NCAA Football

USC vs. Boston College: Score and Twitter Reaction

The Boston College Eagles executed an exceptional game plan, fought off an early deficit and held off a late comeback push against the No. 9 USC Trojans on Saturday evening at Alumni Stadium.

Led by senior quarterback Tyler Murphy, Boston College manhandled USC, pounded the rock for 452 rushing yards and shut down the Trojans on the ground in a 37-31 upset victory in Chestnut Hill.

Adam Maya of Rivals.com brought context to the magnitude of Saturday's upset:

USCFootball.com's Ryan Abraham captured the scene that unfolded after the game, when fans rushed the field to enjoy the landmark win:

As the Trojans threatened to mount a comeback following star receiver Nelson Agholor's 10-yard touchdown reception from Cody Kessler with four minutes and 32 seconds remaining, Murphy carried out a convincing read-option fake and dashed 66 yards for the decisive score.

ESPN Stats & Info tweeted an interesting counter to Maya's prior anecdote:

Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated was perplexed as to how Murphy rose to the occasion following last week's home loss to Pittsburgh:

Murphy was the Eagles' catalyst, amassing 191 yards on 13 carries. Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News was reminded of a former Heisman Trophy winner in witnessing Murphy's performance:

Kessler hit Darreus Rogers for a 14-yard TD strike on the possession after Murphy's big run, but BC recovered the onside kick and got two first-down runs from freshman Jon Hilliman. That ended any lingering suspense.

The way the game began, it looked like business as usual for the Trojans, who appeared to be en route to another quality win amid an immediate renaissance under new coach Steve Sarkisian.

The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan summarized how many believed things would eventually play out:

BC had three consecutive three-and-outs to start. On the second of those brief drives, USC took over at its opponent's 38-yard line. Kessler drove the team to the end zone in six plays, hitting George Farmer on an eight-yard touchdown throw.

It was a milestone score for Farmer:

A 52-yard field goal by Andre Heidari put the Trojans up 10-0. Even when the Eagles responded with a TD on a crisp seven-play, 78-yard drive, a missed extra point only cut the deficit to four points.

One of the most explosive scoring plays of the game came on a 51-yard connection from Kessler to running back Javorius Allen, who took a screen pass all the way to the house. That was just three plays from scrimmage after BC had scored its first points.

Murphy discussed the primary objectives his team set out to achieve before Saturday's showdown, per The Boston Globe's Michael Vega:

We have to really get the running game going, keep their offense off the field and keep their defense on the field. They are pretty low on numbers on defense, so we have to try to take advantage of that and keep them on the field as long as possible.

They have a very explosive offense that can run our defense out, and the more they get on the field, the better rhythm they get into, and the more dangerous they can be. So, we really have to focus on moving the chains, getting the first downs, running the ball and letting the clock tick.

Part of what allowed the BC rushing attack to be so effective was the way Murphy drew the defense in. It was evident on his final carry, but Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated made a keen observation about Murphy's read-option skills before then:

After the Trojans' lead swelled to 11, the Eagles began to assert their will and pummel their heavily favored foes up front.

A three-yard TD scamper by Hilliman preceded a breakout 54-yard romp to paydirt from diminutive freshman receiver Sherman Alston just 1:27 before halftime. Alston took the ball on an end-around and was untouched until he got inside the 5, barely stretching across the goal line at the end.

Riding that momentum into the locker room, the BC defense played inspired football, and Hilliman punched in from one yard out in the third quarter giving the Eagles a 27-17 lead.

USC had averaged 279.5 yards passing and 216.5 yards on the ground through its first two games. That balance was nonexistent in this one. Kessler was under pressure often, with the Eagles pinning their ears back and capitalizing on obvious passing situations.

But Kessler remained calm and put his Trojans in a position to get back into it in the fourth. Despite the Trojans having just 20 yards on 29 carries, Kessler was 31-of-41 passing for 317 yards and four scores.

The defense simply couldn't stop Murphy and Co.

Although BC didn't dominate time of possession (31:43), it ran the ball exceptionally to prevent USC from getting into an offensive rhythm in the middle portion of the game. Murphy helped a lot in that regard. Just 5-of-13 passing for 54 yards and an interception, the dual-threat signal-caller destroyed the Trojans with his legs.

Coming off a momentous win over Stanford, it appeared USC was shocked to see the Eagles get off the mat after trailing early. The Trojans couldn't recover, and now will fall out of the Top 10.

Sarkisian will have a bye week to motivate his players and help them prepare for a Pac-12 clash against Oregon State.

Meanwhile, for BC coach Steve Addazio this is an epic triumph. Under certain circumstances, the Eagles could be in danger of suffering a letdown of their own. However, they will host Maine next, and it's unlikely they'll slip enough to lose to a 1-1 adversary from the FCS.

