CI Week 9 Highlights

As we head into the final third of the regular season at the FBS level, more teams are positioning themselves for the postseason. Two more CI coaches secured bowl eligibility with wins in Week 9. Congratulations to Utah State CB Coach Ray Brown (@CoachB212) and NC State Assistant Scott Boone (@CoachScottBoone)! Keep reading for more highlights from Week 9.

Miami upsets No. 17 Pittsburgh in 38-34 shootout to topple top 20 teams in back-to-back weeks
It is no secret that Miami has had its back against the wall since it kicked off its season in Atlanta. The Hurricanes have battled adversity and appeared from the outside to be on the brink of collapse after consecutive last-second losses to Virginia and North Carolina. To make matters worse, Miami has been crushed by injuries as starting QB D'Eriq King, two of its top three running backs and several other starters are lost for the season. RB Cam'Ron Harris remains the team's leading rusher despite not playing since the UNC game, but RB Coach Eric Hickson (@CoachEHickson) and Offensive Analyst/RB Ronnie Regula (@CoachRRegula) have seen Jaylan Knighton step up in Harris' place admirably to shoulder the lion's share of carries and help the Hurricanes reel off two straight wins over ranked opponents. Knighton rushed for 83 yards in Miami's Week 8 win and put up another 83 rushing yards on Saturday in Pittsburgh. Pro Football Focus ranked Knighton as one of the Hurricanes' top performers for the game, highlighting his 40-yard touchdown rush in the first quarter that put the U up 21-7. Knighton's second touchdown run of the afternoon came in the third quarter and restored the Hurricanes' 14-point lead, this time at 31-17. The Panthers rallied to tie the game at 31-31, but a gutty 8-play, 85-yard touchdown drive from the Canes late in the third quarter put the visitors back on top for good. Congratulations to Hickson and Regula on the win and Knighton's big day! Hickson is in his third year at Miami and has helped guide the program to bowl games in each of his first two seasons. Hickson's arrival in Coral Gables marked a return to the area for the Fort Lauderdale native, who coached at the high school level in south Florida from 2003-11. He spent the 2018 season coaching running backs at his alma mater, Kansas State, where he helped RB Alex Barnes earn First Team All-Big 12 honors and lead the conference in rushing. Hickson previously spent three years in the same role at Akron and has also served as the interim head coach at Garden City Community College in Kansas. A Miami native and UM alum, Regula is in his first year on the Hurricane coaching staff after holding a similar role at Tennessee in 2020. He spent the 2019 season as the tight ends coach at UNLV and has also coached at FIU and Lafayette.

Missouri pulls away at Vanderbilt to win first SEC game
If you check out SportsCenter's top 10 plays from Saturday, you'll find a clip of Missouri QB Connor Bazelak finding WR Keke Chism on a Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired in the second quarter. The play proved to be critical as it sent the Tigers into halftime with a 17-14 lead instead of a four-point deficit. Missouri rode that momentum through the second half to escape Nashville with a 37-28 win and a key SEC win. Not to be overlooked, though, was Missouri's field goal block unit sniffing out a Vanderbilt fake to set up the Hail Mary. With 22 seconds left in the second quarter, Missouri DB Jalen Carlies diagnosed the fake field goal and took down Vanderbilt kicker Joseph Bulovas in the backfield for a five-yard loss. Three plays later, Bazelak and Chism connected on the 45-yard score. Earlier in the game, the Tiger special teams units came up with another big play when RB Stephen Benson came untouched off the edge to block a punt deep in Commodore territory. Of course, Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis produced another strong outing, converting all seven of his kicks with a long of 52 yards. For the season, Mevis is a perfect 11-for-11 on field goals with nine attempts of at least 40 yards and three beyond 50 yards. Congratulations to Missouri Special Teams Coordinator Erik Link (@CoachErikLink) on the great game! Link is in his second season in Columbia and through eight games this fall he has guided the Tigers to a top 5 national ranking in overall special teams efficiency per ESPN's Power Index. Link arrived in Missouri after helping guide Appalachian State to a 13-1 record and Sun Belt Championship as the Mountaineers’ special teams coordinator in 2019. The Mountaineers led the nation that season with seven blocked kicks while not conceding a block by their own kicking units and also finishing in the top 25 nationally in several other special teams categories. Link spent the 2010 season as a quality control assistant at Auburn, where he helped the Tigers go 14-0 and win the BCS National Championship. He has also served on staffs at Louisiana Tech, Iowa State, Montana State and Drake.

