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Last second Hail Mary lifts No. 24 Florida past No. 23 Tennessee

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A defensive struggle turned into anything but, as a 63-yard rainbow from Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland as time expired lifted No. 24 Florida to a 26-20 win over No. 23 Tennessee. The win is Florida’s (1-1, 1-0 SEC) 12th win over Tennessee (2-1, 0-1 SEC) in their last 13 meetings.

After Florida took a 6-3 lead into the locker roomC.J. Henderson gave Florida complete control when he snared a tipped Quentin Dormady pass and returned it an easy 16 yards for a touchdown, Florida’s third pick-six of the season — which, to that point, accounted for the Gators’ only touchdowns of the season.

Malik Davis briefly put the offense on the board when he streaked 74 yards down the left side of the field to give the Gators a 20-3 lead with 10:45 remaining in the game. But Davis lost the ball out of the back of the end zone as he crossed the goal line, and the touchdown was turned into a touchback upon review.

Given new life, Tennessee made the most of its extra chance, racing 80 yards in five plays, mostly on the legs of John Kelly, including a 34-yard burst that pulled the Vols to within 13-10 with 8:36 remaining. Kelly celebrated the score with a defiant Gator chomp in the end zone, which rewarded by the officials with an excessive celebration flag.

Tyrie Cleveland returned the ensuing short kickoff 46 yards to the Tennessee 44, sparking the Gators to a 7-play, 44-yard drive that ended in the club’s first offensive touchdown of the season, a 5-yard toss from Feleipe Franks to Brandon Powell with 5:13 to play.

Ignited by their previous touchdown drive — and aided by a winded Florida defense — Tennessee needed only two snaps to move 75 yards for another touchdown. A 52-yard catch-and-run by Kelly set up a 28-yard touchdown pass from Dormady to tight end Ethan Wolf to pull the Vols within 20-17 with 4:43 to play.

Two snaps after that, Tennessee’s defense returned the favor as Rashaan Gaulden snared a tipped Franks pass at the Florida 40. The Vols moved the ball 31 yards to the Florida 9-yard line, but the drive stalled there and Aaron Medley knocked in a 27-yard field goal to tie the game with 50 seconds to play. Medley’s boot also ended a streak of three consecutive missed field goals by he and Brent Cimaglia.

Florida appeared content to sit on the ball until overtime, but Jim McElwain called timeout with nine seconds remaining at his own 37. After scrambling in his own backfield, Franks raced toward the line of scrimmage and threw it as far as he could, where the ball found Cleveland, unmolested in the end zone. He would not be touched until he was mauled by his celebrating teammates.

Franks finished the game 18-of-28 for 212 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, while Davis led the Gators with 94 yards on four carries. Dormady hit 21-of-39 passes for 259 yards with a touchdown and three interception, and Kelly led both teams on the ground and through the air, rushing 19 times for 141 yards and a touchdown and catching six balls for 96 yards.

 

SMU WR Reggie Roberson, Jr., to return for senior season

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SMU wide receiver Reggie Roberson, Jr., will return for his senior season in 2020, he announced earlier this week.

Roberson did so through a statement that at first read as if he would leave the Hilltop. “In the past couple of weeks, it has come to my attention that I am able to forgo my senior year and enter the NFL draft. I want to thank Coach Dykes for giving me the opportunity to come to SMU, and play the game I love in my hometown in front of my family and friends,” it began.

However, like a a classic Roberson open field move, he quickly changed directions and sprinted toward opportunity. “I have decided to come back and play my senior year at SMU. There is a lot of unfinished business that I left on the field that I need to take care of next season.”

A native of DeSoto, Texas, just south of Dallas, Roberson was one of SMU’s top players before he was lost to a foot injury in October. He caught 11 passes for 180 yards in the Ponies’ opening week win over Arkansas State and hauled in eight passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-21 drubbing of Temple on Oct. 19.

