CI Week 13 Highlights

As we head down the homestretch of the NFL regular season, the Coaches Inc. Family is bringing its best when it matters most. Starting with Thanksgiving Day wins for Cowboys Asst. TE Coach Chase Haslett
 (@Coach_Haslett) and Packers Offensive Quality Control Coach Rob Grosso (@the_real_robbyg), a season-best seven of CI’s NFL coaches posted wins. Congratulations to those two as well as to Rams OLB Coach Joe Coniglio (@CoachConiglio51), Titans OL Coach Jason Houghtaling (@UpstateNYHom), Rams Asst. OL Coach Nick Jones (@CoachNickJones), Giants RB Coach Jeff Nixon (@CoachNixon_NYG) and Dolphins Offensive Assistant Kolby Smith (@coachkolbysmith). In the FCS Playoffs, Southern Illinois posted one of the most dominant performances of the first round, shutting out Nicholls, 35-0. Congratulations to Salukis Special Teams Coordinator/DB Gary McGraw (@DBCoachMcGraw) and RB Coach Larry Warner (@coachWarnerRB) as well as to Richmond RB Coach Justin Poindexter (@FBCoachDex) on the Spiders’ first-round win. At the FBS level, congratulations go out to Eastern Michigan CB Coach Munir Prince (@CoachPrince7) and the Eagles, who won their sixth game on Tuesday to secure bowl eligibility for the fifth consecutive full season. On Friday, Utah State Special Teams Coordinator Nick Paremski (@CoachP_UtahSt) and the Aggies followed suit, winning their sixth game and second double overtime affair in the past four weeks, a 44-41 thriller over New Mexico. Finally on Saturday, five more CI coaches grabbed their seats at the postseason bowl table before the music stopped. Congratulations to Syracuse Offensive Coordinator/QB Jason Beck (@Coach_Beck7), Virginia Tech RB Coach Elijah Brooks (@CoachEBrooks), Marshall Offensive Analyst Chuckie Keeton (@CoachKeeton), South Florida Assoc. Head Coach/RB Matt Merritt (@Coach_Merritt) and Louisiana Coach Bryant Ross (@CoachBryantRoss). Keep reading for more highlights from Week 13.
Jordan Love propels Packers past Lions on Thanksgiving
While the Lions have historically struggled on Thanksgiving, the exception to that trend has been in Turkey Day games versus the Packers, as Detroit held a 12-8-1 mark over their NFC North rivals entering Thursday. That edge was expected to expand as this year’s Lions boasted the franchise’s best record through 10 games since 1962, while Green Bay was heavily banged up. It took all of one play for QB Jordan Love and the Packers to flip the script. On the first play from scrimmage, Love launched deep and found WR Christian Watson for a 53-yard gain. On the very next play, Love targeted Watson again for an 8-yard gain into the red zone. Three plays later, Love connected with WR Jayden Reed for a 10-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead that the Pack would not relinquish. Love went on to tie a career-high with three touchdown passes and also had a career-long run of 37 yards to ice the game in the fourth quarter. Watson was Love’s favorite target on the day, catching five passes for 94 yards and one touchdown while fellow rookie TE Tucker Kraft also had a receiving touchdown. The win was Green Bay’s fifth of the season and keeps them firmly in contention for a playoff spot in the NFC race. Congratulations to Packer Offensive Quality Control Coach Rob Grosso (@the_real_robbyg) on the win! Grosso is in his first season in Green Bay after spending the last four seasons as a defensive quality control coach with the Cardinals. A former receiver at John Carroll, he got his start in coaching at his alma mater and broke into the NFL on a full-time basis as the assistant to the head coach for the Broncos in 2018.
