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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.

Maryland hires George Helow to Mike Locksley’s staff

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The lone hole on Mike Locksley‘s Maryland Terrapins football staff has been filled.

In late December, John Papuchis left the Maryland Terrapins football program to take a job with Mike Norvell at Florida State.  Exactly four weeks later, Locksley has landed Papuchis’ replacement, with the addition of George Helow officially announced by the school.

Helow will serve as Maryland’s special teams coordinator.  He’ll also coach the Terps’ inside linebackers.

Helow spent the past four seasons at Colorado State.  The first two were as a defensive quality control coach and graduate assistant.  The last two were spent as safeties coach.

The 2018-19 seasons were Helow’s first as an on-field assistant at the collegiate level.

In addition to the Mountain West Conference school, he has also been a football staffer at:

  • Georgia, defensive quality control assistant (2014-15)
  • Florida State, defensive graduate assistant (2013)
  • Alabama, defensive intern (2012)

Helow played his college football at Ole Miss from 2006-10.  Most of his action during his 38 games played came on special teams.

Todd Graham named as Hawaii’s next head coach

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The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors football program has afforded a wayward coach a means to return to the sidelines.

In the days after Nick Rolovich left to replace Mike Leach at Washington StateRobert Anae‘s name had been mentioned prominently as a potential successor.  Tuesday, however, the Virginia offensive coordinator announced in a statement that he has withdrawn his name from consideration for the job as the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors football head coach.

Just prior to that, it was reported by The Athletic‘s Bruce Feldman that Todd Graham is getting consideration for the job.  Very late Tuesday night, Hawaii confirmed that Graham has been hired as the school’s 24th head coach.

Graham will be introduced at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

The 55-year-old Graham has been a head coach at four different FBS schools:

  • Arizona State (2012-17)
  • Pitt (2011)
  • Tulsa (2007-10)
  • Rice (2006)

Graham has posted a 95-61 record at those stops.  His teams have played in 10 bowl games in 12 seasons, winning five of those postseason appearances.  He’s also won three divisional titles.

After being fired by Arizona State in November of 2017, Graham has been out of coaching.  He was mentioned as a candidate for the Kansas job that ultimately went to Les Miles.

Duke hires veteran offensive line coach Greg Frey

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Two weeks after losing an assistant, the Duke Blue Devils football program has filled the lone hole on David Cutcliffe‘s coaching staff.

Jan. 8, Jim Bridge abruptly resigned as Duke’s offensive line coach; two days later, it was announced that he had taken the same job at Memphis.  Tuesday, Cutcliffe officially dipped into the veteran coaching ranks, hiring Greg Frey as Bridge’s replacement.

“We’re thrilled to have Coach Frey join our staff,” Cutcliffe said in a statement. “It isn’t often you have the opportunity to add an individual who, within the landscape of college football, played at the highest level, has coached at the highest level and comes with 20-plus years of experience on the sideline. Coach Frey’s coaching and mentoring abilities are inspiring, and he will have an immediate and positive impact on the young men in our program. We look forward to welcoming Greg, his wife Andrea and children into our football family.”

Frey has previously coached offensive lines at:

  • Florida State, line coach (2018)
  • Michigan, tackles/tight ends coach, running-game coordinator (2017)
  • Indiana, line coach (2011-16)
  • Michigan, line coach (2008-10)
  • West Virginia, line coach (2007)
  • USF, line coach (2000-06)

In 2017, Frey was the tackles/tight end coach as well as running-game coordinator at Michigan. Frey comes to Duke after a one-season stint (2019) at Florida as a quality control analyst.

“As you go through life and build your family and your career, who you surround yourself with becomes very important,” Frey said. “What attracted me so much to Duke University was the faith, the family and the football, as well as the way Coach Cutcliffe runs his program. As we move forward, we want to be at the forefront of building the culture and championship level play that Duke expects. I’m excited to get started and can’t wait to go.”

Virginia Tech confirms addition of Rutgers transfer RB Raheem Blackshear

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A talented new addition to the Virginia Tech football roster is officially official.

After playing in the first four games of the 2019 season at Rutgers, Raheem Blackshear, a team captain, opted to sideline himself for the remainder of the campaign in order to preserve a year of eligibility. Three months later, Blackshear indicated on Twitter that he has decided to leave RU and continue his playing career with the Virginia Tech football program.

Two weeks after that social media announcement, the Hokies confirmed via Twitter that the running back is signed, sealed and delivered.

In addition to Virginia Tech, Blackshear had also considered a transfer to Temple.  A return to Rutgers for the back was in play as well.

It’s expected that Blackshear, a redshirt sophomore, will seek a waiver that would allow him to play immediately for the Hokies in 2020. If that appeal is denied, he would be left with one season of eligibility he could use in 2021.

A three-star 2017 signee, Blackshear ran for 238 yards as a true freshman. The next season, he led the Scarlet Knights in rushing with 586 yards.

Blackshear could also be a significant asset in the Hokies’ passing game.

In addition to being the leading rusher in 2018, Blackshear also led the team in receptions (44), receiving yards (367) and receiving touchdowns (two). Despite playing in just four games this past season, he was second on the Scarlet Knights with 29 receptions (the leader, Bo Melton, ended up with 30) and 310 yards (Melton had 427). His two receiving touchdowns were tied with Melton for the team lead as well.