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Injuries, ejections and penalties the story of the first half of Music City Bowl

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Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson was taken off the field for further medical examination after appearing to injure his right leg on a trick play. Not long after that, an official tossed Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. from the game after making contact with an official. It’s been quite a first half in the Music City Bowl, where Northwestern leads Kentucky by a score of 17-7 at the half.

After Thorson hauled in a pass from Jeremy Larkin, Thorson appeared to injure his right leg before contact was made by the nearby Kentucky defender. The 23-yard gain was the result of a brilliant play call from the Northwestern sideline, but the loss of starting quarterback put the game on pause for a few moments before play resumed after Thorson was carted off.

Justin Jackson scored a touchdown on a five-yard run shortly after the Thorson injury. The run gave Northwestern a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. Earlier in the drive, Jackson became the 10th all-time leading rusher in college football history, passing Damion Fletcher of Southern Miss and Anthony Thompson of Indiana to move to No. 10 among FBS players. Jackson would add a second touchdown later in the second quarter to extend the Northwestern lead to 17-7. Matt Alviti came in to play quarterback for the Northwestern Wildcats.

On the ensuing possession, Kentucky’s top running back was ejected from the game after making contact with an official. The call, however, has left many wondering if the ref went a tad overboard with his decision. You decide for yourself if Snell should have been ejected for this?

The ref show once again popped up late in the second half when Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops and the Kentucky sideline appeared to want a late hit out of bounds call against Northwestern when quarterback Stephen Johnson was taken down on the sideline. No flag was called, until a ref decided to throw one on the Kentucky sideline for unsportsmanlike conduct. Johnson was taken off the field for possible medical attention, and he was seen jawing at a ref on his way off the field.

The officials didn’t just have all of their controversial calls on the Kentucky side. Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fisher was tossed from the game late in the first half for targeting, although it was one of many very questionable targeting calls we have seen in college football. It has not been a great day for this officiating crew, to say the least.

As the Music City Bowl goes to the second half, it is still up for grabs between the Wildcats of the Big Ten and SEC, if there are enough players to actually finish this game. Kentucky is looking for their first bowl victory since 2008. Northwestern is looking for back-to-back bowl wins

Former Oregon QB Braxton Burmeister lands at Virginia Tech

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Former Oregon quarterback Braxton Burmeister has signed with Virginia Tech, the Hokies announced on Saturday.

Burmeister signed with Oregon out of La Jolla Country Day High School in the San Diego area and made five starts as a true freshman in 2017 while stepping in for the injured Justin Herbert. His results were… that of a true freshman who had been trained to play only in mop-up duty, if at all. In 77 passes, Burmeister completed 57.1 percent of his throws for just 4.3 yards per attempt with two touchdowns against six interceptions.

Herbert returned to health in 2018, and as a result Burmeister returned to the bench. He threw just 10 passes in four appearances last fall.

Herbert elected to return for his senior season, and as a result Burmeister elected to enter the transfer portal. Even considering Herbert’s return, Burmeister’s decision to leave is a curious one, assuming he was still in good standing in Eugene. According to the Roanoke Times, Virginia Tech isn’t sure when he’ll enroll or his eligibility status, but the school does know he won’t arrive as a graduate transfer. Since he played in just four games last season, he could count 2018 as a redshirt year, but he’d need a waiver to play in 2019. Absent that waiver, the earliest he’d see the field for Virginia Tech would be as a junior in 2020… which is also when he’d be in line to succeed Herbert as Oregon’s starter.

Virginia Tech’s quarterback room has become the epicenter of sorts of college football’s free agency era. Former Hokies starter Josh Jackson has left for Maryland, and just this week fellow Hokie quarterback Hendon Hooker announced he’ll return to Blacksburg after dipping his toes in the transfer portal.

Ryan Willis started for Virginia Tech as a junior in 2019, but the Hokie derby appears on for 2020 and beyond.

Nevada, New Mexico State reportedly set for home-and-home in 2021-22

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Nevada and New Mexico State will play a home-and-home series in 2021-22, according to documents obtained by FBSchedules.

The Wolf Pack and Aggies will revive their series on Oct. 9, 2021 in Reno, with a return trip set for Sept. 17, 2022 in Las Cruces.

The pair have played 15 times previously, first in 1992 and most recently in 2011. Nevada holds a 13-2 edge and has won the last three; both of New Mexico State’s wins came in Reno. The pair were both members of the WAC from 2005 through 2011.

