Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (rat poison sold separately at newsstands in Alabama):
FOURTH QUARTER: DON’T LEAVE A GOOD THING
In late 2015, two coaches surprisingly left good situations in search of something very different. Two-and-one-half seasons later, those gambles look like colossal failures for Gary Andersen (31) and Mike Riley (32).
Gridworld was hit with a stunner Monday when Oregon State and Andersen agreed to mutually part ways, according to a release from the school. That seemed like a high likelihood at the end of the season, not in early October. But the real shock was the terms of the separation – basically, there are none. Andersen released the school from any obligation to pay him the reported $12 million remaining on his deal.
“After many discussions with Scott [Barnes, the athletic director], waiving my contract is the correct decision and enables the young men and the program to move forward and concentrate on the rest of this season,” Andersen said in the school’s release. “Coaching is not about the mighty dollar.”
Said Barnes: “Coach Andersen’s decision to waive his remaining compensation is unprecedented in major college athletics. His decision is made for the right reasons and values, and it speaks volumes about the kind of honorable person that Gary Andersen is.”
(It’s clear what kind of person Andersen isn’t. The Rick Pitino kind.)
The Dash wonders whether voluntarily surrendering that kind of money is the second costly knee-jerk decision of Andersen’s career. The first was leaving Wisconsin, where Andersen was 20-7 but reportedly frustrated with the school’s academic requirements for admission. He left a perennial winner for what is perennially the toughest job in the Pac-12, and the results have been brutal.
Andersen won just four of his first 22 games at Oregon State, but stirred hope at the end of last season by beating Arizona and archrival Oregon. That hope was quickly extinguished this season, with the Beavers off to a dismal 1-5 start.
The Oregon State position opened up for Andersen thanks to Riley’s own gamble, opting to leave a comfortable place where he had been the head coach for 14 years. The lure of coaching traditional power Nebraska took him outside his comfort zone – also with brutal results to date.
Riley is 18-14 at Nebraska, 3-3 this year. A 1-2 start to this season was enough to get the man who hired him, athletic director Shawn Eichorst, fired. Unless this season turns around quickly – like, Saturday, when Ohio State visits Lincoln – chances are great that Riley also will be gone at season’s end.
With the opening in Corvallis, there will be speculation that Riley would take that job yet again – he had it in 1997-98, then went to the NFL, then came back to Oregon State from 2003-14. But you probably can’t go home a third time.
Washington offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith, a former Oregon State quarterback, will likely be a popular name. If the Beavers decide they need an offense that could equalize their accustomed talent disparity, Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo would seem an attractive candidate.
But you probably won’t find a Power Five head coach averaging 10 wins a year at his current job to jump at Oregon State. Gary Andersen was crazy enough to do that less than three years ago. It was a regrettable move – as was the move by Mike Riley that gave Andersen the chance to commit coaching suicide.
College football is a zero-sum game – if some teams or players are on the rise, others must be on the decline. The Dash looks at four players who are struggling to fulfill big preseason expectations:
Arden Key (33), LSU linebacker. Came into the season touted as a potential top-five 2018 draft pick, and has done nothing. A guy who produced 12 sacks last year has half a sack this year. Key missed the first two games recovering from June shoulder surgery, but he also got flabby – coach Ed Orgeron said at his news conference Monday that he believes the 6-foot-6 Key is “down to 255 as opposed to 270.” He was listed at 245 in 2016. When Key has played this season, there hasn’t been much in the way of identifiable motor. He could end up tiptoeing through the season and toward the draft the way Leonard Fournette did last year.
Justin Jackson (34), Northwestern running back. Heading into this season, Jackson had produced at least one run of 10 yards or longer in 36 of 38 collegiate games. This year he’s just 3-for-5, and has only two runs of longer than 20 yards. His rushing yards per game have gone from 99 as a freshman to 109 as a sophomore to 117 as a junior to 68 this season. The Wildcats have faced some fierce rushing defenses and their offensive line has not been great, so this isn’t entirely on Jackson. But the production is not there.
Josh Allen (35), Wyoming quarterback. Like Key, Allen entered the season as a red-hot draft prospect. Like Key, his numbers have cooled the hype. Allen is 95th nationally in pass efficiency, completing 55 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and three interceptions. He was especially bad against Power Five competition, completing 32 of 64 passes for 238 yards, zero touchdowns and three picks.
Bo Scarbrough (36), Alabama running back. He was an unstoppable postseason force last year, trampling Florida, Washington and Clemson for 364 yards and six touchdowns on just 46 carries. But there has been no carryover to this year – Scarborough has yet to rush for 80 yards in a game, and his yards per carry have decreased from 6.5 to 4.5. Damien Harris has been the far more productive Alabama back, gaining 206 more yards than Scarborough on six fewer carries.
SURVIVING SEVEN OTS
Western Michigan (37) won the highest-scoring game in FBS history Saturday, outlasting Buffalo 71-68 in seven overtimes. Yes, seven, Tim Lester.
“I would have bet a lot on five,” the Western Michigan coach told The Dash on Sunday. “Once you start going for two every time, you stop counting. I didn’t find out until after the game it was seven.”
The game was so long that teams had to strategize when to send players into the locker room for bathroom breaks. It was so weird that the sister of WMU tight end Donnie Ernsberger charged the field from the stands to congratulate her brother on scoring the winning touchdown – although it wasn’t actually the winning touchdown, and she was ejected.
“She obviously was very excited for her brother,” Lester said. “It was a unique twist to the game.”
There was no end to the unique twists, but here was another one: It was 81 degrees at kickoff. In Buffalo. In October. That meant the area was rife for severe weather, and Western Michigan was expecting the storms in the upper Midwest to wreak havoc with their flight home to Kalamazoo. There was talk of a rerouting to South Bend, Indianapolis or Chicago.
But the game lasted so long – 4 hours and 31 minutes – that it actually gave the storms time to clear out and the Broncos had no wait time at the airport before taking off. They landed at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, with stories they’ll tell for the rest of their lives.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Matt Campbell (38), Iowa State. His starting quarterback had just left the team to attend to a personal medical issue. His backup quarterback was his starting middle linebacker. His third-string quarterback was a fifth-year senior who had thrown a total of two college passes. His opponent was third-ranked Oklahoma. The venue was Memorial Stadium in Norman. The deficit was 14 points in the second quarter. And the Cyclones win? Yeah, this might be the easiest comp car award in the 14-year history of the Dash.
COACH WHO SHOULD RIDE THE BUS TO WORK THIS WEEK
Philip Montgomery (39), Tulsa. Coming into this season, the third-year head coach was one of the hottest names in the sport, a creative offensive mind ticketed for a Power Five job in no time. That’s all on hold now, as the Golden Hurricane has staggered out to a ghastly 1-5 start. Rock bottom arrived Saturday in New Orleans, when Tulsa was savaged for more than 650 yards and 62 points by Tulane. (Not Clemson or Alabama, Tulane.) Tulsa is dead last nationally in rushing defense by a wide margin, giving up 348 yards per game, and is last in yards allowed per carry at 6.8. If the Hurricane don’t toughen up defensively, they might not win again this year.
When thirsty in the college football capital of Atlanta, The Dash recommends a local beer: Slap Fight IPA (40) from Monday Night Brewing. The brewery says it “brews beers for weeknights,” but The Dash will testify that they taste pretty good on the weekend as well. Have a couple and thank The Dash later.
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