CI Week 8 Highlights


It has been an impressive opening two months to the season for CI’s college coaches across all divisions and Week 8 was no exception. At the FBS level, three more coaches attained bowl eligibility with wins on Saturday, including Tulane DB Coach Josh Christian-Young (@CoachJCY), Tulane Special Teams Analyst Mike Krysl (@CoachKrysl) and Texas Senior Defensive Analyst/DB Joey Thomas (@Joey_thomas24_). In the FCS, among teams that have played at least three conference games, five CI coaches have their teams in first place in their respective conference standings, including South Dakota Assoc. Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Travis Johansen (@CoachTJohansen), Dartmouth DB Coach Aashon Larkins (@CoachALarkins), Furman DL Coach Kevin Lewis (@CoachKLewDL), Southeast Missouri State Offensive Coordinator/QB Jeromy McDowell (@CoachJMcdowell) and Florida A&M Head Coach Willie Simmons (@HCWillieSimmons). Head Coaches continue to lead the way in Division II, as three have their squads in the latest edition of the AFCA Top 25 poll: #2 Pittsburg State Head Coach Brian Wright (@Coachbwright4), #5 Benedict Head Coach Chennis Berry (@coachberry77) and #15 Central Missouri Head Coach Josh Lamberson (@JoshLamberson). Please keep reading for more highlights from Week 8.
Saquon Barkley delivers game-winning touchdown for Giants
In a stroke of marketing genius, the Giants designated Sunday’s contest versus the Commanders as one of two “Legacy Games” this season, featuring throwback uniforms from the 1980’s. In an effort to truly replicate the throwback experience, the two teams played the type of old school, NFC East defensive slugfest that would have made the likes of Lawrence Taylor and John Riggins proud. Tress Way and Jamie Gillan combined to boot 18 punts for over 900 yards which was more than double the total passing yards in the game. But the one offensive bright spot for either team came from Giants RB Saquon Barkley. In his second game back from an ankle injury, Barkley showed once again that his presence is critical to New York’s ability to move the football. The two-time Pro Bowler gave Giants fans a brief scare when he hyperextended his elbow in the first quarter, but he returned to deliver the game’s biggest play with 8:56 left in the second quarter when he took a short pass in the flat, cut upfield, and broke three tackles on his way to a 32-yard touchdown. That reception was one of three for Barkley, who finished with 41 receiving yards to go along with 21 carries for 77 yards in the 14-7 win for New York. Congratulations to Giants RB Coach Jeff Nixon (@CoachNixon_NYG) on the win and Barkley’s performance! 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.
BYU defense knocks the spit out of Texas Tech
Lots of college programs use words like “home” and “family” when describing their culture, but few back it up like they do in Provo. When Kelly Poppinga (@Coach_Popp) was hired at BYU this season, it was a special homecoming as he played for the Cougars from 2006-07 and coached for the program from 2009-15. In all, Poppinga is 1 of 17 coaches or staff members who are also former BYU football players. That tight-knit foundation has served the Cougars well as they have transitioned into the Big 12 this year. In the early going, the transition has been successful and on Saturday the Cougars picked up their most impressive win yet versus a new conference foe. Bolstered by five turnovers from defense and special teams, BYU earned a 27-14 win over Texas Tech. As the Cougars’ special teams coordinator and defensive ends coach, Poppinga saw his star pupil, Tyler Batty, make big contributions in both phases. Despite being spat on by two Red Raiders, Batty kept his composure and let his play do the talking, forcing a fumble on a punt and registering nine tackles and one quarterback pressure on defense. CB Eddie Heckard also shined on defense for the Cougars, recovering a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and picking off a Texas Tech pass en route to earning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors. As a unit, BYU’s defense kept Texas Tech’s offense in check, especially RB Tahj Brooks, who entered the weekend as the nation’s fifth leading rusher but was limited to just 3.4 yards per carry. Congratulations to Poppinga on the impressive showing! In one season in a similar role at Boise State, Poppinga helped the team rank in the top 10 nationally in Total Defense as the Broncos won the MWC Mountain Division as well as the Frisco Bowl. Poppinga arrived in Boise after a six-year stint at Virginia, including four as co-defensive coordinator. He helped the Cavaliers qualify for four bowl games and win the ACC Coastal Division in 2019. On an individual note, Poppinga mentored multiple linebackers who led the ACC in tackles and sacks. During his first stint on the BYU coaching staff, the Cougars reached a bowl game in all seven seasons and seven of his players went on to enjoy NFL careers.
