Associated Press

No. 17 West Virginia cruises past overmatched Tennessee

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The first play of the game pretty much told the story. Opening at their own 25 yard line, Tennessee called a pass for the first play of the Jeremy Pruitt era. Jarrett Guarantano accepted the ball from under center, stepped back to pass and was planted in the turf by West Virginia nose guard Kenny Bigelow, a 5-star recruit and USC transfer, forcing a fumble that the Vols recovered for a 10-yard loss — not quite the disaster it could have been, but, still, demonstrative of the difference between a team of well-traveled veterans with eyes on a Big 12 and national championship against a young team just figuring things out.

The No. 17 Mountaineers forced a three-and-out on that opening possession, got on the board with their first touch and never really felt threatened, cruising to a 40-14 win at the Belk College Kickoff in Charlotte.

After taking a 3-0 lead, West Virginia (1-0) put the first of many Will Grier touchdown passes on the board, a 59-yard strike to T.J. Simmons.

Tennessee (0-1) pulled within 10-7 midway through the second quarter thanks to a 17-play, 78-yard drive that consumed nearly nine minutes, culminating in a 1-yard toss from Guarantano to Dominick Wood-Anderson on fourth-and-goal.

West Virginia put a second Evan Staley field goal on the board to take a 13-7 lead at halftime, then stretched its legs with two more Grier touchdown passes. Tennessee added the second of its two scores at the 6:09 mark of the third quarter with a 4-yard Tim Jordan rush, but the Mountaineers put the game away for good with two more Grier scoring strikes.

The Heisman hopeful hit a Heisman-like 25-of-34 passes for 429 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions; the 429 yards were a career-high for Grier, and the handful of touchdowns tied his career high. David Sills was once again Grier’s favorite target, hauling in seven passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Gary Jennings, Jr., added six grabs for 113 yards and a score.

Guarantano finished the day connecting on 19-of-25 passes for 172 yards with a score, and Jordan led all runners with 20 carries for 118 yards and a score.

Reports: Alabama DC interviews for, accepts job with Cleveland Browns

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The offensive side of Nick Saban‘s Alabama coaching staff has been ravaged by poaching over the past few weeks. As of Wednesday night, it appears the defensive side won’t go unscathed this offseason either.

According to Matt Zenitz of al.com, Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi interviewed for a job with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns this week. Zenitz didn’t specify for what position Lupoi interviewed with the Browns, which officially filled its defensive coordinator position earlier this week.

However, a subsequent report not only identified the position for which Lupoi interviewed, but that the erstwhile Tide coordinator has accepted the job.

Lupoi, one of the best recruiters in the sport, has spent the past five seasons on Saban’s staff. After serving as a defensive analyst his first two years, he was the Tide’s outside linebackers coach in 2016 before taking over as coordinator for Jeremy Pruitt, who left to take the head job at rival Tennessee.

Prior to Alabama, Lupoi was the defensive line coach at Washington (2012-13) and Cal (2008-11).

The Browns recently named Freddie Kitchens as its latest head football coach. Kitchens, for those of you who don’t remember, was a three-year starter at quarterback for Alabama in the mid-nineties.

Saban, for those of you who don’t remember, was the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns from 1991-94 under Bill Belichick before taking the head job at Michigan State.

Mike Locksley reportedly turns to ex-ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery as Terps’ OC

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Mike Locksley is turning to a former head coach to become his first offensive coordinator at Maryland.

As first reported by InsideMDSports, the new Terps OC will be none other than former East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery. The move by Locksley comes a few days after fellow former Alabama assistant Josh Gattis reportedly spurned Maryland to take the same job at Michigan.

Montgomery’s track record as an assistant is certainly a bit better than what he did with the Pirates after going 9-26 overall in three seasons in charge of the program. While ECU’s offense did put up some impressive numbers at times (as well as produce players like Gardner Minshew II before he transferred to Washington State), Montgomery is probably best known for his work on the Duke staff under David Cutcliffe.

The 40-year-old started out as a wide receivers coach at his alma mater before eventually becoming OC of the Blue Devils, with a short stint in the NFL mixed in.

The good news for Locklsey and Montgomery is that they do have talent to work with in College Park even after missing out on grad transfer QB Jalen Hurts. The Terps are set to return both Tyrrell Pigrome and potentially Kasim Hill at quarterback as well as a slew of speedy backs and receivers.

Oklahoma will grant QB Austin Kendall waiver to play immediately at WVU

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It only took a few hours of getting thrown under the bus by fans and the national media, but cooler heads have prevailed in Norman.

Not long after it surfaced that graduate transfer Austin Kendall was being blocked by Oklahoma from being immediately eligible at West Virginia in 2019, USA Today reports that the Sooners have relented and the quarterback will indeed be able to play right away with the Mountaineers.

Kendall arrived at OU as part of the class of 2016 and saw limited playing time behind back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners at his position in Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield. While it’s possible he could have stuck around to be the starter for the team in 2019, former Alabama starter Jalen Hurts announcing he was transferring in as a graduate transfer earlier on Wednesday all but put an end to that line of thought.

The reversal from Lincoln Riley and Oklahoma’s athletic department shows once again that schools have little to gain by even threatening to block a player from transferring. At some point a college football program will learn that it invites nothing but bad press in the short term over somebody who is leaving town anyway. At least everybody came to that same conclusion this time around before Kendall and his family had to call up a lawyer or two to reach the same end point.

Oh and by the way, Kendall will be back in Norman with the Mountaineers on October 19 during the upcoming season for what figures to be a Big 12 game with more than the usual on-field storylines coming in.

Iowa State not playing spring game in 2019 due to weather, construction concerns

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The calendar says January and the national title game was just last week but it’s never too early to start thinking about spring football around the college landscape.

The folks at Iowa State certainly are.

In a release from the school issued on Wednesday, the Cyclones confirmed that they would not be playing a spring game in 2019 and will now go two years between any potential showcases to cap off their prescribed 15 practices.

“As a result of the uncertain weather conditions we face each spring in Iowa, plus the site preparation work that will begin this Spring for the new Sports Performance Center project, Coach Campbell and I have decided to not schedule a spring football game,” Iowa State Athletics Director Jamie Pollard said in a statement.  “Similar to last year, Coach Campbell and his staff can use that day to conduct a 15th spring practice which they feel is more beneficial for the overall development of the student-athletes and the football program.”

Though there are indeed plenty of reasons why a program might join the growing trend of skipping out on playing a spring game, it’s certainly disappointing for many ISU fans to go two years without being able to see their team in action and what new faces might end up contributing in the fall. Weather concerns are nothing new in Ames though, as an actual non-conference game in 2018 was cancelled and replaced with an FCS foe in December, to say nothing of last year’s spring game getting called off due to the elements.