Tony Barnhart updates us on week 5 in the SEC and Tennessee and LSU take the cake…literally.
Just when you think SEC football can’t get any crazier, along comes the first Saturday in October with moments that we will never, ever forget. Here are just five things we learned on October 1.
1. The 2016 Tennessee Vols are one of the best collection of comeback kids I’ve ever seen. But …
Tennessee has won five games. In four of those games, it has trailed by double-digits before rallying. Let’s review.
* In the opener with Appalachian State, the Vols trailed 13-3 and won 20-13 in overtime.
* A week later against Virginia Tech in Bristol, Tenn., the Vols trailed 14-0 and stormed back to win 45-24.
* On September 24 in Knoxville, Tennessee trailed 21-0, then scored 38 unanswered points to beat Florida 38-28.
* On Saturday in Athens, Ga., Tennessee trailed 17-0 but got a 43-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the game to stun Georgia 34-31.
All total, Tennessee has erased 65 points of deficits this season.
Do it once or twice and it can be attributed to good fortune. Do it four times and you have to say there is something special about this team.
But Tennessee coach Butch Jones, while thrilled with the results, is searching for answers for why his team starts so slowly. The Vols have been outscored 41-10 in the first quarter this season. They have outscored their opponents 76-21 in the fourth quarter or later.
Here is the reality: Fall behind a bunch this Saturday at Texas A&M and the Vols probably aren’t coming back. The same goes for the next week against Alabama.
“I think everybody in that locker room understands we have to be better in the first half,” Jones told reporters after the game. “But I’ve got to give our kids credit, too. They didn’t blink.”
2. The present is painful for Georgia. But the future for the Bulldogs looks bright
I’ve been covering college football for a long time, and I’ve seen every kind of fantastic finish you can imagine. But I’ve never seen anything like the end of the Georgia-Tennessee game.
I heard from an old Bulldog friend Saturday night who said it was the worst loss he had experienced in 40-plus years as a Georgia fan.
Indeed, it might take Georgia a little while to get over the loss. Let’s start with the bad.
* Georgia made a great play (a 47-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Eason to Riley Ridley) to take the lead with 10 seconds left. But then Georgia’s discipline broke down. Two penalties gave Tennessee an extra 20 yards, and after the ensuing 20-yard kickoff return, Tennessee had the ball at Georgia’s 43. That gave Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs an opportunity to throw it into the end zone on the final play. That’s why coaches scream that the game isn’t over until it’s over. Mature teams learn how to handle these end-of-game situations. Georgia is not a mature team.
Now the good.
* As heartbreaking as the game was for Georgia, the Bulldogs outplayed a top-10 team that a lot of people thought would embarrass them. Eason, Ridley and tight end Issac Nauta are freshmen and are going to be great. The Bulldogs played without their best player, running back Nick Chubb (ankle).
Georgia learned a painful lesson about poise and maturity in big games. It will pay off somewhere down the road. But today Dawg Nation is hurting.
3. Give LSU players the credit. They bought into what Ed Orgeron was selling.
When Orgeron took over for the fired Les Miles, he basically said this: Our team is talented but we need to take the shackles off and let them express their talent; we’re going to shorten practice and get everybody around here to lighten up a little and have fun.
You could feel the energy at Tiger Stadium through the TV set as LSU, which couldn’t get out of its own way on offense before Saturday, recorded 634 yards (428 rushing) in a 42-7 thrashing of Missouri. It was the highest yardage total LSU ever has posted in an SEC game.
LSU’s players just went out and had fun.
“We did everything faster,” said running back Derrius Guice, who rushed for 163 yards and was one of two backs who went over 100 for LSU.
Now the Tigers are in a completely different frame of mind as they prepare to go to Florida this Saturday,
“I’m glad they won and I’m glad they performed well because now they can believe in what we’re doing,” Orgeron said.
4. Florida is missing something on the offense line. Could it be a heart?
I watched every play of the Florida-Vanderbilt game from the SEC Network studios and after the Gators eeked out a 13-7 win in Nashville, I came to one sober conclusion: I don’t want to go all Pat Dye here, but Florida’s offensive line ain’t man enough to play this game.
I love the way Vanderbilt plays defense, but as you watched the game, the Commodores were getting great pressure with a three- or four-man rush and Florida simply could not run the ball.
Then I read this from Florida coach Jim McElwain in the Gainesville Sun.
“Quit waiting for someone else to hit you in the mouth,” McElwain said. “We’re running out of opportunities. Don’t wait. Go out there and be somebody.”
Based on my trips to Gainesville, I can tell that McElwain has a great relationship with his players. But sometimes tough love is needed and the Florida offensive line needs a big dose of it.
Let’s put it this way. If Florida’s O-line doesn’t man up by Saturday, they are going to get embarrassed by LSU
5. Alabama may have found something special in Joshua Jacobs
Alabama has a bunch of highly recruited running backs on its roster, such as former five-star prospects Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and B.J. Emmons.
But in Saturday night’s 34-7 win over Kentucky the leading rusher was virtually unheralded freshman Joshua Jacobs.
Jacobs, a bowling ball of a back at 5 feet 10 and 204 pounds, was not even on Alabama’s recruiting radar until after the national championship game against Clemson. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt got a tip that Jacobs, rated as a three-star running back, was an under-the-radar prospect. Alabama did not offer him a scholarship until January 29.
Against Kentucky, Jacobs carried 16 times for 100 yards. Eight of his 19 touches resulted in first downs.
“Well, Joshua is a hard-working, sort of very instinctive player,” Alabama coach Nick Saban told reporters after the game. “He really understands how to press the hole and make cuts. He’s got quickness. He’s got a little burst and acceleration. He’s got good hands.”
With backup quarterback Blake Barnett leaving school last week, Alabama needs to take some running pressure off quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts had nine carries for 25 yards against Kentucky.
This article originally appeared at Gridironnow.com.