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Utah survives six turnovers to top BYU in the Holy War

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The first play of the Holy War’s return to the regular season after a multi-year absence turned out to be indicative of the rest of the game.

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill had his pass tipped by a receiver on the Cougars’ first snap, with the ball promptly plucked out the air by linebacker Sunia Tauteoli and returned 41 yards for a pick-six. The tone for the night set right off the bat, both teams seemed to go back-and-forth trying to out do each other in the turnover department.

Utah ended up surviving six giveaways on Saturday night in a wild game that had a little of everything at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Ultimately it resulted in a 20-19 Utes win that was their sixth straight (and perhaps most incredible) in the series from BYU.

Not to be outdone, the Cougars also threw two more interceptions to give the game a remarkable nine turnovers… before the end of the 3rd quarter. Hill finished the night 21-of-39 for 176 yards passing in his final meeting with the team’s in-state rival but couldn’t quite muster a second game-winning drive in as many weeks.

Utah quarterback Troy Williams also threw three interceptions in his first taste of the series but managed to come out on top in the end despite a shaky effort most of the game through the air. The offense pounded away at BYU’s defensive front to the tune of 169 yards on 42 carries but costly fumbles from multiple players hampered the team’s rhythm most of the night.

The wackiness of the game came to a crescendo in late in the 3rd quarter. Cougars safety Kai Nacua, who already had two interceptions on the night, was called for a controversial targeting penalty on a play in which he appeared to turn his shoulder on a hit that was eventually ruled incomplete. On the very next play, BYU picked Williams off and Nacua’s backup, Austin McChesney, was also called for targeting and ejected.

Both players will miss the first half of the team’s game against UCLA next week.

The entire sequence would have been the wacky highlight of the night had the Cougars not gone down in an equally wild ending. Utah kicked a short field goal that proved to be the deciding points late in the 4th quarter but Hill got the ball back wth 2:29 left on the clock. He eventually marched the Cougars down the field in a 13 play, 75 yard drive that would have tied the ball game up had new head coach Kalani Sitake opted to go for two and the win instead of gambling on overtime.

It was a decision he would probably want back as the stingy Utes defense swallowed up Hill on a quarterback draw that sealed the fate of their rivals to the south.

The final sequence was also emblematic of the latest interest (to neutrals, at least) chapter of the Holy War that continues to be one of the best rivalries in the West. Hopefully ball security is taken a little more seriously next year though.

Auburn transfer RB Asa Martin to visit Miami

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After a rather bizarre departure from his first school, Asa Martin is getting on with the business of finding a second.

The running back confirmed to multiple media outlets HERE, HERE and HERE that he will be taking an official visit to Miami this weekend.  Martin stated that the Hurricanes, specifically running backs coach Thomas Brown, reached out to him not long after his Dec. 8 social media announcement that he would be transferring from Auburn.

Based on his comments, it doesn’t appear Martin is going to allow his second recruitment to stretch out much longer.

“Miami is a good program overall with lots of tradition,” Martin told 247Sports.com. “They basically said they want me if I decide I like it.

“I’ll probably make a decision within next couple days.”

Martin played in five games this season, although the original plan was to play in no more than four so he could take advantage of the new NCAA redshirt rule that would’ve saved him a season of eligibility.  However, Martin’s mother alleged that the Auburn coaching staff essentially lost track of how many games in which her son had played.

After sitting out the 2019 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Martin will have three seasons of eligibility he can use beginning with the 2020 season if he moves on to another FBS school.  If Martin had been able to take advantage of the new NCAA redshirt rule and remained at Auburn — the participation chart kerfuffle was the impetus for the transfer — he would’ve had four years of eligibility left and could’ve played in 2019.

A four-star member of AU’s 2018 recruiting class, Martin was rated as the No. 9 running back in the country and the No. 6 player at any position in the state of Alabama.  In the five games in which he played as a true freshman, Martin ran for 57 yards on 13 carries and added another 36 yards on a pair of receptions.

