Associated Press

Morningside College claims first NAIA national title

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A 16-yard touchdown pass from Trent Solsma to Connor Niles with 1:29 remaining handed Morningside College its first NAIA national championship on Saturday, capping a 35-28 win over Benedictine in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Morningside College is located Sioux City, Iowa, while Benedictine College is in Atchison, Kan.

The Solsma-to-Niles connection was massive for Morningside. Solsma completed 19-of-36 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns and two interceptions, with the bulk of the damage going to Niles, who caught seven passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns.

The game started with a Shaefer Schuetz 26-yard touchdown pass for Benedictine, as the Ravens held leads of 7-0, 14-7 and 20-14 — all in the first half. But the Morningside defense stepped up in the second half, allowing the Mustangs to take control of the game with two Solsma touchdown passes, the first an 80-yarder to Niles, then a 19-yard score to Reid Jurgensmeier, putting Morningside in front 28-20 at the 9:53 mark of the third quarter.

Benedictine forged the game’s third tie with a 1-yard Frank Trent rush with 5:49 remaining in the fourth quarter, then had a chance to take the lead again after forcing a Morningside punt, but a holding call killed the Ravens’ drive and then disaster struck when a botched punt snap handed Morningside the ball at the Benedictine 18-yard line with two minutes remaining. On a 3rd-and-8 from the 16, Solsma found Niles for the winning score.

“It was going to him no matter what,” Solsma said. “He’s made big plays his entire career. This was no different.”

Niles’ catch, the last of his career, saw him finish with 6,175 career receiving yards, the most in NAIA history.

“I just remember catching it and then going to my knees,” Niles said. “After that, it was all cameras and teammates mobbing me. This is absolutely amazing.”

Morningside had been on the cusp of their first national title for the majority of the decade; the Mustangs lost the NAIA title game in 2012 and then fell in the NAIA semifinals in four of the past five seasons. The semifinal round saw Morningside avenge its 2016 and ’17 playoff losses to the University of Saint Francis — who would go on to win those seasons’ national titles — in a 34-28 overtime thriller.

“I’ve been motivated to not let this season end,” Morningside head coach Steve Ryan said. “The toughest part for me was that, at the end of the night, the year would be over. I’m so proud of what they’ve accomplished. It ended the way we were hoping … I’m ecstatic.”

Marshall, Western Michigan line up future series

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It’s been a long time since Marshall and Western Michigan were in the same conference, but the two will be reunited on the football field soon enough. No, we’re not talking about conference realignment, but future non-conference scheduling!

The two schools announced a future home-and-home series for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. Marshall will host the first game of the deal on Sept. 14, 2024. Western Michigan will host the second game on Sept. 6, 2025. The two schools have not squared off against each other since Marshall left the MAC for Conference USA in 2005, but Western Michigan leads the all-time series 22-12.

Western Michigan will also play Cincinnati in non-conference play in 2024 and will travel t two Big Ten opponents in 20205 (Michigan State and Illinois).

Marshall has road trips to Liberty and Virginia Tech scheduled in 2024 in addition to the new home game against the Broncos. In 2025, Marshall will host East Carolina a week after visiting Western Michigan.

Search for missing Wyoming signee comes up empty

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Authorities in California are taking a rescue mission to an unfortunate turn in the search for the body of Wyoming Class of 2019 signee Naphtali Moimoi. According to an update from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, the operation moved from a rescue mission to a water recovery. It has reached an unfortunate ending as no body was discovered.

Moimoi was last seen at Half Moon Bay in California rising on a boogie board. A strong rip current whisked Moimoi away out to sea, with a search and rescue mission getting underway Friday morning. As the day progressed, the search reached a conclusion with no body found.

Moimoi is a two-star recruit from Hayward, California in Wyoming’s Class of 2019. The defensive end signed with Wyoming in December 2018 during the early signing period.

The outlook may look grim at this point, but local authorities remain on the case and will review any and all information that comes in regarding the missing body. Wyoming’s football program will continue to monitor the situation as needed as well.

Tennessee mourns death of ex-Vols RB Reggie Cobb

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The extended Tennessee football program is mourning the loss of one of its own.

Saturday, it was confirmed that Reggie Cobb died unexpectedly at 50.  A cause of death has not yet been released.

A Knoxville, Tenn., native, the university wrote in its release, Cobb played for the Vols from 1987 to 1989 and ranks No. 11 in UT history in rushing yards (2,360), tied for No. 7 in rushing touchdowns (26) and No. 12 in rushing attempts (445).

As a freshman, Cobb ran for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns.

“The Vol family lost one of its best in the passing of Reggie Cobb,” UT athletic director Phillip Fulmer, an assistant during Cobb’s time with the football program, said in a statement. “Reggie was a great Vol, and a fantastic man. We all remember the great runs and the competitive spirit he played with at UT and the NFL.

“What people outside his circle did not see during and after his professional playing career, was the mentor he became to so many young men that he came into contact with. He influenced and changed lives for more than 30 years. Reggie will be loved and remembered, and he will be missed.”

Cobb, who played in the NFL for seven seasons following his time on Rocky Top, spent the past 10 years as a scout with the San Francisco 49ers.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to anyone impacted by Cobb’s untimely death.

Return to coaching ‘not in the plans’ for Mark Richt

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As Miami was closing out the first spring under new head coach Manny Diaz, former Miami head coach Mark Richt was close by keeping an eye on things with his former program. On Saturday, it was announced Richt will be heading to a role in television and he said what so many coaches in similar positions have suggested before; he is content away from coaching and not planning a comeback.

Not yet, at least.

Richt was officially announced to be the newest member of the college football TV crew being put together by ESPN for the upcoming ACC Network. With plenty of experience in and around the ACC in his coaching career, not to mention his extended period of time in the SEC, Richt should fit right in with the target audience for the ACC Network, which will launch later this year.

“I was able to coach for 12 seasons in the ACC, and so, I’m very excited about the opportunity to join ACC Network as a football analyst,” Richt said in a released statement. “I’m not only looking forward to helping tell the story of one of the greatest football conferences in America but also staying close to the game that I love so much.”

The obvious question is just how long will Richt remain in a TV role? Maybe he truly is ready for life after coaching, but history has shown many coaches using TV jobs as temporary placeholders before the next coaching opportunity comes along. Urban Meyer spent one year in the booth calling games for ESPN after retiring from Florida before heading to Ohio State (Meyer, of course, is back in TV as an analyst for FOX Sports this season). Rich Rodriguez spent a cup of coffee with CBS Sports Network after losing his job at Michigan before he eventually returned to coach at Arizona. Even Mack Brown is making his long-awaited return to the sideline this season at North Carolina after spending years with ESPN after retiring from Texas.

Richt may still have some coaching gears in him that will get him to come back at some point, but for now, that’s not the plan he is putting out there. If the right offer comes along, who knows. For the 2019 season, at least, we’ll get to see how Richt does on TV.

Helmet sticker to Sports Illustrated.