For the year, Roberson caught 43 passes for 803 yards and six touchdowns over seven-plus games. Spread over a 13-game season, he was on pace to end the year in the neighborhood of 80 receptions for 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Roberson originally signed with West Virginia out of high school.

Zack Moss to play in Alamo Bowl

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It’s become A Thing ever since Christian McCaffrey bailed on Stanford for that Sun Bowl: Draft eligible players announcing whether or not their prep for the next level begins for or after their team’s upcoming bowl game.

For Utah running back Zack Moss, that will begin after the Alamo Bowl.

“I just wanted to play with my guys,” Moss told KSL Sports. “That was one of the reasons why I wanted to come back was to play with these guys and I definitely want to finish it off. I am healthy enough to play and that’s exactly what I want to do.

“I love this team, I love the program, coaching, fans and community, so why not give everyone one last game.”

Moss’s teammate Jaylon Johnson previously announced he will skip the game.

The senior will look to polish off a career in which he’s carried for 4,010 yards and 38 touchdowns.

No. 11 Utah will close the career of Moss and backfield mate Tyler Huntley opposite Texas on Dec. 31 (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

Tom Herman reportedly set to hire Chris Ash as defensive coordinator at Texas

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Sometimes it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to solve these equations. Tom Herman and Chris Ash worked together previously at Iowa State and Ohio State, and when Herman’s team couldn’t stop anyone and Ash found himself out of a job, it seemed like they would try to channel that 2014 energy for the 2020 Texas Longhorns.

And now it seems that’s about to happen.

Multiple reports out of Austin on Sunday indicate Ash is close to being named the new defensive coordinator on Herman’s staff at Texas.

Ash worked with Herman previously for two seasons at two separate stops. In 2009, Ash was the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator on a Paul Roads-led Iowa State staff for which Herman was the offensive coordinator, and in 2014 Herman and Ash led the offense and defense on a national championship Ohio State team.

Shortly after his firing at Rutgers, Ash was spotted in Austin, leading, well, pretty much everyone to start putting two and two together.

And that cliche is a good place to start, because Ash is expected to install a 4-man front, a welcome change in Austin from the 3-man scheme that grew unpopular under Todd Orlando. Texas finished 83rd in sacks, 70th in tackles for loss, 96th in pass efficiency defense, 105th in yards per play and 74th in scoring defense en route to one of the most disappointing seasons in school history.

Orlando was fired back on Dec. 1, and with Ash very much available, it would seem Herman conducted a search beyond his old colleague given that two full weeks passed without a defensive coordinator, though virtually no names beyond Ash circulated amongst the media.

With Ash coming aboard, the focus will now turn to the remainder of the UT defensive staff. Safeties coach Craig Naivar has been appointed interim coordinator for the upcoming bowl game, and cornerbacks coach Jason Washington and defensive line coach Oscar Giles remain in their posts. Ash’s speciality has been in the defensive backfield, so presumably Texas will be in the market for a linebackers coach while Naivar, Washington or both could possibly move on.

Transferring Florida QB Feleipe Franks to visit Kansas

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Does the Mad Hatter have a graduate transfer under center up his sleeve?

On a post on his Instagram story Saturday, Franks indicated that he is currently in Lawrence, Kansas. A Kansas official subsequently confirmed that the quarterback is in town for a visit to the Big 12 football program.

Adding to the intrigue, and according to 247Sports.com, Franks recently began following KU head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon on Twitter.

In early December, Franks had announced that he would be leaving Florida. At the time, it was unclear if Franks, who signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox this past summer, was leaving to play a professional sport or transfer to another school, although this latest development seems to indicate the latter is likely.

After starting eight games in 2017, Franks started all 13 for the Gators in 2018. He had started the first three games of 2019 before going down with a season-ending ankle injury.

During his time in Gainesville, Franks threw for 4,593 yards, 38 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in completing exactly 59 percent of his 622 passes.