AROUND THE SEC INSIDE SLANT With Western Division teams either sitting out a bye week or engaged in nonconference affairs, the spotlight in the SEC turned to the East on Saturday. It was an eventful third weekend with South Carolina perhaps saving its conference life with a 38-35 victory over Georgia, Florida hanging on to […]
With Western Division teams either sitting out a bye week or engaged in nonconference affairs, the spotlight in the SEC turned to the East on Saturday.
It was an eventful third weekend with South Carolina perhaps saving its conference life with a 38-35 victory over Georgia, Florida hanging on to beat Kentucky 36-30 in three overtimes, and defending division champion Missouri looking like a defensive monster in throttling Central Florida 38-10.
Tennessee lost 34-7 at Oklahoma, only the second setback for the SEC in 29 out-of-conference games to date, but the Vols’ young lineup showed promise for the future.
Vanderbilt got its first victory as well, coming back to defeat Massachusetts 38-35.
South Carolina’s victory was especially vital to the Gamecocks’ hopes to reach the SEC championship game. After losing their opener to Texas A&M, they couldn’t afford another defeat this early in the race, especially one to a Georgia team that also is rated a contender in the division.
Even South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier had to acknowledge the importance of the victory.
“Some wins are better than others,” he said. “I think this one was better than most others.”
Missouri held UCF to 299 yards in total offense in posting its fourth consecutive double-digit victory going back to last year’s bowl win over Oklahoma State.
“We are getting better,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “There’s other little things we’re doing wrong, but there are always things like that.
“Win or lose, you go back and evaluate, but I think we’re a better football team than we were three weeks ago.”
Florida coach Will Muschamp, whose Gators were playing only their second game because their opener was cancelled because of threatening weather, was able to joke about making up for lost time after his team’s escape in Gainesville.
“We figured we’d give you all an extra shot at some ball,” he said after the triple-overtime victory. “So, it’s paying the fans.”
Two key dates remain for East contenders this month.
Florida is at Alabama on Saturday, and South Carolina hosts Missouri the final weekend of the month after going to Vanderbilt this weekend.
ALABAMA (3-0, 0-0)
Game: Alabama 52, Southern Mississippi 12. Technically, this was a come-from-behind victory for the Crimson Tide, which trailed 3-0 when the Eagles drove for a field goal on the opening series of the game. It would have behooved the visitors to take a snapshot of the scoreboard at that point because the Tide scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions and scored on every series of the second half (four touchdowns, one field goal).
Takeaway: Amari Cooper had another huge game. The junior wide receiver tied an Alabama record with his fifth consecutive game with at least 100 yards in receptions. He had eight catches for 135 yards and a touchdown. He also gained nine yards on his only rush. Cooper had more than half of Alabama’s receiving yardage (214) but the Tide’s running game featured a slew of backs. Derrick Henry led all rushers with 74 yards on 11 carries and Kenyan Drake had 59 yards on just nine runs, three of them for touchdowns. Starter T.J. Yeldon had 57 yards on just nine carries, all in the first half, and redshirt freshman Tyren Jones ran seven times for 58 yards and a touchdown.
Next: Vs. Florida, Sept. 20.
ARKANSAS (2-1, 0-1)
Game: Arkansas 49, Texas Tech 28. The Razorbacks scored on three consecutive possessions starting midway through the third quarter and extending into the fourth to pull away from the Red Raiders. The Hogs took advantage of an interception just before halftime to score the go-ahead touchdown and take a 28-21 lead into the intermission.
Takeaway: The Razorbacks crushed a suspect Texas Tech run defense by rushing for 438 yards with sophomore running back Alex Collins rushing for 212 yards and two touchdowns and junior Jonathan Williams gaining 145 yards and rushing for four scores. Collins scored on a 84-yard run in the fourth quarter to wrap up the scoring, going right up the middle, breaking a tackle just beyond the line of scrimmage, and hanging on to outrun the Tech defenders to the end zone. The success on the ground came as no surprise to coach Bret Bielema, whose Hogs passed on only 12 of 80 plays. “Absolutely, I really do think we can pass the ball,” he said. “We just didn’t have to.”
