as a result of an investigation into the illegal use of credit/debit cards that belonged to the school.” Bowling Green later confirmed that the two players were no longer on the roster.

Posey, also a student and member of the football team, was charged June 26 with receiving stolen property and unauthorized use of property. He was found guilty July 9 of unauthorized use of property, a misdemeanor, in Bowling Green Municipal Court and was given a 180-day jail term that was suspended. The terms of his probation include having no criminal offenses for the next two years, paying $2,000 restitution to the Bowling Green athletics department, and paying a $500 fine.

The charges are the result of a police investigation that began after the university discovered irregular charges on debit card accounts designated for athletic book scholarships. Investigators think the cards were used by those who had the card numbers and security codes.

Mr. Hutchins is accused of taking money off the cards and placed them in a PayPal or Squareup account, then transferred to a bank and liquidated for cash. All told, he is accused of making 27 deposits and taking $9,066 between April 23 and June 26, court documents show.

The illegal usage of school credit cards has been a growing issue in college football the past few years. Just recently, as many as eight Rutgers players were being investigated for the same kind of scheme and some nine Florida Gators were suspended last season for similar reasons.

It’s also been a trying offseason for the Falcons themselves even prior to this latest bit of news. Defensive back and part-time starter Cam Jefferies announced a graduate transfer, wideout Matthew Wilcox was picked up for his second OVI in April, fellow receiver Datin Guyton was dismissed and lost their kicker due to a bizarre eligibility case.

Now on top of all of that, BGSU loses a five-game starter in Posey and a pass-rusher in Hutchins who played in every game last season. Not exactly what you want to have go on during the offseason when you’re coming off a 2-10 year and facing a non-conference schedule with three Power Five foes. The Falcons open at Oregon on September 1st.

Oregon State handed secondary violation for sending mail to Hawaii players

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It has been a pretty slow offseason in college football overall but one of the bigger stories of the past few months had to come back in May when Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich tweeted (and later deleted) a photo of some recruiting mail from Oregon State aimed at current Rainbow Warriors players. The minor scandal over a Pac-12 school trying to poach a few players so early into Beavers head coach Jonathan Smith‘s tenure was obviously quite the black mark and also had the added layer of several of his new assistants at one time having been coaches at Hawaii.

Now we know exactly what kind of NCAA violations the school committed and spoiler alert, it’s quite minor. Per The Oregonian, the program self-reported a secondary violation as a result of the mailings and were barred by the NCAA from “recruiting the unnamed player in question should he elect to transfer.”

“We initiated a self-report to the NCAA once we learned the inadvertent mistake was made,” Oregon State associate athletic director of communications Steve Fenk said in a statement to the paper. “We admit and understand that what we did was an unintentional violation. The punishment fits. We didn’t try to do anything covert. It was an honest mistake that we took responsibility for.”

No harm no foul all things considered but the whole incident makes that trip to Hawaii for Oregon State in 2019 a lot more interesting now.

Ole Miss hopes to hear back about NCAA appeal this fall, self-reports Level III violation for fans contacting recruits

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It was quite the week for Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke. First he faced the firing squad of media members at SEC Media Days in Atlanta and then he shuffled off to attend the school’s hearing in front of the NCAA Infraction Appeals Committee on Wednesday.

Per the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the Rebels are hoping for a decision on reducing their bowl ban and other restrictions at some point during this season:

(AD Ross) Bjork and football coach Matt Luke both said they expect the Infraction Appeals Committee to release its final decision, which will either confirm or revise the Committee on Infractions’ conclusions, sometime this fall. Bjork said Ole Miss has not been given a more specific timeline. The COI handed down penalties that included a two-year bowl ban, recruiting restrictions, financial penalties and probation for 21 allegations of violations.

But that’s not the only bit of news surrounding violations at the school this week.

Bjork confirmed to the paper that Ole Miss has self-reported a Level III violation to the SEC league office after a group of fans/boosters improperly contacted recruits through social media sometime late last year. The AD termed the behavior as “direct and deliberate,” resulting in the violation of NCAA rules limiting the contact with recruits. While that minor violation is unlikely to have any impact on the appeal, it’s notable because many of the initial major violations the school was hit for last year involved improper contact with boosters.

NCAA appeals in general are rarely successful so there’s still only a slim chance that the Rebels become eligible for a bowl game this year but until everything is exhausted in the process, Luke and the rest of the folks at Ole Miss can still hold out some hope that they might get a little relief come postseason time.