CI Week 7 Highlights

Check out Coaches Inc. Highlights from Week 7 below:

Rattlers stage furious rally to beat Alabama A&M, 35-31
When it comes to bad bounces and lucky breaks, they usually have a way of evening out in the long run. On Saturday in Huntsville, Alabama A&M was the beneficiary of a pair of wild plays in the early going, but in the end it was Florida A&M that got the breaks and made the plays when it mattered most. The Bulldogs built a 28-10 lead midway through the third quarter, thanks in part to a 79-yard scoop-and-score and a deflected interception that led directly to an AAMU touchdown. FAMU RB Terrell Jennings got the Rattler comeback started in the third quarter when he scored on a 12-yard rush to pull the visitors within 28-16. On the Rattlers' next possession, they drew closer when WR Chad Hunter came up with an incredible touchdown catch on a deflected pass that fell into his lap in the end zone. After a Bulldog field goal, FAMU Head Coach Willie Simmons' (@HCWillieSimmons) team responded again with a 6-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to cut the AAMU lead to 31-29 with 4:05 remaining. The Rattler defense forced a three-and-out and then lightning struck in the form of FAMU RB Bishop Bonnett. Aided by a massive hole opened up by the Rattler offensive line, Bonnett broke through the line and his speed took care of the rest, racing 80 yards for a score to cap the rally and send the Rattlers back home with a critical conference win. Congratulations to Simmons and Co-Offensive Coor./OL Ryan Stanchek (@CoachStanchek) on the win as well as last week's debut of "Why Not Us - FAMU Football." Be sure to check out Episode #1: "We Are FAMULY" on ESPN+ at this link. Simmons returned to his hometown of Tallahassee to lead FAMU in 2018 and guided the team to a 9-2 record and first-place finish in the MEAC in 2019. He previously spent three seasons as the head coach at Prairie View A&M and has also coordinated offenses at Middle Tennessee State and Alcorn State. At Alcorn, Simmons and Stanchek worked together for one season, winning the SWAC in 2014. The following year, Simmons left to take over at Prairie View and Stanchek remained at Alcorn, eventually taking the reins as offensive coordinator himself. In his five years at Alcorn, Stanchek helped lead the Braves to a division title in each of his five seasons and multiple top 10 national rankings in Rushing Offense. He accepted the offensive line position at Southern Miss in 2019, helping guide the Golden Eagles to the Armed Forces Bowl. Prior to arriving at Alcorn, Stanchek served on staffs at Florida State and Indiana.

South Carolina beats Vandy on last minute touchdown strike
For a first-year coaching staff, the rebuilding process isn't always pretty. This has proven to be the case at South Carolina, where expectations are always high and wins are often judged on aesthetics. But make no mistake, the building blocks are present in Columbia. Evidence of the turnaround can be found in Torrian Gray's (@togray14) defensive secondary. Apart from Jaylan Foster's four interceptions, no Gamecock defensive back has more than one interception, but the unit has proven its grit by stepping up in a big way in run defense. Three of South Carolina's top six leading solo tacklers are defensive backs and seven different defensive backs have registered at least one tackle-for-loss, led by Foster's four TFL's. This trend continued on Saturday against Vanderbilt as Foster, R.J. Roderick and Cam Smith all wreaked havoc in the Commodore backfield, taking down a ball carrier for a loss. In pass defense, the Gamecocks started off shaky, allowing two deep balls in the first quarter, but then buckled down for the rest of the game, giving up only 112 passing yards and recording an interception over the final three quarters. That performance proved to be enough to put South Carolina on top when QB Zeb Noland connected with WR Xavier Legette on a nine-yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds remaining to give the Gamecocks a 21-20 win. Congratulations to Gray on the win! Gray is in his first season at South Carolina after two seasons as the cornerbacks coach at Florida. In over a decade at Virginia Tech and Florida, Gray mentored six All-Americans and 14 NFL draft selections, including C.J. Henderson who was selected with the 9th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. He spent the 2017-18 seasons in the NFL as the defensive backs coach for Washington and also spent two years with the Chicago Bears.

Mayer throws 3 TD passes, Miami beats Akron
Miami WR Coach Israel Woolfork (@IWMiamiFootball) has a friendly competition going on in his receiver room these days. In Week 5, Mac Hippenhammer caught eight passes for 170 yards in the RedHawks' win over Central Michigan. This weekend, it was Jack Sorenson's time to shine. The senior caught five passes for 113 yards and a touchdown in Miami's 34-21 win over Akron. Together, Hippenhamer and Sorenson form arguably the most dynamic receiving duo in the MAC, as they have already combined to post 51 receptions for 864 yards and five touchdowns in helping the RedHawks jump out to a 2-1 record in conference games. In the ground game, RB Coach Lamar Conard (@CoachConard) and Run Game Coor./OL James Patton (@Coachjpatton) have leaned heavily on RB Keyon Mozee. Against the Zips, Mozee had another strong outing, rushing for 73 yards and one touchdown. Also contributing in the ground game were running backs Kenny Tracy and Kevin Davis, who each posted season-highs with 50 and 49 rushing yards, respectively. Overall, the RedHawks racked up 245 yards on the ground and 229 yards through the air in a well-balanced attack. Congratulations to Woolfork, Conard and Patton on the win! Woolfork is in his ninth season with the RedHawks and fourth coaching receivers after serving as the team’s running backs coach from 2015-17. Two of his running backs finished their careers in the top 15 for rushing yards in program history. Conard is in his fourth season at Miami after nine seasons at Illinois State. With the Redbirds, he coached three 1,000-yard rushers, including the FCS leader in rushing yards and touchdowns in 2014. Conard began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Purdue. Patton returned to his alma mater this year after two previous coaching stints in Oxford. He spent the last two 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.

