Coastal Carolina beats App State 35-28, moves atop Sun Belt

David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports
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CONWAY, S.C. – Grayson McCall threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns and Coastal Carolina beat Appalachian State 35-28 on Thursday night for first place in the Sun Belt Conference.

McCall’s 8-yard TD pass to Jacob Jenkins made it 28-14 early in the fourth quarter, and on App State’s next play Tavyn Jackson intercepted a pass and returned it 54 yards to the 1. Reese White capped the drive with a TD run for a 21-point lead.

Chase Brice‘s 5-yard quarterback sneak with 3:01 left in the fourth cut App State’s deficit to seven points, but Coastal Carolina ran out the clock in eight plays to end it.

Coastal Carolina (8-1, 5-1) won just its second game in eight series meetings. The winner of this matchup has gone on to win the East Division the last four years.

The Coastal Carolina defense forced a three-and-out on the first possession of the game, and three plays later Jared Brown ran for a 45-yard touchdown. Coastal Carolina had three touchdowns of over 30 yards in the first half to build a 21-14 lead. McCall connected with Sam Pinckney for a 38-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker.

Brice threw for 279 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for Appalachian State (5-4, 2-3). Dalton Stroman made a one-handed catch in the end zone for a 41-yard score to get within 21-14.

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.