SEC Notebook: Ole Miss shakes up national rankings

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September 20, 2015 at 7:14 pm.

Sep 19, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (8) runs for a touchdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Rebels defeated the Tide 43-37. Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 19, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (8) runs for a touchdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Rebels defeated the Tide 43-37. Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports


On a day that featured LSU posting a dominating win over Auburn, Georgia positioning itself at the front of the East Division race with a second conference win, and Florida, Missouri, and Texas A&M all running their records to 3-0, Saturday’s biggest game came down to the day’s last.

Mississippi’s 43-37 victory over Alabama in Tuscaloosa impacted not just the West Division but also shook up things nationally.

The loss dropped the Crimson Tide from second to 12th in Associated Press rankings and vaulted the Rebels up to the No. 3 spot in the poll and into the discussion for potential playoff match-ups. The Rebels even got 11 first-place votes from the media members, four more than No. 2 Michigan State.

Ohio State retained in the top spot with 42 first-place votes.

Of course, the picture may be completely different when the first official rankings for the College Football Playoff are announced Nov. 3, and it must be remembered that the Rebels also beat the Tide early in the season last year but it was the Tide who made it into the first four-team field for the playoffs.

Still, there seemed to be a different vibe with this year’s Ole Miss team compared to 2014.

While both of their six-point victories over the Tide came down to the end, it was how the Rebels responded to earlier challenges that made for a different feel about this one. They completely dominated for long stretches throughout the night.

After building a big 30-10 lead, the Rebels saw the Tide cut that down to six points early in the fourth quarter and momentum seemed to be all Bama’s way. But the Rebels came right back with a 73-yard scoring play (quarterback Chad Kelly to wide receiver Cody Core) and then forced a Tide turnover at Bama’s 31-yard line to set up another touchdown on wide receiver Laquon Treadwell’s remarkable catch.

When the Tide came back yet again, it was the Ole Miss defense’s turn to come up with a big play. And it did with cornerback Tony Bridge’s interception with under three minutes left.

In other words, what Ole Miss did to Alabama is typical of what the Tide has customarily done to its opponents in big games.

As noted, it’s important to remember the loss is not necessarily fatal to the Tide’s playoff chances.

But the defeat pretty much eliminates any margin of error for the Tide. Bama still has games coming up at Georgia and Texas A&M and a home game later against LSU, not to mention the season finale at Auburn, which is struggling now but could be a completely different team by Thanksgiving weekend.

“The key thing for the players,” Bama coach Nick Saban said, “is how you’re going to respond to a loss.”

ALABAMA (2-1, 0-1)

Game: Mississippi 43, Alabama 37. Bama had 503 yards in total offense to Ole Miss’ 433 but that wasn’t enough to overcome five turnovers, two of them fumbles on kickoff returns that led to 10 Ole Miss points. Junior RB Derrick Henry rushed for 127 yards, but QBs Cooper Bateman, who started, and Jake Coker combined for 288 yards passing and threw three interceptions, the last by Coker with 2:36 left in the game. The Tide got the ball back one more time but at its own 31-yard line with 31 seconds remaining, and Coker threw four incompletions.

Takeaway: Coach Nick Saban stated the obvious after his team’s winning streak at home was snapped at 17. “You can’t give the other team 24 points off of turnovers from the 30-yard line in,” he said, calling the loss “a little disappointing.” But he also had praise for the way his team continued to compete after falling behind by three scores twice in the second half. The Tide closed to within 30-24 after falling behind 30-10 late in the third quarter, and after falling back to 43-24 with just over 10 minutes left in the game, scored twice to get its deficit down to six points with 4:33 remaining. “I really like the resilience of our players,” Saban said. “They played for 60 minutes in the game. They fought back in the game, but the mistakes that we made, all that we gave away, we could not overcome.”

Next: Vs. Louisiana-Monroe, Sept. 26.

