AP Photo

No. 18 Memphis beats No. 19 Cincinnati, clinches AAC title berth vs. Cincinnati

Leave a comment

The Cincinnati-Memphis game was so good, they’re going to do it again at the same place next week.

The No. 19 Tigers beat the 18th-ranked Bearcats 34-24, at once clinching the American West Division title and, by virtue of the head-to-head Friday, secures home field advantage for next week’s American Championship against the East champion — which happens to be Cincinnati.

Memphis (11-1, 7-1 AAC) opened the game perfectly, as Chris Claybrooks took the opening kickoff 94 yards back for a touchdown. After a Cincinnati (10-2, 7-1 AAC) field goal, the Tigers moved 77 yards in sevens snaps and took a 14-3 lead on a 9-yard Brady White pass to Kedarian Jones at the 7:24 mark of the first quarter.

The Tigers then forced a four-and-out and moved back inside the Bearcat red zone, but the drive stalled and Mike Norvell settled for a 34-yard Riley Patterson field goal, pushing the Memphis lead to 17-3 after the first quarter.

But then Cincinnati answered, launching drives of 12 and 14 plays that traveled 85 and 80 yards and consumed 11 and a half minutes of clock. Ben Bryant‘s 4-yard pass to Leonard Taylor pulled the ‘Cats within 17-10 at the 12:36 mark of the second quarter, and Michael Warren II‘s 3-yard run with 2:54 left in the first half tied the game.

Memphis struck back quickly, though, as White found Damonte Coxie for a 54-yard gain that took the ball from the Memphis 36-yard line to the Cincinnati 10, but the drive moved no further and the Tigers settled for a second short Patterson field goal.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, though not for lack of trying. Memphis forced two Cincinnati fumbles in the third quarter, but turned them into zero points. The first was recovered at midfield but the Tiger offense went backward, punting from their own 46. One possession later, Jonathan Wilson sacked Bryant at his own 45 and ripped the ball out, allowing the Tigers to take over at the Bearcats’ 43 and drive all the way to their 16, but White’s 4th-and-2 pass to Joey Magnifico was not quite magnificent, sailing out of bounds for a turnover on downs.

Cincinnati then took over at its own 16 and moved to the Memphis 17, almost exclusively on the ground, but Warren was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 run at the 2:02 mark of the third quarter.

Still leading 20-17, Memphis pushed the lead to 10 when White found Coxie behind the defense on an end-around pass for a 46-yard score, but Cincinnati answered when Bryant hit Alec Pierce for 51 yards on a 3rd-and-15 from his own 33, pushing the ball to the Memphis 16. Bryant rushed in from 12 yards out to pull Cincinnati within 27-24 with 10:27 remaining.

After Memphis came up empty twice in the third quarter, it was now Cincinnati’s turn to create nothing out of a turnover, as Ahmad Gardner picked White at the Bearcats’ 26, but Cincinnati immediately went three-and-out.

Cincinnati should have answered with its own three-and-out, but a White incompletion was nullified by an unsportsmanlike conduct flag against Cincinnati’s Myjai Sanders, and three plays later Antonio Gibson raced in a 29-yard touchdown carry, giving Memphis a 10-point lead with 3:16 to play. The Bearcats were then forced to pass, which was not part of the plan with their backup quarterback, and Bryant was intercepted by Blake Sanchez, Jr., near midfield with 1:35 left.

The win pushed Memphis into the American Championship for the third straight season. Norvell’s team lost to an undefeated UCF team in 2017-18, but next Saturday’s game will be the first time the Tigers get to play for the conference championship at the Liberty Bowl.

No. 4 dual-threat JUCO QB in 2019 to transfer from Middle Tennessee State

Middle Tennessee State football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Middle Tennessee State was the landing spot for a Power Five football transfer earlier this month.  Now, the Conference USA school is on the wrong end of the portal.

According to 247Sports.com, Randall Johnson has entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.  An MTSU official has subsequently confirmed that the quarterback is indeed listed in the portal.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Johnson began his collegiate career at Reedley College in 2018.  As a true freshman, he was named as the Golden Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year.  That year, the California native threw for 2,832 yards and 28 touchdowns.  He also ran for another 797 yards and 14 scores.