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UCLA vs. Texas: Score and Twitter Reaction

Come Pac-12 play, UCLA is certainly going to have some experience dealing with adversity. 

The Bruins offense struggled in a Week 1 win against Virginia. Their defense struggled in a win against Memphis. On Saturday night against Texas, they lost star quarterback Brett Hundley to an elbow injury for most of the game but still found a way to scrape out a 20-17 win with Jerry Neuheisel thriving under center. 

As Fox Sports' Miguel A. Melendez noted, it was a doubly good night for UCLA:

Prior to game, head coach Jim Mora, via The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), talked about the importance for the Bruins to right the ship after an unconvincing start to the season:

We can't wait to get things fixed. We have to fix things now. ... (Older) guys like us, we understand how fast life goes, and I don't think these guys always understand it, so it's a matter of making them understand it's important right now.

That became decidedly more difficult when Hundley suffered his injury in the first quarter on an 11-yard scramble. He was deemed "probable" to return after a trip to the locker room, but that time never came, and after halftime it was clear he was out for the game.

CBS Sports' Dane Brugler put his loss into perspective: 

From Hundley to sophomore Neuheisel, the Bruins went from dynamic playmaker to game manager. CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli joked about the suddenly less compelling QB battle:

Neuheisel more than held his own in a tough situation in what was essentially a road game at AT&T Stadium, though, completing 23 of his 30 throws for 178 yards, two touchdowns and zero turnovers.

He wasn't exactly marching the ball down the field with 5.9 yards per attempt, but the running game helped quell some of those early offensive problems. Paul Perkins tallied 126 yards on 24 carries, including a 58-yard scamper to set up Neuheisel's touchdown throw to Nate Iese. Jordon James took eight totes for 69 yards, and do-it-all linebacker Myles Jack had a few important carries. 

As the L.A. Daily News' Jack Wang noted, it was a career night for Perkins:

But he wasn't the only sophomore to impress. While Texas' Tyrone Swoopes, filling in for David Ash under center, only tallied 196 yards through the air, he made plays when they were needed. 

In the second quarter, he orchestrated a 62-yard touchdown drive to give the Longhorns an early lead. He made several plays outside of the pocket, drawing comparisons to a certain legendary Texas QB, via former NFL scout John Middlekauff:

Then, after UCLA's defense had buckled down for the majority of the second half and UCLA had recaptured the lead, Swoopes put together an 80-yard touchdown drive in just four minutes, finding John Harris on a perfectly timed throw to put the Longhorns ahead by four with 5:13 remaining. 

The roller-coaster ride wasn't done there, though. 

After a huge punt return from the electric Ish Adams, Neuheisel delivered a perfect 33-yard touchdown throw to Jordan Payton, who had freed himself on a knee-buckling double move. 

ESPN's Travis Haney praised the QB:

UCLA's defense held on the subsequent drive to pull out the victory, leading to this wonderful moment after the game, via Yahoo Sports' Jeff Eisenberg:

Fortunately for both teams dealing with injuries and inconsistent play, they each get next Saturday off before beginning conference play. The Bruins head to Arizona State on Thursday, September 25, while the Longhorns go to Kansas two days later. 

There are obviously kinks to iron out in the meantime, but each team can certainly feel a little more confident about its quarterback depth once the starters are healthy again. 

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Relive South Carolina's Thrilling Upset over the Georgia Bulldogs

The South Carolina Gamecocks beat the Georgia Bulldogs, 38-35, on Saturday in an SEC East showdown.

Here is a mash-up of highlights from the thriller. Will either of these teams reach the SEC title game at season's end? 

Watch the video and let us know.

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Purdue vs. Notre Dame: Score and Twitter Reaction

It was by no means easy, and it usually never is, but the Shillelagh Trophy will remain with the No. 11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish for the foreseeable future after the team outlasted the Purdue Boilermakers 30-14 Saturday night.

The final iteration of one of the sport's great rivalries—one week removed from the final Notre Dame-Michigan showdown, a 31-0 win for the Fighting Irish—developed into a quarterback duel from the opening gun that never ceased.

Notre Dame signal-caller Everett Golson continued his stellar play, which has him quietly in the Heisman hunt. By night's end, he went for 259 yards and a pair of scores through the air, while leading the Fighting Irish in rushing with 14 carries for another 56 yards and a score.

Notre Dame captured the victory on Twitter:

Boilermakers sophomore signal-caller Danny Etling made it tough on Golson, though, as he finished the day with a respectable 234 yards and two touchdowns, although an interception late all but sealed the contest.

