Turnover, penalty nearly cost Bearcats in 54-46 victory over ECU

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No one knows exactly which team the College Football Playoff committee prefers among the “Group of Five” conferences not in consideration to be named a participant in one of the playoff slots.

In the new system, the best team from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or the Sun Belt Conference is granted an automatic berth into one of the New Year’s Bowls.

Cincinnati tried to help its case Thursday when the national spotlight was shining brightly. But the Bearcats’ 54-46 victory didn’t come without its share of drama.

First and foremost, the win by Tommy Tuberville‘s squad gave the program a 4-1 record in the American, which is tied with the Memphis Tigers. Cincinnati is 6-3 overall with losses to Ohio State, Miami and Memphis.

However, an exciting offensive team like Cincinnati could prove to be enticing for the committee.

The Bearcats amassed 586 total yards Thursday. Quarterback Gunner Kiel was 29-of-44 passing for 436 yards and four touchdowns. Kiel connected with wide receiver Mekale McCoy nine times for 172 yards.

When Cincinnati needed the offense to move the ball quickly late in the game, Kiel marched the Bearcats 35 yards in 47 seconds to set up the 47-yard game-winning field goal by kicker Andrew Gantz.

It was the previous drive which presented problems for Cincinnati, though. Those problems should have cost the Bearcats the game due to poor decision-making.

As Cincinnati attempted to run out the clock with a 45-40 lead, Tuberville decided it was a good idea to attempt a quarterback option to seal the game. Kiel isn’t much of a running quarterback. The play ended miserably as the pitch fell to the ground and East Carolina recovered.

To make matters worse, Cincinnati appeared to have stopped East Carolina on the ensuing drive only to be called for pass interference in the end zone. Pirates quarterback Shane Carden eventually capitalized with a two-year touchdown dive.

Despite all of that, the Bearcats still found a way to win in the end.

Was it enough to make them the favorite to emerge out of the “Group of Five?” Probably not. East Carolina may have been the favorite to claim this honor earlier in the season with a strong national ranking, but the Pirates lost their last two games.

Meanwhile, the undefeated Marshall Thundering Herd is still looming just outside the Top 25. Memphis maintains an edge over Cincinnati due to their head-to-head meeting. Finally, Georgia Southern also remains undefeated in the Sun Belt with two losses coming in tight games against North Carolina State and Georgia Tech.

Thursday’s game just proved to be another entertaining contest where neither team really put their best foot forward.

Utah QB Jason Shelley transfers to Utah State

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Jason Shelley may have left Utah but, thanks to Utah State, he won’t be leaving the Beehive State to continue his football career.

Way back in early February, Shelley took the first step in leaving the Utes by entering the NCAA transfer database.  More than five months later, Utah State has officially confirmed the quarterback’s addition to the football roster.

As a graduate transfer, Shelley is eligible to play immediately for the Aggies in 2020.  Additionally, the school noted, Shelley will have another year of eligibility to use in 2021 as well.

Shelley was a three-star member of the Utes’ 2017 recruiting class.  The 247Sports.com competitive had the Texas product rated as the No. 17 dual-threat quarterback in the country.

In 19 career games with the Pac-12 program, Shelley started five of those contests.  In that action, Shelley completed 104-of-179 passes for 1,205 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions.  He also ran for 223 yards and another four scores.

The Aggies are coming off a 7-6 record in their second first season under Gary Andersen.  Anderson also served as the USU head coach from 2009-12.  In his final season in Logan, Andersen led Utah State to a school-record 11 wins. That mark was matched six years later by Matt Wells.  That season helped Wells land the Texas Tech job.  And led Andersen back to USU.

Hawaii adds another grad transfer WR, this one from Rice

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Hawaii football has been busy on the portal front.  Especially when it comes to the receiving corps.

In mid-June, Hawaii confirmed the addition of North Texas wide receiver transfer Rico Bussey Jr. to its football roster.  Roughly a month later, Aaron Cephus made his commitment to Hawaii football over the weekend.  The receiver, who began his collegiate career at Rice, made the announcement on his personal Twitter account.

As will be the case with Bussey, Cephus is coming to the Rainbow Warriors as a graduate transfer.  This coming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.

Coming out of high school in Texas, Cephus was a two-star member of the Class of 2016 for the Owls. His first season at the Conference USA school, Cephus took a redshirt.  The next two, though, the receiver put up impressive numbers.

In 2017, Cephus earned third-team All-Conference USA honors after setting a school record for freshmen with 622 yards.   The following season he led the Owls with five touchdown receptions.  He was also second on the team with 565 yards and third with 40 receptions despite missing the final two games with an injury.