Air Force grinds out 24-17 road win at Boise State
One of the most unsung positions you will find in college football is being the wide receiver coach in an option-based offense. Wide receivers aren't drawn to the position by the allure of run blocking on almost every play, yet that is exactly what they are tasked with doing in Air Force's offense. At the same time, on the rare occasion when a pass catching opportunity does arise, receivers must be ready and poised to take advantage of an unsuspecting defense. Now in his third year as the receivers coach for the Falcons, Ari Confesor (@CoachAC3) has done a masterful job of managing this dynamic. In 2019, he mentored Geraud Sanders and Ben Waters who combined to post 52 receptions for 1,404 yards and 14 touchdowns, the latter two marks representing the most for a pair of Air Force receivers since 1970. Sanders and Waters have graduated but in their absences have emerged Brandon Lewis and Micah Davis. Lewis and Davis are averaging 26.9 and 22.1 yards per reception, respectively, which would be good for second and fourth nationally in the category if they were to have the minimum number of receptions to qualify. On Saturday night on Boise's blue turf, it was Lewis who had the opportunity to make a big play and he delivered, catching a 59-yard pass in the second quarter to setup a Falcon touchdown and break a 14-14 deadlock. That drive proved to be decisive as the two offenses only managed to trade field goals in the second half, giving Air Force a 24-17 win and a 6-1 record, its best start since 2002. Congratulations to Confesor on the win and Lewis' performance! In 2019, Confesor helped guide the Falcons to a 11-2 record and win in the Cheez-It Bowl. He spent the 2018 season as the pass game coordinator and wide receivers coach at Holy Cross and previously spent eight seasons at Rhode Island, where he worked in a variety of capacities including coaching wide receivers, defensive backs, linebackers and co-coordinating special teams. From 2012-13, Confesor served as a scouting assistant for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Jake Bentley, South Alabama roll past Georgia Southern, 41-14
It's one thing for a coach to say that he can coach all three levels of the defense but it's rare for someone to do it at the level that Will Windham (@CoachWindham) has done in his career. Now in his first year as the linebackers coach at South Alabama, Windham began his career in the trenches, coaching defensive linemen at Mississippi State and Penn State. After a year at Davidson, he moved to Georgia where he transitioned to the second level, serving as the Bulldogs' asst. outside linebackers coach. In 2018, he accepted the insider linebacker position at Kent State before shifting to safeties from 2019-20. On Thursday night, South Alabama LB CJ Rias took on the versatility of his position coach, excelling in run defense, pass rush and pass coverage. The sophomore recorded his first career interception, third career sack and set a new career-high with four tackles in the Jaguars' 41-14 win over Georgia Southern. Rias' interception came with 12:37 remaining in the second quarter and the Jaguars already holding a 17-0 lead. On the very next play, South Alabama QB hit WR Jalen Tolbert for a 40-yard score to up the lead to 24 and send Eagle fans streaming towards the exits. By the end of the night, the Jaguars had outgained Georgia Southern by a 545-233 margin and held the Eagles to just 10-of-24 on third and fourth downs. Congratulations to Windham on the win! Windham has been a part of six staffs that have reached bowl games, including the 2017 Georgia team that won the SEC and reached the National Championship Game.

Captains bounce back to record shutout victory over Montclair State, 28-0
Christopher Newport set the record straight on Saturday with a flawless shutout victory over Montclair State. Led by Head Coach Art Link (@Coach_ArtLink), every man on the Captain roster brought their A game as they defeated the Red Hawks 28-0. While the offense dazzled, only the defense can be perfect, and that they were. For his monster game on Saturday, senior LB Sean Wilkinson was selected as the NJAC Defensive Player of the Week. On just the second play of the game, Wilkinson picked off Red Hawk QB Ja’Quill Burch and delivered the Captain offense a red zone opportunity on a silver platter. He also registered eight tackles and batted down a pass en route to the Captains' first shutout since 2017, Link’s first year at the helm. Sophomore QB Matt Dzierski quickly capitalized on Wilkinson’s interception with a six-yard touchdown run to put the Captains up seven early. But the first quarter onslaught had only just begun. After forcing a turnover on downs the next Red Hawk possession, the Captains struck again with a 5-play, 73-yard touchdown drive to go up 14-0 just ten minutes into the game. Coming in at 5'7" and 210 pounds, freshman RB Aeron Williams capped off the drive with a bruising two-yard touchdown run. After a textbook first quarter, the Captains never stepped off the gas. Wide receivers Xander Jedlick and Garrison Mayo each hauled in a touchdown to put CNU up big. The Captain defense reciprocated by suffocating every Red Hawk attempt to advance the ball and sealed the deal on the Captains’ decisive third win of the season. Congratulations to Link for executing an all-around impeccable game plan! Now in his fifth season leading the Captains, Link comes from a defensive background. From 2013-2016, he was the defensive coordinator at Lafayette College in addition to coaching linebackers. Prior to that, Link coached the defense and linebackers at New Hampshire where in 2013, his Wildcats advanced to the NCAA semifinals, further than any team in program history.

