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SEC Recap: Week Nine

Florida wakes up, Kentucky special teams shine in epic loss, Georgia has a QB, and Tennessee gets “Smoked”

Mississippi State v Georgia
Quarterback JT Daniels’ debut as a Bulldog was a resounding success Saturday night against Mississippi State as he threw for more than 400 yards in Georgia’s 31-24 win.

Florida 38 vs. Vanderbilt 17

The No. 6 Gators have been borderline flawless since losing to Texas A&M in Week 3, so I suppose a game like this was inevitable.

Florida trailed winless Vandy for a significant portion of the first half Saturday, and the Gators’ only points over the first thirty came via Kyle Trask’s record-setting 29th touchdown pass of the season.

No SEC quarterback has thrown for more scores in SEC play in a season than Trask, and the Gators through seven games have scored 306 points, surpassing the mark set by Steve Spurrier’s 1995 squad, which rode an explosive offense to the national title game. The offense also set a school record for most consecutive games (9) scoring 35 or more points.

And so, the beat goes on for the Gators, who came to their senses after halftime, sprinting out to an insurmountable lead thanks to back-to-back scoring drives to start the final thirty.

In Nashville, head coach Derek Mason likely won’t be around to see it come to fruition, but the Commodores appear to have something in freshman QB Ken Seals, who led the offense 75 yards down the field in 11 plays for a score to open the game.

It was Vanderbilt’s first touchdown in the first quarter this season.

Alabama 63 vs. Kentucky 3

The kicking game was on full display for Kentucky in Tuscaloosa.

Sophomore place-kicker Matt Ruffolo hit a 33-yarder to pull the ‘Cats to within four late in the first quarter. Senior punter Colin Goodfellow, playing in only his second game ever, averaged 48.3 yards per kick, including a career-long 55-yard boot.

Save for a pair of bad snaps, which cost Kentucky at least six points in this nail-biter, the special-teamers came to play.

Kentucky vs Alabama
Safety Jordan Battle, who returned an interception for a touchdown, and the Alabama defense made sure to partake in the fun of Saturday’s 63-3 embarrassment of Kentucky.

Every game has its silver lining … even when you surrender 56 unanswered points.

And even when your best offensive player calls out his coordinator for suspect play-calling in a 60-point loss — one that echoes amid the annals of Wildcat football history that fans will be quick to forget.

‘Bama QB Mac Jones, funny enough a former Kentucky commit, only threw for two scores and a season-low 230 yards, but he could’ve thrown for negative yardage and the offense still would’ve had enough to steamroll Kentucky.

His understudy, Bryce Young, threw for two scores in just over a quarter of play, and four different Tide running backs found the end zone as Alabama rolled up 509 yards, including 226 on the ground, for its 30th consecutive win over an SEC East opponent.

After the game, head coach Nick Saban was asked about time of possession, which narrowly favored the Tide despite the crooked numbers on the scoreboard.

His response was about as pleasant as you could imagine, but hey, you gotta find something to criticize.

Georgia 31 vs. Mississippi State 24

JT Daniels had himself a good time Saturday.

The USC transfer threw for 401 yards against Mississippi State — the most ever for a quarterback at Georgia under Kirby Smart — and four touchdowns to endear himself to the Bulldog faithful in his debut.

Daniels completed balls to eight different receivers, which is really good, especially considering that the running game only produced eight yards on 23 carries, a new low for the Smart era.

Mississippi State QB Will Rogers, the freshman who has assumed the reins of his respective offense, kept pace with Daniels, throwing for 336 yards on 52 attempts, both career highs.

Through two months, Georgia has rarely resembled the national title contender we all expected prior to the season, but at least for one night, they seemed to have found the lone missing puzzle piece that has separated them from the country’s elite teams.

Missouri 17 vs. South Carolina 10

This win was about as pedestrian and as blue-collar as you can get.

But considering the long layoff and the fact that this game almost didn’t actually happen, let’s relish it all the same.

Playing their first game in nearly a month, the Tigers at times looked the part, but wins that are less than aesthetically pleasing are still wins, especially when they happen at Williams-Brice Stadium, where we have seen a similar script play out before.

Connor Bazelak was sort of steady, if not his normal self, and Larry Rountree averaged less than three yards per carry, but his one-yard scoring plunge late in the first half made all the difference.

For his efforts, Rountree, who will very quietly finish his career as one of the most productive backs in program history, passed Zac Abron for second place on Missouri’s all-time rushing list.

NCAA Football: Missouri at South Carolina
The win at South Carolina Saturday wasn’t a thing of beauty for running back Larry Rountree (34) and Mizzou, but looks don’t matter in the age of COVID and on a day when a game could easily not have been played.

The defense did its part, and I suppose it helped its own cause by sandwiching star Gamecocks’ receiver Shi Smith on the game’s first drive. After the hit, Smith would not return, leaving interim head coach Mike Bobo’s offense shorthanded through the air.

There’s a lot to like about this win, Eli Drinkwitz’s first on the road as Mizzou’s head coach, and perhaps it’s even sweeter given the fact it wasn’t executed in the most eloquent of fashions — and probably was one infected player away from not happening at all.

This year is the year of maddening uncertainty, but I know this: We all need that turnover boxing robe in our lives for the rest of the season.

I don’t know what’s more balla: The robe itself or wearing it while you shake the hands of South Carolina players after a win.

Auburn 30 vs. Tennessee 17

If there’s a better name in all of college football than Smoke Monday, let’s hear it.

Monday is a freshman defensive back for Auburn, and he had a pick-six against Tennessee.

And he basically won the game for Auburn, whose season has been defined by moments of similar drama.

With the Tigers up only three late in the third, Tennessee looked for the go-ahead score when Monday intercepted Jarrett Guarantano in the end zone and returned the ball 100 yards to stretch the lead to 10 — and extend the Vols’ losing streak to five.

It was the second 100-yard pick-six in as many seasons for the Auburn defense, and the second for Monday, whose heroics could not have come at a better time.

Tennessee arguably outplayed the Tigers, averaging more than five yards per carry on the ground on 41 carries. The Vols out-gained Auburn, committed fewer penalties, and won the time-of-possession battle, but the lone turnover was a killer.

And it could be one that costs Jeremy Pruitt his tenure in Knoxville.

That’s according to Tennessee pundits, who on Sunday are lamenting the play by Monday as the possible beginning of the end.

LSU 27 vs. Arkansas 24

Despite gaining only 14 first downs Saturday, the Razorbacks were within a field goal of potentially taking the game to overtime.

That’s when the right hand of LSU defensive back Jay Ward nicked the 44-yard attempt of Arkansas kicker A.J. Reed. The kick fell short, and the Tigers took over with just under two minutes left.

It’s the fifth consecutive win in the annual series for LSU, whose struggles continue despite the outcome.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Arkansas
Cornerback Jay Ward’s block of a potential game-tying field goal sealed the deal for the Tigers against Arkansas, but it was his play on third down that allowed LSU to escape with a narrow road win.

The Tigers were scorched by Hogs QB Feleipe Franks, who threw for 339 yards and a score to lead an Arkansas offense that made the most of its severely limited opportunities.

Arkansas began each of its second-half drives inside its own 10-yard-line, but a third-quarter outburst of 155 yards and a score kept the game close and effectively erased the glaringly shocking disparity in time of possession.

LSU held the ball for more than 41 minutes, thanks in large part to a third-down conversion rate that exceeded 50 percent, but the offense still needed the services of Ward, who made an arguably bigger impact the play before the field goal attempt when he broke up Franks’ pass on third-and-3.