Calzada throws 3 TDs as No. 7 Texas A&M routs New Mexico 34-0

Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Zach Calzada threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start to power No. 7 Texas A&M in a 34-0 rout of New Mexico on Saturday.

The victory extends A&M’s winning streak to 11 games and gives the Aggies a 3-0 start for the first time since opening the 2016 season with six consecutive wins.

Despite the lopsided win coach Jimbo Fisher devoted most of his postgame comments addressing ways his team needs to improve.

“We’re playing very average,” Fisher said. “We’ve got to get better in all aspects and we’ve got to grow up across the board in everything we do and play with much more consistency as a team and learn to play off each other.”

Calzada was thrust into the job last weekend against Colorado when Haynes King was injured on A&M’s second possession. King had surgery this week to repair a broken right leg, leaving Calzada to run the offense.

Calzada looked more comfortable, and the Aggies moved the ball much better Saturday than they did last week while scoring just 10 points in a win over the Buffaloes. They eclipsed their total points from that game in the first six minutes of this one and built a 24-point lead by halftime.

While happy with the fast start, the Aggies were disappointed that they added just 10 points the rest of the way.

“We didn’t finish,” running back Isaiah Spiller said. “We’ve still got a young team … and we’re just going to keep working, that’s all we can do.”

Terry Wilson, a transfer from Kentucky who had 559 yards passing in the first two games, threw for just 33 yards Saturday for New Mexico (2-1) while being hurried and harassed all day. He had an interception, was sacked four times and had three passes broken up by A&M’s stingy defense.

“My biggest disappointment… was they didn’t believe they could play with them until it was too late,” New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales said.

Devon Achane got things going when he grabbed a 26-yard touchdown pass to put the Aggies up early.

The Aggies forced New Mexico to punt before Calzada found Demond Demas wide open for a 70-yard touchdown on the first play of the next drive to make it 14-0. It was the first career catch for Demas, a five-star recruit in his second season with the Aggies.

Texas A&M extended the lead to 21-0 when Spiller shed three defenders on a 5-yard scoring run with about six minutes left in the second quarter.

Spiller had 117 yards rushing to bounce back after running for just 20 yards last week.

The Aggies added a field goal late in the second quarter and tacked on another one on their first drive of the second half to make it 27-0.

Calzada was intercepted by Tavian Combs on the next possession, but the Lobos couldn’t take advantage of the turnover and had to punt.

Moose Muhammad collected his first career touchdown when he reeled in a 7-yard pass with one hand late in the third quarter to push the lead to 34-0.


The Aggies were dominant against the Lobos, who play in the Mountain West Conference, but they’ll need to eliminate mistakes and penalties next week if they hope to continue their winning streak in their SEC opener against No. 20 Arkansas.


After dropping two spots last week after their close call against Colorado, Saturday’s decisive victory should allow the Aggies to retain their current position in the rankings.


New Mexico: Visits UTEP next Saturday night.

Texas A&M: Faces No. 20 Arkansas next Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

College football super seniors could change fortunes in 2021

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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Bret Bielema saw a unique opportunity to accelerate a turnaround at Illinois when he returned to college football as head coach of the Illini in December.

The NCAA’s decision to grant every fall sport athlete who played through the pandemic an extra season of eligibility meant Illinois could bring back a large group experienced players to be the foundation of Bielema’s first team in Champaign.

Schools are not obligated to bring back those players and give them scholarships, but Bielema said he made it clear at his first team meeting that all were welcome.

“And I wasn’t going to do it based on watching a bunch of film and deciding who I thought could or couldn’t play or who should or shouldn’t have an opportunity,” Bielema said. “If you’re in that room you’re part of the Illini family and we’re in this together.”

As major college football returns to normal in 2021, one of the lingering effects of the pandemic season will be the return of hundreds of extra, older players who choose to stick around for another year. With spring practice approaching, more than 1,000 scholarship players are expected to take advantage of the NCAA’s eligibility mulligan, according to an Associated Press review of rosters provided by 129 schools.

The number of these super seniors on each team is subject to change and likely to go down as players continue to assess the value of an playing extra year of college football, but their presence is likely to have a major impact on the 2021 season.

ESPN’s SP+ power rankings use returning production (everything from yards and points scored to tackles and interceptions) to project how teams will do in the coming season. Bill Connelly, who created SP+, said there will be more returning production across college football in 2021 than in any year since he started tracking it in 2014.

Connelly said on The AP Top 25 College Football Podcast the typical national average for returning production among FBS teams is about 62% per team. As rosters continue to come together, with transfers still finding homes for next season, the national average for returning production has already topped 70% per team.

“Everybody’s like eight to 10 (percentage points) higher because they’re returning more seniors, because all the seniors got a chance at an extra year of eligibility,” Connelly said.

