Mississippi State freshman lineman Sam Westmoreland dies

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STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State freshman offensive lineman Sam Westmoreland has died at the age of 18, the school announced.

The school did not provide details in announcing the death of Westmoreland, an industrial technology major from Tupelo who would have turned 19 on Friday. Oktibbeha County coroner Michael Hunt told The Associated Press Wednesday night that foul play is not suspected but did not provide further details. The school said in a news release that it was working with the athletic department, the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office and the coroner’s office to determine facts of the death and would not comment further.

Messages left with the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office were not immediately returned.

The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Westmoreland was listed on the roster for the Bulldogs’ Southeastern Conference game Saturday at No. 6 Alabama. He had not played this season, according to the game notes.

MSU coach Mike Leach said in the news release that the athletics family was heartbroken by Westmoreland’s death, which he called sudden.

“Sam was a beloved son, brother and teammate, and a tremendous young man with a limitless future,” Leach said. “He will always be remembered and deeply missed by everyone who knew and loved him. Our highest priority is the support of the Westmoreland family and our student-athletes during this troubling time.”

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

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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.