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No. 6 Baylor shows signs of mortality in win at K-State

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So, it’s come to this. Baylor, ranked sixth in the country, winners of all eight games this season and 34 of their last 38, wins 31-24 at Kansas State and we’re left picking nits. But such is life when you play to win games and impress the 12 oracles on the College Football Playoff selection committee.

First, the good. Jarrett Stidham made his first career start in relief of the injured Seth Russell and looked, well, nothing like a true freshman making his first career start in a road conference game. The true freshman completed 23-of-33 passes for 419 yards (10th most in Baylor history) and three touchdowns (plus another rushing score) with no turnovers. He smartly found certain All-American and Belitnikoff finalist Corey Coleman early and often, including a 36-yard connection on the first play from scrimmage, setting the stage for a 7-0 Baylor lead just 1:46 into the game, and an 81-yard touchdown strike to give the Bears a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter. For the game, Coleman snared 11 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, bringing the junior to an astounding 58 grabs for 1,178 yards and 20 touchdowns – with still a full third of the regular season to go.

K.D. Cannon also added four receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown, and Jay Lee scored four grabs for 61 yards.

That said, the Bears did miss Russell on Thursday evening.

Baylor did not run the ball like a team that entered the game ranked third nationally at 338.3 yards per game. Not even close. The Bears squeezed out only 103 yards on 34 carries, led by Shock Linwood‘s 13 carries for 72 yards. The 93 yards and 3.03 yards per carry easily stand as Baylor’s lowest outputs this season.

And while the offense racked up 533 yards on 8.2 yards per snap, it failed to put the game away after leading 21-7 at the half and 31-10 with 12:20 remaining. Baylor came up empty on three second half possessions, including their final touch, which ended in a missed 41-yard field goal by Chris Callahan, which gave Kansas State one last chance to send the game to overtime with 51 seconds remaining.

Part of the reason Baylor could not put the pesky Wildcats away was that the Bears’ defense couldn’t get K-State off the field. Running what amounted to a glorified version of the veer offense, Joe Huebner led the Wildcats by completing 12-of-21 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown (with an interception) to go with 29 carries for 153 yards and two touchdowns (with a fumble). Charles Jones added 16 rushes for 76 yards. In all, the Wildcats rushed 48 times for 252 yards, and that consistent ground success allowed K-State to simply sit on the football. Their first possession, a 17-play, 88-yard touchdown drive, lasted nine minutes and 21 seconds. After falling behind 31-10, Kansas State methodically climbed back in the game by moving 84 yards in five plays to pull within 31-17, and then marching 77 yards in seven snaps to climb within one score.

Baylor’s defense did end the game for good after Callahan’s missed field goal when Terrell Burt sniffed out a trick play and intercepted a double pass from wide receiver Kody Cook on the first play of the Wildcats’ ensuing possession.

So while Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) will not play another team quite like Kansas State (3-5, 0-5 Big 12) in its quest for a third straight Big 12 title, each of the other three teams vying for the league crown saw something Thursday night they can use against Art Briles and company.

Then again, perhaps we’re being too hard on these Bears. After all, Robert Griffin III lost in Manhattan on his way to winning the 2011 Heisman Trophy, and Bryce Petty also needed 59 minutes to put away the SnyderCats on his way to the 2013 Big 12 title. Stidham stands quite tall when stacked against those guys.

But this much is clear: after eight weeks of prelude, Baylor’s do-or-die three-game season begins next Saturday against Oklahoma, and it’ll take a more complete effort than what the Bears showed Thursday night to beat the Sooners.

Third Virginia Tech transfer this offseason lands at Maryland

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Blacksburg has become quite the fertile recruiting ground for Mike Locksley’s first-year Maryland football program.

In January, wide receiver Sean Savoy completed his transfer from Virginia Tech by moving on to Maryland; four months later, Savoy’s former teammate, Josh Jackson, became his current teammate yet again as the quarterback moved to the Terrapins from the Hokies. Wednesday, Dejuan Ellis indicated that he will join those former teammates as he too has decided to transfer to the Terps.

The wide receiver had opted to transfer from the Hokies earlier this offseason.

Ellis was a three-star member of Tech’s 2018 recruiting class. The Owings Mills, MD, native took a redshirt as a true freshman.

It’s believed the receiver will be forced to sit out the 2019 season, leaving him with three years of eligibility moving forward.

Another family takes issue with Michigan’s handling of a transfer

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Here we go. Again.

Quite the kerfuffle was kicked up earlier this month when Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell and the family of James Hudson, who transferred from Michigan to UC late last year, accused the offensive lineman’s former school in general and its head football coach specifically of not doing enough — or doing the absolute bare minimum — when it came to an immediate-eligibility waiver being sought by the player. Despite the citing of mental health issues, that appeal was denied.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Myles Sims had his appeal for a waiver for immediate eligibility at Georgia Tech denied as well. The defensive back had transferred to Tech from Michigan earlier this offseason.