Next: Vs. Northern Illinois, Sept. 20.
AUBURN (2-0, 1-0)
Next: At Kansas State, Sept. 18.
FLORIDA (2-0, 1-0)
Game: Florida 36, Kentucky 30 (3 OT). The Gators made two big plays to preserve their long winning streak (now at 28 games) over the Wildcats. One was safety Keanu Neal’s interception off a deflection late in the fourth quarter that kept the Wildcats from moving into Florida territory range for a potential tie-breaking field goal. The other was Demarcus Robinson’s touchdown catch on a fourth-and-goal in the first overtime that kept the Gators alive for a second OT. They won it on Matt Jones’ one-yard touchdown run in the third OT.
Takeaway: Robinson and Jones had huge games for the Gators. Jones rushed for 156 yards on 29 carries and also caught a pass for a 14-yard gain. Robinson had 15 receptions for 216 yards and two scores. Robinson also had receptions covering 51 and 33 yards, the latter setting up a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. “We’re explosive enough offensively to get in a game like that and know we can make some plays,” coach Will Muschamp said, noting the difference between these Gator and last year’s group. “We gave up some things on the back end secondary-wise, but we didn’t blink on the side. We knew no matter if we got down one score, two scores, we’re explosive enough offensively to go make some plays.”
Next: At Alabama, Sept. 20.
GEORGIA (1-1, 0-1)
Game: South Carolina 38, Georgia 35. The Bulldogs had an opportunity to tie the game with just over four minutes left, but kicker Marshall Morgan’s attempt from 28 yards was just wide right. Georgia’s defense then couldn’t stop the Gamecocks from running off the remaining time with a nine-play possession that included a fourth-and-inches conversion.
Takeaway: Running back Todd Gurley had a Heisman-like performance with 131 yards on 20 rushes, including a two-yard run for a touchdown, and had a 54-yard scoring scamper nullified by a holding penalty. That was just one of several mistakes that proved costly to the Bulldogs. Before Morgan’s missed field goal, the Bulldogs had a first-and-goal at South Carolina’s four-yard line following an interception but an intentional grounding penalty on first down backed them up 10 yards. After Gurley’s three-yard gain and an incompletion, the Bulldogs had to settle for the field goal attempt. “We just didn’t seize the moment, especially with that big turnover deep in territory and get zero points out of it,” coach Mark Richt said. “Very disappointed.”
Next: Vs. Troy, Sept. 20.
KENTUCKY (2-1, 0-1)
Game: Florida 36, Kentucky 30 (3 OT). The Wildcats, who tied the game on Austin McGinnis’ 51-yard field goal with 3:52 left in the fourth quarter, missed their best shot at winning when Stanley Williams scored on the first possession of overtime and then forced the Gators into a fourth-down situation on the ensuing series. But the Gators tied it on a nine-yard pass to Demarcus Robinson and won it in the third OT on Matt Jones’ one-yard plunge after McGinnis missed a 41-yard try on Kentucky’s third possession.
Takeaway: Coach Mark Stoops wasn’t about to accept any kind of moral victory but did like the effort his players made in the hostile environment. “I felt like our players really grew up tonight and really came here to win the game and really believed we were going to win the game the whole way through,” he said. “You have to give credit to Florida. They made the plays when the game was on the line to win the game.” The Wildcats rushed for only 81 yards but passed for 369 with sophomore Patrick Towles going 24-of-45 with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Next: Vs. Vanderbilt, Sept. 27.
LSU (3-0, 0-0)
Game: LSU 31, Louisiana-Monroe 0. The Tigers led only 10-0 at the halftime break, but their defense kept the visiting Warhawks under control. The Tigers held the Warhawks to just 93 yards in total offense — 16 rushing and 77 passing — even though they forced only one turnover (a fumble) and recorded just one sack.
