Hooker leads Tennessee over Ball State, 59-10

Jamar Coach/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn.  Hendon Hooker threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores to lead Tennessee to a 59-10 season-opening victory over Ball State Thursday night.

Hooker, in his second year as the Volunteers’ starter after transferring from Virginia Tech, had 211 yards passing by halftime along with a 38-0 lead. Eight different receiver caught passes in the first 30 minutes. He was replaced by Joe Milton midway through the third quarter.

“(Hooker) was really efficient,” said Tennessee coach Josh Heupel. “He was in command; in control. He was in complete command of the football game.”

Jaylen Wright led the Tennessee ground game with 86 yards and a touchdown.

“Tennessee is good at what they do from an offensive standpoint,” said Ball State coach Mike Neu. “It’s tough to slow down an offense like that with a quarterback playing at a high level.”

“We have more guys who understand the `why’ behind (what’s being done),” said Heupel, comparing his second season to last year. “We’re a deeper team than a year ago.

“We know more about this football team than a year ago. Roles are going to change throughout the season.”

The Cardinals’ bruising running back Carson Steele was limited to 27 yards on 11 carries.

“(We were) disruptive up front,” Heupel said of his defense’s success against Steele. “We controlled the edges. We didn’t let him get vertical in their run game.”

Making his first career start at quarterback for Ball State, redshirt junior John Paddock threw for 269 yards and a TD. His first pass, on the game’s first play, was intercepted by Tamarion McDonald. Tennessee scored its first TD on the next snap.

“Credit John Paddock for battling back, especially after that punch to the gut to start the game,” said Neu. “Really proud of him for battling back.”

The Vol defense came up with three turnovers – two interceptions and a fumble.

NUMBERS GAME

Hooker extended his streak of games with having thrown a touchdown pass to 13, tied with Tony Robinson (1984-85) for second all-time in Vols’ history behind Heath Shuler’s 18 (1992-94)… Hooker’s two TD passes gave him 33 in his two-year career at Tennessee, 10th on the all-time list… Vols receiver Cedric Tillman had his streak of seven consecutive games with a touchdown reception come to an end. Tillman is Tennessee’s all-time leader… Tennessee has scored 45 or more points in its last four games, tying a school record set in the last four games of the 1993 season.

THE TAKEAWAY

Ball State: The best thing to come out of Thursday night’s game in renovated Neyland Stadium was the $1.5 million game check that will help the athletic department. The Cardinals, picked to finish last in the Mid-American Conference West Division can set their sights on improvement after the lopsided loss.

Tennessee: With the embarrassing 2019 season-opening loss to heavy underdog Georgia State still fresh in the minds of Volunteer fans, they were able to exhale when Tennessee, under second-year head coach Josh Heupel, showed it was focused and prepared. The Vols made positive strides that they will be able to take into next week’s trip to play No. 17 Pittsburgh.

UP NEXT

Ball State: The Cardinals will jump into the MAC season next Saturday when they entertain rival Western Michigan.

Tennessee: The Vols will head to Pitt Sept. 10 with revenge on their minds. Last year, Tennessee gave up 27 points in the second quarter and lost a 41-34 decision to the Panthers.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.