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Defense leads Minnesota to Holiday Bowl win over Washington State

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The Holiday Bowl built its reputation over 39 Decembers by producing wild results. Tuesday night’s definition of wild was a game involving Mike Leach that didn’t produce a touchdown for either side until the 3:23 mark of the third quarter.

Minnesota’s defense shut down Washington State like few clubs have this season, leading the Gophers to a 17-12 victory in San Diego.

The game started as a typical outing for Washington State, as its first possession moved 76 yards over 17 plays and ended in a 26-yard Erik Powell field goal. A string of four straight punts was ended when Minnesota matched Wazzu’s field goal, a 43-yarder from Emmit Carpenter at the 7:26 mark of the second quarter.

Washington State led 6-3 at the half, but a pair of bad luck plays in the same corner of the same end zone defined the night for both teams. Facing a 3rd-and-22 with 38 seconds left in the first half, Washington State quarterback Luke Falk was ruled to have completed a 23-yard strike to C.J. Dimry, momentarily setting the Cougars up with a 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line. But the completion was overturned upon review, forcing Wazzu to settle for a 41-yard Powell field goal.

After a long Washington State drive to open the second half produced no points, Minnesota took its time crossing the field when it found itself facing its own third down at the Wazzu 13. Mitch Leidner overthrew a streaking Shannon Brooks in the end zone, but Marcellus Pittman inadvertently deflected the ball right into Brooks’s outstretched arms, literally handing Minnesota (9-4) what turned out to be the game’s deciding touchdown.

The clubs traded punts on the next six possessions until Washington State (8-5) went for a 4th-and-6 near midfield with 3:05 remaining. Falk had all day to throw but no one to throw the ball to, and his desperation heave was intercepted by Adekunle Ayinde and returned to the Wazzu 30. Four rushes later, Rodney Smith raced in for a 9-yard insurance touchdown with 2:06 to play. Washington State finally found the end zone with 19 ticks remaining on an 8-yard pass from Falk to Kyle Sweet, but his 2-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful. Falk came in needing two touchdown passes to match the Washington State school record of 92, but that record will have to wait until next season.

Minnesota defended 51 passes from Falk, surrendering 30 completions for only 264 yards — a 5.2 yards per attempt average that stands as the lowest of Falk’s season. Wazzu ran the ball 23 times for 39 yards on the night.

That performance allowed Minnesota to win a game in which Leidner completed 11-of-20 passes for only 129 yards with a touchdown while the Gophers mustered only 151 rushing yards on 3.8 yards per carry as a team.

Georgia third string QB Stetson Bennett considering transfer

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Georgia lost quarterback Jacob Eason to a transfer, but gained a younger, more highly-regarded signal caller in Justin Fields with the 2018 recruiting class. With Fields on the roster and Jake Fromm not going anywhere, another Bulldog quarterback is considering leaving as well.

Stetson Bennett IV — who, outside of the current U.S. Attorney General, sports the best Southern name in circulation — has told Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart he might rather leave than spend his career as the No. 3 man in Athens.

“He’s looking at some different options,” Smart told the Macon Telegraph. “Stetson has done a tremendous job for us. We’re really excited what he has done for us. We’re exhausting every option to try to keep Stetson with us. We think he’s a very talented young man. I’ve spoke on behalf of that multiple times. We hope we keep him here. He has not made that decision yet.”

Listed at an even 6-foot-nothing and 172 pounds, Bennett was a successful quarterback at Pierce County High School and listed as a 2-star recruit before choosing to walk-on at Georgia rather than take scholarship offers from Group of 5 and FCS programs. Bennett redshirted as a freshman in 2017, sharing Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year honors with three other players.

Should Bennett transfer, his stature and walk-on status would draw easy comparisons to Baker Mayfield, which is ironic considering Bennett was tasked with mimicking the 2017 Heisman winner ahead of Georgia’s Rose Bowl win over Oklahoma.

Both of Bennett’s parents are Georgia graduates, so leaving would be a tough decision for the redshirt freshman.

“We need to keep Stetson there and help us,” Smart told the Telegraph. “We don’t really have many other guys to be honest. We have two young quarterbacks who will be walk-ons, who we think are good players. But we’ve invested a lot in Stetson with the development he took this spring, and with what he did in bowl practices. I’m excited to see what he can do. We’re encouraging him to stay so he gets that opportunity. I certainly respect what he has done this far for the University of Georgia and he’s a really good student as well. We’re selling him on the University of Georgia education.”

Tulane extends Willie Fritz through 2023

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Major news on the Kansas football front came down the pike Tuesday when Tulane announced it has extended head coach Willie Fritz through 2023.

Wait, what? Let’s back up a bit.

Kansas fired AD Sheahon Zenger on Monday, citing that a “change in leadership is necessary” because “progress in key areas has been elusive.” While Kansas chancellor Douglas Girod did not come out and say this move was related to football, he did feel the need to mention head coach David Beaty in his release announcing Zenger’s firing. “In addition, earlier today I spoke with Coach Beaty and shared my expectation that he will continue recruiting hard and getting his team ready for the season,” Girod said.

It doesn’t take Leonardo DiCaprio to read Girod’s thoughts here. Beaty is 3-33 in three seasons as KU’s head coach, including a 1-26 mark in Big 12 play. Coaches that average a win a year don’t typically last until Year 5. Just last year, Nebraska cleared out its AD so the new AD could fire the existing football coach and hire a new one, and it appears Kansas is headed down the same path later this year.

With Beaty apparently on his way out, I tweeted on Monday where Kansas should direct its incoming search.

Fritz-to-Kansas makes sense on a number of levels. Fritz is a proven program builder, a more-with-less guy that won at Blinn Junior College, Central Missouri, Sam Houston State, Georgia Southern and, now, Tulane. Overall, Fritz is 202-89-1 with two junior college national titles and conference championships in three separate leagues — all at places that have no business posting a collective .693 winning percentage. Simply put, Kansas is the rebuild job of the century, and there is not a more proven general contractor than Fritz.

And even better for Kansas, Fritz seems likely to take the job. He’s a Sunflower State native and at an age — 58 — where he’d likely take any Power 5 job offer that came his way, lest it be the last one.

All that said, it did not seem a coincidence that Tulane announced an extension for Fritz on Tuesday, who is 9-15 in two seasons with the Green Wave.

“I couldn’t be more excited with the direction in which our football program is headed,” Fritz said in a statement. “It is an absolute joy to coach at this institution. We have total buy-in from everyone on our staff to our administration, and I know we have a bright future.”

With Tulane being a private school, financial terms were not disclosed, but the key number will be the buyout.

Of course, Fritz could also pass on a potential Kansas offer. Or he may not get an offer. Or the job may not open at all. But even the prospect of an offer has already turned into a win for him.

DB Craig Watts leaves USF, lands at Div. II school

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With transfer season in full swing, South Florida is the latest to see its roster sustain a bit of attrition.

Craig Watts took to his personal Twitter account Monday to reveal that he will be transferring from Charlie Strong‘s USF program.  The defensive back also posted a photo of him signing paperwork for Valdosta State, indicating a move to the Division II school.

As he’s dropping down a couple of levels, Watts, who’ll be a redshirt sophomore in 2018, will be eligible to play immediately this coming season.

After coming to the Bulls as a three-star recruit on 247Sports.com‘s composite board, Watts took a redshirt as a true freshman.  He played in 12 games last season and was credited with five tackles.

Nevada’s Devin Porter arrested for failure to appear

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After a dozen days, it’s time to, once again, flip the switch on a “Days Without An Arrest” reset.

The latest to do the off-field deed is Devin Porter, with the Reno Gazette Journal reporting that the Nevada linebacker was arrested over the weekend for failure to appear.  The redshirt junior had been scheduled to appear in court for a traffic citation.

From the Gazette Journal‘s report:

The charge is a misdemeanor. If a defendant skips a court date, a judge can issue a bench warrant for their arrest. If 30 days pass before a defendant surrenders himself, an additional charge for “failure to appear” can be issued. The maximum sentence for such issue includes four years in prison and/or $5,000 in fines, although both are rare.

Porter was issued a $415 bail, which he posted and was released.

Porter is a walk-on to the Wolf Pack football program who has yet to see any game action for the Mountain West Conference school.  According to the newspaper, “[h]is brother, Cliff, was a starter at left guard for Nevada as a sophomore last season before graduating early and giving up the rest of his eligibility.”

(Tip O’ the Cap: ArrestNation.com)