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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.

Vanderbilt brings in former Georgia, LSU assistant as WRs coach

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In filling a hole on his Vanderbilt football coaching staff, Derek Mason turned to an assistant with extensive experience in the SEC.

Tuesday, Vandy announced the addition of Tony Ball to Mason’s on-field staff. Moving forward, Ball will serve as the Commodores’ wide receiver.

Ball will replace Aaron Moorehead, who left for a job with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

As previously noted, Ball certainly has a deep history in the conference to which he’s coming. From 2006-14, he was the wide receivers coach (2009-14) and running backs coach (2006-08) at Georgia. In 2015, he was Les Miles’ receivers coach at LSU.

His other Power Five experience came as receivers coach at Virginia Tech from 1998-05.

“Tony Ball is a quality man who brings a wealth of experience and coaching success to our staff. We’ve attracted one of the nation’s top receivers coaches in Tony,” the Vanderbilt football head coach said in a statement. “Tony has been part of several successful programs, including Georgia, LSU and Virginia Tech. With Tony, we are getting a coach with a long track record of bringing the best out in his student-athletes.”

This past season, Ball served as the receivers coach and passing-game coordinator at UT-San Antonio. The two years prior to that, he was Louisiana Tech’s running backs coach.

Vanderbilt football is coming off a 3-9 season, its worst record since posting the same mark in Mason’s first season in 2014. In November of last year, athletic director Malcolm Turner confirmed Mason would be returning for the 2020 season. Three months later, Turner abruptly resigned his post.

Arkansas adds future home date with Louisiana Tech

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Arkansas will host Louisiana Tech on Nov. 23, 2024, the programs announced Tuesday.

The game will be at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

The meeting will be the fifth between the border neighbors. Arkansas has won the previous four, most recently taking a 21-20 decision in Fayetteville in 2016. The programs’ first meeting came in Ruston way back in 1901, a 16-0 Hogs victory. The two in-between meetings, in 1996 and ’97, both came in Little Rock.

The game completes Arkansas’s 2024 non-conference schedule. The Razorbacks previously arranged an Aug. 31 home date with Arkansas-Pine Bluff, a Sept. 7 visit to Oklahoma State and a Sept. 14 home game with Kent State.

Louisiana Tech still has one blank slate for the 2024 campaign. The Bulldogs are slated to visit NC State on Sept. 7 and host Tulsa two weeks after that.

Tulsa, Army ink 4-game series to begin in 2025

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As an independent, scheduling is a never-ending battle for Army, and the Black Knights scored a victory on Tuesday.

Tulsa announced it has agreed to a 4-game series with West Point, beginning in 2025. The series will begin Sept. 13, 2025 at Michie Stadium, then head to Tulsa on Sept. 19, 2026. The series will move later in the fall for the return trip to West Point — Nov. 13, 2027 — and then wrap up Oct. 21, 2028 at Tulsa’s Chapman Stadium.

The programs have met just once previously, a 49-39 Golden Hurricane victory on Nov. 17, 2007 at West Point.

Tulsa has two games on the slate already for each of the four seasons: at Oklahoma State and vs. Louisiana Tech in 2025; vs. Oklahoma State and at Arkansas in ’26; vs. Arkansas and at Oklahoma State in ’27; and then at Louisiana-Lafayette and home against Oklahoma State in 2028.

Army now has 10 games on the docket for 2025 and ’26, seven for 2027 and eight for 2028.

LSU loses RBs coach Tommie Robinson to Texas A&M, promotes Kevin Faulk

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The SEC is famously incestuous in its hiring practices, and within that large, cross-bred family is a series of clans that really like to hire off of each other. For instance, South Carolina likes to hire former Georgia players and coaches, and Georgia likes to hire away from Alabama.

And Texas A&M and LSU really like to hire each others’ people, with most of the traffic going east to west.

On Monday, TexAgs owner Billy Liucci reported that Texas A&M is set to hire LSU running backs coach Tommie Robinson for the same post in College Station.

At A&M, Robinson will work for former LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and former LSU tight ends coach Darrell Dickey and alongside former LSU wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig.

(By the way, A&M also employs former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson as its offensive line coach and former Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley as its tight ends coach.)

LSU’s running backs coach from 2017-19, Robinson helped develop Clyde Edwards-Helaire and sign 4-star Chris Curry (2018), 5-star John Emery, Jr. (2019) and 4-star Tyrion Davis-Price (2019). For that, he was the highest-paid running backs coach in the nation at $600,000 per year.

Presumably, he crossed state and enemy lines for a hefty raise.

With Robinson out the door, LSU moved quickly in tabbing former Tiger Kevin Faulk as its new running backs coach. The school’s all-time leading rusher with 4,557 yards and 46 touchdowns, Faulk was already on staff as director of player development.