Takeaway: Since falling behind 24-7 to Wisconsin in the opener, the Tigers have outscored their opponents 108-0 and posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1985 and for the first time in Tiger Stadium in 73 years. “Defensively, we were dominant,” coach Les Miles said. “We came out healthy on offense, defense and special teams. On special teams, I felt like we punted and kicked dominantly. When they decided to bring it out, they didn’t get back to the 20 often.” Punter Jamie Keehn averaged 47.8 yards and only two of his five punts were returnable for just six yards, and the visitors gained only 51 yards on three kickoff returns.
Next: Vs. Mississippi State, Sept. 20.
MISSISSIPPI (3-0, 1-0)
Game: Ole Miss 56, Louisiana-Lafayette 15. After getting off to slow starts in their first two games against Boise State and Vanderbilt, the Rebels started rolling early in this one. They scored on three of their first four possessions and were up 28-0 before the Ragin’ Cajuns got on the scoreboard with a field goal.
Takeaway: QB Bo Wallace has had to deal with shoulder problems the last two years, but there was no evidence of any injury issues in the rout of the Cajuns. Wallace was 23-of-28 passing for 316 yards with four touchdown passes to offset an interception that led to Louisiana’s second field goal just before halftime. “It’s definitely 100 percent,” Wallace said of his shoulder. “It feels great. I definitely feel stronger than I did a year ago.” The Rebels air attack was aided by a running game that produced 214 yards. “It was a really solid day from Bo,” coach Hugh Freeze said. “He played really well.”
Next: Vs. Memphis, Sept. 27.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (3-0, 0-0)
Game: Mississippi State 35, South Alabama 3. The Bulldogs overcame four turnovers — two interceptions, two lost fumbles — by rushing for 288 yards and holding the Jaguars to the same number of yards in total offense. After a 7-3 first quarter, the Bulldogs went up 28-3 at the halftime intermission. “We had too many turnovers,” coach Dan Mullen said. “Turnovers will kill you.”
Takeaway: After building a reputation as a physical defensive team, Mississippi State has become a force on offense. The Bulldogs topped 500 yards in total offense for a fourth consecutive game with its 514 yards against South Alabama. QB Dak Prescott had 375 by himself with 139 yards rushing, 201 passing, and 39 receiving on a pass from wide receiver Jameon Lewis. Prescott scored on a 4-yard run and his reception. “The one thing that I noticed that Dak really did well for us today was improvising outside of the offense,” Mullen said. “I think the long touchdown run that he had was a play that he was looking to make a quick throw with, but he pulled it down and decided to run. He also had some scrambles in other situations that really kept some drives going for us outside the framework of the offense.”
Next: At LSU, Sept. 20
MISSOURI (3-0, 0-0)
Game: Missouri 38, Central Florida 10. The Tigers shut out the visiting Knights in the second half after going to the locker room up only 14-10 at the break. The Tigers scored on their final series of the third quarter and their first of the fourth on quarterback Maty Mauk’s third and fourth touchdown passes of the day to settle things.
Takeaway: The Tigers came up huge on defense in the second half after the offense had the ball for only 24 plays through the first two quarters. The Tigers recorded six sacks (two each by defensive end Ray Shane and nose guard Lucas Vincent) and threw the Knights for 58 yards in losses for a net of just 90 yards rushing. They also came up with four takeaways with interceptions by safety Braylon Webb and defensive tackle Josh Augusta and fumble recoveries by linebacker Michael Scherer and safety Duron Singleton. UCF’s last three series in the fourth quarter ended with two lost fumbles and an interception with Singleton returning his fumble recovery 60 yards for a touchdown. “Our defense did a heck of a job to hold those guys to that number of points,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “A lot of good things came out of that.”
Next: Vs. Indiana, Sept. 20.
SOUTH CAROLINA (2-1, 1-1)
Game: South Carolina 38, Georgia 35. South Carolina held on for the victory when Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan, who missed only two field goals in 24 attempts last year, missed his second of the game with 4:24 left, and the Gamecocks were able to run out the clock with a nine-play possession. Dylan Thompson passed for 271 yards and three touchdowns for the Gamecocks, who got for 118 of their 175 rushing yards in the second half.
