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Utah survives six turnovers to top BYU in the Holy War

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The first play of the Holy War’s return to the regular season after a multi-year absence turned out to be indicative of the rest of the game.

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill had his pass tipped by a receiver on the Cougars’ first snap, with the ball promptly plucked out the air by linebacker Sunia Tauteoli and returned 41 yards for a pick-six. The tone for the night set right off the bat, both teams seemed to go back-and-forth trying to out do each other in the turnover department.

Utah ended up surviving six giveaways on Saturday night in a wild game that had a little of everything at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Ultimately it resulted in a 20-19 Utes win that was their sixth straight (and perhaps most incredible) in the series from BYU.

Not to be outdone, the Cougars also threw two more interceptions to give the game a remarkable nine turnovers… before the end of the 3rd quarter. Hill finished the night 21-of-39 for 176 yards passing in his final meeting with the team’s in-state rival but couldn’t quite muster a second game-winning drive in as many weeks.

Utah quarterback Troy Williams also threw three interceptions in his first taste of the series but managed to come out on top in the end despite a shaky effort most of the game through the air. The offense pounded away at BYU’s defensive front to the tune of 169 yards on 42 carries but costly fumbles from multiple players hampered the team’s rhythm most of the night.

The wackiness of the game came to a crescendo in late in the 3rd quarter. Cougars safety Kai Nacua, who already had two interceptions on the night, was called for a controversial targeting penalty on a play in which he appeared to turn his shoulder on a hit that was eventually ruled incomplete. On the very next play, BYU picked Williams off and Nacua’s backup, Austin McChesney, was also called for targeting and ejected.

Both players will miss the first half of the team’s game against UCLA next week.

The entire sequence would have been the wacky highlight of the night had the Cougars not gone down in an equally wild ending. Utah kicked a short field goal that proved to be the deciding points late in the 4th quarter but Hill got the ball back wth 2:29 left on the clock. He eventually marched the Cougars down the field in a 13 play, 75 yard drive that would have tied the ball game up had new head coach Kalani Sitake opted to go for two and the win instead of gambling on overtime.

It was a decision he would probably want back as the stingy Utes defense swallowed up Hill on a quarterback draw that sealed the fate of their rivals to the south.

The final sequence was also emblematic of the latest interest (to neutrals, at least) chapter of the Holy War that continues to be one of the best rivalries in the West. Hopefully ball security is taken a little more seriously next year though.

Michigan to visit South Africa later this year

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After visiting Italy and France over the past two springs, Michigan is taking a break from Europe and hitting South Africa in 2019. Wolverines director of football operations Mark Taurisani made the announcement through his Twitter account on Tuesday.

Jim Harbaugh started the field trips (which are funded by Michigan donors) as part of an educational experience for Wolverines players. The 2017 Italy trip was incorporated with Michigan’s spring practice, but the Wolverines did not practice in France last year and will not practice in South Africa this year, either.

Specific dates and tour sites have not been announced. The Wolverines will leave after the completion of the spring semester, which concludes after Michigan’s April 13 spring game.

Michigan lands All-MAC graduate transfer from Central Michigan

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As a Detroit native, Mike Danna has probably spent his entire life hoping and wishing and believing he could play at Michigan. While playing at Warren De La Salle Collegiate High School, he probably thought it. Throughout the recruiting process, when Michigan didn’t offer him and he signed at Central Michigan, he probably thought it.

Now he’ll get a chance to prove it.

Danna on Tuesday announced he was leaving CMU to spend his final college season with the big boys in Ann Arbor.

The 6-foot-2, 257-pound defensive end won the Herb Deromedi Award as CMU’s most valuable player after collecting 66 tackles, a team-high 15 TFLs and 9.5 sacks. He was named a First Team All-MAC honoree and a Pro Football Focus First Team All-American as well.

In three seasons as a Chippewa, Danna posted 151 tackles, 28 TFLs, 15 sacks and four forced fumbles.

While he may or may not start, Danna will be a significant contributor for the Wolverines in 2019. Michigan loses starting ends Chase Winovich (graduation) and Rashan Gary (draft), so Danna will team with senior Josh Uche (who led the team with eight sacks last season) and sophomore Aidan Hutchinson.

Miami to reportedly play Miami in 2023

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College football is notoriously hard to predict, but go ahead and mark this prediction down in ink: in the 2023 season, Miami will beat Miami.

Miami (Florida) will host Miami (Ohio) in 2023, according to FBSchedules. Neither school has announced the game as of this writing. The game will be played Sept. 2, 2023 at Hard Rock Stadium in Coral Gables, Fla.

In what has been previously dubbed the Confusion Bowl, the two Miamis have played three times previously, with the Hurricanes winning each time. All three games were in Miami, Fla., and green-and-orange Miami won by scores of 27-13 in 1945, 20-17 in 1946 and, most recently, 54-3 in 1987.

Miami (Ohio) will net $1.5 million for the trip, according to FBSchedules.

Miami (Fla.) has a home game with Texas A&M and a visit to Temple lined up elsewhere for 2023, while Miami (Ohio) will visit Cincinnati and host Liberty.

Brian VanGorder replaces Carl Pelini as Bowling Green DC

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After a little over two months on the job, one of the most glorious mustaches in all of college football has earned a promotion.

Tuesday, Bowling Green announced that Brian VanGorder has been named as first-year head coach Scot Loeffler‘s defensive coordinator.  In mid-December, the MAC school announced VanGorder’s hiring as linebackers coach and associate head coach.

VanGorder replaces Carl Pelini, who left last month to pursue another coaching opportunity.

VanGorder has served as a coordinator for a significant portion of the last decade, including stops at Louisville (2018), Notre Dame (2015-16), Auburn (2012) and the Atlanta Falcons (2008-11).  Prior to his one-year stint at Louisville, VanGorder served as a defensive analyst at both Georgia (2016, after he was fired by Notre Dame) and Oklahoma State (2017).

Interestingly, Bowling Green will travel to South Bend Oct. 5 this year to take on Notre Dame.

With VanGorder’s promotion, the Falcons also announced that Jim Herrmann has been hired to replace the new defensive coordinator as linebackers coach.  Herrmann will also carry the title of associate head coach.

Herrmann has spent the past baker’s dozen seasons as linebackers coach at the NFL level, with stops with the Indianapolis Colts (2016-18), New York Giants (2009-15) and New York Jets (2006-08) dotting his résumé.  His last college job at this level came during a lengthy stint at his alma mater Michigan (1985-2005).  The last nine years of his time in Ann Arbor, Herrmann worked as the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator.