Saturdays in Athens
George Somerville. Saturday
24th october 2020
Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.
It’s no surprise that this week’s headlines were dominated by Alabama’s win over Georgia which lived up to the pre game hype.
But perhaps the most impressive result was Arkansas taking down the Lane Train. Or even the Kentucky Wildcats beating the Tennessee Vols in Knoxville for the first time in 36 years.
So it’s trouble in Knoxville, but also in Baton Rouge with the news that QB Myles Brennan is struggling with an abdominal injury. Bama finds an unlikely hero and the SIA SEC player of the week? It’s not who you think it is!
So yet again, it’s all been happening in the SEC.
Here are this weeks headlines….
So, let’s get started y’all!
Georgia’s visit to Tuscaloosa to play the Crimson Tide lived up to the pre game hype.
Add to that the mystique of Bama Head Coach Nick Saban’s false positive test result and the will he-won’t he beat the clock to be on the sidelines. This was a game where the anticipation matched the game itself.
Much had been made of the Alabama offense and the quality of Messrs Jones, Waddle, Harris and Smith versus the defensive genius of Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs.
But as the Bulldogs headed into the interval with a strong lead, Alabama’s saviour and the turning point in the game came from a wholly unexpected source.
It is no secret that Alabama has suffered in recent years from the kicking game. Or lack of.
With Georgia 7 points up and 1 second left on the 2nd quarter clock, Bama were left with the option of kicking what would have been a 52 yard field goal.
Not a Crimson Tide speciality in recent years.
But kicker Will Reichard stepped up to confidently kick his longest field goal in a Crimson jersey.
This pulled Georgia’s lead back to 4 points, and with Alabama overturning Georgia’s 2nd half opening possession with a score, the Crimson Tide never looked back.
If Alabama’s poor performance at special teams seems exaggerated, have a look at this stat. According to Matt Zenitz, senior SEC reporter for Al.com, between 2010 and 2019 Alabama has missed 93 field goals and extra points. Which is a staggering statistic.
On Saturday, Reichard was 4 for 4 on field goals and his 52 yard field goal was the Crimson Tide’s first 50 plus yard field goal in five years. Incredible.
Trouble And Strife
Baton Rouge, LA.
The LSU football program has had a tough start to the season.
In fact, performance wise this is the worst start to a defending champions’ season since the mid nineties.
And when things go wrong, you just know that everything is going to go wrong.
So it was to be with news this week of LSU’s self imposed sanctions following NCAA investigations into improper payments made by boosters.
The self imposed penalties include the loss of eight scholarships over a two year period, and reductions in recruiting visits, evaluations and communication. And if that’s wasn’t enough, they have also banned alumnus and ex-Tiger wider receiver Odell Beckham from it’s football facilities for two years.
Of course, images of a seemingly out of control Beckham handing out cash to the players on the pitch and in the locker room immediately after the Tigers Natty Championship win are still fresh in our memories. Who could forget it.
The investigation found that Beckham gave $2,000 in cash to four Tigers football players on the field after the National Championship game on January 13th.
Robert Munson, Senior Associate Athletic Director at LSU said via a statement,
“LSU has worked proactively and in cooperation with the NCAA to identify and self-report any violations that occurred within our football program. We believe these self-imposed penalties are appropriate and we will continue to coordinate and cooperate with the NCAA on this matter.”
The Beckham incident is the most high profile, but only one in a number of complaints which the NCAA has been investigating over a three year period. Some of which involves significant sums of money paid by boosters, including a large sum paid from the hospital foundation to a players’ parents. Whether the self imposed sanctions are enough to appease the NCAA remains to be seen.
Brennan Injured And Out
Baton Rouge, LA.
The suggestion coming out of Baton Rouge ahead of the now postponed game against Florida last weekend was that LSU QB Myles Brennan was struggling with an injury.
But it wasn’t until this week that the extent of Brennan’s injury started to become clear.
In fact it turns out that Brennan tore a muscle in his abdomen during the loss to the Missouri Tigers. As it transpires Brennan suffered the injury in the first quarter. Despite the injury, the QB still threw for 430 yards during the rest of the game.
The injury is so serious that not only would Brennan have missed the game against the Gators, but is also doubtful for this week’s coming game against South Carolina. Tigers Head Coach Ed Orgeron said this of Brennan’s injury,
“We don’t think Myles Brennan’s going to play. It’s not 100% yet”.
A decision on the Tiger’s QB1 health will be taken at the end of the week.
Razorbacks And Rebels
It’s no exaggeration to say that Sam Pittman has transformed football in Arkansas.
Saturday’s impressive victory over Ole Miss (33-21) takes the Razorbacks to 2-2 in the season.
And if the game officials had done their job last weekend against Auburn, the Razorbacks would have a winning record at this point.
Barry Odom’s defense is balling out in the conference and took down an Ole Miss offense that had broken SEC records against Alabama only the weekend before.
So for The Razorbacks to stop the Lane Train, well that was quite a feat.
And Head Coach Sam Pittman was understandably emotional after the game.
Speaking to ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, Pittman said this about life in Fayetteville,
“This statement is probably going to cost me a little bit of money one of these days, but this is it for me. I’m not interested in any other program. Arkansas is truly the greatest program in America to me”.
Pittman went on,
“I grew up 75 miles from here, I have a lake home on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, my wife is from Pittsburg, Kansas, and we’re home and this is where we want to be. And this will be my last job.”
On the game against Ole Miss;
“Our Razorback fans needed this, to be honest with you. They wanted it so bad. There’s not any pro sports in the area, so they’re so excited. It was a blessing for our kids to go out there and play really hard and coaches did a nice job of getting them prepared. It was so much fun both at Mississippi State and, of course, last week versus Ole Miss.”
Next up for the Razorbacks is Jimbo Fisher’s resurgent Texas A&M Aggies. This should make for a fascinating watch. But regardless, the Razorbacks might jut have found their guy.
Trouble In Knoxville
Life is tough in Knoxville right now. Jeremy Pruitt’s Vols are 2-2 for the season despite starting with wins against South Carolina and Mizzou.
But losses to Georgia, and more specifically a humiliation against Kentucky last weekend, has put Pruitt and his Vols under pressure.
It was the manner of the loss against Kentucky which will have Vols fans panicking. And before we suggest that the Vols fans are being unrealistic, the last time that the Wildcats defeated a Vols team in Knoxville was 36 years ago.
Kentucky ran out 34-7 winners against Tennessee but this masks to an extent the horror story of Jarret Guarantano’s performance.
At one point the Vols’ QB threw back to back interceptions for two scores which resulted in the QB being pulled from the game. Sadly and bizarrely his replacement also threw an interception, meaning the Vols had three turnovers back to back.
Despite starting the season with high expectations, Guarantano’s season unravelled in one half before Vols fans’ very eyes against the Wildcats. His two interceptions take his total to six in six quarters of football, which has led the Vols fans to turn on their QB.
But it wasn’t just the offense that took the flack, with defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Brumbaugh sacked by Pruitt straight after the loss.
Head Coach Pruitt has since confirmed that he will coach the defensive line for the remainder of the season.
Brumbaugh did not survive long having been hired in the offseason after Tennessee did not renew the contract of defensive line coach Tracy Rocker.
Next up for the Vols? Alabama in Bryant Denny….
SIA: SEC Player Of The Week
Waddle, Smith, Harris, Jones & Metchie might sound like a high priced London Law firm. But, as you all know, it is in fact the multi talented skill positions of the Alabama Crimson Tide. So it would seem fitting that one of these four – especially Smith or Waddle, who between them combined for for 17 catches, 328 yards and three touchdowns against Georgia – would feature as a player of the week.
But rightly or wrongly we know that the Crimson Tide offense is on fire. Despite Georgia having the best defensive line in the SEC and perhaps all of college football, this wasn’t the biggest shock of the weekend.
But Arkansas holding the seemingly unstoppable Ole Miss offensive line to 21 points? Well, that was a shock. Remember, this was an Ole Miss team that racked up a record breaking 48 points against the Crimson Tide.
Sam Pittman and Barry Odom are doing interesting thing across in Fayetteville.
In beating Ole Miss the Razorbacks broke a 25 game losing streak and a 12 home game losing streak – the longest in college football.
And the defense played a starring role in this impressive victory.
Linebacker Grant Morgan earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week on the back of his one sack, an interception, three tackles for loss and 19 tackles in total.
Morgan and fellow linebackers Bumper Pool and Grant Morgan have been hugely impressive so far this season.
But it is the man who put the fear of life into Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral who picks up the SIA: SEC player of the Week.
Cornerback Hudson Clark picked off three of Corral’s passes on Saturday and alongside the rest of the Razorbacks secondary brought the Lane Train crashing to a halt.
An it’s not just in this game that Hudson has caught the eye since his debut in the second half of the Mississippi State game, replacing the injured Montaric Brown.
Clark, a walk-on, seized the opportunity and hasn’t looked back. And with 14 tackles and those 3 interceptions in the bag, Head Coach Sam Pittman has rewarded his new star with a scholarship which will become available in January.
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.