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WKU outlasts La Tech in record-setting Conference USA championship game

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Western Kentucky (10-3) became the second program in Conference USA history to win back-to-back conference championship games on Saturday with a wild offensive shootout against Louisiana Tech (8-5), 58-44. Hilltoppers quarterback Mike White passed for 403 yards and four touchdowns and Anthony Wales led things on the ground with 194 rushing yards and three scores to push the home team past the Bulldogs.

Offenses for both teams were locked in from the start, with over 1,100 combined yards of offense. Louisiana Tech quarterback Ryan Higgins passed for 507 yards and three touchdowns, but Western Kentucky used a more balanced approach and had an advantage on the ground to help overcome three turnover sin the game. Wales carried the football 35 times for Western Kentucky and was a workhorse for them from start to finish, with the final touchdown of the game ultimately delivering the knockout punch to Louisiana Tech, who would throw an interception on their final possession.

With 102 combined points, Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech set a new combined points record for an FBS conference championship game. The previous record was 101 points, which was done twice. Wisconsin and Nebraska scored 101 point sin the 2012 Big Ten championship game (won by Wisconsin, 70-31) and Auburn and Missouri matched that point total the following season in the SEC Championship Game (won by Auburn, 59-42).

Coming into the game, Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz made it a point to say his team could not give up big plays if they were to get a win. Needless to say, that did not work out in his favor in this one.

The last time a school won back-to-back Conference USA championships was in 2008 and 2009 when East Carolina won consecutive titles. Perhaps in a bit of irony, Holtz was the coach of those ECU teams.

The future of the Western Kentucky program will be something to keep a close eye on. Head coach Jeff Brohm has been linked to various coaching rumors, most noticeably with the Purdue vacancy in the Big Ten. He has certainly proven worthy of being a hot name in the coaching carousel after coaching Western Kentucky to back-too-back 10-win seasons for the first time in program history.

For now, bowl destinations will have to be settled.

Broyles Award for top assistant narrows field to 15 semifinalists

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The most prestigious award a college football assistant can claim has significantly narrowed its list of potential winners.

Tuesday, the Broyles Award unveiled its 15 semifinalists for the 2018 version of its hardware.  Four of the semifinalists come from the SEC, while two each hail from the Big 12, Pac-12 and football independents.  The ACC has two of the 15 and the Big Ten has one.

Group of Five conferences account for three of the semifinalists as UAB, UCF and Utah State are all represented.  Army also accounts for one of the semifinalists.

Of the 15 semifinalists, seven are defensive coordinators and seven are offensive coordinators.  Just one position coach made the cut — UCF offensive line coach Glen Elarbee.

Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was the 2017 winner of the Broyles Award; the Tigers’ other offensive coordinator, Jeff Scott, is a semifinalist this year.

Alabama – Mike Locksley, Offensive Coordinator
Army – Jay Bateman, Defensive Coordinator
Cal – Tim DeRuyter, Defensive Coordinator/Outside Linebackers
Clemson – Jeff Scott, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers
Georgia – Sam Pittman, Offensive Line
LSU – Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator
Michigan – Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator
Mississippi State – Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
Notre Dame – Chip Long, Offensive Coordinator
Oklahoma – Bill Bedenbaugh, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
UAB – David Reeves, Defensive Coordinator
UCF – Glen Elarbee, Offensive Line
Utah State – David Yost, Offensive Coordinator/QBs
Washington State – Tracy Claeys, Defensive Coordinator
West Virginia – Jake Spavital, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks

Miami Hurricanes down to one healthy tight end, a walk-on

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To say that injuries at the tight end position have been an issue for Miami this season would be a significant understatement.

In early August, Michael Irvin II suffered an MCL injury in his right knee and will be out for up to four months.  In mid-September, the Hurricanes were down to two healthy scholarship tight ends when Brian Polendey suffered a season-ending injury.

Unbelievably, both of the remaining scholarship tight ends, Brevin Jordan (pictured) and Will Mallory, who are both true freshmen, were injured in last Saturday’s win over Virginia Tech.  Both Jordan, who is second on the team in receptions with 30, and Mallory will be sidelined for the regular-season finale against Pitt this weekend.

The good news is that, per head coach Mark Richt, the two tight ends should be healthy enough to return for a bowl game.  The bad news?  According to the Sun-Sentinel, the Hurricanes are now down to just one healthy tight end, and he’s a walk-on — Nicholas Ducheine.

The redshirt freshman Ducheine has appeared in two games this season — Week 2 vs. Savannah State, Week 12 vs. Tech — and is still looking for his first career reception.

Houston-Washington State to serve as 2019 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff Game

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With the curtain about to fall on the 2018 regular season, there’s some news on the next regular season on which to note.

Houston had already been scheduled to open the 2019 season against Washington State on Saturday, Sept. 14.  Tuesday, however, it was announced that that matchup has been selected as the 2019 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff Game.

The game will now be played Friday, Sept. 13, at NRG Stadium in Houston.

“We are excited to face a quality program such as the Houston Cougars next year in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff Game at NRG Stadium,” said Washington State athletic director Pat Chun in a statement. “It provides our fan base the opportunity to see a tremendous nonconference opponent in a great part of the country, while giving our student-athletes the chance to play in a world-class stadium.”

“We are honored to receive the invitation to participate in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff,” Chun’s counterpart, Chris Pezman, said in his statement. “We have fond memories from our last action in the event and look forward to creating more in front of our hometown fans in a primetime nationally-televised game.”

Houston has played in the Kickoff Classic one time previously, a 33-23 win over Oklahoma in 2016.  This will mark Wazzu’s first appearance in the game.

The two football teams have met three times previously, the first coming in 1959 and the most recent in the 1988 Aloha Bowl.  The Pac-12 Cougars own a 2-1 edge in the miniseries.

Report: UMass ‘moving on’ from Mark Whipple

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And then there were seven.

Last Saturday, UMass put the finishing touches on another underwhelming season as the Minutemen were pushed around by fifth-ranked Georgia in a 66-27 loss Between the Hedges.  Three days later, there will apparently be a change in leadership as Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports and The Athletic is reporting that the university is “moving on” from Mark Whipple as its head football coach.

An official announcement from UMass is expected at some point this week.

In his second stint with the Minutemen, Whipple has compiled a 16-44 record from 2014-18.  UMass has won four games each of the past two seasons after winning a combined eight in his first three years with the school.

Including UMass, there are now seven openings for head coach at the FBS level: Bowling Green, Charlotte, Colorado, Louisville, Maryland and Texas State.  The Kansas job had been open prior to Les Miles taking over the Jayhawks this past weekend.