CI Week 12 Highlights

From east to west, conference title races came down to the final week of the regular season for several of Coaches Inc.’s FCS coaches. Across the board, the group passed their tests with flying colors. In addition to Furman DL Coach Kevin Lewis (@CoachKLewDL), who helped the Paladins secured the Southern Conference Championship with a week to spare, the following CI coaches claimed all or shares of conference titles on Saturday: Albany Assoc. Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Jared Ambrose (@CoachJambrose), Albany OLB Coach Chris Calabrese (@Coach_Calabrese), Lafayette Offensive Coordinator/QB T.J. DiMuzio (@CoachTJD), Howard DB Coach Kyshoen Jarrett (@Ky3fOUR), Howard Offensive Coordinator/WR Lindsey Lamar (@LindseyLamar5), Dartmouth DB Coach Aashon Larkins (@CoachALarkins), Montana CB Coach Kim McCloud (@CoachKimMcCloud), Howard QB Coach Greg McGhee (@Greg_Mcghee2), Richmond RB Coach Justin Poindexter (@FBCoachDex), Austin Peay Co-Offensive Coordinator/WR Lanear Sampson (@CoachSampson3), Howard Head Coach Larry Scott (@CoachLScott70), and North Carolina Central Run Game Coordinator/OL Coach Cedric Williams (@CWilliams8076). Florida A&M Head Coach Willie Simmons (@HCWillieSimmons) and the Rattlers will have a chance to join that group and take on Howard in the Celebration Bowl if they can beat Prairie View A&M again in the SWAC Championship Game on December 2. Aside from Howard and Dartmouth, the eight other conference champions were included in the FCS playoff bracket which was unveiled on Sunday. They will be joined by South Dakota Assoc. Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Travis Johansen (@CoachTJohansen) and the Coyotes who earned the #3 national seed as well as Southern Illinois Special Teams Coordinator/DB Gary McGraw (@DBCoachMcGraw) and RB Coach Larry Warner (@coachWarnerRB). At the FBS level, Georgia Tech Defensive Line Coach Marco Coleman (@Coach_MColeman) and Arkansas State Assoc. Head Coach/RB Marquase Lovings (@CoachLovings) each secured bowl eligibility by picking up their sixth wins on Saturday. Keep reading for more highlights from Week 12.
Giants’ Saquon Barkley overcomes rough first half with critical effort down stretch
New York RB Saquon Barkley was so hot in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game that the only way the Commanders could cool him off was by turning off the hot water in the locker rooms. Trading hot showers for wins is a deal that Barkley and the Giants will make every time. In the first quarter, the Commanders loaded the box and bottled up Barkley, limiting the Pro Bowl back to -4 yards on his first three carries. Frustrated but not defeated, Barkley implored his coaches to involve him in the passing game on the sideline. RB Coach Jeff Nixon (@CoachNixon_NYG) and the Giant staff adapted and Barkley delivered, scoring on a 24-yard reception with 6:29 left in the first quarter to put New York up 7-0. By the end of the third quarter, Barkley had broken down the Washington run defense. Starting with a 36-yard rush on the last play of the third quarter, Barley rushed for 85 yards over the game’s final 16 minutes and added a second receiving touchdown in the fourth quarter to lead the Giants to a 31-19 victory, their second win of the season over their long-time rivals. Congratulations to Nixon on the win and Barkley’s big game! Nixon is in his first season in New York after spending three seasons with the Panthers. He initially arrived in Carolina as a senior offensive assistant before being promoted to interim offensive coordinator and ultimately assistant head coach in 2022 as the Panthers finished in the top 10 of the league in rushing. With 14 years of NFL coaching experience, Nixon worked with special teams, running backs and tight ends over stints with the Eagles, Dolphins and 49ers from 2007-16. From 2017-19, he returned to the college game as the co-offensive coordinator at Baylor, where he helped engineer a dramatic turnaround as the Bears improved from 1-11 to an 11-3 record in 2019 that included a Big 12 title, Sugar Bowl and #12 final ranking. Nixon played at Penn State and began his coaching career at State College with other early stops at Princeton, Shippensburg, Chattanooga and Temple.