Those who have experience with the 68-year feud, especially in recent years, understand that Purdue's futility and Notre Dame's success mean little when the two sides step on the field. Of course, this includes Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, who touched on the subject before Saturday's game.

"If you watch the film and turn it on you really see two different teams," Kelly said, per UND.com. "It's just an in-state rival. Just throw out all of what happened before, and they just played very, very well with a great deal of enthusiasm and emotion, and we're going to have to meet and exceed that."

Considering an eventual 1-10 squad gave the Fighting Irish all it could handle last year and the year before that saw the Boilermakers almost ruin an undefeated season, Kelly hit the nail on the head. 

At first, it appeared the Fighting Irish were set to kill off the trend, as the offense went six plays and scored a touchdown on the first drive of the game as wideout William Fuller—who finished with six catches for 51 yards and a score—reeled in the Golson pass.

Purdue proved game, though, reaffirming that this one would be close.

Etling started with a 7-of-7 mark (Golson started 9-of-9) and led his team 61 yards down the field to tie the game at seven apiece on their second drive.

Yahoo.com's Pat Forde offered a broad perspective shortly after:

After a field goal by Kyle Brindza, Etling once again proved up to the task and hit DeAngelo Yancey for a 19-yard touchdown connection.

Again, the Shillelagh Trophy tends to do this to the Boilermakers. WTHR.com's Bob Kravitz put it best:

To Etling's credit, his first half even came after an illegal hit from Max Redfield, who was promptly ejected for targeting.

The unexpected quarterback showdown only intensified right before the half, as Golson continued to do it all on his own, rushing for a 15-yard score to enter the locker room at the half up 17-14. For those keeping count, that made it 10 touchdowns to zero turnovers on the season for him, prompting a justifiable note from Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer:

The undercover Heisman contender saw his stellar play bleed into the second half, where he found Corey Robinson—who went on to lead the team in receiving by night's end with three receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown—for a score in the third frame to make it 24-14.

It was a disparity from which Purdue would not be able to recover, as Etling was the first to blink in the quarterback duel due to a fourth-quarter interception with eight minutes and change left in the game. In garbage time with the game already decided, he added a second interception to skew his stat line.

For Golson, the Heisman hype is all too real as he has come back at a quicker rate than anyone could have imagined. ESPN 1480's Greg Smith hints that, should his great play continue, voters will have a difficult time ignoring him in favor of other big names:

To paint in more broad strokes, Notre Dame continues to roll through one of the nation's toughest schedules.

The same cannot be said for the Big Ten, which once again has its legitimacy in serious jeopardy. Purdue's second-half ineffectiveness en route to the loss brings an alarming stat to life, as ESPN.com's Brian Bennett records:

Looking forward, Purdue returns home next week to take on Southern Illinois out of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, a contest that should help Darrell Hazell's side to get back on track before conference play begins in earnest.

Notre Dame gets a week to recuperate and then has to do its best the week after to avoid a letdown against a currently undefeated Syracuse team at home knowing full well a high-profile clash with Stanford comes after that, not to mention a trip to Florida State two weeks later.

Suffice it to say, the Fighting Irish's playoff mettle was tested fully once again Saturday, but the worst is yet to come. Given Golson's superb play, the Fighting Irish can advance with confidence.

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified. 

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Should South Carolina Be SEC East Favorite After Stunning Georgia?

The South Carolina Gamecocks took down the Georgia Bulldogs 38-35 in a battle to the finish in Columbia, South Carolina.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss what this huge win means for Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina program.

Do you think they will win the SEC East? Can they make it to the College Football Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know!

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How Georgia's Coaches Blew It and Why Todd Gurley Should Have Been Unleashed

The South Carolina Gamecocks took down the Georgia Bulldogs in a battle to the finish in Columbia, SC.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss what happened on Georgia's last drive and their future.

Do you think they still have a chance at the SEC East title? 

Watch the video and let us know!

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What We Learned About Alabama's QB Competition in Week 3

Three weeks into the 2014 season, Alabama coach Nick Saban has steadfastly refused to name a starting quarterback between Blake Sims and Jake Coker.

But following the Crimson Tide’s 52-12 drubbing of Southern Miss, it is clear that Saban really doesn’t need to. Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s division of playing time says it all: Sims is the guy.

Sims completed 12 of 17 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns, while Coker hit on five of seven for 46 yards. AL.com's Andrew Gribble questioned the quarterback competition via Twitter during the third quarter:

Alabama’s usage of Coker was telling. The Florida State transfer didn’t enter the game until 2:10 remained in the third quarter, with the Tide holding a comfortable 35-9 lead.

He played the final three drives, all of which ended in scores, with a field goal and a pair of rushing touchdowns.