Normally, the top teams in returning production will be around 87%, Connelly said. Currently, three teams are expected to have more than 90% of their production from 2020 back in 2021.

Leading the way was Louisiana-Lafayette at 96%. UCLA and Miami were both at 91%. Lafayette (Levi Lewis) and Miami (D’Eriq King) each has a quarterback who will be a super senior.

As of this past weekend, Illinois expects to have 17 scholarship super seniors, the most of any Power Five school.

“What I wouldn’t give to be able to play another season in Memorial Stadium, packed to the brim with 60,000 Fighting Illini. That’s all I want right now,” said tackle Alex Palczewski, one of three returning starters along the offensive line for the Illini who will be super seniors.

For a program that hasn’t had a winning record since 2011 and has reached the postseason just twice in that time, the hope is that Palczewski, fellow linemen Doug Kramer and Vederian Lowe and the super senior class will power a long awaited breakthrough in Champaign.

Athletic director Josh Whitman said bringing back the super seniors will cost Illinois about $500,000 on top of typical football expenses, mostly in additional financial aid. The Illini expect to have about 92 scholarship players this season.

“As we looked at it, the chance to capitalize on their return and really continue our progress on the football field was really a cost well worth it given what we think the upside of that will be,” Whitman said.

The NCAA ruled super seniors will not count next season toward the Bowl Subdivision cap of 85 scholarship players per team. As of now, athletes using their COVID-19 year of eligibility after 2021-22 will count toward scholarship and roster limits in all NCAA sports.

At New Mexico, 14 super seniors will keep the Lobos from being well under the scholarship limit in coach Danny Gonzales’ second season.

Gonzales inherited a lopsided roster in 2020, heavy with upperclassmen and junior college transfers and thin on freshmen (four) and sophomores (nine) on scholarship. If not for the super seniors, the Lobos might have barely cracked 70 scholarship players in 2021.

“I was really worried about the second year when I first took the job … but this will definitely will help to us be more competitive than we would have been,” said Gonzales, whose team won its final two games of 2020 to finish 2-5 in the Mountain West.

Texas Tech coach Matt Wells said his plan for success in Lubbock has been “get old and stay old.”

Wells is looking to his super seniors to play a major part in turnaround season after the Red Raiders went 8-14 his first two years in the Big 12.

Texas Tech has seven returning starters among 10 super seniors, including defensive back Eric Monroe and linebacker Colin Schooler. Those two arrived in Lubbock as transfers late last summer and were thrown into action with little time to get acclimated.

“The super seniors coming back are absolutely part of that formula for building this program where we are at right now,” Well said. “That leadership, maturity and experience, it’s hard to gain through a young player.”

Family of late New Mexico lineman sues former coach, school

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Former New Mexico coach Bob Davie ignored a player’s plea for help in his fight against depression and instead made the lineman play a game before he took his own life, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The lawsuit filed in federal court alleges the University of New Mexico, Davie and the NCAA didn’t protect 21-year-old Nahje Flowers, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in November.

Court documents said the defensive standout had sought counseling to fight depression but Davie overruled a therapist’s recommendation that Flowers take some time off. He died days after, the lawsuit said.

“The university’s football program carried more weight than the health and well-being of the student-athlete,” lawyer Bob Hilliard said. “He finally found no way out than to take his own life.”

Michael Kennedy, a lawyer for Davie, did not immediately return an email and phone message seeking comment.

University of New Mexico spokeswoman Cinnamon Blair said the school doesn’t comment directly on pending or active litigation.

“The mental and physical well-being of our students is of the greatest importance to the University of New Mexico, and the loss of a student is tragic and affects the entire Lobo community deeply,” Blair said. “Nahje made great contributions to UNM as a student and an athlete, and our thoughts continue to be with his family.”

NCAA spokeswoman Emily James declined to comment.

Hilliard said an autopsy later found that Flowers suffered from CTE – the brain injury associated with repeated blows to the head that can lead to depression, dementia and erratic behavior.

When relatives sought answers after Flowers’ death, his father, La’Vonte, said Davie was “very disrespectful.” La’Vonte Flowers said his other son was angry at Davie’s behavior, and the coach had to be separated from him.

“He said, `What do you want from me? … Do I need to get a lawyer or something?”‘ Vickie Gilmore, Flowers’ mother, said. “He walked up on me and my other son walked on him.”

Gilmore said Davie then stepped away while laughing.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in damages and legal fees.

Also representing the family is civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is working for the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake – three Black people who were killed or seriously injured by police officers, leading to protests around the country.

Flowers was from Los Angeles, where he played football at Dorsey High School. He came to New Mexico in 2016.

Flowers had 13 tackles and 1 1/2 sack in 2019.

Davie stepped down in November following a rocky tenure and a 35-63 record over eight seasons. He previously coached at Notre Dame from 1997-2001. Davie was suspended for 30 days in 2018 because of alleged physical abuse of players.