Saturdays in Athens
By George Somerville.
Saturday , 7th november 2020
Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.
This week the Ole Miss Rebels grab the headlines, but not before the Gators and Mizzou Tigers have a right royal rumble in Columbia which leads to all sorts of trouble, a bad injury for the rebels Demarcus Thomas, finally a new State flag in Mississippi, the World’s Largest Cocktail party is going to be a bit quieter than normal and yes, a Rebel breaks all sorts of records to pick up SIA: SEC player of the week!
So, let’s get started y’all!
let's Get Ready To Rumble
The Florida Gators comprehensively beat the Mizzou Tigers 41-17 in Columbia last weekend.
However events which unfolded at halftime completely overshadowed the game and its result, leaving both teams with selection headaches over the next couple of weeks as a result of this madness. This is especially true for the Gators who face Georgia in the cocktail party game next weekend. But more on that later.
As the game approached half time, Florida quarterback Kyle Trask was hit late by Tigers Trajan Jeffcoat, which prompted the Florida offensive line to leap to Trask’s defence. And that they did.
As you will see from the clip above this led to a mass brawl which enveloped not just both teams, but their coaching staff and unfortunately the referee’s who attempted to separate the sparring factions.
By the time order was resumed, three players had been ejected; Mizzou’s Tre Williams (unsportsmanlike conduct), and Florida’s Antwuan Powell and Zach Carter (both for fighting).
In addition, all players on both teams were given unsportsmanlike penalties (meaning subsequent penalties would result in their ejection from the game).
By Monday, the SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey stepped into the fray to issue punishments.
Florida coach Dan Mullen was fined $25,000 for his part in the debacle which included a verbal altercation with Mizzou Head Coach, Eli Drinkwitz and also for his part in inciting the crowd as he headed up the tunnel. On the Mizzou side three players – linebacker Chad Bailey, offensive lineman Dylan Spencer and defensive lineman Markell Utsey, were issued half-game suspensions for fighting. They will serve their suspensions during the first half of the Nov. 14 home game against Georgia.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was clearly none too impressed with the situation and had this to say in a statement issued on Monday,
“There is no place in college football for the kind of incident that took place at halftime of the Missouri at Florida game Saturday night. Everyone involved is responsible for meeting sportsmanship standards throughout each game.Running on the field to confront a game official, the gathering of teams in an on-field confrontation and student-athletes throwing punches are all disappointing at any time, but even more so as we work to support healthy competition during a pandemic.”
This was not a good advertisement for both schools, who issued this joint statement,
“The actions at the end of the first half of last night’s game do not reflect the values of our football program or university,” the statement read. “We are committed to healthy competition and good sportsmanship. The clean play without incident in the second half is how we expect to represent both institutions and the SEC. We believe both programs will use this moment to learn from so that future incidents like this do not happen.”
And so to this week’s games where the Gators travel to Jacksonville to match up with Georgia for the annual World’s Largest Cocktail party. This was already shaping up to be a must win game for both teams – in terms of their aspirations for SEC title hopes – but the Gators will now be without Antwuan Powell and Zach Carter, making life that bit more difficult against a Georgia team which is not without its issues right now.
Injuries are mounting for Georgia at the worst time of the season.
As the Dawgs prepare to face the Gators in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville on Saturday the Georgia Bulldogs defense is not in the healthiest of shapes. On the defensive line both Jordan Davis (elbow/ multiple weeks) and Julin Rochester (torn ACL/ season ending) picked up injures against Kentucky which rules them out against Florida.
In a “when it rains, it pours” situation, All-American safety Richard LeCounte was involved in a motorcycle accident on Saturday night after the Kentucky game. In what sounded like a quite horrific accident, it was reported that LeCounte was hit by two cars and has suffered shoulder, neck and rib injuries. Thankfully LeCounte who was knocked unconscious has been released from hospital and has returned to the Georgia practice facility for ongoing rehab, although his return to game fitness remains questionable.
The Dawgs already had safety Lewis Cines (ankle) and linebacker Monty Rice (foot) out with injury, whilst Rice’s replacement – Quay Walker – is now also out with a neck injury.
And if that wasn’t enough, defensive back Tyrique Stevenson didn’t finish the Kentucky game and is questionable to return against Florida.
It’s fair to say that the Dawgs defense is banged up.
