Division II program makes the most of its second chance
We have previously chronciled the difficulites Azusa Pacfic encounters as the only Division II program in southern California. APU competes in the Great Northwest Conference, which has just six football-playing teams. This means that each team plays a home-and-home with each conference foe for a 10-game lead schedule. As the only team in the league located in southern California, the Cougars' closest road game lies 362 miles away in St. George, Utah. The rest of APU's road trips take them to locales between 500 and 1,000 miles away in the Pacific Northwest. It's a lot to take on for a team transitioning from NAIA to Division II.
However, none of that mattered on Saturday as head coach Victor Santa Cruz's team broke through to win its first Division II game, 24-17 over Central Washington. The Cougars rebounded from a 41-17 loss at Central Washington earlier in the season.
The win came in dramatic fashion, as Azusa Pacific hit a 47-yard pass with under a minute remaining to break a 17-17 tie and then stepped in front of a Central Washington pass at the APU 11-yard line with 18 seconds left wo seal the win.
Watch the video of those two plays below.
A few notes about tonight's game
In case you didn't know (and how could you not?) Gus Malzahn and Arkansas State travel to southern Louisiana to face Mark Hudspeth and Louisiana - Lafayette. The game will be televised on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. ET.
Both teams bring in a 2-1 record in Sun Belt play. The 10-member league has five teams at 2-1 chasing 3-0 ULM, so any hopes either team has of a Sun Belt championship likely die with a loss tonight. The Ragin' Cajuns had won three straight matchups before Arkansas State's 30-21 win last season en route to an 8-0 league record and conference title.
Tonight is Louisiana - Lafayette's second consecutive Tuesday night game. Hudspeth's team lost to North Texas 30-23 last Tuesday in a game that was also televised by ESPN2. Tonight signals an uptick in ULL's schedule, as the Ragin' Cajuns visit conference leader ULM and Florida in back-to-back weeks before hosting Western Kentucky on Nov. 17. But enough about the rest of the schedule, what stands out about tonight's game?
- Race to 30: Outside of Arkansas State's season-opening loss at Oregon, these teams are a combined 8-0 when scoring more than 30 points and 0-4 when under 30.
- Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers: ULL leads the Sun Belt in turnover margin with a plus-6 total. The Ragin' Cajuns have collected 13 turnovers while surrendering seven. Arkansas State has lost 12 turnovers and gained 10. The Red Wolves' culprit has been fumbles; Arkansas State has lost nine fumbles this season.
- Not so special teams: Malzahn's team is solid across the board statistically except on special teams. The Red Wolves rank eighth in the conference in kickoff returns and ninth in net punting. ULL leads the Sun Belt in net punting with a full 10-yard advantage over Arkansas State on average.
- Stingy where it counts: Louisiana - Lafayette resides in the middle of the road in most defensive statstics except one - scoring defense. Hudspeth's squad ranks second in the league (25.3 points per game) and has surrendered the fewest touchdowns per game of anyone in the conference.
- 1992. That's the last time Arkansas State won in Lafayette. Half of ASU's roster wasn't born in 1992, while Malzahn was in his first season as the head coach at Hughes High School in Arkansas.
West Virginia's defensive staff is leaving no stone unturned
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, by the end of Saturday's game against Kansas State, 30 different West Virginia players had seen the field on defense.
A third of those players didn't even have a year of game experience under their belt, as six true freshman, and four additional redshirt freshman saw the field.
Kansas State came into the game ranking 108th in passing offense with 179 yards per game and lit it up through the air with 333 yards passing against a Mountaineer pass defense that ranked dead last in pass defense when the final buzzer sounded.
The Mountaineers have given up at least 45 points in the past four straight games, and are allowing opponents to complete nearly 69% of their pass attempts.
Co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest explains that they've left no stone unturned trying to get things fixed.
"We've tried everything. Maybe that's our fault as a staff. We've tried to cover up our deficiencies. Then we tried to do other things to give them the ability to mix it up."
The variety of different offenses that they've seen in the first seven games (Kansas State, Texas and Texas Tech just to name a few), have provided the staff a unique challenge to prepare for each week. Kansas State is pretty multiple and will utilize designed quarterback runs, while Texas Tech is going to spread you out and try to shred you from the pocket.
"We're searching right now. We're searching, but every week is different. One week it's Kansas State, next week it's Texas Tech. You're running across different problems every week."
This bye week will be important to get things sorted out, as the offenses that they'll see moving forward will continue to present some problems. Next weekend they'll get TCU at home, followed by Oklahoma State on the road and then Oklahoma at home.
Larry Fedora gets his players' attention for N.C. State week
North Carolina has lost five straight games to N.C. State.
Larry Fedora, in his first year as head coach of the Tar Heels, is keenly aware of this fact.
Fedora said that “since my first handshake when I took the job" he has known the importance of North Carolina's losing streak to its in-state rival, and the urgency to end it. With the Wolfpack coming to Chapel Hill on Saturday, Fedora made sure his players remembered the way the last handful of meetings have gone.
According to the News & Observer, "(UNC players) went into their locker room and found N.C. State paraphernalia everywhere. There were red and white streamers and balloons. Pictures of N.C. State players celebrating after a victory. Signs with a hand on them that said, 'Five in a row.' There were signs with N.C. State’s logo and the words, 'Our State,' plastered on them."
Fedora later downplayed the decorations. "I don't know if that's a big deal or not," he said. "We do things to motivate our players, I'm sure just like everybody else does."
“I took some of the stuff and put it up in my locker, just as a reminder that they have beat us five consecutive times,” said senior offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper. “I don’t want to end my senior season with that on my record.”
