Associated Press

Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State bounce back with win over No. 16 Texas A&M

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Mississippi State’s offense is Nick Fitzgerald, the 6-foot-5 jeep of a quarterback that’s the best short yardage back in the SEC. But it doesn’t work if Fitzgerald can’t throw the ball, and we saw how bad things can get when Mississippi State can’t throw the ball in last week’s loss to No. 4 LSU. Despite an excellent defensive performance, the Bulldogs lost 19-3 in large part because Fitzgerald was 8-of-24 for 59 yards with four interceptions.

But Fitzgerald bounced back in a big way on Saturday night, and as a result the Bulldogs bounced back, upending No. 16 Texas A&M 28-13 in Starkville.

The good vibes started for Fitzgerald and Mississippi State early. The Bulldogs moved 79 yards in 12 plays over six and a half minutes on their first possession, ending with Fitzgerald hooking up with Stephen Guidry for a 25-yard touchdown on a 3rd-and-12 to put the home team on the board.

Texas A&M put together two 40-plus yard drives over its next few chances but saw them both come up empty, one on a missed Seth Small field goal from 49 yards and another on a punt off a drive that began on their own goal line.

The Aggies’ third such drive finally resulted in points, a 34-yard Small field goal.

Mississippi State (5-3, 2-3 SEC) figured to take a 7-3 lead to the locker room but, after a curious decision by Joe Moorhead to throw deep on a 4th-and-3 inside the final minute of the first half, Texas A&M took over on its own 36 with 44 seconds and two timeouts. Kellen Mond‘s first three passes of the drive were incomplete, but the Aggies still moved 30 yards thanks to a facemask and a pass interference call on the Bulldogs. Finally, Mond found Quartney Davis on a screen pass, who raced 34 yards to the end zone to put the Aggies on top at the break.

Mississippi State opened the second half the same way it opened the first — a long drive punctuated by a beautiful Fitzgerald throw. The drive went 75 yards, the final 38 on a lob to Osirus Mitchell.

A 33-yard Roshauud Paul punt return gave Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2 SEC) the ball at the Mississippi State 28 late in the third quarter, but the Aggies could not find pay dirt, forcing a 41-yard Small field goal.

The Bulldogs immediately responded, again moving 75 yards. This drive ended in a more conventional way, a 1-yard Fitzgerald rush.

Trailing 21-13 with 7:44 left in the game, Texas A&M took over at its own 38. The Aggies eventually moved into a 1st-and-goal at the 10, but an 8-yard sack by Cory Thomas took the series off schedule. A&M eventually moved back to the 11 on fourth-and-goal, and with 2:36 left Jimbo Fisher had no choice but to go for it. Mond’s end zone heave was intercepted by Erroll Thompson.

Fitzgerald then put the capper on the evening, breaking free for a 76-yard touchdown run, which tied a school record with his 42nd career score.

The senior finished the game hitting 14-of-22 for 241 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 16 times for 88 yards and two scores.

Former Arizona head coach Dick Tomey being treated for lung cancer

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Sad news out of Tucson this week as Dick Tomey and his family has issued a statement that the former  Hawaii, San Jose State and Arizona head coach was undergoing treatment for lung cancer.

“Coach Dick Tomey was recently diagnosed with a type of lung cancer at Tucson Medical Center and is currently undergoing further tests this week at MD Anderson Medical Center in Houston, Texas,” the statement, obtained by the Arizona Daily Star, read. “We (Coach and his family) greatly appreciate all the people who have reached out to help in so many ways and all the expressions of love and well-wishes being sent our way from so many people. Following Coach Tomey’s example, our family is feeling very grateful and hopeful for a positive outcome.”

Tomey, now 80 years old, had an impressive resume after several stops out West, including a long stint at UCLA as an assistant before taking over as head coach of the Rainbow Warriors. He eventually became Hawaii’s winningest head coach by the time he left for Arizona, where he revived the program and became famed for being the architect of the ‘Desert Swarm’ defense. His best season with the Wildcats resulted in a 12-1 mark that included a top five finish in 1998.

Per the Daily Star, Tomey had moved back to Tucson in recent years to live full-time in retirement.

Count school presidents on board with renewing Texas-Texas A&M rivalry game

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Do you hear that? Could it actually be the start of détente in the Cold War between Texas and Texas A&M after realignment split the two bitter rivals apart?

