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Red River Thriller: No. 19 Texas takes major step with win over No. 7 Oklahoma

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Kyler Murray nearly led No. 7 Oklahoma back from a three touchdown, fourth quarter deficit, but Cameron Dicker‘s 40-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining allowed No. 19 Texas to hang on for a crucial 48-45 win at the Red River Showdown.

Oklahoma trailed 45-24 with 13 minutes remaining, but Oklahoma needed only 10 minutes to come back and tie the game. Needing its own rally, Texas turned to the stellar Sam Ehlinger, who guided Texas 52 crucial yards to set up Dicker’s winning kick, handing Texas (5-1, 3-0 Big 12) its first win over Oklahoma as a ranked team since Colt McCoy did so in 2009.

Ehlinger out-dueled the elder Murray, completing 24-of-35 passes for 314 yards with two touchdowns while rushing for three more — the most scores by a single player in a Red River game since Sam Bradford did so in 2008.

Murray dazzled as well, throwing for 304 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 92 yards and another score — but his two turnovers accounted for 10 crucial Texas points.

Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) accepted the ball to open the game and faced zero resistance on its opening drive. The Sooners moved 65 yards in six plays, a drive in which the shortest gain was the scoring play — a 4-year toss from Murray to Marquise Brown.

Texas answered by turning to its big outside threats. Ehlinger hit Lil'Jordan Humphrey for a 29-yard gain on the Longhorns’ second play, and then a 36-yard gainer to Collin Johnson one snap later. Texas notched an early equalizer with a 3-yard jump pass from Humphrey to Johnson.

On the ensuing possession, Murray made his first mistake of the day, firing an interception to Texas safety Brandon Jones, who returned the ball to the OU 45, and a personal foul staked Texas deep in Sooner territory. But the OU defense stiffened, and Texas took a 10-7 lead on a 44-yard Cameron Dicker field goal.

Oklahoma then forged the game’s second tie with a 32-yard Austin Seibert field goal on the opening play of the second quarter.

Texas rolled down the field on the ensuing possession until a holding call on center Zach Shackelford turned a 2nd-and-1 at the OU 30 into a 1st-and-20 at the 49. But a 19-yard completion on Andrew Beck gave Texas a 4th-and-1 situation, which graduate transfer running back Tre Watson converted on a 3-yard swing pass. One play later, Watson broke free on a wheel route and Ehlinger dropped in a perfect 28-yard touchdown pass, putting Texas up 17-10 with 10:18 left in the first half.

After the touchdown, the Texas defense immediately forced a three-and-out, keyed by a 10-yard sack of Murray by defensive end Charles Omenihu. Given a chance to take control of the first half, the Texas offense took advantage, moving 75 yards in eight plays — 48 of them on the ground, including a 9-yard keeper by Ehlinger to, putting Texas up 24-10 with 5:12 left before the break.

Texas had a chance to seize complete control of the game when Oklahoma went for a 4th-and-3 at the Texas 29, but Murray hit CeeDee Lamb for a 12-yard gain, then hit him again for a 5-yard touchdown four plays later, pulling the Sooners back within a touchdown with 28 seconds left in the half.

Texas opened the second half the same way it finished the first — by churning the Oklahoma defense. The Longhorns rolled 75 yards in 11 plays, scoring on another 5-yard Ehlinger keeper.

Facing its second two touchdown deficit of the game, Oklahoma seized momentum, first when Murray nailed Brown for a 77-yard touchdown, and then when its defense forced its first punt of the game — on a three-and-out, no less.

That momentum was short lived, though.

Murray fumbled the ball on Oklahoma’s next play, handing Texas the ball at the Sooners’ 23. Ehlinger hit Johnson for a 10-yard gain on a 3rd-and-4, and the quarterback covered the rest himself over two plays. A 2-yard keeper gave Ehlinger his third rushing touchdown of the game and UT its third 14-point lead of the game, at 38-24 with 6:21 left in the third quarter.

Facing another 3rd-and-3 in his own territory, Murray put another deep throw right on the money — but Lee Morris dropped it. After a punt, Texas pummeled an overmatched and exhausted defense, coasting 82 yards down the field in nine plays to push the lead to 45-24 with 56 seconds left in the third quarter. Ehlinger notched his fifth touchdown of the day, hitting Humphrey on a 15-yard strike.

