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No. 8 Washington State survives pesky Cal team with last minute drive to move to 8-1

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After ascending to No. 8 in the polls last season, Washington State went on the road at Cal and ran into a buzzsaw during a brutal loss where they didn’t play particularly good in any phase of the game.

After ascending to No. 8 in the polls this season, the Cougars played host to a pesky Bears team and very nearly ran into the same kind of buzzsaw, needing a last minute scoring drive to secure a sloppy 19-13 win and keep whatever slim hopes of a College Football Playoff appearance there is for the Pac-12 alive.

This was, no exaggeration, one of the worst games to watch of the season so far and a very, very dark edition of Pac-12 After Dark. Despite there incredibly being only two 3-and-outs the entire ballgame, there were four combined turnovers (two apiece) and just eight 3rd down conversions. The two sides dropped passed, made mind-numbing play calls, had issues in the red zone and generally played the anthesis of the wide-open football we normally find out West.

Wazzu QB Gardner Minshew was not as sharp as he has been in rolling through conference play but came up big in the final minutes when his team needed it most. Throwing darts on the final drive, he needed just six plays to cover 69 yards before finding Easop Winston in the corner of the end zone. That naturally delighted the home crowd, who sat through plenty of boring football in the three quarters prior to the stakes getting turned up a few notches for the final frame.

All told, the mustache-laden signal-caller threw for 334 yards and that one score while also tossing an interception on the third series of the game. The Cougs run game was not all that consistent against a tough Bears front and even short passes over the middle were a struggle compared to some of the team’s recent outings. Gardner still found 11 different receivers by the time the clock had expired, with Winston leading the way with 92 yards and the one score while tailback James Williams added 10 receptions to go with five carries for 34 yards on the ground.

The loss will be one that Cal head coach Justin Wilcox won’t enjoy watching back in the coming days. While his defense did play well, the offense punted four times, turned the ball over twice, missed a field goal and saw time expire on them at the end of the game. In fact, their most consistent form of picking up first downs might have been penalties on their opponents that gave them a free one.

The coaching staff did rotate quarterbacks as they have done in past games but they strangely took out the hot hand under center at the time — Chase Garbers, who had 127 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and led the team with 67 yards rushing — for a backup during a key late drive. Brandon McIlwain entered late in the fourth quarter and wound up throwing an interception in the end zone on a bad decision — only bailed out when WSU missed a field goal after promptly marching down the field themselves.

There is a thought that surviving and advancing at this point in the college football season is all that matters and Washington State has to hope the Selection Committee doesn’t mind them doing just that against a Cal team that is still looking for that elusive sixth win for bowl eligibility. The Cougars didn’t play well at all but a win is a win and they might benefit from chaos elsewhere across the country on Saturday to even move up a spot or two in the rankings from where they sit now.

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.