Kiffin Calls It Straight
For obvious entertainment reasons, Ole Miss Head Coach Lane Kiffin appears in this column often.
We have seen Fun Lane plenty so far but we have also seen Serious Lane. On Monday we saw serious and concerned Lane as he broke the news that freshman tight end Demarcus Thomas had been badly injured during the Team’s practice on Monday.
Thomas’s injury was so worrisome that he was airlifted to a hospital in Tennessee following reports that Thomas had no feeling in his body.
Thankfully, Ole Miss Athletic’s have since confirmed that the feeling has returned to Thomas’s extremities, which is great news.
However the injury clearly had an impact on Kiffin, who said shortly after the incident, this about his thoughts about his own son playing football.
“That’s the first time I’d seen something where I just called Knox’s mom and said I couldn’t care less whether he ever plays football ever after seeing that”.
When asked by media about whether Thomas would be available in the next Ole Miss game,
“If you saw what I saw, you wouldn’t be worried about whether he’s going to play or not,”
Thankfully Thomas has since been released from hospital and has returned to the Team’s practice facility in Oxford.
Hopefully Demarcus makes a full recovery.
Raising The Flag
And while we are in Mississippi, lets talk about a historic and monumental occasion which happened this week.
As has been documented previously on these pages, the State of Mississippi elected to change its State flag earlier this year as a result of a campaign led by Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill.
This week, the new flag was unveiled at Ole Miss which Lane Kiffin documented via Twitter on Wednesday.
Sadly this week Kylin Hill announced his decision to opt out and leave Mississippi State to focus on preparation ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.
You can’t say that Hill didn’t have an impact in Starkville but I can’t help feel its a shame that he didn’t get to see out his final year at State.
Socially Distant Cocktails In JAX
This Saturday sees one of the SEC’s greatest rivalry games, dubbed the World’s Largest Cocktail Party. The Georgia Bulldogs will face the Florida Gators in Jacksonville, Florida in a game that will probably decide the outcome of the SEC East.
Neither team can agree when the rivalry really started (between 1904 and 1906 depending on which team you follow), however there is no doubting that the Bulldogs and Gators have had an intense rivalry for over a decade.
The game is played in Jacksonville which has been the venue since 1933 – the venue being roughly the midway point between Gainesville and Athens.
This weekend’s game has all the makings of a classic. Despite the well versed Bulldogs injuries on defense, this is a Georgia team which has relied on its defense to get through games as its young offense has struggled at times.
Yet, it has been all about the offense in Gainesville with QB Kyle Trask and his go-to TE/WR Kyle Pitts which has caught everyone’s attention this year. It has been difficult to find a better duel in College football this season, let alone the SEC.
Sadly the pandemic will mean that the legendary tailgating which drives the cocktail party name tag won’t happen, however the game is shaping up to be a classic.
Many commentators have said that this game will be decided on the performance of the two QB’s – Stetson v Trask. But it is likely that it is the performance of both defenses which determines the winner.
The Bulldogs are 3.5 point favourites, with the over/under at 52.5 points – so Vegas has this as a close but exciting encounter.
A win for the Dawgs takes them to their fourth successive SEC title game. However the Gators have been progressing well under Dan Mullen’s guidance and have been the most entertaining show in the SEC at times this season. So its close to call.
Defense on top? Or the Trask and Pitts show? I for one can’t wait.
SIA: SEC Player Of The Week
On Saturday the SEC saw two 200-yard receivers which has only been done twice before in the history of the SEC.
In Alabama’s 41-0 victory over Mississippi State, the Crimson Tide’s wide receiver DeVonta Smith caught 11 passes for 203 yards and four touchdowns.
In Ole Miss’ impressive 54-21 victory over a sorry looking Vanderbilt, the Rebels wide receiver Elijah Moore caught 14 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns.
So how do you choose from these two mightily impressive appearances?
Well, Moore’s tally tied him for the most in school history which showed the immensity of his performance. But it was also the most yards for an Ole Miss receiver in a conference game, so this weeks award goes to the Rebels Elijah Moore.
And yes, it was Moore who ended last season with the unfortunate touchdown celebration in the Egg Bowl, resulting in a defeat for the Rebels and ultimately the dismissal of Head Coach Matt Luke. So its good to see Moore with a positive contribution this time around.
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.