Dayum. What a weekend of football in the SEC...
By the time all is said and done, the SEC may cannibalize itself this season...but that does make for exciting football. Several games from the last week's schedule may have appeared pedestrian at first glance, but the underdogs made things exciting, reminding everyone that there is no such thing as a "light week" in the SEC.
In the week's marquee match-up, the walking wounded known as the Georgia Bulldogs limped to a victory, thanks to the heroics of QB Aaron Murray, beating Tennessee by a final score of 34-31 in overtime. The previous "clutchless" quarterback was once again asked to win a game for the Dawgs, and Murray responded with yet another last-minute score to tie the game and send it into overtime only moments after Tennessee struck what appeared to be the death blow.
With a mere 1:56 remaining in regulation, Murray worked his magic, coming up with three 3rd down conversions on the final drive, after going 1-for-9 on that measurable through the rest of the game.
In overtime, Tennessee made a fatal error that ultimately proved the team's undoing when Alton Howard, who had been a play-maker for the Vols on the day, stretched for the pylon on a 7 yard run for a TD. The touchdown was initially awarded, but further review indicated that Howard fumbled the ball before breaking the plane, resulting in a touchback. UGA simply lined up and kicked the winning field goal to eviscerate the Vols and prevent what would have been Butch Jones' signature win in his short career on Rocky Top.
Murray's numbers were not flashy, but he was effective in willing his team to victory under pressure. During the game, Murray became the SEC all-time career passing yards leader, surpassing former UGA QB David Greene in the history books.
He threw for 196 yards with 3 touchdowns on the day. Tennessee QB Justin Worley recovered from a rough couple of weeks with a 17-of-31 performance for 215 yards and 1 touchdown. Tennessee's rushing game was productive against the battered Georgia defense, as RB Rajion Neal continued to impress with a 148 yard, 2 TD performance on 28 carries.
The win came at a high cost for Georgia, a team which has faced a slew of ranked teams in the early season. Injuries have mounted, and the attrition has come at key positions for the Dawgs. All-World RB Todd Gurley missed the game with an existing injury, and back-up running back Keith Marshall was lost for the season in the UT game. Also suffering a season-ending injury was wide receiver stand-out Justin Wesley Scott. The Georgia defense is working without several starters, and it showed as the Vols were able to sport 404 yards of total offense against the Dawgs. It will be a long remainder of the season for Georgia, and it begins this week against #25 ranked SEC East newcomer Missouri. As strange as it is to write this, the UGA vs. Mizzou game could actually play a key role in deciding the East, so stay tuned.
In other action around the SEC:
- Auburn welcomed SEC West rival Ole Miss to the Plains this week, one week after both teams fell at the hands of top 10 SEC West counterparts. Ole Miss fell to Alabama, while Auburn was beaten soundly by LSU before last week's bye. In the Also-Ran's Cup, Auburn took the lead by defeating the Rebel Black Bear Akbars by a score of 30-22. Bo Wallace had a better week against Auburn than against their in-state rival the previous week, as he threw for 336 yards and 2 TDs against the Tigers' improving but still porous defense. The Auburn D forced two interceptions against Wallace, one of which was returned for a pick 6 by Robinson Therezie. AU Nick Marshall only threw for 96 yards, but he made things happen on the ground, putting up 140 yards and 2 TDs rushing to become AU's fourth different 100 yard rusher on the season. Auburn jumped out to the early 27-9 lead, but turnovers let the Akbars back into the game in the fourth quarter. In more proof that Ole Miss is cursed by some black magic hoodoo, the usually dependable RB Jeff Scott was held to 66 yards on 6 carries (MARK OF THE BEAST, Y"ALL!!!). In all seriousness, there was a scary moment in the game when AU LB Cassanova McKinzy sustained a neck injury and had to be taken off the field to the hospital. (Despite what we think about the program, this young man needs our prayers, so remember him once or twice this week.) Defensive lineman Montravious Adams was also injured on the same play and did not return. With little quality, experienced depth to fall back upon, these injuries could have an impact on an AU defense that is still struggling to establish its identity.
- Many wondered if LSU would be a prime pick for the upset this week against Mississippi State after falling hard against UGA in the previous week. In the early going, it appeared that such a hangover had fallen across the LSU sideline, as the Tigers, a heavy favorite, led only 28-23 at the half and 31-26 after three quarters. However, the LSU malaise wore off late and the Tigers ignited the engines, scoring four fourth quarter touchdowns to pull away for the 59-26 victory. Zach Metten-‘stache had another prolific day, as he ravished the Mississippi State secondary for 340 yards passing with 2 TDs with 1 INT. His favorite target of the day was Odell Beckham, who amassed 179 yards on 9 grabs with 2 TDs. The Tigers could choose their offensive weapon in this game, as Jeremy Hill ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The LSU offense is explosive, and managed to put up 563 yards against the outmanned Bulldogs D. Offensively, Mississippi State had early success with a two QB rotation, with Dak Prescott getting the start and piling up 103 rushing. Previously-concussed QB Tyler Russell returned in the first half of the game and managed 146 yards passing with two TDs against the struggling Tiger defense. Speaking of struggling defense, LSU gave up 468 yards of offense to Mississippi State, a fact which does not bode well for LSU with explosive offenses like Texas A&M and Bama still left on the schedule. The Tiger offense has shown its willingness to engage in a shootout, but at some point, the defense must stand up.