Maryland rides second-half surge en route to 38-35 win over Indiana
The Terrapin receiving corps has been decimated by injuries this season as both Dontay Demus Jr. and Jeshaun Jones have been lost for the season. To fill their void in the passing game, Maryland has turned to an unlikely source - its running backs. Against the Hoosiers, Maryland RB Coach Elijah Brooks (@UMDCoachBrooks) had his three backs, Tayon Fleet-Davis, Challen Faamatau and Colby McDonald, do their best Stefon Diggs impersonations and the trio delivered, combining to haul in five catches for 101 receiving yards. Make no mistake, while the Terp backs came up big in the pass game, they also held up their end of the bargain in the ground game. Faamatau and Fleet-Davis were the top two producers, collectively rushing for 84 yards and three touchdowns. The pair each scored in the first quarter to stake the hosts to a 14-0 lead before Indiana responded with a 17-0 run to take a three-point lead in the third quarter. Faamatau's second rushing touchdown restored a 21-17 lead for the Terps and they never trailed again, holding on for a 38-35 victory to draw within one win of bowl eligibility. Congratulations to Brooks on the win and his backs' all-around production! Brooks is in his third season in College Park and has already had two running backs selected in the NFL Draft - Anthony McFarland, Jr. in 2020 and Jake Funk in 2021. Brooks previously served as the head coach at perennial national power DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland. At DeMatha, Brooks won four consecutive conference championships and compiled an overall record of 72-20.

Syracuse runs past Boston College for the win
Another CI coach and program that picked up their fifth win on Saturday were Syracuse and WR Coach Terrence Samuel (@CoachTSamuel). The Orange offense is by no means a finished product and starting QB Garrett Shrader has had his struggles in the passing game. But Shrader has more than made up for any shortcomings through the air by being electric in the run game. Paired with the nation's leading rusher in RB Sean Tucker, Syracuse has developed into one of the nation's most potent rushing offenses this season. In the past two weeks, Tucker and Shrader have combined to carry for a total of 571 yards and six rushing touchdowns in leading the Cuse to back-to-back wins. Against Boston College, the Orange offense struggled to get going early but came to life in the third quarter when Tucker and Shrader scored on 51 and 48-yard rushes, respectively, to turn a 6-0 deficit into a 14-6 lead in a little over three minutes. With the Orange making hay in the ground game, Samuel's receivers have had to find other ways to get involved. Courtney Jackson did just that when 87 seconds after Shrader's touchdown run, Jackson returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown to cap a whirlwind 21-0 run for the Orange in under five minutes. The Syracuse defense took care of the rest as the Orange held on for a 21-6 win. Congratulations to Samuel on the back-to-back wins and Jackson's punt return! Samuel is in his first season in Syracuse after spending the 2020 season as the passing game coordinator at UNLV. He previously spent nine seasons at Michigan State, including eight as the receivers coach. Under Samuel's guidance, Spartan receivers earned All-Big Ten recognition on eight occasions with two being named Big Ten Receiver of the Year. Overall, Samuel won five bowl games in seven postseason appearances while at Michigan State. He previously worked with the receivers at Central Michigan and has also coached at North Dakota State, Nebraska-Omaha, Southeast Missouri and Arizona.

Davis scores 2 TDs, Mercer beats The Citadel 34-7
Mercer made quite a few headlines in its dominant 34-7 win over The Citadel, but none more impressive than scoring all 37 points unanswered after giving up a touchdown in the first quarter. Not only do the Bears improve to 6-2 on the season (5-1 Southern Conference) with the win, Mercer also made history by sweeping the South Carolina schools in the SoCon for the first time since joining the league in 2014. Their excellent season would not be possible without boasting one of the strongest running attacks in the FCS. Second-year Co-Offensive Coordinator/Jokers Tim Foster (@CoachFosterMU) has his squad rolling to the tune of 234.4 rushing yards per game. On Saturday, Bears rushers went even higher, combining to post 258 total rushing yards. Lead back, Fred Davis, tallied 88 yards and reached pay dirt twice in the second quarter, both on gritty 1-yard touchdown runs. Aptly filling the joker position with his tremendous versatility in the running and receiving games, Tayshaun Shipp broke off a season-long 72-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. After this week’s strong showing, the Bears run game ranks 6th in the FCS in rushing yards and is tied for 2nd in rushing touchdowns. Congratulations to Foster on the win and the Bears’ prolific offensive production! Prior to joining the Mercer staff, Foster spent two successful seasons as the passing game coordinator at Lenoir-Rhyne. During his time at LR, he contributed to the team’s 25-3 record and back-to-back South Atlantic Conference Championships. From 2015 to 2017, Foster served as an assistant coach at Reinhardt, where in his last year he orchestrated the nation’s leading rushing attack (359.8 ypg) and 5th ranked scoring offense at 47 points per game.

Davis sparks huge second half in Southeast Missouri State's win
Southeast Missouri was a little slow out of the gate in Saturday's homecoming game versus Eastern Illinois, but Shabari Davis returned the opening kickoff of the second half 86 yards for a touchdown and the floodgates were opened. Davis' score turned a 9-7 deficit for the Redhawks into a 14-9 advantage and by the end of the third quarter the lead had ballooned to 24-9. SEMO QB CJ Ogbanna was responsible for the second touchdown of the quarter, a 24-yard rushing variety, and then let his arm do the work in the fourth quarter, connecting with WR Johnny King on a 33-yard touchdown pass and WR Rashaan Palmer on a 23-yard strike to complete the 38-15 victory. For the game, Ogbanna threw for 197 yards and added 34 yards on the ground. On the ground, RB Geno Hess led the way for the Redhawks with 107 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries to push him over 1,000 rushing yards for the season. Congratulations to Southeast Missouri Offensive Coordinator/QB Jeromy McDowell (@CoachJMcdowell) on the win and Ogbanna's big game! McDowell is in his fourth year with the Redhawks and in his first season he directed an offense that set new program records in points, points per game, and touchdowns. In 2019, he helped guide SEMO to an OVC Co-Championship and the first playoff win in program history. For his efforts, McDowell was named one of three finalists for AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year. McDowell arrived in Cape Girardeau after a four-year stint at Colorado Mesa, including two as co-offensive coordinator and two as offensive coordinator. With the Mavericks, McDowell was part of three RMAC Championship winning teams.