ARKANSAS (1-2, 0-0)

Game: Texas Tech 35, Arkansas 24. The Razorbacks gave up 486 yards to the visiting Red Raiders in total offense with 315 coming through the air. The game was tied 21-21 at the half, and the Hogs, who got 170 yards on the ground from junior RB Alex Collins, managed only a field goal over the final two quarters while giving up touchdowns to the Raiders in each period.

Takeaway: Two key plays had a big impact. One came on Tech’s opening drive of the second half when QB Patrick Mahomes got 16 yards on a third-and-10 scramble, taking the Raiders to Arkansas’ five-yard line and setting up the go-ahead score. “That was probably the difference in the game,” coach Bret Bielema said. “The quarterback being able to scramble and stay alive and make some positive yardage with his feet was the biggest difference in the game.” The Hogs didn’t have a sack. The second crucial play came approaching the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter when TE Hunter Henry was called for offensive pass interference, negating a touchdown catch that could have closed the Hogs to within a field goal with a two-point conversion. They got no points when the drive ended with a missed field goal. Bielema would not criticize the Big 12 officiating crew but perhaps pointedly said he will be glad to get back to SEC officials when the Hogs open conference play against Texas A&M.

Next: Vs. Texas A&M (at Arlington, Texas), Sept. 26.

AUBURN (2-1, 0-1)

Game: LSU 45, Auburn 21. Auburn was down 24-0 at the half and, after scoring on its first possession of the second half on quarterback Jeremy Johnson’s 65-yard run, saw LSU respond with two more touchdowns to put the game out of reach. Playing without sophomore DE Carl Lawson (hip injury) for a second straight game, Auburn allowed LSU 411 yards on the ground while managing a total of only 260 running and passing.

Takeaway: The whipping was pretty complete in all phases, but Auburn coach Gus Malzahn didn’t think his team’s offense gave his defense much of an opportunity. “We got off to a bad start on offense in the first half and didn’t give us a chance,” Malzahn said. “It really put us behind. Our guys fought back in the second, but the bottom line is we got our rear kicked.” QB Jeremy Johnson, who was seen as the key to a revitalized passing game this fall, threw another interception, his sixth of the season, and was only 11-of-19 passing for 100 yards. “It wasn’t just Jeremy,” Malzahn said. “It was a total deal. Any time you don’t play well offensively, there are 11 guys out there.”

Next: Vs. Mississippi State, Sept. 26.

FLORIDA (3-0, 1-0)

Game: Florida 14, Kentucky 9. After taking an 11-point lead the halftime break, the Gators held the Wildcats to just two more field goals and 143 yards in total offense over the final two quarters to continue their mastery over Kentucky, winning their 29th consecutive game in the annual series. The Gators had six sacks, the last on Kentucky’s final series to put the Wildcats in a fourth-and-22 situation at their own 35-yard line with less than a minute to go in the game.

Takeaway: Coach Jim McElwain apparently has settled his team’s quarterback situation. Redshirt freshman Will Grier started and went the distance as sophomore Treon Harris remained on the bench. Grier was 13-of-22 passing for 125 yards and led the Gators in rushing with a net 61 yards on 12 carries despite losing eight yards on two sacks. He also threw an interception in the end zone on a first-and-goal at the Kentucky five-yard line. “I think he did some decent things,” McElwain said. “Obviously, he has a lot of growing to do. I thought he did some good things with his feet, got us some plays, but that might have gotten him into some trouble as well by not staying in the pocket and letting the play develop. He left some awful big plays on the field.”

Next: Vs. Tennessee, Sept. 26.

GEORGIA (3-0, 2-0)

Game: Georgia 52, South Carolina 20. Leading 24-13 at the half, Georgia put the game away with three touchdowns in the third quarter, setting up the second of the trio of scores on sophomore S Dominick Sanders’ 33-yard interception return that put the Bulldogs at the visitors’ 11-yard line. The Bulldogs rolled to 576 yards of total offense with sophomore TB Nick Chubb rushing for 159 yards of the 246 they got on the ground.

