Dec 09, 2019 3:30 AM

AP Source: Missouri hiring Appalachian State's Eli Drinkwitz

Posted Dec 09, 2019 3:30 AM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri reached an agreement Sunday with Eliah Drinkwitz to take over the Tigers’ once-proud football program, a person with knowledge of the hiring told The Associated Press, making Appalachian State’s successful coach the second-youngest in a Power Five conference.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the contract was still being drawn up and the school had not made an announcement. Drinkwitz was also being pursued by SEC rival Arkansas for its head-coaching vacancy.

Tigers athletic director Jim Sterk said he wanted to move swiftly in hiring a replacement for Barry Odom, the former player and assistant coach who went 25-25 in four seasons leading the program. Odom was fired after the Tigers finished an underwhelming 6-6, which would have been good enough for a bowl berth had the school not been slapped with a postseason ban by the NCAA following an incident involving a rogue tutor.

Drinkwitz will inherit a program that also must deal with scholarship and recruiting restrictions as part of the fallout.

When asked what he was searching for in the next coach, Sterk replied: “I think someone that brings a lot of energy and experience to the program, a leader, quality individual that has had success in leading a program or as a coordinator at a high level. Those are some of the some of the qualities.”

The 36-year-old coach is a considerable gamble for Missouri because of his scant head-coaching experience. Drinkwitz worked under Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn at Auburn, Bryan Harsin at Arkansas State and Dave Doeren at North Carolina State, giving him plenty of experience from some of the best in the business. But his lone year in charge of a program — at any level, including high school — was this past season with the Mountaineers.

Still, the season was a spectacular success.

Appalachian State (12-1) rolled through its first seven games, beating North Carolina on the road, before stumbling against Georgia Southern. That wound up being the Mountaineers’ lone loss after they ripped off five straight wins, including one at South Carolina, and capped the run with a victory over Louisiana in the Sun Belt championship game.

It’s unclear whether Drinkwitz will coach the Mountaineers against UAB in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 21. He had signed a five-year deal with Appalachian State that paid him $750,000 this past season plus considerable performance incentives. The contract states that he will owe $425,000 for each year remaining if he leaves for another job, meaning a buyout of $1.7 million will be due to Appalachian State.

Odom signed an extension through 2024 last December that increased his base salary this past season to $3.05 million.

“We’re very excited about what we’re doing at App State,” Drinkwitz said after the Sun Belt title game, “but at the same time every opportunity, you know, I owe it to the family — my family — for my family to see what’s something that we’re interested in. But I’m not in any hurry to leave. I feel strongly that we’re building something special here.”

Most of the questions Drinkwitz fielded Saturday had to do with Arkansas, and for good reason: He went to Arkansas Tech, started his coaching career at a pair of Arkansas high schools, and later coached two seasons at Arkansas State.

“I don’t have a lot of answers for you right now,” he said. “I’m trying to process winning the first conference championship of my career, processing doing something that’s never been done before, and I understand that you all got jobs to do, and it’s going to be a crazy time, but the most important thing for me is just to enjoy the moment right now, and then we’ll figure it all out.”

Earlier Sunday, the Razorbacks hired Georgia assistant Sam Pittman to be its head coach.

Drinkwitz, widely considered a creative offensive mind, should stoke some passion from a Missouri fanbase that has grown tired of mediocrity to the point that attendance started to plummet this past season. And his hiring comes after reports that Sterk was interested in a series of candidates that included Army’s Jeff Monken, Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz and Arkansas State’s Blake Andreson — all with head coaching experience but none with what could be considered a high profile.

Odom was hired four seasons ago to replace beloved coach Gary Pinkel, who had not only built Missouri into a consistent winner but helped carry that success into the SEC. He appeared to be on the right track, too, taking the Tigers to a couple of bowl games. But things began to fall apart with a season-opening loss to Wyoming, and Sterk said upon Odom’s firing that the program had lost the “momentum” that had been built with a recent stadium renovation project.

Now, the Tigers are led by the second-youngest Power Five coach behind only Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, and can turn their attention to rebuilding a program and fan base that has grown weary of scratching just to make bowl games.

--- Associated Press ---

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Dec 09, 2019 3:30 AM
Chiefs hold off Patriots rally for 23-16 win

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patrick Mahomes got some help from the Chiefs defense to hold off the New England Patriots and wrap up the division title.

Kansas City clinched the AFC West when Bashaud Breeland knocked away Tom Brady's fourth-down pass attempt to Julian Edelman in the end zone and the Chiefs beat New England 23-16 win on Sunday.

After building a 20-7 lead, the Chiefs survived a series of mistakes and questionable officiating to hold off a late rally by the defending Super Bowl champions.

Combined with Oakland's loss to Tennessee, the Chiefs (9-4) clinched the AFC West. The loss ended the Patriots' 21-game home win streak in the regular season and playoffs, which was tied for the longest in team history. It also was the third-longest string in NFL history.

Mahomes was 26 of 40 for 283 yards, a touchdown and interception, playing through a hand injury he suffered during Kansas City's second offensive series. Tight end Travis Kelce added a 4-yard TD run.

