SEC Report Cards, Week 8: Vanderbilt? VANDERBILT?
While SEC Week 8 had most of the big dogs taking care of business, the middle and bottom of the league were absolutely turned upside down. Who ever thought Vandy would be at the head of the class in the SEC? But here at SDS, it’s time for the weekly report cards. We grade each team and then reward the best and chastise the worst on offense, defense, and special teams. Ring the bell, because school’s in and report cards are out.
The only real moment of fear was early in Saturday’s game when the Tigers settled for field goals on their first three possessions. After Mississippi State cut its deficit to 9-7, LSU took over with two touchdown drives before the half, and then never looked back.
Solid effort by the Tigers, more than doubling Arkansas in yardage and winning the rushing battle 298-52. The Tigers looked like a top-10 team, following a week off in the wake of a tough loss at Florida.
Texas A&M: B+
The Aggies found a way, mostly thanks to a fumble scoop-and-score that was the difference in the game. The offense was kind of ho-hum, but the defense made enough plays to save the day.
The most dreaded of words: high ankle sprain. Tua Tagovailoa’s health aside, Bama more or less was sleepwalking here. UT had 4th and goal at the 1 halfway through the fourth quarter that could have made it a one-score game. Instead the Vols fumbled and Bama’s Trevon Diggs grabbed the loose ball and raced 100 yards. It was enough for Bama this week, but it won’t be forever.
The Rebels kept it competitive, but despite outgaining A&M by 68 yards and being even in turnovers, they found a way to lose. The Ole Miss QB rotation never felt smooth in this game, and the Rebels needed it to gel against the Aggies.
Mississippi State: C-
The Garrett Shrader era had a touchdown early and another late … but not a ton in between. State did force five LSU punts and didn’t play terrible, but never really had a chance after LSU’s two scoring drives going into halftime.
The Razorbacks were absolutely dominated. How badly? Well, the first-half possessions went: Fumble, punt, punt, punt, fake punt interception, punt, missed field goal. Kind of says it all. Well, that or giving up nearly 500 yards on defense.
If you had quarterback Mo Hasan to be the unsung hero of Vandy’s upset win at Missouri, well, go play the lottery. This wasn’t a fluke. Ke’Shawn Vaughn ran hard, the passing game made just enough plays and Vandy outgained Mizzou. This is the game that is frustrating because it makes you wonder why Vandy can’t do something approaching this every week.
Let’s be honest, a handful of crucial calls and non-calls helped Florida out immeasurably. But this is the SEC, where the officiating will be shaky and teams must capitalize on breaks they are given. Florida did that, and even thought the Gators were outgained by South Carolina, they made plays when they had to do so. Sounds like a recipe for success.
Yes, Georgia won by three touchdowns. But the Dawgs also played to a 0-0 grind for the first 38 minutes of their game against Kentucky. Granted, the game was played in what seemed like a monsoon, but UGA had no confidence in Jake Fromm and played the run-punt-play-defense game all night. It worked, but it won’t always work.
South Carolina: C+
The Gamecocks led Florida in the fourth quarter. Yes, they couldn’t quite finish the upset, but watching South Carolina redevelop itself as a team with a slashing ground game and a hard-hitting defense has been one of the pleasant surprises of the season. With a couple more calls going their way, the Gamecocks could well have sprung a second straight upset.
The Kentucky defense deserves an A- or a B+. The Wildcats shut Georgia down for two-plus quarters and held the Bulldogs to 21 points and 270 yards for the game. That would normally leave Kentucky in position to win … but the offense was missing in action completely. Kentucky has to figure out some way to pass — granted, that will be easier outside a monsoon and in Athens. But the fact remains.
On one hand, UT ran a 4th-and-goal play at the Alabama 1 in the middle of the fourth quarter with a chance to draw within a single score. They knocked Tua Tagovailoa out of the game and did an adequate job defensively. On the other hand, Vols QB Brian Maurer also was knocked out of the game, that 4th and goal was a wreck which summarizes Jarett Guarantano’s career and Tennessee lost by 22.
The Tigers had climbed into the top 25 and they were a three-touchdown favorite against a Vandy team that just got steamrolled by UNLV. Perhaps the most telling stat of this game: Mizzou had 153 rushing yards, 140 passing yards and 120 penalty yards. Vandy’s defense spent half the day in the Missouri backfield, and accordingly, the Tigers laid what might be the biggest egg of the 2019 SEC season.
Yes, it was against Arkansas, but the Tigers put up 51 points, rushed for almost 300 yards and controlled the line of scrimmage.
After South Carolina carried a 20-17 lead into the early fourth quarter, Kyle Trask struck for three consecutive touchdown passes to save the day. Trask might be the most surprising player in the SEC.
Not their sharpest game, but (yawn) 327 passing yards in an SEC road game for the Tigers is the kind of thing that used to amaze us. You know, pre-Joe Burrow.
A shutout is a shutout, even in a rain storm against a team that literally cannot throw a pass.
Holding one of the SEC’s best offenses to 293 yards and 14 points tends to improve chances for pulling off a significant upset, as the Commodores did. Bonus points for three sacks and eight tackles for loss.
They gave up yards and plenty of them, but the Aggies always seemed to have the final answer in this game. The biggest play of the night was doubtlessly a 62-yard scoop and score fumble return touchdown by Buddy Johnson to gave A&M a lead it never lost.
It was a solid day punting (43.1-yard average for Harrison Smith) with a couple of nice returns and no real mistakes.
Not much went right for the Wildcats on Saturday, but a 58-yard kick return by walk-on Zach Johnson gave UK its best chance to score on Georgia. The return game was sharp although punter Max Duffy was uncharacteristically inconsistent.
The Gators made their kicks, they punted well, they avoided any big mistakes — which is more than you can say for most on a weekend where multiple SEC teams missed extra points.
The program was shut out for the first time since 2012 because of a passing game that threatened to throw the game back to 1912.
The Razorbacks averaged 1.9 yards per carry, turned the ball over four times and just played an ugly game on Saturday.
While the Vandy defense (see above) had a big part in this, so did 12 penalties for 120 yards. It was an incredibly unfocused effort.
It’s hard to hit the detention trifecta, but the way that Auburn gained more yards rushing (and nearly more passing) than Arkansas did total yards gives some indication of how this went.
It wasn’t a bad game at all and Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp nearly lost his religion at the officiating. But giving up 38 points to Florida has to lead to some acknowledgment of misdeeds.
The Bulldogs, as has most everybody else this season, got bombed out of town by the Tigers. The most telling play of the night was when MSU pulled within 9-7 late in the first half, only to give up a 60-yard touchdown pass 17 seconds later.
When a team loses by seven and misses two field goals, well, those two things are pretty interrelated.
That fake punt alone would do it. A missed field goal and sloppy punting didn’t help, but that fake punt. What was that?
As with Mizzou, the Rebels lost by seven and missed two field goals.