Nevada still has one free space remaining in its 2021 non-conference schedule, most likely a home game against an FCS opponent. The Wolf Pack are already slated to visit California (Sept. 4) and Kansas State (Sept. 18) during that season. The 2022 trip to New Mexico State is the only game on that season’s schedule as of yet.

New Mexico State is clinging to life as an FBS independent after getting the boot from the Sun Belt in 2017. In addition to their trip to Reno, the Aggies have road games against San Diego State, New Mexico, San Jose State and Alabama lined up for 2021, while UTEP, Hawaii, Utah State and Massachusetts are set to trek to Las Cruces. Three games are still yet to be scheduled. In 2022, New Mexico State will face San Jose State and New Mexico at home while making visits to Minnesota, UTEP, Akron, Massachusetts, Missouri and Liberty with three dates still open.

After handing out multi-year deals, Texas puts assistants back on 1-year contracts

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The 2018 season was unquestionably a breakthrough year for Texas. While the Longhorns dropped four games and came short of the program’s first Big 12 championship since 2009, the team won 10 games and finished in the AP top-10 for the first time since ’09 and won a New Year’s Six bowl game for the first time since 2008. Coupled with the program’s first back-to-back top-3 recruiting classes ever, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, one might think Tom Herman‘s staff would enjoy a modicum of job security in the nomadic business of college football coaching.

One would be wrong.

As first reported by Orangebloods and later confirmed by the school to the Austin American-Statesman, Herman and AD Chris Del Conte have ended the practice of handing out multi-year contracts to assistant coaches.

The practice began at Texas in 2014 when former AD Steve Patterson hired Charlie Strong away from Louisville. Strong brought his full Cardinals staff and Patterson handed them all multi-year deals, which was part of an industry-wide movement as the competition for top coaching talent became even more intense. The practice continued when Texas hired Herman away from Houston in the winter of 2017, as Herman himself got a 5-year deal, coordinators Todd Orlando and Tim Beck got 3-year contracts and the rest of the staff received 2-year deals.

But now, heading into Year 3 of the Herman era, the position coaches’ contracts have expired and the coordinators are heading into the final year of their deals. And Herman and Del Conte like it that way.

In a statement to the American-Statesman, Del Conte said he and Herman aren’t unhappy with the assistant coaching staff, they just want to keep the carrot in front of their noses.

“We are absolutely ecstatic with the job coach Tom Herman and our coaching staff is doing for the University of Texas,” Del Conte told the paper. “This appointment letter is just a continuation of that effort.”

Herman has retained all nine of his assistants from his original staff — and seven of them were with him at Houston, with Beck and running backs coach Stan Drayton coming in from the outside — while hiring offensive line coach Herb Hand away from Auburn as his 10th assistant.

Texas A&M students overwhelmingly vote to reinstate Texas rivalry

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Texas A&M students on Friday overwhelmingly voted to revive the school’s dormant rivalry with Texas.

The referendum passed with 88.71 percent of the vote. A similar vote among the UT student body is planned for later this spring.

“The reason we’re doing this is because we feel responsible for the tradition and the spirit of A&M,” Chipper Adams, co-director of the A&M student group Reinstate the Rivalry, told A&M’s student paper The Battalion.

The issue momentarily gained momentum when both school presidents went on the record with the Austin American-Statesman last month saying they’d like to see the Longhorns and Aggies play again. However, A&M president Michael Young‘s true thoughts were revealed earlier this week when email correspondence with Aggie fans, irate over his on-the-record desire to play their arch-rivals, showed Young said the game’s revival was “unlikely.”

The UT-A&M series was the third-oldest FBS rivalry game during life, with 118 meetings between 1894 and 2011, but it has since been passed by Cincinnati-Miami (Ohio), Virginia-North Carolina, Auburn-Georgia, Oregon-Oregon State, Indiana-Purdue, Cal-Stanford and Army-Navy. If the two sides were to reach agreement to revive the game, it could not happen on an annual basis again until 2030 unless one or both schools are willing to cancel on-the-books games with the likes of Alabama, Ohio State (both future Texas opponents), Notre Dame and Miami (A&M).

In the meantime, there are two ways to view the 88.71 percent of the vote that the game’s rebirth drew. On the one hand, it’s impressive that the game drew that much support among a student body that was in elementary school the last time their school played Texas. On the other, a similar vote in the fall of 2017 drew 97 percent of the vote.

One has to figure the number of revivalists will only continue to shrink as one of college football’s oldest rivalries is now a stone sinking deeper and deeper in the river of time.