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San Diego State's Rocky Long remains the best coaching bargain in college football

San Diego State's Rocky Long remains the best coaching bargain in college football
San Diego State quarterback Ryan Agnew, center, turns to toss the ball against Boise State during the second half on Saturday. San Diego State won 19-13. (Steve Conner / Associated Press)

San Diego State’s economical 19-13 win on the blue turf Saturday afternoon at Boise State comes with the added value of green.

As part of a USA Today annual ranking of the major college football coaches’ best-to-worse in financial compensation that came out this week, the Aztecs’ 68-year-old Rocky Long was listed as the “best bargain” for his middle-of-the-road Mountain West salary of $873,576, compared to “a minuscule” buyout of $447,412.

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USA Today says the deal “is affordable, the results are consistently superb – and that combination will keep Long on this list for the foreseeable future.”

The Aztecs’ fourth straight win after a season-opening loss at then-No. 13 Stanford could cash in a Top 25 ranking and keep Long’s short-term goal to assemble a school-record fourth straight double-digit win season and an eighth-straight bowl appearance.

Saturday, two-touchdown underdog SDSU got the most of 267 yards of offense without starting quarterback Christian Chapman or leading rusher Juwan Washington. Backup and true freshman running back Jordan Byrd scored on a 72-yard touchdown run in the third quarter for a 19-7 lead.

Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien was interception-free this season but against SDSU threw two in the first half. A pick against Broncos backup QB Chase Cord -- Aztecs linebacker Ronley Lakalaka made a one-handed grab off a deflected pass – set up SDSU’s lone first-half touchdown for a 13-7 lead.

Boise State ranked eighth in the nation in total offense (538.5 yards a game) and 18th in scoring (43.3 points), but amassed just 229 yards (178 passing and 51 rushing) against the Aztecs.

“I knew what we had coming in here and we were going up against a really good team,” said Long, the former UCLA defensive coordinator and first head coach since 2000 to beat the Broncos in Boise twice on the famed blue turf. Boise State had a 109-8 record at home on The Blue, as they call it, since then.

“If you don't come in here with the right attitude, you're going to get beat,” Long said. “And I think we've had kids with the right attitude.”

Long, whose SDSU contract was extended through the 2022 season last April, arrived in San Diego in 2009 as the defensive coordinator for Brady Hoke. New Mexico lured him away from Bob Toledo’s staff at UCLA after the Bruins’ 1998 (and last) Rose Bowl appearance to be the Lobos’ head coach for an 11-season run.

RIGHT ON THE MONEY

As for that USA Today salary list nailing down 123 of the 130 coaches’ paychecks, Long is at No. 87, well behind leader Nick Saban of Alabama ($8.3 million a season) – even though Saban was also on the five-man “bargain” list considering his habit of producing national titles.

UCLA’s Chip Kelly ($3.3 million salary/$9 million buyout) was at No. 40. USC’s Clay Helton ($2.625 million salary/no buyout listed) was at No. 47. Former USC and current Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin ($1 million salary/$2.8 million buyout) was at No. 81.

JUDGING FROM THE RESPONSE …

CBS broke into coverage of the LSU-Florida game and ABC interrupted its Maryland-Michigan broadcast so their news divisions could report on the Senate’s confirming the controversial nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

LSU had a third-and-goal play in the second quarter with play held up for an injury, going to a commercial. CBS News came out of the break with the news, returning in time for viewers to see LSU’s Lamical Perine score on a 1-yard run to tie the game 7-7.

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ABC’s Steve Levy told viewers they were going to “step aside” with Michigan holding a 35-14 fourth-quarter lead for the update. When returning to the game, ABC coverage picked up Michigan’s Brandon Watson finishing a 46-yard pick six for a 42-14 lead with 4:25 left.

IT CAN GET A LITTLE HAIRY

Northwestern’s Roderick Campbell was called for pass interference in the third quarter when he appeared to grab the long dreadlocks that flow out from under the helmet of Michigan State receiver Felton Davis III.

Davis said it’s just what happens.

“More times in practice than during the game,” said Davis, who had a team-best seven catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. He accounted for both Spartans TDs, also scoring on a 48-yard reverse in the third quarter, giving MSU a temporary lead. But the No. 20 Spartans were eventually snipped in a 29-19 loss at East Lansing, Mich.

HEISMAN CRIB NOTES

Alabama sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, with four touchdown passes in the win over Arkansas, has 18 TD tosses this season with no interceptions, but has yet to throw a fourth-quarter pass. He started the game 2-for-2 passing for 123 yards and two TDs …

West Virginia senior Will Greer had thrown 25 touchdown passes without an interception in the red zone during his entire career before he had three picks all inside the 15-yard line against Kansas, all in the first half. On one of them, Greer had to go on the defense to chase down Jayhawks cornerback Hasan Defense after a 60-yard return to prevent a touchdown.

WILD LEFTOVERS

At Miami, this will be The Comeback. At Florida State, this will be The Collapse.

No. 17 Miami’s 28-27 win over Florida State after trailing by 20 points in the third quarter marks the first time the Hurricanes have overcome a double-digit deficit to defeat the Seminoles since 2004. That was also Miami’s previous home win over FSU.

The game had the usual fare that comes with this rivalry: a pregame shout fest after warmups, the entire Miami roster getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for running across the field to come to the aid of injured receiver Jeff Thomas after he got pulled down by his face mask and was shaken up near a raucous Florida State sideline, and missed field goals by both teams in the final quarter.

"No one gave in," Miami coach Mark Richt said. "No one gave up.”

The Seminoles (3-3, 1-3) were held to 200 yards of offense.

"We didn't get what we wanted, which was a win," Florida State coach Willie Taggart said. "This one's going to hurt for a while."

NO BULL: IT HAPPENED

We’ll have to believe wire service reports that South Florida was not just involved in a 100-point game, but remains one of 11 teams left undefeated in college football’s top division.

The Bulls’ 58-42 win at UMass behind Jordan Cronkrite’s 302 yards rushing and three TDs was reportedly witnessed by 19,056, exceeding the 17,000 capacity at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst, Mass. It streamed on ESPN3.

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South Florida (5-0) is the American Athletic school from north Tampa that isn’t even the only undefeated team in its 12-member conference — No. 12 Central Florida (5-0) and Cincinnati (6-0) are also there, and all three reside in the conference’s East division. South Florida and Cincinnati were the only two unbeaten teams left out of the AP Top 25 poll.

EXTRA POINTS

Elon’s 27-24 upset of James Madison, ranked No. 2 in the FCS, ended the Dukes’ 19-game home win and a 20-game win streak in the Colonial Athletic Association …

Air Force’s 35-7 triumph over Navy starts the 47th year of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy pursuit, going to the service academies with the best record in the round-robin competition. Army won it last year.

BY THE NUMBERS

Opponents of the top four teams in the AP poll – Arkansas (playing host to Alabama), Vanderbilt (at Georgia), Indiana (at Ohio State) and Wake Forest (at Clemson) – fell to a combined 0-142 in games against Top-5 teams. And the Buckeyes, on an 11-game win streak, extended the Hoosiers’ skid to 36, the third-longest active streak in the FBS … A school-record eight TD passes by Tanner Gueller, to go with a career-best 492 yards, pushed Idaho State to a 62-28 win over Idaho in Pocatello. It was also the Bengals’ first win over the Vandals since 1995.

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