Salter passes for 2 TDs, Cooley runs for three TDs, Liberty beats Middle Tennessee, 42-35
If Tuesday night’s clash were a track meet, Middle Tennessee came out of the blocks like a world class 200-meter sprinter. The only problem for the Blue Raiders was that the race was 400 meters and Liberty is college football’s version of Michael Johnson. MTSU kept pace for three quarters, matching Liberty stride for stride at 7-7, 14-14, 21-21, 28-28 and 35-35, but when the fourth quarter came, Liberty Co-Offensive Coordinator/RB Newland Isaac (@coachisaacFB) and the Flames pulled away like it was the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Liberty QB Kaidon Salter found WR C.J. Daniels for a 37-yard scoring strike to put Liberty up for good at 42-35 and keep the Flames a perfect 7-0 on the year. Salter’s touchdown pass to Daniels marked his second of the night to go along with four by Flame running backs. By yardage, Liberty rushers racked up a whopping 401 yards on the ground, led by RB Quinton Cooley who finished with 134 rushing yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Overall, Liberty’s offense churned out 541 total yards and 33 first downs. Congratulations to Isaac on the win and dominant offensive output! Offensive juggernauts are nothing new for Isaac and much of the rest of Liberty’s offensive staff that arrived in Lynchburg after a highly successful stint at Coastal Carolina. In five seasons with the Chanticleers, including four as co-offensive coordinator, Isaac helped the Chanticleers win the 2020 Sun Belt Championship, reach three bowl games, win two division titles and achieve several top 10 finishes in offensive categories. In 2021, he was named the AFCA FBS Assistant Coach of the Year and a Broyles Award nominee. Isaac began his coaching career working with the running backs and slot receivers at North Greenville, where he helped the Crusaders win a national title in 2010. He went on to coach at Delta State, Charleston Southern and Albany State before arriving at Coastal. In 2018, Isaac was selected to participate in the NCAA-NFL Coaches Academy.
Howard stages thrilling comeback victory over Norfolk State
In 2022, Head Coach Larry Scott (@CoachLScott70) and the rest of the Howard staff led the program to a share of the MEAC championship, the first for the program since 1993. It took nearly two months, but Howard finally began the conference portion of their schedule on Saturday and took the first step towards defending their title. On a star-studded homecoming weekend that saw Diddy make a $1 million donation to his alma mater, nobody could hold the Bison down, including the Spartans. Behind standout performances from QB Quinton Williams and DB Kenny Gallop, Jr., Howard rallied first from a 17-6 deficit in the second quarter and later from down 23-20 to eventually come out on top, 27-23. A graduate student and All-MEAC selection, Williams showed his poise and leadership when it mattered most, converting on multiple third-and-long situations with both his legs and his arm on the Bison’s game-winning drive, culminating in a 15-yard touchdown pass to RB Jarret Hunter with 1:17 remaining. Norfolk State would threaten on its final possession, advancing as far as the Howard 41-yard line, but Gallop showed why he’s an All-American, sealing the game with an interception near the goal line in the waning seconds. Williams and Gallop’s big plays late in the game capped strong games from each of them overall, as the former accounted for 282 yards and three scores while the latter paced the defense with 11 tackles, one tackle-for-loss, and a half-sack prior to his second interception of the season. Also making a strong contribution on the offensive end for the Bison was WR Richie Ilazara, who led all receivers with five receptions for 82 yards. Congratulations to Scott, Offensive Coordinator/WR Lindsey Lamar (@LindseyLamar5), DB Coach Kyshoen Jarrett (@Ky3fOUR) and QB Coach Greg McGhee (@Greg_Mcghee2) on the win! Scott is in his fourth year at Howard after four years in the SEC, two apiece at Florida and Tennessee. As Miami's interim head coach in 2015, he led the Hurricanes to a 4-2 record and a berth in the Sun Bowl. Scott also spent eight seasons at South Florida where he helped guide the Bulls to six bowl games. Lamar arrived in the District with Scott in 2020 and was promoted to offensive coordinator this year after focusing on the wide receivers for three seasons. Lamar played for Scott at South Florida where he set the program record for kick return yards and was named Big East Special Teams Player of the Year in 2010. He began his coaching career with the Bulls as a graduate assistant in 2015. McGhee is back at his alma mater this year and working with the position where he holds most of the program records. A four-year starter and back-to-back MEAC Offensive Player of the Year award winner, McGhee finished his career as the MEAC’s leader in single-season and career Total Offense. After playing professionally in the CFL and Arena League, he began his coaching career at West Liberty, eventually taking over as the Hilltoppers’ offensive coordinator.  Jarrett is in his second season on The Hilltop after spending the 2021 season as the Asst. Director of Player Personnel at his alma mater, Virginia Tech. He previously served as the assistant defensive backs coach in the NFL for Washington. After playing professionally for Washington, Jarrett accepted a coaching internship with the club and also completed the NFL-NCAA Coaches Academy.
