February 22, 2018

CFB Story
By The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: September 6, 2015 09:23:03 PM

SEC Notebook: Conference flexes muscles again in openers

With Alabama losing to Ohio State in the first College Football Playoff and Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, and Mississippi State all losing in bowls, the last two by big margins, the air of invincibility that had been created about the Southeastern Conference began to leak just a bit.
On the first weekend of the 2015 season, the conference went about getting that swagger back.
It wasn't just the 12-1 record (LSU's game was cancelled) the teams compiled Saturday as especially the early games were against mismatched foes that had no shot at the victory. You don't get much credit for beating up on FCS foes or lower teams from other non-Power 5 conferences.
But two games are worth noting.
One was No. 3 Alabama's 35-17 win over No. 20 Wisconsin.
The other was unranked Texas A&M's 38-17 manhandling of No. 15 Arizona State.
Bama completely took over the game in the second half after leading Wisconsin by only seven points at the break.
The Tide, which had shown its vulnerability defensively in giving up 44 points to Auburn in the last game of the regular season and 42 to Ohio State in the postseason, was back to its old self defensively in stuffing the Badgers' running game.
Offensively, the Tide turned running back Derrick Henry loose, and he responded with nearly 150 yards on just 13 rushes.
"Derrick Henry has had an outstanding camp," coach Nick Saban said. "I think he's a fabulous player. He usually plays better as the game goes on in terms of workhorse type guy. And it was good to see him make some good runs out there. We think the guy can be a fantastic player for us."
In Houston, coach Kevin Sumlin was preaching caution after the Aggies' win over Arizona State, recalling what happened down the stretch last year after they opened with an impressive rout of South Carolina.
But he did have to acknowledge the dominant win was a step in the right direction.
"For us to come in and play the way we played for 60 minutes is something we can build off of," he said.

ALABAMA (1-0, 0-0)
Game: Alabama 35, Wisconsin 17. Alabama's running game crushed the Badgers' defense, accounting for 238 yards of the Crimson Tide's 502 in total offense, and the Tide defense held the Badgers to just 238 yards overall and a meager net 40 on the ground. Junior RB Derrick Henry had a big night for the Tide with 147 yards and three touchdowns on just 13 carries, an 11.3 per carry average.
Takeaway: The Tide dominated the line of scrimmage and took over the game in the second half after going into the halftime break up only 14-7. It was a 35-10 game before the Badgers got a late score to make the game a bit more respectable. Coach Nick Saban got solid play out of both of his quarterbacks with senior Jake Coker going 15-of-21 passing for 213 yards and one touchdown and sophomore Cooper Bateman finishing 7-of-8 for 51 yards. Saban said he told the players both would see action in the opener because both had played well in camp and deserved the chance. "We don't have a plan for three series for one guy, three series for another," Saban said. "We're just going to go on field. And Jake was playing pretty well, so we stayed with it. Cooper got an opportunity. And I thought he did fine as well."
Next: Vs. Middle Tennessee State, Sept. 12.

ARKANSAS (1-0, 0-0)
Game: Arkansas 48, Texas-El Paso 13. The Razorbacks bottled up the visiting Miners, holding them to just 204 yards of total offense while rolling to 490 behind the arm of QB Brandon Allen. Junior RB Alex Collins logged only 12 rushes but they were good for 127 yards, the eighth time in his career he has been in triple digits.
Takeaway: UTEP decided it wanted to force Allen, who has been inconsistent at best in the past, to throw the football, and the senior responded with a career-high passing day with 308 yards, his first of over 300 yards. He was 14-of-18 passing and ran his streak of attempts without an interception to 108, the second such streak of his career. "I personally think we're a balanced offense," Allen said. "We can run, and we can pass. When one is working, we'll go with that. And when one is not, we'll go with the other one. I think that being a balanced offense is what it takes to win."
Next: Vs. Toledo, Sept. 12 at Little Rock.