No. 7 Texas flexes muscles with its run defense, Baxter goes for 100+ in win over Iowa State
When Iowa State OL Jarod Hufford woke up on Sunday morning, he may have had some regrets about his comments last week. When previously asked about the Texas defense, Hufford remarked: “That program, much like Oklahoma, they get all the big five-star recruits. They have all the nicest stuff in the world, and they think they don’t stink. They’re just humans, and that’s how I see them. They’re just people that have such a high ego that needs to be checked.” Unlike the Giants after their game, it turns out that the Longhorns do in fact not stink. Texas’ defense held the Cyclones to just nine rushing yards, the fewest allowed by a Longhorn defense against a Big 12 opponent since 2011. LB David Gbenda led the charge for the Texas front six, tallying six tackles, including 1.5 tackles-for-loss. Forced to turn to the air, Iowa State accumulated decent yardage but was rendered largely ineffective by the Longhorns’ stellar performance on third down. Consistent with their first-place national ranking in the category, Texas held the Cyclones to just 3-for-11 on third down. The Longhorns also rank fifth nationally in Red Zone Defense, lead the Big 12 in Sacks, and rank third in the conference in Takeaways. Texas DB Jerrin Thompson added to the turnover total when he picked off a Cyclone pass late in the third quarter as the visitors held a 17-15 lead. Three plays later, QB Quinn Ewers connected with TE Gunnar Helm for a 31-yard touchdown pass to help Texas pull away for a 26-16 win. Congratulations to Texas Senior Defensive Analyst/DB Joey Thomas (@Joey_thomas24_) on the win and elite defense! Thomas is in his second season in Austin after spending the previous two seasons at Florida Atlantic, first as an analyst prior to his promotion to wide receivers coach in 2021. He previously served as the defensive backs coach, defensive passing game coordinator and special teams coordinator at Fort Scott and was a three-time league coach of the year as a head coach at the high school level in Seattle. After playing at Montana State, Thomas enjoyed a five-year playing career with the Packers, Saints, Cowboys and Dolphins.
Pitt State handles UIndy, 35-14, advances to 2nd round
It was love at first deep ball for Brian Wright (@Coachbwright4). Then the offensive coordinator at Toledo, Wright was recruiting in Florida when he saw Bartram Trail High School QB Chad Dodson, Jr. throw one vertical route and instantly knew the sophomore was a special talent. Fast forward two years and Wright, now the head coach at Pitt State, reached out to Dodson. After realizing the Gorillas were based in Kansas and not western Pennsylvania, the Florida kid was on board. Dodson took the reins to the Pitt State offense at the end of the 2021 season and last year led the team to an 11-0 regular season, MIAA title, and first round playoff win en route to earning All-MIAA honors. The playoff win came against UIndy and saw Dodson throw for 255 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-0 rout. On Saturday, it was like déjà vu all over again as the Gorillas again met UIndy in the first round and Dodson again carved up the Greyhound secondary. Coming off an injury that kept him out of Week 11, Dodson showed no signs of rust in throwing for 282 yards and three touchdowns as Pitt State once again scored 35 points in the winning effort. TE Devon Garrison led the Gorillas with six receptions for 93 yards while dual-threat QB Ty Pennington paced Wright’s ground attack with 76 rushing yards. The Gorilla defense forced three turnovers and was led by LB Jack Barkley, who finished with 14 tackles, two sacks and one interception. Congratulations and good luck to Wright whose team will now travel to Allendale, MI for a second-round matchup at Grand Valley State. Now in his fourth season leading Pitt State, Wright has compiled an overall record of 33-7 with the program. Wight also went a perfect 4-0 as the interim head coach at Florida Atlantic in 2013. In between his stints in Boca Raton and Pittsburg, he went to three bowl games and won the MAC title in 2017 as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Toledo. Wright has also coordinated offenses at Montana State, Youngstown State and Walsh in his 30-year career.
