Saturdays in Athens
25th September 2021
Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.
This week was a busy time at the SEC desk of The Touchdown. Not only was it a crazy weekend of football. but The College Chaps also met with legendary UGA Head Coach Vince Dooley, swiftly followed by yours truly jumping on this weeks’ SEC Head Coaches conference call. So it really is a packed column this week.
Here are this weeks headlines…let’s get started y’all!
A Comedy Of Errors
With a little under six minutes remaining in Mississippi State’s game with Memphis, the Bulldogs were 21-17 down, which was in itself bad enough. But then all hell broke loose and Mike Leach’s side managed to make a dire situation a whole lot worse.
As the video below shows, on a punt return two State players managed to touch the ball to keep it out of the end zone but neither player made possession of the ball. Inexplicably, both players decided to leave the ball untended, leaving Memphis receiver Calvin Austin III free to gather the ball and return 94 yards for a touchdown.
However, as Austin collected the ball the back judge waved his arms over his head . SEC officiating subsequently issued a statement to say that while the play was legal, the official’s signal should have stopped the game to carry out an official review. It was not.
If it had been, the ball would have been placed at the spot where the signal was made.
To compound errors, two Memphis players were on the field wearing the #4 shirt – which would have resulted in a further 5 yard penalty. However, it was not called.
It really was a catalogue of errors.
Mississippi State Head Coach Mike Leach has decided thus far not to comment on the play. Probably for the best.
A Legend Talks To The Chaps
A tale of the old and the new in Athens this week. First on this week’s episode of the College Chaps podcast we had the immense pleasure of sitting down with legendary Georgia Head Coach, Vince Dooley.
Then I jumped on the SEC Coaches weekly media update call to hear what current UGA Head Coach, Kirby Smart had to say about his team’s visit to Nashville to face Vanderbilt this weekend.
First up we asked Coach Dooley of the developments in the modern game, and if there were any that he wished he had back during his time Coaching.Coach Dooley had this to say,
“well I think it is the emphasis on the passing game and the sophistication of defending against the pass”
Of course Coach Dooley’s team was renowned for its dominant run game which featured the Heisman winner Herschel Walker. Coach Dooley expanded,
“Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you can just be a “passing team” but to be a complete team you still need to be able to run the ball. You’ve still got to play defense. You’ve still got to have a good kicking game. So I think that gives you a complete team. But I think the biggest thing is the sophistication of throwing the football”.
We then went on to talk about the great Herschel Walker,
“He had world class speed”,
Coach Dooley recalls,
“At the time he came along he certainly could have made the Olympics as a sprinter. He was fast!
He had this incredible self discipline of conditioning and always striving to be better than what he was the day before. And even today he still has that self discipline. He’s very well conditioned and if you were to look at him, man – that guys looks like he could play today…and he probably could for a while anyway. So that’s what has separated him from some of the other great athletes”.
Coach Dooley went on to compare UGA’s legendary #34 with another young SEC running back,
“It so happened that another great player came along, a running back at Auburn at the same time. His name was Bo Jackson. And Bo Jackson was very fast – not quite as fast as Herschel – Bo had great strength and Bo was in some ways a more natural athlete by virtue of the fact that he was a tremendous baseball player.
But since I coached Herschel and you asked me who I thought was better, I would naturally tell you Herschel..!”
It was such a thrill to talk with Coach Dooley this week – a true legend of the game!
Moving over to the incumbent UGA Head Coach, Kirby Smart jumped on to the SEC Coaches Weekly media call to talk about the Bulldogs’ visit to Nashville to play Vanderbilt this weekend. Coach Smart had this to say,
“Our motto every day for practice – what are you preparing for? What’s your purpose? Why are you doing it?
Regardless of who we play, it’s really not about who we play – it’s not about South Carolina, it’s not about Clemson, it’s not about UAB – It’s not about…them. It’s about us and that’s our preparation mindset”
And while we’re on the topic of running games, Smart was asked to evaluate his team’s running back play so far in the season. Smart had this to say,
“Hot and cold. We’ve been getting 4 or 5 yard averages. We talk about getting efficient in the run game – that’s different from what your average run is. It’s your ability to cut the sticks in half. In one game we were efficient and in one game we weren’t efficient. To me it’s very important that you are efficient in your run game as it sets up play action, it allows you to manage third downs. I’ve been pleased at times and at times I’ve been disappointed. It’s like everything else – it’s not been one way or the other but it’s a work in progress. Just like we’re going out there today to get better at it and that’s what we re going to focus us”.