AUBURN (1-0, 0-0)
Game: Auburn 31, Louisville 24. The Tigers were sitting on a comfortable 24-0 lead early in the third quarter before Louisville began a comeback that got the Cardinals to within a touchdown with just under three minutes left in the game. Auburn's Tre' Williams recovered an onside kick attempt, however, and the Tigers were able to run out the clock.
Takeaway: Auburn didn't have DE Carl Lawson in the second half of its 31-24 victory over Louisville when the sophomore sustained a hip injury that doesn't appear serious. He had four tackles with half of them accounting for lost yardage, including seven on a sack, and his absence showed when the Cardinals were able to cut into a 24-point deficit to make things interesting in the end. They got 241 yards in total offense in the third and fourth quarters after managing 164 in the first half. "Carl Lawson is an impact player," coach Gus Malzahn said. "With him being out, obviously, there's a difference."
Next: Vs. Jacksonville State, Sept. 12.

FLORIDA (1-0, 0-0)
Game: Florida 61, New Mexico State 13. The Gators made things easy for coach Jim McElwain in his Gators' coaching debut, rolling to 606 yards in total offense while holding the Aggies to just 200. The Gators led 34-13 at the half and held the visitors scoreless over the last two quarters.
Takeaway: The Gators have had an ongoing competition at quarterback throughout fall came between sophomore Treon Harris and redshirt freshman Will Grier, and little was settled in this one. Harris started and completed his first 12 pass attempts on his way to a 14-of-19 night for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Grier came into the game in the second quarter and was 15-of-17 for 164 yards and another pair of touchdowns. Neither threw an interception. "I thought they both did a great job," McElwain said. "I thought they really did. We moved the ball well with both of them, and will be interesting to see kind of when we get to the film. I thought the whole team responded well to both of them."
Next: Vs. East Carolina, Sept. 12.

GEORGIA (1-0, 0-0)
Game: Georgia 51, Louisiana-Monroe 14. After the game was delayed by lightning in the third quarter, officials called it with under 10 minutes to go in the fourth when the prospect of another delay was in the making. The Bulldogs already had amassed 435 yards in total offense by then while holding the visiting Warhawks to just 251, including only 45 rushing. Sophomore RB Nick Chubb, a Heisman candidate, also had a 100-yard rushing game to his credit with 120 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.
Takeaway: Quarterback Greyson Lambert, the graduate transfer who left Virginia when he didn't win the starting job in the spring, wasn't asked to do a whole lot, passing only 12 times with eight completions and two attempts batted down by defenders. They were good for 141 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't have an interception, but he did fumble once, which Chubb saved from being a turnover with his recovery. Coach Mark Richt didn't sound too disappointed, however. "Greyson did a very nice job of handling everything that was put on him," Richt said. "There were at least two or three balls that he needed to throw away, and he made wise decisions. Our guys gave him great protection, and he put the ball on the money."
Next: At Vanderbilt, Sept. 12.

KENTUCKY (1-0, 0-0)
Game: Kentucky 40, Louisiana-Lafayette 33. After blowing a 27-7 lead, the Wildcats needed a 58-yard drive and 12-yard touchdown run by sophomore RB Mikel Horton on their final possession and senior LB Josh Forrest's interception on the game's last play to secure the win. The visiting Ragin' Cajuns outgained the Wildcats 479-435 in total offense with the bulk of that coming from a 247-178 advantage on the ground.
Takeaway: Junior QB Patrick Towles, who faced a challenge for his job from redshirt freshman Drew Barker, was effective enough in the first half when the Wildcats built a 24-7 lead, completing 10 of his 18 attempts. But he struggled in the second, going just 6-of-16 to finish the night 16-of-34 for 257 yards and three touchdowns. He had a long attempt picked off that eventually led to the tying touchdown for the Cajuns. "He did some very good things, but I'm sure there's a lot of plays we need to improve on," coach Mark Stoops said. "I think he got a little out of sync when he maybe overthrew a couple early, and then he started under throwing it and just got off a little bit. But it's not all on him. He'll improve. It's a good starting point."
Next: At South Carolina, Sept. 12.