- Florida kept things headed in the right direction with new QB Tyler Murphy under center, as the Gators rode his arm and a stifling defense to a 30-10 win over Arkansas. Murphy finished the day with 240 yards passing and 3 TDs with (this is the important part) no interceptions. WR Soloman Patton, a 5'9" firecracker (reppin' the M-O-B out of Murphy High School, y'all), was Murphy's favorite target, and Patton had 124 yards receiving with 2 TDs. The Gator defense showed why they are the best statistically in the SEC, holding the usually potent Arkansas rushing attack in check and limiting the Hawgs' explosive freshman tailback tandem. Jonathan Williams was the leading rusher on the day for Arky, and he managed on 32 yards on the ground with 1 TD. The Gator defense allowed the Hawgs only 275 yards of total offense, with only 111 of those yards coming on the ground. Arky QB Brandon Allen was 17-of-41 (41?...really Dirty Bert?) for 164 yards with an interception. Gator Louchiez Purifoy was the recipient of said pick, and he returned it for the score. Purifoy had quite the day for the Gators, as in addition to the pick 6, he added a sack and a forced fumble. If the Gators can continue to develop some semblance of an offense with Murphy, the defense is good enough to put a scare into fans of a battered and bruised UGA team.
- Missouri kept the wheels turning on what has been a strong season to date by hammering Vanderbilt in the Tigers' league opener by a score of 51-28. In the battle of James Franklins, the QB had the better outing, throwing for 278 yards and 4 TDs, along with 63 yards rushing. Mizzou was nothing if not explosive, piling up 523 yards of offense against a struggling Vandy D. Commodore QB Austyn Carta-Samuels had a fantastic day against the Missouri defense, posting up 338 yards passing with 2 TDs and an interception. However, Vandy simply couldn't keep up with the Tigers' offensive onslaught, as Mizzou spread the field and attacked the soft underbelly of Vandy's defense with numerous quick slants. Mizzou's opportunistic defense continued its streak of 35 consecutive games with a takeaway, as the Tigers have averaged 2.5 turnovers per game thus far. Their showdown with UGA this weekend will be proof positive of where Missouri stands in its second year in the SEC, as both teams are currently undefeated in SEC play and are tied atop the SEC East race.
- Despite the lover's quarrel between Coach Steven O. Spurrier and the-bestest-player-in-the-whole-wide-world Jadeveon Clowney, the Gamecocks managed to pull out a victory after surviving a fierce comeback by the Kentucky Wildcats(?), winning by a score of 35-28. South Carolina leapt to an early lead and maintained it deep into the second half, leading 27-3 at the end of three quarters. However, the Wildcats stormed back and threatened to beat the ‘Cocks, pulling to within a score before Sackerlina salted the game away late. Connor Shaw was efficient, with 262 yards passing and a touchdown. RB Mike Davis continued to be a workhorse for the ‘Cocks, piling up 106 yards and 2 TDs on 21 totes. Following yet another injury to UK QB Max Smith, Jalen Whitlow got the nod at QB for the ‘Cats, and he was moderately effective as a dual-threat, passing for 178 yards and 2 TDs and running for 69 yards and another touchdown.
- Finally, the Alabama Crimson Tide second and third string teams manhandled the hapless Georgia State Panthers in the "Foregone Conclusion Bowl," beating the upstart program handily by a score of 45-3. QB AJ McCarron played little more than a quarter, and in that time he posted 166 yards passing with 4 TDs in a 15-of-16 performance. Blake Sims took the reins for the rest of the day, and was allowed to run the Tide offense as the heir apparent in 2014. Sims finished 14-of-18 for 130 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions in the most on-field action he's seen at the Capstone. The game also saw many fresh faces in the Bama line-up, including several members of the Tide's stable of backs. Derrick Henry made a great impression with 50 yards on 5 carries, and he appeared to be a men amongst boys running into the heart of the Panther defense. TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake also had brief stints in the game, but made the most of their scant totes. The game saw the emergence of redshirt freshman sensation Chris Black, who was explosive in the passing game with a high "YAC" quotient. His performance will likely lead to an increase in playing time for him this season, despite superior depth at the WR position. Though the competition was not stellar, the Tide defense improved its statistical ranking noticeably with a smothering attack, holding the Panthers to a mere 175 yards of total offense and 15 yards rushing. The Tide returns to varsity competition this week (well...kinda) against Kentucky.
This week features another docket of important league games that will help better define races in both the East and the West. If this past weekend is indication, whether meaningful or not in terms of the league standings, excitement will abound...
SEC Week 6 Schedule
Time (CST) Matchup
11 p.m. #25 Missouri @ #7 Georgia
11:21 p.m. #14 South Carolina @ Arkansas
1 p.m. Western Carolina @ Auburn
2:30 p.m. #17 Florida @ #10 LSU
6 p.m. #1 Alabama @ Kentucky
6:30 p.m. Bowling Green @ Mississippi State
7:30 p.m. #9 Texas A&M @ Ole Miss
SEC Teams in the AP Top 25
1. Alabama (55)
2. Oregon (5)
4. Ohio State
6. Florida State
9. Texas A&M
14. South Carolina
20. Texas Tech
21. Fresno State
22. Oklahoma State
23. Northern Illinois
24. Virginia Tech