Texas forced another OU punt after B.J. Foster sacked Murray on a 3rd-and-14, and Texas took the ball deep in its own end with a 21-point lead and 13:33 to kill. Oklahoma made it difficult.

Two straight holding penalties killed the Texas possession, and OU scored in six plays to pull the game within 45-31 on an 18-yard pass from Murray to Morris with 8:28 to play.

Texas killed three minutes of clock after that, but the Longhorns punted and Murray needed only one play — a bobbing and weaving 67-yard run — to pull the Sooners within 45-38 with 5:11 still to play.

Another holding penalty killed another Texas drive before it began, and all of a sudden, after being dead to rights 10 minutes of clock prior, Oklahoma took the field with a chance to tie the game at its own 43.

The Sooners had 3:34 to work with, but the needed only 56 seconds. Trey Sermon covered all 57 yards himself — 35 on a screen pass, and then 22 on a pair of runs, tying the game with 2:38 left in the game.

Texas mounted one more drive it when it needed it, though, setting up a possible new dimension in this storied rivalry: a Red River Rematch in the Big 12 Championship on Dec. 1 at AT&T Stadium.

Mel Tucker’s first Michigan State coaching staff is officially complete

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And just like that, Mel Tucker‘s first coaching staff at Michigan State football has been filled.  Officially.

Earlier Friday, reports continued to surface that Tucker was looking to swipe Scottie Hazelton from Kansas State.  Later on in the evening, MSU confirmed that Hazelton has been added to Tucker’s staff.

The veteran of nearly a quarter-century in the coaching profession will serve as the Spartans’ defensive coordinator.

“Scottie definitely has the mentality you’re looking for in a defensive coordinator,” the new Michigan State football head coach said in a statement. “He’s a leader with an infectious personality and he’s an excellent teacher. He’s learned from some of the great defensive minds in the game throughout his career. Scottie has been a defensive coordinator multiple times, including at the Power 5 level, he’s coached in the NFL, and he’s been on a staff that won a national championship. I couldn’t be more excited about hiring Scottie as our defensive coordinator to lead our outstanding defensive staff.”

Hazelton spent the 2019 season as the defensive coordinator at Kansas State.  He’s also been the coordinator at Wyoming (2017-18) and Nevada (2013) at the FBS level.

With Hazelton’s hiring, all 10 of Tucker’s on-field assistants for his Michigan State football staff have been hired.

The weekend before last, it was confirmed that Ron Burton and Mike Tressel would be retained.  Shortly thereafter, Chris Kapilovic officially followed Tucker to MSU from Colorado.  Two Wednesdays ago, former first-team All-Big Ten wide receiver Courtney Hawkins returned to East Lansing to coach the same position he played for the Spartans.  A day laterJay Johnson was confirmed as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and Harlon Barnett was brought back as defensive backs coach.  A day after that, Tucker pried Ted Gilmore away from Wisconsin to serve as MSU’s tight ends coach.

February 24, Ross Els (special teams coordinator) and William Peagler (running backs coach) were added as well.

Oklahoma State could be landing spot for LSU transfer WR Dee Anderson

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Could one soon-to-be-former LSU football player be leaving the SEC for the Big 12? According to one of his social media accounts, that’s certainly a possibility.

Prior to the start of summer camp, Dee Anderson was indefinitely suspended because “[h]e had some conditioning stuff to get done.” That suspension extended into the regular season as the wide receiver missed the first two games of the year. In mid-September, LSU football head coach Ed Orgeron confirmed that the suspension would remain in place for the rest of the year.

Three months later, Anderson entered the NCAA transfer database. The redshirt junior receiver graduated from the university in mid-December.

Since then, news on a potential landing spot for Anderson has been scant. Thursday morning, however, Anderson posted a GIF on his personal Twitter account of Oklahoma State mascot Pistol Pete. That, of course, intimates that the Cowboys are in play.

Adding to the OSU intrigue, a former high school teammate of Anderson is Cowboys running back LD Brown. According to Pokes Report, “Brown said things looked really good in terms of Anderson ending up at Oklahoma State.”

