AP Photo

Tennessee escapes with overtime win over Appalachian State

21 Comments

Nine years to the day after Appalachian State cut down a mighty Michigan team in an upset for the ages, they aimed to repeat history deep in the heart of SEC country at No. 9 Tennessee.

Could David slay Goliath again?

For most of Thursday night, the answer looked like yes. The Mountaineers pushed the Vols into overtime but ultimately it was the home team who escaped with a 20-13 win in remarkable fashion.

Quarterback Josh Dobbs dived into the end zone on the first possession of overtime and promptly fumbled the football when clocked by a pair of defenders. Luckily teammate Jalen Hurd was in the right place at the right time and was able to dive on the ball for what proved to be the eventual winning score.

Appalachian State failed to even pick up a first down on the ensuing series and had their last-ditch pass knocked away in the end zone to let Rocky Top breath a collective sigh of relief.

But the game was in large part not about the Vols struggles but just how much the Mountaineers punched above their weight and showed they might be even better than last year’s 11 win campaign showed. Star tailback Marcus Cox rushed for 115 yards and looked like a regular in the SEC. The defense straight up dominated the Vols offense and limited them to just 127 yards rushing.

Appalachian State looked like the better of the two teams for most of the first half. They really made UT fans nervous by jumping out to a 13-3 lead early in the 2nd quarter and seemed to dial up the right play defensively to harass the Vols into two turnovers.

Tennessee appeared to regain momentum early in the 4th quarter however when Dobbs lofted a pass over the shoulder of Josh Malone, who promptly ripped away from a defensive back for a 67 yard touchdown that tied the game. The Vols failed to keep things going however, with a number of drives stalling out as the two teams failed to mount any serious drives to end the 4th quarter.

Ultimately, a few miscues in the kicking game may have proven too much to overcome for the Mountaineers though. Redshirt freshman kicker Michael Rubino missed both an extra point and a 42-yard field goal that would have given the team the upset win.

Still, while Appalachian State will head home to North Carolina with their heads held high knowing they can compete with a top 10 team, the win is bound to call into question all of the preseason love that Tennessee received in being picked to win the SEC East. Vols head coach Butch Jones is likely to hear plenty of complaints from the fan base in the ensuing days if things don’t improve significantly on the field from their disjointed effort in the opener. It won’t be easy to with a big test looming in Week 2 as the team travels to Bristol Motor Speedway to take on Virginia Tech.

Perhaps the only saving grace for the Vols is they won’t go down in history like that Michigan team from 2007 that was upset by Appalachian State. But it wasn’t for lack of trying on Thursday night.

Utah evaluating potential upgrades to Rice-Eccles Stadium

Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images
1 Comment

It may be hard to believe, but Utah has just completed its sixth year in the Pac-12. Now, after benefitting from an increased conference revenue compared to their days in the Mountain West Conference, Utah appears to be ready to dig in and explore the possibility of expanding Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The University of Utah announced today the school is putting together a feasibility study to expand the south end zone of Rice-Eccles Stadium. Among the details to figure out include how much it may cost, who it will be funded and whether or not there is a market for such an expansion in the first place. Given the move to the Pac-12 a little more than half a decade ago and the success of making the transition with a more attractive regular season schedule, it stands to reason there is potential for a stadium expansion to take advantage of.

“Understanding the market, costs and feasibility will help us better prepare for the future of the stadium,” said President David W. Pershing in a released statement. “There’s still much work to be done before taking steps toward renovation. We have to know if the market will support this kind of expansion.”

Rice-Eccles Stadium opened its doors in 1998 after a complete rebuild of the original stadium structure that was Rice Stadium. One of the only portions of the stadium that was left largely untouched between the transition of the stadium was the south end zone. This is where Utah wants to explore renovation plans for the most part. If the hypothetical project goes through, Utah will rebuild the locker rooms, equipment storage and media rooms as well as medical treatment areas. Of course, the school will also evaluate possibilities for luxury seating for fans and donors and concession area upgrades. Among those fan amenities under consideration is connecting the east and west concourses.

Rice-Eccles Stadium currently has a listed seating capacity of 45,807. It has a sellout streak of 38 games, with 35 going above the official maximum capacity, according to Utah Athletics.

Former LSU QB Brandon Harris announces commitment to UNC

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
3 Comments

Former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris has found himself a new home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Harris announced via Facebook and Twitter he has chosen to commit to North Carolina.

“Obviously, it has been an important time for me, looking for a great situation and another opportunity to grow as a young man and as a student as well as a football player,” Harris said in his statement. “After my [official] visit this weekend to the University of North Carolina, I’m going to get that opportunity. With that being said, I’m fully committed to UNC this upcoming year and I look forward to the opportunity to play for coach [Larry Fedora] and UNC.”

Harris will be eligible to play for UNC immediately this fall after graduating from LSU this summer, and the timing may not be better for Harris. UNC is losing its starting quarterback (Mitch Trubisky) to the NFL and has a wide open spot to fill in the starting lineup as a result. But the job will not automatically go to Harris upon his arrival at UNC after missing out on spring practices at North Carolina.

Harris played in just four games last season, in which he passed for 139 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Since the season-opener against Wisconsin, Harris was reduced to backup duty and did not play in any of LSU’s seven final games of the 2016 season, including the bowl game against Louisville. Harris announced his decision to transfer in February, which was pretty much expected given how last season played out amid a coaching change.

Report: Foot injury puts Georgia WR Riley Ridley on sideline for spring

Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley has not been practicing this spring, but it has nothing to do with his offseason misdemeanor from a couple of weeks ago. Instead, a foot injury appears to have sidelined Ridley for the spring.

According to a report from Gridiron Now, Ridley has been out due to the foot injury. When the foot injury occurred is not reported. Even if his foot was not injured, it remains unknown if Ridley would be participating int he spring, at least at this point. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has said Ridley will be internally disciplined for his misdemeanor pot possession from earlier this month.

“He’ll receive discipline,” Smart said. “We are very disappointed in his decision. We do not condone that behavior. I think Riley is going to learn a valuable lesson from this mistake.”

When Ridley may be available again remains unknown, as does what exactly the punishment to him will be from Smart. A one-game suspension is the expected result for Ridley according to the university’s student-athlete handbook.

USF DB Hassan Childs in stable condition after overnight shooting incident

Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Leave a comment

USF defensive back Hassan Childs was injured in a shooting incident overnight. Fortunately, Childs is currently said to be in stable condition, according to USF.

“We are deeply concerned that an incident occurred overnight in which one of our guys, Hassan Childs, was injured in a shooting,” a statement from USF head coach Charlie Strong said. “Thankfully, Hassan is in stable condition and being well cared for, and no one else was injured. There is an ongoing investigation of the incident and we are in the process of gathering further information.”

The shooting took place off campus, but details about the incident have not been reported.

Childs played in eight games for the Bulls last year. He recorded 16 tackles and returned two punts for three yards in a backup role.