Alabama restores order after wild day filled with surprises, crazy plays
It’s November — primetime in the SEC.
Saturday’s SEC slate was filled with wild finishes, spectacular performances, crazy bounces and miraculous — perhaps illegal — game-saving plays.
Chaos reigned at tradition-laden Ole Miss. Shocking upsets were narrowly avoided in raucous environments at Florida and Tennessee.
Finally, order was restored when Alabama dominated LSU in the main event, the SEC’s battle of titans.
But first, we enjoyed a wild ride:
- Florida needed a career-long field goal from a hobbling, unreliable kicker deemed too injured to put in to kick an extra-point earlier to beat lowly Vanderbilt at The Swamp.
- Then South Carolina, left for dead a few weeks ago by coach Steve Spurrier, came within a late fumble of rallying from a 17-point lead to either shock Tennessee or extend the game into overtime at Neyland Stadium. Afterward, Tennessee coach Butch Jones didn’t wait for a question to tear into the media on a preemptive attack to evade questions about the Vols’ poor performance.
- Twice, Arkansas seemed beaten, a last-gasp play falling short, only to be revived. First, the Razorbacks converted a do-or-die fourth-and-25, thanks to a desperation, blind lateral (illegal?) from Hunter Henry to Alex Collins. The Hogs escaped again when Ole Miss defender Marquis Haynes grabbed Brandon Allen’s facemask on what should have been a clinching sack.
Cut to the main event, where unbeaten and No. 2 (in the College Football Playoff rankings) LSU faced No. 4 Alabama in Tuscaloosa in a battle for control of the SEC West.
Alabama was Alabama. Dominant on the line of scrimmage, powerful running game, big-time playmakers on the outside.
The Alabama defensive front stopped the seemingly unstoppable Leonard Fournette, the Heisman frontrunner, holding him to 31 yards on 19 carries, roughly 160 yards below his season’s average. Fournette had nowhere to run.
Meanwhile, the Tide offensive line opened up holes for RB Derrick Henry, who chewed up yardage, finishing with 210 yards and three TDs on 38 carries.
Henry may replace Fournette as the top Heisman candidate. Another year, another Alabama running back in the running for the nation’s top individual award.
A gimpy kicker, erratic when healthy, came off the bench — he was passed over in favor of a recent walk-on when Florida attempted an extra point in the first quarter — to boot a 43-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to prevent the Gators from absorbing a embarrassing loss to a Vanderbilt team that lost to Houston 34-0 a week earlier.
A much-hyped Tennessee team needed a late fumble to hold off an outmanned, but inspired, South Carolina team at Neyland Stadium.
An Ole Miss team that beat Alabama with help from a broken-play, tipped pass TD in September, lost its SEC West title hopes when Arkansas converted a do-or-die fourth-and-25 situation with a wing and a prayer/borderline illegal play.
Then order was restored.
Alabama, the powerhouse that seems to lose once a season, but always finds its way back to the top, assumed control of its familiar position as SEC frontrunner and national title contender.
LSU remains a Playoff contender.
Everybody else? We’ll find out this month.
Next Saturday, Alabama and Henry take on Dak Prescott and Mississippi State in Starkville; LSU calls on the resurgent Hogs in Fayetteville; and a Florida team that barely squeaked past Vanderbilt takes on an enthusiastic and improved South Carolina team in Columbia.
It will be hard to match yesterday’s drama and excitement. But it should be exciting, nonetheless.