Forget the Iron Bowl, it's looking more and more like the big end-of-the-season showdown to decide the SEC West might be the Egg Bowl - in the state immediately to the west of Alabama. Halfway through the 2014 season Mississippi and Mississippi State are both 6-0. That's not a misprint - 6 wins, zero defeats. Who woulda thunk it? But before you decide to get rich by scalping your tickets to the Egg Bowl, Rebel and Bulldog fans, remember it's still early, And with teams as talented as Arkansas and LSU bringing up the rear, the West Division of the SEC is an absolute minefield this season. Every game is a difficult game. But really, wouldn't it be something if CBS was televising Hail State vs. Ole Miss on the Saturday after Thanksgiving instead of Auburn-Alabama?
The Bulldogs barely made it to a bowl game last season and were expected to (well, at least I expected them to) finish closer to the bottom than the top of the SEC West standings - as usual - this season. But after defeating a team ranked in the top 10 of the AP rankings for the 3rd game in a row, they've moved to the top of the rankings themselves. The last of that trio of impressive victories was last Saturday's (all references to last Saturday in this report are to Saturday, October 11) 38-23 triumph over #2 ranked and defending SEC champ Auburn in front of a record crowd of 62,945 at Starkville.
The Bulldogs needed to go only 33 and 32 yards on their first two TD drives because Auburn turned the ball over on the very first play on each of their first two possessions. They were turnovers forced by the MSU defense - first an interception of a pass deflected by a D-lineman and then a fumble by WR D'haquille Williams, who coughed up the ball after being hit hard almost immediately after making a catch. Later in the 1st quarter the Bulldogs drove 71 yards in 7 plays to make it 21-0. But then it was their turn to start turning the ball over.
While Wilson finished with decent numbers - 4 catches for 72 yards - it was an afternoon of complete frustration for Auburn's starting WR with dreads, junior Sammie Coates. Probably the biggest reason I wanted to watch this game was to see how Coates would do coming off his best game of the season against LSU a week earlier. Well, the opportunities certainly were there for another big game, but it just wasn't Sammie's day.
First, it looked like he had scored a 5-yard TD on a reception on 3rd and goal in the 2nd quarter. But you knew he hadn't when, immediately after he made the catch, not one but two officials had their hats off and neither of them was signaling it was a TD. That's because Coates, while running his route across the back of the end zone, carelessly took a couple of steps out of bounds beyond the back of the end zone (causing the hats to come off); and as soon as he caught the pass (and was the first player to touch it after it was thrown), it was a penalty for illegal touching. Auburn settled for a FG on the next play, and the was score was 21-6 instead of 21-10. Later in the 2nd, on Auburn's drive right after State upped their lead to 28-13, Coates got open deep behind the secondary on 2nd and 6; but the pass from QB Nick Marshall was barely overthrown, otherwise it would have been a 60-yard TD.
Finally - and most aggravatingly as far as Coach Malzahn was concerned - Coates, after beating CB Taveze Calhoun along the sideline in front of the Auburn bench on the 3rd play from scrimmage after halftime, caught the pass in stride on 3rd and 5 (top photo on right) and made it all the way to the 2-yard line before being tackled from behind by Calhoun (bottom photo on right). But the 68-yard gain didn't count because Coates was flagged for for pass interference. I didn't see the play live; but after seeing a video of it, I understood why Malzahn was so angry. When asked about it after the game (link below), Sammie didn't reveal his true feelings, pretty much going with a no comment. I mean, that was a play you see hundreds of times without it ever being called offensive PI. But on this day it was. CBS game announcer Gary Danielson insisted it should have been a no-call. But I doubt that made Auburn fans feel any better. The Tigers punted two plays later. Coates ended the afternoon with only 3 catches for 22 yards.
Both teams also have a starting CB with dreads, but neither made a big impact. Senior Trovon Reed of Auburn, the former WR, had a PI penalty while covering Wilson in the 1st quarter on the last play before MSU scored to make it 21-0. Reed finished with 2 tackles (1-1). I didn't notice senior Jamerson Love of Mississippi State on the field at all (and that's not necessarily a bad thing when you're a corner). He finished with 3 tackles (2-1), including 1 TFL.
