It was a rematch 57 years in the making and both sides wanted to soak up every extra moment. New Mexico State ended the NCAA’s longest bowl drought in dramatic fashion to beat Utah State 26-20 in overtime on Friday night in an Arizona Bowl full of the highs and lows of college football.
In front of what seemed like half of Las Cruces at the home stadium of the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, the Aggies put behind several quarters of offensive malaise by marching 69 yards midway through the fourth quarter to tie the game on an incredible Jaleel Scott catch in the end zone. The NMSU defense came up with a stop in the extra period not long after and a missed field goal by USU was just the opening the team needed before running back Larry Rose III burst up the middle for a 21 yard touchdown that set off pandemonium in the stands.
The victory not only gave the Aggies of New Mexico State their first win in the postseason since 1960 — which happened to be a 20-13 defeat of Utah State in the Sun Bowl — but capped off a pretty incredible story for one of the smallest programs in all of FBS. Rose finished the game with 142 yards on the ground and was the team’s leading receiver in the game as well. His running made up for a rather lackluster offensive day for quarterback Tyler Rogers (191 yards, one TD, two INTs) and company as the group had eight 3-and-outs against one of the better secondaries at the Group of Five level.
While those long stretches without points or any kind of offensive production made things hard to watch at times in this one, there was at least plenty of excitement early in the first quarter when Utah State’s Savon Scarver (96 yards) and NMSU’s Jason Huntley ran back-to-back kickoffs for touchdowns not five minutes in.
The loss caps off another tough season for Matt Wells’ Aggies after they led in just about every statistical category but saw kicker Dominik Eberle make only two of his six field goal attempts to let a win slip through their fingers. QB Jordan Love (254 yards passing) and RB LaJuan Hunt (133 yards rushing, 1 TD) both had decent outings but it wasn’t enough as points came at a premium for both sides.
The game also marks the end of an era for New Mexico State as it was their final contest as a member of a conference — in this case the Sun Belt. The program will operate as a football independent in 2018 and, funny enough, will play Utah State again next September up in Logan. Something says both sets of Aggies will have plenty to play for when that one rolls around in what should be a fun footnote to a long, long drought being emphatically ended on Friday.
If you ever have the pleasure of standing in the presence of a high-level college or professional football player, you’ll be struck at just how big those dudes are. Obviously, they’re larger than the average male and especially so the closer you get to the ball — but if your only exposure to this small slice of the population is what you see on television, it’s easy to lose perspective at just how much larger they are than the remainder of the human population.
And any time I happen to be in the presence of a Power 5 or NFL player, one thought comes to my mind: “It’s someone’s job to move him in a direction he very much does not want to go.”
Case in point: TCU running back Sewo Olonilua. At 6-foot-3 and 231 pounds, Olonilua is among the largest running backs in college football. And as the video below shows, he’s also among the strongest.
Now consider the following: Olonilau totaled 135 carries for 635 yards and two touchdowns in 2018. This means that on 133 of his 135 carries — 98.5 percent of his attempts — someone (or someones) brought Olonilau — again, a 231-pound running back who can squat 705 pounds twice — to the ground or pushed him out of bounds.
The graduate transfer has become a great vehicle for Group of 5 and FCS players who over-perform at their level to shoot their shot at a Power 5 program. But Iowa this weekend added an extremely rare Division II-to-Power 5 graduate transfer.
Zach VanValkenburg on Saturday pledged his commitment to Iowa after being pursued by multiple Big Ten programs.
“So thankful for all the people who have gotten me to this point; my parents, my coaches in high school, and my coaches at Hillsdale,” VanValkenburg in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account. “Leaving Hillsdale is bittersweet but I have reached the end of the road here educationally and my goals are uncompromising. I will always cherish the experiences I had here and the friendships I have made. With that said, I’m very proud to announce that I will be continuing both my academic and football careers at the University of Iowa this fall! Go Hawkeyes!”
Playing at Hillsdale College, a private college in an eponymous Michigan town, the 6-foot-4, 266-pound defensive end collected 70 tackles with 14.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2018.
He will be expected to add depth along Iowa’s defensive line after losing all four starters from last year’s team.
VanValkenburg will have two seasons to compete for the Hawkeyes.
Idaho wide receiver Collin Sather is battling advanced renal cancer, the program has announced. Renal cancer attacks the kidneys and most commonly attacks older men.
According to the Idaho Statesman, Sather began experiencing stomach pains on Jan. 17, and by Jan. 21 the pains had progressed to the point where he had to be hospitalized. He is currently undergoing dialysis and chemotherapy at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane, and once he is stabilized will be transferred to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
“We are with Collin every day during this fight,” Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said in a statement. “He is a great young man and the model of a great teammate. Everyone in our program cares a lot about him, and he will always be a valued member of this team.
“We keep Collin and his family in our thoughts and prayers each day. We are here to help him keep fighting, and we will be here to welcome him back when he wins his battle.”
A Spokane, Wash., native, Sather was an all-conference player in football and basketball at West Valley High School before signing with Idaho in 2018. He redshirted last fall.
Mark Dantonio signed a 6-year contract in 2016 that was essentially an indefinite contract. Under the provisions of the deal, MSU’s Board of Trustees each February have the option to tack another year onto the contract, making it essentially a rolling 6-year contract, and for the second straight year they have done just that, according to the Lansing State Journal‘s R.J. Wolcott.
Though he is 2-for-2 on automatic rollovers (the deal would remain a 5-year contract if MSU’s trustees for some reason did not approve the rollover), both extensions have come amid a fair level of turmoil around the program.
In 2017, Dantonio successfully rebounded from Sparty’s 3-9 2016 campaign to go 10-3 with a No. 15 finish in the AP poll, but he was dogged by accusations that he mishandled sexual assault allegations against a handful of Spartan players — amid a complete mishandling (to put it lightly) of sexual assault allegations elsewhere in the athletics department, against gymnastics trainer Larry Nassar.
In 2018, Dantonio watched Michigan State’s record slink to 7-6 and, instead of making changes on the offensive staff, he opted to retain his entire roster of offensive coaches, though in different spots.
Still, Dantonio secured his extension. The 2025 season would take Dantonio to his 19th season at Michigan State and past his 69th birthday.
He is 107-51 with three Big Ten championships, two AP top-5 finishes and one College Football Playoff appearance in a dozen seasons as the head Spartan.