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Longhorns get contributions all over to top old Big 12 rival Missouri in the Texas Bowl

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Michael Dickson may not be in the same conversation as Vince Young when it comes to heroic performances in the annals of Texas football but he certainly was — no joke — operating at the same level on Wednesday night. The NFL-bound punter and Ray Guy Award winner put on a special teams masterclass to help the Longhorns (7-6) beat old Big 12 rival Missouri (7-6) in the Texas Bowl 33-16 and cap off the first season of the Tom Herman era with a victory.

Hard as it is to believe, Dickson was a well deserved MVP even if the other two phases of the game also played a big role in delivering Texas their first winning season since 2013. He punted 11 times in the game for nearly 500 yards but most impressively nailed 10 of those punts inside the Missouri 20 yard line.

That backed the Tigers up on a consistent basis and played a huge role in the team’s average starting field position being their own 16 yard line.

Of course it didn’t help that they couldn’t get much going offensively as quarterback Drew Lock came back down to Earth after a hot second half of the season and threw for only 269 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Some of his performance could be attributed to offensive coordinator Josh Heupel departing early in bowl preparations to take the UCF job but it was still a pretty rough outing after the team entered the game as one of the most high-powered attacks in the SEC.

The Longhorns offense wasn’t a world-beater themselves but they had their moments after an inconsistent 2017 campaign. Freshman Sam Ehllinger had a nice game to send him into the offseason with momentum by going 11-of-15 for 112 yards in the air with a touchdown and 17 yards rushing. Fellow signal-caller Shane Buechele was also part of the rotation behind center and threw a touchdown to kick off scoring in the first quarter.

Freshman tailback Daniel Young was the star of the show however and took full advantage of transfers, injuries and suspensions at the position to post a breakout performance. He led the team with 48 yards rushing and led the Horns in receiving as well, hauling in three passes for 64 yards and a wide-open touchdown.

Not to be out done, Todd Orlando’s defense also showed why they were one of the better units in the country this season and proved to be more than capable of replacing a few stars with star defensive back DeShon Elliott off to the NFL and linebacker Malik Jefferson unable to play due to injury. Anthony Wheeler scored Texas’ eighth non-offensive touchdown of the year (most in the FBS) when he recovered a fumble and rumbled 38 yards to the house to help break things open in the second quarter. Corner Davante Davis didn’t wind up in the end zone but may have been more productive with six tackles, a forced fumble and an interception.

While the loss isn’t what Missouri was looking for against their old conference rival, it was still a heck of a turnaround for the Tigers to even play in the game after the start they had, much less to capture seven wins. A lot of eyes will be on Barry Odom over the next few weeks though as he has some big decisions ahead when it comes to his coaching staff and particularly with a pair of new coordinators.

As far as the Longhorns go it was a nice way to close out the beginning of the Herman era on the 40 Acres even if the year overall is a bit of a disappointment given the expectations in Austin. A bowl victory, a winning season, a top three recruiting class and the bulk of the team returning for 2018 is a nice way to transition into Year 2 however and could just what Texas needs to get back on track after a few years in the college football desert.

Stanford grinds out win on the road over Arizona State to remain in the Pac-12 hunt

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Stanford’s offense was stuck in quicksand out in the desert early against Arizona State.

Eventually though, the Cardinal found their way out of a tricky situation on the road to embark on a string of scoring drives that helped them capture a 20-13 win over the Sun Devils in Tempe on Thursday night and keep their Pac-12 title hopes alive in the process.

With an ailing Bryce Love (21 yards on 11 carries) re-injuring his ankle early in the second half and the team unable to mount much consistency running the ball either way, Stanford put the game in the hands of their budding quarterback K.J. Costello by utilizing a ball-control version of the Air Raid. The young signal-caller went 22-of-29 for 231 yards and a touchdown while helping spark a run of four straight scoring drives surrounding halftime that essentially won them the game on a lackluster night when it came to offense.

Lengthy wideout JJ Arcega-Whiteside managed to find the end zone for a ninth time this season (on a non-jump ball, no less) and record 91 yards while Trent Irwin was not far behind with seven catches for 79 yards. Cameron Scarlett was the primary guy after Love in the backfield with 54 yards and a touchdown with Stanford winning the time of possession battle by nearly nine minutes.

Though the final score wound up close for the home team, the Sun Devils were doomed throughout the night by something extremely uncharacteristic: turnovers. ASU game into the game with just two giveaways all season but wound up with three total and could have had one more if not for a kind replay review operator for the Pac-12. QB Manny Wilkins was responsible for two of those turnovers, fumbling in the first half on a designed run and then throwing an awful arm punt-esque interception that Sean Barton easily picked off. The signal-caller finished with 353 yards passing all told but it was quite the up-and-down performance for the offense overall with only 13 points to show for it.

Sophomore tailback Eno Benjamin had one of his least productive games of the season at the wrong time with just 81 total yards just a few weeks removed from rushing for over 300 in another conference game. While his numbers (63 yards on seven catches) managed to look okay, star receiver N'Keal Harry had a fairly quiet game and didn’t do much as a punt returner either.