North Carolina competes this season under NCAA sanctions, meaning the 5-3 Tar Heels (2-2 in the ACC) are ineligible for the ACC Championship and will not play in a bowl game. With only four games left in the season, a date with the Wolfpack is the biggest game left on the Tar Heels' schedule.
Fedora's team can play the role of spoiler. At 2-1 in the ACC, N.C. State sits in the thick of Atlantic Division standings as one of four teams with one conference loss.
After popping balloons in the locker room, Fedora's team hopes to pop a losing streak on the field this Saturday.
Coach uses his suspension to teach a valuable lesson
We saw an interesting note earlier today from the Norwich Bulletin that the state of Connecticut has a rule that discourages coaches from winning by a 50 point margin.
The rule, which has been in place since 2006 and has evolved over the past few years, states that any victory by 50 or more points is automatically reviewed by a Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference panel, and the head coach is subject to a one game suspension if they rule that he acted in an unsportsmanlike manner.
In two recent instances, the CIAC has not even needed to get involved because the head coach, or schools themselves, self imposed a suspension. The most recent of those cases include Norwich Free Academy, whose head coach, Jemal Davis agreed to step down for a game following a 51-0 win.
Immediately following the victory, Davis said that he thought about his next step.
“Directly after the game in terms of the score, I contemplated what would be the next step We felt as a staff, as an athletic department, as a school, that what would be appropriate in this manner is to follow the letter of the law in terms of penalty and move on, and so that’s where we are."
Davis used his suspension as a teaching moment for his team.
“Based on our score, 51-0, we didn’t demonstrate score management, and therefore we are liable for those actions. I explained to the guys that we respect and honor the CIAC and its policies and because of that we felt it was important to self-impose the penalty" Davis said, adding that it wouldn't be appropriate to drag out an appeals process when it was clear to him that they could have done more in dealing with the situation.
"I wanted to ensure the kids that they did everything in their power appropriately, however, because the score became, 51-0, we need to re-evaluate as a coaching staff and me personally, what could I have done differently?”
It takes a coach who is pretty comfortable with himself to step back and instead of pointing fingers, to look inward and make that type of evaluation.
Whether you agree with the rule or not, it's hard to argue the with a classy move by coach Davis to first step down for a game on his own, and then reflect on that moment and use it as a life lesson for high school aged kids.
Jerry Kill encouraged by Barry Alvarez following loss
After their 38-13 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, Jerry Kill was frustrated, yet upbeat about his Gophers. Kill was concerned about how public perception would effect the team after their third straight loss.
"There is so much negativity around. When you go into a program that hasn't won for a lot of years, there's instant negativity, and more so now because of all the social media and stuff. That can get to the kids. They don't need to hear it when they come in Sunday with the coaches, because they're so pounded down by then."
"There are some good things going on here. You've just got to really look hard at it right now." Kill said after the game.
One person in particualr took notice.
When Kill got to the bus, former Wisconsin coach, and current athletic director Barry Alvarez met him and offered some words of encouragement. Alvarez had been in a similar situation when he took over Wisconsin, the Star Tribune points out.
In his first three years in Madison, Alvarez's teams failed to produce a winning record (0-8, 2-6, 3-5). But those three seasons helped paved the way for over a decade and a half of success. Alvarez's career at Wisconsin resulted in an impressive overall record of 118-73-4.
"There are people who understand we're going the right way, but it's always reassuring to hear from people who have been there before." Kill noted of the conversation with Alvarez.
The Golden Gophers will look to get back on track against Purdue this weekend and end their three game skid. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30pm ET on the Big Ten Network.
When interviewing for a job, talk to coaches who have seen success there
When David Cutcliffe left the Duke campus after interviewing for the head coaching job back in 2008, he had a pretty good feeling that he was going to get the job.
He even called his wife to let her know he was going to take the job, and his wife reminded him that they had not even offered him the job yet. But Cut knew an offer was coming.
While he was on campus visiting with administration, and touring the facilities, he strayed a little from the itinerary and requested to meet with Mike Krzyzewski, because as he recalls, “Why am I not going to come here and talk to the most successful coach in the country?”
“We talked about Duke and how you win at Duke, how he went about his business when he first came. It was very interesting to me.” Cutcliffe explained in the News Observer.
Now, five years after that initial conversation, Cutcliffe has got Duke bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. The Blue Devils are currently sitting at 6-2 (3-1 in conference play), with games against Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami left on their schedule.
Just a reminder, when you're on campus interviewing for a coaching job, don't be afraid to sit down with someone who has been successful at that place before, or is currently experiencing success. It's a great way to gain some valuable insight.
32 game losing streak snapped
On Saturday, the Wilmington Quakers (D-III - OH) ended a game with a feeling that most had never felt as a college football player.
Wilmington defeated Marietta 13-12 on Saturday on a field goal with 31 seconds. They later picked off a pass in the end zone to seal the win and put an end to the program's 32 game losing streak. To find their last win you'd have to travel back to 2009, where they beat John Carroll 24-16 for their only win of the '09 season.
Back in late September, Ken Minor stepped down as the head coach, and Wilmington alum and offensive coordinator, Jay Niswonger took over as the interim head coach with the team sitting at 0-3.
Wins do not come easy in the Ohio Athletic Conference, especially with teams like Mount Union on your conference schedule, so this was definitely a great win for coach Niswonger and the Quaker program.
We can only imagine the excitement of the staff and players on the sideline after the field goal, and then interception to seal the victory. Good stuff.