LSU (0-0, 0-0)
Game: LSU's opener against McNeese State was cancelled because of lightning in the area. The two teams were able to start, but managed to get in only 11 minutes before it had to be halted.
Takeaway: The Morning Advocate of Baton Rouge reported that this was the first time since 1918 when World War I wiped out the entire season that the Tigers had not been able to play. Even Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and the events of 9/11 in 2001 did not bring about cancellations. The game will not be re-scheduled, leaving the Tigers with an 11-game regular season.
Next: At Mississippi State, Sept. 12.

MISSISSIPPI (1-0, 0-0)
Game: Ole Miss 73, Tennessee-Martin 3. The Rebels jumped out 27-0 in the first quarter and never let up in posting the most points since getting 92 against West Tennessee Teachers College (now Union University) in 1935. They amassed 662 yards in total offense (338 rushing) while holding the visitors to 290. UT-Martin spoiled the shutout with a field goal in the third quarter.
Takeaway: QB Chad Kelly, a junior college transfer, was 9-of-15 passing for 211 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters of his starting debut. He also gained 20 yards on his only rush of the day. "I thought Chad Kelly's performance was really solid," coach Hugh Freeze said. "Kelly did miss a touchdown throw, and probably could have thrown one a little bit better on the fade to Laquon Treadwell early in the game, but outside of that I think he had a solid day. We will get back to watching film, but I felt pretty good about him out there." Kelly has been scrutinized in his bid to take over for Bo Wallace. "You just have to keep focused, put in as much work as you can because at the end of the day it'll pay off," Kelly said. "Just keep focused, keep doing the right thing, and everything will pay off."
Next: Vs. Fresno State, Sept. 12.

Game: Mississippi State 34, Southern Mississippi 16. The Bulldogs lost fumbles on their first two possessions and went into the break clinging to a 14-10 lead thanks in part to junior RB Brandon Holloway's 100-yard kickoff return. But the defense kept the Golden Eagles in check in the second half, holding the Eagles to just two field goals, and QB Dak Prescott got things going with his 49-yard run keying a 95-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter.
Takeaway: Prescott had a net zero rushing in the first half with a five-yard loss on a sack negating his five-yard gain, but he came alive in the second. He finished with 72 yards rushing and 237 through the air on 22-of-38 passing with two touchdowns and no picks. The Bulldogs twice stopped the Eagles at the 10-yard line to force them to settle for field goals, thus retaining a double-digit cushion throughout the last two quarters. "We've got a lot work on before we compete in SEC games," coach Dan Mullen said. "We did a lot of good things and a lot of bad things."
Next: Vs. LSU, Sept. 12.

MISSOURI (1-0, 0-0)
Game: Missouri 34, Southeast Missouri State 3. The Tigers didn't exactly dominate with their offense, rushing for only 98 yards of their total of 417 yards. But they held the visitors to just 201 total yards and shut them out in the second half after leading just 17-3 at the break. Senior LB Kentrell Brothers had a career-high 16 tackles and blocked a punt that teammate Aaron Penton returned 41 yards for a touchdown to squash any comeback homes for SEMO.
Takeaway: Missouri was without two key offensive performers for most of the game because of ankle injuries. Senior RB Russell Hansbrough sprained his on the game's second play and played only one more series. Senior C Evan Boehm, who has started since arriving in 2012, didn't play the second half. "Hopefully, we will get them back," coach Gary Pinkel said. "We don't know when." Of particular note was the debut of true freshman QB Drew Lock, who relieved junior starter Maty Mauk and was 6-of-10 passing for 138 yards and a touchdown. Mauk was 12-of-22 for 181 with two touchdowns and an interception.
Next: At Arkansas State, Sept. 13.