McKenzie Milton set for another surgery, but will be in attendance for UCF’s Fiesta Bowl matchup vs. LSU

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McKenzie Milton wasn’t in attendance as his UCF teammates won back-to-back AAC championships earlier this month.  Very early next year, however, he’ll be there as the Knights look to put the finishing touches on a second consecutive unbeaten season.

In an update on the UCF quarterback’s status, Teresa Milton, McKenzie’s mom, revealed in a statement posted to Twitter that her son is undergoing another surgery Thursday “to get him more comfortable.” Additionally, the mom confirmed that Milton “will be at the Fiesta Bowl to cheer his [teammates] on to Victory!”

UCF will face LSU Jan. 1 in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl.

In the second quarter of UCF’s win over rival USF last month, Milton went down with a horrific and gruesome injury to his right leg. Medical personnel immobilized the quarterback’s entire leg before he was taken to a local hospital for further treatment of an injury that his head coach, Josh Heupel, deemed “traumatic.”

It was subsequently confirmed that Milton underwent emergency surgery to repair unspecified damage in his knee as well as what was described as “other internal issues.” Not long after, McKenzie’s family issued a statement in which they described the surgery as being successful but provided no details on the specific nature of the injury.

In the days following the injury, one of Milton’s teammates, Jordan Johnson, revealed that he had FaceTimed with Milton and that the quarterback stated he was able to take steps for the first time since the initial surgery was performed.  In another statement, the family confirmed that “blood flow has been restored to his right leg and his nerve is injured but intact.”

Milton, who was released from the hospital eight days after sustaining the injury, will have to undergo reconstructive surgery at some point in the next month or so “depending on his vascular recovery.” At this point in time, it remains decidedly uncertain what if any future Milton has in football.

App State officially hires NC State OC Eli Drinkwitz as new head coach

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Wednesday, interim head coach Mark Ivey informed the Appalachian State football team that he wouldn’t be named as the school’s permanent head coach.  A day later, the players officially found out in which direction the football program was headed.

Following up on reports that bubbled to the surface earlier in the morning, App State confirmed that Eliah Drinkwitz has agreed to become the Mountaineers’ next head football coach.  Drinkwitz will be officially introduced at a Monday press conference, two days after Ivey leads App State in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against Middle Tennessee State.

The 35-year-old Drinkwitz replaces c, who left earlier this month for the head job at Louisville.

“I’m excited to welcome Eliah and his family to App Nation,” App State athletic director Doug Gillin said in a statement. “The App State football program is in great position to continue its championship ways. Eliah is committed to excellence academically, competitively, socially and to the well-being of our student-athletes. There was significant interest in our process throughout a national search. Eliah has great character and a clear vision for the future of Mountaineer football. I’m excited about the future of our football program.”

Drinkwitz spent the past three seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at North Carolina State. Prior to that, he spent two seasons at Boise State, the last of which he took over the title as coordinator.

In embarking on the first head-coaching job at any level of football, Drinkwitz will be taking over an App State program that has won 40 games the past four seasons and won all three of its bowl games since moving up to the FBS level in 2014.

Days after effusively praising UCLA for getting him a sixth season, Justin Murphy announces transfer from Bruins

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Well, this is a tad bit awkward.

In announcing Monday that he had been granted a sixth season of eligibility, Justin Murphy was effusive in his praise of the work put in by the UCLA compliance department. “None of this could’ve been possible if it weren’t for the amazing job done at @UCLACompliance,” the offensive lineman wrote on Twitter. “Thank you for everything y’all do over there, it doesn’t go unnoticed!”

Two days later, however, Murphy took to Twitter again, only this time to announce that he “will be transferring to another university to finish out the last year of my college football career.”

This latest development continues an “interesting” path Murphy’s collegiate career has taken.

In the middle of the 2016 season, Murphy, then at Texas Tech, announced that he was taking a medical retirement because of knee injuries.  In April of 2018, however, Murphy revealed that he would be moving on from Tech to UCLA as a graduate transfer.

Murphy played in the first four games of his first season with the Bruins this year before going down with a knee injury.  That issue kept the lineman sidelined for all but the final two games of the year.

At Tech, Murphy started a total of 12 games — eight at right guard, four at tackle — in a little over two seasons before leaving the Red Raiders midway through the 2016 season.