Associated Press

Troy makes Big Easy work of North Texas in New Orleans Bowl

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Troy jumped out to a big lead early, watched it dwindle to two points by halftime, then jumped out to another large lead to begin the second half and held onto it this time, exploding for a 50-30 win over North Texas in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

After watching a potential 29-7 lead in the second quarter turn into a 22-20 lead with North Texas getting the ball to open the second half, Troy intercepted North Texas quarterback Mason Fine at the Mean Green 27, which Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers capitalized on by hitting Damion Willis for a 24-yard fade and then scored one play later on a 1-yard keeper, giving Troy a 29-20 lead at the 13:33 mark of the third quarter.

The Trojans forced a three-and-out on UNT’s next drive, then moved 92 yards in just five plays, scoring on a 59-yard strike from Silvers to Tevaris McCormick. North Texas attempted to climb back in the game with a 13-play march, but Fine was sacked on a 3rd-and-3 play from the Troy 6-yard line and Mean Green head coach Seth Littrell elected for a 24-yard Trevor Moore field goal rather than a do-or-die fourth-down conversion, pulling the score to 36-23 at the 4:26 mark of the third quarter.

North Texas forced a three-and-out and accepted the ball at its own 33 with a chance to climb back in the game, but Tyler Murray effectively ended it by sacking Fine and forcing his third turnover inside UNT territory. The Trojans hopped on the ball at the Mean Green 13 and, after a penalty, scored on a 20-yard strike from Silvers (24-of-31 for 306 yards) to John Johnson, putting the game out of reach at 43-23 with 2:02 left in the third quarter.

The dagger came when North Texas coughed up its fourth minus-territory turnover of the game, a Michael Lawrence fumble at the UNT 47, and Silvers hit Willis for his fourth passing touchdown of the game and fifth total score, a 10-yard strike with 4:07 left in the game.

Fine completed the scoring with a 17-yard cosmetic touchdown pass to Turner Smiley with 28 seconds left. The Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, Fine completed 30-of-54 passes for 303 yards with three touchdowns while getting sacked six times and turning the ball over four times. Playing without leading rusher Jeffrey Wilson, North Texas mustered only 50 yards on running plays. Overall, Troy won the turnover battle 5-2 and out-gained the Mean Green 437-295.

The win allows Troy to conclude its best season since joining the Sun Belt in 2004. The Trojans claimed their first SBC crown since 2009, won their fourth bowl game ever and registered their first 11-win season since doing so as an FCS member in 1999. North Texas (9-5) dropped to 1-4 in its five New Orleans Bowl appearances, slunk to 2-7 all-time in bowl games, missed a shot at its first 10-win season since 1947 and fell to 2-9 all-time against Troy.

Troy accepted the ball to open the game and promptly rolled 80 yards in nine plays, capped by a 1-yard Josh Anderson scoring run. The Trojans immediately pushed the lead to two scores when North Texas quarterback Fine was sacked and fumbled at his own 14, setting up Anderson’s second touchdown run of the first half of the first quarter. Silvers hit Johnson for a 2-point conversion to stake the Trojans to a 15-0 lead at the 9:21 mark of the opening frame.

The Mean Green went three-and-out on their next possession but, facing the prospect of getting buried for the game in just the first quarter, the North Texas defense rose up when Joshua Wheeler sacked Silvers on third down at the Troy 39. The UNT offense awoke with an 11-play, 75-yard drive culminating in a 12-yard pass from Fine to Rico Bussey, Jr.

Anderson immediately responded with a 55-yard run on the final play of the first quarter, and Silvers completed the drive four plays later with a 7-yard strike to Willis at the 14:24 mark of the second quarter. North Texas attempted to return service with another touchdown, but Fine under-threw a wide open Bussey on 3rd-and-2 from the Troy 31 and his fourth down pass to Michael Lawrence was dropped.

Troy threatened to push its lead to three touchdowns on its next drive, moving to the North Texas 22, when disaster struck — a snap went over Silvers’s head and was scooped up by the Mean Green’s Colton McDonald, who returned the loose pigskin 56 yards for a touchdown. Fine’s 2-point conversion rush failed, but North Texas was still within 22-13 with 5:49 left in the first half.

North Texas had a golden opportunity to pull within one score of the Trojans when Kishawn McClain intercepted Silvers at the UNT 46 on Troy’s first play of the ensuing possession, but the Mean Green were forced to punt after just one first down.

But North Texas forced its third straight stop, this drive ended by another Wheeler sack, and Fine capitalized with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Lawrence with 49 seconds left before the break to pull the Mean Green within two.

Former Arizona head coach Dick Tomey being treated for lung cancer

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Sad news out of Tucson this week as Dick Tomey and his family has issued a statement that the former  Hawaii, San Jose State and Arizona head coach was undergoing treatment for lung cancer.

“Coach Dick Tomey was recently diagnosed with a type of lung cancer at Tucson Medical Center and is currently undergoing further tests this week at MD Anderson Medical Center in Houston, Texas,” the statement, obtained by the Arizona Daily Star, read. “We (Coach and his family) greatly appreciate all the people who have reached out to help in so many ways and all the expressions of love and well-wishes being sent our way from so many people. Following Coach Tomey’s example, our family is feeling very grateful and hopeful for a positive outcome.”