Game: South Carolina 17, North Carolina 13. The Gamecocks rushed for 254 yards, 48 of them coming on a key touchdown dash from backup senior RB Shon Carson in the fourth quarter, and the defense held what was seen as a potentially potent North Carolina offense to just one touchdown and a pair of field goals. Carson ended up with 75 yards on just four carries. Sophomore QB Connor Mitch was incomplete on his first five pass attempts and finished 9-of-22 for 122 yards and a touchdown pass to senior WR Pharoh Cooper.
Takeaway: Defense won the night. Though the Gamecocks gave up 440 yards in total offense, they came up with three interceptions, two of them in the end zone by LB Skai Moore. They were the eighth and ninth of the junior's career. But to get through the upcoming five-week stretch (Kentucky, Georgia, UCF, Missouri, and LSU) successfully, the Gamecocks are going to have to boost their passing game. Other than Cooper (three catches, 45 yards), wide receivers had only a combined three receptions among them (two by Terry Googer, one by Carlton Heard).
Next: Vs. Kentucky, Sept. 12.

TENNESSEE (1-0, 0-0)
Game: Tennessee 59, Bowling Green 30. The Volunteers rushed for 399 yards, coming up one-yard short of their first 400-yard game since getting 406 against Vanderbilt in 1994. After giving up a field goal on the game's opening series, the Vols responded by scoring touchdowns on five of their first seven possessions to go into the halftime break up 35-20.
Takeaway: Sophomore running backs Alvin Kamara and Jalen Hurd led the way for the Vols' running game. Juco transfer Kamara had 144 yards (most ever by a Vol in his debut) and two touchdowns on 15 carries and Hurd had 124 yards and three scores on 23 totes. "They feed off of each other," coach Butch Jones said. "The great thing about them is they're selfless. When one scores, we all score. You could see the excitement in them and in their body language, whether it was Jalen, or whether it was Alvin, or whether it was John Kelly in there." Kelly, a freshman, carried eight times for 33 yards.
Next: Vs. Oklahoma, Sept. 12.

TEXAS A&M (1-0, 0-0)
Game: Texas A&M 38, Arizona State 17. Playing in nearby Houston, the Aggies broke open a tight game with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The big one came after the Sun Devils closed the gap to 24-17 with a field goal with 4:16 left in the game. A&M QB Kyle Allen hooked up with freshman WR Christian Kirk for a 66-yard scoring play that gave the Aggies a two-score lead with under four minutes to go. Kirk also had a 79-yard punt return for a score in addition to his six catches for 106 yards.
Takeaway: Allen, who started the last five games as a freshman in 2014, was benched in favor of freshman Kyler Murray in the second quarter, and the two alternated series for much of the second half before Allen came back to make the key plays at the end of the game. Allen finished 15-of-26 passing for 198 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Murray was 4-of-9 for 49 yards and threw an interception but also rushed for 69 yards on just six carries. Allen ran for only a net three yards after being sacked three times but scored on a 12-yard run.
Next: Vs. Ball State, Sept. 12.

VANDERBILT (0-1, 0-0)
Game: Western Kentucky 14, Vanderbilt 12. A failed two-point conversion attempt with just 33 seconds remaining kept the Commodores from sending the game into overtime. The visiting Hilltoppers got touchdowns in the third and fourth quarter, the first set up by a 65-yard pass play that left them only four yards to negotiate to get to the end zone. Vandy rushed for a respectable 176 yards on its way to 393 yards in total offense but turned the ball over twice on interceptions inside Western Kentucky's 10-yard line, and sophomore PK Tommy Openshaw missed a 29-yard field goal attempt.
Takeaway: The defense obviously played well enough to win. Facing a veteran quarterback and the nation's leading returning passer in Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty, the Commodores held the visitors to just 246 yards in total offense with only 37 coming on the ground. It was their best effort under second-year coach Derek Mason. Obviously, the offense is going to have to do its part if the Commodores are to give Mason his first win over an SEC opponent. They had four drives of over 50 yards but only their last two produced any points.
Next: At Georgia, Sept. 12.

