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College football coaching highlights and lowlights for Week 8

The debut of the Big Ten brought some weighty performances. Northwestern went from inept to downright good on offense, Ohio State appears to be a playoff contender as expected and Rutgers snapped a 21-game Big Ten losing streak in Greg Schiano’s first game back as head coach. That’s just from the guys that didn’t make our list of top coaching performances from the weekend.

Head Coach of the Week: Tom Allen, Indiana

It wasn’t a perfect outing by the Hoosiers but Allen managed to engineer Indiana’s first win against a top 10 opponent since 1987 in a 36-35 overtime win over Penn State. The win took some resourcefulness, some courage and some luck to knock off the No. 8 ranked Nittany Lions. Prior to Indiana’s final drive of regulation, it had only managed 111 yards of total offense on the day. But a 75-yard drive and a two-point conversion to tie the game was enough to give the Hoosiers an overtime opportunity. That game-tying drive was facilitated by Indiana intentionally allowing a Penn State touchdown, preserving time and accepting an eight-point deficit. Once the game reached overtime, Allen acknowledged his underdog status and the issues moving the ball throughout the game and distilled the game down to one two-point conversion, allowing quarterback Michael Penix to make a play for the win.

Under Allen, Indiana has been consistently close to knocking off highly ranked opponents and it has played Penn State particularly close in recent years. There’s a confidence and grittiness that Indiana teams have played with under Allen that showed up again on Saturday and allowed the Hoosiers to break a 42-game losing streak to top 10 opponents.

Offensive Coordinator of the Week – Josh Gattis, Michigan

If you were paying attention, you saw a new offense under Gattis start to gain some traction at Michigan in the second half of last season. This year, a new offensive line, a new quarterback, and plenty of new blood at wide receiver offered up some uncertainty as to how the Wolverines would look. A 49-24 win over Minnesota was anything but uncertain on Saturday as Michigan looked lively and explosive in a dominating showing.

While it benefitted from good field position all night long, Michigan’s offense went nine straight drives either scoring a touchdown or attempting a field goal. Redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Milton looked confident with the offense playing to his strengths effectively. The group took care of the ball while rattling off 8.59 yards per play. But what was most encouraging was the way Gattis was able to involve and activate a diverse and deep group of speedy skill players. Nine players caught passes. Seven players registered a rush. In total, 11 players affected the game on offense.

Defensive Coordinator of the Week – Ryan Walters, Missouri

Missouri’s offense has been outstanding early in the season but with early games against the explosive offenses of LSU and Alabama early on the schedule, it’s been hard to know exactly what to make of this Missouri defense. On Saturday, Walters’ group made quite a statement in support of the defense being able to hold its own as Eli Drinkwitz’s debut season continues to impress. In a 20-10 win, Missouri held Kentucky to 145 total yards of offense and a time of possession of only 16:50.

The box score from this one paints an ugly picture for the Wildcats. Walters’ unit allowed three or fewer plays on five of Kentucky’s nine drives for the game. Only two offensive series produced more than 20 yards. Kentucky was 2-9 on third downs. Missouri allowed only 47 yards passing on 13 attempts, an average yards per attempt of 3.6 yards. It was a complementary effort with the defense stifling Kentucky, the offense maintaining possession and the special teams unit dropping three of its four punts inside the Kentucky 20 yardline.

Special Teams Coordinator of the Week – Kansas State

There’s no special teams coordinator title on the Kansas State coaching staff but two punt return touchdowns in one half were instrumental in breaking the game open for the Wildcats. A first quarter 55-yard return for a touchdown got Kansas State on the board first at 7-0. At the start of the second quarter, a 40-yard punt return by Brooks set up Kansas State for a field goal after a six-yard drive. Before the half ended, Kansas State called a timeout with eight seconds left to give Brooks one more touch before halftime. It paid off with a 52-yard return touchdown.

Position Coach of the Week – Steve Ensminger, OC/QBs, Russ Callaway Analyst/QB, LSU

Ensminger is really good at his job. He was overshadowed last season due to the impact of young hot shot Joe Brady but the job he’s done coaching Joe Burrow, grooming Myles Brennan and most recently having true freshman TJ Finley ready is a strong testament to his ability. Finley looked totally prepared and confident and the offense looked nuanced enough to adapt to his arrival.

Following the game, Finley gave some credit for his development to quality control coach Russ Callaway, a new arrival from FCS program Samford where he served as offensive coordinator. The mention of Callaway was interesting considering he produced one of the top offenses in FCS at Samford; he helped develop NFL quarterback Devlin Hodges, he’s got pedigree as the son of long-time offensive line coach Neil Callaway and he’s even spent time as a defensive analyst at Alabama under Kirby Smart. Callaway could be the next young coach to emerge from LSU’s staff.

Hot Seat of the Week – Mike Locksley, Maryland

Mike Locksley isn’t on the hot seat at Maryland, nor should he be. He needs time to rebuild the roster, ratchet up his recruiting and create some cohesion and culture. But the hot seat of the week is less about being on the verge of being fired and more about what the previous weekend has done to the trajectory of job security. For Locksley, it wasn’t a great debut. Taulia Tagovailoa was brought in to add some stability to the quarterback position and he struggled mightily alongside the offense. The defense couldn’t slow down a new Northwestern offense either. Last season saw a lot of ugly losses on the Maryland schedule. We’re not expecting a dramatic turnaround in the win column in 2020, but Locksley needs to get the program more competitive.

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