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Critical mistakes cost Vanderbilt in upset bid of No. 10 Georgia

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It’s not often you see a team on the business end of a 31-14 final walk away saying, “Man, we let that one get away.” But that’s the case for Derek Mason and Vanderbilt after the ‘Dores dropped a 17-point decision to No. 10 Georgia in Nashville Saturday.

First, let’s examine how Georgia secured its 31 points. Isaiah McKenzie opened the scoring with a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown at the 4:33 mark of the first quarter. The Bulldogs held the lead through the first half, but the score would have been 7-6 at the break had Vanderbilt safety Oren Burks not allowed a Greyson Lambert pass to split his wide-open hands. Sony Michel raced in from 31 yards on the very next snap.

Vanderbilt drove the field in an attempt to pull within 14-9 at the half, but Tommy Openshaw‘s 43-yard field goal try doinked off the left upright.

Georgia officially put the game away in the third quarter with a 20-yard Marshall Morgan field goal and a five-yard Lambert run, pushing the edge to 24-6, but Vanderbilt made things interestin in the fourth quarter… until they didn’t.

After a missed 43-yard Morgan field goal try, Vanderbilt marched 71 yards in nine plays until an ill-advised four-yard scramble by Commodores quarterback Johnny McCrary on a goal-to-go situation from the Georgia eight. Vanderbilt forced a three-and-out and immediately moved 42 yards in five plays, capped by a seven-yard strike from McCrary to Latevius Reyford and then a McCrary run to pull the ‘Dores within 24-14.

Vanderbilt uncovered the ensuing kickoff, but McCrary gave the ball right back to Georgia at the Bulldogs’ 20. After another Georgia punt, Vanderbilt moved to the Bulldogs’ 28 before he was again intercepted, and Dominick Sanders returned the pigskin 88 yards to put an exclamation point on the ballgame.

Add it all up and you get three interceptions (including one for a touchdown), a missed field goal and a missed interception and a punt return touchdown surrendered in a game where Vanderbilt managed to control the ball (89 to 66 total plays, five more minutes of possession, two more first downs).

Vanderbilt limited Lambert for much of the day. He was held without a completed pass in the first half, getting himself pulled in favor of sophomore Brice Ramsey for the Bulldogs’ final first half drive, and completed 11-of-21 passes for only 116 yards on the day. Nick Chubb, as he’s done since he first stepped on the field, carried the Georgia offense with 19 carries for 189 yards. Michel was also a key contributor with 86 yards and a touchdown on 14 touches.

McCrary completed 24-of-50 throws for 295 yards with a touchdown and three picks. Ralph Webb led Vanderbilt in rushing with 25 carries for 68 yards.

For Georgia it was their 19th win in their last 21 tries against Vanderbilt and third win in their last four SEC openers.

The Bulldogs (2-0, 1-0 SEC) return home to face South Carolina next week, while Vanderbilt (0-2, 0-1 SEC) hosts Austin Peay.

LSU lands commitment from nation’s No. 1 cornerback

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LSU rarely loses a player it wants out of Louisiana. Now add in that said player isn’t just from Louisiana, but lives in Baton Rouge. Now add in that he’s regarded as the No. 1 player at his position. Yeah, this kid was never going anywhere else.

Derek Stingley, Jr., committed to LSU on Wednesday, beating out Texas and Florida.

Rivals ranks Stingley as the No. 1 corner and No. 1 overall player in its 2019 rankings. Stingley stands as the No. 1 corner and the No. 8 overall player on the 247Sports ratings. ESPN is more bullish on Stingley, slotting him as just the No. 3 cornerback and the No. 67 overall player. (247Sports lists Lewis Center, Ohio, defensive end Zach Harrison as its No. 1 overall player, while ESPN favors Westlake Village, Calif., defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.)

Stingley was previously committed to LSU, but de-committed to take his time and make an informed decision. All that information led him to the exact same conclusion.

“There are a lot of reasons I love LSU, but the main thing is coach Corey Raymond. We have built a strong relationship over a long period of time. We have really gotten to know each other. I am relaxed around him, we can talk about anything and I know he will be there for me at any time. Our connection is what really pushed LSU to the top,” he told Rivals. “This commitment is completely different. I took my time. I put more time into it and really looked at other schools. I got caught up in the hype before and I did not know anything about recruiting or other schools. I know all I need to know now and LSU is the school for me. I am done now and I will not visit any other schools.”