--Texas A&M held Arizona State to just 92 yards rushing and 291 yards in total offense in its 38-17 victory over the Wildcats. For that, coach Kevin Sumlin credited new defensive coordinator John Chavis, who came to College Station after spending over two decades at SEC stops Tennessee and LSU.
Sumlin said he always had respect for Chavis after facing his defenses in the past.
"Like I said earlier, I think it was good fit us and a good fit for him, too," Sumlin said. "A guy with knowledge, not just schematic knowledge but what he brings to the table in experience and what he brings to the table particularly in experience in big ball games in our league.
"The buy-in in the off-season was immediate with our kids."
--Junior QB Jeremy Johnson had some good moments in his first appearance as the full-time starter for Auburn, but finished the 31-24 win over Louisville only 11-of-21 passing for just 137 yards and one touchdown. He had three passes picked off, though only one resulted in points for the Cardinals.
"I'm just happy we got the win," Johnson said. "All I can do is get ready for the next game and put this game behind me and learn from my mistakes."
Coach Gus Malzahn expects Johnson, who had one start in each of the last two years, to be OK.
"I think he was trying to force a few things, just trying to make some plays early on," Malzahn said. "He's going to be fine. He made some very good plays to help us win, especially down the stretch."
--Junior DT Robert Nkemdiche was the key figure in what could be called the Surprise Play of the Day in the SEC in Ole Miss' 73-3 rout of UT-Martin. With Ole Miss facing third-and-two at UT-Martin's 31-yard line early in the second quarter, Nkemdiche lined up at tight end and caught a short pass from sophomore QB Ryan Buchanan, then rumbled into the end zone for a touchdown.
"We put it in a couple days ago," he said of the play. "When they called it, I said that if I get it, Iím scoring. It was my first offensive play since freshman year."
--Florida now has won 26 consecutive season openers with its 61-13 rout of New Mexico State and with Nebraska's stunning loss to BYU now has the nation's longest such winning streak. The Cornhuskers' streak ended at 29 when the visiting Cougars scored on the game's final play of a 33-28 victory.
--Georgia's 51-14 win over Louisiana-Monroe was one of several games throughout the country that were delayed or shortened by severe weather. After a delay in the third quarter, the game was called in the fourth with 9:54 remaining.
"I think this is the first time I've been involved in one that got terminated at this point," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. "We had one delay, then another, and it could've gone all day and all night. So it was in the best interest of everyone to terminate it when we did."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's what's going to win us the game, us doing that." -- Florida WR Alvin Bailey, after the Gators were penalized only once (that in the fourth quarter) of their 61-13 win over New Mexico State.

1. Don't go too overboard on Texas A&M's win over Arizona State. Just a year ago, remember, the Aggies were seen as a division contender and QB Kenny Hill was seen as a Heisman candidate after his performance in the opening win at South Carolina, but the Aggies ended up losing five of their last seven games, including 59-0 at Alabama, and Hill was soon gone from the program.
2. Florida is going to be interesting to watch. After having problems at quarterback last year, the Gators appear to have two capable leaders in sophomore Treon Harris and redshirt freshman Will Grier.
3. Arkansas' offense looks more diversified. Senior QB Brandon Allen, who has struggled with consistency in the past, was solid in the passing game for the Razorbacks, a key development with the running game missing injured RB Jonathan Williams.
4. Auburn needs to keep DE Carl Lawson healthy. The outstanding pass rusher was kept on the sideline with a hip injury the second half against Louisville, and it showed with the Cardinals closing to within a touchdown late in the game.
5. Alabama RB Derrick Henry has put himself firmly in the Heisman race. Henry averaged 11.3 yards a carry on 13 runs in the win over Wisconsin, scoring on runs covering 37, 56, and two yards before retiring after three quarters

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