Takeaway: South Carolina countered Georgia’s Heisman candidate running back Todd Gurley with a two-back attack. Starter Mike Davis logged 17 carries for 66 yards, and his backup, Brandon Wilds, led the Gamecocks in rushing with 93 yards on 14 carries. Wilds scored on a 24-yard run in the fourth quarter to put the Gamecocks up 38-28, and he carried four times for 20 yards on South Carolina’s final, clock-killing march. “Brandon Wilds is an excellent inside runner,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “That’s what he does best. Mike had some good runs in there also.”
Next: At Vanderbilt, Sept. 20.
TENNESSEE (2-1, 0-0)
Game: Oklahoma 34, Tennessee 10. The Vols managed to hang for about a half with the Sooners, cutting a 13-0 first-quarter deficit to 13-7 early in the second. But the Sooners scored with just over a minute left before the halftime break and remained in control in the second half. OU’s final touchdown came on Julian Wilson’s 100-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter.
Takeaway: After pulling to within six points in the second quarter on Justin Worley’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Josh Smith, the Vols couldn’t stop the Sooners from marching 81 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing possession to put the Vols down 13 points at the half. The Vols challenged a ruling on a fumble during the key drive, but replay officials upheld the ruling and the Sooners kept the ball. “You’re hoping to go in, possibly 13-7 at halftime and we get a turnover off the field that doesn’t go our way, and they score a touchdown,” coach Butch Jones said. “It kind of changes momentum a little bit.” The Sooners then scored on their first series of the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
Next: At Georgia, Sept. 27.
TEXAS A&M (3-0, 1-0)
Game: Texas A&M 38, Rice 10. The Aggies went three-and-out their first series, then scored touchdowns on four of their next five possessions to assume a 28-7 lead early in the third quarter. Sophomore Kenny Hill threw for an even 300 yards and four touchdowns, two to Josh Reynolds, and Tra Carson rushed for a team-high 66 yards on 11 carries on his return from what was called a “minor” injury that kept him out the previous week.
Takeaway: After losing 17 yards on an intentional grounding penalty on their first series, the Aggies put together an 80-yard drive on their second to get things moving. “I think we started off slow,” Hill said. “We never want to start it off slow. We are going to work on that and fix that and be better next week. We just weren’t really clicking and we weren’t executing the way that we want to.” The Aggies wound up with 477 yards in total offense despite holding the ball for under 17 minutes. “I think people have become spoiled with our offense,” coach Kevin Sumlin said. “If we don’t score on the first play then the sky is falling. To have the ball for 16 minutes and score 38 points, I can’t be mad at that.”
Next: At SMU, Sept. 20.
VANDERBILT (1-2, 0-1)
Game: Vanderbilt 34, Massachusetts 31. Vandy got its first victory when the visiting Minutemen missed a field goal attempt in the closing seconds. After reaching Vandy’s five-yard line on their final possession, the visitors elected to go for the field goal with six seconds remaining on the clock, and Blake Lucas’ kick was wide left.
Takeaway: After big losses to Temple and Ole Miss to start the season, the Commodores showed some resiliency in overcoming an 11-point deficit in the last nine minutes. Linebacker Stephen Weatherly blocked a punt and returned it 11 yards for a touchdown to get the Commodores to within 31-26 with 8:45 remaining, and then the Commodores drove 53 yards for their go-ahead score on running back Ralph Webb’s four-yard run with 1:08 left. “We created opportunities for ourselves and gave ourselves opportunities to win,” first-year Commodores coach Blake Mason said. “I saw a lot of will and desire from the team today.”
Next: Vs. South Carolina, Sept. 20.
–Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk already has one more touchdown pass in three games than he did all of last year. The four touchdown passes in the win over UCF followed his school record-tying five the week before in the win over Toledo and gave him 12 for the season.
“Wait until he gets good,” coach Gary Pinkell said of the sophomore. “There are a lot of things out there that he can do to improve and he knows that.”
