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.

Transfers from Rutgers, Coastal Carolina land at same FCS school

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The same FCS program has double-dipped in the NCAA transfer portal, FBS division, in bulking up the talent on its football roster.

Monday afternoon, Albany announced via social media that running back Alex James and fullback Max Anthony have officially signed with the program.  James, a redshirt junior, comes to Albany from Coastal Carolina, Anthony, a fifth-year senior, from Rutgers.

As both players come to the Great Danes from the FBS ranks, they will each be eligible to play immediately in 2019.

The past two seasons for the Chanticleers, James has rushed for 475 yards and seven touchdowns on 114 carries.  He also caught 16 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Anthony had started six of the 27 games in which he played for the Scarlet Knights.

Witness in hoops trial claims he paid football players from Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, others

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A sweeping college hoops scandal that’s engulfed the sport has now touched its gridiron counterpart.

Marty Blazer, a Pittsburgh financial advisor-turned government informant after pleading guilty to securities fraud charges, took the witness stand Tuesday in the college basketball fraud trial and levied some potentially explosive allegations.  As part of his testimony, Blazer alleged that, between 2000-14, he paid football players from, among others, Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Pitt.  The payments, some of which were in the thousands of dollars, were aimed at convincing the player to remain in college and not enter the NFL draft in the hopes that they would retain him as their financial adviser when they did turn pro.

The names of specific players were, for the most part, not mentioned by Blazer.

The most damning of the accusations made by Blazer seems to involve Penn State during the Joe Paterno era.  Specifically, Blazer alleges that he paid the father of then-Penn State player Aaron Maybin $10,000, with the payment being made at the behest of an unnamed Paterno assistant coach.

If accurate, the NCAA would consider such an arrangement a major infraction.  It’s unclear what, if any, action The Association will take on the football side of the accusations made under oath.

Requests for comment from each of the football programs mentioned in Blazer’s testimony have not yet been met with a response.

Kentucky’s Gunnar Hoak latest QB to enter transfer database

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You can go ahead and add Kentucky to the burgeoning list of FBS schools that have lost signal-callers to the infamous portal.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday morning, Kentucky’s Gunnar Hoak wrote that, “[a]fter much thought and consideration, I have decided to put my name in the NCAA transfer portal.” As Hoak is set to graduate from UK very early next month, the quarterback would be eligible to play immediately at another FBS program immediately in 2019.

As an added bonus for whichever school he ultimately chooses, Hoak has two seasons of eligibility available.

After losing out in the quarterback competition that ended in summer camp, Hoak spent the 2018 season as starter Terry Wilson‘s primary backup.  In that role, Hoak completed 13 of his 26 passes for 167 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Coming out of high school in Dublin, Ohio, Hoak was a three-star 2016 signee.

RB Jonathan Taylor competing with Wisconsin track team

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Jonathan Taylor is on track to be one of the most prolific running backs in college football history, but, this spring, he’ll be giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “on track.”

Wisconsin confirmed Tuesday that the Badgers running back will run in at least three meets with the UW track & field team this spring.  Taylor will make his collegiate track debut this weekend at the Penn Relays.  Additionally, he’ll run in the university’s Alumni Classic May 3 and the Big Ten Championships May 10-12.

Taylor will be running a leg of the 4×100-meter relay team, and would run in the NCAA prelims as well if they qualify.

Taylor, one of a handful of preseason Heisman Trophy favorites, is no stranger to the track as he won a pair of New Jersey state high school titles in the 100-meter dash.

As a true freshman in 2017, his 1,977 yards were third nationally.  This past season, he led the country in rushing with 2,194 yards.  If Taylor were to rush for at least 2,235 yards in 2018 — five players in FBS history have surpassed that total in college football history, most recently San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny in 2017 — he would break Donnel Pumphrey‘s all-time record of 6,405 career rushing yards.