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Injuries, ejections and penalties the story of the first half of Music City Bowl

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Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson was taken off the field for further medical examination after appearing to injure his right leg on a trick play. Not long after that, an official tossed Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. from the game after making contact with an official. It’s been quite a first half in the Music City Bowl, where Northwestern leads Kentucky by a score of 17-7 at the half.

After Thorson hauled in a pass from Jeremy Larkin, Thorson appeared to injure his right leg before contact was made by the nearby Kentucky defender. The 23-yard gain was the result of a brilliant play call from the Northwestern sideline, but the loss of starting quarterback put the game on pause for a few moments before play resumed after Thorson was carted off.

Justin Jackson scored a touchdown on a five-yard run shortly after the Thorson injury. The run gave Northwestern a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. Earlier in the drive, Jackson became the 10th all-time leading rusher in college football history, passing Damion Fletcher of Southern Miss and Anthony Thompson of Indiana to move to No. 10 among FBS players. Jackson would add a second touchdown later in the second quarter to extend the Northwestern lead to 17-7. Matt Alviti came in to play quarterback for the Northwestern Wildcats.

On the ensuing possession, Kentucky’s top running back was ejected from the game after making contact with an official. The call, however, has left many wondering if the ref went a tad overboard with his decision. You decide for yourself if Snell should have been ejected for this?

The ref show once again popped up late in the second half when Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops and the Kentucky sideline appeared to want a late hit out of bounds call against Northwestern when quarterback Stephen Johnson was taken down on the sideline. No flag was called, until a ref decided to throw one on the Kentucky sideline for unsportsmanlike conduct. Johnson was taken off the field for possible medical attention, and he was seen jawing at a ref on his way off the field.

The officials didn’t just have all of their controversial calls on the Kentucky side. Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fisher was tossed from the game late in the first half for targeting, although it was one of many very questionable targeting calls we have seen in college football. It has not been a great day for this officiating crew, to say the least.

As the Music City Bowl goes to the second half, it is still up for grabs between the Wildcats of the Big Ten and SEC, if there are enough players to actually finish this game. Kentucky is looking for their first bowl victory since 2008. Northwestern is looking for back-to-back bowl wins

Biletnikoff Award watch list highlighted by 2017 finalist David Sills

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  Yet another watch list.

The latest to release theirs is the Biletnikoff Award, with the honor going to the nation’s top wide receiver issuing a list consisting of 50 players from all nine FBS conferences as well as one independent (UMass).  Headlining this year’s preseason list is West Virginia’s David Sills, who was a finalist for the 2017 award claimed by Oklahoma State’s James Washington.  One other 2017 semifinalist is included as well, Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown.

A total of seven teams placed two receivers each on the watch list: Cal (Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton III), Louisville (Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith), Nebraska (Stanley Morgan Jr., JD Spielman), North Texas (Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence), Oklahoma (Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb), Toledo (Diontae Johnson, Cody Thompson) and West Virginia (Gary Jennings Jr., Sills).

Three conferences totaled seven players apiece, the ACC, Big 12 and MAC.  That trio is followed by five each from Conference USA and four apiece for the AAC, Pac-12 and Sun Belt.  The Big Ten and Mountain West each placed three.

Below is the complete list of 2018 Biletnikoff Award preseason watch listers:

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Tyre Brady, Marshall
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Trevon Brown, East Carolina
Ryan Davis, Auburn
Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
Terren Encalade, Tulane
Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville
James Gardner, Miami-Ohio
Jonathan Giles, LSU
Marcus Green, ULM
Jalen Guyton, North Texas
Emanuel Hall, Missouri
Justin Hall, Ball State
Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Penny Hart, Georgia State
Justin Hobbs, Tulsa
Andy Isabella, Massachusetts
Gary Jennings Jr., West Virginia
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
Collin Johnson, Texas
Diontae Johnson, Toledo
KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Michael Lawrence, North Texas
Ty Lee Middle, Tennessee
McLane Mannix, Nevada
Scott Miller, Bowling Green
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska
Kanawai Noa, California
James Proche, SMU
T.J. Rahming, Duke
Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
David Sills V, West Virginia
Steven Sims Jr., Kansas
Jaylen Smith, Louisville
Kwadarrius Smith, Akron
JD Spielman, Nebraska
Cody Thompson, Toledo
John Ursua, Hawaii
Teddy Veal, Louisiana Tech
Jamarius Way, South Alabama
Nick Westbrook, Indiana
Vic Wharton III, California
Malcolm Williams, Coastal Carolina
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia

‘Attitude issues’ net 2018 FAU signee Nero Nelson a dismissal

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Lane Kiffin seemingly has a high threshold of tolerance when it comes to talented football players, but there’s apparently a line that even he won’t allow them to cross.

