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Rocky Flop: Georgia State goes into Neyland, stuns Tennessee

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As a way to help alleviate traffic before and after Tennessee football games, the so-called “Vol Navy” was created in the early sixties and has become a “sailgating” tradition along the Tennessee River.  Saturday morning, however, a Vol Navy boat caught fire during the pregame festivities and sank.

You want to talk about an omen?

Tennessee entered Saturday afternoon’s game against Georgia State, predicted to finish dead last in the Sun Belt Conference and losers of seven straight, as 26-point favorites.  After 60 minutes of playing time, the Panthers exited Neyland Stadium with the biggest win in program history, a stunning 38-30 triumph over a Vols team that looked underwhelming in nearly every phase as Year 2 of the Jeremy Pruitt Era in Knoxville stumbled to a start.

The win marked the first-ever for Georgia State over a school from the Power Five.  Conversely, this was Tennessee’s first loss to a Group of Five team since Wyoming did the honors in 2008.  This was also the Vols first loss in a home opener since 1983.

The Vols took a 14-7 lead into the second quarter, but could manage nothing more than a trio of field goals the rest of the way, outside of a garbage touchdown with the game out of reach.  Despite that offensive ineptness, UT still held a 23-21 lead with less than nine minutes left in the fourth quarter before GSU scored 17 unanswered points to put the game away.

Suffice to say, it was not the way Pruitt wanted to begin a season in which they were coming of five wins the year before.

Band brouhaha continues as Iowa reopens investigation

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Don’t close the book quite yet on the Great Band Brouhaha.

Following last Saturday’s Iowa-Iowa State game in Ames, reports began to surface that members of the Hawkeyes marching band were verbally and, in at least a couple of instances, physically abused as they made their way back to the bus after the game. “One student was forcefully groped while another suffered broken ribs, according to several accounts,” the Iowa Press-Citizen wrote.

Wednesday, a joint statement from the two schools expressed embarrassment “when students in the bands don’t feel safe when performing at an away game” and that “[e]ach of our athletics departments is committed to doing whatever is necessary to improve the environment for visiting school marching bands in the future.”

In the ensuing days, however, there was a social media uproar over the investigation being closed and the handling of the probe on both sides.

In a new statement Friday, the University of Iowa announced that it has reopened the investigation into allegations of what the Gazette described as “verbal, physical and sexual abuse directed against the Hawkeye Marching Band.”

The communication on social media made it clear we had not shared enough information with our students about the steps the university has taken to address the concerns raised by members of our marching band.

Student safety is our number one priority and we are committed to ensuring a safe experience on game day for our students,” she said. “Additionally we are continuing our investigation to ensure all of our students have the ability to share their experiences with the appropriate authorities.

Jonathan Taylor paces Wisconsin to big lead on Michigan before leaving game

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Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor had a big first quarter to give Wisconsin an early jump on Michigan, but his status is unknown after a trip to the injury tent and an early exit to the locker room. The Badgers lead the Wolverines 28-0 at halftime in Madison in a Big Ten opener between two unbeaten teams.

Taylor was the star of the first quarter with 143 rushing yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown run was a 72-yard sprint up the middle of the Michigan defense, and it came just moments after a controversial replay review wiped out a big pass play by Michigan.

During the second quarter, Taylor was seen heading into the sideline medical tent after walking gingerly on the sideline. His return was reported to be questionable, according to the sideline report during the broadcast. Taylor left the medical tent on the sideline for the locker room later in the second quartrer. That led Wisconsin’s running game to be led by another Taylor, A.J. Taylor. Taylor picked up an 11-yard run during a 15-play touchdown drive by the Badgers to put the home team up 21-0. At this rate, will Wisconsin even need to see the star Heisman hopeful back today?

Michigan’s best chance to score came on their first offensive series of the game. After going down 7-0, Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson connected on a 68-yard pass to Ronnie Bell to put the Wolverines in scoring position right off the bat, but a return to the power running game Michigan has used as its identity in those types of situations ended in failure when Ben Mason carried the football for the first time this season and fumbled at the four-yard line. Michigan appeared to be in position to move the ball on their next possession but a video replay overturned a call on the field for another deep pass to Bell. The official ruling stated the ball had come loose as Bell was diving to the ground to make the catch, although video replay never quite showed what would be considered indisputable evidence strong enough to overturn the original call on the field.

Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan ended the first half by putting his team up 28-0 with a run right up the middle of the Michigan defense.

Being down 28-0 at Wisconsin is quite a mountain for this Michigan offense right now. Even without Taylor available, potentially, Wisconsin has the defense to protect a 28-point lead in the final 30 minutes of the game, especially if the Michigan offense continues to be a massive work in progress.

