Associated Press

Heat ratcheted up on Butch Jones as Tennessee barely slips past winless UMass

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Aside from being on the right side of the won-loss ledger, this is absolutely not what Butch Jones or the Tennessee Volunteers needed.

The come-from-ahead last-second loss to Florida in Week 4 set a sizable chunk of Vols Nation to grumbling about the current state of the football program in general and Jones’head-coaching tenure specifically. With winless UMass coming to Neyland Stadium in Week 4, it was viewed as an opportunity for UT to reset and get back on track for games against No. 11 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama the next three weeks.

The good news? They won their third game of the year against the one loss, claiming a 17-13 victory. The bad? The looked rough, ragged and utterly inept, especially on offense, in doing so.

For the game, the Vols totaled 297 yards of offense 62 plays.  In the second half, they ran 31 plays and put up just 64 yards — and 26 of those came on their last drive of the game that didn’t involve a kneel-down.  Their eight possessions went punt, field goal, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, end of game.

So, how did the fans who showed up at Neyland Stadium express their frustration over the current state of the football program?  By morphing into empty seats, apparently.

Armed with a mediocre 30-21 record — and 14-19 mark in SEC play — Jones entered the 2017 season on the coaching hot seat. These last two weeks have done nothing to quiet such talk; in fact, it’s done nothing but ratchets up the calls for his coaching head on a platter.

Should Tennessee stumble against Georgia and Alabama in the coming weeks, all bets are off as to whether Jones will see a sixth season in Knoxville.

Ex-Minnesota QB Demry Croft appears headed to FCS school

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A little less than three weeks after leaving Minnesota, Demry Croft appears to have found a new college football home.

In a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account Saturday afternoon, Croft seemed to indicate that he has decided to transfer to Tennessee State to continue his playing career.  As TSU plays at the FCS level, Croft will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

Including next season, he has two years of eligibility remaining.

This season, Croft, who started the last six games of 2017,  completed 42 percent of his 122 passes for 674 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions. His 87.6 pass efficiency rating is not amongst the top 126 quarterbacks in the country.  Perhaps the most noteworthy moment of his Gophers career was posting a negative quarterback rating in a mid-November loss to Northwestern two weeks before he decided to transfer.

Conversely, though, he was good with his feet as his 309 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns were fourth and third on the team, respectively.

Troy leading North Texas halfway through an entertaining New Orleans Bowl

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Brandon Silvers hit his first 11 passes and Troy threatened to blow the game open early, but North Texas found its footing at fought its way back into the New Orleans Bowl. As it stands, Troy holds a 22-20 lead at the break.

Troy accepted the ball to open the game and promptly rolled 80 yards in nine plays, capped by a 1-yard Josh Anderson scoring run. The Trojans immediately pushed the lead to two scores when North Texas quarterback Mason Fine was sacked and fumbled at his own 14, setting up Anderson’s second touchdown run of the first half of the first quarter. Silvers hit John Johnson for a 2-point conversion to stake the Trojans to a 15-0 lead at the 9:21 mark of the opening frame.

The Mean Green went three-and-out on their next possession but, facing the prospect of getting buried for the game in just the first quarter, the North Texas defense rose up when Joshua Wheeler sacked Silvers on third down at the Troy 39. The UNT offense awoke with an 11-play, 75-yard drive culminating in a 12-yard pass from Fine to Rico Bussey, Jr.

Anderson immediately responded with a 55-yard run on the final play of the first quarter, and Silvers completed the drive four plays later with a 7-yard strike to Damion Willis at the 14:24 mark of the second quarter. North Texas attempted to return service with another touchdown, but Fine under-threw a wide open Bussey on 3rd-and-2 from the Troy 31 and his fourth down pass to Michael Lawrence was dropped.

Troy threatened to push its lead to three touchdowns on its next drive, moving to the North Texas 22, when disaster struck — a snap went over Silvers’s head and was scooped up by the Mean Green’s Colton McDonald, who returned the loose pigskin 56 yards for a touchdown. Fine’s 2-point conversion rush failed, but North Texas was still within 22-13 with 5:49 left in the first half.

North Texas had a golden opportunity to pull within one score of the Trojans when Kishawn McClain intercepted Silvers at the UNT 46 on Troy’s first play of the ensuing possession, but the Mean Green were forced to punt after just one first down.

But North Texas forced its third straight stop, this drive ended by another Wheeler sack, and Fine capitalized with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Lawrence with 49 seconds left before the break to pull the Mean Green within two. Fine completed 13-of-23 passes in the half for 146 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Mean Green have mustered just 15 yards on 14 carries.

Silvers closed the half hitting 16-of-21 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown and a pick, and Anderson led all rushers with 13 carries for 90 yards and two touchdowns.

North Texas will receive to open the second half.

Colorado State suspends three ahead of New Mexico Bowl matchup with Marshall

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Especially in the backfield, Colorado State will be at less than full strength for half of its postseason game.

CSU announced Saturday afternoon that it has suspended three players — running backs Rashaad Boddie (pictured, being tackled) and Marvin Kinsey and defensive back Robert Awunganyi — for the first half of today’s New Mexico Bowl matchup with Marshall.  The only reason given was an unspecified violation of team rules.

The most noteworthy name in the trio is Boddie, whose 254 yards rushing are third on the Rams while his four rushing touchdowns are third as well.  Kinsey’s 124 yards rushing are fifth on the team.

Awunganyi has not played a down this season.

As noted by the Denver Post, CSU will also be without linebacker Josh Watson for the first half as well.  The redshirt junior currently leads the Rams in tackles with 103.

Ninth player has left Lovie Smith’s Illinois team since end of season

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a Power Five program harder hit when it comes to roster attrition than Illinois.

The latest departure from Lovie Smith‘s football program is Dominic Thieman, with the wide receiver taking to Twitter to announce that he has decided to transfer from the Fighting Illini. As a true sophomore, Thieman will have two years of eligibility remaining at another FBS school after he sits out the 2018 season.

Thieman, a three-star 2016 signee, was fifth on the team in receptions this past season with 11 and sixth in receiving yards with 144. He’ll finish the Illini portion of his collegiate playing career with 17 catches for 176 yards.

According to the Chicago Tribune‘s Shannon Ryan, Thieman is the ninth player on scholarship to leave Smith’s program since the end of the 2017 regular season. Among those who have been confirmed as departees are the highest-rated signee in the Illini’s 2015 recruiting class and one of its most talented players on the defensive side of the ball.