Arkansas State thumps Texas State 77-31 to become bowl-eligible
Few teams have exceeded expectations this season to the extent that Arkansas State has. Predicted to finish near the bottom of the Sun Belt and well short of bowl eligibility, the Red Wolves have already punched their postseason ticket with a game still remaining. Fittingly, their sixth win came in record breaking fashion against one of the teams projected to finish ahead of them in the conference preseason poll. RB Ja’Quez Cross rushed for three touchdowns and added a fourth on a kickoff return as the Red Wolves trounced Texas State, 77-31. In supporting roles, running backs Cedric Hawkins and Zak Wallace combined to rush for 100 yards with each reaching pay dirt twice. Overall, Arkansas State rushers churned out 291 yards on the ground and averaged a whopping 7.3 yards per carry. The Red Wolves also scored three times on defense to set a Sun Belt record for points scored in a conference game. Congratulations to Arkansas State Assoc. Head Coach/RB Marquase Lovings (@CoachLovings)! Now in his second season as Arkansas State’s associate head coach and running backs coach, Lovings gained head coaching experience as the interim head coach at Austin Peay in 2020, guiding the Governors to wins in four of their final five games. Lovings has also coached on the defensive side of the ball, mentoring defensive lines that have ranked among the best in their respective conferences while at Louisiana, Nicholls State and Austin Peay. He also worked with 1st Round Draft Pick DT Fletcher Cox as a defensive assistant at Mississippi State. Overall, Lovings has been part of seven bowl games and two FCS playoff appearances. In 2018, he took part in the AFCA 35 Under 35 Leadership Institute.
UAlbany routs Monmouth to win first CAA title
The Great Danes entered Week 12 knowing that they controlled their own destiny – win and they would claim the first CAA championship in program history. Any chance Albany would be tight was erased on the game’s opening possession. The Great Danes took the opening kickoff and methodically marched down the field on a 17-play, 75-yard drive that took nearly 10 minutes off the clock. Albany Associate Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Jared Ambrose (@CoachJambrose) dipped into his bag of tricks to finish the drive, dialing up a double-pass that WR Julian Hicks turned into six points when he collected a toss from WR Marqeese Dietz in the back of the end zone. For the rest of the day, QB Reese Poffenbarger handled the passing duties with aplomb, completing 19 passes for 247 yards and four touchdowns in the 41-0 rout. The reigning CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year, Poffenbarger completes his regular season leading the nation with 31 passing touchdowns. Through just two seasons, Poffenbarger has already racked up 55 passing touchdowns, which is only four shy of the career record for an Albany passer. While that program record is in jeopardy, the one for tackles in a single season was broken on Saturday by LB Dylan Kelly, who registered 11 more against the Hawks to give him 145 for the season. While Kelly’s 11 stops led all players, he arguably did not even have the best performance of Great Dane linebackers. That honor could go to Brian Abraham, who was named FCS Player of the Week after logging six tackles, including three sacks for 23 yards against Monmouth. Rounding out an all-around effort for the Great Dane linebacking corps, Ori Jean-Charles recorded six tackles, including one sack. Congratulations to Ambrose and OLB Coach Chris Calabrese (@Coach_Calabrese) on the win and conference title! Ambrose is in his second season in Albany after stints directing offenses at CAA rivals Towson and Delaware. From 2009-18, he was an integral piece to the most successful era in the history of Towson football. First as a position coach and then as offensive coordinator for seven years, Ambrose helped direct a Tiger program that won two CAA championships and reached the playoffs on three occasions, including a run to the FCS national championship game in 2013. In 2019, he assumed the offensive coordinator position at his alma mater, the University of Delaware, where he added another CAA championship ring to his collection and helped the Blue Hens reach the FCS semifinals in the spring of 2021. Calabrese is in his third season in the state capital after serving as a defensive assistant in 2021, prior to being promoted to defensive line coach in 2022. He previously spent three years as the head coach at ASA College in Brooklyn and in 2019 he led ASA to a #15 ranking in the final NJCAA poll. Calabrese is an AFCA 35 Under 35 alum after his selection to the prestigious fraternity in 2020.
