Wake Forest holds off Texas A&M in wild defense-optional Belk Bowl

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If there were ever a game that was decidedly DBYOD (Don’t Bring Your Own Defense), this was it.

Twice in the first half of the Belk Bowl, Wake Forest (8-5) took 17-point leads on Texas A&M (7-6).  Instead of packing it in, though, the Aggies ratcheted up the effort under interim head coach Jeff Banks to turn a potential rout into a wildly tight affair, although in the end it was the Demon Deacons that prevailed and head home with a hard-fought 55-52 win stuffed into its back pocket.

The two teams combined for 1,260 yards of offense — 646 for Wake, 614 for A&M.  The combined yardage set a Belk Bowl record, as did the combined points and total plays (190).

Despite the offensive numbers, it was a pair of defensive plays on the part of the Aggies that shifted the momentum and nearly led to a disastrous Demon Deacons loss.  One forced fumble late in the third quarter led to a Keith Ford touchdown that, at 42-41, gave A&M its first lead of the game since the middle of the first quarter.  On the Demon Deacons’ ensuing possession, another forced fumble was recovered and ultimately led to a 19-yard field goal early in the fourth.

A one-yard touchdown run by Cade Carney four minutes later gave the lead back to Wake at 48-45 with 9:06 left in the game; Nick Starkel‘s touchdown pass a little over three minutes later pushed the lead back in favor of A&M at 52-48.

Once again it was Wake’s turn for a comeback, with a 13-play, 69-yard drive capped by Matt Colburn‘s one-yard touchdown run with just north of two minutes left proving to be the winning score.  A&M had one final chance to either tie it and send it into overtime or win it outright, but its last drive — and a questionable no-call on what appeared to be defensive pass interference — ended just shy of midfield as they turned the ball over on downs.

John Wolford passed for 400 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half, as part of the win.  On the ground, Colburn led all rushers with 150 yards on 21 carries.

Wolford, incidentally, continued his stunning turnaround regular season into the postseason.  Prior to 2017, Wolford had thrown more interceptions (35) than touchdowns (30) in three years; this season, including today’s game, he’s thrown 29 touchdowns against just six picks.

Aggies wide receiver Christian Kirk, playing in what’s expected to be his last game at the collegiate level, caught a career-high 13 passes for 182 yards and a Belk Bowl-record three touchdown catches.  The triggerman of A&M’s offense, the freshman Starkel, passed for a career-high 499 yards in a losing effort.

With the win, Wake won back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2007-08.

Miami fires offensive coordinator Josh Gattis after 1 season

josh gattis fired
Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Miami fired offensive coordinator Josh Gattis on Friday, ending the former Broyles Award winner’s time with the Hurricanes after only one season.

The school announced the move in a one-sentence press release, with no other detail: “Josh Gattis has been relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator, Miami head football coach Mario Cristobal announced Friday,” read the release, sent from a university spokesman.

The Hurricanes went 5-7 in Gattis’ lone season. He was brought in by Miami only a few weeks after winning the 2021 Broyles Award – given to the nation’s top assistant coach – while serving as Michigan’s offensive coordinator and helping the Wolverines reach the College Football Playoff.

But Miami’s offense, for a number of reasons, failed to meet expectations in 2022. Part of that was injuries; starting quarterback Tyler Van Dyke battled a shoulder injury, and the Hurricanes turned to Jake Garcia – who has since transferred – and Jacurri Brown for much of the season.

Miami scored 100 points in its first two games last fall, overpowering Bethune-Cookman and Southern Miss. The Hurricanes averaged only 18.3 points the rest of the way, and finished the year 5-0 in games where the defense allowed no more than 14 points – but 0-7 when opponents scored more than 14.

Miami was 86th nationally in total offense last season, averaging 367.1 yards per game, and 97th in scoring offense.

Gattis played at Wake Forest and worked at North Carolina, Western Michigan, Vanderbilt, Penn State, Alabama and Michigan before coming to Miami.

Audit: LSU discovered $1M overpayment to Kelly in 2022

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU accidentally overpaid Tigers football coach Brian Kelly by $1 million during the first year of a 10-year, $100 million contract, but discovered the error and has moved to correct it, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office said Wednesday.

Kelly was overpaid $1,001,368 in supplemental payments in 2022 because duplicate payments made both to Kelly’s LLC and to the coach directly.

The double payments began in May and continued until LSU officials detected the errors in November.

“LSU management and the head football coach have enacted an adjusted payment schedule so the amount of overpayment will be recouped by the conclusion of fiscal year 2023,” the Legislative Auditor’s report stated.

Kelly, who previously coached at Notre Dame for 12 seasons, was hired by LSU after the 2021 season, when the Tigers went 6-7 for its first losing season since 1999.

LSU exceeded expectations in Kelly’s first season in Baton Rouge, winning the SEC West Division and finishing 10-4 after a 63-7 victory over Purdue in the Citrus Bowl.