Sound like there is work to do.
Did Any Of You Play Sports?
If you needed proof that Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban is done talking about Bama’s Tight End Jahleel Billingsley, then look no further than this week’s press conference.
In response to the question about how Billingsley has managed to get himself back into consideration, Saban took the opportunity to rant. You can see the full clip below but let me throw a few Saban gems your way first.
“Did any of you play sports? I mean the Coach is supposed to play the best players right? And then its up to the players to do what they’re supposed to do, so they get to play”.
Cue classic Saban rant,
“maybe if you didn’t play, maybe that’s something you don’t quite get…..So to answer your question, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do”.
The Rebel King
Last year, Mississippi’s quarterback was the turnover king. While 2020 would be good year for Corral and the Rebels, Corral would throw 14 interceptions in a shorter – albeit conference only – schedule. So for many, Matt Corral was a good, but not elite quarterback.
However in 3 games so far this season Corral has thrown for 662 yards, 6 touchdowns and zero, yes zero interceptions. On Saturday against Tulane, Corral became the first player in SEC history to score 3 touchdowns through the air and 4 touchdowns on the ground. So Matt Corral is on fire.
Of course, that means its time to overhype Matt Corral’s start to the season – so why not make him the Heisman favourite after week 3?!
I don’t want to demean Corral’s start, which I have to say has been impressive, but Austin Peay and Tulane do not present the toughest defenses to play against.
Ole Miss have a bye this week, but come back to travel into Tuscaloosa to play against the Crimson Tide. That will be the challenge.
Last season Ole Miss racked up 48 points against Nick Saban’s side, so we know that Lane Kiffin will have many tricks up his sleeve.
For me this will be the stiffest test for Alabama this season and I suspect there might even be a shock in Tuscaloosa; a feeling that the Ole Miss Rebels have experienced in recent years. So this game on Oct 2nd is a must watch.
Heisman moment for Matt Corral? I would have thought the perfect opportunity for the Rebel quarterback.
Talking about that game in Tuscaloosa, Ole Miss Head Coach had quite a bit to say about coming up against his former Boss. Kiffin had this to say to the media,
“I wish the media would stop upsetting Coach Saban by saying that this is a weak team or its got weaknesses. I mean they went on the road into a top ten team, into the Swamp and won with a freshman quarterback. The got an early lead and hung on at the end. And now all of a sudden, it’s not a good team and they got weaknesses….so it doesn’t really help us a lot.
Being around there, I know how it works”
“I feel like the media has done this a hundred times – “Alabama’s over, the Dynasty is over, they lost too many coaches, they lost too many players” or they lose a game, like the Ole Miss game…..I think he does a phenomenal job….I think he handles it really well. He doesn’t start changing things because of one loss”.
It’s all rat poison.
Big Boy Football
We love a good stupid question which then provokes a memorable Head Coach rant. Usually its Nick Saban (see earlier example) or Kirby Smart – neither of whom are blessed with the greatest patience in the world. But Shane Beamer? Happy, smiley, positive thinking, new kid on the block, Shane Beamer? No, surely not.
Except, don’t ask Coach Beamer what more his defense could do against the Georgia Bulldogs. My words won’t do it justice. Click on the video below.
On this week’s SEC Head Coaches Conference call, Shane Beamer elaborated on the message he intended to portray straight after the game. Beamer had this to say,
“What I was trying to say in that statement was, Georgia’s got great players but so does everyone else in the SEC as well”.
“Sometimes it’s not always about schemes. It’s about winning your one on one battles and we didn’t do enough of that on Saturday night. You know I didn’t want anyone to misconstrue what I was saying, as trying to imply Georgia have all these great players and we couldn’t block them. We’ve got a bunch of competitors on our team and we’ve got to execute no matter who we are playing. It’s called the SEC – it’s big boy football”.
I’m certain he will look back on this and laugh in years to come.
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.