Associated Press

Snell No: Sputtering offense sees No. 13 Kentucky take first loss of season

5 Comments

There was absolutely no secret about how Kentucky won its first games, rocketing from the realm of the unranked to No. 13 in the AP poll: play defense and run Benny Snell, Jr., over and over and over again. The junior entered Saturday night’s trip to College Station leading the SEC in rushes (115), yards (632) and touchdowns (8).

But one question remained: what would happen to Kentucky if Snell couldn’t get going?

We found out Saturday night, and it wasn’t pretty. With Snell limited to 60 yards on 13 carries, the Wildcats did not run a single play in Texas A&M until overtime, which was forced by a shocking 40-yard fumble return with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Kentucky accepted the ball to open the extra frame and gained eight yards on their first two plays, but quarterback Terry Wilson took a 5-yard sack on third down and Miles Butler‘s 43-yard field goal doinked off the cross bar. Snell did not touch the ball in the extra frame.

Texas A&M made no such mistake, feeding Trayveon Williams four straight times, including a soaring 14-yard touchdown run out to give Texas A&M a 20-14 overtime win over the previously unbeaten Wildcats.

The Wildcats actually jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter after Wilson flipped the ball to Lynn Bowden, Jr., who raced 54 yards for a touchdown.

That was it for Kentucky’s offense for the night, though. The Wildcats (5-1, 3-1 SEC) punted 10 times and registering six three-and-outs, including three consecutive in the second half.

The Aggies (4-2, 2-1 SEC) dominated the ball for most of the night, and so it was really just a matter of time until they broke through to take the lead. After a 48-yard drive ended in a turnover on downs at the Kentucky 27 early in the second quarter, the Aggies notched the equalizer on a 3-yard Kellen Mond toss to Quartney Davis with 1:14 left in the first half, capping a 12-play, 70-yard drive.

Texas A&M threatened more without scoring in the second half, but one drive ended in a 40-yard Seth Small field goal that was no good, and another ended in a tipped interception by Kentucky’s Darius West.

After yet another Kentucky three-and-out, another Mond tipped pass worked out in A&M’s favor, as a deflection landed in the hands of tight end Jace Sternberger, who dashed 46 yards for a touchdown, handing the Aggies a 14-7 lead with 10:13 to play.

That 14-7 lead appeared like it would hold as Texas A&M took over with 7:47 to play until, facing a 3rd-and-1 from their own 43, Mond bobbled a rare snap from center, regained control only to fumble it again. West recovered the ball and raced it 40 yards for a touchdown, forging a shocking tie with 4:17 left.

An intentional grounding call on Mond to open the A&M drive essentially ended it before it began, and Kentucky, who appeared dead to rights two minutes ago, took over in a tie game at its own 9 with 2:07 to play.

Kentucky pushed all the way to its own 41, but the drive sputtered from there — with Wilson actually losing the ball in his own backfield before it was recovered by an offensive lineman — and a short Max Duffy punt, his 10th of the night, gave Texas A&M the ball at its own 41 with eight seconds left. A 15-yard Wilson burst allowed Mond to launch a Hail Mary as time expired from the Kentucky 44, but the rainbow landed incomplete.

Wilson finished the game 13-of-20 for 108 yards and a touchdown; 54 of those yards were gained on one pass, while the other 19 also went for 54.

Mond hit 18-of-29 yards for 226 yards with two touchdowns and two turnovers, while Williams carried 24 times for 138 yards and the game-winning score.

The win snapped a 7-game losing streak against ranked teams for Texas A&M. The Aggies’ last win came in 2016 over No. 9 Tennessee in double overtime.

Big Ten coaches on hot seat: Record revenues mean those big buyouts don’t mean quite as much

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Media days are on the horizon in just a few short weeks but we still have plenty of time left as our long national nightmare — the college football offseason — winds down. The lack of games on the TV and between the lines isn’t going to hamper us from talking about the sport that never stops at a place like CFTalk however.

As part of our continuing series taking a look at coaching hot seats at the FBS level, we’re taking a trip to the northern regions and hitting the Big Ten. The conference has seen some massive changes recently, starting at the commissioner level and filtering on down to major news regarding the retirement of Urban Meyer at league stalwart Ohio State. Mix in a handful of veterans entering key situations in 2019 and a number of head coaches aiming to rebound from a disappointing 2018 and there’s a fascinating mix across the 14 programs.

Left unsaid for some? Those record revenues from media rights deals mean buyout money is increasingly easy to find after this year and well beyond.

You can check out the hot seat status of head coaches in the ACC and Big 12 too if you’re interested but without further ado, a look at the various stages of hot seats in the Big Ten:

The new guys

Mike Locksley (Maryland)

Ryan Day (Ohio State)

Feeling Heat

Chris Ash (Rutgers)

Ash has seen public support from his athletic director but a 7-29 record — with just three conference wins in three seasons — is going to draw plenty of heat to the job you’re doing and especially so given how the Scarlet Knights seemed to regress during last year’s 1-11 campaign. He still sports a pretty hefty buyout going forward but it’s more manageable after 2019 and the program can only be stuck at the back of the bus for so long before change is needed. There’s optimism in Piscataway that things will be better — and they better be or else one of the hardest gigs around will be open again.