Just as impressively as Mississippi State defeated Auburn, Mississippi improved to 6-0 for the first time in 52 years, following up their stunning come-from-behind win over Alabama in Week 6 with a 35-20 road win over Texas A&M in front of the largest crowd to ever see an SEC game -110,633 - at College Station. On a team with receivers even better than him, talented sophomore WR Quincy Adeboyejo hasn't played as much as he had liked this season. But if there was one game the Dallas area native really wanted to shine in, it was this one. Adeboyejo finished with only 2 receptions, but they were both big plays - a 31-yarder to the 4-yard line in the 1st quarter that set up the 1st TD of the game, and then a 33-yard TD (photos below) that upped the Rebels' lead to 28-7 late in the 3rd quarter.
Junior S Trae Elston had 2 tackles (2-0) for Ole Miss; while sick DEs Bryon Bennett (1-0) and Fadol Brown (0-1) each had 1 tackle, with Bennett's being a tackle for a 3-yard loss. The Rebels' D allowed 455 total yards but also forced 3 turnovers, two of which were returned for TD. Freshman WR Speedy Noil was a bright spot for Texas A&M, as he made the dread stars list for the first time. Junior RB Brandon Williams gained only 30 total yards on 9 touches, and sick senior CB Floyd Raven finished with 4 tackles (1-3).
Hey, is that TCU-Baylor game done yet?
I was already prepared to be disappointed, so I wasn't disappointed any further after seeing Arkansas sophomore RB Alex Collins on the field against Alabama. After his having his long dreads grabbed at least once by Texas A&M defenders in the Razorbacks' previous game, Collins I hoped would still have his dreads hanging loose this week. But really, I kind of expected him to do something to make them harder to grab. Unfortunately I was right - he had them bunched so tightly together that it was nearly impossible for any defender to get a hold of them. Heck, he could've played for Alabama looking like that.
I don't care how mediocre Florida has become in recent years, it's always very satisfying for me whenever LSU comes away victorious in their annual meeting with the Gators - especially at Gainesville, where the Tigers won 30-27 last Saturday on a 50-yard FG with 3 seconds remaining for their 1st SEC win this season in a game I didn't see very much of. The star of the game was LSU RB Leonard Fournette, who earned SEC freshman of the week honors. But the Tigers' two RBs with dreads also got some carries, with senior Terrence Magee (6 carries for 50 yards) making more of an impact than freshman Darrel Williams (2 carries for 4 yards).
Hey, is that TCU-Baylor game finished yet?
What in the name of Tajh Boyd and Teddy Bridgewater was going on out there?! ....... If Louisville had entered the ACC last year instead of this season, their first league meeting with Clemson would have featured lots of passes and lots of passing yards by both Bridgewater and Boyd. But with both of them drafted into the NFL after last season, what we got instead was a game that no doubt had fans who love offense reduced to tears. In the game to determine who's likely to finish in 2nd place (behind Florida State) in the ACC Atlantic Division, Clemson prevailed at home, 23-17, despite gaining only 229 total yards and scoring no offensive touchdowns. Louisville wasn't much better, being held under 200 total yards until a big play late boosted their final total to 264. The teams combined to punt a ridiculous 22 times. TWENTY-TWO!
Numbers like that would have been unfathomable last year; but now both teams are starting freshmen at QB. And although Clemson's freshman, Deshaun Watson, has been outstanding lately, he missed most of the game after breaking a finger on his right (throwing) hand in the 2nd quarter. Clemson fans probably couldn't even remember the last time the Tigers failed to score an offensive TD in a home game. But they can now, after the Tigers' only 2 TD in this one were on a 72-yard punt return after Louisville went three-and-out on the game's first possession; and a 2-yard scoop and score by senior DE Tavaris Barnes for his 1st career TD, putting the Tigers back in the lead 14-10 midway through the 2nd quarter.
If I had done a report for Week 6 (I started to write one but then decided I'd rather watch this week's games instead of spending the rest of the weekend finishing it), it would have led off with the horror show put on by star WR Deontay Greenberry of Houston in the Cougars' heartbreaking 17-12 home loss to UCF. I don't know, maybe he had some kind of injury and wasn't at 100%, because it's hard to imagine a player as talented as him having such a terrible performance. Of the 13 passes intended for him, he made only 3 receptions for only 26 yards; 8 were incomplete, including 2 that were described as "dropped pass" on the game play-by-play log and including another that he didn't catch cleanly in the end zone on 4th and goal, which allowed CB Jacoby Glenn to break up the pass; and the other 2 were both interceptions, one of which was a perfect pass which he again didn't catch cleanly, instead juggling the ball up into the air and right into the hands of S Brandon Alexander. Fast forward 9 days to last Saturday and I see Greenberry wearing jersey #4 instead of his usual #3 (photo below) for the Cougars' game at Memphis.