Hokies keep Commonwealth Cup in Blacksburg by throttling UVa
Last week, Virginia Tech RB Bhayshul Tuten posted his poorest performance of the season, logging just two carries for -3 yards in a loss to NC State. On Saturday, with everything on the line, including bragging rights, the Commonwealth Cup and a bowl berth, Tuten bounced back with the biggest game of his career. Tuten averaged 7.3 yards per carry on 16 rushes for 117 yards and one touchdown, in addition to a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. His 32-yard touchdown run in the second quarter sent the Hokies into halftime with a 24-0 lead. There was no letting up in the second half. After the VT defense forced a Cavalier punt on the opening possession of the third quarter, QB Kyron Drones needed only one play to strike again, linking up with WR Da’Quan Felton on a crossing route that the senior collected before turning up the sideline for an 84-yard touchdown. UVA would finally get on the board a few minutes later with a field goal, but any momentum for the hosts was short-lived as Tuten took the ensuing kickoff back for six to extend the Hokie lead to 38-3. When it was all said and done, Virginia Tech delivered another emphatic statement with a 55-17 win that marked the Hokies’ 18th win in the last 19 meetings between the rivals. Congratulations to Virginia Tech RB Coach Elijah Brooks (@CoachEBrooks) on the win and Tuten’s big game! Brooks arrived in Blacksburg this year after a four-year stint at Maryland, during which he helped guide the Terps to back-to-back bowl games. On an individual level, he mentored two running backs at Maryland who went on to be selected in the NFL Draft and one who signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent. Brooks previously served as the head coach at perennial national power DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland. At DeMatha, he won four consecutive conference championships and compiled an overall record of 72-20.
Taulia Tagovailoa breaks Big Ten passing mark as Maryland beats Rutgers
Back in College Park, the Terrapins concluded another strong regular season with a 42-24 win at Rutgers. With the win, Maryland has now won at least seven games for three consecutive years, the first time the program has achieved this feat since 2001-03. With touchdowns on each of their first four possessions in Piscataway, the result was never in doubt. After a pair of stalled drives, the highlight of the day came on the Terps’ seventh drive when QB Taulia Tagovailoa became the Big Ten’s all-time leading passer on a six-yard completion to Jeshaun Jones. Tagovailoa finished the day with 361 passing yards and three touchdowns, giving him 11,256 passing yards for his career. While Tagoviloa rightfully captured all the headlines, it was also a banner day for the Maryland defense. Led by DB Dante Trader, Jr.’s career-high 11 tackles, the Terps held Scarlet Knight QB Gavin Wimsatt to just 165 passing yards and one interception on 13-for-34 attempts. Fellow DB Glendon Miller was the beneficiary of Wimsatt’s interception as the junior also logged four tackles and two pass breakups. Congratulations to Maryland Defensive Analyst Rob Ambrose (@Coach_Ambrose) on the win and strong regular season! Ambrose joined the Terrapin staff this season after a 13-year run as the head coach at Towson, during which time he led the Tigers through the most successful period in program history. After inheriting a program that had only won three games in each of its two most recent seasons, Ambrose guided the Tigers to a CAA championship in his third and fourth years and an appearance in the FCS national championship game in year five. He followed that up with another playoff appearance and top 25 ranking in 2018. Prior to taking over at Towson, he served as the offensive coordinator at UConn, where he coached in three bowl games and won a share of the Big East in 2007.
