There’s winning. There’s winning ugly. And then there’s whatever No. 13 Utah did to No. 17 Arizona State on Saturday in Salt Lake City. The Utes survived rain, wind and a torrent of turnovers and injuries to nip the Sun Devils 21-3 in the end, staking their claim as the Pac-12 South favorite on a night where good football was hard to come by.
QB Tyler Huntley spent most of the game limping around, leaving the field at one point in the first half in favor of backup Drew Lisk. The starting signal-caller did manage to return to action and throw for 171 yards (one interception) but was far from his most effective self after weeks of talk around the state about his place in Utah lore.
Though the inefficiencies under center were obvious, offense in general was hard to come by. RB Zach Moss also got beat up and missed snaps but did notch 99 yards and two scores — moving into first place on the Utes’ career rushing list in the process with a 32 yard game-sealing TD run in the final six minutes. Huntley added another 32 but took two sacks as both defenses combined with a slick football to make life difficult all around (six combined turnovers) for everybody involved.
That included ASU freshman QB Jayden Daniels, who a week after becoming the hero with a game-winning touchdown drive was turned into a goat (and not the other kind of G.O.A.T. either). He completed just four passes for 25 yards and tossed an interception at the end of the first half as well. The lack of a passing game made it easy to load the box, which made Eno Benjamin mustering 104 yards even more impressive. The Sun Devils defense gave their opposite numbers a few short fields throughout but the team’s only scoring came on a Cristian Zendejas 40 yard field goal.
The final result from the top 25 matchup could wind up being a turning point in the race to the Pac-12 title game later on this season. The Utes don’t quite control their own destiny having lost to USC but likely are considered the favorites in the South Division with the victory over the Sun Devils. Combined with No. 12 Oregon’s earlier victory over Washington in Seattle, it sure seems like we have a good idea of who is making it to Santa Clara in December with a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line.
Kyle Whittingham may not be happy with how his team looked against ASU but as his counterpart on the other sideline famously said, it doesn’t matter because you play to win the game. The Utes did just that and made a statement in league play at the same time.
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.