CI Week 1 Highlights

After a two-year hiatus, we finally had a nearly full weekend of Division I football games. A number of CI coaches made successful debuts with new teams or in new positions this weekend, including four first-time head coaches. Please enjoy this week's highlights below:
Edmonton Elks earn first win of 2021, downing B.C. Lions 21-16
Jaime Elizondo’s (@Coach_Elizondo) head coaching debut came earlier than his counterparts south of the border thanks to the CFL schedule, but his first win is just as sweet now as it was two weeks ago. Edmonton dropped its first two games of the season, one by a single yard, but the message of resilience from Elizondo, RB Coach James Vollono (@CoachVollono) and the rest of the staff resonated with the players. The Elks responded in Week 3 with their most impressive performance thus far, led by RB James Wilder Jr. The former Florida State product rushed 22 times for 127 yards while also catching four passes for 33 yards. QB Trevor Harris, who partnered with Elizondo to win the 2016 Grey Cup when both were at Ottawa, completed 26-of-31 passes for 296 yards and one touchdown. His primary target on the night was WR Greg Ellinson, who finished with nine catches for 148 yards. The Elks’ Week 4 game versus Toronto was postponed but they are back in action later today against Calgary. Congratulations and good luck to Elizondo and Vollono! Elizondo returns to the CFL this season after serving as the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL in 2020. He previously spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator in Ottawa and one as the wide receivers coach for Toronto. At the college level, Elizondo has served as the offensive coordinator for Columbia and also has experience as a wide receivers coach for Syracuse and Hofstra. Vollono is in his first season in the CFL after serving as the special teams coordinator at Florida International for three seasons. He spent the 2016 campaign as a special teams analyst at Georgia and served in a similar capacity at Mississippi State from 2013-15. He has also served on staffs at Colorado, North Carolina, Georgetown and Towson.
Hatters win 54-14 in Brian Young’s debut
It was as if he never left DeLand. Brian Young (@coachbkyoung) served as Stetson’s assistant head coach and defensive coordinator from the program’s inception in 2012 through 2019. When the FCS postponed its 2020 season, Young seized the chance to coach at the FBS level with his alma mater, Georgia Southern. But when the head coaching position at Stetson opened in May, it was only fitting that Young would return to lead the program that he helped start. Saturday’s opener erased any doubt that the Hatters are in good hands with Young at the helm. Quarterbacks Alex Piccirilli and John Seter combined to complete 19-of-28 passes for 274 yards and four touchdowns in leading Stetson to a 40-point win over Warner. Not surprisingly, the Hatters were equally impressive on defense. During Young’s tenure as defensive coordinator, Stetson ranked first or second in the conference in yards allowed on six occasions. Against Warner, Stetson allowed only 106 yards, including -13 rushing yards. DB Davion Maxwell led the Hatters with five tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery. Congratulations to Young on the historic win! Before arriving at Stetson, Young coached the defensive backs at Cornell and also served as the defensive coordinator at Mississippi College from 2007-10.
Benedict College gives Chennis Berry a win in his Tiger debut at Carolinas Football Classic
Originally hired in February 2020, Chennis Berry (@coachberry77) had to wait 18 months for his first game as Benedict’s head coach as the SIAC elected not to play in 2020. In the end, the wait was well worth it. The Tigers renewed their rivalry with cross-town rival, Allen University, in a matchup rebranded as the Carolinas Football Classic. The last time the pair of Columbia schools met in 1966, Benedict prevailed in a narrow 12-6 decision over the Yellow Jackets. The outcome of Saturday’s contest was a much more resounding 45-12 victory for the Tigers. Benedict QB Eric Phoenix wasted no time in getting the Tigers on the board, connecting with WR Te’Sean Pressley on a 6-yard scoring play to cap a 10-play, 65-yard opening drive. From there, the rout was on. RB Jayden McCloud led the Tigers on the ground, racking up 116 yards on 13 carries. Congratulations to Berry on the great start! Prior to being named head coach at Benedict, Berry spent seven seasons as the asst. head coach, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Southern. While in Baton Rouge, he helped the Jaguars win three division titles and one conference championship. Berry also has coordinating experience from stints at Howard, North Carolina A&T and Morgan State, and has a wealth of NFL experience having completed internships with the Jaguars, Colts, Browns, Lions, Chargers and Bears.