LSU’s 13-man class is rated No. 10 nationally in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Vanderbilt transfer DL Rutger Reitmaier receives all-clear from NCAA

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Vanderbilt got some good news Wednesday when the NCAA approved transfer Rutger Reitmaier to compete this fall.

The Nashville native signed with Oregon out of high school in 2017 but did not compete for the Ducks. He left the team after spring practice, sat out the 2017 season and enrolled at Vanderbilt in January.

“Adding Rutger to our roster is huge,” head coach Derek Mason told Vanderbilt’s official site. “He adds depth, athleticism and will be a key piece for us. I’m excited about what an impactful player he is, and it’s great to add another quality player from Nashville.”

A 4-star recruit, Reitmaier was recruited by the likes of Tennessee, Ole Miss and South Carolina, but favored Vanderbilt when leaving Oregon.

“Vanderbilt was the first school I considered after deciding to leave Oregon,” he said. “It was one of my top-three schools during my initial recruitment in high school. Defense wins championships, so having a head coach like Coach Mason with that background was attractive for me. I’m excited to get going.”

 

Northwestern announces slew of schedule changes, including future home-and-homes with Tulane and Rice

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Northwestern claims they have the best home schedule in the country for the upcoming 2018 season and they have a pretty good case with Duke, Akron, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Notre Dame all coming to Ryan Field. Based on the latest moves on their future schedules however, that good run of big names doesn’t quite continue.

The school announced a slew of new games in the coming years on Wednesday, including a pair of home-and-homes with AAC and CUSA opponents. First up is a date with Tulane in Evanston on Sept. 12, 2020, followed by a return game in New Orleans on Aug. 30, 2025. As a result of that first game against the Green Wave, the Wildcats had to move their previously scheduled contest against Central Michigan from Sept. 12 to Sept. 19 in 2020 (also at home).

Another school in the South was also added to the NU docket with a second home-and-home series with Rice way out in the future. The pair will play in Houston on Sept. 8, 2029, while the return game at Ryan Field is set for Sept. 6… 2031. Yeah, 2031. The two teams will also meet in 2024 and 2025.

A single home game against FCS power South Dakota State was also announced by Northwestern and will be played on Sept. 12, 2026.

The moves mean the Wildcats’ non-conference slate is pretty much set in 2019 (at Stanford, vs. UNLV and UMass), 2022 (vs. Duke, Miami (OH) and Southern Illinois) and 2024 (vs. Duke, Miami (OH) and Rice). The games announced Wednesday fill in some of the holes left in other years but outside of the trip to the Farm next season and a home-and-home with Colorado in 2026/27, there’s not a ton to write home about.

At least Northwestern will always have that 2018 home schedule to point to.

NCAA data shows number of graduate transfers in football nearly doubled last year

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The biggest issue the NCAA is tackling at the moment is an easy one to pick out: transfers. Coaches have chimed in about potential changes and new rules have been enacted but even as we approach the Media Days portion of the calendar next month, transfer talk has been one of the hot topics across all major sports at the collegiate level.

Perhaps that interest is one reason why the NCAA released a new study this week looking into the numbers of one particular category of players: graduate transfers. While the number of actual graduate transfers remains relatively low (about 1% of the total number of student-athletes), the number itself continues to skyrocket year-by-year as more and more players take advantage of rules that allow them to graduate and play immediately at their next school.

According to the NCAA, that number of grad transfers is five times bigger in 2017 than it was in 2011 for men’s sports alone and football in particular saw the number of players moving around nearly double from 117 total in 2016 to 211 the following season. The rates are higher in men’s basketball but the overall number is naturally much bigger in football given the vastly bigger roster size.

Data for 2018 was naturally not made available since we’re just in the middle of the year but a similar increase wouldn’t be too surprising to see given the number of big names that have made headlines prior to the upcoming season. That includes players like Michigan’s Wilton Speight (to UCLA), Cal’s Tre Watson (to Texas), Notre Dame’s Jay Hayes (to Georgia) and Alabama’s Brandon Kennedy (to Tennessee) all among those taking the grad transfer route. It seems like nearly every week we see one or two players announce their intentions to take a similar path.

While we might not have 400+ players listed as graduate transfers in football when 2018 comes to a close, it certainly doesn’t appear that this trend will be slowing down anytime soon and the coaches that are complaining about this brand of “free agency” in college football will just have to get used to the new reality of player movement in light of a number of new NCAA reforms on the subject.