Associated Press

Mistakes bury Tennessee as Florida tops Vols for 13th time in 14 tries

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They honored Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night. And why wouldn’t they pick tonight of all nights? It’s been 20 years, after all, and the Tennessee-Florida game was almost always the game of the year in the SEC in the 1990’s. Remember, it was a 20-17 overtime win for the No. 6 Volunteers over No. 2 Florida that set Phillip FulmerTee MartinPeerless Price and company on their way to the first BCS crown.

But the fact that the ’98 Vols were in the house quickly became kind of a macabre joke, because Tennessee has never looked further away from a national title than it did on Saturday night.

Five turnovers did the Vols in, as unranked Florida cruised to a 47-21 win over unranked-and-going-to-stay-that-way-for-a-while Tennessee.

The mistakes started immediately for Tennessee. On the Vols’ first drive of the game, Jarrett Guarantano was sacked and fumbled, which Florida’s David Reese II recovered and returned to the UT 21. Felepie Franks put the Gators up 7-0 four plays later when he hit R.J. Raymond for a 1-yard toss.

On Tennessee’s next possession, Guarantano was intercepted by Luke Ancrum at his own 12, which he returned to the 7. Franks rushed in from one yard out two plays later, handing Florida a 14-0 lead.

Dear reader, this was just the beginning.

A safety handed Florida (3-1, 1-1 SEC) a 16-3 lead and, after the free kick, Franks found Freddie Swan for a 65-yard score, effectively ending the game at 23-3 with 10:42 to play in the second quarter.

Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) appeared to be in position to pull back within two scores when, on a 4th-and-1 from their own 45, Guarantano found a wide open tight end Austin Pope for a 51-yard connection. But as Pope leaped to avoid a tackle near the goal line, he lost control of the ball, which then rolled out of the end zone, turning a 1st-and-goal into a touchback.

Florida punted on the ensuing possession and Tennessee again moved into scoring territory, facing a 3rd-and-11 at the Florida 23, but a botched shotgun snap ended a second straight promising drive in a fumble.

Florida drove 66 yards at the close of the half to add a 25-yard Evan McPherson field goal to close the first half with a 26-3 lead.

Tennessee accepted the ball to open the second half, and Shawn Shamburger fumbled the return, handing Florida its fifth takeaway of the game. Jordan Scarlett punched in a 19-yard touchdown run one play later.

After a field goal, Guarantano tossed his second of two interceptions — and Tennessee’s sixth turnover — but Florida didn’t cash in this time.

The Gators didn’t need to, though. The score was 33-6 at that point, and Tennessee never pulled within 19 points in the second half.

Florida beat Tennessee for the 13th time in the pair’s last 14 games, and moved its all-time lead to 28-20. Florida is 26-7 against Tennessee since 1976.

Franks closed the night hitting 10-of-19 passes for 172 yards with three touchdowns, while Scarlett’s 11 carries for 77 yards led all runners.

Guarantano, meanwhile, completed 7-of-18 passes for 163 yards with no touchdowns and three turnovers.

It would be comforting to say the road gets easier for Tennessee, but it would be wrong. The Vols’ next three games: at No. 2 Georgia, at No. 9 Auburn and vs. No. 1 Alabama.

Ohio State co-DC Jeff Hafley reportedly rebuffed interview overtures from Cincinnati Bengals

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The Cincinnati Bengals were rebuffed in its pursuit of an SEC defensive coordinator this past week.  As it turns out, they pursued another coordinator at the collegiate level — and were shot down yet again.

According to a report from the NFL Network, the Bengals sought an interview with new Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley for their still-vacant coordinator job. “However,” the report stated, “he’s not going to renege on his commitment to OSU after taking the job last month.”

On Jan. 7, the Buckeyes confirmed Hafley and Michigan assistant Greg Mattison had been named as co-coordinators on Ryan Day‘s first OSU coaching staff.

The 39-year-old Hafley — he’ll turn 40 in April — has spent the past three seasons as the defensive backs coach for the San Francisco 49ers.  All told, Hafley worked at the NFL for the last seven seasons.

Hafley’s last job at the collegiate level coming at Rutgers in 2011 as part of the coaching staff of Greg Schiano, who was let go by Day as OSU’s defensive coordinator early last month.

Ex-Illinois WR Mike Bellamy returning to Illini as RBs coach

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A familiar face will reportedly be next up on the offensive side of Lovie Smith‘s Illinois coaching staff.

Bob Asmussen of the Champaign News-Gazette was one of a handful reporting Friday that Smith is set to name Mike Bellamy as his new running backs coach.  While there’s nothing yet official from the football program, a school official stated that a staff announcement could come as early as this weekend.

The hiring of Bellamy, who would replace an assistant lost to a MAC school, would mark a Champaign homecoming on a couple of fronts.

In the late eighties, Bellamy was a first-team All-Big Ten wide receiver and second-team All-American kick returner for the Illini.  Then, from 2012-15, Bellamy served as wide receivers coach at his alma mater.

The past two seasons, Bellamy was the wide receivers coach at Toledo.  In between his stints at Toledo and Illinois, he was a quality control coach at Mississippi State in 2016.

Arkansas reportedly hiring Auburn staffer for on-field role

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One SEC West school has turned to another from the same division to fill a hole on its coaching staff.  Reportedly.

According to 247Sports.com, and citing two sources familiar with the decision, Chad Morris is expected to hire Kenny Ingram as Arkansas’ defensive line coach. Morris’ move to add a new assistant to his Razorbacks staff was triggered by John Scott‘s move to South Carolina earlier this offseason.

Ingram, who played his college football at Arkansas State, has spent the past two seasons as the Director of Player Relations at Auburn.

Prior to his time on The Plains, Ingram worked as the defensive line coach at Cincinnati from 2015-16.  From 2006-09, he was on the coaching staff at Memphis, including a turn as defensive coordinator his last season with the Tigers.

In 2012, Ingram worked with the defensive line at his alma mater ASU.

Lincoln Riley’s brother named App State running backs coach

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Garrett Riley is a bright, accomplished coach in his own right, but until he wins back-to-back Heismans with two different quarterbacks (or, at least becomes a head coach in his own right), he’s going to be known as his big brother’s little brother. With that in mind: Lincoln Riley’s brother has been announced as Appalachian State’s new running backs coach.

“I’m excited to be part such a traditionally successful program,” Riley said in a statement. “I’m humble and grateful to have the opportunity to be around this organization and work with Coach Drink and the rest of the staff that I’ve known about for several years. Look forward to continuing the great success that Appalachian State’s had, and I can’t wait to start working with the players.”

Garrett followed Lincoln to Texas Tech and East Carolina before branching out on his own at Kansas, where he joined the staff as an offensive analyst in 2016 and was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2017 and tight ends/fullbacks coach in 2018.

Appalachian State has not announced an offensive coordinator under new head coach Eli Drinkwitz — and certainly the head coach, a former offensive coordinator himself, will have tremendous sway on his favored side of the ball initially — it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Riley become the Mountaineers’ offensive coordinator in 2020 or 2021. “We’re looking to be cutting edge on offense, and we expect him to continue to push that,” Drinkwitz said Friday. “His experience coaching in North Carolina will also benefit our program.”