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Kentucky lights Butch Jones’s seat on fire with second defeat of Tennessee since 1985

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For all of the things Butch Jones hadn’t done in his five seasons as Tennessee’s head coach, there was at least this: he hadn’t lost to Kentucky. At least not yet.

That changed Saturday night, as the Volunteers fell 29-26 to the Wildcats in Lexington, clinching a bowl game for Kentucky and, in what is all but a formality at this point, the end of the Jones era in Knoxville.

Kentucky accepted the ball to open the game and promptly fumbled, leading to a 30-yard Brent Cimaglia to put Tennessee on the board first. Wildcats running back Benny Snell, Jr., made up for his mistake by carrying the load on Kentucky’s next possession, including a 6-yarder across the goal line.

Tennessee responded with a nice 69-yard possession of its own, but the drive stalled at the Kentucky 6-yard line, forcing a 24-yard boot by Cimaglia, pulling the Vols within 7-6 late in the first quarter.

Kentucky fumbled again on its next touch, but Tennessee failed to capitalize when Cimaglia missed a 44-yarder.

Snell punched in a 2-yard score to open the second quarter, giving Kentucky a 14-6 lead, but Tennessee pulled within one with a 7-play, 75-yard drive. Ty Chandler‘s 1-yard rush gave the Volunteers their first offensive touchdown in almost four full games.

However, Kentucky answered with an identical drive: seven plays, 75 yards, punctuated by a 1-yard rush, Snell’s third of the half.

Now apparently unstoppable, an unleashed Tennessee offense responded with a 10-play, 71-yard drive that again concluded on a 1-yard Chandler (22 carries for 120 yards) rush with 1:25 to play before the break.

Tennessee returned to its regular, non-touchdown-scoring ways in the second half, though. The Vols registered a first-and-goal at the Kentucky 9 and then went backward, forcing a 30-yard Cimaglia field goal. The Vols’ defense forced another Kentucky fumble on the next possession, handing the offense the ball inside the UK red zone. But the Vols went backward from there, and a 45-yard Cimaglia connection gave Tennessee a 26-21 lead with 13:24 left in the game.

The Volunteers forced a three-and-out on Kentucky’s next touch and could have put the game away with a touchdown, but again the drive stalled and again Cimaglia trotted out for another field goal — which he missed from 43 yards out.

Those missing three points would prove crucial when Kentucky took over at its own 11 with 4:43 remaining. The Wildcats methodically moved down the field, leaning largely on Snell’s legs. Stephen Johnson leaped in for an 11-yard go-ahead touchdown with 33 ticks remaining, then found Snell for a 2-point conversion to put the Wildcats up three.

Tennessee moved to its own 49 with two seconds remaining, allowing Jarrett Guaranto to load up for another Hail Mary, which he completed to Jeff George — for 48 yards, leaving the Vols two yards short of a game-winning touchdown.

Snell finished the night rushing 27 times for a game-high 180 yards and three touchdowns. Kentucky sacked Guarantano seven times and surrendered none, helping the ‘Cats out-rush Tennessee, 289-203.

The loss snapped a 5-game winning streak over Kentucky and handed Tennessee (3-5, 0-5 SEC) just its second loss to its neighbors from the north since 1985.

The win lifted Kentucky to 6-2, making the Wildcats bowl eligible in October for the first time since 2007 and keeping them alive in the SEC East race behind Georgia.

Virginia Tech QB Hendon Hooker removes name from transfer portal

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The transfer portal taketh, the transfer portal giveth back.

After announcing late last month that he will place his name in the portal, Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker on Thursday revealed he had removed his name and will return to Blacksburg.

“I am taking my name out of the transfer portal and I truly believe it’s best to continue my career as a Hokie,” Hooker said in a statement posted to his Twitter account. “I regret the time that I’ve missed with my teammates in preparation for spring ball. I apologize to them and my coaches if I appeared to have a lack of commitment in what we are trying to achieve here at Hokie Nation.”

A native of Greensboro, N.C., Hooker redshirted in 2017 and then saw action in six games last fall. He did not total many snaps while serving as a reserve quarterback, but he did open his collegiate career with a 69-yard touchdown scamper in a 62-17 win over William & Mary in September. Hooker finished the year with 57 rushing yards and did not throw a pass.