Miami holds off Ball State to reach 10 wins
When All-MAC QB Brett Gabbert went down with a season-ending injury in a Week 8 loss to Toledo, it could have derailed a promising season for Miami. At the time of his injury, Gabbert had accounted for 16 touchdowns and had led the RedHawks to a 6-1 record, with the only loss coming out of conference in a Week 1 matchup versus the Miami Hurricanes. But the RedHawks had no reason to panic because they had been in this situation before. In 2022, Gabbert started the season but ended up playing in only four games due to injury. In his place stepped Aveon Smith, who led Miami to a bowl game and the program’s first win over a Big Ten opponent since 2003. Smith has answered the bell again this season, directing Miami to a 4-0 record in his starts, including Saturday’s 17-15 win over Ball State. Smith provides more of a running threat than Gabbert and Associate Head Coach/OL James Patton’s (@Coachjpatton) charges have ensured that their new signal caller has ample running lanes to choose from. When Smith has taken to the air, his favorite target has been WR Javon Tracy. Under the mentorship of Pass Game Coordinator/WR Coach Myles White (@M_White03), Tracy’s role in the offense has grown as the season has progressed. The freshman’s two best performances have come in the past two weeks as he caught five passes for 123 yards last week versus Buffalo and six balls for 70 yards against the Cardinals. Combined with Smith and Tracy’s efforts, Miami’s defense and special teams ensured the RedHawks their first 10-win season since 2010. The biggest play of the game came with just over a minute remaining when Miami DL Kobe Hilton blocked a Ball State field goal to preserve the win for Miami and the program’s first MAC East crown since 2019. Congratulations to Patton and White on the win and historic season. Patton returned to his alma mater in 2021 after two previous coaching stints in Oxford. He spent the 2019-20 seasons as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator at Eastern Michigan, where he helped the Eagles reach the 2019 Quick Lane Bowl. He previously served as the tight ends and fullbacks coach at Indiana and has also coached on staffs at Oklahoma, Pitt, Northwestern and Rhode Island. White arrived in Oxford last year after spending the 2021 season at Stephen F. Austin, where he worked with All-American WR Xavier Gipson. He previously spent two seasons as an offensive quality control assistant at SMU, during which time he helped the Mustangs finish #4 in Total Offense in 2019 and 13th in the category in 2020.
Badgers take back Paul Bunyan’s Axe with win over Minnesota
If you have ever wondered why Wisconsin and Minnesota play for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, it’s because the original trophy in the border rivalry, the Slab of Bacon, went missing when Wisconsin failed to turn it over to the Gophers after their defeat in 1943. Eighty years later, the Badgers did not need to resort to any chicanery – they turned back the clock with a vintage Wisconsin performance that would have made the 1943 squad proud. Led by RB Braelon Allen’s 26 carries for a season-high 165 yards and two touchdowns, the Badgers bludgeoned their way to a 28-14 win over Minnesota. Commenting on the team’s shift in style in his postgame remarks Wisconsin Head Coach Luke Fickell said, “Yes, it might look a little bit different, but it’s still about the physicality, it’s still about the line of scrimmage.” While he was referring to the Badger offense, the observation was equally applicable to a Badger defense that dominated the trenches against the Gophers. Wisconsin’s defense dialed up a bevy of blitzes throughout the game, often calling upon safety Hunter Wohler to drop down into the box. Wohler delivered with a game-high 12 tackles as the Badgers held Minnesota to just 286 total yards and forced two turnovers. Congratulations to Wisconsin Senior Defensive Analyst Jack Cooper (@CoachJCooper) on the rivalry win! Cooper arrived in Madison this year after a three-year stint at Rhode Island, where he served as the Rams’ defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. In 2001, the URI defense was nationally ranked in multiple categories, helping the team post its most wins in 20 years. Cooper arrived at URI after a two-year stint as a defensive quality control assistant at Nebraska and two years in a similar capacity at UCF, where he helped the Knights post a perfect 13-0 record in 2017 that included an AAC Championship and Peach Bowl win. Cooper has also coached at Yale, Southern Connecticut and Salve Regina.
