If there’s anybody who probably doesn’t mind winning ugly, it’s Mark Dantonio. Of course, that doesn’t mean he will like it after the fact.
No. 11 Michigan State looked rusty on both sides of the ball and nowhere near the kind of team their ranking suggested during their season-opener against Utah State on Friday night, needing a few key plays down the stretch to hold on for a 38-31 win. It was surprising to see given how many starters returned from last year’s 10-3 squad but also had quite a bit to do with how pesky the Aggies were on the big stage too.
Though he was unable to pull off the upset and trailed off after halftime, USU quarterback Jordan Love was impressive given the environment and wound up throwing for 281 yards (one interception) and was just about the lone rushing threat too with a touchdown on the ground. Utah State mounted a trio of 70+ yard touchdown drives in the game — including the game’s opener that proved the team was more than ready to play. Five different receivers had more than 20 yards through the air and tailback Darwin Thompson did find the end zone twice despite the run game being pretty much bottled up.
Perhaps just as impressive was Matt Wells’ defense on the night. In addition to creating quite a bit of pressure, Gaje Ferguson hauled in a pick-six in the second half that led to a 10-point swing in just 14 seconds on the clock. In the end though, it just wasn’t quite enough as Utah State nearly pulled off the top 25 upset on the road they’ve threatened to win several times the past decade.
As for the Spartans, there were a few bright spots on defense like Joe Bachie (11 tackles) grabbing game-sealing interception and Khari Willis coming down with another pick in the first half. It was still not quite enough to be encouraged if you were Dantonio or a member of the MSU faithful, especially given the number of veterans in action on the night and the fact that they just recorded just one sack against a Group of Five opponent.
Quarterback Brian Lewerke was far from sharp despite being labeled by many as a dark horse Heisman candidate entering 2018. Though his numbers were solid with 287 yards and two scores through the air, the pick-six came on an awful decision and he never could quite find a rhythm. If anything, he was bailed out quite a bit by his receivers — particularly Felton Davis with 69 yards and a touchdown.
Running back LJ Scott rushed for 84 yards and contributed quite a bit in the passing game as well but never could quite bust out the big run.
You’ll hear quite a bit of ‘A win is a win’ coming out of the Michigan State locker room this week but the bottom line is that the team very much escaped a close call on Friday. If the Spartans are to truly challenge Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State in their division and work their way into Playoff contention, then a much better effort is needed going forward.
Just when you thought the coaching carousel closed the books once again for the offseason, it appears there is at least one more change to make note of heading into the 2019 season. Joe Moglia is stepping down as head coach of Coastal Carolina, the school announced on Friday afternoon. Associate head coach and offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell will take over as the new head coach of the program.
Moglia announced he will stay on as Chairman of Athletics for the remainder of his current contract with the university, which runs through June 2021. Moglia will have executive authority over the football program as well.
“On behalf of the Coastal Carolina University family I want to thank Joe Moglia for all he has done not only to transform our football program, but for his support of the University,” Coastal Carolina University President David DeCenzo said in a released statement. “Joe is one of those individuals who bring such great talent and success to everything he’s touched. He’s taken us to a level that years ago was simply a dream. He leaves the coaching ranks with all the well-deserved accolades; and leaves a Coastal football legacy that is poised for even better accomplishments.”
Moglia took one of the most unique paths to becoming the head coach of the Chanticleers. Moglia left a career in the financial industry when he stepped down as CEO of TD Ameritrade in 2008. He joined Bo Pelini in an assistant coaching role at Nebraska, his first time coaching football since being the defensive coordinator at Dartmouth in 1983. After two years with the Huskers, Moglia was named the head coach of the Omaha Nighthawks of the short-lived UFL in 2011, and he became the head coach at Coastal Carolina in 2012.
Under Moglia’s leadership, Coastal Carolina became a rising power at the FCS level with successive playoff appearances from 2012 through 2015 before making the transition to the FCS in 2016. Coastal Carolina went 10-2 in their transition season before jumping into the Sun Belt Conference in 2017. Moglia, however, took the 2017 season off for medical reasons. Chadwell took on the role of interim head coach for the 2017 season and remained on the staff as associate head coach and offensive coordinator in 2018 after Moglia returned to the sidelines for the program.
With Chadwell as the next head coach of the Coastal Carolina program, there should be a smooth transition with some stability on the coaching staff late in the offseason for coaching changes.
In what has seemingly been an annual tradition in Madison, Wisconsin has renewed the contract of head football coach Paul Chryst by tacking on another year. Chryst is now under contract through Jan. 31, 2024 with his latest renewal following approval from the University of Wisconsin Athletic Board.
Wisconsin renewed Chryst’s contract a year ago, extending his contract through the end of Jan. 2023. Wisconsin and Chryst originally agreed on a contract that was set to expire on Jan. 31, 2020 with a written agreement that the contract may be extended with a positive annual review beginning after the 2015 football season.
The Badgers may be coming off a relatively disappointing season with a record of 8-5, but Chryst has gone 42-12 in his first four seasons as head coach of the Badgers and it is expected Wisconsin will remain a consistent contender in the Big Ten West Division with a shot to play for and win the Big Ten championship in the years to come.
According to the USA Today coaching salary database for the 2018 season, Chryst was paid $3.75 million last season. Specific details of how much Chryst will be paid now were not announced by Wisconsin.
Wisconsin also renewed the contracts of volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield, women’s soccer coach Paula Wilkins, and men’s soccer coach John Trask.
One MAC school will head into the spring with a little less depth in its offensive backfield than they had at the end of the 2018 regular season.
On Twitter this week, Nevone McCrimmon announced that he has decided to transfer from Toledo and continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere. In his social-media missive, the running back described leaving UT as “being the hardest decision of my life,” albeit one that he “and my family feels like… is the best decision to make.”
After redshirting as a true freshman, McCrimmon carried the ball nine times for 80 yards in 2017. He totaled 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 14 carries this past season.
Thursday was potentially a good day on the personnel front for the Kent State football program.
The school confirmed in a release that it has added a pair of Power Five conference transfers — offensive lineman Bill Kuduk and defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight (pictured). Kuduk, a redshirt freshman, began his collegiate playing career at Kansas State, Knight, a redshirt sophomore, at Maryland.
Neither player is expected to be eligible to play in 2019 as they will be forced to sit out a transfer year as mandated by the NCAA.
“We are excited to add an exceptional person in Bill to our FlashFAST Family,” second-year head coach Sean Lewis said in a statement. “He comes from a great high school on the south side of Chicago and knows what it takes to win. His athletic ability and size will be a great addition to our O-line room. …
“Q is another high character individual who is going to be a great member of our family. He brings collegiate game experience with him and will add a lot of position versatility to our back-end.”
Knight played in 10 games as a true freshman in 2016 and a dozen the following season. He saw action in just four games this past season before deciding to transfer in November of last year.
Kuduk didn’t see the field during his brief time with the Wildcats.