Utah State ushers in Blake Anderson era with thrilling 26-23 victory at Washington State
In a business where whole coaching staffs can often move in tandem from one spot to the next, the Utah State defensive staff stands out for its diversity of backgrounds. The Aggies’ five defensive coaches spent the 2020 season at four different schools, including CB Coach Ray Brown (@CoachB212) who arrived in Logan by way of Troy. Saturday night demonstrated that the group has jelled in a short amount of time. Facing a run-and-shoot offense so rare that it hasn’t been mainstream since Warren Moon and Haywood Jeffires were lighting up scoreboards for the Houston Oilers, the Aggies held Washington State quarterbacks to just 211 passing yards on 35 attempts. Starting USU cornerback Cam Lampkin recorded three tackles and one pass breakup and up front, DE Patrick Joyner, Jr. led the way with three tackles, two tackles-for-loss, one sack and safety. As a unit, the Aggie defense came up with a crucial three-and-out late in the fourth quarter that setup the offense’s drive to score the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds to play. Congratulations to Brown on the dramatic comeback! Brown spent two seasons coaching corners at Troy following a three-year stint in the same role at Abilene Christian. With the Wildcats, Brown coached a secondary that helped set a new program record with 13 interceptions in 2018. He also boasts Power 5 experience with Arizona State and was a graduate assistant at Washington State in 2013.
Price carries FIU to 48-10 romp over Long Island in opener
When DL Coach Deke Adams (@CoachDekeAdams) and LB Coach Randall McCray (@mccray_randall) arrived at FIU this spring, they brought with them pedigrees that included combined tallies of 16 years of Power 5 and NFL experience. That experience is already paying dividends for the Panthers. Against Long Island, FIU’s front seven wreaked havoc all night. The Panther defense posted six tackles-for-loss, including one from LB Jamal Gates who finished second on the team with five tackles. Congratulations to Adams and McCray on the opening win! Adams spent the 2020 campaign as the DL coach at Ole Miss after previous stints in similar roles at Mississippi State, UNC, South Carolina and Southern Miss. With the Gamecocks, he worked with two First Team All-Americans, Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles. Adams has participated in seven bowl games and was a member of the Southern Miss staff that won the 2011 C-USA Championship. McCray recently served as the asst. special teams coach for the Arizona Cardinals after a two-year stint as the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Texas State. He previously served as the defensive coordinator at Gardner-Webb for three seasons, where he led the Runnin' Bulldogs to the best season on defense in program history. In 27 seasons at the college level, McCray worked with special teams and all defensive position groups during stops at Pitt, Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee, Toledo, Clemson and South Carolina among others.
UTSA holds off Illinois in Saturday night thriller
Entering the weekend, UTSA had only notched one win against a Power 5 program since its inception in 2011. By Saturday night, they had doubled that mark in convincing fashion with a 37-30 win in Champaign. The Roadrunners dominated the Illini in all facets, outgaining the hosts on the ground, through the air and in time of possession. UTSA ILB Trevor Harmanson finished the game tied for the team-lead with nine tackles while fellow ILB Jamal Ligon chipped in with six tackles, one tackle-for-loss and a forced fumble. Congratulations to UTSA LB Coach Brad Sherrod (@CoachBSherrod) on the big win! Sherrod is in his first season in San Antonio after spending 2020 at Tennessee State. No stranger to FBS, Sherrod served as the outside linebackers coach at Wake Forest for three seasons and spent more than a decade as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Duke. He also has coordinated defenses at Elon and Sam Houston State, where he helped guide a Bearkat defense that led the Southland Conference in tackles-for-loss en route to winning a conference championship.
Quick Hits
  • Filling in at kicker, Memphis punter Joe Doyle went 5-for-5 on field goals and 3-for-3 on extra points, the first kicks of his college career, to earn AAC Special Teams Player of the Week as the Tigers defeated Nicholls, 42-17. Congratulations to Memphis Special Teams Coordinator Charles Bankins (@FBCoachBankins)!
  • Sam Houston State rushed for 313 yards, recorded two interceptions and held NAU to just 91 rushing yards to open its title defense with a 42-16 win over the Lumberjacks. Congratulations to SHSU RB Coach Chris Buckner (@coachcbuckner), Special Teams Coor./CB Gary McGraw (@DBCoachMcGraw) and DL Coach Joe Morris (@jbmorriscoach)!
  • Two years after holding Iowa State to its lowest offensive output of the season in regulation, FCS member Northern Iowa again stifled the FBS #7 Iowa State, holding the Cyclones to just 16 points and Heisman hopeful RB Breece Hall to just 69 rushing yards. The Panthers came up just short, but congratulations are still in order for UNI Defensive Coordinator Jeremiah Johnson (@Coach_J_Johnson) for consistently frustrating one of the nation’s top offenses.
In addition to the Elks, two more CI coaches are in action tonight when Louisville and RB Coach De’Rail Sims (@DeRailSims) take on Ole Miss and Defensive Analyst Elijah Sandweiss (@ElijahSandweiss) at 8pm eastern in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game.

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