Is it possible that Bama didnt sputter? Is it possible that they just played a underestimated decent team? Same for Mizzou?
Here’s your Monday breakdown of all the SEC action from the weekend. We provide one key stat as well as our takeaways from each contest.
All in one great big post.
Missouri 21, UCF 16 in Orlando – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 104 yards. Kendial Lawrence came to Missouri’s rescue in a low-scoring slugfest on Saturday. The senior running back rushed for 104 yards on 19 carries, but 82 of those yards — including a 10-yard touchdown run that turned out to be the game-winner — came in the fourth quarter. If Lawrence and Mizzou’s O-line hadn’t been able to crank out some yardage late in the game and eat clock in the process, the Tigers’ prospects for a bowl might look a whole lot different today.
* Despite taking much of the heat for Missouri’s 0-2 start in the SEC, quarterback James Franklin had a pretty good day passing the football. Not great, but improved. Overall he was 19-of-30 for 257 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He managed to put up those numbers despite being sacked five times by the Golden Knights (which is cause for concern moving forward). In addition, he connected with much-hyped receiver Dorial Green-Beckham on an 80-yard TD pass that was the first score in the career of the nation’s top signee this past February. (DGB has only seven catches on the season.)
* On the downside, Missouri was out-offense’d 395 yards to 346 and lost the time of possession battle 33:13 to 26:47. For much of the game, it looked like UCF’s gameplan might result in win over its SEC foe. But the Tiger defense was able to force the game’s only turnover — a fumble recovered by Sheldon Richardson — with just 2:29 to play in the game to seal the victory.
Texas A&M 58, Arkansas 10 in College Station – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 557 yards. No, that wasn’t Texas A&M’s offensive output. That was Aggie quarterback Johnny Manzeil’s production. (Overall, A&M rolled up 716 yards on “we’ve packed it in for the season” Razorbacks.) Manzeil — a redshirt freshman — has earned himself some Heisman pub with a flashy four-game start to his career: 87-of-124 for 1,094 yards, 10 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and an additional 366 yards rushing on 52 carries. His 357 yards-per-game average would rank above 31 teams in the FBS including Kentucky, Missouri and Auburn of the SEC. Think about that.
* Manziel and two other backup quarterbacks riddled the Arkansas secondary like Sonny Corleone at a toll booth. The 498 yards passing allowed by the Hogs dropped Paul Haynes’ bunch to #121 out of the 124 schools in the FBS.
* As first-ever wins in a new conference go, TAMU’s was a beaut. The Aggies scored 51 straight points after falling behind 10-7. And it could have been worse. Here’s a breakdown of each of A&M’s drives: touchdown, missed field goal, punt, field goal, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, punt, field goal, touchdown, missed field goal, touchdown, punt, touchdown, and a kneel-down to end the game. That’s six more points that could have been scored. Not counting the final clock-killing play, the Razorbacks actually forced the Aggies to punt on just three of 14 possessions.
* One has to wonder how much money Tyler Wilson’s decision to return to Fayetteville for his senior season will end up costing him. On Saturday he was 29-of-59 for 373 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. On the season he’s completed just 54.5% of his passes and his TD-to-INT ration is 9-5. Worse, he’s suffered the second concussion of his career and the team he’s leading is imploding before scouts’ eyes. Now, when Wilson gets to the combine and shows off his measureables, his stock will rise again. And all it takes is one quarterback-starved GM to make Wilson a multi-millionaire. But of all the people Bobby Petrino hung out to dry with his actions, Wilson has to rank near the top. It’s actually sad to watch at this point.
Georgia 51, Tennessee 44 in Athens – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 1,038 yards and seven turnovers. Okay, so those are two stats, but the overall output of both offenses provide a good glimpse into what was one of the most bizarre SEC contests played in recent years. There were missed PATs, a blocked extra point try, one missed field goal and a buzzer-beating 50-yarder from a true freshman. There were also three 100-yard rushers. The halftime score was a whopping 30-30. And in the end, the game would go down as the fifth-highest scoring game in SEC history (not counting overtime games).
* So much for Georgia’s defense being on par with the likes of Alabama. The Bulldogs might have big, fast, talented players, but they still rank between seventh and 10th in the SEC in the four major statistical categories (total defense, rushing defense, passing defense and scoring defense). Only Tennessee’s porous defense ranks worse when it comes to allowing plays of 30 yards or more (15 for UT, 13 for UGA) and 40 yards or more (8 for UT, 7 for UGA).
* So much for the Volunteers curling up in the fetal position when the breaks go against them. Derek Dooley told CBS’ announcing team that his team wasn’t fragile and they proved him right on Saturday. The Vols fell behind 27-10 at the #5 team in the nation and battled their way back to take a brief 30-27 lead before halftime. (UT used a series of Georgia turnovers to score 20 points in just minutes and 11 seconds.) In the second half, the Bulldogs built another lead only to see Tennessee keep fighting back with chance after chance to tie the game late. For a program looking for positive signs, UT’s competitiveness should provide one.
* The battle of two of the league’s most-talented quarterbacks wound up not being much of a battle at all. Surprisingly, Tyler Bray got plenty of help from his run game (197 yards) and Aaron Murray got little help from defense (478 yards allowed). So it’s fair to compare the two signal callers. Bray was 24-of-45 for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. At times he displayed subpar mechanics and the Vols’ final three possessions resulted in two picks and a fumble, all by Bray (though the final interception was a desperation heave). Murray was a cooler, calmer 19-of-25 for 278 yards, with two TDs against just one INT (though it was a pick-six off a tipped ball). Advantage: Georgia and Murray.