Troy downs Southern Miss 35-17, will host Sun Belt championship game for 2nd straight year
In Week 11, Troy clinched the Sun Belt West Division and a spot in the Sun Belt Championship Game, just as the Trojans did in 2022. On Saturday, they ensured that they will once again host the game. The Trojans got off to a sluggish start and found themselves in a tight, 14-10 contest at Southern Miss after two quarters. Troy QB Gunnar Watson gave the visitors some breathing room when he connected with TE Ethan Conner for a two-yard score with 9:23 remaining in the third quarter. Four minutes later, Troy’s Chris Rodgers came up with the play of the day to put the Golden Eagles away for good. After the Trojan defensive line snuffed out a screen pass and had Southern Miss RB Frank Gore, Jr. contained for a loss, Gore attempted an ill-advised lateral back to his quarterback. The lateral landed in no man’s land before Rodgers scooped it up and raced 40 yards for a touchdown to increase Troy’s lead to 28-10. Also starring on defense for the Trojans was LB Jordan Stringer, who finished with a game-high 10 tackles, including half a tackle-for-loss. Congratulations to Troy Defensive Assistant David Mackie (@Coach_DMACK) on the victory and another 10-win season! Mackie is in his second season at Troy after a two-year stint at Louisiana Tech, spending 2021 as the Bulldogs’ safeties coach after working with linebackers in 2020. Under his mentorship, safeties BeeJay Williamson and Khalil Ladler both earned All-CUSA honors in 2021 while LB Tyler Grubbs was named a Freshman All-American in 2020. Mackie previously served as the safeties coach and co-special teams coordinator at Hampton and also boasts experience at East Carolina and Georgia Military. With the Pirates, he coached the nickel backs in 2018 for a defense that finished third nationally in tackles-for-loss. 
Iowa prevails, 13-10, over Nebraska in final minute of mayhem
Moments after backup kicker Marshall Meeder’s field goal barely cleared the crossbar to give Iowa its tenth win of the season, an emotional Kirk Ferentz told sideline reporter Tiffany Blackmon that the team’s resiliency spoke to the character of its players, including several unsung heroes. In addition to Meeder, DL Ethan Hurkett could also fit into that category. A backup defensive lineman, it was Hurkett’s interception and return in the waning seconds that setup Meeder’s game-winning kick. So, too, would LB Jay Higgins, who leads the Hawkeye defense with 133 tackles and was again dominant against Nebraska, registering eight tackles, second only on the team to Hurkett’s nine. Hurkett and Higgins anchored a defensive effort that limited the Huskers to just 10 points, 10 first downs and 264 total yards while forcing three turnovers. Neither Hurkett nor Higgins were high profile recruits, both were rated as low three-stars who did not hold any offers to other Power 5 programs. But it is players like them who have catapulted Iowa to the third ranked scoring defense in the nation, yielding an average of just over 12 points per game. Despite lacking the glamour of some of the Big Ten’s more flashy programs, the Hawkeyes will play in their second Big Ten Championship Game in the past three years because of their ability to develop players and knack for finding less heralded recruits who fit their system. One of the pieces to the Hawkeye recruiting efforts is Recruiting Specialist Christopher Browne (@CoachBrowne72). Browne arrived in Des Moines this year after coordinating the run game and coaching the offensive line at Mississippi Valley State in 2022. Selected as one of FootballScoop’s minority coaches on the rise in 2022, Browne worked with the offensive line and tight ends at Southern from 2019-22. With the Jaguars, he helped mentor three FCS All-Americans and six All-SWAC selections. Browne has also coached at Louisiana Tech, Morehouse and Lincoln University.
Quick Hits
  • Tulane forced four turnovers and a turnover-on-downs on defense and intercepted a pass on a fake punt to knock off UTSA, 29-16, and earn hosting rights to the AAC Championship Game for the second consecutive year. Congratulations to Green Wave DB Coach Josh Christian-Young (@CoachJCY) and Special Teams Analyst Mike Krysl (@CoachKrysl)!
  • Texas will also be playing on Saturday after the Longhorns dismantled Texas Tech, 57-7, to clinch their spot in the Big 12 Championship. Congratulations to Senior Defensive Analyst/DB Joey Thomas (@Joey_thomas24_)!
  • Sam Houston State WR Simeon Evans caught 11 passes for 110 yards as the Bearkats edged Middle Tennessee State, 23-20, to close out their season with three wins in their last four games. Congratulations to SHSU WR Coach Chris Buckner (@coachcbuckner)!

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