Saturdays in Athens
Saturday 5th december 2020
Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.
The Conference was choc full of great stories this week with Vanderbilt leading the way. First was the tremendous news that kicker, Sarah Fuller would start her first game and in doing so not only become the first woman to play in a SEC conference game but also the first woman to play in a Power 5 game. Hot on the heals of that and the heavy defeat that Vandy suffered was the news that the Commodores had parter ways with their Head Coach, Derek Mason. Mason becomes the second SEC coach to lose his job during this very unusual season.
Aside from these headlines, we also got news that UGA is to lose its Center for the rest of the season which likely is the last chapter in his career at Athens. And Lane Kiffin – well it couldn’t be a SIA column without Coach Kiffin – couldn’t contain his excitement that QB1 Matt Corral will return to the Rebels in 2021. All that plus SIA: SEC Player of the Week.
Here are this weeks headlines….
So, let’s get started y’all!
Play Like A Girl
While last weekend saw some huge games from a College Playoff and Heisman perspective, without a shadow of doubt the biggest news of the week was out of Nashville where Sarah Fuller made her Vanderbilt debut at kicker.
So if you have missed this story, Vanderbilt’s special teams was heavily impacted by Covid-19 meaning that Vandy’s regular kicking team was not available. Faced with finding a suitable replacement Head Coach, Derek Mason turned to the Vanderbilt women’s soccer team. And while this doesn’t need justification, for the record it is a hugely successful soccer team which recently secured it’s third SEC title.
Mason reached out to goalkeeper Fuller to try out for the team at kicker. Fuller said yes and the rest is history.
And it is history. History was made on Saturday 28th November as Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play Power 5 football. While women have played in FBS football before, never has a woman played in the Power 5 and by extension never in the SEC.
While Fuller played in only one series her introduction sent positive shockwaves through the college game. But what was more remarkable was her observations of what was happening on the Vandy sidelines. Or more importantly what wasn’t happening.
Sarah Fuller did what all great leaders do. She called out her team-mates for their lack of accountability and responsibility. Fuller said this to the media immediately after the Commodores defeat,
“I just went in there and I said exactly what I was thinking,” Fuller told reporters after Saturday’s game. “I was like, ‘We need to be cheering each other on. This is how you win games. This is how you get better is by calling each other out for stuff, and I’m going to call you guys out. We need to be supporting one another. During the SEC tournament, my entire team was cheering the entire time. It didn’t matter if we were in the locker room or if they were on the sidelines. I think they’re what won it for us.”
Return Of The Matty Corral
There is a lot of positivity around Oxford these days.
Lane Kiffin has re-introduced a swagger to Vaught-Hemingway this season and the Ole Miss faithful are loving seeing this offense run amok in the SEC. Yes, this is a team which scored 48 points against Alabama, with those in the know fast coming round to the fact that Bama has the best defense in college football.
So life is good in Oxford.
This week the Ole Miss Head Coach delivered even more good news with his confirmation that the Rebels Quarterback, Matt Corral will return for his Senior season.
According to several sources, Coach Kiffin claims that Corral is “1000%” returning to Ole Miss in 2021.
The performances of Corral have been a major positive for the Rebels this year and a key component of why Ole Miss has rescued its season and now sits at 4-4.
After 8 games Corral has completed 73% of his passes, throwing for 2,744 yards, 24 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.
The future is bright in Oxford.
All Change At Vandy
Unfortunately it wasn’t all good news in Nashville at the weekend.
After Saturday’s 41-0 loss to Missouri, Vandy fell to 0-8 in the season, and Athletic Director, Candice Storey-Lee took the decision to fire Derek Mason.
Of the decision to relieve Mason of the role, Storey-Lee said,
“On behalf of the entire Vanderbilt community, I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Coach Mason for his many years of dedication and service leading our football program. Derek cares deeply about the student-athletes under his charge. His tenure at Vanderbilt will be remembered for his steadfast commitment to our student-athletes, not only on the field, but in the classroom and as young people.”
Vanderbilt were due to travel to Athens on Saturday with Offensive Coordinator, Todd Fitch as interim Head Coach, however this game has since been postponed. With games against Georgia and a game against Tennessee still to be rescheduled, Fitch is chasing an unenviable record.
In Vanderbilt’s 117 year history it has never had a winless season. Let’s just dwell on that for a second. Never had a winless season.
UGA's Trey Hill Out For Season
News out of UGA this week that Georgia center Trey Hill will now miss the last two games of the season after undergoing surgeries on both knees. And noteworthy that this perhaps sees Hill’s stellar UGA career come to an end.
Hill holds the longest streak of starts of anyone on the Bulldogs roster, having started the last 26 games for Georgia.
With Hill’s performances for the Bulldawgs catching NFL scouts eyes, the general consensus is that Hill will sound out his draft prospects ahead of any return to Georgia.
Per Pro Football Focus, Hill is graded the highest of all Interior Linemen eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft.
This suggests that Hill will be playing football on Sundays next season with the surgeries tidying up minor niggling injuries rather than anything serious.
SIA: SEC Player Of The Week
They say good things come to those wait. Well both JT Daniels and the Georgia fanbase had to wait longer than anticipated to see the Californian in SEC action.
But it was worth the wait.
Ok, before we go down this road I need to confess to some artistic licence. Last week the column focussed on the Iron and Egg bowl’s and ignored JT Daniel’s marvellous SEC debut.
And as debut’s go it was most impressive. Post his spectacular defeat of Mississippi State, Daniels picked up the Maxwell Award for National Player of the Week, Southeastern Conference Co-Player of the Week, Manning Award Stars Player of the Week, and the Davey O’Brien Player of the Week.
So what did Daniels do to achieve such a lofty status in his first game for the Dawgs?
Well, Daniels threw for 401 yards, completing 28 of 38 passes for four touchdowns. In doing so, JT became the first UGA quarterback to reach 400 passing yards in a single game since Aaron Murray in 2013. Just remember, this was his debut.
In Daniels’ second game against South Carolina the run game was heavy, meaning that Daniels threw for just 139 yards on 16 attempts and only two touchdowns. In doing so he recorded his first interception.
Georgia would eventually run the ball for 332 yards recording a 45-16 win over the Gamecocks.
But it was a second strong performance from the new leader of the UGA pack. And from what we have seen so far, Bulldog fans should get excited about next season.
A GLASWEGIAN LIVING IN LONDON, GEORGE IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL FAN WHO FOLLOWS THE ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE. HE PROVIDES CFB CONTENT FOR THE TOUCHDOWN AND IS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.