Well, as usual in these cases, it’s best to be very cautiously optimistic about the most recent series of words coming out of both Austin and College Station. But make no mistake about it, there is at least some optimism that the Aggies and Longhorns could meet once again on the gridiron.

“It’s a storied rivalry of a hundred years or so,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves told the Austin American-Statesman. “We’ve told our ADs (athletic directors) to figure out a plan and bring it to us.”

“We’re supportive’ of renewing it.” A&M President Michael K. Young said. “Absolutely. We have been from Day One.”

The talk is good but it did come with some demurs about scheduling, such as the fact that both have games already on the non-conference docket for most of the next decade and other issues related to when they could actually get onto the field.

Young and Fenves are far from the only ones to call for the historic rivalry to be renewed in recent years. We’ve seen state legislators get involved, regents from both sides, head coaches like Tom Herman, both athletic directors and even the Texas governor call for the two teams to play each other again… mostly to no avail.

The Longhorns have a major opponent already on the schedule through 2029, including A&M’s fellow SEC opponents LSU, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia (plus Ohio State and Michigan). The Aggies, meanwhile, have an extra non-conference slot available but also have big names on the docket until 2027, including Colorado, Miami, Notre Dame and Arizona State.

As is typically the case, these two old rivals could renew their series if they really wanted to no matter what either side wants to say. They can claim scheduling conflicts all they want but it seems like it will still be another generation before the burnt orange clashes with the maroon white once again.

Despite taking big pay cut from being head coach, Urban Meyer still making six-figures with Ohio State going forward

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We’re approaching a month into Ryan Day’s tenure as the new head coach at Ohio State but the guy he  replaced just can’t seem to stay out of the headlines.

That would be one Urban Meyer, who is officially known by another title nowadays by being the Buckeyes’ “Assistant AD, Athletics Initiatives and Relations.” What exactly does that entail? Well Eleven Warriors put in an open records request to find out more and discovered it’s mostly a fundraising/public relations/development role that comes with a lovely $100,000 per year salary.

“The Assistant AD, Athletics Initiatives and Relations is responsible for fundraising and community relations initiatives and is committed to excellence and advancing Department of Athletics through its strategic plan,” a statement to the site said. “In alignment with the department’s mission and values, and in conjunction with the Executive Associate Athletics Director for Development, this position provides leadership and supports fundraising strategies for the Department of Athletics.  The Assistant AD, Athletics Initiatives and Relations will serve as an ambassador through numerous speaking engagements, service events, donor events, corporate events and engagements.”

While the $100k is notable, it’s a far cry from the over $7 million Meyer was supposed to make in 2019 had he remained in charge of OSU football. The six-figure salary isn’t all that he’ll be taking home either, as Meyer is reportedly signing on with Fox Sports to be a TV analyst for the network going forward.

Tennessee confirms Tee Martin is officially back on Rocky Top as an assistant

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Who says you can’t go home again? Tee Martin is certainly glad you can.

Tennessee confirmed reports on Saturday afternoon that the former Vols legend was indeed returning to Rocky Top as an assistant coach, set to fill an unspecified role on the offensive staff.

“I’m excited to welcome back Tee Martin as one of our assistant coaches,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said in a statement. “He coordinated some of the nation’s top offenses at USC, and he develops and identifies players as well as any coach in the country. He’s an excellent recruiter, and he is terrific at building relationships with his players. He cares about developing young men on and off the field. Tee was the quarterback on one of the greatest teams in school history, winning a national championship. He knows what it take to win here, and I’m excited to have him on our staff.”

Martin was an assistant at New Mexico and Kentucky before spending the past seven years at USC, rising all the way up to become the Trojans’ offensive coordinator. However he was first stripped of play-calling duties this past season by head coach Clay Helton and then not retained after the team failed to make a bowl game in 2018.

It’s not known what specific position group he will handle under new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney but Martin was highly regarded for his time as a recruiter and for developing wide receivers. However he could be going back to his roots to handle quarterbacks at Tennessee given that Brian Niedermeyer is on staff and coaches tight ends while David Johnson handles the Vols’ receivers.

Either way, the homecoming is a welcome one for many fans in orange and white who have to feel a bit like the band is getting back together to lead the program back into contention. Phillip Fulmer is of course athletic director and now Martin is back in the fold, returning to the place where he has a street named after him for his heroics in leading UT to the national championship some 20 years ago.