Takeaway: After a mediocre performance (11-of-21 passing for 116 yards) in the win at Vanderbilt the week before, QB Greyson Lambert was on fire against South Carolina. He had only one incompletion in 25 attempts and led the Bulldogs to scores on their first six drives (one field goal, five touchdowns). A fumble at South Carolina’s 13-yard line ended the scoring streak, but the Bulldogs came back and scored another touchdown on their next drive to make it seven scores on eight possessions. “We challenged our guys because no one had scored on them in the second half,” coach Mark Richt said of the 21-point, third quarter outburst. “It was 24-13, a two-score game, and it was very tight. We told them to keep working, keep scoring and keep playing good defense. And that’s what we did.”

Next: Vs. Southern University, Sept. 26.

KENTUCKY (2-1 0-1)

Game: Florida 14, Kentucky. The Wildcats never could crank it up offensively, gaining only 241 yards in total offense and settling for three field goals on the night in losing their 29th consecutive game in the annual series. Kentucky’s defense shut out the visiting Gators in the second half, giving up only 120 yards rushing and 125 passing, and saved one touchdown on junior CB J.D. Harmon’s interception in the end zone in the third quarter.

Takeaway: QB Patrick Towles struggled to get the offense moving consistently. He was only 8-of-24 passing for 126 yards, threw two interceptions, and was sacked six times. The first interception came on Kentucky’s first series on third-and-10 at Florida’s 41-yard line after sophomore WR Dorian Baker’s dropped pass in the end zone, and the Gators’ Vernon Hargreaves returned it 53 yards to set up the Gators’ first touchdown. “Patrick’s done some very good things,” coach Mark Stoops said. “I’m not going to sit here and throw him under the bus. We need to play better all around him. There were some drops out there, there were some protection issues that we talked about. There’s enough blame to go around. It’s not all on Patrick by any means just like the wins aren’t, and he’s doing some good things.” Towles took responsibility. “I’m definitely missing balls that I usually hit and there is no excuse for that,” he said. “We have to execute better. I have to execute better if we want to consistently win. I didn’t execute consistently tonight.”

Next: Vs. Missouri, Sept. 26.

LSU (2-0, 2-0)

Game: LSU 45, Auburn 21. LSU dominated what was seen as a crucial West Division encounter, piling up 485 yards in total offense and limiting visiting Auburn to just 260 for the game, including a mere 100 passing. LSU also came up with two turnovers, converting the second into a touchdown that made the difference 38-7 late in the third quarter.

Takeaway: Sophomore RB Leonard Fournette ran 71 yards on the first play of the game to set up LSU’s first touchdown, and that was a sign of things to come. Fournette, who took some grief for striking a Heisman pose in his second game as a freshman last year, went on to rush for a career-high 228 yards on 19 carries, tying his career high for touchdowns in a game with the three. The 12.0 yards per carry average set a school record for backs with at least 15 carries in a game. He had plenty of help as LSU rushed for 411 yards. “The good news is when he gets a little tired or winded,” coach Les Miles said of Fournette, “we have some other good backs to go to.”

Next: At Syracuse, Sept. 26.

MISSISSIPPI (3-0, 1-0)

Game: Mississippi 43, Alabama 24. The Rebels had trouble holding onto big leads, seeing the Crimson Tide cut a 30-10 third quarter advantage down to 30-14 and a 43-24 cushion down to the final six-point margin with 4:33 left in the game. But junior cornerback Tony Bridges came up with the Rebels’ third interception of the night at the 2:36 mark, and by the time the Tide got the ball back after stopping the Rebels on a fourth-and-one at its 31-yard line, only 31 seconds remained.

Takeaway: Ole Miss got its first of five takeaways on the opening kickoff, getting a field goal after recovering a fumble at Bama’s 17-yard line. The Rebels never trailed and the game was tied only once, when the Crimson Tide answered that field goal with one of its own in the second quarter. “We thought we had it put away a couple of times, and they just wouldn’t go away,” coach Hugh Freeze said. The Rebels had to overcome an 11-minute deficit in time of possession that enabled the Tide to run 35 more plays than the Rebels. “You know they had a hundred plays, and that just wore our defense out,” Freeze said. “I was scared to go tempo because they needed a break it seemed like every time.”