Mahomes now is the third quarterback this season to earn his first win against the Patriots, joining Baltimore's Lamar Jackson and Houston's Deshaun Watson. All three were previously 0-2.

"You want to beat the best. You want to go out and play against the best and give your best effort, "Mahomes said. "It wasn't pretty the whole time. It was just a tough, hard-fought win.

He said he got creative after his injury.

"I let the trainers look at it. They gave me to good to go," Mahomes said. "I went out there, battled and figured out ways to throw the ball across the middle. Maybe not shoot those long shots I usually throw. But enough to get them back and still score touchdowns."

New England (10-3) has lost two in a row.

Tom Brady was under pressure all game and finished 19 of 36 for 169 yards, a touchdown and interception. the 169 yards are his second-fewest passing yards this season. He spoke after the game with his right elbow heavily wrapped.

"They threw a lot of different defenses at us," Brady said. "Some we handled well and some we didn't."

Trailing 23-16, New England got the ball back on its 32 with 5:04 to play. The Patriots immediately gained 35 yards on a pass from halfback James White to Jakobi Meyers to get into Kansas City territory. Officials appeared to miss a pass interference call on a deep pass to Phillip Dorsett and the Chiefs forced a fourth-and-6 at the 29.

But the 42-year-old Brady got free and scrambled 17 yards for a first down.

The Patriots couldn't get into the end zone, however, losing the rematch of January's AFC title game in Kansas City.

The Chiefs led 23-7 in the third quarter before they committed multiple miscues that helped the Patriots close the gap.

First, Patriots special teamer Nate Ebner blocked Dustin Colquitt's punt, which rolled out of bounds at the Chiefs 19. It set up a 10-yard run by Brandon Bolden that made it 23-13, but James White was stopped short on his 2-point conversion run attempt.

The Chiefs gave the Patriots another opportunity late in the third quarter. Kelce caught a pass and was hit by Devin McCourty, forcing a fumble and recovery by Stephon Gilmore, who had a clear path the the end zone. The play was blown dead, though, with Kelce ruled down by contact.

It prompted an immediate challenge by Patriots coach Bill Belichick, which resulted in the call being overturned and the ball awarded to New England.

The Patriots quickly drove to the Kansas City 15 and Brady found N'Keal Harry with a short pass. Harry weaved through multiple defenders and appeared to stretch the ball over the pylon.

Yet he was ruled to have stepped out of bounds at the 3.

"Yeah, I mean, it's -- yeah. Doesn't happen very often.," Brady said of the ruling. "So, it happened. We still had a chance and wish we could have scored there at the end."

Brady was sacked three plays later and the Patriots kicked a field goal to close within 23-16.

Referee Jerome Boger told a pool reporter after the game that the covering official on the Harry play was blocked out by defenders.

"The downfield official who was on the goal line and looking back toward the field of play had that he stepped out at the 3-yard line," Boger said. "So, they got together and conferred on that. The final ruling was that he was out of bounds at the 3-yard line."

The Chiefs were without two of their leading rushers, Damien Williams (rib injury) and Darrel Williams (placed on injured reserve Thursday with a hamstring injury). It left the rushing duties primarily in the hands of LeSean McCoy, with support from Darwin Thompson and Spencer Ware.

They didn't get much traction in the run game other than from McCoy, who finished with 11 rushes for 39 yards. But after a slow start, Kansas City's receivers were able to find space and passing lanes for Mahomes.

One notable example came early in the second quarter. Mecole Hardman got behind Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones and Mahomes withstood pressure to deliver a deep pass off his back foot for a 48-yard touchdown to put the Chiefs in front 10-7.

Brady was intercepted by Breeland on the first play of the Patriots' ensuing drive and Kansas City went right back to work.

Taking over on the New England 39, Mahomes found Kelce in the middle of the field for a 20-yard gain to get the Chiefs inside the 5. Two plays later Kelce took a direct snap and ran it in for a 4-yard TD.


Chiefs: LG Andrew Wiley left in the second quarter with a shoulder injury.

Patriots: Harry left in the fourth quarter with a hip injury.


The Patriots received the game's opening kickoff and needed just five plays to drive 83 yards and take 7-0 lead on a 37-yard flea-flicker from Brady to Edelman. The series was aided by a pair of third-down pass interference penalties called on Chiefs cornerbacks Charvarius Ward and Breeland.


Ebner's punt block in the third quarter was the Patriots fourth of 2019, setting a franchise record for a season. With one more they will tie the 1990 Chiefs for the most blocked punts in a season in NFL history


The Kansas City Chiefs needed a police escort to get their equipment to Foxborough, Massachusetts, in time for kickoff.

Chiefs spokesman Ted Crews confirmed that some of the gear was sent to the wrong place and had to be rushed to the stadium. It arrived about two hours before kickoff. The Massachusetts State Police tweeted that they helped the equipment get to the stadium from Logan Airport.


Chiefs: host Broncos next Sunday.

Patriots: visit Bengals next Sunday.

--- Associated Press ---