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Iowa State completes stellar season by corralling No. 20 Memphis in Liberty Bowl

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Iowa State survived an ill-timed, controversial fumble and harassed Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson throughout a cold, windy afternoon to score a 21-20 upset of No. 20 Memphis on its home field in the Liberty Bowl.

The win capped off an ascendant season for Matt Campbell and his program, ending a string of six straight losing seasons with an 8-5 campaign — the Cyclones’ most wins since 2000 — that included three victories over ranked opponents.

Iowa State started the game in a Memphis-like fashion, accepting the ball to open the game and scoring on a 52-yard bomb from Kyle Kempt to Hakeem Butler. The Cyclones had a chance to take a 14-0 lead, driving to the Memphis 39-yard line, but a botched punt snap gave the Tigers the ball at the Iowa State 40 and the Tigers capitalized in two Ferguson passes. The first went 30 yards to Tony Pollard and the second 10 to Anthony Miller for the tying score, a grab that tied West Virginia’s David Sills for a national-best 18 touchdown receptions.

Memphis (10-3) missed on two opportunities to take the lead. First, Riley Patterson missed a 38-yard field goal at the tail end of the first quarter, and then Ferguson was sacked on a 4th-and-8 at the Iowa State 37 to open the second quarter. Iowa State took advantage of that momentum with a 12-play, 6-minute touchdown drive that was extended after a Kempt interception in the end zone was overturned upon review. Given new life, Campbell elected to go for a 4th-and-5 from the Memphis 30 and converted on a 12-yard completion to Allen Lazard. The Cyclones re-claimed the lead four plays later on a 2-yard Joel Lanning rush.

Iowa State had a chance to push its lead to two scores late in the half, driving to the Memphis 24, but Kempt was sacked on a 3rd-and-10 and Garrett Owens‘s 51-yard field goals sailed (way, way) wide left with 1:18 to play. Kempt connected on 15-of-26 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown in the half.

Memphis responded by driving for a 34-yard Patterson field goal as time expired in the half, then grabbed its first lead on a 36-yard toss from Ferguson to Phil Mayhue.

The Cyclones went back in front later in the third quarter, but not without significant help — again. Facing a 2nd-and-7 at the Memphis 9, Kempt was intercepted at the goal line by Curtis Akins, who returned the ball all the way to the 24. But the pick was overturned by a roughing the passer call — and a fortunate one at that — and Kempt nailed Lazard for a 5-yard touchdown two plays later, see-sawing Iowa State back in front at 21-17 with 4:28 left in the third quarter. Lazard closed his record-setting career with 10 grabs (tying a Liberty Bowl record) for 142 yards and a touchdown, while Kempt hit 24-of-38 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns.

After a short kickoff game Memphis the ball at its own 38, Memphis moved swiftly into Iowa State territory to set up Patterson’s second field goal, a 30-yarder that pulled the Tigers within 21-20.

The teams traded punt on their next possessions, but an advantage in the field position battle gave Iowa State the ball at the Memphis 45 with 11:05 to play in the game. The Cyclones successfully pulled off a choke-the-life-out-of-’em drive, consuming seven minutes and 23 seconds and moving to the Memphis 1 before the sure-handed David Montgomery fumbled the ball into the Memphis end zone, which was recovered by the Tigers’ Jonathan Cook. The play was (of course) reviewed and upheld, meaning the Cyclones’ first lost fumble of the entire season came at the worst possible time.

Memphis took over at its own 20 with 3:50 to play and appeared to go three-and-out, but a pass interference call on Iowa State’s Brian Peavy bailed the Tigers out with a first down instead of a punt. Ferguson drove Memphis to the Iowa State 40 with more than two minutes remaining and two timeouts in his pocket, but fired four straight incomplete passes to give the ball back to Iowa State with 1:52 to play. Lanning converted a 2nd-and-7 with a 9-yard rush, securing a game-clinching first down to salt away Iowa State’s first bowl win since 2009.

Ferguson completed his collegiate career with an effective 21-of-33 passing for 256 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, but he was sacked six times.

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.