Mississippi State fires on all cylinders to best Southern Miss
It was a tumultuous week in Starkville following Mississippi State’s decision to part ways with former head coach Zach Arnett, but the Bulldogs responded with one of their best showings of the season against Southern Miss. It took a little while for MSU to get going as the Golden Eagles jumped out to a quick 7-0 advantage and led 7-3 after one quarter, but it was all Bulldogs starting with QB Will Rogers’ 8-yard touchdown pass to WR Lideatrick Griffin early in the second quarter. A pair of field goals from Kyle Ferrie sent MSU into the halftime break with a 16-7 lead and then RB Jo'Quavious Marks, playing in his first game back from injury in over a month, effectively put the game away with a 15-yard touchdown reception with 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter. RB Jeffery Pittman broke out with his best performance of the season, rushing for 98 yards and one touchdown on just 10 carries (9.8 ypc) to lead an MSU ground attack that rushed for a total of 238 yards – the Bulldogs’ second highest output of the season. In addition to opening up holes in the running game, the Bulldog offensive line was also stout in pass protect as it did not surrender a sack in Rogers’ 30 dropbacks. Congratulations to MSU Senior Offensive Analyst/OL Alex Jackson (@Coach_Ajax) on the win and strong performance from the Bulldog offensive line. Jackson is in his first season in Starkville after serving as the Associate Head Coach/OL at Alabama State in 2022 and as the Co-Offensive Coordinator/OL at Lincoln in 2021. Jackson has coordinated offenses at Florida A&M, Prairie View A&M and Mississippi Valley State, including in 2019 when he won the Black College National Championship with the Rattlers. Before joining Mississippi State, he held roles at three different SEC programs, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia, and completed Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowships with the Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings.
UConn smashes Sacred Heart on Senior Day
Since his arrival in Storrs, LB Jackson Mitchell has been a linchpin for the UConn defense. One of the top high school recruits in Connecticut, Mitchell opted to stay in the Constitution State and made an immediate impact in 2019, leading the nation among true freshmen with 6.5 tackles per game. He followed up his stellar freshman campaign by starting all 12 games in 2021, leading the Huskies in tackles with 120. Mitchell has continued to flourish following the arrival of Defensive Analyst/LB Mike Ryan (@CoachMRyan) in 2022. Under Ryan’s watch, Mitchell again led the Huskies with 140 tackles as a junior and broke onto the national radar as well, leading the country in fumble recoveries and ranking seventh nationally with 10.8 tackles per game. Entering his senior campaign, the preseason accolades arrived by the truckload for Mitchell – Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List, Butkus Award Watch List, Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List, Wuerffel Trophy Watch List, Reese’s Senior Bowl Watch List and the East-West Shrine Bowl 1000. Mitchell has lived up to the hype, leading the UConn defense by a 39-tackle margin to go along with seven tackles-for-loss. On Saturday, he moved into third place in program history, notching 11 more tackles to give him 433 for his career. He anchored a defense that limited Sacred Heart to just 224 total yards and 2-for-11 on third downs in a 31-3 victory for the hosts. DL Pryce Yates also had a standout showing against the Pioneers, logging six tackles, including four tackles-for-loss and one sack. Congratulations to Ryan on the win and Mitchell’s fantastic career! Before rejoining the UConn staff for his second stint in 2022, Ryan spent eight seasons at Maine, including three as the Black Bears' defensive coordinator. In 2018, he helped guide the program to its second CAA championship and first-ever appearance in the FCS semifinals. During his tenure at Maine, Ryan worked with the team’s defensive line, inside linebackers and outside linebackers in addition to serving as recruiting coordinator.
Quick Hits

  • For the second consecutive week, Army scored a touchdown off of a blocked punt. RB/TE Tyson Riley rushed for a career-high 112 yards and one touchdown as the Black Knights defeated Coastal Carolina, 28-21, their third win in as many weeks. Congratulations to Special Teams Coordinator Sean Saturnio (@CoachSaturnio) and RB Coach Darren Paige (@RBCoachPaige)!
  • Miami won its ninth game of the year to clinch the MAC East and a rematch versus Toledo in the MAC Championship Game on December 2. Congratulations to RedHawks Associate Head Coach/OL Coach James Patton (@Coachjpatton) and Pass Game Coordinator/WR Coach Myles White (@M_White03)!
  • Central Missouri QB Zach Zebrowski threw for seven touchdowns and 467 yards as the Mules tied a program record for wins and rolled past Henderson State, 56-14, in their first round DII playoff matchup. Congratulations to Head Coach Josh Lamberson (@JoshLamberson)!
  • Iowa RB Kaleb Johnson scored on a 30-yard touchdown rush with 4:43 left as the Hawkeyes rallied to defeat Illinois, 15-13, and clinch the Big Ten West title. Congratulations to Iowa Recruiting Specialist Christopher Browne (@CoachBrowne72)!

Get In Touch With Us

1317 F Street, NW Suite 920 Washington, DC 20004 | P 800.974.7957 F 888.762.5151 |