Next: Vs. Vanderbilt, Sept. 26.


Game: Mississippi State 62, Northwestern State 13. The Bulldogs rolled to 647 yards of total offense, a school record that bested the 645 yards against Memphis in the 2011 season opener. The Bulldogs rushed for 275 yards and passed for 372 with QB Dak Prescott accounting for 227 with 10 completions in just 11 attempts.

Takeaway: Prescott became MSU’s all-time record holder for career passing yardage with a total of 6,382 yards. Wayne Madkin had the record at 6,336 from 1998-2001. “I do not think too much about them,” Prescott said of the 21 school records he now holds. “It is so early in the year and we have a long way to go. But they do mean a lot and are very exciting.” His redshirt freshman backups, Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley, were a combined 6-of-7 passing for 145 yards. Fitzgerald rushed for two touchdowns and threw a touchdown pass and Staley also had a touchdown pass. “I think they both did an excellent job,” coach Dan Mullen said. “They had one incomplete pass, and that was a receiver running the wrong route.”

Next: At Auburn, Sept. 26.

MISSOURI (3-0, 0-0)

Game: Missouri 9, Connecticut 6. The Tigers got their only touchdown on QB Maty Mauk’s two-yard run that capped a 15-play, 68-yard drive in the third quarter. Their defense held the visiting Huskies to just 233 yards in total offense and allowed them only the lone touchdown in the first quarter when an interception gave UConn the ball at Mizzou’s 35-yard line.

Takeaway: Special teams and defense won this one for the Tigers. They held the Huskies to just 95 yards in total offense in the first half, scored a safety when junior LB Clarence Green blocked a punt out of the back of the end zone, and got their first blocked PAT since 2014 from senior LB Kentrell Brothers. Sophomore S Anthony Sherrils, who forced and recovered a fumble in the second quarter, recorded his first career interception when the Huskies tried a pass off a fake field goal attempt with a minute left in the game. “He is an extraordinary athlete that has great speed and acceleration,” coach Gary Pinkell said of Sherrils. “That is why we have him returning kicks and returning punts. The sky is the limit for how good he can be.”

Next: At Kentucky, Sept. 26.


Game: Georgia 52, South Carolina 20. Down two touchdowns at the halftime break, the Gamecocks saw the game get away from them in the third quarter when the Bulldogs scored three touchdowns, setting up one with their only interception of the night. The Gamecocks rushed for 174 yards, though 76 came from backup QB Lorenzo Nunez, a freshman who had 59 of his total in the second half after the issue was settled.

Takeaway: Adding injury to insult was the loss of two starters in the first half with sophomore C Alan Knott and senior RB Brandon Wilds going out with ankle and rib injuries, respectively. Sophomore DT Taylor Stallworth also left the game in the second half with an apparent shoulder injury. “Those are two huge blows,” junior QB Perry Orth, who made his first start, said, “but the next guy just has to step up for us.” The 32-point loss for the Gamecocks was the biggest in the series since they joined the SEC in the 1992 season. “They totally dominated us tonight,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “Their offense was very good. We weren’t very good on defense or on offense really. We didn’t throw the ball very well. We didn’t run the ball very well. We got clobbered.”

Next: Vs. UCF, Sept. 26.

TENNESSEE (2-1, 0-0)

Game: Tennessee 55, Western Carolina 10. The Vols wasted little time putting this one away, scoring 31 points in the second quarter to take a 41-0 lead into the halftime break. The Vols rushed for 210 yards, passed for 236, and got two touchdowns from their special teams on a kickoff return by sophomore DB Evan Berry and a punt return by sophomore RB Alvin Kamara while holding the Catamounts to 279 yards in total offense.

