Max Duggan exceling for No. 13 TCU after he lost starting QB job

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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FORT WORTH, Texas — Max Duggan has certainly surprised new TCU coach Sonny Dykes, who has even gotten emotional talking about the fourth-year quarterback who went from losing his job to being one of nation’s most efficient passers.

The coach’s feelings aren’t really about the impressive numbers Duggan is now putting up for the undefeated 13th-ranked Horned Frogs. They are for how he responded – or, more accurately, didn’t respond – after the new coaching staff went into this season with a different starter than the guy who had been QB1 for TCU most of the past three seasons.

“Yes, he has surprised me, and not as a player, but I just think the entirety of kind of his experience” Dykes said this week. “There’s all this stuff that typically happens when a guy loses a job, and especially someone who’s played as much football as Max. Well, none of that happened.”

While Duggan was disappointed in himself when he didn’t win the starting job through spring and preseason practice – redshirt freshman Chandler Morris started the opener before getting hurt – he was unlike so many other Power Five quarterbacks in that position. Duggan didn’t jump into the transfer portal.

“Everybody wants to play, everybody wants to be the guy. But, you know, I got over it,” said Duggan, who is on track to graduate from TCU’s business school in December. “I didn’t feel sorry for myself, I didn’t pout. I knew that wasn’t going to help the team, so I didn’t really worry too much about it.”

With the Frogs (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) preparing to host eighth-ranked Oklahoma State (5-0, 2-0) in a matchup of the league’s only undefeated teams, Duggan has completed 93 of 127 passes (career-best 73%) for 1,305 yards with a league-best 14 touchdowns and one interception. His 194.35 passing efficiency rating is second only to Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, an early Heisman Trophy favorite.

“I would say he’s throwing the ball way better. His intermediate, his quick game and his deep ball has gotten more accurate,” third-year Oklahoma State cornerback Jabbar Muhammad said.

Duggan trails only Cowboys senior Spencer Sanders in the Big 12 for total yards per game (327 to 301.8) and passing yards (278.8 to 261). Those numbers include Duggan’s 68 total yards when he took over after Morris sprained his left knee late in the third quarter of the opener at Colorado. In his four starts, the TCU senior has averaged 360 total yards and 319.5 yards passing with all 17 of his TDs (14 passing, three rushing).

“Everybody feeds off his energy,” senior receiver Taye Barber said.

While staying focused in the moment, a level-headed Duggan isn’t ready yet to reflect on how his senior season has gone, or a career with 33 starts so far. The Iowa Gatorade player of the year and a four-star recruit before joining the Frogs, he became their starter the final 10 games as a true freshman in 2019.

“I just want to win. … I want to see the guys have a good time, make sure we finish the season on top,” he said.

Dykes said Duggan just keeps getting better in practice and games, continually making throws the coach has never seen him make in the system that encourages smart and aggressive plays.

Still, that isn’t what Dykes was talking about when he got emotional after the Frogs wrapped up non-conference play with a win at SMU, the team he coached the past four years. He expressed being as proud of Duggan as any player he has ever had.

“He loses his job, which is really hard. He’s getting ready to be a senior, it’s his last year. Then he never blinks. He never had a bad practice, he never pouted, he never thought of himself one time,” Dykes said. “How many people can you say that about, that you know in your life? I mean truly, how many people can say that about? And you can say it about Max Duggan, that’s for sure. … I’m incredibly indebted, incredibly proud.”

Dykes went to explain his reaction as being because Duggan acted “the way you would want your son to handle that situation.”

TCU basketball coach Jamie Dixon, preparing his own team for what is expected to be a pretty good season, has also been impressed.

“I think the quarterback’s story is just unbelievable,” Dixon said. “Guys transfer when they’re second string, and this guy stayed. And to play this well, it’s a great story of Max.”

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.