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No. 6 Ohio State sends off Urban Meyer in style by topping No. 9 Washington in the Rose Bowl

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PASADENA, Calif. — Urban Meyer’s first trip to the ‘Granddaddy of them All’ resulted in an appropriate grand finale.

No. 6 Ohio State turned in a thrilling performance in the 105th Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day to send their head coach out in style, beating No. 9 Washington by a deceiving 28-23 score on a picture-perfect Southern California afternoon to ring in 2019 in style.

Leading the way was Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who could count the contest as a sendoff himself with a looming NFL draft decision awaiting. The redshirt sophomore certainly looked the part of a first-rounder, throwing for 251 yards and three touchdowns against one of the best pass defenses in the country coming in. In addition to making a number of ‘wow’ throws, he found nine different receivers all told from TE Rashod Berry on a short scoring toss on the goal line to Parris Campbell (71 yards, 1 TD) all over the field.

Tailback Mike Weber made the most of his final game in scarlet and gray by rushing for 96 yards as well.

“Today Mike ran the ball really efficiently and got a lot of first downs with him. Opened up the passing game for us, giving us some wide-open lanes and as far as impacting the zone coverage,” said Haskins. “We did a great job picking up some blitzes today, and we had to be efficient.”

The Huskies certainly had their chances as the sun set on the San Gabriel Mountains but never could get over the hump and truly threaten to make it a close one. Jake Browning failed to extend his record for wins by a Pac-12 signal-caller but did what he could, scrambling often to extend plays while throwing for 313 yards and giving way to fellow senior Myles Garrett in both the passing game (one TD pass off a jump throw) and the run game with 121 yards and two more scores to close out his career.

Though UW’s offense failed to find the end zone enough, their defense continued to battle from start to finish and sacked Haskins three times. It was a solid effort overall that made things closer than expected as the fourth quarter clock ticked away and was even more impressive considering safety Taylor Rapp missed the action with a reported hip injury and linebacker DJ Beavers went down with a leg injury in the first half among other issues.

Still, it wasn’t quite what the throngs of purple and gold-clad fans were hoping for this season after College Football Playoff talk gave way to a Pac-12 title but also four losses on the year. The program’s first trip to the Rose Bowl since 2001 is still not a bad consolation prize but it’s clear that Chris Petersen doesn’t quite have Washington back among the national elite just yet on Montlake.

“Tough one. Very frustrating when you start the first half like we started. I had no idea why. It’s on me. It’s not these kids,” said Petersen. “They practiced hard. They’re ready to play. But we really didn’t play with that edge and that chip that we normally play with, really, just, you know, across the whole squad.”

All eyes were on his opposite number Tuesday however, who will leave the game (for now) with a 187-32 overall record — and 83-9 at Ohio State with a national title — that will put him just behind historical greats like Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy in terms of overall winning percentage. It was the final victory though, in Meyer’s first and only appearance at the greatest of all bowl games, that will surely be cherished unlike any other.

“What an up-and-down year,” remarked a visibly relieved Meyer as he savored his final few minutes in charge. “(The players) gave us their very best. Big Ten Division champs, Big Ten champs, Rose Bowl champs, and one of the great teams in Ohio State history.

“This has always been very personal. I’m from the great state of Ohio and I’m very proud of my state. I’ve been a Buckeye fan as long as I can remember.”

It was a trying final campaign in Columbus for both coach and program but the sweet taste of victory and roses will be the final one for Meyer and the Buckeyes to savor.

Southern Miss, Troy schedule 4-game series

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Southern Miss and Troy on Tuesday jointly announced a four-game series to be spread across the next decade.

Troy will visit Hattiesburg on Sept. 18, 2021, but Southern Miss will not make a return visit until Sept. 14, 2024. The teams will then take the next three years off before resuming in Troy again on Sept. 16, 2028, and the series will conclude on Sept. 1, 2029 in Hattiesburg.

“We are excited to announce these future games for our football program,” Southern Miss AD Jeremy McClain said. “Our scheduling philosophy moving forward will continue to include regionally based opponents that provide great opportunities for fans to enjoy Golden Eagle football.”

Southern Miss and Troy have met nine times previously, first in 1937 and most recently 2016. The Trojans won both of those games, while Southern Miss took the seven in between.

As of today, Southern Miss has its entire 2021 non-conference slate lined up against teams from the state of Alabama. The Golden Eagles open at South Alabama, then visit Tuscaloosa a week after hosting Troy. The Trojans stand as USM’s only non-conference opponent on the books for the 2024, ’28 and ’29 seasons.

