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UCF defense dominating through one half of the Peach Bowl

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In a game that was supposed to be driven by offense, it’s been UCF’s defense that has taken control in Atlanta. The undefeated Knights have sacked Jarrett Stidham five times, forced one fumble, and held Auburn out of the end zone, claiming a 13-6 lead at the midpoint of the Peach Bowl.

Auburn created the first break of the game by forcing a fumble at midfield, recovered by the Tigers’ Deshaun Davis. He was ruled down upon hopping on the lose pigskin at the Auburn 49, but replays showed Davis possessed the ball while still live with an ocean of green turf the only thing between he and the end zone. However, the play was not reviewable and, instead of a likely touchdown, Auburn was forced to settle for a 25-yard Daniel Carlson field goal after failing to convert a 3rd-and-4 at the UCF 8-yard line. 

Carlson missed a 53-yard try to open the second quarter, and UCF answered with a field goal of its own, a 33-yard Matthew Wright boot to tie the game at 3-3 with 11:15 left in the first half.

Another fumble created the next break in the game, this time by Auburn. Stidham was forced into a fumble by UCF’s A.J. Wooten, which the Knights’ Tre Neal recovered and returned 36 yards to the Auburn 21. McKenzie Milton produced the first touchdown of 2018 two plays later on a 18-yard rush, putting UCF on top 10-3 with 8:51 left in the first half. 

UCF had a great opportunity to push its lead to 14 points when Otis Anderson broke free in the Auburn secondary, but Milton’s 3rd-and-8 pass was just out of his reach and the Knights punted. Auburn took over at its own 9 with 4:54 before halftime and methodically moved to the UCF 21 with under a minute left, but Stidham was sacked on 3rd-and-10 and Carlson converted 46-yard field goal.

UCF answered by moving 42 yards in five plays, setting up a 45-yard Wright field goal as time expired to push the lead back to a touchdown.

When he wasn’t under duress, Stidham was effective throwing the ball. He completed 16-of-21 passes for 140 yards, and Kerryon Johnson rushed 15 times for 59 yards.

Milton was off-target throughout the half. He came into the game trailing only Baker Mayfield as the nation’s most-efficient quarterback, but hit just 3-of-17 passes for 30 yards, though he did lead all players with 83 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Auburn will receive to open the second half.

Tennessee’s Kurott Garland pulls name out of transfer portal

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It doesn’t happen very often, but it does, every once in a great while, play out this way.

Earlier this offseason, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Kurott Garland signaled his intention to leave Tennessee by placing his name into the NCAA transfer database.  As we often note, players are not bound to transfer by entering the portal and can instead return to the team.

Tuesday, that rare phenomenon played out as Jeremy Pruitt confirmed that Garland has decided to remain with the Volunteers.

“He was thinking about possibly transferring. We supported him all the way through, and in the end, he decided to come back here,” the head coach said by way of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “He’s here. We’re excited that he’s here. I think the guy has lots of ability.”

Garland was a three-star member of the Volunteers’ 2018 recruiting class.  He played in four games as a true freshman, which allowed him to take a redshirt for the past season.

Prior to his decision to enter the portal, Garland had been in line to see increased playing time as part of the Vols’ defensive line rotation. How that plays out moving forward this season remains to be seen.

NCAA denies third immediate-eligibility waiver for transfer to Georgia Tech this month

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It hasn’t been a good month waiver-wise for the Georgia Tech football program.

As we noted Tuesday, the NCAA has already denied immediate-eligibility waivers being sought for Antonneous Clayton and Myles Sims, who transferred to Tech from Florida and Michigan, respectively, this offseason.  That same day, Marquez Ezzard took to Twitter to reveal that “[t]he NCAA has decided to not grant my waiver to play at Georgia Tech this season, and I will have to sit out.”

The wide receiver opted to transfer from Miami in January of this year, ultimately landing at Tech the following month.

With the decision, Ezzard will still have three years of eligibility he can use beginning with the 2020 season.

Ezzard was a four-star 2018 signee who played in three games as a true freshman, catching two passes for 24 yards during his brief stint with the Hurricanes.

Ex-Minnesota QB now in the FCS facing multiple felony rape, sexual assault charges

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A rather disturbing story involving a former Power Five quarterback is currently playing out in the state of Tennessee.

According to The Tennessean, Tennessee State quarterback Demry Croft was arrested Monday and charged with six felony counts of rape and two counts of sexual battery.  The charges stem from an alleged incident that occurred Dec. 1 of last year and came about after the allegations were presented to a grand jury by the university police department.

Other than the alleged rape wasn’t reported until April 4 of this year, no details surrounding the case have been revealed.

Croft remains a part of the FCS school, with the newspaper writing that “TSU officials would not confirm if Croft has been suspended from the football team.”

Croft began his collegiate playing career at Minnesota, but opted to transfer from the Gophers and ultimately landed at Tennessee State in December of 2017.

During his last season with the Gophers, Croft, who started the last six games of 2017,  completed 42 percent of his 122 passes for 674 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions. His 87.6 pass efficiency rating is not amongst the top 126 quarterbacks in the country.  Perhaps the most noteworthy moment of his Gophers career was posting a negative quarterback rating in a mid-November loss to Northwestern two weeks before he decided to transfer.

Conversely, though, he was good with his feet as his 309 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns were fourth and third on the team, respectively.

At TSU, Croft started four games before missing the last half of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury.  Prior to the off-field issue, Croft had been penciled in as the Tigers’ starting quarterback.

Willie Taggart says turnover backpack won’t be a thing at Florida State this coming season

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Thankfully, mercifully, one of the most laughably embarrassing turnover “traditions” is no more.

In recent years, turnover props have become all the rage in college football, the most notable of which may have been Miami’s gaudy but very apt gold chain.  There has also been Boise State’s throne, Louisville’s boxing gloves, Memphis’s Ric Flair-inspired robe, Tennessee’s trash can, Tulane’s beads and Boise State’s throne, which is so damn awesome it deserves a second mention.  Multiple nods to professional rasslin’/boxing with championship belts for the likes of Alabama and Ohio State among others have become the norm as well.

Not to be forgotten is Virginia Tech, whose lunch pail is arguably the granddaddy of all props.

And then there’s Florida State.

Last year, in the midst of a five-win season that saw the Seminoles’ bowl streak snapped at 36 straight, someone on the FSU staff added off-field insult to on-field injury by busting out a turnover… backpack.  Yes, a turnover backpack.

Fortunately for all involved, saner heads have prevailed and the backpack has been retired.

“Nah, you are just going to see us play football,” second-year head coach Willie Taggart, by way of the Miami Herald, said on a CBS Sports podcast this week. “You are not going to see a backpack, anything, you are going to see us play football and have fun playing the game with each other and having fun making plays. I think that is what you are going to see out of our guys.

“That was something that our guys wanted to do and they enjoyed doing it. This is the 2019 team and guys want to do things different, they want to be different and expect to be different.”