WHO: Utah State (6-6) vs. New Mexico State (6-6)
WHAT: The third Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
WHERE: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona
THE SKINNY: New Mexico State has not played in a bowl game since 1960, but winning their final two games of the regular season allowed the Aggies that elusive opportunity to play in a bowl game in their final game representing the Sun Belt Conference. So, how did they get here?
It began by giving Arizona State a serious run in the opener and building confidence the following week against New Mexico. With wins in three of their final four games, quarterback Tyler Rogers and 1,000-yard receiver Jaleel Scott helped achieve the long-thought impossible by reaching six wins. It has been a long work in progress for head coach Doug Martin, who has guided New Mexico State into the Sun Belt Conference after a year left astray following conference realignment and the implosion of the old WAC. Now, with the future seeing New Mexico State return to independence, the Aggies hope their improving offense can keep up the momentum against Utah State.
Utah State had a bumpy season with a good handful of lopsided losses, but Matt Wells has managed to keep these Aggies chugging forward. The past few seasons have been rough at times for Utah State, but a chance to hit seven wins and build some momentum for the offseason is one Utah State can take advantage of. It will start up front with the offensive line providing some good blocking. Linemen Roman Andrus and Quin Ficklin received honorable mentions from the MWC this season, but they will need a good showing from redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Love (1,377 passing yards, 8 TDs) and running back LaJuan Hunt to end the season on a high note. Love has been building confidence this season, and the extra time to prepare for this game may bode well for him and Utah State.
THE PICK: Utah State 24, New Mexico State 17
Mississippi State has officially responded publicly to the brouhaha kicked up by their new head football coach.
Last Thursday, Mike Leach sent out a tweet in which he apologized for anyone he offended in a previous tweet. In the controversial tweet in question, the caption read “After 2 weeks of quarantine with her husband, Gertrude decided to knit him a scarf..” The picture attached to it? An elderly woman knitting a noose.
A handful of Leach’s followers were offended by the tweet. In response to Leach’s original tweet, Mississippi State football player Fabien Lovett wrote simply, “Wtf.” Lovett soon thereafter announced that he was entering the transfer portal; his father confirmed later that the tweet played a role. Monday, one of Lovett’s, Brevyn Jones, announced that he too will be transferring.
In the midst of that social media maelstrom, Mississippi State had been largely silent. Until now. In a statement, MSU athletic director John Cohen expressed disappointment in Leach’s tweet. He also stated that the university is confident that Leach has learned from what was described as a “misstep.”
Below is the statement, in its entirety.
No matter the context, for many Americans the image of a noose is never appropriate and that’s particularly true in the South and in Mississippi. Mississippi State University was disappointed in the use of such an image in a tweet by Coach Mike Leach. He removed the tweet and issued a public apology. The university is confident that Coach Leach is moving quickly and sincerely past this unintended misstep and will provide the leadership for our student-athletes and excitement for our football program that our fans deserve and that our students and alumni will be proud to support.
To ensure that Leach has learned from his “misstep,” Mississippi State also announced the following steps it will take when it comes to its head football coach.
Cohen said that a plan is in place for Coach Leach to participate in additional listening sessions with student, alumni, and community groups and to provide the coach with opportunities to expand his cultural awareness of Mississippi. One of those opportunities will include a guided visit to the “Two Museums” – the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum – in Jackson as soon as restrictions from the current public health crisis will allow.
Arizona State linebacker Tyler Johnson announced after the Sun Devils’ Sun Bowl win that he planned to retire from football for medical reasons. On Tuesday, Sun Devil Source reported Johnson has changed his mind.
A 6-foot-5, 258-pound junior defensive lineman, Johnson collected 22 tackles, 5.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 2019 while battling injuries throughout.
Johnson recorded four sacks in the final seven games of his redshirt freshman season of 2018.
Considered one of Arizona State’s best pass rushers when healthy, Johnson is expected to move from linebacker to defensive end as the Sun Devils move from a 3-3-5 to a 4-3 scheme.
In arguing that coaches should get back to work on May 1 and the season should start on time, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy inadvertently argued that college football players are professional athletes. That, or indentured servants.
In an hourlong teleconference Tuesday that began with a 20-minute monologue, Gundy said, though he’s not 100 percent, the season should begin on time because players are young and, thus, “have the ability to fight this virus off” and because “we need to run money through the state of Oklahoma.”
He also said there are “too many people that are relying on” college football the sport not to be played.
Gundy floated the idea that games could be played without fans in the stands and students on campus.
Others can debate about Gundy’s thoughts on testing and antibodies and the ability of a 22-year-old to “fight off COVID-19” — though I’d add Boise assistant Zac Alley, a 26-year-old, said his bout with the disease was like breathing with a knife in his ribs — but I’d like to talk about the economic implications of Gundy’s comments.
Gundy is not wrong at all that plenty of families depend on college athletics to put food on the table and that Cowboy football is an important economic engine of the state of Oklahoma. He’s exactly right, of course.
But to argue that a college scholarship is appropriate compensation for risking exposure to the virus while fans and students remain home — “We’re trying to find a way to pay everybody’s salary and keep the economy going.” — then either the players deserve a cut of that economy, or they’re nothing more than indentured servants whose labor belongs to others.
“I’m not taking away from the danger of people getting sick,” Gundy said. “You have the virus, stay healthy, try to do what we can to help people that are sick, and we’re losing lives, which is just terrible. The second part of it is that we still have to schedule and continue to move forward as life goes on and help those people.”
Boise State assistant coach Zac Alley revealed to reporters on Tuesday that is among the 392,000 and counting Americans to test positive for COVID-19. And he said it was terrible.
“I had no symptoms, no anything, and in about a 24-hour period I went from 0 to 100,” Alley told the Idaho Press. “I just had some sharp pains in my chest and all that. It got to a point that night where I was pretty short of breath and couldn’t breathe, and thankfully my girlfriend was like ‘we’re going to the ER’. When we got there they were saying thank God you came in.
“Every breath was kind of like taking a knife and sticking it through your ribs.”
Alley, 26, is in his second year on Boise State’s staff, where he coaches the Broncos’ outside linebackers and co-coordinates the special teams. He spent his previous eight years at Clemson as an undergraduate and graduate assistant.
He said he and his girlfriend quarantined at home as all good citizens have, and the only place he’d ventured out was the grocery store, where he theorizes he contracted the coronavirus from a shopping cart.
“As a young healthy person I didn’t think it would affect me as drastically as it did,” Alley said. “I mean my health deteriorated so fast and really I didn’t show any traditional symptoms of what they were saying other than the shortness of breath.”
Alley spent one day at the hospital but was discharged the same day. He is now symptom free.