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Kentucky lights Butch Jones’s seat on fire with second defeat of Tennessee since 1985


For all of the things Butch Jones hadn’t done in his five seasons as Tennessee’s head coach, there was at least this: he hadn’t lost to Kentucky. At least not yet.

That changed Saturday night, as the Volunteers fell 29-26 to the Wildcats in Lexington, clinching a bowl game for Kentucky and, in what is all but a formality at this point, the end of the Jones era in Knoxville.

Kentucky accepted the ball to open the game and promptly fumbled, leading to a 30-yard Brent Cimaglia to put Tennessee on the board first. Wildcats running back Benny Snell, Jr., made up for his mistake by carrying the load on Kentucky’s next possession, including a 6-yarder across the goal line.

Tennessee responded with a nice 69-yard possession of its own, but the drive stalled at the Kentucky 6-yard line, forcing a 24-yard boot by Cimaglia, pulling the Vols within 7-6 late in the first quarter.

Kentucky fumbled again on its next touch, but Tennessee failed to capitalize when Cimaglia missed a 44-yarder.

Snell punched in a 2-yard score to open the second quarter, giving Kentucky a 14-6 lead, but Tennessee pulled within one with a 7-play, 75-yard drive. Ty Chandler‘s 1-yard rush gave the Volunteers their first offensive touchdown in almost four full games.

However, Kentucky answered with an identical drive: seven plays, 75 yards, punctuated by a 1-yard rush, Snell’s third of the half.

Now apparently unstoppable, an unleashed Tennessee offense responded with a 10-play, 71-yard drive that again concluded on a 1-yard Chandler (22 carries for 120 yards) rush with 1:25 to play before the break.

Tennessee returned to its regular, non-touchdown-scoring ways in the second half, though. The Vols registered a first-and-goal at the Kentucky 9 and then went backward, forcing a 30-yard Cimaglia field goal. The Vols’ defense forced another Kentucky fumble on the next possession, handing the offense the ball inside the UK red zone. But the Vols went backward from there, and a 45-yard Cimaglia connection gave Tennessee a 26-21 lead with 13:24 left in the game.

The Volunteers forced a three-and-out on Kentucky’s next touch and could have put the game away with a touchdown, but again the drive stalled and again Cimaglia trotted out for another field goal — which he missed from 43 yards out.

Those missing three points would prove crucial when Kentucky took over at its own 11 with 4:43 remaining. The Wildcats methodically moved down the field, leaning largely on Snell’s legs. Stephen Johnson leaped in for an 11-yard go-ahead touchdown with 33 ticks remaining, then found Snell for a 2-point conversion to put the Wildcats up three.

Tennessee moved to its own 49 with two seconds remaining, allowing Jarrett Guaranto to load up for another Hail Mary, which he completed to Jeff George — for 48 yards, leaving the Vols two yards short of a game-winning touchdown.

Snell finished the night rushing 27 times for a game-high 180 yards and three touchdowns. Kentucky sacked Guarantano seven times and surrendered none, helping the ‘Cats out-rush Tennessee, 289-203.

The loss snapped a 5-game winning streak over Kentucky and handed Tennessee (3-5, 0-5 SEC) just its second loss to its neighbors from the north since 1985.

The win lifted Kentucky to 6-2, making the Wildcats bowl eligible in October for the first time since 2007 and keeping them alive in the SEC East race behind Georgia.

UCF, Lane Kiffin, Neal Brown among college football underdogs celebrating NCAA Tournament madness

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The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has been a joy to watch over the course of the first few days. Highlighted by some significant upsets and some thrilling finishes, this year’s tournament has everybody talking, including college football coaches. This is especially true for college football’s non-power conference programs, who seem to be celebrating the upsets performed early on by schools like Marshall, Loyola-Chicago and, of course, UMBC.

UCF took to Twitter to extend congratulations to the University of Maryland Baltimore County after the 16-seed Retrievers became the first team in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s history to upset a No. 1 seed, in which UMBC throttled No. 1 Virginia by 20 after an unbelievable second-half performance that left Virginia clueless how to respond.

UMBC has been the story of the first round for the historic upset of the Cavaliers, but FAU head coach Lane Kiffin claims he picked UMBC to win the game. In fact, Kiffin showed off a bracket in which he picked UMBC to win it all. Of course, such a bracket cannot be taken too seriously, especially after closer inspection reveals Kiffin went heavy with the underdog mentality throughout his bracket. Perhaps such a bracket strategy plays into the kind of mentality Kiffin is attempting to build at FAU.

Troy coach Neal Brown also used the UMBC upset to make a case for the Group of Five representation in college football to get more of a fair shake in the sport of college football.