According to the Palm Beach Post, Nero Nelson has been dismissed from Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic football program for what were described as “attitude issues.” The dismissal came shortly after the junior college transfer had enrolled in classes at FAU.

From the Post‘s report:

A team source told The Post that Nelson immediately clashed with coaches about the team’s 4th Quarter Program, a training regiment which strength and conditioning coach Wilson Love brought over from Alabama last season. Numerous players credited the program as a key reason the Owls went 11-3 last season and ended the year on a ten-game winning streak.

When confronted about his effort during offseason training by both teammates and coaches, Nelson reacted in a “hostile manner” before other players intervened. Though coaches were willing to give Nelson another opportunity, the receiver continued to feud with teammates before leaving the team.

Subsequent to the Post breaking the story, the Sun Sentinel spoke to the wide receiver’s JUCO coach, who wasn’t exactly stunned at the turn of events.

“It’s not surprising,” Copiah Lincoln (Miss.) Community College coach Glenn Davis told the newspaper. “When he went far that far away, I was kind of concerned. He’s a tremendous talent, but he sometimes doesn’t make the best decisions.”

Nelson originally signed with Mississippi State in February of 2016 but was forced to go the junior college route because of academics. 247Sports.com had Nelson rated as the No. 3 JUCO receiver on its composite board when he signed with FAU in December of last year.

North Carolina players facing suspensions over NCAA violations

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It wasn’t exactly a banner day for the North Carolina football program Wednesday, to say the least.

Not long after Larry Fedora crammed both feet in his mouth when it comes to the subject of CTE, reports surfaced that several Tar Heel football players are facing suspensions of at least one game after selling university-issued shoes and athletic apparel.  WRAL wrote that “UNC became aware of the potential violations and self-reported them in February,” adding that “[t]he report was processed as a secondary violation by the NCAA in March.”

Neither the names nor the actual number of players involved in the violations have been revealed.  The situation arose not long after the football program switched to Jordan Brand apparel last year.

Wednesday night, UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham released a statement addressing the development.

When we became aware of a situation within the football program, we self-reported what the NCAA deemed to be a secondary violation. I worked closely with Chancellor Folt and Coach Fedora to address this issue from an NCAA, University and Department of Athletics perspective, and we have taken appropriate disciplinary action.

We have high expectations of all of our students, coaches and staff, and we expect everyone to abide by and embrace team and NCAA rules. We are disappointed when we fall short, and we always strive to get better.

Details emerge in Ohio State WRs coach Zach Smith’s criminal trespassing charge

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 Ohio State at Michigan
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And now we know a little bit more of the rest of the story.

Wednesday afternoon, news broke that Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith (pictured, right) had been cited — not arrested, as originally reported — May 12 on one count of criminal trespassing. In updating the original report, the Cleveland Plain Dealer provided details of the incident report associated with the situation that landed the Buckeyes assistant in Delaware (Ohio) Municipal Court Wednesday afternoon:

An incident report obtained by cleveland.com shows that Powell, Ohio police were dispatched to a home just after 8 p.m. on May 12 for a dispute. Smith’s ex-wife is listed as the victim on the report. The report states that there was no forced entry, the victim was not injured and that Smith was not suspected of using alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident. No other details were given.

Subsequent to that, Smith’s attorney explained to the Columbus Dispatch that the situation resulted from Smith attempting to drop his 13-year-old son off at his ex-wife’s residence when she called the police.

“They pick up and drop off like every other divorced family,” Koffel said. “They said, ‘He was told by one of our officers five months ago not to drop off at her apartment.’ I said that’s not enough to override a domestic-court order on where he’s allowed to drop off or pick up his kids. It’s a court order that controls this. …

“He’s like, ‘You know what, I’m going to drop him off at your place. No harm, no foul.’

“She took exception to that and called the Powell Police Department. There were no threats. He never got out of his car. They weren’t even in an argument.”

In between the May citation and July court appearance, Smith had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

When reached by CFT not long after the reports surfaced, an OSU spokesperson declined to comment on the report. Urban Meyer is aware of the situation, and the football program is expected to issue a statement addressing the development at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Smith, the 34-year-old grandson of former OSU head coach Earle Bruce, has been on Meyer’s staff each of the six seasons since the head coach came to the Buckeyes in 2012, and will be (presumably) entering his seventh season with the program in 2018. He also worked under Meyer as a graduate assistant and quality control coach at Florida from 2005-09. Smith, a 2007 UF graduate, coached at Marshall (2010) and Temple (2011) before reuniting with Meyer in Columbus.