However, his path to the field has cleared greatly in recent days.

In a bit of news that is no doubt related to Hooker’s reversal of field, Josh Jackson announced his plans to transfer to Maryland earlier this week. With Jackson out of the picture, Hooker will compete with junior Ryan Willis (who threw 364 passes last season) and fellow sophomore Quincy Patterson II for playing time in 2019.

Oklahoma State transfer one of three Georgia Southern players arrested

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I’m thinking this isn’t the most optimal of first impressions.

In a tweet posted to his Twitter account in early December, running back J.D. King, who announced his decision to transfer from Oklahoma State two weeks prior, confirmed that he would be continuing his collegiate playing career at Georgia Southern.  Very early Sunday morning, the Savannah Morning News has reported, King (pictured) and two of his new GSU teammates, quarterback Ivan Corbin and running back Logan Wright, were all arrested for disorderly conduct.

The details of what led to the misdemeanor charges have not been divulged.

“We are aware of the situation and it will be dealt with internally,” Eagles head coach Chad Lunsford said in a statement. “We are disappointed with the decisions that were made and hopefully we can use it as a learning experience for our entire team as we move forward.”

King, who will have to sit out the 2019 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, ran for 469 yards and four touchdowns on 99 carries as a true freshman for the Cowboys in 2017.  This past season, King’s production dropped to 153 yards and no touchdowns on 43 carries in 10 games.

After sitting out the upcoming season, King will have two years of eligibility remaining.

As a redshirt freshman in 2018, Wright was fifth on the team 308 yards rushing and tied for fourth with three rushing touchdowns.  Corbin, who has yet to attempt a pass at the collegiate level, will be fighting for a backup job as he enters his redshirt junior season.

NCAA grants Arizona State’s Tyler Whiley a sixth season

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The never-ending benevolence of the NCAA is on display yet again, with a playing member of the Arizona State football program the most recent beneficiary.

Citing multiple people directly familiar with the development, 247Sports.com has reported that Tyler Whiley has been granted a sixth season of eligibility by The Association.  Recent rule changes proved to be the impetus for the decision that will allow the defensive back to play in 2019.

From the website’s report:

Whiley… is benefitting from a change made to bylaw 12.8.1.7 called “redshirt year provision.” It allows relief from the five-year eligibility rule if an institutional decision is made to redshirt a student-athlete in his freshman season and a subsequent season is missed due to injury or other qualifying hardship.

Previously, players needed to have two seasons of incapacitation due to injury, illness or other issue in order to apply for a sixth year with the NCAA. That’s no longer the case and the rule change is retroactive to anyone still within their five-year eligibility window. Whiley is part of the first class of players able to benefit from the change.

While took a non-injury redshirt as a true freshman in 2014, then missed the entire 2018 season due to a serious injury to his right leg.  Those two factors triggered the affirmative decision for a sixth season of eligibility, which Whiley will be able to use in 2019.

Whiley played in 13 games in the season prior to his injury.  He will likely enter summer camp as a favorite to claim a starting job at safety.

Purdue confirms hiring of Auburn assistant Greg Brown

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Wednesday, Auburn announced the hiring of Wesley McGriff as secondary coach.  A day later, the man McGriff replaced was officially introduced by his new employer.

As expected, Purdue Thursday confirmed that Greg Brown has been added to Jeff Brohm‘s coaching staff as cornerbacks coach.  Brown had spent the past two seasons as the secondary coach for the SEC Tigers.

“We’re excited to have Greg join us,” Brohm said in a statement. “He is a veteran coach with nearly 40 years of experience at both the collegiate and professional levels of football. Greg will be a great addition to our staff.”

The move to West Lafayette serves as a homecoming of sorts as Brown spent the 1989 and 1990 seasons with the Boilermakers as defensive backs coach.

Brown has spent the past decade and a half at Power Five programs, including stops at Missouri (2016), Louisville (2014-15), Alabama (2013), Colorado (2011-12; 2005-09) and Arizona (2010).  Prior to that, he spent time with five different NFL teams over the course of a dozen seasons.