Hey, is that TCU-Baylor game through yet? .......
It was exactly 6:22 PM last Saturday and the TCU-Baylor game, which had kicked off at 2:30 PM and was closing in on the 4-hour mark, still had 10:39 remaining in the 4th quarter. It was the 110th meeting between the Horned Frogs and Bears (with the series dead even 51-51 with 7 ties) but their first meeting ever when they both were ranked in the top 25 of the AP rankings. Apparently #5 ranked Baylor and #9 TCU - two programs who for most of their histories were the weak sisters of the old SWC - didn't want to yield the national spotlight. ABC had to move the preview show for their auto race to another channel at 6:30 because TCU vs. Baylor refused to end.
TCU fans probably were getting excited when a pick-6 TD with 11:38 on the clock increased the Frogs' lead to 58-37. But it turned out to be fools' gold. The Bears came roaring back - a 45-yard TD drive in 4 plays that lasted 59 seconds; a 92-yard drive in just 5 plays that took 1:23; and then a 5-play, 91-yard drive in just 59 seconds - and just like that it was 58-58 with 4:42 to go. Where was the defense? TCU then punted again, for the 3rd straight possession, on 4th and 8, apparently giving the ball to the Bears at the 17-yard line with 1:17 to play. But when the Bears were called for an illegal substitution penalty on the punt, the Frogs accepted the penalty and decided to go for it on 4th and 3. When their pass on 4th down was incomplete, Baylor took possession at their 45-yard line instead of the 17. And 9 plays later the Bears kicked a 28-yard FG to win 61-58 (just think, if he had missed, the game would have gone on even longer), extending their home winning streak to 13 in a row.
The official length of game was listed as 4 hours 25 minutes, and I can't imagine there's ever been any other game that's lasted longer (that is, for games that weren't delayed by the weather). Baylor racked up 782 total yards to "only" 485 for TCU. The only player with dreads who made any impact was TCU junior WR Kolby Listenbee (photos above), who all of a sudden has emerged as a dangerous deep threat for the Frogs' offense. Listenbee is pictured with a shaved head in the 2013 TCU media guide, so his dreads aren't long enough to be seen with his helmet on yet unless you get a really close-up view. In making the dread stars list for the 2nd straight week, Listenbee had a 35-yard catch for the 1st TD of the game, a 51-yard reception on the Frogs' 2nd TD drive of the 1st quarter, and also a 45-yard reception on a drive that ended with a FG in the 3rd quarter. The TCU website did an article on Kolby (link below) after his breakout game in the Frogs' Week 6 win over Oklahoma; and if he keeps this up, we're going to be hearing a lot more about him in the future.
IN THE FCS
Damn, North Dakota State is already good enough; they don't need any help. Sourthern Illinois fans were probably thinking exactly that if they were watching during the 3rd quarter of a midseason showdown in the Missouri Valley between the teams last Saturday at Fargo. The 5-1 Salukis were daring to challenge the 5-0 and 3-time defending FCS champion Bison on their home field when they were done in by a technical glitch. During the commercial breaks of the Auburn-Mississippi State game I was able to catch a couple of plays of the SIU-NDSU game, and one of the plays I saw was very disturbing to say the least.
The Bison led 17-10 midway through the 3rd and added to it with a 9-yard TD catch by TE Luke Albers. But they shouldn't have, at least not on that play. The replay showed that Albers didn't have control of the ball until after he had stepped out of bounds. But while everybody watching on TV could see that, the replay official could not. The game announcers said something about the replay system being down (temporarily); and I was like, "What do you mean it's down? Just great. No replay when you need it to take a TD away from the home team. How convenient." I mean, all they had to do was come over to the TV booth to see it. But, of course, they didn't. The touchdown stood, and the Bison went on to roll to a 38-10 victory. I'm not saying SIU would have won had that TD not been allowed, just that it really bugs me when something like that happens.
