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Five decades in the making, New Mexico State pulls out overtime win in the Arizona Bowl to beat Utah State

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It was a rematch 57 years in the making and both sides wanted to soak up every extra moment. New Mexico State ended the NCAA’s longest bowl drought in dramatic fashion to beat Utah State 26-20 in overtime on Friday night in an Arizona Bowl full of the highs and lows of college football.

In front of what seemed like half of Las Cruces at the home stadium of the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, the Aggies put behind several quarters of offensive malaise by marching 69 yards midway through the fourth quarter to tie the game on an incredible Jaleel Scott catch in the end zone. The NMSU defense came up with a stop in the extra period not long after and a missed field goal by USU was just the opening the team needed before running back Larry Rose III burst up the middle for a 21 yard touchdown that set off pandemonium in the stands.

The victory not only gave the Aggies of New Mexico State their first win in the postseason since 1960 — which happened to be a 20-13 defeat of Utah State in the Sun Bowl — but capped off a pretty incredible story for one of the smallest programs in all of FBS. Rose finished the game with 142 yards on the ground and was the team’s leading receiver in the game as well. His running made up for a rather lackluster offensive day for quarterback Tyler Rogers (191 yards, one TD, two INTs) and company as the group had eight 3-and-outs against one of the better secondaries at the Group of Five level.

While those long stretches without points or any kind of offensive production made things hard to watch at times in this one, there was at least plenty of excitement early in the first quarter when Utah State’s Savon Scarver (96 yards) and NMSU’s Jason Huntley ran back-to-back kickoffs for touchdowns not five minutes in.

The loss caps off another tough season for Matt Wells’ Aggies after they led in just about every statistical category but saw kicker Dominik Eberle make only two of his six field goal attempts to let a win slip through their fingers. QB Jordan Love (254 yards passing) and RB LaJuan Hunt (133 yards rushing, 1 TD) both had decent outings but it wasn’t enough as points came at a premium for both sides.

The game also marks the end of an era for New Mexico State as it was their final contest as a member of a conference — in this case the Sun Belt. The program will operate as a football independent in 2018 and, funny enough, will play Utah State again next September up in Logan. Something says both sets of Aggies will have plenty to play for when that one rolls around in what should be a fun footnote to a long, long drought being emphatically ended on Friday.

Third Virginia Tech transfer this offseason lands at Maryland

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Blacksburg has become quite the fertile recruiting ground for Mike Locksley’s first-year Maryland football program.

In January, wide receiver Sean Savoy completed his transfer from Virginia Tech by moving on to Maryland; four months later, Savoy’s former teammate, Josh Jackson, became his current teammate yet again as the quarterback moved to the Terrapins from the Hokies. Wednesday, Dejuan Ellis indicated that he will join those former teammates as he too has decided to transfer to the Terps.

The wide receiver had opted to transfer from the Hokies earlier this offseason.

Ellis was a three-star member of Tech’s 2018 recruiting class. The Owings Mills, MD, native took a redshirt as a true freshman.

It’s believed the receiver will be forced to sit out the 2019 season, leaving him with three years of eligibility moving forward.

Another family takes issue with Michigan’s handling of a transfer

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Here we go. Again.

Quite the kerfuffle was kicked up earlier this month when Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell and the family of James Hudson, who transferred from Michigan to UC late last year, accused the offensive lineman’s former school in general and its head football coach specifically of not doing enough — or doing the absolute bare minimum — when it came to an immediate-eligibility waiver being sought by the player. Despite the citing of mental health issues, that appeal was denied.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Myles Sims had his appeal for a waiver for immediate eligibility at Georgia Tech denied as well. The defensive back had transferred to Tech from Michigan earlier this offseason.

In a conversation this week with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sims’ parents laid the onus for their son’s denial squarely at the feet of the University of Michigan, intimating, as Hudson’s family did, that U-M did the absolute bare minimum when it came to the waiver process. Even worse, Sims’ family claimed U-M misled the NCAA by providing inaccurate information.

From the Journal-Constitution:

They also believe that a statement from Michigan regarding his transfer – a required part of the application process for a waiver – included inaccurate information about his reasons for leaving that could have damaged his chances for receiving a waiver.