Troy, meanwhile, hosts Liberty on Sept. 11, 2021, and visits South Carolina a week after the trip to Hattiesburg. The Trojans will visit Memphis a week before hosting USM in 2024, and have no other games scheduled in 2028 or ’29.

 

Former USC, Tennessee assistant Willie Mack Garza joins Wyoming staff

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Wyoming has hired Willie Mack Garza as the club’s safeties coach, the program announced Tuesday.

Garza is a new name to Cowboys fans but not new to head coach Craig Bohl. Garza worked for Bohl at North Dakota State from 2005-08. That stint led him to join Lane Kiffin‘s staffs at Tennessee (2009) and USC (’10). At Tennessee, Garza committed a show-cause penalty for violating a recruiting rule.

“I do want to make one thing clear, Willie Mack has acknowledged a mistake he made 10 years ago that resulted in him being disciplined by the NCAA for a recruiting violation,” Bohl said. “Since then, he has been reinstated by the NCAA.  We have a reputation of holding ourselves to high ethical standards here at the University of Wyoming, and I expect Coach Garza to follow those high standards.”

Garza spent the past two seasons at Dixie State, a Division II school in Utah, including one as defensive coordinator. He left Dixie State earlier this year to become the co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Texas A&M-Commerce, another Division II school.

“First and foremost this is a blessing that Coach (Craig) Bohl and the University of Wyoming Athletics Department has provided me this opportunity to come coach here,” said Garza.  “I love coaching.  It is in my blood.  I love being around the players and the other coaches, going into the WAR Room and preparing.  This is also an opportunity for me to provide a platform for young men to be successful on and off the football field in the four to five years that they are here and for the rest of their lives.”

With Garza aboard, Cowboys defensive coordinator Jake Dickert will now transition to linebackers coach in addition to his coordinator duties.

At least nine players have now left South Carolina this offseason

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The transfer train has made frequent stops in Columbia throughout the offseason, and the month of May has been no exception.

Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network was the first to report Monday that the name of safety Jonathan Gipson is now listed in the NCAA transfer database.  Additionally, 247Sports.com is reporting that wide receiver-turned-running back Joe Thomas has entered the portal as well.

After coming to the Gamecocks as a three-star 2018 signee, Gipson played in two games as a true freshman.  Because he played in fewer than four games, Gipson can take a redshirt for 2018, which would leave him with four years of eligibility.  However, barring something unexpected, Gipson would have to sit out the 2019 season if he moves on to another FBS program, meaning he’d have three years to play three seasons beginning in 2020.

Thomas, a walk-on, played in two games this past season as well.

Gipson and Thomas are at least the eighth and ninth players to transfer from the Gamecocks this offseason, joining, among others, defensive end Shameik Blackshear (HERE), linebacker Zay Brown (HERE), quarterback Darius Douglas (HERE) and running back Ty’Son Williams (HERE).

Mississippi State announces four-year extension for Joe Moorhead

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In late November of 2017, Mississippi State confirmed that Joe Moorhead would replace Dan Mullen as its head football coach.  One season into his tenure, and Moorhead’s already being rewarded with a reworked deal as MSU announced Tuesday the university and the coach have reached an agreement on a four-year contract extension through the 2022 season.

Moorhead is set to make an average of $3.2 million annually under the terms of the new deal, compared to the $2.6 million he earned in 2018.  The new figure would make him the 11th-highest-paid head coach in the SEC, up from 13 (out of 14 schools) a year ago.

“We are excited about the leadership of Mississippi State football under Coach Moorhead,” athletic director John Cohen said in a statement. “He is a man of integrity, loyalty and humility. His love for his players and our program is evident. He is driven by elevating our program to a championship standard on and off the field. We look forward to watching the continued growth of our football program under his watch.”

“It’s a privilege to be the head football coach at Mississippi State,” a statement from Moorhead began. “I want to thank John, President (Mark) Keenum and this wonderful University for believing in me. My family and I love Starkville. For me, it’s about building a championship program our Bulldog fans can be proud of and helping our players maximize their potential on and off the field, while walking away with a meaningful degree from Mississippi State University. Our team is excited about the season ahead, and I look forward to continuing to elevate our program in everything we do.”

In his first season in Starkville, Moorhead guided the Bulldogs to an 8-5 record, a mark that included an Outback Bowl loss to Iowa.  According to the school, Moorhead is the second MSU head coach to win eight or more games in his debut season and the first since College Football Hall of Famer Allyn McKeen in 1939.