In addition to throwing for 144 yards, Mauk also ran six times, gaining 39 but losing nine on a sack for a net 30 yards. He had a nine-yard run on third-and-eight in the first half to set up Mizzou’s first touchdown and a 12-yard run to start the third quarter.
“If they’re going to drop back in coverage,” Mauk said, “I’m going to run the ball.”
–Arkansas was able to dominate time of possession so much with its ground game that Texas Tech was able to run only a total 23 plays on three possessions in the second half, and that total includes a punt. The Hogs ran off 42 plays in the second half on four possessions, scoring on three and killing the clock on the last.
The Razorbacks had the ball for over 40 minutes, which kept Tech’s up-tempo offense frustrated on the sideline.
“In my experience of playing an up-tempo offense, the more you can monopolize the clock, it just keeps their offense on the sideline and gets very, very frustrating,” Hogs coach Bret Bielema said. “I used to always enjoy watching games, and when you are playing a no-huddle offense, you see that coach over there pacing around the sidelines, because he just wants that ball back.
“And if you kind of say, ‘hey, hey, I got it, you can’t have it,’ that’s kind of — it’s frustrating and it’s a lot of fun.”
–LSU’s 31-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe was its 400th at Tiger Stadium since it opened in 1925. The back-to-back shutouts were the first for the Tigers in their own lair since getting a 0-0 tie against Mississippi State and a 27-0 win over Rice back in 1941.
“We just got our tails whipped on everything,” ULM coach Todd Berry said. “We couldn’t get open, we couldn’t block anybody. There was nothing there.”
The Tigers had blanked Sam Houston State 56-0 the previous week.
–Vanderbilt started a true freshman at quarterback (Wade Freebeck) for the first time since 1998 when David Wallace started against Alabama, but sophomore Patton Robinette took over early in the game and led the Commodores to the 34-31 comeback win over UMass.
Robinette, who had started the opener but quickly lost his job and didn’t play the second game, was 15-of-21 passing for 147 yards and a touchdown against UMass. He also scored on a one-yard sneak and had an 18-yard run.
“Patton gave us something different,” coach Derek Mason said. “You definitely want your quarterback to have command of the team.”
–Tennessee started five true freshman at Oklahoma, the most for the Vols since Nov. 12, 2011, at Arkansas. Two (strong safety Todd Kelly Jr. and end Derek Bennett) were on defense and two (right tackle Coleman Thomas and right guard Jashon Robertson) were on the offensive line. The fifth was tight end Daniel Helm. Thomas and Helm were making their first starts.
–Alabama has not allowed any of its first three opponents to rush for more than 60 yards after limiting Southern Mississippi to just 56 yards on the ground. The Crimson Tide held West Virginia to 28 yards in the opener and followed that by limiting Florida Atlantic to just 57.
–For a third straight week, the SEC had a game delayed by lightning in the area. This time it was the start of Georgia’s game at South Carolina. Weather pushed the kickoff back an hour and 26 minutes.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Look at the scoreboard. We held them to 10 points.” — Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, asked about his team’s defense after Rice amassed 481 yards in total offense (240 rushing, 241 passing).
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 3 IN THE SEC:
1. Defense looks to be on a comeback. SEC teams held six opponents to 15 points or fewer in posting wins, and three opponents (Southern Mississippi, Louisiana-Monroe, and South Alabama) didn’t score a touchdown.
2. South Carolina isn’t dead yet. Despite the debacle in the opening loss to Texas A&M, the Gamecocks regained their status as a conference contender with their win over Georgia.
3. Things are about to get serious for Alabama, which even at 3-0 has its doubters. The Crimson Tide is host to Florida and at Ole Miss for its next two games.
4. Kentucky took a huge step with its performance at Florida. It was a loss, but the Wildcats were a more physical bunch and displayed markedly better speed than they had last year.
5. Quarterback Dak Prescott is on a mission for Mississippi State. In three games, he has rushed for 273 yards (second on the team) and passed for 696 with nine of his 43 completions going for touchdowns.
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