Takeaway: Coach Butch Jones was happy to get backup QB Quinten Dormady some “meaningful snaps” in the rout. The true freshman entered the game late in the first half and finished the game going 6-of-8 passing for 93 yards and a touchdown, including a 49-yard completion to another true freshman, WR Preston Williams. Dormady had a two-yard gain on one carry and was sacked for a four-yard loss on his other. “I was prepared,” he said. “I didn’t know how much time I was going to get. Getting two quarters was some good game reps. I feel pretty confident in how I played.” Said coach Butch Jones: “I was really, really excited about the play of Quinten Dormady. I thought Quinten did some very, very good things.”

Next: At Florida, Sept. 26.

TEXAS A&M (3-0, 0-0)

Game: Texas A&M 44, Nevada 27. Donovan Wilson’s interception on the first play of the second half set up the Aggies at Nevada’s 28-yard line, and they scored in just four plays to cap a run of 17 consecutive points that produced a 31-10 cushion to ride out. Sophomore QB Kyle Allen threw four touchdown passes on 18-of-31 passing and senior RB Tra Carson rushed 22 times for 137 yards to lead all rushers.

Takeaway: Sophomore DE Myles Garrett dominated the game defensively, recording 3.5 sacks despite missing practice time the week leading up to the game after having wisdom teeth removed. Two of the sacks came after the Wolf Pack had recovered an offside kick in the fourth quarter down only 41-27. Garrett had two other quarterback hurries and a total of seven tackles. “He’s a game changer,” coach Kevin Sumlin said. Garrett got a bit of a breather in the third quarter but returned in time to make the decisive plays in the fourth. “What a tough guy,” Sumlin said. “He put his helmet on today. I was glad he could get in today because he made a difference for us.”

Next: Vs. Arkansas (at Arlington, Texas), Sept. 26.

VANDERBILT (1-2, 0-1)

Game: Vanderbilt 47, Austin Peay 7. Vandy was down 7-3 to the FCS opponent early in the second quarter when the Commodores turned the game around. They scored 16 points over the final 7:32 of the first half to go up 19-7 at the break, then completed the rout by outscoring the visitors 28-0 in the final two quarters.

Takeaway: Sophomore WR Trent Sherfield had a career day for the Commodores. His 240 yards receiving on 16 receptions set a school record, eclipsing the 223 yards that Earl Bennett had against Richmond in 2007. Sherfield’s play validated coach Derek Mason’s belief in him. “From the day he stepped on the football field, you saw the speed, you saw the agility. And he’s also got size,” Mason said of the 6-foot, 200-pound Sherfield. “For him, it’s been a growth process. I have been talking about Trent Sherfield for a year. Now, he’s coming into his own.” Sherfield said he isn’t going to focus on topping his own mark. “I am going to celebrate the win with my teammates,” he said, “and then Sunday it is back to business and getting ready to go down to Oxford and face Ole Miss.”

Next: At Ole Miss, Sept. 26.


–It was a history making night for Ole Miss in its 43-37 victory over Alabama Saturday night.

The Rebels won in Tuscaloosa for just the second time in 27 meetings there and posted a second consecutive victory over the Crimson Tide for the first time ever. Ole Miss won 23-17 in Oxford a year ago.

“Oh, man, what a game,” coach Hugh Freeze said. “It was definitely a four quarter battle.”

In addition to ending the frustration against the Tide, the Rebels improved to 3-3 under Freeze against teams ranked in the Top 5 at the time of the meeting with a second straight win over such a team. The Rebels beat then-No. 4 Mississippi State 31-17 in last year’s regular-season finale.

The 43 points were the most the Rebels have scored in Tuscaloosa and ties for second-most in the series all-time. They won 43-28 in Oxford in 2003. The most points Ole Miss has scored against Alabama was in a 48-23 win in 1970 in Oxford.

–LSU RB Leonard Fournette made Auburn S Rudy Ford pretty much eat his own words with his performance in LSU’s 45-21 thumping of Auburn.

Asked about the LSU sophomore star earlier in the week, Ford had responded that tackling the sophomore wouldn’t be much of a challenge.


Fournette ran 71 yards the first time he touched the football to set up LSU’s first touchdown. He ended the night with 19 carries for a career-high 228 yards. His three touchdowns tied a career high.