“The disappointment is in knowing that they included just a few words outside of what we said to mislead the NCAA in their decision-making,” Katrina Sims, Myles’ mother, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “Whether that weighed in heavily or not on the documentation that we provided, we take issue with that.

The newspaper also wrote that “[a] Michigan team spokesman stated that the school, as is the case with all transfers leaving the school seeking waivers, did not oppose Sims’ waiver request and followed standard policy.”

I don’t know who’s right or who’s wrong in these situations, but I do know it’s something that will be discussed on the recruiting trail and used by rival schools in luring and/or flipping potential prospects.  So, do the bare minimum in such situations at your own peril.

Lack of class credits behind eligibility issue as Quintez Cephus returns to football practice at Wisconsin

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Now we officially know the rest of the story. How it will ultimately all play out, though, is decidedly uncertain.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced Monday that Quintez Cephus had been reinstated and is again a student in good standing at the school, two weeks after being found not guilty on a pair of sexual assault charges and almost immediately seeking reinstatement.  Initially, there was some uncertainty when it came to the wide receiver’s status with the football team; in a statement released a few hours after the reinstatement affirmation, UW confirmed that Cephus had indeed rejoined the Badgers team.

The school did note in that release, though, that they “are working through eligibility issues before he can participate in a game.” Wednesday, the same day Cephus returned to practice with the rest of his Badger teammates, Paul Chryst expounded on the eligibility issue, telling reporters that it revolves around the lack of class credits, which stemmed from his expulsion from the school before the spring semester this year ended.

At this point, whether the credit issue can be successfully navigated before the Badgers’ open the 2019 season the weekend after next remains to be seen.

Two days after very loudly proclaiming his innocence and announcing he was taking a leave of absence from the Wisconsin football team, Cephus was charged in late August of last year with felony sexual assault of an intoxicated victim and felony sexual assault.  The criminal complaint filed against him stated that he allegedly “sexually assaulted two drunken women at once in the bedroom of his apartment in April” of 2018.

It took a jury of his peers less than 45 minutes to acquit him on both of those counts earlier this month.

Cephus was initially suspended by the Badgers football program before being expelled by the university last semester.  In October of last year, Cephus sued the University of Wisconsin-Madison in U.S. District Court, claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights.  That suit was dropped in March of this year.

In 2017, and despite missing the last five games because of a broken leg, Cephus led the run-centric Badgers in receiving touchdowns with six and yards per catch at 16.7.  His 501 receiving yards were good for second, while his 30 receptions were third on the team.  Because of the off-field situation that led to the suspension, Cephus didn’t play at all in 2018.

Including this season, Cephus has two years of eligibility he can use.

RB who transferred from UTEP to Georgia Southern this offseason reverses course, returns to Miners

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Who says you can’t go home again, even in the same offseason?

Joshua Fields left UTEP earlier this offseason and, in June of this year, enrolled in classes at Georgia Southern as he was set to continue his collegiate playing career with the Eagles. It was also reported that the running back would seek a waiver from the NCAA that would grant him immediate eligibility at the Sun Belt Conference school.

Fast-forward two months, though, and it’s now being reported that Fields has decided to reverse course and return to the Miners. That development came a couple of days after the Eagles confirmed in a statement that Fields was no longer a part of the program.

Joshua left the team early in camp. We wish him the best of luck moving forward.

According to the El Paso Times, Fields initially left the Miners because of a family member’s health issue, “but those circumstances changed and now he is back with his family in El Paso.” The Times also reports that Fields should be eligible to play for UTEP this season, presumably because he never attended classes at GSU despite enrolling at the university.

Clarification on his status could come as early as Thursday.

In 2017, Fields’ 362 yards rushing (on 89 carries) were tops on the Miners. According to the school at the time, Fields was the first true freshman to lead the team in rushing since 2013.

This past season, however, Fields’ production dipped to 57 yards on 31 attempts, which works out to just 1.8 yards per carry. That yards-per-attempt figure was the lowest among all FBS running backs with at least 30 carries last year.