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Pick-six gives Houston a 21-17 lead on Memphis in AAC West-deciding game

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A trip to the AAC Championship Game is on the line in Memphis this afternoon, and the Houston Cougars are looking to play their way into it after erasing a double-digit deficit in the second quarter to take a lead into halftime. Gleson Sprewell‘s 63-yard interception return for a touchdown off Memphis quarterback Brady White gave Houston a 21-17 lead. Houston had been down 17-7 just minutes before. Sprewell struck again with a second interception that prevented a Memphis touchdown in the final 20 seconds of the half.

After missing three of the last four games due to a knee injury, star defensive lineman Ed Oliver returned to the football field for the Houston Cougars Friday afternoon. And whether it was a coincidence or not, the Houston defense set the tone early on the road against Memphis. Memphis went three-and-out on each of their first two drives and the Tigers were stuck playing a battle of field position early on.

With the offense pinned just outside their own goal line, Memphis took advantage of a Houston defense that was forced to play without Oliver, who was having a helmet issue corrected on the sideline. Patrick Taylor rushed for a gain of 57 yards to the Houston 34-yard line on a 3rd & 2, and a 15-yard facemask penalty on Houston moved the football all the way to the Houston 19-yard line. Despite having an excellent chance to put points on the board, Memphis would have to settle for a field goal from the Houston 18-yard line.

Memphis took a 17-7 lead with touchdowns on each of their next two offensive drives, which started with a defensive stand that forced a Houston turnover on downs at the Memphis 25-yard line. Taylor capped the first touchdown drive with a run to the end zone from seven yards and quarterback Brady Whtie completed a nine-yard pass to Joey Magnifico for the 10-point lead.

Houston started the game playing aggressively through the air with Clayton Tune, who has taken over the offense in the absence of an injured D’Eriq King. Houston took to the air multiple times on their first offensive series, and Tune was fortunate not to have thrown an interception on a few plays the Memphis defenders would likely love to get a seconds chance at catching. The inability to force an early turnover would cost Memphis as Tune completed a 33-yard touchdown lob to Terry Mark on a free play (Memphis was offside on the play).

Tune helped the Cougars cut into the Memphis lead in the second quarter by extending a play with his legs and then finding a wide-open Keith Corbin in the back of the end zone for a score. The touchdown drive came after a much-needed strong defensive stand by the Cougars.

We have a ball game in the Liberty Bowl with the stakes as high as they can get in the AAC West. Winner gets to play UCF next week in the AAC Championship Game.

Iowa lands Division II graduate transfer

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The graduate transfer has become a great vehicle for Group of 5 and FCS players who over-perform at their level to shoot their shot at a Power 5 program. But Iowa this weekend added an extremely rare Division II-to-Power 5 graduate transfer.

Zach VanValkenburg on Saturday pledged his commitment to Iowa after being pursued by multiple Big Ten programs.

“So thankful for all the people who have gotten me to this point; my parents, my coaches in high school, and my coaches at Hillsdale,” VanValkenburg in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account. “Leaving Hillsdale is bittersweet but I have reached the end of the road here educationally and my goals are uncompromising. I will always cherish the experiences I had here and the friendships I have made. With that said, I’m very proud to announce that I will be continuing both my academic and football careers at the University of Iowa this fall! Go Hawkeyes!”

Playing at Hillsdale College, a private college in an eponymous Michigan town, the 6-foot-4, 266-pound defensive end collected 70 tackles with 14.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2018.

He will be expected to add depth along Iowa’s defensive line after losing all four starters from last year’s team.

VanValkenburg will have two seasons to compete for the Hawkeyes.

Idaho WR diagnosed with kidney cancer

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Idaho wide receiver Collin Sather is battling advanced renal cancer, the program has announced. Renal cancer attacks the kidneys and most commonly attacks older men.

According to the Idaho Statesman, Sather began experiencing stomach pains on Jan. 17, and by Jan. 21 the pains had progressed to the point where he had to be hospitalized. He is currently undergoing dialysis and chemotherapy at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane, and once he is stabilized will be transferred to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

“We are with Collin every day during this fight,” Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said in a statement. “He is a great young man and the model of a great teammate. Everyone in our program cares a lot about him, and he will always be a valued member of this team.

“We keep Collin and his family in our thoughts and prayers each day. We are here to help him keep fighting, and we will be here to welcome him back when he wins his battle.”

A Spokane, Wash., native, Sather was an all-conference player in football and basketball at West Valley High School before signing with Idaho in 2018. He redshirted last fall.

Mark Dantonio approved for rolling 1-year extension

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Mark Dantonio signed a 6-year contract in 2016 that was essentially an indefinite contract. Under the provisions of the deal, MSU’s Board of Trustees each February have the option to tack another year onto the contract, making it essentially a rolling 6-year contract, and for the second straight year they have done just that, according to the Lansing State Journal‘s R.J. Wolcott.

Though he is 2-for-2 on automatic rollovers (the deal would remain a 5-year contract if MSU’s trustees for some reason did not approve the rollover), both extensions have come amid a fair level of turmoil around the program.

In 2017, Dantonio successfully rebounded from Sparty’s 3-9 2016 campaign to go 10-3 with a No. 15 finish in the AP poll, but he was dogged by accusations that he mishandled sexual assault allegations against a handful of Spartan players — amid a complete mishandling (to put it lightly) of sexual assault allegations elsewhere in the athletics department, against gymnastics trainer Larry Nassar.

In 2018, Dantonio watched Michigan State’s record slink to 7-6 and, instead of making changes on the offensive staff, he opted to retain his entire roster of offensive coaches, though in different spots.

Still, Dantonio secured his extension. The 2025 season would take Dantonio to his 19th season at Michigan State and past his 69th birthday.

He is 107-51 with three Big Ten championships, two AP top-5 finishes and one College Football Playoff appearance in a dozen seasons as the head Spartan.

Georgia State pulling new offensive coordinator from FCS ranks

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After losing Travis Trickett to his old country roads of West Virginia, Georgia State’s new offensive coordinator is a name unfamiliar to most fans, but not to Panthers head coach Shawn Elliott.

Georgia State will hire Brad Glenn as its new offensive coordinator, a source confirmed to CFT.

Glenn is currently the associate head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Western Carolina. Prior to that, he spent seven years on staff at Appalachian State, at times coaching the Mountaineers’ slot receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks. Elliott was App State’s offensive line coach from 2001-09.

Georgia State ranked No. 76 nationally in yards per play (5.57) and No. 104 in scoring (23.9 points per game) en route to a 2-10 season in 2018.