Brown is not the only person to have this thought, although the idea has just as many on the other side of the fence as well. The College Football Playoff is a much smaller system to determine a college football champion and expansion is a hot-button topic of conversation for a variety of reasons. The current format allows for one guaranteed spot in a major bowl game for the highest-ranked conference champion from the non-power conferences, but undefeated UCF was still left out of the College Football Playoff last season and it may be a long time before a non-power conference champion gets a shot at the playoff.

Washington State head coach Mike Leach has proposed a 64-team college football playoff, but the most likely step for expansion of the playoff system will double the field to eight teams. That would still likely leave out some top non-power conference options, but it would leave the door open just a little wider for a team like UCF last year.

Former Navy LB Caleb King killed in fighter jet crash

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A routine U.S. Navy training flight that ended in tragedy had a college football connection.

Earlier this week, two Navy aviators were killed when a fighter jet crashed off the coast of Key West, Florida, this past Wednesday.  Those who lost their lives were, according to the Associated Press, Lt. Cmdr. James Brice Johnson and Lt. Caleb Nathaniel King, who served in the “Blacklions” of Strike Fighter Squadron Two One Three (VFA-213).  Johnson was the pilot of the aircraft.

“[T]he aircraft crashed on final approach to Boca Chica Field following a training mission,” wrote.  While details are scant at the moment, below is from that website’s report:

The crash happened around 4:30 p.m., Hecht said. Both pilots onboard the Super Hornet ejected, he said. Initially, Hecht said a search-and-rescue effort for the aircrew was still ongoing around 6 PM, but later he said the pilots were recovered within minutes and taken by ambulance to the medical center.

An eyewitness, Barbie Wilson, told the crash “looked like something out of a movie.”

Wilson, who lives on the back side of the air station, said she stopped to watch an F/A-18 flying overhead, as she often does, and was shocked to see what appeared to be a massive malfunction in midair.

“Literally, the wings went vertical, and there was a fireball, and it just literally dropped out of the sky,” Wilson said.

King (pictured, left) was a linebacker for the Midshipmen football team from 2009-11.  He played in 38 games during his time at the military academy.

“Our hearts and deepest condolences go out to the entire King family,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said in a statement. “We lost a dear brother and warrior. The entire Navy Football Brotherhood mourns the passing of a great American. We love you Caleb!”

Temple’s on-campus stadium plans stall after city council meeting

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The dream of Temple football playing in an on-campus stadium appears as though it’s on hold after a Philadelphia city council meeting got heated once again and resulted in the pulling of support by a key local leader.

Per KYW 1060, City Council President Darrell Clarke told the radio station that he would not support the reported $125 million project at a meeting earlier this week. Though the university leadership remains focused on making the new stadium happen eventually, the dwindling support from those in the community have basically stalled the effort and puts into question where the team will play football in 2020 and beyond.

Protestors against the stadium being built already interrupted a town hall meeting on the project last week.

“We do not feel that a 35,000 seat stadium fits in a residential block,” said Reverend Bill Moore, who is part several local groups pushing to ax the project.

Temple had signed an extension on their lease with nearby Lincoln Financial Field (the home of the Philadelphia Eagles) but that agreement runs only through the 2019 season. The hope had been to get the new on-campus stadium built by the time the 2020 campaign rolled around but that is looking increasingly unlikely as local residents — and now city council members — become more and more vocal in their opposition to the project.

The university has not issued a formal statement on their next steps after this latest setback but at least the team itself is moving forward as usual with spring football already under the way in Philly.

Study says War Memorial Stadium needs millions in upgrades to remain in use for Arkansas games in Little Rock

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Just like an old house, older stadiums require tons of money to keep them up to date. Those in the state of Arkansas are very aware of that when it comes to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that a study commissioned by the state has found that roughly $17 million worth of repairs, maintenance work and improvements are needed at War Memorial if the 70 year old venue wants to remain in operation. The timeline for such changes were listed as anywhere from three years for “critical” issues to five years for other items, which come as part of a whopping $160,000 study from Conventions Sport & Leisure International LLC.

The millions of dollars of work required is notable because the Fayetteville-based Razorbacks have annually played a game at the stadium in Little Rock dating back to 1948. The team will not only host their first spring game under new coach Chad Morris at the venue but will also play Ole Miss in Little Rock during the upcoming season. That contest is the last scheduled game for Arkansas at War Memorial however as the contract to hold games there is expiring in 2018.

It remains to be seen what the next steps are for UA football, the state and the venue are. Even prior to this most recent study being commissioned, the Razorbacks were looking to have as much as $10 million worth of work done at the stadium to meet their own requirements and those of the SEC in general for conference play.

“Discussions are continuing” Kevin Trainor, associate athletics director at Arkansas, said in an emailed statement to the paper.

Could this be the last we see of the Razorbacks in Little Rock? Given the history between the city, stadium and team it would seem doubtful but somebody’s got to pay for renovations and it may be a while before anybody ponies up the cash needed to get the venerable old building up to date.