We’ll see if anything changes after halftime, but Wisconsin is in a great spot at the break.

Arizona State starting a 17-year-old at LT for second straight week

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This is what I love about college football, man. I get older, and the players at key positions seem to get younger.

Taking liberties with a “Dazed and Confused” quote aside, No. 24 Arizona State opened the 2019 season with a true freshman as both its starting and backup quarterbacks.  As of Week 3, the Sun Devils were also starting a pair of true freshmen on the offensive line, one at right guard and the other at left tackle.

It’s the latter lineman that’s the most noteworthy.

In last Saturday’s wild win over Michigan State in East Lansing, LaDarius Henderson made his first career start at left tackle in place of senior Zach Robertson, who is still dealing with an unspecified personal issue.  A three-star member of ASU’s 2019 recruiting class, the 6-4, 285-pound Texas native currently clocks in at the ripe old age of… 17.  1-7.  Seventeen.

In fact, Henderson won’t celebrate his 18th birthday until December.  Arguably the best part?  Henderson didn’t play his first season of football until he was a junior in high school.

In other words, a 17-year-old starting left tackle at a Power Five program is in his third year of playing the sport.  And, according to his position coach, Henderson acquitted himself quite well in his initial start.

“LaDarius got thrown in his first college game,” offensive line coach Dave Christensen said. “He just turned 17-years-old, he’s never played a snap, he’s got 70,000 people in front of him in the stadium, playing against a great player. I think probably three of their four guys will get drafted this year on the defensive front.

I thought he battled his tail off. It was a heck of a task to take on.”

Fellow true freshman Dohnovan West is starting at right guard as well, and ASU plans to continue with those very young linemen in the lineup for this weekend’s home game against Colorado.  One factor helping in that youth movement is that the Sun Devils have seniors manning the left guard/center/right tackle positions.

Florida QB Kyle Trask to make first start since his freshman season… in high school

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Given the portal fever that has seemingly enveloped the sport over the past year or so, this post is a stark reminder of how, at least in this instance, perseverance and staying put can actually end up working out in a player’s favor.

In ending its one-game losing streak to Kentucky in Week 3, Florida’s starting quarterback, Feleipe Franks, went down with a dislocated ankle and will miss the remainder of the 2019 season.  In steps redshirt junior Kyle Trask, who will get the start this Saturday as No. 9 Florida plays host to rival Tennessee in The Swamp.

What makes Trask’s start unique is that, as relayed by ESPN.com in an exceptional piece by Sam Kahn Jr., this will mark Trask’s first start since he was a freshman in high school.  Yes, a Power Five quarterback at a Top 25 school who hasn’t started a game since the ninth grade will get the nod this weekend.

So, how exactly did his career play out in such an odd way?

Trask went to high school in Manvel, Tex., which annually produces loads of Div. 1 football talent.  In the same class as Trask was D’Eriq King, who set the Class 6A record for career touchdown passes with 140 and is now a record-breaking quarterback at Houston.

“When I got there, I was the eighth quarterback on the depth chart,” King, recalling his freshman season, told Khan. “[Trask] was No. 3. Out of those eight quarterbacks, six of them transferred and he’s the [other] one that stayed.”

When he was confronted by his high school head coach about rumors that he was considering transferring to get playing time elsewhere, Trask took exception to the talk.

But he grew up in Manvel. Went to elementary school and junior high there. It’s where he wanted to be. Once, when Kirk Martin heard a rumor that Trask might consider transferring, he brought him into his office.

Trask politely replied, “I was born and raised in Manvel, Texas. As long as you’re going to let me compete for the starting job, I’m not going anywhere. If D’Eriq King is better than me, he’s gonna have to prove it.

Fast-forward to 2016, and Trask was a three-star signee for the Gators… while Franks was a four-star signee in that same class.  After taking a redshirt his true freshman season — Austin Appleby and Luke Del Rio were the main Gators under center that season — a foot injury sidelined him for the entire 2017 campaign.  In November of last year, it appeared Trask would get the opportunity to replace a struggling Franks… until he broke his foot in practice and was sidelined for the remainder of that season as well.

As was the case in high school, Trask stayed true to his commitment to the Gators in a season-ending meeting with head coach Dan Mullen.

The most important question Mullen had, with graduation on the horizon for Trask and Franks having a strong end to the season, was, “Where’s your head at?”

“You know you’re going to get reps and get a chance to compete,” Mullen said. “If it doesn’t work out, is this where you want to be?”

In the era of the transfer portal, it’s vital information, particularly for those who are eligible for a graduate transfer. Trask never wavered.

“I’m 100% a Florida Gator,” he said.

Now, seven years and two schools later, Trask is being rewarded for his patience and commitment to the ones that got him here.