Warming up

Tom Allen (Indiana)

The Hoosiers are not prone to rush into any big changes when it comes to their football program and have shown more patience than most when it comes to their head coaches on the gridiron. While that means Allen is more likely than not given runway past his upcoming third season, a bowl game appearance is generally the bar to clear for most and IU has come up short the last two years — with some maddeningly close losses to boot. He’s only won four games in Big Ten play after being elevated to the full-time gig and it doesn’t help that others like Purdue and Minnesota have started to make strides after having down years.  There’s plenty of support from above but another mediocre campaign will start to weigh on fans who are pining for more consistency in the league.

The Great Unknown 

Mark Dantonio (Michigan State)

Dantonio has won over 100 games with the Spartans and is as much the face of the program as any other coach in the Big Ten save perhaps Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. But there are a few factors that put him in a strange no man’s land. The first is off the field, where he’s dealt with a ton of issues the last few years and that’s been coupled with the school’s overarching Larry Nassar scandal that has seen a near complete leadership changeover the past 18 months. Then there’s the on-field stuff, which saw an impressive bounce-back in 2017 give way to a huge disappointment in 2018. Reshuffling the coaching staff isn’t exactly the kind of move the fan base wanted this offseason and a hard to watch offense remains an issue for MSU getting back to 2013/15 levels. While the upcoming season isn’t make-or-break exactly, it could go a longways in determining what the future holds in East Lansing long term for Dantonio and others.

Safe and secure 

P.J. Fleck (Minnesota)

Fleck was brought on to help turnaround the Gophers and has made some progress after two seasons, leading the team to a bowl win last year and generally upping the energy around the football team in the Twin Cities. It helps being in the division they are in of course but doing things like returning Paul Bunyan’s Axe to Minneapolis for the first time since 2003 is a nice sign of progress. There’s still work to be done of course but Fleck seems more inclined to leave on his own compared to being fired for anything that happens on the field right now.

James Franklin (Penn State)

It speaks to the high level of expectations that have been established in State College under Franklin that the recent 9-4 campaign was a bit disappointing for the Nittany Lions. Still, the team has posted big wins on the field, is competitive year-in and year-out for the division and Big Ten titles and generally back to operating on the Penn State level we’re used to under their head coach. There’s still a part of the fan base that feels more can be done though and some of those feelings were brought up again after some offseason rumors linking Franklin to a not-open USC gig. He’s got the support of his AD, has recruiting humming along nicely and, while it’s not a picture perfect marriage, things are still very good at the moment at PSU.

Jim Harbaugh (Michigan)

The perception of Harbaugh outside the Michigan administration is a bit different from inside it, where he continues to enjoy broad support and belief in the job he’s doing. Outside of Ann Arbor though, the doubters are there in droves — some thanks to his antics away from the lines and others as a result of that 2-6 mark against rivals MSU and Ohio State. The loud noises they make have seemingly obscured the fact that he’s won 10 games three of his first four years and has led the Wolverines to a pair of New Year’s Six bowls. He’s going to be the coach of the maize and blue for as long as he wants for the most part but even he understands that the seat is going to be hotter externally than internally, especially given the results against the Buckeyes the last few times out.

Scott Frost (Nebraska)

There was nobody celebrated more for returning home than Frost was when he agreed to take over the program he led to the national title many moons ago. While it’s still probably safe to say that honeymoon period is ongoing between Big Red and their head coach, the feeling has cooled a bit after such a disappointing debut campaign saw the team miss out on a bowl game and start out 0-6. Still, there’s plenty of faith that he can get things turned around on both sides of the ball and have the Cornhuskers making the trip to Indianapolis sooner rather than later.

Paul Chryst (Wisconsin)

College Football Playoff expectations in 2018 gave way to plenty of disappointment last year but the program’s native son is still in as good of a situation as any in the league. He’s 42-12 overall with the Badgers and has the team on a level of consistency that few have matched. There’s still some hoping Wisconsin can truly break through into the nation’s elite after so many close calls but nobody inside or outside of Madison is arguing with the job that Chryst has done so far.

Jeff Brohm (Purdue)

After turning down his alma mater of Louisville, it’s safe to say that Brohm is as committed to his program as any coach in the league. Of course, it helps to command an elite salary as a result of that offseason wooing but few in the business have handled a situation better while also producing results on the field. While his overall 13-13 record at the school doesn’t tell the whole story, the Boilermakers are thrilled with the way this hire has turned out and hopeful for even more wins going forward.