Morris leads VUU to 44-14 win over ECSU
In 14 seasons as an assistant coach at Elizabeth City, including eight as his alma mater's assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, Marcus Hilliard (@Coach_MHilliard) directed one of the top defenses in Division II and helped guide the Vikings to four CIAA Championship Game appearances. Since arriving at Virginia Union as the assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator in 2018, Hilliard has been perfect in three contests against his former team, including a 53-0 drubbing in 2018. Saturday's result was tame in comparison, a 44-14 blowout, but was nonetheless dominant. The Panther defense held the Vikings to just 10 total rushing yards and 5-of-17 on third and fourth downs. Individually, CB Ronnie Monroe excelled, collecting an interception and a fumble recovery. On offense, VUU was equally impressive as it racked up 532 total yards. Offensive Coordinator/OL Mike Morita (@CoachMorita) saw his offensive line open up huge holes in the run game, paving the way for RB Jada Byers to rush for 99 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. The Panther offensive line was also stout in pass protection, not giving up a sack and allowing QB Khalid Morris to complete 14-of-27 passes for 298 yards and a season-high three touchdowns. Congratulations to Hilliard and Morita on the win! In Hilliard's first season at VUU he was named the AFCA's Assistant Coach of the Year as the Panthers finished 2018 with an 8-2 record. Morita is in his fifth year with the Panthers and was promoted to offensive coordinator prior to this season. In 2018, he helped guide a VUU offense that ranked 5th in the nation with 45.2 points per game. Morita arrived in Richmond after a three-year stint as an offensive quality control assistant at Vanderbilt. He previously spent seven seasons as the offensive line coach at Albany where he helped guide the Great Danes to four conference championships.

Shepherd tops Bloomsburg; Bagent sets passing marks
In 2018, Luke Wright (@CoachLukeWright) was the wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator at Fairmont State and helped the team set a new school record for total offense in a season as the Falcons posted a 9-2 record and a second-place finish in the Mountain East Conference. One of the wins that season came in the form of a 38-17 victory over Shepherd that marked the Falcons' first win over the Rams in a decade. The following season, Shepherd bolted the MEC to join the PSAC and in 2020, Wright left Fairmont to join the program that he had defeated in 2018. Now donning the Blue and Gold and coaching defensive backs instead of receivers, Wright has helped Shepherd jump out to an 8-1 record and top 10 national ranking. The Rams continued their winning ways on the road at Bloomsburg and Wright's units played a large role in the effort. Still in charge of special teams as he was at Fairmont, Wright's punt return unit got on the score sheet in the fourth quarter when Josh Gontarek returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown to put the visitors up 55-18. A final touchdown from RB Avaughn Holley capped a 62-18 win for Shepherd. Defensively, safety Ponce Deleon led the way for the Rams, recording a team-high seven tackles to go along with a pair of pass breakups. Congratulations to Wright on the big win and great season thus far! Before arriving at Fairmont State in 2018, Wright served as a quality control assistant at Towson and has also coached at Hiram University, Quincy University and McDaniel College.

Quick Hits
  • Baylor continued its streak of holding every opposing offense below their average points per game, holding Texas 17.6 points below its average in a 31-24 win for the Bears. Congratulations to Defensive Coordinator/ILB Ron Roberts (@CoachRonRoberts)!
  • Against one of the league's top offenses, Stetson's defense forced six sacks and two interceptions as the Hatters cruised to a 56-14 win over Presbyterian. Congratulations to Head Coach Brian Young (@coachbkyoung)!
  • Ferris State QB Jared Bernhardt threw for 154 yards and ran for another 163 yards, including three rushing touchdowns, as the Bulldogs remained unbeaten after defeating Northern Michigan, 44-24. Congratulations to Assoc. Head Coach/QB Brian Rock (@Coach_Rock)!
  • Upper Iowa forced four turnovers and blocked an extra point in overtime to knock off Wayne State, 42-41. Congratulations to Peacock Defensive Coordinator/LB Marlon Watson (@CoachWatson8)!
  • Point University LB Aaron Anderson posted a team-high 12 tackles as the Skyhawks defeated Union College, 27-20. Congratulations to Defensive Coordinator/LB Trevor Zeiders (@coachzeiders)!
  • Lane College rallied from a late 14-0 deficit to stun Central State, 16-14. Congratulations to Dragons QB Coach Ray Pickering (@CoachPickOC)!

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