In the 2019 recruiting cycle, Johnson was a three-star prospect.  On the 247Sports.com composite, Johnson was rated as the No. 4 dual-threat junior-college quarterback.

In his only season with the Blue Raiders, Johnson played in one game.  In that lone appearance, Johnson ran for three yards on a pair of carries. He didn’t attempt a pass.

May 18, Kenneth Major committed to MTSU.  The cornerback was a starter at Purdue.  He’ll be eligible to play for the Blue Raiders in 2020.

Middle Tennessee State is coming off a 4-8 2019 football campaign.  That was the program’s worst record since going 2-10 in 2011.  MTSU also saw its school-record streak of bowl appearances end at four in a row.

Tulsa WR Malik Jackson plunges into the transfer portal

Tulsa football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

You can officially put Tulsa on the football transfer portal tote board for the first time in a while.  And not in a good way.

According to 247Sports.com, Malik Jackson has made his way into the NCAA transfer database.  That would be the wide receiver’s first step in ultimately leaving the Tulsa football team.

Thus far, there been no word from either the program or the player on Jackson’s status moving forward.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Jackson was a two-star member of the Tulsa football Class of 2017.  The Taylor, Texas, native didn’t see the field at all during his time with the Golden Hurricane.

It’s likely Jackson will be leaving the AAC school as a graduate transfer.  That would allow him to play immediately in 2020.  He would also have another season of eligibility to use in 2021 as well.

Earlier this offseason, Tulsa had welcomed a trio of Power Five transfer into the football program.

Two are former Texas A&M football players — linebacker Brian Johnson and running back Deneric Prince — while one is from Oklahoma State — tight end Grayson Boomer.

All three of those transfers will have to sit out the 2020 season to satisfy NCAA bylaws. Johnson and Prince will have two years of eligibility remaining, Boomer three.

Western Kentucky starting TE Kyle Fourtenbary transfers to FCS Northern Iowa

Western Kentucky football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

One erstwhile Western Kentucky football player has found himself a new college football home. Unofficially, of course.

Late last month, Kyle Fourtenbary opted to enter into the NCAA transfer database.  That was his first official step in leaving the Western Kentucky football team.  Three weeks later, the tight end took the next by announcing on Twitter he is headed to Northern Iowa.

The Panthers play at the FCS level.  That will allow Fourtenbary to play immediately in 2020.  He is also a WKU graduate, so that would’ve granted him immediate eligibility as well.

The upcoming season will be Fourtenbary’s final one.  At least, at the collegiate level it will.

“Excited to announce that I will be transferring to the University of Northern Iowa to finish up my last year of college football!” Fourtenbary tweeted. “Looking forward to a great season.”

A two-star 2016 signee, Fourtenbary redshirted as a true freshman.  The following year, he caught eight passes for 96 yards.  Those numbers were good for third among Hilltoppers tight ends.

The 2018 campaign turned out to be a breakout season for Fourtenbary.  That year, the 6-4, 245-pound Alabama native caught 36 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns.  He started 11 of the 12 games in which he played.

Entering the 2019 season, Fourtenbary was named as part of the Mackey Award preseason watch list.  Last year, though, he totaled just 108 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions in the first season under new head coach Tyson Helton.

Mississippi State’s Jarrian Jones switches Egg Bowl sides, announces transfer to Ole Miss

Egg Bowl rivalry
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jarrian Jones spent the first portion of the Egg Bowl rivalry on the Mississippi State side.  Now, he’s headed to the other.

Earlier this week, Jarrian Jones became the fifth Mississippi State football player to enter the NCAA transfer database in seven weeks.  This weekend, he became the latest MSU player to find new home as the defensive back has flipped to the Ole Miss side of the Egg Bowl rivalry.

Jones was a four-star member of the Mississippi State football Class of 2019.  The Mississippi native was the No. 18 safety in the country on the 247Sports.com composite.  He was also the No. 13 prospect regardless of position in his home state.  Only three signees in the class that year for MSU were rated higher than Jones.

As a true freshman, Jones started one of the dozen games in which he played.  In those appearances, he was credited with 12 tackles, two passes defensed and one fumble recovery.

After sitting out the 2020 season, the defensive back will have three years of eligibility to use starting in 2021.

The four other Mississippi State football players who have entered the portal in nearly seven weeks?