Charleston Southern may never have a better chance to defeat an FBS team than they did last Saturday; but despite outgaining Vanderbilt 389-295 in total yards, the Buccaneers fell to the Commodores 21-20, dropping to 0-15 all time vs. FBS opponents. Last season CSU got to 7-0 before FBS opponent Colorado dealt them their first defeat. This year the Bucs started off with 5 straight wins before heading to Nashville to face a Vanderbilt team that has really struggled this year. After trailing 18-3 in the 2nd quarter, CSU closed to within 21-20 on a FG with 10:14 remaining in the game. But after going three-and-out on their next drive, they punted with 6:00 to go ..... and never got the ball back. Vanderbilt made 4 first downs, driving from their own 3-yard line to the CSU 33 and running out the clock.
The Bucs have several players with dreads on their roster again this season - three WRs (none of whom have any receptions yet) and about a half dozen defensive players. The only starters are junior CB Malcolm Jackson (photo below, getting set to tackle RB Ralph Webb), who tied for the team lead with 7 tackles (4-3) and had 2 PBU; and senior DT Isaac Lowrance, who finished with 2 tackles (0-2).
Tired of seeing so many players with dreads having their helmets come off, the NCAA's knee-jerk reaction a few years ago was to put into effect a new rule that forces any player (with dreads or without) to be taken out the game for at least one play whenever his helmet comes off during a play.
5. Junior LB Josh Forrest gets his 1st INT of the season and takes the return 29 yards to the house for his 1st career TD, putting Kentucky ahead (to stay) 17-14 midway through 2nd quarter. Forrest finished with 5 tackles (3-2), 2.5 TFL and a half sack as the Wildcats improved to 5-1 (5-0 at home), whipping the Warhawks 48-14.
7. Sophomore CB Zack Sanchez of Oklahoma gets his 5th INT of the season and takes the return 43 yards to the house for his 2nd career TD, increasing the Sooners' lead to 17-3 over Texas with 11:18 remaining in 2nd quarter. Sanchez, who at this point would be one of the starting CBs on my all-America with dreads team, also had 8 tackles (5-3) and 3 PBU in the game. On a cold, 58-degree day in Dallas, Oklahoma, despite being dominated by the Longhorns in total yards 482-232, still improved to 5-1 with a 31-26 victory.
And now here are a couple of photos from Week 6.
- Dalvin Cook - Florida State - 122 yards and 1 TD rushing on 23 carries, and 2 receptions for 17 yards in 38-20 road W over Syracuse
- Melvin Gordon - Wisconsin - 27 carries for 175 yards and 4 TD rushing in 38-28 home W over Illinois
- Will Fuller -Notre Dame - 7 receptions for 133 yards and 2 TD in 50-43 home W over North Carolina
- Kevin White - West Virginia - 13 receptions for 123 yards, including 26-yard TD in 4th quarter, in 37-34 road W over Texas Tech
- Darion Monroe - Tulane - 6 tackles (5-1), 1 TFL, 1 FF, and 2 FR in 12-3 home W over Connecticut
- Shaq Thompson - Washington - named Pac-12 defensive player of the week - game high 11 tackles (5-6) and 1 FR, which he returned 100 yards to the house, his 3rd fumble return for a TD and 5th TD overall this season, in 31-7 road W over California
- Breon Allen - East Carolina - 124 yards and 1 TD rushing on 18 carries, and 4 receptions for 50 yards and 1 TD in 28-17 road W over South Florida
- Paul Perkins - UCLA - 22 carries for 190 yards rushing, and 3 receptions for 13 yards, in 42-30 home L to Oregon
- Kolby Listenbee - TCU - 4 receptions for career high 146 yards and 1 TD in 61-58 road L to Baylor
- Speedy Noil - Texas A&M - 11 receptions for 105 yards in 35-20 home L to Mississippi
- Anthony Jordan - Bethune-Cookman - 11 carries for 102 yards and 2 TD rushing, including 79-yarder, and 4 receptions for 48 yards in 49-12 home W over Howard
- Adrian Wilkins - North Carolina Central - 12 receptions for 144 yards, including 26-yard TD, but also lost 2 fumbles on kick returns, in 48-35 road W over South Carolina State
- Janawski Davis - Murray State - 6 receptions for 99 yards and 2 TD, including game-winning 7-yard TD in 2nd overtime, in 44-41 home W over Southeast Missouri State
- Roland Jackson - Cal Poly - 1 carry for 40 yards rushing, and 2 receptions for 100 yards, including 41-yarder on game-winning drive in 3rd quarter, in 30-24 road W over Weber State
- Demarcus Rouse - Presbyterian - 19 carries for 145 yards rushing, including 52-yard TD, in 40-28 home L to Coastal Carolina
