Mike Leach began the season with an opening at quarterback, questions about his staff, and a host of preseason expectations saying his team would fall flat in a deep Pac-12. The old pirate, it seems, is about to have the last laugh however.
No. 14 Washington State and their merry band of underdogs continued their winning ways on Saturday night to move to 7-1 on the season, capping off a wild 41-38 shootout with No. 24 Stanford to take firm control of the Pac-12 North in the process.
Quarterback Gardner Minshew was once again in the middle of things when the Cougars needed a big play, throwing for 438 yards and three touchdowns while moving the sticks with his legs on a critical fourth down conversion on the go-ahead drive. He was particularly lights out after halftime, going 24-of-27 in the final two quarters as the Air Raid got turned up to full blast as the game went on. James Williams was also fantastic out of the backfield, rushing for 30 yards and a pair of scores while catching nine passes for 79 yards.
Dezmon Patmon was Wazzu’s leading receiver with 10 receptions for 127 yards as the ball was spread around quite a bit considering there were 10 pass catchers in total.
The thrilling comeback by the visitors spoiled a pretty good offensive show from the home team. While Bryce Love was limited as he dealt with injuries and rushed for only 53 on the ground, K.J. Costello put together one of his best performances of the season. The young signal-caller threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns all told, dropping back a very un-Stanford-like 43 times in the game. JJ Arcega-Whiteside had a pair of his trademark box-out touchdowns to go with 111 yards while tight end Kaden Smith was a problem all night for the WSU defense with 112 yards and a score of his own.
The Cardinal wound up with 443 yards of total offense and averaged nearly seven yards per play but couldn’t get a second half stop as they blew an 11 point halftime lead.
The victory helps re-shape the entire division on a wild day in the Pac-12 North where another top 25 team, Washington, lost to Cal across the bay minutes beforehand. Washington State will wrap up the first few months of the season in first place and a clear path to Santa Clara for the conference title game if they can avoid a letdown and beat the Huskies in Pullman for the Apple Cup. Stanford will travel to Seattle next weekend in a game that was billed to be for the division title but will instead be a contest for second place at best as each tries to keep pace with the Cougars.
This is not at all a place many expected WSU to be in but here they are — possibly to stay — as they hit the first set of College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday with plenty of momentum and a ton of good wins in their pocket.
The offensive side of Nick Saban‘s Alabama coaching staff has been ravaged by poaching over the past few weeks. As of Wednesday night, it appears the defensive side won’t go unscathed this offseason either.
According to Matt Zenitz of al.com, Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi interviewed for a job with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns this week. Zenitz didn’t specify for what position Lupoi interviewed with the Browns, which officially filled its defensive coordinator position earlier this week.
However, a subsequent report not only identified the position for which Lupoi interviewed, but that the erstwhile Tide coordinator has accepted the job.
Lupoi, one of the best recruiters in the sport, has spent the past five seasons on Saban’s staff. After serving as a defensive analyst his first two years, he was the Tide’s outside linebackers coach in 2016 before taking over as coordinator for Jeremy Pruitt, who left to take the head job at rival Tennessee.
Prior to Alabama, Lupoi was the defensive line coach at Washington (2012-13) and Cal (2008-11).
The Browns recently named Freddie Kitchens as its latest head football coach. Kitchens, for those of you who don’t remember, was a three-year starter at quarterback for Alabama in the mid-nineties.
Saban, for those of you who don’t remember, was the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns from 1991-94 under Bill Belichick before taking the head job at Michigan State.
Mike Locksley is turning to a former head coach to become his first offensive coordinator at Maryland.
As first reported by InsideMDSports, the new Terps OC will be none other than former East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery. The move by Locksley comes a few days after fellow former Alabama assistant Josh Gattis reportedly spurned Maryland to take the same job at Michigan.
Montgomery’s track record as an assistant is certainly a bit better than what he did with the Pirates after going 9-26 overall in three seasons in charge of the program. While ECU’s offense did put up some impressive numbers at times (as well as produce players like Gardner Minshew II before he transferred to Washington State), Montgomery is probably best known for his work on the Duke staff under David Cutcliffe.
The 40-year-old started out as a wide receivers coach at his alma mater before eventually becoming OC of the Blue Devils, with a short stint in the NFL mixed in.
The good news for Locklsey and Montgomery is that they do have talent to work with in College Park even after missing out on grad transfer QB Jalen Hurts. The Terps are set to return both Tyrrell Pigrome and potentially Kasim Hill at quarterback as well as a slew of speedy backs and receivers.
It only took a few hours of getting thrown under the bus by fans and the national media, but cooler heads have prevailed in Norman.
Not long after it surfaced that graduate transfer Austin Kendall was being blocked by Oklahoma from being immediately eligible at West Virginia in 2019, USA Today reports that the Sooners have relented and the quarterback will indeed be able to play right away with the Mountaineers.
Kendall arrived at OU as part of the class of 2016 and saw limited playing time behind back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners at his position in Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield. While it’s possible he could have stuck around to be the starter for the team in 2019, former Alabama starter Jalen Hurts announcing he was transferring in as a graduate transfer earlier on Wednesday all but put an end to that line of thought.
The reversal from Lincoln Riley and Oklahoma’s athletic department shows once again that schools have little to gain by even threatening to block a player from transferring. At some point a college football program will learn that it invites nothing but bad press in the short term over somebody who is leaving town anyway. At least everybody came to that same conclusion this time around before Kendall and his family had to call up a lawyer or two to reach the same end point.
Oh and by the way, Kendall will be back in Norman with the Mountaineers on October 19 during the upcoming season for what figures to be a Big 12 game with more than the usual on-field storylines coming in.
The calendar says January and the national title game was just last week but it’s never too early to start thinking about spring football around the college landscape.
The folks at Iowa State certainly are.
In a release from the school issued on Wednesday, the Cyclones confirmed that they would not be playing a spring game in 2019 and will now go two years between any potential showcases to cap off their prescribed 15 practices.
“As a result of the uncertain weather conditions we face each spring in Iowa, plus the site preparation work that will begin this Spring for the new Sports Performance Center project, Coach Campbell and I have decided to not schedule a spring football game,” Iowa State Athletics Director Jamie Pollard said in a statement. “Similar to last year, Coach Campbell and his staff can use that day to conduct a 15th spring practice which they feel is more beneficial for the overall development of the student-athletes and the football program.”
Though there are indeed plenty of reasons why a program might join the growing trend of skipping out on playing a spring game, it’s certainly disappointing for many ISU fans to go two years without being able to see their team in action and what new faces might end up contributing in the fall. Weather concerns are nothing new in Ames though, as an actual non-conference game in 2018 was cancelled and replaced with an FCS foe in December, to say nothing of last year’s spring game getting called off due to the elements.