Wagon Wheel stays in Texas as the West Texas A&M defense dominates, 44-24
For the second consecutive week, a West Texas A&M player claimed Lone Star Defensive Player of the Week honors. In Week 6, LB JT Cavender collected the hardware after registering 13 tackles, 0.5 TFL's, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry in the Buffaloes' 31-15 win over Angelo State. This week, Cavender again posted a strong outing, logging six tackles and a forced fumble, but it was DB Tobias Harris who stole the show, intercepting three passes, two of which he returned for touchdowns in WT's win over Eastern New Mexico. Harris' first pick-six came late in the second quarter, just after the Buffalo offense had scored a touchdown to go up 20-10, extending the advantage to 27-10. On the Greyhounds' very next offensive play, Harris struck again with his second interception, ensuring the Buffs would go into half with the 17-point lead. After a 1-yard touchdown rush from TE Jordan Johnson opened the scoring in the third quarter, Harris' second pick-six, this time from 65 yards, applied the finishing touches. Overall, the West Texas defense picked off five ENMU passes and now ranks first in Division II with three pick-sixes on the year. Congratulations to WT Defensive Pass Game Coor./OLB Will Wagner (@Coachwillwagner) on the win and big play pass defense! Coaching ball hawking defenders is nothing new for Wagner, who spent 11 seasons mentoring defensive backs at Northwest Missouri State and oversaw a Bearcat secondary that averaged 18 interceptions per year from 2004-10. During his time at Northwest, he helped the Bearcats win 10 MIAA championships, 7 national championship games and 3 national titles. In 2011, Wagner took over as the head coach at Angelo State where he spent eight seasons, winning the inaugural Lone Star Playoff Championship and winning the program's first playoff game since 1997. For his efforts, he was named LSC and AFCA Regional Coach of the Year in 2014.

Illinois Wesleyan stymies Millikin
The Illinois Wesleyan Titans won a defensive showdown at home in Tucci Stadium. Defensive Coordinator/LB Matt Williamson (@CoachMW_51) called the shots on the defensive side for the hosts, shutting out the Millikin Big Blue to the tune of four forced turnovers and three crucial fourth down stops. Thanks in part to major contributions from LB Skyler Metzger and QB Sage Shindler, the Titans battled their way to a 14-0 victory. The defense dominated in the red zone and with stout fourth down defense. While the Big Blue were able to accumulate some yards early in drives, Williamson’s defense held their ground at every critical juncture. With Millikin threatening to score late in the second quarter, freshman DB Michael Alvarado dashed its hopes with a red zone interception to preserve the shutout. Senior TE Zach Tencza capitalized on the turnover with a 9-yard touchdown reception to give the Titans a 14-point lead going into the half. The Titan defense would not let up in the second half and shredded Big Blue’s offense with two more interceptions, a forced fumble, and three fourth down stops. Senior DE Nicholas DeGregorio dominated the trenches all day long, recording three tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery. In the end, IWU’s defense limited Big Blue to a meager 3-for-10 on third down and 0-for-3 on fourth down. Congratulations to Williamson on the shutout! Last year, he served as the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at Gannon University. Previously, Williamson had a four-year stint at Urbana as the co-defensive coordinator, defensive line coach and special teams coordinator. Williamson has been a defensive mastermind since his time as a player for Mount Union where he won two Division III National Championships and compiled an incredible 58-2 overall record.

Quick Hits
  • Allegheny dominated Hiram from start to finish, posting a 38-13 win over its NCAC rival. Congratulations to Gator Head Coach Rich Nagy (@ACCoachNagy)!
  • South Carolina State QB Corey Fields, Jr. threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 37-14 win over Morgan State. Congratulations to Offensive Coordinator/QB Bennett Swygert (@OC_RunandShoot)!
  • Furman freshman DE Bryce Stanfield recorded his first career sack in the Paladins' 24-14 win over The Citadel. Congratulations to DL Coach Kevin Lewis (@CoachKLewDL)!
  • Colorado Mesa churned out 566 yards of offense in a 55-3 win over Fort Lewis. Congratulations to Mavericks Co-Offensive Coor./OL Mike Barela (@Coach_Barela)!
  • Culver-Stockton opened conference play in impressive fashion, logging a 50-3 win over Graceland. Congratulations to Wildcats Head Coach Tom Sallay (@CoachSallayCSC)!
One more CI coach will be in action tonight when the Titans host the Bills on Monday Night Football. Good luck to Tennessee Asst. OL Coach Jason Houghtaling (@UpstateNYHom)!

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