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Can struggling Texas possibly remain Strong?

Charlie Strong
Texas Coach Charlie Strong walks the sidelines during the first half of a game against Oklahoma in Dallas on Oct. 8.
(LM Otero / Associated Press)

Deep in the heart of Texas … there is heartbreak. Or, at the very least, heartburn.

And possibly an athletic director changing his mind.

Mike Perrin, Texas’ athletic director, stayed with a “no comment” mantra when surrounded by reporters asking about Coach Charlie Strong after Saturday’s game in Manhattan, Kan. — site of the latest loss by the Longhorns football team.

That’s four losses in the last five games after a 2-0 start, if you’re keeping score.

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And trust this: If you don’t like Strong, you’re keeping score.

Only two weeks ago, the day before Texas lost to rival Oklahoma, Perrin said of Strong, “I support Charlie Strong. He’s my coach. He’s a friend. I respect him as a man.”

On Saturday? Crickets.

The Kansas State student section, on the other hand, was loud and proud, chanting, “We own Texas!” in the final minutes.

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They have a point.

Texas has won only once in eight games at Kansas State, dating to 2002. And the Wildcats are the only Big 12 Conference team that leads a series with the Longhorns. They’re 10-7 all time.

Texas’ defense has been Strong’s biggest problem, and he demoted his coordinator earlier this season and pledged to personally take a more hands-on approach to that unit.

Against Kansas State, the Longhorns offense was the problem: Untimely penalties, dropped passes and a badly missed 35-yard fourth-quarter field-goal attempt that, had it been good, might have forced overtime.

“We’ve just got to battle back,” Strong said afterward.

Easier said than done. Next up is No. 9 Baylor, which will be rested after a bye weekend.

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Ground attack

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So much for Navy being a by-air, by-sea outfit.

The No. 24 Midshipmen rushed for 447 yards in a 42-28 win over Memphis, including 201 yards and three touchdowns in 31 carries by quarterback Will Worth.

Worth accounted for five touchdowns. He threw only four passes, but two of his three completions went for scores.

Navy’s margin of victory was a nice break from its norm in American Athletic Conference play. The Midshipmen’s first three conference wins all came by a touchdown or less. Navy made a late goal-line stand to defeat Connecticut by four points, then needed a late touchdown to defeat Tulane by seven points. After a loss to Air Force, Navy bounced back with a six-point win over then-No. 6 Houston.

The win over Memphis gave the Midshipmen a school-record 14th consecutive at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

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Top Dawg

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Oregon State had the Pac-12 Conference’s second-rated pass defense — possibly because the Beavers are easily run on, but for the purposes of this item we’ll give them credit.

The Oregon State secondary came into its game against No. 5 Washington having given up an average of 179.5 yards passing per game.

Washington quarterback Jake Browning surpassed that on the first play of the Huskies’ fourth possession, with about 13 minutes to play before halftime.

That 31-yard gain gave him 196 yards passing, and he had already directed Washington to touchdowns the first three times it had the ball.

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Right direction

Western Michigan isn’t the only so-called “directional school” trending up.

Even after Saturday’s 45-31 loss to No. 20 Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan looks as if it will get a sixth win and become bowl eligible at some point in its last four games.

The Eagles (5-3) have already won four more games than they did all last season, the biggest turnaround among major college teams.

Before this season, Eastern Michigan had not won more than two games in a season since 2011.

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Old acquaintances

When Illinois played at Michigan, Lovie Smith and Jim Harbaugh became the first college coaches to face each other after having led NFL teams to the Super Bowl.

Michigan won, 41-8, improving to 7-0 for the first time since 2006 and getting the ball in the hands of a lot of different players.

The Wolverines had 14 players with rushing yardage and 11 players who made pass receptions.

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Record run

Donnel Pumphrey, the nation’s leading rusher, established two San Diego State records during the Aztecs’ 42-3 win over San Jose State on Friday night.

He ran for two touchdowns, giving him 58 touchdowns rushing and 63 overall, surpassing Marshall Faulk in both career areas.

San Diego State has won 14 consecutive Mountain West Conference games and has not given up a touchdown in a conference game in 12 quarters.

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Rally killers

Texas Christian had no reason to panic down, 21-10, at halftime against No. 12 West Virginia.

The Horned Frogs had a history of overcoming double-digit deficits in the second half against the Mountaineers. They trailed by 10 points or more in three consecutive games, from 2012-14, only to rally for a couple of wins and taking the 2013 game to overtime.

So much for history. West Virginia outscored TCU, 13-0, in the second half to complete a rout.

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Early intermission

Dayton and Butler experienced an unusual break when officials called for halftime with 7 minutes 3 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

The reason: The only available ambulance was used when Jordan Ransone, a senior defensive tackle for Butler, sustained a leg injury that required him to be taken immediately to a hospital.

Without a backup vehicle in case of another emergency, the game was halted and the bands took the field.

At what would have been halftime, there was a short break as the teams changed sides.

Dayton won the game, 31-16.

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Extra points

Nebraska’s 27-14 win over Purdue was expected for reasons beyond the Cornhuskers coming in undefeated. Purdue hasn’t defeated a top-10 team on the road since 1974. Nebraska was ranked No. 8. … Running back Jeffrey Wilson is a key North Texas indicator: In games the Mean Green have won, he has averaged 147 yards rushing. In the games they’ve lost, he has averaged 44.3 yards. … Weird stat: In seven games, North Carolina State’s punt unit has given up 14 yards in three returns. … Indiana and San Diego State are the only major-college teams that have not allowed a run of 30 yards or more this season.

Times wire services contributed to this report.

mike.hiserman@latimes.com

Twitter: @mikehiserman


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