“I laughed at it,” Fournette said when asked about Ford’s earlier comments. “Words are words, and this game is about playing.”

–Georgia QB Greyson Lambert was near perfect in the 52-20 rout of South Carolina. The junior transfer from Virginia was 24-of-25 passing for 330 yards and three touchdowns. The 96.0 completion percentage is an NCAA, conference, and program record for passers with a minimum of 20 attempts.

The old mark was 95.8 percent by Tennessee’s Tee Martin, also against South Carolina in 1998, and Geno Smith of West Virginia against Kansas in 2012 (23-of-24). David Greene was 20-of-23 (86.9 percent) against Vanderbilt in 2002 for the school mark.

Lambert’s 20 consecutive completions also set a program record.

“Can you believe that guy had an incompletion? What’s wrong with him?” coach Mark Richt said jokingly afterward. “It was one of those days where you just leave him alone.”

In fact, Richt had planned to use backup Brice Ramsey but decided against it after Lambert’s hot hand.

“It feels great,” Lambert said of the record. “We kind of just got going pretty quickly, and I got going with three straight passes. Everybody did their role, and we were able to get great execution as a team.”

–Tennessee enjoyed a special night when the Vols had both a punt return and kickoff return for touchdowns in a game for the first time since 1950.

Sophomore DB Evan Berry ran back a kickoff 88 yards for the final score of the first half and sophomore RB Alvin Kamara returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter.

“To be honest, I didn’t know where I was,” Berry said of his runback. “I know that I needed to get to the opposite end zone. Whatever step I take needs to be towards the end zone, so I just kept it moving.”

Kamara had a second return nullified by a penalty.

“It comes with the game,” he said of that. “I wasn’t really too disappointed. It was just good to get out there and get a feel for returning punts.”
–Four Missouri players were involved in a car crash the day before the Tigers hosted Connecticut. Freshman DT Terry Beckner, redshirt freshmen WRs DeSean Blair and Keyon Dilosa, and redshirt freshman RB Trevon Walters were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

“Well, when that happened, I was scared to death,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “I shot over there, trying to get through traffic and not get there too late. They’re like my kids.”

Dilosa has a bruised elbow and Blair a concussion, Pinkel said. Walters is fine, he added. Beckner played and had two tackles in the 9-6 win over UConn.

“The most important thing is that they are all doing well,” Pinkel said. “Terry was really upset because he was driving the car. He was right in the middle of rush hour. A person pulled out in front of him, and, thankfully, the person in the other car is fine, too. There were no serious injuries.

“I thought Terry went in and played well. That is a lot for a young guy to deal with.”

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Our football team likes each other. There is chemistry, and they work together. I had a starter say, ‘Man, coach, we are going to be a good team.’ I said, ‘Yes, you are right.’ ” — LSU coach Les Miles, after his team’s dominating 45-21 win over Auburn.



1. Can Auburn get its mojo back? The Tigers nearly lost to an FCS team (Jacksonville State) in Week 2 and were completely dominated in their loss at LSU.

2. It looks like this could be Georgia’s year. The Bulldogs have avoided the early season stumble that marred their last two seasons and have a jumpstart in the East Division race with a 2-0 start in league play.

3. How will an emotionally draining loss to Florida (again) affect Kentucky’s comeback effort? The Wildcats were dominant in the first half against South Carolina in their second game, struggled in the second half and were missing in action on offense against the Gators. Now Kentucky has an unimpressive but undefeated Missouri team coming to town.

4. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema needs to think before he speaks. After complaining about Ohio State’s schedule and pointing out that his Razorbacks had eight future opponents that were ranked after Week 1, Bielema has seen his Hogs lose to two unranked teams (Toledo and Texas Tech) in back-to-back weeks.

5. Missouri is winning ugly again. A year after escaping in a bunch of close games (and losing big to Georgia) while capturing a second straight East title, the Tigers are undefeated after a three-point win over Connecticut, a one-touchdown win over Arkansas State and a rout of an FCS opponent, Southeast Missouri.

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LSU/Auburn … Similar Game – Not the Same Feeling.