College football coaching highlights and lowlights of Week 3

A light Week 3 slate in college football — the final weekend before the SEC joins the party — brought us coaching debuts, reality checks and even some returns from the dead. 

The spotlight will dim as the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 start to enter into the national college football equation and saturate the slate. While many coaches have thrived with the stage to themselves, others will welcome the distraction of more big boys in college football. 

Here are the coaches who stood out from the crowd in the last weekend before the SEC’s arrival.

Head Coach of the WeekJeff Hafley, Boston College

There were all kinds of reasons to think Boston College was not well-positioned to find early season success: Hafley arrived as a new head coach, without spring practice, with truncated summer workouts, with a new offensive coordinator bringing an NFL system with him, a new quarterback from the transfer market and a new defense led by a first-time coordinator. That’s a lot to iron out without much time to do it. But the Eagles were well-prepared by their first-time head coach and it showed in a 26-6 stomping of Duke. 

Hafley’s group had an identity on offense by committing themselves to a run game that didn’t find much success, but at least opened up a downfield passing game that gashed Duke in the second half. The defense forced five turnovers one year after forcing 17 all season (74th in the nation). In the red zone, Boston College batted 1.000 on offense and defense, going 4-for-4 scoring and 3-for-3 keeping Duke off the scoreboard. It wasn’t a perfect outing by any stretch but there was an encouraging winning culture for a coach with limited opportunity to work with.

Offensive Coordinator of the Week – Tim Beck, NC State

Let’s give a huge hat tip to Rhett Lashlee at Miami for his performance leading Miami to a resounding win over Louisville but as that game was going on, Beck’s NC State offense was slicing up the Demon Deacons. NC State was 106th in the country in yards per play on offense last year. The team that played Wake Forest did not look like the 106th best offense in the country. Three running backs — Ricky Person, Zonovan Knight, and all-purpose back Jordan Houston — ran up and down Wake Forest behind a physical, imposing offensive line. At quarterback, Bailey Hockman got the starting nod and while his physical traits were not overwhelming, he was given easy access throws and open receivers all night long. He delivered with 193 yards passing on 17-of-24 and two touchdowns.

For the game, NC State averaged 6.3 yards per play, put up 463 yards of offense, scored every team it got in the red zone and had a plan all game long. Beck’s last two stops as offensive coordinator have been overshadowed by his head coach, first at Ohio State under Urban Meyer and more recently at Texas by Tom Herman. He had a successful stint at Nebraska under Bo Pelini before that, producing a top 30 offense in yards per play two of his four seasons in Lincoln. Beck could prove to be a sneaky good hire for Dave Doeren in an important year for his job security.

Defensive Coordinator of the Week Brian Newberry, Navy

Last week’s top defensive coordinator was Tulane’s Jack Curtis, who stymied South Alabama in the second half en route to a comeback victory. This week, Newberry’s Midshipmen gave Tulane taste of that same medicine. Down 24-0 at halftime, and with the clock ticking away as two run-heavy offenses went back and forth, Navy’s defense kept hope alive. The third quarter was dominated by the Navy defense. On the first four drives of the quarter, Tulane went three-and-out each time, producing 17 total yards. After a Navy punt was downed at the one, Newberry’s unit made it a one-possession game at 24-16 when it forced a safety on the next play. For the third quarter, Navy’s defense gave up 16 yards on 13 plays and scored two points.

Navy gave up three first downs on two drives in the second half but got the ball back to its offense in time to put together a game-winning, 10-play, 4:41 scoring drive, culminating in a field goal as time expired. Newberry arrived at Navy from Kennesaw State last season and was a big reason for the Midshipmen turning a 3-10 season in 2018 to a 11-2 campaign one year later. Navy’s defense went from 120th in the country in yards per play allowed to 36th. Newberry reportedly turned down multiple Power Five opportunities to return. More of those could be coming his way.

Special Teams Coordinator of the Week – Jonathan Patke, Miami

A coach is only as good as his players. That’s true on special teams too. Whether you want to give him credit for execution or recruiting, Patke’s special teams units at Miami were one of the stories of a decisive win against Louisville. In particular, FIU grad transfer Jose Borregales was automatic from just about anywhere. The field goal unit was 9-of-9 on kicks, and 4-of-4 on field goals, including a smooth and easy 57-yarder. Borregales also generated six touchbacks on 10 kickoffs. The punt team has been strong to this point too and while Louisville didn’t necessitate a lot of punts on Saturday, Lou Hedley was effective when called upon with three punts, one inside the 20, none of which were returned by Louisville.

Position Coach of the Week – Aaron Fletcher, Cornerbacks, Tulsa

Tulsa nearly pulled a shocking opening game upset over an Oklahoma State team that is supposed to be among the nation’s best. While it came up just short, the execution of the gameplan shed some light on Fletcher’s cornerback group. Tulsa loaded up the box, pressed Oklahoma State’s wide receivers on the outside and dared the Cowboys to win on the perimeter. The gameplan was possible due to some big talent on the outside, in particular Allie Green IV and Akayleb Evans.

Evans is 6-2, 190 pounds. Green is 6-3, 205. Fletcher’s room also has 6-0, 6-3 and 6-4 body types coming in behind them. Their physicality limited Oklahoma State to 138 yards passing on the day and Tylan Wallace’s 94 yards didn’t come together until late in the game after a long day of frustration. Green had one interception. Evans nearly had another. Last year, the two held Wallace to 21 yards before he caught a 90-yarder from the slot where he was matched up against a safety. According to Tulsa, the two combined have only given up two touchdowns receptions in four years and they’ve been playing together since they were true freshmen. Both will have NFL scouts’ attention this season.  

Hot Seat of the Week – Rick Stockstill, MTSU

A mainstay in Murfreesboro since the 2006 season, Rick Stockstill is one of the most well-liked and highly respected coaches in college football. You’re not going to hear a negative word about him in coaching circles, or anywhere else for that matter. But 89-14 is 89-14. That’s the combined score of MTSU’s first two games this season. The offense has been lifeless and the defense has been uninspired. After one of the more embarrassing performances of the season to date against Army, you would have expected a bounce-back showing from the Blue Raiders. It didn’t come. Stockstill has plenty of leash to work with. He’s had a long history of consistency at MTSU but coming off of a 4-8 season in 2019, pressure will begin to develop if this team doesn’t start looking more competitive. 

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