UNI stuns, shuts out No. 9 North Dakota on homecoming
Before spending the 2022 campaign as the defensive coordinator at Kent State, Jeremiah Johnson (@Coach_J_Johnson) laid his claim to being one of the top defensive coordinators in the nation over a nine-year stint in the role at Northern Iowa. From 2013-21, the Panthers ranked in the top 20 of Scoring Defense on seven occasions and were especially lethal from 2019-21, when they ranked in the top 15 for Scoring Defense, Total Defense and Turnovers Gained for all three years. The one box that Johnson’s UNI defenses never checked, however, was shutting out a top 10 opponent. Now back in Cedar Falls for his second stint directing the Panther defense, Johnson can cross that item off the list, too, as UNI defeated #9 North Dakota, 27-0. DL Caden Houghtelling recovered a fumble on North Dakota’s opening possession and the Panthers never let the Fighting Hawks up for air after that. UNI forced five three-and-outs, including three that resulted in negative yardage and one interception. Houghtelling continued wreaking havoc throughout the game, tallying four tackles and one sack while DL Cannon Butler added two sacks of his own. As a unit, the Panther defense held the Fighting Hawks to just 15 rushing yards and 187 total yards. Congratulations to Johnson on the statement win! In his first stint at UNI, Johnson was a part of four conference championships and 10 playoff appearances over 15 years. One of those playoff runs went as far as the semifinals and four others resulted in quarterfinal appearances, including in 2019 when Johnson was named a finalist for FootballScoop FCS Coordinator of the Year. Prior to arriving in Cedar Falls, he served as the defensive backs coach at Loras College and began his career as a graduate assistant at Wyoming.
Yoder has 138 yards and 2 TDs on 38 carries in Lehigh’s 27-18 win over Bucknell
With wind gusts over 20 miles per hour, the passing game was always going to be tough sledding on Saturday afternoon in Lewisburg, PA. Fortunately for Lehigh, those conditions suited Defensive Coordinator/LB Rich Nagy (@CoachRichNagy) and Run Game Coordinator/OL Mike Morita (@CoachMorita) just fine. Thanks to a one-yard touchdown run by RB Luke Yoder, a pair of field goals from Nick Garrido, and a big punt return by DB Nick Peltekian, the Mountain Hawks jumped out to a 20-0 lead over the Bison in the first half and cruised to their second win of the year. Yoder would add a second touchdown rush in the fourth quarter as Morita’s offensive line paved the way for the visitors to churn out a season-high 188 yards on the ground. Overall, Lehigh outgained Bucknell by a 315-252 margin as the Mountain Hawk defense limited the Bison to 5-for-17 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down. Individually, LB Drew DeMorat filled up the stat sheet for Nagy’s defense, finishing with eight tackles, including 1.5 tackles-for-loss and one sack to go along with another quarterback hurry. Congratulations to Nagy and Morita on the win! Nagy returned to his familiar role as a Division I defensive coordinator after spending the last four seasons as the head coach at Allegheny College. Overall, this is Nagy’s 18th season coordinating a defense, including six years as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Old Dominion. In Norfolk, Nagy helped the Monarchs win the first bowl game in program history. He previously coordinated defenses at Western Michigan, Hofstra, Murray State, Maine and Fordham. Morita arrived in Bethlehem, PA this year after a six-year stint at Virginia Union, including three as offensive coordinator and one as associate head coach. His last two seasons with the Panthers were especially successful on both individual and team fronts. In 2021, Morita was named the 2021 AFCA Division II Assistant Coach of the Year and in 2022, he directed an offense that finished #5 nationally in Scoring Offense and helped the team go 9-2, finishing with its highest final ranking in program history at #16. The Panthers also finished fifth nationally in Scoring Offense in 2018 with Morita serving as co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He previously spent three years as an offensive quality control assistant at Vanderbilt and seven seasons as the offensive line coach at Albany, where he helped guide the Great Danes to four conference championships.
Vikings stun #24 Virginia State, 17-16
It may not make SportsCenter, but make no mistake, the biggest upset of the weekend took place in Ettrick, VA, where Elizabeth City shocked previously unbeaten Virginia State. As an ECSU alum who spent 14 years as an assistant coach for the Vikings and is now in his second season as head coach, Marcus Hilliard (@Coach_MHilliard) is uniquely positioned to understand the significance of Saturday’s win for his school. After the game, Hilliard told reporters: “This is a signature program win, we have not beaten those guys in 10 years or beaten a nationally ranked opponent in 15 years. This is an awesome feeling!” Not surprisingly given Hilliard’s pedigree, defense keyed the Viking triumph. After ECSU took a 10-7 lead into halftime, DB Devon Grant produced the play of the game at the start of the third quarter when he returned an interception for 25 yards and a touchdown to increase the visitors advantage to 10. When combined with a 50-yard touchdown reception from Ian Edwards and a 25-yard field goal from Carson Hancock, that would be just enough scoring to carry the Vikings over the finish line. The Trojans appeared to be in position to tie the game with just over a minute remaining, but a missed extra point would tip the scales in favor of ECSU for a well-deserved win. In addition to his pick-six, Grant also finished with six tackles and two pass breakups. LB Tracey White led the Vikings with 12 tackles while LB Demorian Smith was close behind with 10 stops, including 1.5 tackles-for-loss and 1 sack. Congratulations to Hilliard on the monumental win! As an assistant at ECSU, starting as defensive line coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, Hilliard helped engineer one of the top defenses in Division II as ECSU reached the CIAA Championship Game on four different occasions. In 2018, he branched out and accepted the assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator role at Virginia Union. In his first year with the Panthers, he was named the AFCA's Assistant Coach of the Year for Division II as VUU finished 2018 with an 8-2 record. In 2019, Hilliard helped the Panthers achieve their first-ever top 25 national ranking.