The loss, while far from the worst one suffered by a team in the valley of the sun on Thursday, was the fourth this season for Herm Edwards by one score or less and dropped the team to 1-3 in conference play. With trips to USC and Oregon upcoming and a home date with Utah still on the docket, rallying to make a bowl game will be no easy task going forward as the momentum from that big win over Michigan State has all but evaporated in Tempe.

As for David Shaw’s side, Stanford remains in the hunt in the Pac-12 North with just one loss and that key tie-breaker over the Ducks. If they truly want to contend in the conference though, the offense will need to step up in terms of rushing the football with Washington State and Washington posing serious challenges in the weeks ahead.

Those are concerns for another time however as the team will certainly celebrate a win that, while ugly at times, still counts all the same in the standings.

Bryce Love, N’Keal Harry bottled up in lackluster first half between Stanford and Arizona State

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If you asked any fan on the West Coast prior to the 2018 season who two of the most explosive playmakers were in the Pac-12, they would nearly all say it was a combination of Stanford’s Bryce Love and Arizona State’s N'Keal Harry.

Naturally when those two super exciting players got together in an actual football game, neither of their respective teams managed to do much at all offensively in a rather lackluster first half in Tempe on Thursday night. The Cardinal did manage to take a 6-3 lead going into the locker room after two quarters in a pivotal conference game for both teams but it wasn’t pretty — at all — in a game that was much more bad offense than it was good defense.

Love seemed to be hit in the backfield on just about every snap as Stanford once again struggled to run the ball consistently (2.7 yds/carry), with the one-time Heisman favorite recording just 13 yards on nine carries. That put a little extra pressure on quarterback K.J. Costello, who finished 13-of-19 for 123 yards in the first half while also dealing with a hand injury that was bleeding for most of the night.

Manny Wilkins did throw for 137 yards but fumbled on a designed run that was the team’s third turnover of the season. His running mate Eno Benjamin couldn’t get much going either with 19 yards on seven carries while Harry had three catches for only 16 yards and also threw an interception on a trick play.

Hopefully the halftime break is just what both sides need to breakout of their offensive slumps and get a little #Pac12AfterDark action going. Because as it stands, neither of these two teams have much to write home about after the first half.

Baylor-Texas Tech shifting from AT&T Stadium back to campus after moving off Thanksgiving date in 2019

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After several years of spending Thanksgiving in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Texas Tech and Baylor are returning to campus for their annual conference game and doing so much earlier than normal too.

As part of the Big 12’s release of the 2019 schedule on Thursday, the conference confirmed that the annual game will not be played on Thanksgiving weekend at AT&T Stadium — the site of the game since 2009, with one exception — and has instead been shifted to October 12 next season at the Bears home field of McLane Stadium in Waco. The return game will go back to Lubbock in 2020 at a future, unreleased date.

While some fans will delight in making the trip to the banks of the Brazos or heading out to West Texas for the first time in a while, it seems both schools would have preferred to remain at JerryWorld the week of Thanksgiving but scheduling at the stadium seemed to play an issue in the site not being available when the two teams needed it to be.

AT&T Stadium is quite busy that time of year between the Dallas Cowboys’ annual Thanksgiving game, Texas high school football playoffs at the venue and the Big 12 title game taking place in early December as well. It doesn’t sound like a return is being ruled out in the future but it will be 2021 at the earliest before that happens for the Bears and Red Raiders.

Bronco Mendenhall puts up $500,000 toward new Virginia football facility

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Ask any football coach what one of their top requests of their administration is and, outside of perhaps an increase in the staff salary pool, just about every one of them will reply with better facilities.

It seems Bronco Mendenhall is helping out his own cause on that front as the school announced that he and his wife Holly have pledged $500,000 that will go building the Cavaliers’ new football operations building.

“Holly and I are excited to be a part of the process that transforms Virginia football,” Mendenhall said in a statement. “We love developing young people through football and the new Football Operations Center will provide our young men a home where they can develop into exceptional football players, students and leaders.”

“I am very thankful that Bronco and Holly have further demonstrated their commitment to the University of Virginia with this gift,” added Virginia AD Carla Williams.” Bronco’s vision for the impact this facility will have on the football program is inspiring and I hope his and Holly’s gift will motivate others to invest in the future of Virginia student-athletes.”

The gift, the largest ever by a UVA head coach back to the school, is the first public pledge toward the Hoos’ $180 million master plan campaign that will see a complete revitalization of the campus’ athletic facilities. This includes a new football building located next to the team’s indoor practice facility/outdoor fields and will also include a full renovation to the existing McCue Center that the program currently calls home. Construction of the vast majority of the plan is expected to start in 2020.

The half-million dollar gift to the school won’t put a huge damper on Mendenhall’s wallet despite being a very nice gesture for the program. According to the USA Today salary database, the head coach will take home nearly $3.55 million in 2018 and seems firmly tied to the Cavs for the foreseeable future given his whopping $18 million buyout.