Cincy QB Gunner Kiel conscious, moving all extremities following vicious hit

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A serious-looking injury has cast a pall over a game that began with a high amount of anticipation and excitement.

Late in the first quarter of the Cincinnati-Memphis matchup, Bearcat quarterback Gunner Kiel was met by Tiger defender Chauncy Lanier.  As Kiel gave himself up in a slide, Lanier laid him out with a vicious hit to the signal-caller’s head.  It looked as if both Lanier’s head and shoulder pads made contact with Kiel’s helmet, leading to the officials throwing a flag for targeting.

Kiel, who sustained a concussion last weekend but was cleared for tonight’s game, lay motionless on the turf almost from the moment he was hit.  Medical personnel from both sidelines assisted in getting Kiel strapped to a board and carted off toward an awaiting ambulance.

While none of the television shots showed any movement below the neck, an ESPN sideline reporter claimed to have seen Kiel’s toes move.  He was also communicating with emergency personnel before, instead of being taken to a local hospital for further observation, he was taken into the locker room.  In an update, UC stated that Kiel is awake and moving all four limbs.

As for the hit itself, it looked like the dictionary-definition of targeting, which the American Football Coaches Association defines as “[n]o player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, fist, elbow or shoulder.” Based on the video evidence…

… that’s clearly a targeting foul. However, upon further review, the AAC officiating crew decided to overturn the initial call, wiping out the penalty and allowing Lanier to remain in the game. With social media grabbing its pitchforks and torches ready to mount a protest, the conference attempted to explain the decision to rescind the targeting call.

Kiel’s legs and backside were clearly on the ground prior to the hit, so the league’s explanation doesn’t hold much if any water.  By definition, per the SEC’s coordinator of officials Steve Shaw, a sliding player is defenseless.

As for the game, Kiel’s replacement, Hayden Moore, hit on a 68-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to give the visiting Bearcats a 17-14 lead in what’s a key AAC matchup.  Memphis scored three minutes later to take a 21-17 lead with 11:03 remaining in the half.

As of this posting, UC is driving inside Memphis territory with just over nine minutes remaining as they look to retake the lead.

UPDATED 9:08 p.m. ET: Kiel has been transported via ambulance to a local Memphis hospital for further evaluation.  Per UC officials, Kiel remains conscious and has movement in all of his extremities.

UPDATED 9:26 p.m. ET:  As for the game itself, the wildly entertaining matchup has gone to halftime, with Cincinnati holding a 30-28 lead on Memphis.  The teams traded the lead six different times, with the Bearcats striking last in the half with under two minutes remaining.

UC holds a decided 419-264 edge in total offense.  Moore, who replaced the injured Kiel, has thrown for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  The freshman came into tonight’s game with a career total of 225 yards passing and one touchdown.

UofM’s Paxton Lynch has thrown for 189 yards and a touchdown.

Miami Beach Bowl officially moves to Frisco, Texas

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The Miami Beach Bowl was an unnecessary bowl game played in a metro area already populated by bowl games — but at least it was in Miami. Bowl games may have lost their luster over the past decade-plus, but it’s hard to complain about being sent to South Beach in December for a football game.

The Miami Beach Bowl is no more, and it’s now been reincarnated as another unnecessary bowl game to be played in a metro area even more populated by bowl games — and it won’t be anywhere near as interesting as Miami.

Meet the Frisco Bowl, the newest ESPN-created postseason college football game to be played in the scenic locale of Frisco, Texas.

The north Dallas suburb will host the game at Toyota Stadium, a 20,500-seat outdoor venue that’s home to MLS club FC Dallas as well as the FCS National Championship every January. The Frisco Bowl will also compete for sponsorship dollars and public attention with the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, the Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas and the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.

“We are pleased to be able to host this game in one of the most vibrant football markets in the country,” said ESPN vice president of events Clint Overby. “The infrastructure and facilities that exist in Frisco are outstanding and will be an excellent venue for the teams, players, administrators and fans traveling into the marketplace. We look forward to working with civic organizations and businesses in the area to create an annual event that embraces the spirit of the community.”

The first annual Frisco Bowl will pit an American Athletic Conference team against a to-be-determined conference at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 20.

2017 Texas signee sees felony drug charge reduced to misdemeanor

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It appears the door to one member of Texas’ 2017 recruiting class arriving in Austin this summer has opened a little wider.

In late February, Reese Leitao was arrested at his Oklahoma high school on a charge of possession/delivery of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to sell within a thousand feet of a school, a felony.  Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman is reporting, Leitao pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug possession charge.

As part of the plea agreement, Leitao received a four-year deferred sentence; provided he stays clean during that time, the charge will be wiped off his record.  The American-Statesman writes that, “[a]ccording to Leitao’s attorney, Leitao has ‘some probationary work,’including speaking engagements at schools, and will be under the supervision of the district attorney.”  A $1,000 fine was part of his punishment as well.

The ball is now in the hands of first-year UT head coach Tom Herman as to whether Leitao will have a football future with the Longhorns.

“I’m happy,” the attorney, Allen Smallwood, told the newspaper. “Hopefully the University of Texas will be happy.”

At the time of Leitao’s arrest, a statement attributed to Herman said that “[w]e’re collecting information, will talk to Reese and his family, let the legal system run its course and then address it further at the appropriate time.” As of this posting, the university has yet to publicly address the development.

Leitao was a three-star 2017 signee, rated as the No. 19 tight end in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma.

Miami All-American, NFL Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy dead at 48

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One of the most physically-gifted and talented players in the history of Miami Hurricanes football is gone way, way too soon.

The Orlando Police Department confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Cortez Kennedy passed away earlier today.  He was just 48 years old.

No cause of death has been determined, with the OPD stating that “at this time there is nothing suspicious to report but we are conducting an investigation regarding his unattended passing.”

After starting his collegiate playing career at the junior college level, Kennedy moved on to the University of Miami, earning All-American honors in 1989.  In 2004, he was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The third overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft, Kennedy spent his entire 11-year pro career with the Seattle Seahawks.  In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Not surprisingly, Kennedy’s sudden passing has brought an outpouring of emotion from those connected to the football program.

LSU RB Lanard Fournette arrested for illegal gambling at Baton Rouge casino

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The younger brother of Leonard Fournette has finally made a name for himself, albeit for all of the wrong reasons.

Monday afternoon, WAFB-TV reported, LSU running back Lanard Fournette was arrested on a charge of using a fake ID to gamble at a Baton Rouge casino this past weekend.  The 20-year-old Fournette was subsequently released on a $1,000 bond.

The Baton Rouge Advocate has obtained some of the details  led up to the arrest of the redshirt sophomore.

Fournette… was arrested Monday after surveillance video showed and casino personnel confirmed he gained access to the gaming floor Saturday with a different ID than his own driver’s license, according to his arrest report.

Security video showed Fournette playing at a “craps table” for 16 minutes around 1:30 p.m., before walking to the player’s services counter. Fournette then allegedly presented his real ID to the cashier for a cash withdrawal, who determined his accurate age and contacted security, the report says.

Fournette, of Slidell, was detained at the casino, but left before the officer’s arrival, the report says. When casino security asked Fournette about the incident, Fournette said he used another person’s ID to enter the casino, the report says.

Head coach Ed Orgeron is aware of the incident and any discipline will be handled internally.

A three-star 2015 signee, Fournette took a redshirt his true freshman season.  In three games last year, he ran for 13 yards on five carries.

Fournette’s older brother was the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft following an Al-American career at LSU.