Tomey, now 80 years old, had an impressive resume after several stops out West, including a long stint at UCLA as an assistant before taking over as head coach of the Rainbow Warriors. He eventually became Hawaii’s winningest head coach by the time he left for Arizona, where he revived the program and became famed for being the architect of the ‘Desert Swarm’ defense. His best season with the Wildcats resulted in a 12-1 mark that included a top five finish in 1998.

Per the Daily Star, Tomey had moved back to Tucson in recent years to live full-time in retirement.

Count school presidents on board with renewing Texas-Texas A&M rivalry game

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Do you hear that? Could it actually be the start of détente in the Cold War between Texas and Texas A&M after realignment split the two bitter rivals apart?

Well, as usual in these cases, it’s best to be very cautiously optimistic about the most recent series of words coming out of both Austin and College Station. But make no mistake about it, there is at least some optimism that the Aggies and Longhorns could meet once again on the gridiron.

“It’s a storied rivalry of a hundred years or so,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves told the Austin American-Statesman. “We’ve told our ADs (athletic directors) to figure out a plan and bring it to us.”

“We’re supportive’ of renewing it.” A&M President Michael K. Young said. “Absolutely. We have been from Day One.”

The talk is good but it did come with some demurs about scheduling, such as the fact that both have games already on the non-conference docket for most of the next decade and other issues related to when they could actually get onto the field.

Young and Fenves are far from the only ones to call for the historic rivalry to be renewed in recent years. We’ve seen state legislators get involved, regents from both sides, head coaches like Tom Herman, both athletic directors and even the Texas governor call for the two teams to play each other again… mostly to no avail.

The Longhorns have a major opponent already on the schedule through 2029, including A&M’s fellow SEC opponents LSU, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia (plus Ohio State and Michigan). The Aggies, meanwhile, have an extra non-conference slot available but also have big names on the docket until 2027, including Colorado, Miami, Notre Dame and Arizona State.

As is typically the case, these two old rivals could renew their series if they really wanted to no matter what either side wants to say. They can claim scheduling conflicts all they want but it seems like it will still be another generation before the burnt orange clashes with the maroon white once again.

Despite taking big pay cut from being head coach, Urban Meyer still making six-figures with Ohio State going forward

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We’re approaching a month into Ryan Day’s tenure as the new head coach at Ohio State but the guy he  replaced just can’t seem to stay out of the headlines.

That would be one Urban Meyer, who is officially known by another title nowadays by being the Buckeyes’ “Assistant AD, Athletics Initiatives and Relations.” What exactly does that entail? Well Eleven Warriors put in an open records request to find out more and discovered it’s mostly a fundraising/public relations/development role that comes with a lovely $100,000 per year salary.

“The Assistant AD, Athletics Initiatives and Relations is responsible for fundraising and community relations initiatives and is committed to excellence and advancing Department of Athletics through its strategic plan,” a statement to the site said. “In alignment with the department’s mission and values, and in conjunction with the Executive Associate Athletics Director for Development, this position provides leadership and supports fundraising strategies for the Department of Athletics.  The Assistant AD, Athletics Initiatives and Relations will serve as an ambassador through numerous speaking engagements, service events, donor events, corporate events and engagements.”

While the $100k is notable, it’s a far cry from the over $7 million Meyer was supposed to make in 2019 had he remained in charge of OSU football. The six-figure salary isn’t all that he’ll be taking home either, as Meyer is reportedly signing on with Fox Sports to be a TV analyst for the network going forward.

Tennessee confirms Tee Martin is officially back on Rocky Top as an assistant

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Who says you can’t go home again? Tee Martin is certainly glad you can.

Tennessee confirmed reports on Saturday afternoon that the former Vols legend was indeed returning to Rocky Top as an assistant coach, set to fill an unspecified role on the offensive staff.

“I’m excited to welcome back Tee Martin as one of our assistant coaches,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said in a statement. “He coordinated some of the nation’s top offenses at USC, and he develops and identifies players as well as any coach in the country. He’s an excellent recruiter, and he is terrific at building relationships with his players. He cares about developing young men on and off the field. Tee was the quarterback on one of the greatest teams in school history, winning a national championship. He knows what it take to win here, and I’m excited to have him on our staff.”

Martin was an assistant at New Mexico and Kentucky before spending the past seven years at USC, rising all the way up to become the Trojans’ offensive coordinator. However he was first stripped of play-calling duties this past season by head coach Clay Helton and then not retained after the team failed to make a bowl game in 2018.

It’s not known what specific position group he will handle under new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney but Martin was highly regarded for his time as a recruiter and for developing wide receivers. However he could be going back to his roots to handle quarterbacks at Tennessee given that Brian Niedermeyer is on staff and coaches tight ends while David Johnson handles the Vols’ receivers.

Either way, the homecoming is a welcome one for many fans in orange and white who have to feel a bit like the band is getting back together to lead the program back into contention. Phillip Fulmer is of course athletic director and now Martin is back in the fold, returning to the place where he has a street named after him for his heroics in leading UT to the national championship some 20 years ago.