So much about college football nowadays is about how your team responds to a loss, especially in conference play given how tight the standings typically are at the end of the year. That was especially true given the way No. 19 Utah (to USC’s third-string quarterback) and Washington State (collapsing against UCLA) took L’s last week prior to their meeting in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.
Safe to say that the Utes did what Kyle Whittingham was looking for between the lines from his team as they thumped a reeling Cougars squad 38-13 in a rain-soaked outing that proved the two sides were headed in opposite directions in the Pac-12 standings.
Despite adverse conditions of rain, wind and cold, Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley played perhaps his best game of the season given the stage. The senior threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns while utilizing his legs constantly, escaping pressure with ease while rushing for 31 yards and two scores as well. He certainly seemed to put the team on his back and did so without starting tailback Zach Moss, who was injured in that loss to the Trojans and was on the sidelines out of action.
Fellow Floridian Devonta’e Henry-Cole led the Utes in rushing (79 yards) while Samson Nacua had a breakout game with 90 yards and a touchdown reception. Bryan Thompson also put up numbers (111 yards on four catches) as the passing game didn’t seem phased by the loss of injured slot man Britain Covey.
While the defense was feisty as ever in forcing a turnover and limiting Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense well below their season averages, the offense soaking up most of the third quarter and running off 17 unanswered points really salted away the must-win game for the home team.
As for Wazzu, they initially looked like they were going to make this a fun finish but instead wilted in the second half for the second straight week. Anthony Gordon tossed just one touchdown pass (after a school-record nine against the Bruins) and threw for only 252 yards and two interceptions as the offense just couldn’t find the end zone enough to keep things interesting. Max Borghi rushed for 51 and caught nine passes for 70 yards but there otherwise wasn’t much to write home about for the suddenly 3-2 Cougs going into their off week.
While it appears Leach and company will fall further behind Oregon and Washington in the Pac-12 North standings, the victory by Utah allows them to keep pace in the somewhat packed Pac-12 South going into their own idle weekend. They’ll head to lowly Oregon State next before a suddenly huge game against Arizona State at home in mid-October. The slate remains pretty difficult for the Utes and they’ll have to count on USC losing at least once in order to make it to the conference title game again but they proved a lot on Saturday night by bouncing back from their first loss of the year to roll at home.
Former Florida State coach Willie Taggart may be living the buyout life for now, but it’s always good to keep some doors open for some new opportunities. Who knows whether or not Taggart will be joining the Michigan Wolverines in the near future as a member of the football staff under Jim Harbaugh, but Taggart has been spotted taking in a hockey game in Ann Arbor this evening, with none other than Jack Harbaugh by his side.
Yep. That’s Taggart sitting in the row directly in front of Jack Harbaugh. For those unaware, there is a history between the two men, so Taggart hanging out with Harbaugh comes as no real surprise. Taggart was recruited to play quarterback at Western Kentucky out of high school. The assistant coach doing the recruiting? Jim Harbaugh. The head coach of the Hilltoppers? That’s right. It was Jack Harbaugh. Taggart went on to begin his coaching career at WKU working under Jack Harbaugh and Taggart left to take on the role of running backs coach under Jim Harbaugh when the current Wolverines head coach was hired by Stanford.
Is Taggart moving closer to coming full circle in his coaching career and be a new assistant coach at Michigan? At the very least, perhaps Taggart will be one of the next analysts that help to Wolverines. Time will tell, but it would certainly seem like a good possibility for Taggart to remain in the coaching game.
As we approach the end of the college football regular season, it’s just about time for the coaching carousel to get spinning once again. A few of programs have already made some coaching changes (Arkansas, Rutgers, and Florida State), but it does not appear any changes will be made at Ole Miss. According to a report from Football Scoop, Matt Luke is expected to remain the head coach in Oxford, Mississippi in 2020.
Not too surprisingly, the cost of a buyout is a key piece of information in this particular story. While the price to buy its way out of Luke’s contract is $6.5 million, the actual cost to move on from Luke is nearly doubled when Ole Miss accounts for the buyout costs of Luke’s assistants. Namely, offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre. Rodriguez and MacIntyre have head coaching experience and were sensible additions to the staff for a first-time head coach like Luke. But with experience, comes cost. According to Football Scoop, the buying out of contracts to Luke, Rodriguez, and MacIntyre could climb to over $12 million if Ole Miss is to make a change.
Another reason Ole Miss may hold off on making any changes with the football program are due to the school actively focusing on naming a new full-time athletics director. The common line of thinking is it makes more sense to allow your next full-time AD to make the call on the head coach of a football program, ensuring a higher likelihood of positive chemistry between coach and AD that leads to everyone being on the same page for the good of the program moving forward.
So, between the buyout cost and the ongoing search for an AD, Matt Luke appears to be in a pretty stable position at this point in time.
Sometimes a player makes a hit so dirty, a head coach simply won’t waste time waiting to hear from the conference’s office regarding the player’s status moving forward. Such was the case for Toledo head coach Jason Candle when addressing a nasty hit delivered by defensive end Terrance Taylor Wednesday night against NIU. Toledo has suspended Taylor for the next game on the schedule, against Buffalo.
Taylor came in flying from behind NIU quarterback Ross Bowers well after the end of a play that saw Bowers fell to the ground and was getting up. Taylor lined into the back of Bowers with a helmet-to-helmet hit from behind on the unsuspecting quarterback.
Bowers was ejected from the game for targeting. Because the ejection occurred in the second half of Wednesday night’s game, NCAA rules would prohibit Taylor form playing in the first half of Toledo’s next game. But Candle and Toledo are going one extra step and just sidelining him for the entire game.
“We are disappointed that this play occurred,” Candle said in a released statement. “It’s not something we coach. We’ll use it as a teaching tool for our team on the value of discipline in emotional times.”
Given the severity of the hit, some form of reprimand could also be in the works from the MAC, although it would seem Candle and Toledo are handling this appropriately with a full game suspension. College football simply doesn’t need those kinds of plays in the game.
As expected, Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck now has a brand new contract to remain the head coach of the Golden Gophers. After agreeing to terms on a new deal and the school officially recognizing the new deal last week, just before a monster of a win for the program, the contract has been given the final green light to become officially official after the Board of Regents voted to approve the terms of the new contract.
As previously reported, Fleck will have a new seven-year contract good through the 2026 season and the terms of the buyout were significantly increased to fend off would-be suitors looking for a new head coach this year on the coaching carousel, and potentially in the next few years as well before the buyout drops off in price. Of course, any school with deep enough pockets willing to pony up to get Fleck to be their guy will still make a phone call or two, but Fleck appears to be settled in with Minnesota for the foreseeable future.
In addition to Fleck seeing his own pay increase, Minnesota’s regents also signed off on providing more combined salary for an assistant coaching staff with an extra $1.05 million being placed in the budget for assistant coaches.
Now that all of that contract business is squared away, Fleck can continue to focus on Minnesota’s next task on the field. This week, Minnesota heads on the road to face Iowa in a pivotal Big Ten West Division game. The Gophers remain undefeated and have climbed to No. 8 in the College Football Playoff ranking. A win on the road against Iowa could set Minnesota up for a regular-season finale riding an 11-0 record and the division already clinched for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game.
It’s no wonder Minnesota decided to lock down Fleck while they still could.