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Memphis hangs on in wild one vs. Cincinnati, keeps eyes on New Year’s Six prize

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With the scary situation involving Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel going from worrisome to basically a sigh of relief, UC and Memphis got down to the matter of deciding a key AAC matchup — and did so in highly-entertaining fashion.

An offensive first half morphed into a defensive third quarter and then swung wildly and delightfully violently back toward the offensive in the fourth, with the Tigers hanging on for dear life and getting the best of the Bearcats 53-46 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis.  The win was Memphis’ 11th straight, tying it (for the moment) for second-best in the country with TCU behind Ohio State’s 16 in a row.

As alluded to earlier, this was a tale of one half and two quarters.

In the first two quarters, the teams combined for 58 points and 683 yards of offense, with the Bearcats claiming 30 of the former and 419 of the latter in staking itself to the two-point halftime lead.  The third quarter saw just a pair of field goals — one for each team — and less than 150 yards of offense combined.  The fourth quarter, though, was a first-half remake.

On back-to-back-to-back-to-back possessions to open the fourth quarter, the teams split four touchdowns — and combined for 316 yards — with one converting on a two-point conversion (Tigers) and one failing on theirs (Bearcats), leaving the two knotted up at 46-all and Memphis in possession of the ball with 5:56 remaining.

After driving down to the UC 35-yard line and facing a fourth and two, the Tigers eschewed a field goal attempt but failed to convert, handing the ball back to the Bearcats with 3:11 remaining to win it in regulation.  One first down and three incompletions later, the Bearcats punted the ball back to the Tigers with 2:27 left in the fourth.

Taking over at their own 20, the Tigers first avoided disaster as a called fumble on a 13-yard Roderick Proctor reception was (somewhat surprisingly) overturned upon further review.  Four plays from there got the ball inside the UC five-yard line, with Sam Craft taking it in from three yards out to give U of M a 53-46 lead with :53 left.

Cincinnati was far from done, however, as, after taking over at their own 25-yard line, they drove down to the Memphis 19-yard line with :18 left.  On first and 10, Hayden Moore, who set a school record with 557 yards passing in less than four quarters worth of work, went all freshman on the ending, tossing up an ill-advised sideways, backwards pass as he was being sacked that was intercepted by Memphis’ Leonard Pegues and sealed the win for the Tigers.

Cincinnati finished with a school-record 752 yards of offense in the loss.  Moore broke the old passing standard of 554 yards set by Greg Cook in 1968.  Paxton Lynch threw for 412 of Memphis’ 572 yards of offense.

The win was huge for Memphis’ postseason aspirations as the Tigers remain perfect at 4-0 on the season, maintaining their standing as one of a handful of Group of Five teams still in line for a lone slot in the New Year’s Six bowls.  For Cincinnati, it’s a damaging blow to their AAC East hopes already as they fell to 0-2 in the conference on the season, with one of those losses coming in their own division to Temple.

 

Oregon LB arrested for removing parking boot dismissed by Ducks

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In April, Fotu Leiato was arrested on a couple of charges related to the illegal removal of a parking boot from his vehicle.  A month later, we’ve learned Leiato was given the boot from his current football program for good measure.

247Sports.com was the first to report that Leiato has been dismissed by first-year Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal.  Further to the point, the linebacker’s dismissal came a day after his April arrest but the news didn’t surface until Thursday.

In the April incident, Leiato was arrested on charges of second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree theft and criminal trespassing.  That was actually his second arrest this year as he was charged with misdemeanor trespassing in January.

The combination of the two arrests led Cristobal to pull the trigger on a dismissal.

Coming to Eugene as a three-star safety, Leiato played in 37 of 38 games the past three seasons.  The Washington native earned the first start of his collegiate playing career during the 2017 season.

The senior had been in line to earn a starting job exiting spring and heading into the summer phase of the offseason.

LB Darrin Kirkland announces transfer from Tennessee

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Darren Kirkland‘s injury-plagued time on Rocky Top has come to an end.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday evening, Kirkland announced that he has decided to transfer out of first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt‘s Tennessee football program.  The linebacker gave no specific reason for his decision to move on from the Volunteers.

“Tennessee will always hold a special place in my heart,” Kirkland wrote. “These moments have been priceless and I’m a better player and man from this experience.”

As a graduate transfer, Kirkland would be eligible to play for another FBS program in 2018.  Not only that, but he will have two seasons of eligibility remaining counting this year.

A four-star 2015 signee, Kirkland started 10 games as a true freshman and then another six in a sophomore campaign marred by a high-ankle sprain that forced him to miss four games.  In summer camp last year, he suffered a knee injury severe enough to sideline him for the entire 2017 season.

The rehab from that injury kept Kirkland from being a full participant in Pruitt’s first spring practice this year.

North Texas dropping $625,000 to install new turf that naturally includes new design

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Seth Littrell has done a great job turning around the program at North Texas but fans getting a look at the 2018 edition of his team will notice something right away that’s different when they take the field for the home opener: new turf. The Denton Record Chronicle reports that UNT is ponying up $625,245 for the latest “FieldTurf CoolPlay” turf at Apogee Stadium.

“We are excited about the turf,” Littrell said recently, according to the paper. “It was much needed. That turf has been used a lot and has gotten worn down. The new field will improve safety and will be a great resource for our kids.”

The old turf had a good run at the stadium after being installed back in 2011 but obviously the summer heat and 300+ pound bodies playing football will cause a little wear and tear. The Record Chronicle says that “North Texas” and “Mean Green” will be the end zones text while the midfield school logo will include a “dark green outline of the state of Texas.”

Completion of the project is expected to be done well in time for the first game against SMU in September. The school has released some shots of Apogee Stadium without the old turf and it certainly looks kind of wild to see a stadium sans a playing field:

Kansas State AD open to scheduling Nebraska in the future

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Conference realignment ended a bunch of big rivalries, from the major (Texas-Texas A&M) to the mundane. Former Big 8 and Big 12 rivals Kansas State and Nebraska were somewhere on the middle of that scale after playing each other in football for decades. While nobody is clamoring for the two to get together quite like they are the Longhorns and Aggies, there’s plenty who would still love to see them schedule a non-conference series given how close Lincoln and the Little Apple are to each other (135 miles across the border).

Wildcats athletic director Gene Taylor has been in the job just over a year and it seems like he’s very aware of the scheduling situation between the two schools and is open to getting something done eventually. He was asked about adding the Cornhuskers to the slate in a Q&A on the school’s website and had this to say:

“That is a school that makes a lot of sense,” said Taylor. “We are pretty well-scheduled out in football with our one Power Five opponent, but we do play them in baseball and have had conversations in men’s basketball. If the opportunity were to arise, they are someone we would certainly entertain if it made sense for us.”

KSU is fully booked on the scheduling front through 2022 but have been open to adding home-and-homes with former Big 12 opponents with Missouri on tap for 2022/23 and Colorado on 2027/28. They’ve got a Power Five opponent on the docket until 2031 so it seems like the team wouldn’t be able to get something done with Nebraska until after then. That is, to say the least, a long ways away.

Who knows, maybe they’ll be able to meet in a bowl game at some point over the next few years. The Cornhuskers and Wildcats last met in 2010 in a series that is heavily weighted to Big Red. At least Taylor is leaving the door open and leaving a chance of the two programs hooking back up on the gridiron.