Dartmouth beats Columbia 20-9 behind Patrick Campbell’s big plays
In what was surely a bittersweet week after Head Coach Sammy McCorkle had the interim tag lifted from his position on Thursday, Dartmouth responded with an inspired performance on Saturday. McCorkle, who was promoted to interim head coach in April following the tragic accident of the late Buddy Teevens, had previously overseen the Dartmouth secondary. To fill his role as secondary coach, the Big Green brought in Aashon Larkins (@CoachALarkins), who was fresh off of a stint working with the safeties at Ole Miss. Against Columbia, one of Larkins’ defensive backs, Patrick Campbell, produced a memorable performance to lead Dartmouth to a homecoming win. After the Big Green had gotten off to a slow start, falling behind 9-0, Campbell got things jumpstarted in the second quarter when he blocked a punt that he then recovered in the end zone to cut the deficit to two. Campbell came up with another big play in the third quarter, sniffing out a halfback pass to make an interception after Dartmouth had taken a 17-9 lead. In an illustration of how well coached the Dartmouth defensive backs are, Campbell noted after the game: “I saw that they were running a reverse, and when the running back came over, he didn’t look like he was trying to run the ball. So, I was just disciplined. Some people would just try to run up there and leave the man behind wide open. When he threw the ball, I didn’t know high I was, I just went up to get the ball.” To put the cherry on the sundae, Campbell also broke up a pass in the end zone on fourth down late in the game as the Lions were attempting to rally. Not to be overlooked, Dartmouth DB Cam Maddox also came up with a clutch interception as the Big Green frustrated Columbia QB Joe Green throughout the game. Congratulations to Larkins on the win and big plays by Campbell and Maddox! Prior to his time at Ole Miss, Larkins spent three years at Michigan, where he held the roles of safeties coach, director of recruiting and special teams analyst. He has previously coordinated special teams and worked with defensive backs as well as linebackers at Bethune-Cookman, Jacksonville State, The Citadel, Holy Cross and Wagner. At Jacksonville State, Larkins mentored an All-American selection at cornerback. He has also completed internships with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles.
Quick Hits

  • Wake Forest scored 14 points in the final 3:02 to stun Pitt, 21-17. Congratulations to Demon Deacons WR Coach Ari Confesor (@CoachAC3)!
  • Wisconsin scored 18 points unanswered in the fourth quarter to rally from a 21-7 deficit and shock Illinois. Congratulations to Wisconsin Senior Defensive Analyst Jack Cooper (@CoachJCooper)!
  • South Dakota used another dominant defensive effort to beat Indiana State, 17-3, and remain perfect in conference play. Congratulations to Coyotes Assoc. Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Travis Johansen (@CoachTJohansen)!
  • New Hampshire QB Max Brosmer threw for four touchdowns and ran for a fifth as the Wildcats crushed Stony Brook, 45-14. Congratulations to UNH Offensive Coordinator/OL Brian Scott (@CoachBroScott)!
  • Lafayette RB Jamar Curtis rushed for 229 yards and two touchdowns as the Leopards knocked off #11 Holy Cross, 38-35. Congratulations to Offensive Coordinator/QB T.J. DiMuzio (@CoachTJD)!
  • Illinois Wesleyan’s defense limited Carthage to -2 rushing yards in a 34-7 win for the Titans. Congratulations to Defensive Coordinator/LB Matt Williamson (@CoachMW_51)!
  • Hillsdale WR Shea Ruddy caught four passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns as the Chargers defeated Thomas More, 35-33, for their second consecutive win. Congratulations to WR Coach Ryan Stokes (@CoachStokes_HC)!
  • Thomas limited Warner to 24 rushing yards on 26 attempts as the Night Hawks defeated Warner, 38-26, to win the first game in program history. Congratulations to Defensive Coordinator Andy Wolfrum (@andywolfrum) on the historic win!

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