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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.

 

Four-star 2018 WR Marquez Ezzard leaves Miami

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As Miami continues to collect players with steep FBS experience, they’ve also lost a touted member of last year’s recruiting class.

In a press release sent out late Wednesday morning, Miami announced that Marquez Ezzard has decided to leave Manny Diaz‘s football program.  No specific reason for the unexpected departure was given.

That said, the speculation is that a pair of wideout developments — Jeff Thomas did an about-face and returned to Miami after signing with Illinois, Buffalo grad transfer K.J. Osborn was added earlier this month — played a significant role in the decision.

“Marquez and I talked, and we decided that it was in his best interests to pursue opportunities at another school,” the first-year head coach said in a statement. “We wish him all the best in his future plans.”

Ezzard was a four-star 2018 signee who played in three games as a true freshman, catching two passes for 24 yards.

Medically retired in August, Torrence Brown to transfer from Penn State to Southern Miss

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So much for that.

In August of last year, Torrence Brown announced that, “[d]ue to multiple injuries and surgeries, my career at Penn State has come to an end.” The defensive end spent the 2018 season as a student assistant coach for the Nittany Lions, seemingly kickstarting a career in coaching.

While that may ultimately be his employment lot in life, it’s been put on hold as Brown confirmed Tuesday via Twitter that he has decided to transfer to Southern Miss to continue his collegiate playing career.  The lineman was actually committed to the Golden Eagles before flipping to the Nittany Lions in February of 2014.

Brown started four of 14 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2016 and then started the first three games the following year before going down with a season-ending knee injury.

Because of NCAA bylaws, a player who medically retires while at one school is not permitted to play at that same school if he opts to restart his playing career.  He can, though, transfer and continue it elsewhere.

In January of 2016, Adam Breneman ended his playing career at Penn State and medically retired because of chronic knee issues; seven months later, the tight end resurfaced and continued his playing career at UMass.

Second-leading receiver one of two transferring from Virginia Tech

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Virginia Tech’s roster took a one-two personnel punch on Tuesday.

Last evening, wide receiver Eric Kumah announced on Twitter that he has “decided that [it’s] best for me to enter my name into the transfer portal.” A half-hour later, teammate and Hokies tight end Chris Cunningham announced via the same social media site that “I feel as though it is in my best interest to transfer from Virginia Tech.”

The fact that the players’ names are in the NCAA transfer database doesn’t guarantee a departure, although it is normally a sign that the player will ultimately move on to another program.  With the names in the database, other schools can contact them without receiving permission from Tech.  Conversely, Tech has the right to strip both players of their scholarships at the end of the current semester.

Both Kumah and Cunningham have already graduated from Tech and could use their final season of eligibility at another FBS program immediately in 2019.  The former also has a redshirt year available to him.

This past season, Kumah’s 42 receptions, 559 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns were all second on the Hokies.  He started 12 games in 2018 and 20 total during his time in Blacksburg.

Primarily a blocking tight end, Cunningham started a pair of games in 2018 and finished the season with 74 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches.

Miami adding UCLA transfer DT Chigozie Nnoruka

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With Manny Diaz now in charge, Miami continues to collect players with Power Five and FBS experience.

The latest for the former additions is Chigozie Nnoruka, with the former UCLA defensive tackle announcing on Twitter late Tuesday night that he has transferred to Miami.  The native of Nigeria will be coming to the Hurricanes as a graduate transfer — he’s expected to receive his degree in March — which means he can play immediately for Diaz’s squad in 2019.

The upcoming season will be the lineman’s final year of eligibility.

According to 247Sports.com, Nnoruka chose The U over an offer from Florida.

After beginning his collegiate career at a junior college and then playing in one game his first season with the Bruins, Nnoruka started 10 of the 12 games in which he played during the 2017 season.  That year, his 8½ tackles for loss were tied for second on the team.

With Chip Kelly and a new defensive coaching staff on board, Nnoruka played in 11 games with no starts this past season.  After 49 tackles the previous season, Nnoruka was credited with seven in 2018, none of which were for a loss.

In addition to Nnoruka, Miami has added safety Bubba Bolden from USC (HERE), running back Asa Martin from Auburn (HERE) and quarterback Tate Martell of Ohio State (HERE) from Power Five programs since mid-December.  Additionally, Buffalo’s second-leading receiver, K.J. Osborn, tweeted his decision to transfer to UM earlier this month.