Anderson was a four-star member of the LSU football 2016 recruiting class. His first two seasons in Baton Rouge, Anderson saw sporadic action. The 6-6, 229-pound Texas native then caught 20 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown in 2018.

Prior to the conditioning issue, Anderson had been expected to be a significant contributor in the passing game this season.

Anderson would be eligible to play at any FBS school in 2020 as a graduate transfer. The upcoming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.

The addition would help backfill a position that’s been hit with attrition of late.  This current cycle, a total of four OSU receivers have left.

Penn State AD hired search firm to negotiate new James Franklin contract

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Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour appears to really be a fan of a particular search firm. So much so she hired one to do part of her job and recommended them to a rival school to boot.

Those are a few of the takeaways after reporter Andy Wittry decided to dig a little deeper into the recent Michigan State coaching search. This included a freedom of information request for emails to Spartans athletic director Bill Beekman that uncovered several gems.

While there were the notable ‘fan suggests hiring XYZ coach’ type emails, there was also a note that Barbour sent along to her counterpart in East Lansing:

“Sorry to hear about Coach Dantonio’s decision to retire,” the Nittany Lions AD wrote. “As I think we’ve discussed in the past, we have been partnered with Chad Chatlos and Ventura Partners for the last three plus years, utilizing them as our search consultant on all head coaching searches as well as a number of upper level administrator hires.

“Although we have not had to do a football search at Penn State during my time, frankly Chad and I have prepared for a football search on several occasions and he most recently served as our negotiator for Coach Franklin’s latest extension. He is/was fantastic.”

MSU did use a search firm to eventually hire Mel Tucker and spent six-figures with DHR International.

Beyond it being fascinating (and to some PSU fans, perhaps concerning?) that one AD would recommend a particular person to work with to a division rival, it’s notable that Penn State brought in outside help to lock their head coach up with a new deal.

The school confirmed on Feb. 26 that James Franklin had agreed to an extension worth over $35 million over the next six years.

While it’s no shock to see a search firm involved in finding a new coach, it’s a bit unique to bring one in for a renegotiation with a current coach — something most AD’s handle internally with an opposing agent.

The close ties with Chatlos and Ventura Partners is also interesting given that Collegiate Sports Associates was the search firm that wound up helping the university find Barbour for her current role. Typically that leads to a bit of a quid pro quo where the same firm is used for other searches but the Nittany Lions have instead gone exclusive with another.

Take note, as well, that Barbour said she has prepared for a football search on several occasions. Perhaps that little nugget is the result of Franklin’s name popping up in connection to spots like Florida State and USC in recent months.

Instead he appears to be sticking around Happy Valley for several years to come with that hefty new salary that was recently negotiated.

Mel Tucker reportedly hiring Kansas State’s Scottie Hazelton as new Michigan State DC

New Michigan State DC Scottie Hazelton
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One of the best beards in college football is headed to Michigan State.

No, not the one on the face of Illinois head coach Lovie Smith, but rather that of Kansas State defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton. Per The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, the Wildcats assistant is leaving for the same position in East Lansing on Mel Tucker’s newstaff.

Hazelton spent just one season in the Little Apple after being hired by KSU’s Chris Klieman. The two briefly overlapped on the defensive staff at North Dakota State before reuniting in the Big 12.

In addition to a productive tenure leading the Bison’s defense at the FCS level, Hazelton has put together quite a diverse coaching career. That’s included coordinator stops at the NAIA, Division II and Division III levels as well as a season at Nevada in 2013 and a run at Wyoming from 2017-18. He also coached linebackers at USC in 2012 and did the same for the Jacksonville Jaguars during Gus Bradley’s tenure in Duval.

Now Hazelton will link up with Tucker as the final member of the MSU assistant ranks. The head coach has quite a large salary pool to work with and you can probably assume that had something to do with luring a Power Five DC so late in the typical hiring season. At K-State, Hazelton made $550,000 last year according to USA Today.

Either way, the bearded new defensive coordinator won’t have long to get acclimated to East Lansing as the Spartans begin spring practice on March 17.