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Big plays on offense and defense put No. 6 OU ahead of No. 13 WVU

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No. 6 Oklahoma’s offense has been its customary explosive self and its defense has made plays of its own, staking the visiting Sooners to a 35-28 halftime lead over No. 13 West Virginia in Morgantown.

In any shootout, it’s the plays that take points off the board that prove to be crucial. The first of those went against West Virginia when Will Grier‘s 8-yard touchdown pass to Gary Jennings, Jr. was wiped off the board due to an offensive pass interference penalty on David Sills V. Rather than owning a 21-14 lead three minutes into the second quarter, West Virginia faced a 3rd-and-19. The Mountaineers picked up 13 yards on a Kennedy McKoy run, but, knowing only touchdowns would beat Oklahoma, WVU dialed up a 4th-and-6 pass, but Grier overshot his intended receiver, giving the OU defense the first stop of the game.

After its defense held serve, Oklahoma’s offense issued its first mistake of the game when Kyler Murray fumbled the ball on a 16-yard run to the WVU 22, keeping the score at 14-14.

Given a second chance to take its third lead of the first half, West Virginia again was stopped, posting the game’s first three-and-out and its first punt. Oklahoma needed only two plays to grab its first lead, hitting Marquise Brown for a 65-yard catch-and-run to the WVU 1, which set up a Trey Sermon plunge to put the Sooners up 21-14 with 7:12 left in the first half.

After two straight scoreless drives, West Virginia answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by the second Grier-to-Sills scoring strike of the night, evening the score at 21-21 with 4:14 left in the first half.

Oklahoma wasted no time in retaking the lead when Kennedy Brooks raced 68 yards for a touchdown, putting the Sooners back in front at 28-21. After the Murray fumble, Oklahoma’s next two possessions both found the end zone in just two plays. After its offense made a big play, the much-maligned defense came up with its biggest of the season when linebacker Caleb Kelly stripped Grier of the ball and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown, pushing the OU edge to 35-21.

West Virginia rebounded to go 81 yards in 13 plays, scoring on a 1-yard McKoy plunge with 18 seconds left in the half to pull within 35-28, but Oklahoma receives to open the second half.

In just 25 snaps, Oklahoma gained 367 yards, running for 199 and three scores while Murray hit 9-of-12 passes for 168 yards and a score. Grier was 20-of-29 for 262 yards with two touchdowns.

Report: Army, BYU ‘top candidates’ to replace UConn in AAC

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At some point this week, it’s expected UConn will confirm that its non-football sports will be leaving the American Athletic Conference and rejoining the Big East.  It’s also expected that the AAC will not allow UConn to remain as a football-only member, creating a void for what would be an 11-team conference that would seemingly need to be filled.

As for who would replace UConn as a 12th team in the AAC, the rumor mill has run the gamut from current members of Conference USA to current members of the MAC to current members of the Sun Belt.  However, a pair of FBS independents are currently the top choices to slide into that 12th slot — if they want it.

Reportedly.

Of the two, Army would far and away make the most sense on multiple levels, given the geography — and the inherent travel costs — and the built-in rivalry with Navy.  Of course, the addition of that service academy would also bring into question the timing of the annual mid-December Army-Navy game, which would normally be played after the AAC championship game.

Obviously, you couldn’t play a conference game, storied rivalry or not, after your league’s title game, so those logistics — and decades worth of history — would have to be worked out.

Then again, the AAC could move forward with 11 teams and not add any members, at least for now, as it mulls its football future.  As one AAC official explained to CFT, going with one less than a dozen in football is much more desirable than adding an inferior fit just to keep the league at an even-number members.

As for UConn football? With the MAC and Conference USA reportedly not in the cards, it appears either FBS independence or dropping back down to the FCS level would be its only legitimate options moving forward.

One of West Virginia’s three transferring safeties moves to Marshall

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Derrek Pitts was one of three safeties who opted to transfer from West Virginia within days of each other earlier this month. While Pitts may have left Morgantown, he won’t, as it turns out, be leaving God’s Country.

Monday, a Marshall official confirmed reports that had surfaced last week that Pitts has enrolled in classes at the university and will continue his collegiate playing career for the Thundering Herd.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Pitts will very likely have to sit out the 2019 season. If that turns out to be the case, the defensive back would then have two seasons of eligibility beginning with the 2020 season.

A three-star member of the Mountaineers’ 2017 recruiting class, Pitts was the No. 2 player at any position in the state of West Virginia coming out of high school in Charleston.

Pitts played in 19 games during his time at WVU, starting a pair of those contests. He recorded his first and only interception at WVU in the Camping World Bowl loss to Syracuse last December, while he returned a blocked field goal 72 yards for a touchdown against Iowa State a couple of months earlier.

Ex-West Virginia WR Marcus Simms joins Syracuse LB in entering NFL supplemental draft

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And then there were two.

As we noted last week, linebacker Shyheim Cullen, who had been academically suspended at Syracuse earlier in the offseason, announced that he had been “excepted” into the 2019 NFL supplemental draft. A day before that, however, it was reported that former West Virginia wide receiver Marcus Simms had filed his paperwork to enter the same draft in early July as well.

In late April, Simms seemed to indicate on his personal Twitter account that he would be transferring from the Mountaineers, although the “another chapter” to which he referred turned into leaving the collegiate game early for a shot at the NFL.

Simms finished his time in Morgantown with 1,457 yards and eight touchdowns on 87 receptions. The would’ve-been fourth-year senior set career-highs with 46 receptions for 699 yards this past season, totals that were both good for third on the Mountaineers.

Randy Edsall had an oopsie moment on Twitter

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Being a head football coach that is connected on Twitter can lead to some unfortunate moments you’d like to have back. In the case of UConn head coach Randy Edsall on Monday evening, a possible quick retweet of a link definitely came at the wrong time.

In a flurry of retweets showing off the recently renovated locker rooms the UConn Huskies will be using, it seems Edsall may have accidentally retweeted a link to a story that essentially suggests UConn is passing on its chance to be a big-time college football program. A tweet briefly retweeted by Edsall linked to a column by Mark Blaudschun of College Sports Maven. In his column, Blaudschun wrote about the recent headlines about UConn leaving the AAC to join the Big East in basketball and leave the football program stranded in uncharted waters.

“But the issue of football remains and there is really no answer that can make UConn a major player in the wide world of big time college football,” Blaudschun writes. “The dye has been cast. Big time football at UConn, RIP.”

Certainly, had Edsall read the story, then he would have refrained from retweeting the story. It didn’t take long for Edsall to remove the retweet from his Twitter timeline either.

Edsall has been busy on Twitter over the last couple of days following the reports the school was setting up to rejoin the Big East for basketball without a concrete plan for what will happen with the football program.

When you are tweeting as often as Edsall has been while trying to keep the spirits up for the Huskies football program and their fans, an accidental retweet is easy to let slip by. Mistakes happen. Edsall corrected this one and moved on doing what he needs to do to keep UConn football moving forward regardless of where “forward” actually leads for the program.