Frozen solid

Kirk Ferentz (Iowa)

Ferentz isn’t just the dean of the Big Ten coaches, he’s the dean of all of college football thanks to a tenure that dates back to 1999. Though he’s won just one division title in the past decade, the consistency the Hawkeyes have shown under his watch has been remarkable and a good reminder as to why he’s been where’s at for so long. His contract (and resulting buyout) is always great talk for fans and the media but it’s been pretty clear the last few years that Ferentz will  be the one to decide when it is time to move on and nobody else.

Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern)

One of the Wildcats’ most recognizable football players of all-time seems like a lifer in Evanston right now, especially given the school’s humongous facilities upgrades the past few years. Guiding the team to the Big Ten title game was an impressive accomplishment last season and there’s hope that the program can even make the jump to another level going forward too. It’s often been said that the Chicago Bears is probably the only gig that would be enough to pry Fitz out of his current one but even that seems like a stretch to say as he enters season No. 14.

Missouri AD hopes to hear on NCAA appeal before football season

Getty Images
2 Comments

While there are always a ton of storylines surrounding the SEC on any given season, the big focus for Missouri is quite clear heading into the 2019 campaign and it has nothing to do with anything that is on the field. The Tigers were handed a surprising bowl ban by the NCAA back in January for a host of major violations and fans, players and other supporters of the school have been vocal in their displeasure ever since.

We might get some clarity on the exact status of Mizzou’s football program later this summer however, as athletic director Jim Sterk detailed to KTGR in a recent interview.

“We really think we have a strong case for overturning the majority of the decisions that they made,” Sterk told ‘The Big Show.‘ “The people that are a lot smarter than me that worked on this case really presented an appeal that’s strong and compelling. And we’ll be doing an in-person hearing, we’re expecting somewhere on the middle of July and then hear something hopefully by before football starts or shortly thereafter.”

Sterk went on to say that he had heard from a number of folks in other departments who criticized the NCAA’s original decision, which also came with restrictions to official visits and recruiting contacts in addition to the bowl ban. The timeline he indicated is notable however, as the school formally appealed in late March. While the appeals committee could rule sooner, a six-week or so time-frame seems about the norm on these kinds of things and would indeed put a response dropping just as the Tigers get ready to play Wyoming in their season opener on August 31.

We’ll see if Missouri’s case is any different — as Sterk tries to make out — but appeals are still typically an uphill battle for schools to win. A bowl ban isn’t the end of the world for the Tigers but they no doubt would like to play in one if they qualify given expectations around Columbia are a bit higher in 2019 after the addition of Clemson QB Kelly Bryant and a host of others.

Either way, it at least seems like a good bet for Mizzou to find out their fate early in the season so they know what they have to play for… or not.

Travian Robertson replaces Brad Lawing as Georgia State’s DL coach

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In February of this year, Georgia State announced that former Florida State assistant Brad Lawing had been hired as Shawn Elliott‘s next defensive line coach.  Nearly four months later, Lawing is out and a new position coach is in.

According to the Sun Belt Conference school, Travian Robertson has been hired as the Panthers’ next line coach on the defensive side of the ball.  The move marks a homecoming of sorts as Robertson served as a graduate assistant for Elliott during the 2017 campaign at GSU.

Robertson played his college football at South Carolina, with a portion of that career intersecting with Elliott’s time as an assistant on Steve Spurrier‘s Gamecocks coaching staff.

“It was a natural fit for Travian to come back to Georgia State after spending a year with us previously,” the head coach said in a statement. “Our relationship goes back to our days at South Carolina, and I have tremendous respect for him as a person and as a coach, and we’re thrilled to have him here.”

This past season, Robertson, who had a four-year career in the NFL after being selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, served as the line coach at Albany State.

Illinois offers update on DE who suffered severe spinal injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There’s yet another update regarding an Illinois player who suffered a significant injury earlier this month.

Illini true junior defensive end Bobby Roundtree sustained what was described as a severe spinal cord injury in a swimming accident May 18 and underwent surgery a day later. It was subsequently reported that Roundtree was progressing well following the surgery and, while he remained hospitalized, was speaking, eating and sitting up.

While Roundtree had remained hospitalized on into this month at a Tampa-area hospital, Illini athletic director Josh Whitman confirmed Tuesday that Roundtree has since been moved to a rehabilitation center in Chicago, which the AD described as “one of the finest facilities of its kind in the country.”

“He’s receiving top-level care,” Whitman added.

As for what is to come, Roundtree is expected to remain in the unnamed facility for a period of 3-6 months, at which point he would then transition back to Champaign to continue his rehab.

Roundtree has started 20 games the past two seasons since coming to Illinois as a three-star member of their 2017 recruiting class. This past season, the 6-5, 245-pound end led the Illini in tackles for loss with 12.5 and pass breakups, and was second in sacks with 7.5 and quarterback hits with four.

For that performance, the media named Roundtree honorable mention All-Big Ten for the 2018 season.