Recap: What we learned about every SEC West team
Week 1 of the 2015 season for the SEC West is in the books, and what a week it was.
With the exception of LSU, whose game against McNeese State was canceled due to excessive lighting strikes, every team in the division won its season opener, some more impressively than others. There were expected results as well as unexpected surprises, but as far as opening weeks go, things collectively couldn’t have gone much better for the division’s six squads that were able to play.
Alabama: Jacob Coker definitely justified Nick Saban’s decision to start him in the Crimson Tide’s season-opening 35-17 win over Wisconsin. He started off slowly, but finished strong, completing 15-of-21 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown while not committing a turnover.
Coker had plenty of help in junior running back Derrick Henry, the player of the game with 147 yards on just 13 carries and three touchdowns.
The defense was impressive, holding Badgers running back Corey Clement to just 16 yards on eight carries. Alabama hosts Middle Tennessee State next week.
Arkansas: In the Razorbacks’ 48-13 victory over UTEP, Brandon Allen proved he can be more than a game manager by completing 14-of-18 passes for a career-best 304 yards and a career high-tying four TDs. All four scoring passes went for more 20 yards or more — including Allen’s 58-yard connection with Jared Cornelius in the second quarter. Keon Hatcher led the Razorbacks’ receivers with six catches for 106 yards and two TDs.
For one game, the Hogs’ rushing attack was just fine. With Jonathan Williams out for the season with a foot injury, Alex Collins gained 127 yards on 12 carries, including a 70-yard scamper and a 7-yard TD run. Rawleigh Williams ran 16 times for 45 yards as the No. 2 back.
Arkansas was very opportunistic on defense, forcing two fumbles and an interception, which led to 17 points. The Razorbacks allowed just 204 total yards, and led, 21-3, before the Miners scored their only TD. Toledo visits Arkansas next week.
Auburn: There was plenty to like about the Tigers’ 31-24 victory over Louisville, beginning with Peyton Barber. who gained 115 yards on 24 carries after taking over for injured starter Roc Thomas, who left the game with an undisclosed injury. Justin Garrett’s 82-yard fumble return for a touchdown was the highlight for Will Muschamp’s defense, which helped Auburn get out to a 24-0 lead. Tray Matthews’ 35-yard interception return led to Auburn’s first touchdown. And the rest of the defense — particularly the line — was outstanding as Dontavius Russell, Montravius Adams, Carl Lawson and Devaroe Lawrence combined for four sacks. Unfortunately, Lawson joined Thomas on the sidelines, missing the second half with a hip injury.
But it’s time to curb our enthusiasm about Jeremy Johnson, who completed only 11 of 21 passes for 127 yards with three interceptions, although he did throw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Ricardo Louis, who also rushed for a touchdown. Johnson, who also scored a TD on the ground, was helped out by the Tigers’ rushing game, which finished with 190 yards.
Daniel Carlson also made a career-best 56-yard field goal to make it 17-0 with 34 seconds left in the first half for the Tigers, who host Jacksonville State next Saturday.
LSU: The Tigers’ season opener against McNeese State was canceled. LSU visits Mississippi State next Saturday.
Mississippi: The most telling development about the Rebels’ 76-3 rout of Tennessee-Martin is that Robert Nkemdiche can pretty much do anything. In addition to blocking a field-goal attempt, the All-SEC defensive tackle also chipped in offense, scoring on a 31-yard catch and run. Who knows? Maybe he can call all the offensive plays in next Saturday’s game against Fresno State.
We also learned that new starting QB Chad Kelly, who completed 9 of 15 passes for 211 yards, two TDs and one interception, might have a stronger arm than we initially thought. Plus Laquon Treadwell appeared to be fully recovered from the broken leg that ended his 2014 season, as he caught four passes for 44 yards.
Ten different players scored TDs for the Rebels, who rolled up 662 yards of offense and scored their most points in a game since 1935. Ole Miss hosts Fresno State next week.
Mississippi State: Senior quarterback Dak Prescott broke the school’s all-time record for TD passes Saturday night with No. 43 when he hit Gus Walley on a 4-yard score in the third quarter of the Bulldogs’ 34-16 victory at Southern Miss.
Prescott completed 22 of 38 passes for 237 yards for two touchdowns and also added 72 yards rushing, including a 7-yard scoring run.
Brandon Holloway returned a kickoff 100 yards for the game’s biggest highlight. But there were low points as well for the Bulldogs. New starting running back Ashton Shumpert looked like he was about to score but he fumbled at the 1. Not long after that, Fred Ross mishandled a bouncing punt, which smacked off his hands before being recovered by Southern Miss.
Texas A&M: New coordinator John Chavis made an immediate impact in the Aggies’ 38-17 victory over Arizona State. Texas A&M surrendered just 291 total yards — including only 109 in the first half — and allowed the Sun Devils to convert on third down only five times in 18 attempts. If that weren’t enough, the Aggies had nine sacks and 14 tackles for losses.
Texas A&M also showed that it just might have two good quarterbacks. Kyle Allen threw for 198 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Kyler Murray ran for 69 yards and threw for 49 with an interception. Other stars on offense included freshman receiver Christian Kirk, who had six catches for 106 yards and a TD, and senior running back Tra Carson, who rushed for 96 yards and a score. A&M hosts Ball State next week.