In a conversation this week with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sims’ parents laid the onus for their son’s denial squarely at the feet of the University of Michigan, intimating, as Hudson’s family did, that U-M did the absolute bare minimum when it came to the waiver process. Even worse, Sims’ family claimed U-M misled the NCAA by providing inaccurate information.

From the Journal-Constitution:

They also believe that a statement from Michigan regarding his transfer – a required part of the application process for a waiver – included inaccurate information about his reasons for leaving that could have damaged his chances for receiving a waiver.

“The disappointment is in knowing that they included just a few words outside of what we said to mislead the NCAA in their decision-making,” Katrina Sims, Myles’ mother, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “Whether that weighed in heavily or not on the documentation that we provided, we take issue with that.

The newspaper also wrote that “[a] Michigan team spokesman stated that the school, as is the case with all transfers leaving the school seeking waivers, did not oppose Sims’ waiver request and followed standard policy.”

I don’t know who’s right or who’s wrong in these situations, but I do know it’s something that will be discussed on the recruiting trail and used by rival schools in luring and/or flipping potential prospects.  So, do the bare minimum in such situations at your own peril.

Lack of class credits behind eligibility issue as Quintez Cephus returns to football practice at Wisconsin

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Now we officially know the rest of the story. How it will ultimately all play out, though, is decidedly uncertain.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced Monday that Quintez Cephus had been reinstated and is again a student in good standing at the school, two weeks after being found not guilty on a pair of sexual assault charges and almost immediately seeking reinstatement.  Initially, there was some uncertainty when it came to the wide receiver’s status with the football team; in a statement released a few hours after the reinstatement affirmation, UW confirmed that Cephus had indeed rejoined the Badgers team.

The school did note in that release, though, that they “are working through eligibility issues before he can participate in a game.” Wednesday, the same day Cephus returned to practice with the rest of his Badger teammates, Paul Chryst expounded on the eligibility issue, telling reporters that it revolves around the lack of class credits, which stemmed from his expulsion from the school before the spring semester this year ended.

At this point, whether the credit issue can be successfully navigated before the Badgers’ open the 2019 season the weekend after next remains to be seen.

Two days after very loudly proclaiming his innocence and announcing he was taking a leave of absence from the Wisconsin football team, Cephus was charged in late August of last year with felony sexual assault of an intoxicated victim and felony sexual assault.  The criminal complaint filed against him stated that he allegedly “sexually assaulted two drunken women at once in the bedroom of his apartment in April” of 2018.

It took a jury of his peers less than 45 minutes to acquit him on both of those counts earlier this month.

Cephus was initially suspended by the Badgers football program before being expelled by the university last semester.  In October of last year, Cephus sued the University of Wisconsin-Madison in U.S. District Court, claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights.  That suit was dropped in March of this year.

In 2017, and despite missing the last five games because of a broken leg, Cephus led the run-centric Badgers in receiving touchdowns with six and yards per catch at 16.7.  His 501 receiving yards were good for second, while his 30 receptions were third on the team.  Because of the off-field situation that led to the suspension, Cephus didn’t play at all in 2018.

Including this season, Cephus has two years of eligibility he can use.

RB who transferred from UTEP to Georgia Southern this offseason reverses course, returns to Miners

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Who says you can’t go home again, even in the same offseason?

Joshua Fields left UTEP earlier this offseason and, in June of this year, enrolled in classes at Georgia Southern as he was set to continue his collegiate playing career with the Eagles. It was also reported that the running back would seek a waiver from the NCAA that would grant him immediate eligibility at the Sun Belt Conference school.

Fast-forward two months, though, and it’s now being reported that Fields has decided to reverse course and return to the Miners. That development came a couple of days after the Eagles confirmed in a statement that Fields was no longer a part of the program.

Joshua left the team early in camp. We wish him the best of luck moving forward.

According to the El Paso Times, Fields initially left the Miners because of a family member’s health issue, “but those circumstances changed and now he is back with his family in El Paso.” The Times also reports that Fields should be eligible to play for UTEP this season, presumably because he never attended classes at GSU despite enrolling at the university.

Clarification on his status could come as early as Thursday.

In 2017, Fields’ 362 yards rushing (on 89 carries) were tops on the Miners. According to the school at the time, Fields was the first true freshman to lead the team in rushing since 2013.

This past season, however, Fields’ production dipped to 57 yards on 31 attempts, which works out to just 1.8 yards per carry. That yards-per-attempt figure was the lowest among all FBS running backs with at least 30 carries last year.