South Carolina 38, Kentucky 17 in Lexington – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 200 yards. Kentucky’s rush defense has been subpar all season and once Carolina got things cranking, it was battered yet again. Marcus Lattimore rushed 23 times for 120 yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Connor Shaw added 76 yards and a TD on 19 carries. All told the Cocks ran for 200 yards, won the time of possession battle and — basically — steadied themselves with the rush after a wobbly first half. To begin the second half, Carolina ran on 22 of its first 28 plays to flip momentum and secure the victory.
* On Friday in our Game Previews we wondered if the Carolina players would come out flat. The talk in Columbia all week had centered on Steve Spurrier and Ron Morris. When Spurrier did speak to the press he coolly stated that South Carolina was a better team than Kentucky. If that weren’t enough to lull the Gamecocks to sleep, a Top 10 battle with Georgia loomed on the horizon. It all added up to a classic trap game and Kentucky led 17-7 at the break after botching what should have been at least a field goal attempt and perhaps another TD opportunity in the final seconds of the first half. Kudos to the Cats, but it was clear someone forgot to set USC’s alarm clock.
* Carolina had raced back to take a 21-17 lead with 1:29 to play in the third quarter. That’s when Lattimore, Shaw and Spurrier’s ground game really salted things away. The drive began with four straight rushes to end the quarter. Four more Lattimore runs opened the fourth stanza. Kenny Miles got a carry. Then Lattimore and Shaw rushed four more times. All told, it was a 14-play drive that digested seven minutes and 12 seconds, covered 65 yards, ended with a three-yard Lattimore touchdown run and featured only one pass from Shaw (for nine yards). It was like watching a boa constrictor squeeze the life out of its prey.
* Woe is Kentucky. Maxwell Smith was able to start the game with his separated shoulder as Joker Phillips had promised, but two plays into the game he was finished for the night — and perhaps the season — with a torn ligament in his ankle. Rather than turn things over to Morgan Newton who’d struggled so mightily at Florida a week earlier, Phillips and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders turned instead to true freshman Jalen Whitlow. The youngster finished 12-of-23 for 114 yards, but his two interceptions and his inability to understand and call a play in the final seconds of the first half damaged UK’s cause.
LSU 38, Towson 22 in Baton Rouge – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 3 turnovers. If the score didn’t tell you, that stat should — nope, LSU didn’t clean up its game. In addition to the team’s three lost fumbles (out of five balls put on the ground), the Tigers were flagged for 10 more penalties for 69 yards. Combined with last week’s 12-10 win over Auburn, sloppy LSU has lost five fumbles and been called for 19 penalties worth 149 yards over a two-week stretch. The key is winning, of course and the Tigers are doing that. But against better competition, that won’t be the case if they keep playing as they have been.
* What the hell is wrong with LSU? In addition to the turnovers and penalties and a few misfires from quarterback Zach Mettenberger, the Tigers allowed four sacks to FCS-level Towson. Les Miles didn’t mince words yesterday: “Am I alarmed? Yes. It is time that we recognize that we cannot go on the path that we are on. It is not productive and it is not the football we are used to.” No it’s not. And instead of showing improvement from week to week, the Bayou Bengals appear to moving backwards in terms of their mistake-making ways.
* If there was a positive to be found it was the improved connection between Mettenberger and receiver Odell Beckham. The pair hooked up five times for 128 of the Tigers’ 238 passing yards. Beckham scored on passes of 27 and 53 yards. The sophomore wideout entered the game with 11 catches for 158 yards and no touchdowns. For the Tigers sake, hopefully Mettenberger can begin to find Beckham downfield a bit more often.
Alabama 33, Ole Miss 14 in Tuscaloosa – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 15 seconds. For the first time in 10 games, the top-ranked Crimson Tide actually trailed in regulation during a regular-season game. Ole Miss took a 7-6 lead on a one-yard Jeff Scott run only to see Christion Jones return the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a go-ahead Bama score.
* The Crimson Tide did what the Crimson Tide does. They ran the football (34 times versus 30 pass attempts), chewed up clock to keep their defense off the field (winning the time of possession battle by an eye-popping margin of 34:59 to 25:01), and then smothered — for the most part — Ole Miss’ offense when the D was called upon. Bama isn’t flashy, but they appear to be the closest thing to a machine that college football knows at this moment. Week after week and game after game, the methodical Tide just grind their foes into dust.
* If there was a disappointment for Alabama it was the team’s offense. Ole Miss gave up 59 offensive points and more than 600 yards of offense to Texas just two weeks back. But the Tide managed just 305 yards against the Rebels and had to settle for four field goals from Jeremy Shelley. Toss in the aforementioned special teams’ touchdown and AJ McCarron was only able to lead his team to two offensive touchdowns.
* Despite a three-turnover, 218-yard performance from his offense and a 33-14 loss, first-year coach Hugh Freeze said he was “Real pleased with the effort and fight our kids showed.” Sure enough, the Rebel defense has to be credited for holding Alabama’s ground game to a respectable 3.7 yards per carry. And on offense, Hugh Freeze high-speed system was able to put up one 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive and one 16-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. With a thin roster going up against Nick Saban’s juggernaut, that’s reason for optimism.