Some quickie observations from the games on the 11th Saturday of the SEC football season.
Alabama: Derrick Henry ran for 204 yards and two TDs as the Crimson Tide hammered host Mississippi State 30-6. The victory kept Alabama in line for a potential spot in the four-team College Football Playoff. The Tide opened the scoring with a punt-return TD by Cyrus Jones early in the second quarter and rolled from there. Alabama led 21-3 at halftime, and the outcome never was in doubt in the second half. Henry’s TD runs covered 74 and 65 yards. Alabama had nine sacks and, as expected, shut down Mississippi State’s rushing attack.
Arkansas: Alex Collins rumbled for 141 yards and two TDs as the Hogs upset host LSU 31-14 and became bowl eligible. Collins headed a dominant rushing attack; Arkansas (6-4, 4-2) rushed for a season-high 299 yards in rolling over the Tigers. It was Arkansas’ fifth win in six games. The Hogs came in with just eight sacks on the season, but had five of Brandon Harris on Saturday night. Arkansas now has scored 201 points in its past four games.
Auburn: The Tigers scored a TD on their first possession of the game, but basically were offensively inept the rest of the way in falling 20-13 to visiting Georgia. It was the 119th meeting in the rivalry, and Georgia now leads the series 56-55-8. Auburn drove 75 yards on its first possession but had just 200 yards the rest of the way. The Tigers committed three turnovers, including a fumble at Georgia’s 1 by Ricardo Louis with 3:22 left that basically ended any suspense. Louis was the hero the last time these teams met at Auburn, catching the winning TD pass on fourth down in “The Prayer at Jordan-Hare” in 2013. Auburn’s defense played well, holding Georgia to just 243 yards. A punt-return TD by the Bulldogs with 9:28 remaining in the game was the back-breaker. Auburn (5-5 overall, 2-5 in the SEC) has home games against Idaho and Alabama remaining.
Florida: The Gators slogged past host South Carolina 24-14. The Gators led 17-0 at the end of three quarters — giving up just 44 yards to the Gamecocks to that point — and the game looked to be over. But the Gamecocks scored twice in the fourth quarter to make things interesting before the Gators put it away on a 1-yard TD run by Kelvin Taylor with 2:01 left to seal it. Once again, Florida’s lack of points made what should’ve been an easy win into a nail-biter of sorts. It was the sixth time this season UF was involved in a game decided by 10 or fewer points, and the Gators (9-1, 7-1) scored more than 28 points in an SEC game just once this season. Florida allowed just 201 total yards, the sixth time this season the Gators surrendered 257 or fewer yards and the third game in a row. Florida has allowed only 24 points in the past three games. The Gators end the season with back-to-back home games against Florida Atlantic and Florida State before heading to Atlanta for the SEC championship game on Dec. 5.
Georgia: Georgia’s defense played extremely well after Auburn’s first possession and the Bulldogs’ special teams turned in the game-deciding play in a 20-13 win at Auburn. Auburn scored a TD on its first drive, but the Bulldogs allowed just 200 total yards after that. Georgia’s offense again struggled — the Bulldogs finished with only 243 total yards — but a 53-yard punt-return TD by Isaiah McKenzie with 9:28 left was the key play. McKenzie also scored on a 4-yard jet sweep with 1:20 left in the third quarter that tied it at 10. His punt return gave the Bulldogs a 17-10 lead. Georgia (7-3, 5-3) forced three turnovers and committed none. Four times this season Georgia managed fewer than 300 yards in an SEC game; the Bulldogs went 2-2 in those games. The Bulldogs finish with non-conference games against Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech.
Kentucky: The Wildcats dropped their fifth game in a row, falling 21-17 at Vanderbilt. UK (4-6, 2-6) now must win both its remaining games, against Charlotte and Louisville, to become bowl eligible. UK was 5-1 last season before losing its final six games. Kentucky ran for 225 yards against Vandy’s tough defense, but UK QBs Patrick Towles and Drew Barker were ineffective through the air, going a combined 15-of-34 for 127 yards, two interceptions (once was returned for a touchdown) and a TD. In eight SEC games this season, UK quarterbacks threw four TD passes and 14 interceptions.
