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No. 14 Washington State takes control of the Pac-12 North with shootout win over No. 24 Stanford

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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.

Star WR Michael Pittman confirms he’ll play in USC’s bowl game

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(Pardon us as we’ve been catching up on a few things due to some very significant technical difficulties.)

USC fans can assuage their anguish somewhat over the retention of Clay Helton with the knowledge that one of their school’s most explosive weapons on offense will be available during the postseason. There, feel better?

After some uncertainty and speculation, Michael Pittman announced on Twitter this week that he will be playing in the Trojans’ bowl game. USC will face Iowa in Holiday Bowl Dec. 27, the first meeting between the football programs since 2002.

Pittman led the Trojans this season in receptions (95), receiving yards (1,222) and receiving touchdowns (11). The catches and yards led the Pac-12, while the scores were second.

The fourth-year senior was named first-team all-conference and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

FAU makes hiring of Willie Taggart as Lane Kiffin’s replacement official

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A week ago, it was reported that Willie Taggartbadly wants a second act” at USF.  While that job ultimately went to a Clemson coordinator, Taggart still ended up landing yet another gig in the Sunshine State.

With rumors swirling throughout the day, Florida Atlantic confirmed Wednesday evening that Taggart has been named as the Owls’ new head football coach.  Taggart replaces Lane Kiffin, who left shortly after FAU won the Conference USA championship game Saturday for the Ole Miss job.

“I’m grateful to Brian White and President Kelly for their belief in me to lead the football program at Florida Atlantic University,” a statement from Taggart began. “I’m looking forward to long-term success here. I think our players and the university deserve that commitment. Family is extremely important to me. I couldn’t do what I do without their love and support and all of us are looking forward to being here in Paradise for the foreseeable future.”

After four years as the head coach at South Florida, Taggart left USF for Oregon — for one season as it turned out as he pulled up stakes from the Pac-12 school for the Florida State job in December of 2017.  Less than two full seasons later, though, Taggart was shown the door by the Seminoles in early November.

Taggart is a native of Bradenton, Fla. and has deep, extensive recruiting ties in the state, which will only aid him in taking over a football program that has won two conference championships the past three years.

Taggart has never won a conference crown during his 10 seasons as a head coach, although he did claim a division title at South Florida in 2016.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Coach Taggart on board to lead our football program,” FAU athletic director Brian White said in his statement. “Coach Taggart is a proven program builder who will develop strong relationships with our student-athletes and develop them as future leaders. His deep relationships around the state of Florida and the nation will be vital in recruiting as well. The traits he brings to the table will allow us to continue building upon our recent success.”

FAU’s Harrison Bryant named Mackey Award winner as nation’s best TE

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In a change of pace, we come to an award that doesn’t involve either Joe Burrow or Chase Young.

The John Mackey Award winner was announced earlier in the day Wednesday, with Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant claiming this year’s honor.  The Mackey is handed out annually to the nation’s top tight end.

Established in 2000, the 2018 winner was Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson.

This past season, Bryant caught 65 passes for 1,0004 yards and seven touchdowns.  Bryant led all FBS tight ends in both catches and receiving yards.

Bryant beat out seven other tight ends for the 2019 Mackey.

  • Hunter Bryant, Washington
  • Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
  • Brevin Jordan, Miami
  • Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
  • Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
  • Colby Parkinson, Stanford
  • Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan

Ole Miss announces future home-and-home with Oregon State

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With the 2019 regular season put to bed, there is some future scheduling news on which to hit — and some very rare news at that.

Wednesday afternoon, Ole Miss announced that it had reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series with Oregon State.  The Beavers will travel to Oxford Sept. 18, 2027, with the Rebels making the trek to Corvallis on Aug. 31, 2030.

The 2027 game will mark the first-ever between the football programs.

According to Ole Miss, they have played a current member of the Pac-12 just twice, with both of those games coming against Cal.  Those games, incidentally, came in the last three years, including this season.

Oregon State last played a team from the SEC in 1987 when they traveled to Georgia.  A team from that conference has never played in Corvallis.