- Kalif Phillips - UNC-Charlotte - 22 carries for 164 yards rushing, including 26-yard TD, in 63-56 road L to The Citadel in 2 overtimes
- Maetron Thomas - UNC-Charlotte - 12 carries for 106 yards rushing, including 25-yard TD on first play of 1st OT, as 49ers racked up school record 684 total yards ..... and allowed school record 709 total yards
- Malcolm Cyrus - Alabama State - 22 carries for 125 yards rushing, and 5 receptions for 30 yards in 34-24 road L to Prairie View A&M
HOUSE OF DREAD
With his 175 yards rushing and 4 TD, not only did junior RB Melvin Gordon reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season faster in a season (6 games) than any RB in Wisconsin history, he single-handedly was responsible for the end zone at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison taking this week's house of dread award. The Badgers' 38-28 win over Illinois had more TD by players with dreads than any other, thanks to runs of 15, 6, and 30 yards by Gordon in the 1st half and then a 1-yard plunge (photo below) in the 3rd quarter.
It seems like you can make an argument for Melvin Gordon to be the player of the week for every week. But I don't like giving the award to the same player all the time (unless I absolutely have to); so even though he rushed for nearly a quarter mile in the last 2 games, somebody else will be the head dread for Weeks 6 and 7.
We're going to the FCS to find the player of the week for Week 7. Senior RB Gus Johnson of Stephen F. Austin rushed for 202 yards and 3 TD on only 19 carries in a 42-20 victory over Nicholls State. He also had 2 catches for 19 yards to finish with 221 total yards, helping the Lumberjacks end their 12-game road losing streak. Johnson's 20-yard TD run on the first possession of the night was the 40th of his career, moving him into 1st place in career touchdowns in SFA history - a record which he extending to 42 TD by the end of the game and will continue to add to (hopefully) for the rest of the season. Later in the game he surpassed the 3,000-yard mark for yards rushing in his career. I didn't try very hard (and I'm not going to) to find any photos of Johnson, so I'm just going to post the tiny photo the SFA website has of him. Also, on the link below, is an article from the team website that sings Johnson's praises and that indicates if Johnson can finish the season strong, he'll be in the running for the Walter Payton Award.
I couldn't name Gordon the head dread for Week 6 (despite his huge game) because Wisconsin didn't win. And even though he and several other players gained more yards, we're still going with junior WR Sammie Coates of Auburn for the award. Coates picked up 144 yards on only 4 receptions, sparking the Tigers to a 41-7 home victory over the SEC West's other Tigers, LSU. Finally healthy after being slowed by a knee injury that held him to a paltry total of 56 yards on 5 receptions through the first 4 games of the season, Coates gained 56 yards on his 1st catch of the evening against LSU for his 1st TD of the season (photos below), increasing Auburn's lead to 10-0.
On Auburn's next possession he had a 38-yard reception to the LSU 20-yard line that set up another TD. Then in the 2nd quarter he had a 29-yard reception on 2nd and 15 early in a drive that ended with the TD that made the score 31-7. And his other reception went for a 21-yard gain, converting a 3rd and 6 on a FG drive in the 3rd quarter. If you like, please click on the link below for more on Sammie from the Birmingham News website.
Coates' slow beginning has allowed star JC recruit D'haquille Williams to emerge as the main threat in Auburn's passing game. But Coates has now shown that he's still a force to be reckoned with, a dangerous deep threat. And the Tigers are going to need his big plays if they're going to have any chance of repeating as SEC champs against a brutal schedule in the last half of the season.
The date I'm posting this report reads October 21 instead of October 19 because I endured a frustrating (and I mean frustrating) Saturday and Saturday night/Sunday morning unsuccessfully trying to get it posted then. This one ain't on me. It was technical difficulties beyond my control that were to blame. The bottom line is that I'm now 2 days behind schedule getting ready the report for Week 8. So yes, I'm sorry, but I'm probably going to have skip Week 8 too.