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Seven TOs doom No. 9 Tennessee’s comeback effort in loss to No. 8 Texas A&M

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Texas A&M built a 28-7 third quarter lead over Tennessee thanks to six turnovers from the Volunteers. They needed a seventh to finally put the undead Vols away. Armani Watts‘ interception of Josh Dobbs on the first play of Tennessee’s possession in double overtime gave the No. 8 Aggies a 45-38 victory over the No. 9 Vols.

Texas A&M led 21-7 after one — and at the break — thanks to three lost fumbles that either led directly to Aggies touchdowns or prevented what would have been a first-and-goal situation for the Vols. The trend continued in the second half when a botched exchange set up Texas A&M for a seven-play, 61-yard touchdown drive punctuated by a seven-yard walk-in score for Trayveon Williams to stake the Aggies to a 28-7 lead at the 10:40 mark of the third quarter.

The 21-point deficit created a dual effect of easing the Aggies to sleep while injecting a syringe of Red Bull into Tennessee’s veins. The Vols raced 67 yards in eight plays to set Alvin Kamara up for a 15-yard scoring jaunt then, after enduring another fumble and an interception that was bobbled in the arms of Aggie defender Justin Evans, pulled within 28-21 after John Kelly punctuated an 85-yard drive with a four-yard plunge at the 6:58 mark of the fourth quarter.

While Tennessee was climbing back in the game, Texas A&M mounted no resistance offensively with a Trevor Knight interception and four consecutive punts — the Aggies punted 10 times on the day — while their advantage dwindled from 28-7 to 28-21. But, with the Vols in striking distance for the first time since the first quarter, A&M moved from its own 20 to the 38 when, facing a 3rd-and-5, Knight broke through the Volunteer defense and raced 62 yards for a touchdown, inching the lead to 35-21 with 3:22 remaining.

By this point, though, Tennessee’s offense was in full roar. The Vols sliced 65 yards in six plays, and another Kamara (a Christian McCaffrey-like 127 rushing yards, 161 receiving yards and three total touchdowns) rush again pulled the score within seven with 2:07 remaining.

Needing only to kill the clock and finish off the undead Vols for good, Texas A&M handed to Williams (28 carries for 217 yards and a touchdown), who busted down the left sideline toward the end zone, only to have Tennessee defender Darrell Taylor race from behind to punch the ball through the end zone. Tennessee again punctured a tired A&M defense, neeeding only six snaps to move 80 yards for an 18-yard scoring strike from Dobbs (398 passing yards, 89 rushing, three scores) to — guess who? — Kamara and, after trailing 28-7 in the third quarter and 35-21 two minutes prior, Tennessee tied the game.

Williams once again moved Texas A&M in position to put the game away once more, but a 38-yard Daniel LaCamera field goal with 10 seconds left in regulation sailed approximately 38 yards left of the goal posts.

Tennessee was held a yard shy of a first down at the top of the first overtime, forcing a 34-yard Aaron Medley field goal to give the Vols their first lead of the game. The Aggies forced a second overtime, though, when LaCamera knocked his 35-yard redemption try straight down the pipe, and pushed ahead after Knight (239 passing yards, 110 rushing, five total touchdowns) found Christian Kirk for a 24-yard completion and then beat Tennessee to the pylon for a touchdown.

A play later, Texas A&M secured its seventh and final turnover when Watts dove to catch Dobbs’ errant pass near the goal line.

The win pushes Texas A&M to 6-0 (4-0 SEC) for the first time since 1994 and into a bye week with two weeks to prepare for a trip to No. 1 Alabama. Tennessee (5-1, 2-1 SEC), meanwhile, heads home to face the Tide with mounting injuries and the knowledge that a loss to the Tide vaults hated Florida back into first place in the SEC East.

NCAA rule prevents Penn State football players from participating in THON activity

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This weekend is the annual THON dance marathon at Penn State, which has traditionally done wonders in racking up donations to help fight pediatric cancer. This year, however, the NCAA rulebook is getting in the way of one of the events members of Penn State’s football team typically participate in.

A message from Penn State informed media members there would be no media availability for football players at the THON event at the Lasch Building due to an NCAA rule regarding time restrictions in the offseason.

“We were informed this afternoon that due to the NCAA Time Management regulations, our current student-athletes are not permitted to participate in the THON event at the Lasch Building nor conduct media interviews [today] as it is a mandatory day off for the team,” a statement from Penn State Associate Director of Athletic Communications Kris Petersen said.

Members of Penn State’s football team have typically spent part of the day interacting with kids benefitting from THON’s mission, but that has tended to overlap with offseason days already scheduled through the athletics department for the football program. Because this was a scheduled day off for the football program, players are not permitted to take part in any organized activity while representing the football team. Although, one wonders just how far the NCAA would have been willing to challenge Penn State on this infraction in the event there was a conflict.