LSU: The Tigers lost for the second week in a row, falling 31-14 at home to Arkansas. LSU’s rushing attack was shut down for the second consecutive week, with the Tigers (7-2, 4-2) finishing with just 59 rushing yards. Arkansas, meanwhile, rushed for 299 yards. The loss ended LSU’s SEC West title hopes, as well as extinguishing any long-shot hopes for a playoff spot. LSU fell behind 21-0 in the second quarter, and though the Tigers cut it to 21-14 early in the third quarter, they were outplayed for much of the game.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs were trampled by Derrick Henry and Alabama 31-6. Bulldogs QB Dak Prescott threw for 300 yards, but he was sacked nine times and threw just his second interception of the season. Henry rushed for 204 yards and the Bulldogs surrendered 235 rushing yards; it was the fourth time this season Mississippi State allowed at least 200 rushing yards. The Bulldogs trailed 21-3 at halftime and never truly threatened in the second half.
Missouri: The Tigers capped off an emotional week by downing BYU 20-16 in Kansas City. Last Saturday night, Missouri’s black players announced via Twitter that they would boycott all football-related activities until the school president resigned. Sunday, coach Gary Pinkel tweeted out a message of support to his players. Monday, president Tim Wolfe stepped down, effective immediately. And Friday afternoon, Pinkel announced that he would resign at the end of the season for medical reasons. Against BYU, Mizzou scored two touchdowns in a game for the first time since Oct. 3 against South Carolina; this was the fifth game since that win over the Gamecocks. Drew Lock threw for 244 yards and a TD, and TB Russell Hansbrough rushed for 117 yards as the Tigers finished with a season-high 434 yards. It was just the second time this season Mizzou had more than 338 yards.
South Carolina: The host Gamecocks had just 44 yards of offense through three quarters but still made things interesting with two TDs in a 4:10 span of the fourth quarter before falling 24-14 to Florida. South Carolina finished with only 201 yards of offense in falling for the third time in four games since Steve Spurrier resigned. After falling behind 17-0, the Gamecocks scored on a Pharoh Cooper TD pass to Perry Orth and an Orth-to-Cooper scoring toss. But Florida put it away on a 75-yard TD drive. It was the fifth loss in six games for the Gamecocks, whose point total was their second-lowest of the season. South Carolina (3-7, 1-7), which finished with its worst SEC record since going 0-8 in league play in 1999, has non-conference games remaining against The Citadel and top-ranked Clemson.
Tennessee: The Vols became bowl eligible with a desultory 24-0 victory over one-win North Texas. Alvin Kamara ran for 127 yards and two TDs for Tennessee, which outgained the Mean Green 409-199. It was Kamara’s first 100-yard game since the opener, when he had 144 against Bowling Green. It also was the third consecutive win for the Vols (6-4), which is their longest winning streak since they won four in a row in 2010. The Vols scored a TD on their first possession, but the expected rout — they were favored by 41.5 — never materialized. At the same time, the outcome never was in doubt. The Vols’ defense had things under control throughout; North Texas was 2-of-12 on third down and punted eight times. The Vols have SEC games left against Missouri and Vanderbilt.
Texas A&M: The Aggies stepped out of conference for the final time during the regular season, thrashing FCS foe Western Carolina 41-17. The Aggies (7-3) rushed for 304 yards and finished with 583 yards of total offense. Kyler Murray threw three TD passes and backup Kyle Allen tossed another. Tra Carson ran for 109 yards and a score. A&M led 21-14 at halftime, then removed any doubt by outscoring the Catamounts 13-0 in the third period. True freshman WR Christian Kirk had nine receptions for 122 yards and two TDs. The Aggies had 36 first downs despite committing three turnovers.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores earned their second SEC victory of the season with a 21-17 win over Kentucky. It was just the second time this season Vandy scored more than 17 points. Vandy (4-6, 2-4) led 21-10 at halftime, then held on in the second half. True freshman Kyle Shurmur — the son of Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur — threw for 166 yards and two TDs, and Oren Burks returned one of his two interceptions for a TD. Ralph Webb ran for 113 yards on 33 carries. UK was just 4-of-16 on third down, and Vandy forced three turnovers. The Commodores have allowed just 37 points in their past four SEC games. If Vandy wins its final two games, against Texas A&M and Tennessee, it will go to a bowl.
(You can follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin)
(Feature photo by JEFF BLAKE/USA TODAY SPORTS)
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