A suspension, however, cost Cephus the entire 2019 season.

All told, Cephus has totaled 1,187 yards and 10 touchdowns on 65 receptions.  The 6-4, 200-pound also averaged 18.3 yards per catch.

Hawaii football is coming off its best season since 2010. Included in a 10-win season was the program’s first appearance in the Mountain West Conference championship game.  Of course, that appearance ended in a loss to Boise State.

Ohio State announces resumption of voluntary workouts after COVID-19-related suspension last week

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After a brief hiccup, Ohio State is back to prepping for whatever the 2020 college football season will hold.

July 8, Ohio State announced that it was putting a halt to all voluntary on-campus workouts that had commenced the month before.  The pause was due to “the results of its most recent COVID-19 testing of student-athletes.”

Tuesday, however, Ohio State announced that its student-athletes, including football players, are now permitted to resume the workouts.  The school noted in its release that “[a]ll student-athletes from the seven sports that returned last month to voluntary workouts were tested Monday, and the results were received today.  The last round of testing was July 7 resulting in the suspension July 8.”

The school did not give the specifics of the tests that were most recently taken, citing the individual medical privacy of the athletes.

“Our Buckeyes are excited to be headed into a new school year and were disappointed last week when we had to temporarily suspend training,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. “These young people come from across the nation and the world to be part of our Ohio State family, and we do everything we can to create a safe, healthy environment so that they have a chance to study and compete.  Our medical team will continue to evaluate, and we will share our decisions as we move forward.”

Ohio State had been scheduled to open the 2020 season at home against Bowling Green Sept. 5.  However, the Big Ten announced this month that its league members will be going to a conference-only schedule for fall sports.

UCLA confirms additions of four transfers with Power Five experience

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It was a very busy day for UCLA football on portal front.  At least, it was officially.

Over the past few months, it’s been reported and/or tweeted that tight end Evidence Njoku (from Miami), running back Brittain Brown (Duke), cornerback Obi Eboh (Stanford) and defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight (Maryland and Kent State) were all expected to transfer into the UCLA football program.  Monday, the Bruins confirmed all three of the additions HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

All four of the new additions are coming to the Pac-12 school as graduate transfers.

Now, for the backstories of the newest UCLA football players?

Evidence Njoku

Njoku was a three-star member of the Hurricanes’ 2017 recruiting class who came to The U as a wide receiver before converting to tight end.  After playing in eight games as a redshirt freshman last season, he had played in just one game thus far in 2019.

The 6-6, 226-pound New Jersey native finishes the Hurricanes portion of his collegiate p[laying career with just one catch for 11 yards, with that coming in the last year’s regular-season finale against Pitt.

The younger brother of Cleveland Browns tight end (for now) David Njoku is the older brother of current UCLA wide receiver Charles Njoku.

Brittain Brown

Brown was a three-star member of the Blue Devils’ 2016 recruiting class.  He was the No. 46 player regardless of position in the state of Georgia.

In four seasons with the Duke football team, Brown has rushed for 1,126 yards and 10 touchdowns on 222 carries.  His best season was his second as he ran for 701 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry as a redshirt freshman.

Brown’s last two seasons were marred by injuries.  A shoulder injury cost him four games in 2018, while another shoulder injury sidelined him for the last two months this past season.

Obi Eboh

Eboh, a Texas native was a three-star member of the Stanford football Class of 2016.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman.  The past three seasons, the defensive back played in 39 games.  He started seven of those contests, including six in 2019.  During his time with the Cardinal, Eboh was credited with 41 tackles and five passes defensed.

There is a chance Eboh could face his old team as the Bruins will host the Cardinal Sept. 26.

Qwuantrezz Knight

During the 2019 regular season, Knight led the Golden Flashes in tackles for loss with 10.5.  In Kent’s first-ever bowl win this past season, Knight was named as the game’s defensive MVP.

The move away from Kent was odd, if for nothing more than the struggle Knight went through just to see the field in 2019.

Leaving the Maryland Terrapins football program shortly after head coach DJ Durkin was fired amidst scandal in the midst of the 2018 season, Knight ultimately transferred to Kent State in January of last year.  Four months later, Knight filed an appeal with the NCAA for a waiver that would’ve granted him immediate eligibility, a waiver that cited “depression symptoms”; in early June, that initial waiver was denied.

Armed with the ability to appeal the original decision, Knight did as much and it proved successful as the MAC program confirmed in June of last year that the appeal was successful and the waiver granted.