Players on the team can still participate and appear at the main event in the Bryce Jordan Center, and a couple already have along with head coach James Franklin.

Georgia football coaches all getting well-deserved raises

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File this one under stories that should have been expected from a mile away. The football staff at Georgia, following up on an SEC title and appearance in the College Football Playoff national championship game, are getting bumps in pay. As a whole, the assistant coaching staff under head coach Kirby Smart will be paid roughly $2 million more than the staff received a year ago, according to a report from Seth Emerson of Dawg Nation.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will see the biggest pay raise with of $900,000 to bump his total pay up to $1.5 million. That would make him one of the top assistant coaches in assistant coaching salaries. Based off last year’s USA Today salary database, Tucker would be the fifth highest-paid assistant coach, and that may even be higher now given some of the offseason changes in the assistant coaching pool. Last year, four assistant coaches received a total pay of at least $1.5 million, and three of them were in the SEC (LSU’s Dave Arranda and Matt Canada, and Texas A&M’s John Chavis; Clemson’s Brent Venables was the outlier).

Keeping in line with another growing trend when it comes to power conference programs and how much money is budgeted for the football staff, Georgia will give strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Sinclair a $150,000 raise from his previous contract of $300,000.

What has not been finalized, publicly at least, is what the future holds for the contract of Smart. After a wildly successful season, Smart is expected to receive a raise as well as Georgia continues to build something special under his leadership after just two seasons. Smart was paid a base salary of $3.75 million last year, according to USA Today’s salary database, which made him the 9th highest-paid coach in the SEC in 2017. That is fair, considering Smart was a first-time head coach and other coaches in the conference had more head coaching experience, but Smart has quickly proven himself among his peers in the conference and is likely to move up the SEC coaching salary ranking quite quickly. Nick Saban (Alabama) and now Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) may still be on another playing field in terms of salary, but Smart should manage to move up closer to the high-end of the SEC salary spectrum.

Purdue raises $388,000 in beer and wine sales at football games

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Around the nation, college football attendance took a downward trend, but the Big Ten was the rare conference to see an increase in attendance. At Purdue, not only did more fans attend games in the first season under new head coach Jeff Brohm, but Purdue saw a revenue surplus fueled by the expanded sale of alcoholic beverages at football games.

According to The Journal & Courier, Purdue athletic department recorded $567,000 in gross revenue, of which $388,000 was generated from the sale of beer and wine last fall at football games in Ross-Ade Stadium. It was the first time alcohol sales had been expanded to the entire football stadium, as opposed to limited offerings in premium sections of the stadium.

“In general, it was very positive and it added to the game day experience. Fans responded to it,” athletic director Mike Bobinski said. “We’ve talked to our concessionaire group (Levy Restaurants) about how we can improve the operation so we don’t create bottlenecks and long lines that cause people to miss extended periods of the game. It was a really good start.”

The success of expanded alcoholic beverages at football games at Purdue continues a growing trend of alcoholic sales at athletic events around the country and will only help to encourage other schools to explore similar options if they have not already. Ten schools in the Big Ten already offer alcohol sales to fans at football games, but Purdue is just one of four to currently offer the sales throughout the majority of their football stadium.

The games that saw the most amount of money spent on alcohol at a Purdue home football game were the Michigan and Indiana games, with $88,341 and $98,223 spent on alcohol, respectively. Bottoms up, indeed.

The other chunk of revenue that helped pad Purdue’s budget sheet was a season-opening game in Indianapolis against Louisville. The game was played in Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, and each school received a check for $805,267.

Alabama a potential landing spot for Rice grad transfer Preston Gordon

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Yet another Rice graduate transfer lineman is drawing interest from an SEC school.

Preston Gordon confirmed to al.com this week that he has had “some preliminary contact” with Alabama as a potential landing spot. Last month, the defensive tackle decided to take the graduate transfer route out of Rice.

As the Crimson Tide, which is also in play for a grad transfer quarterback, lost three linemen to the NFL and signed just two in the Class of 2018, a move to Tuscaloosa could make sense for both parties.

“If Alabama were interested, that’s a top-tier program and I would definitely be interested,” Gordon told the website. “As a D-lineman, that’s where it’s at, so it would definitely be high, high interest.”

Gordon has already received an offer from Texas Tech after visiting Lubbock, and has taken a trip to Kansas as well. The lineman also told the site that he has spoken with Syracuse, TCU, Tulane and UConn.

The last three seasons, Gordon started 28 games for the Owls, including all 12 in 2017. In 2016, Gordon tied for the team lead in sacks with 3.5, while his 6.5 tackles for loss led all interior linemen on the squad. This past season, he was third on the team in tackles for loss with 4.5.

Gordon’s former teammate and the Owls’ starting left tackle the past three seasons, Calvin Anderson, has drawn interest from Auburn as a graduate transfer and has already visited the Tigers. It’s believed that Michigan and Texas are the frontrunners, although Texas A&M has entered the mix for Anderson as well.