Middle Tennessee uses big plays to stun No. 25 Miami, 45-31

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Chase Cunningham passed for 408 yards and three touchdowns, including a 98-yarder to DJ England-Chisholm, and Middle Tennessee State stunned No. 25 Miami 45-31 for its first win in 21 tries against ranked opponents.

England-Chisholm caught two passes – the first of them being a 71-yard touchdown in the first quarter, the other being the 98-yarder in the fourth – to help the Blue Raiders (3-1) seal the upset.

Cunningham completed 16 of 25 passes for Middle Tennessee State, including a 69-yard scoring throw to Elijah Metcalf. Cunningham and Frank Peasant also ran for scores for the Blue Raiders, and defensive end Zaylin Wood returned an interception for a touchdown.

Key’Shawn Smith returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown for Miami (2-2), which turned the ball over on its first three possessions and never escaped the early hole it dug. Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke – the Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year last season – was pulled in the third quarter and replaced by Jake Garcia.

Van Dyke completed 16 of 32 passes for 138 yards, one touchdown to Henry Parrish Jr., and two interceptions – those coming on Miami’s first and third plays from scrimmage. Garcia completed 10 of 19 passes for 161 yards for the Hurricanes, who heard plenty of boos from the fans who showed up to what was not even a half-filled stadium; most were long gone before the final whistle.

Garcia entered midway through the third quarter and brought an immediate spark. He engineered a five-play, 72-yard touchdown drive – fueled by passes of 39 and 23 yards, Miami’s two biggest gains of the day to that point – and got the Hurricanes within 31-17 on a 1-yard rush by Thaddeus Franklin.

That was the first of two touchdowns by Franklin, the other coming from a yard out with 6:05 left to get the Hurricanes within 45-31.

The win was a long time coming for MTSU coach Rick Stockstill, who played his college football at Florida State – Miami’s rival. The Seminoles went 0-2 in games that Stockstill played against the Hurricanes in 1980 and 1981.

Those games were close. This one wasn’t.

And while a blowout might have been expected with Miami entering as a 25.5-point favorite, few, if anyone, would have dared to say it would be the Blue Raiders doing the romping. It even had oddsmakers scrambling; MTSU actually became the betting favorite to win by the midpoint of the second quarter, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

It was 10-0 before Miami got on the board, 24-3 early in the second quarter when Cunningham scored on a 9-yard rush. The Hurricanes never got closer than 14 points the rest of the way.

Miami had a chance to get within a touchdown on a 4th-and-goal from the Middle Tennessee 1 on the opening play of the fourth quarter; Garcia’s pass couldn’t be controlled by tight end Will Mallory, causing a turnover on downs.

The next play, England-Chisolm got loose down the left sideline for the biggest pass play ever allowed by the Hurricanes, two yards longer than the 96-yard pass Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey caught from Sam Hollenbach in 2006.

From there, it was only a matter of time before MTSU could truly start the celebration.

THE TAKEAWAY

Middle Tennessee State: The Blue Raiders went to the upper level of college football, now called FBS, in 1999. Entering Saturday, they were 0-20 against opponents that were ranked in the AP Top 25 poll when those games were played and outscored by 585 points – 868-283.

Miami: According to SportRadar, the Hurricanes became the first Power 5 school this season to commit three turnovers in a first quarter. The last Power 5 school to achieve that ignominious feat was … Miami, last season against Florida State.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

It’s over for Miami, for now. The Hurricanes were No. 25 and will fall out of the poll Sunday. At 2-2, it’ll be difficult for the Hurricanes to be considered again by many voters anytime soon.

NEVER LED

MTSU is now 3-0 all-time against Miami, with the other wins coming in 1931 and 1932. The Hurricanes never held the lead in any of those games.

UP NEXT

Middle Tennessee State: Hosts UTSA on Friday in the Conference USA opener for both clubs.

Miami: A bye week, then Atlantic Coast Conference play starts Oct. 8 at home against North Carolina.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.