Associated Press

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.

 

Lincoln Riley finalizes defensive staff for 2019

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Oklahoma’s defense was flat-out awful in 2018, as we know. The Sooners were 114th in total defense (453.8 yards per game), 102nd in yards per play (6.13) and 101st in scoring (33.3 points per game). Their ineptitude indirectly handed Kyler Murray the Heisman Trophy as the Sooners’ signal caller had to pull his rabbit out of a hat on a weekly basis throughout the fall, but without Murray’s exploits Oklahoma might’ve been a 7- or 8-win team in 2018.

Murray is gone, so the defense has to improve or Oklahoma will take a significant fall in 2019.

Lincoln Riley has spent the past three weeks reshaping his defensive staff, and on Sunday he finalized his staff and their assignments.

New hire Alex Grinch will coach safeties while coordinating the defense. He spent 2018 as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Ohio State. (The Buckeyes’ pass efficiency defense slipped from 13th to 42nd in Grinch’s one season on staff, but Riley hired him for his success coordinating Mike Leach‘s defenses at Washington State.)

Assisting Grinch in the secondary will be cornerbacks coach Roy Manning. He spent 2018 as the outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at UCLA but worked with Grinch at Wazzu from 2015-17.

Brian Odom was hired away from Missouri to coach the Sooners’ inside linebackers, where he’ll team with new outside linebackers coach Ruffin McNeill. Riley’s mentor, McNeill is one of two holdovers from the 2018 staff. He was hired upon Riley’s promotion to head coach as assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach but took over the entire defense following Mike Stoops‘ midseason firing.

The only Oklahoma defensive coach to coach the same position from 2018 to ’19 will be defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux. The OU graduate has been on staff since 2016, when he returned to Norman as defensive ends coach.

Former South Carolina DE announces transfer to TCU

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TCU loses its top two sack artists from 2018 to 2019, but some help just arrived.

Shameik Blackshear (above, top) announced on Saturday he will spend his final year of college football in Fort Worth.

The Bluffton, S.C., native played his first three seasons at South Carolina, where collected 34 tackles and one sack. He appeared in all 13 of the Gamecocks’ games in 2018, including two starts.

He’ll have a chance to compete for an immediate starting role following the graduations of Ben Banogu and LJ Collier plus the departure of Michael Collier. Banogu and Collier combined for 14.5 sacks in 2018, more than 40 percent of the Frogs’ 35 total sacks.

Blackshear is the second Power 5 graduate transfer to pick TCU this week. The Frogs also secured the services of former Kansas State quarterback Alex Delton.

Penn State LB Jarvis Miller announces graduate transfer to UMass

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UMass signed one of its biggest recruits since joining FBS, four years after he left high school.

Penn State linebacker Jarvis Miller has announced he will leave State College to spend his final season in Amherst.

“After much prayer and consideration with my family I have decided to play my 5th year of eligibility at the University of Massachusetts (UMASS), Amherst will pursuing my Masters (sic) Degree,” Miller wrote in a note posted to his Twitter account. “To the Penn State fan base you are the best fans anyone could ask for ! It has been the most memorable 4 years of my life.”

A consensus 3-star recruit, Miller was viewed as a top-10 player in the state of Connecticut when he signed with the Nittany Lions out of Suffield.

Miller redshirted in 2015, then played in 33 career games as a special teams player and reserve linebacker. He collected 23 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack while in blue and white.

Florida State QB James Blackman reportedly not considering transfer after all

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It appears a bad debut season for Willie Taggart at Florida State is not going to get worse.

After it was reported Wednesday that Seminoles quarterback James Blackman had entered his name into the transfer portalWarchant reported that no such entry had been made as of the end of the business week.

Of course, entering one’s name into the transfer portal wouldn’t guarantee a transfer, but it’s simply not possible to transfer without putting your name in, so it appears that — as of this writing, at least — Blackman is intent on returning to Tallahassee for his junior season.

Starting quarterback Deondre Francois also dealt with a similar rumor last month. As of now, he remains a Seminole as well.

While playing for the injured Francois, Blackman completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 2,230 yards with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a true freshman in 2017. Francois returned to health and the starting lineup this past season, connecting on 57.3 percent of his passes for 2,731 yards with 15 scores against 12 picks. Blackman went 33-of-51 for 510 yards with five touchdowns and one interception as his backup.

As Francois’ numbers indicated, the Seminoles sputtered offensively in Taggart’s debut campaign. Florida State finished 110th nationally in yards per play, 93rd in passing efficiency and 113th in scoring. However, both signal callers would be wise to stick around. Taggart hired Kendal Briles to run his offense. In 1-season stints at Florida Atlantic and Houston, Briles pushed the Owls from 80th to eighth in scoring and the Cougars from 65th to fifth.