MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota re-hired Kirk Ciarrocca as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, after sagging production during the two seasons he was elsewhere.
Coach P.J. Fleck‘s reunion with Ciarrocca was initiated after Mike Sanford was dismissed following the expiration of his contract. Sanford held the dual role for the Gophers the last two years.
Ciarrocca was Fleck’s offensive coordinator at Western Michigan from 2013-16 and at Minnesota from 2017-19 until taking the same position at Penn State in 2020. He was fired after one season there and spent 2021 with West Virginia in a non-coaching role as an offensive analyst.
Coincidentally, Minnesota and West Virginia are matched up in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix on Dec. 28. Ciarrocca agreed to take the job before the bowl pairings were revealed.
The Gophers announced that Ciarrocca will not coach in the bowl game, after conversation between Fleck and West Virginia coach Neal Brown. Wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Matt Simon will be the play-caller for Minnesota in the bowl game.
In 2019, with future NFL wide receivers Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson in the lineup, the Gophers were second in the Big Ten in scoring and third in yardage. Ciarrocca was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Broyles Award, presented annually to the top assistant coach in college football. Quarterback Tanner Morgan set several single-season program records including passing yards (3,253), touchdown passes (30) and completion percentage (66.0).
In 2021, the Gophers dropped to eighth in the Big Ten in scoring and ninth in yardage. Morgan’s production was well off his 2019 pace, with 1,935 passing yards, 10 touchdown passes and a 59.5 completion percentage. Morgan has decided to return for a sixth season in 2022.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Ty Zentner kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime as 13th-ranked Kansas State beat No. 3 TCU 31-28 in the Big 12 championship game Saturday, leaving the Horned Frogs to wait another day to find out if they had already done enough to get into the four-team College Football Playoff.
The Wildcats set up the winning field goal after TCU (12-1) had the opening possession of overtime and Kendre Miller was stopped short on consecutive plays from inside the 1.
Deuce Vaughn ran for 130 yards and a touchdown and Will Howard threw two TDs for the Wildcats (10-3, No. 10 CFP), who six weeks earlier had jumped out to a 28-10 lead early in the second quarter before TCU scored the game’s last 28 points.
That was one of five games the Horned Frogs (12-1, No. 3 CFP) won when trailing after halftime. But they couldn’t do it again with the chance to guarantee being the first Big 12 team other than Oklahoma to make the playoff.
TCU, the first Big 12 team to complete a regular season undefeated since Texas in 2009, could still get into the playoff. While their case was helped when fourth-ranked Southern California (11-2) lost 47-24 to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night, the Frogs now have to wait until the final CFP rankings come out Sunday.
Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said before the game that TCU, with first-year coach Sonny Dykes, already deserved to be in the playoff.
“You look at their strength of schedule. You think about how they’ve performed all year long,” Yormark said. “I think regardless, they should be in, for sure.”
LAS VEGAS — No. 12 Utah pounded a limping, bloodied Caleb Williams and roared past No. 4 Southern California 47-24 on Friday night to win the Pac-12 Championship and put USC’s College Football Playoff hopes in doubt.
The loss by the Trojans (11-2) could open the way for Ohio State (11-1) to take their spot in the playoffs. USC is fourth in the CFP rankings, the Buckeyes are one step behind.
Ohio State had to be Utah’s biggest fan. The Buckeyes move up in playoff consideration, with 12-0 Michigan at No. 2 with the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, that would give the Big Ten conference two playoff teams for the first time. It also would extend the Pac-12′s playoff drought — Washington in 2017 is the last team from that conference to make the playoffs.
Utah (10-3) is heading to the Rose Bowl, but the Utes already were going there regardless of the outcome of the title game. They are responsible for USC’s only losses, having edged the Trojans 43-42 on Oct. 15 in Salt Lake City.
The Utes rolled up 533 yards of offense in the rematch, and Cam Rising passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns.
Williams threw for 363 yards and three TDs. He entered the game as the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, but wasn’t the same after getting injured in the first quarter.
The Trojans looked as if they were going to run away with the game, taking a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter behind some stellar play by Williams.
He appeared to hurt his left knee or leg in the first quarter on a 59-yard run in which he took a big hit at the end, and he suffered a bad cut on the pinky finger of his throwing hand. He spent most of the game limping, and wasn’t the same after a sterling first quarter in which the Trojans outgained Utah in total yards 194-70, and Williams had both touchdown passes.
After USC failed to pick up a fourth-and-8 from Utah’s 37-yard line, the Utes scored two touchdowns in the final 3:55 of the first half, and suddenly the game was tied at 17. Instead of a rout, the game was beginning to look like the shootout the Utes won in October.
The game took on that tone at times in the second half, but USC had no answer for how to slow down Utah, which outscored the Trojans 44-7 in overcoming that two-touchdown deficit.
A announced sellout crowd of 61,195 made this the largest for a neutral-site Pac-12 Championship. It beat the previous record of 58,476 fans. who watched Southern California-Stanford in Santa Clara, California, in 2015.