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It was another interesting Saturday in the SEC East, as a few games came down to the fourth quarter, while Georgia continued its dominance in the conference. In what turned out to be a pretty fascinating day in the division, all eyes were on … Knoxville and Gainesville?
We started the day in Gainesville, where we witnessed an FCS team giving Florida everything they wanted and then some. This was supposed to be the turnaround game for the Gators, coming off the loss to South Carolina, while firing two assistant coaches this week. Well, things obviously haven’t changed, as Samford looked as if they were going to pull off the upset. Samford came out guns blazing on offense, while Florida looked like they were still in shock over last weekend. After giving up 40 points to the Gamecocks last Saturday, Samford put up 42 points in the first half, taking a 42-35 lead into halftime. The effort was putrid, the coaching was horrible and if it weren’t for Emory Jones, the Gators would be sulking in a loss.
Luckily for Dan Mullen, the Gators went on a 35-10 run in the second half and won the game 70-52. It was a record tying day for Samford, as their 52 points tied for most points ever by an FCS team against an FBS team since 1971. Also, the 42 points scored in the first half were the most points allowed by Florida in a single half. Emory Jones led the Gators with 464 yards passing and 7 overall touchdowns, so Dan Mullen better be thanking his lucky stars that his quarterback showed up today. Either way, this was another disappointing effort by a Florida team that looks to be hanging on by a very thin thread. They will play at Missouri next Saturday, which looks like another loss at the moment.
Speaking of Missouri, they hosted South Carolina on Saturday afternoon. The Gamecocks were coming off a nice win over Florida and looking to carry that momentum to Columbia. Unfortunately for Shane Beamer’s squad, Missouri running back Tyler Badie had different plans for the Gamecock defense. Badie had himself a big day, rushing for 209 yards and 1 touchdown. This game turned out to be closer than expected with just over 12:00 remaining. The Tigers were leading by 17 points with 12:31 on the clock, but the Gamecocks weren’t finished, as they converted to turnovers by Missouri into touchdowns and cut the lead to three points.
But again, this was Tyler Badie’s night. The Tigers running back rushed for 63 yards on Missouri’s final drive of the night and kept the ball away from South Carolina. Credit the Tigers defense for the strip sack of Gamecocks QB Jason Brown, which was recovered in the end zone, during the third quarter. There is a QB controversy for Eli Drinkwitz, as Connor Bazelak started the game, and had 2 TD’s, but also 2 interceptions. He was replaced by Brady Cook in the 4th quarter. So, the Tigers have a decision to make before hosting Florida next week. As for South Carolina, they’ll regroup and host Auburn.
A big game awaited Kentucky on Saturday, as they traveled to Vanderbilt. It was a big game because the Wildcats had lost three straight and desperately needed a morale boost. Well, that’s exactly what they achieved against the Dores. The Wildcats led 31-3 at halftime, thanks to a balanced rushing attack and Will Levis throwing for two touchdowns. On the ground, Chris Rodriguez rushed for 114 yards and 1 touchdown, while Kentucky finished with 236 yards on the ground. Vanderbilt QB Ken Seals returned and went 12-17 for 87 yards and 1 interception, while Mike Wright came in to replace Seals and finished with 2 touchdowns. Either way, this game was over at halftime and the Dores continued to struggle on both sides of the ball.
The Wildcats snapped a 3-game losing streak, with the much needed win, while Vanderbilt has yet to win a conference game and are currently on a 5-game losing streak. Next up for Kentucky is a non-conference game with New Mexico State, while Vanderbilt will most likely finish the season with seven straight losses, as they travel to Ole Miss next weekend and finish the season with Tennessee.
We ended the night in Knoxville, as No.1 Georgia looked to keep the train rolling toward the SEC Championship game. This one was pretty sketchy in the first quarter for Georgia, as Tennessee came out firing on offense, like usual. The Vols drove 77 yards on 10 plays and took the 7-0 lead, as Georgia faced its largest deficit of the year, at seven points. We headed into the 2nd quarter with the Vols leading 10-7, but Georgia finally woke up in the 2nd quarter. The Dawgs out-scored the Vols 17-0 over the next 15 minutes, as they separated themselves. Hendon Hooker threw an uncharacteristic interception, that Georgia turned into a touchdown, five plays later. This one got away from the Vols pretty quick, as the Dawgs took a 24-10 lead into halftime.
Georgia held Tennessee scoreless for most of the second half, as they established the rushing attack. The Dawgs finished the night with 274 yards on the ground and 4 touchdowns, while the Vols could only manage 55 yards rushing and were definitely hurt by the absence of Tiyon Evans, who was out due to an ankle injury. Either way, there were things Georgia must work on in the passing defense department, as they gave up 332 yards through the air. But overall this was a good opportunity for Georgia to face an uptempo offense and prepare for the future. As for Tennessee, two turnovers and some mistakes on offense didn’t help, but they showed fight and looked like a team that is continuing to grow. They should become bowl eligible next weekend, as they host South Alabama. For Georgia, they’ll play Charleston Southern next weekend, before finishing off the year with Georgia Tech. Both teams have their goals still in sight, so the next two weeks are crucial.
Another wild weekend in the books, with just two weeks left in the SEC regular season. Still lots to play for, with bowl eligibility still on the table for a few teams.