Entering Saturday’s game against Southern Miss, Saban said he didn’t have a set plan for the quarterbacks’ usage in an interview on the SEC Network’s SEC Nation (via AL.com's Andrew Gribble).

I don't think we have a specific, "OK, you're going to play this long and the next guy's coming in." I think we want to play both guys in the game if we can. Last week I had a specific plan for it. Today, I think we want to just sort of see how it goes.

How did it go? Sims took control or at least did enough to keep his bosses happy. D.C. Reeves of TideSports.com provided a comparison between Sims and AJ McCarron regarding stats after each player's first three games as the starting quarterback:

Sims averaged a pedestrian 9.9 yards per attempt Saturday, with his longest completion a 27-yard pass to Amari Cooper. That’s Sims’ game: He doesn’t do anything spectacularly, but he hasn’t done anything to get Alabama beaten. Saban said as much on SEC Nation:

I think consistency and performance is important at any position, and especially at the quarterback position because you distribute the ball every down.

Blake obviously has been in the system a lot longer. Probably a little more comfortable, a little more confident. Jake is learning and improving all the time in terms of what is expected of him. 

We're just going to keep trying to develop both guys. Both guys really do encourage each other and I think our team has confidence in both guys.

Afterward, he told reporters that the quarterback position remains “week to week” and that Coker “needs to play,” as reported in a tweet by TideSports.com:

Sims might not have a long leash on the position, and it is certainly within the realm of possibility that Coker could have another chance at the role if Sims struggles with SEC defenses, starting with Florida next week.

But for now, it is clear that Sims is the Crimson Tide’s guy under center—without a doubt.

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Are Michigan's Mental Errors Brady Hoke's Fault?

For a brief moment late in the first half versus Miami (Ohio), it appeared that Michigan was still dazed from its 31-0 drubbing at the hands of the Notre Dame Irish.

A series of Wolverine miscues allowed Miami to tie the game at 10, and fans unleashed a cascade of boos from the stands. Michigan roared back to take a 17-10 lead at half, but fans again let the team have it after a stalled drive in the final minute was punctuated by two delay-of-game penalties on fourth down.

Michigan’s performance stood in stark contrast to Big Ten rival Ohio State, which took a 45-0 halftime lead on the way to a 66-0 drubbing of Kent State.

Brady Hoke had no answer for his team’s first-half struggles.

“I wanted to see our guys come out with energy,” Hoke said.

But whatever energy his team had quickly evaporated after a Devin Gardner interception resulted in a Miami field goal, quickly followed by a RedHawks touchdown after recovering the subsequent kickoff.

Hoke addressed the fans’ displeasure, saying, “We have great fans and they have high expectations.”

Down in Columbus, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had set a clear goal for his team after its 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech, as reported by the theozone.net:

We haven’t started particularly fast and we had a pretty good reputation for a while there coming out of the gates real fast, real hard and we haven’t done that yet…So we gotta go take the lead and play Ohio State-style football.

Hoke talked about energy, while Meyer talked about results.

After last week’s loss, Michigan fans expected the Wolverines to make similar quick work of Miami, a team that hasn’t won a game since the 2012 season. A paltry 17-10 halftime lead wasn’t what they expected.

One more tune-up game remains versus Utah, a squad that averages 57.5 points per game.

Hoke is on the hook to eliminate his team’s mental errors. If he can’t, then Michigan may be heading for another loss—and a lot more boos—before the Big Ten season starts.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand.

All season statistics from MGoBlue.com, the official University of Michigan athletic department website.

Follow @PSCallihan.

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Nick Perry Ejection Not What Alabama's Shaky Secondary Needed Ahead of Florida

Up three scores in the second half against Southern Miss, No. 2 Alabama had some back luck that could come back to hurt it in a big way.

Starting free safety Nick Perry drilled Southern Miss wide receiver Kyle Foster well after a pass was thrown over his head. Perry was called for targeting, and after a review the play was upheld.

It was the right call, no doubt.

Perry’s helmet strikes Foster’s helmet as Foster is on the way down from jumping up to catch a pass. Perry had plenty of time to pull up, but didn’t, and was rightfully sent from the game.

He even took to Twitter immediately after his ejection to apologize to the fans.

Head coach Nick Saban acknowledged that it was the right call.

But this play has consequences that extend far beyond a half of football in an out-of-reach game against a group-of-five opponent that Alabama eventually won, 52-12.

Since the play occurred in the second half, Perry will also miss the first half of Alabama’s SEC opener against Florida on Saturday. That’s not at all what the Crimson Tide needed in a secondary that has had its share of ups and downs this season and is already limited by injury.

Alabama doesn’t have much in the way of depth behind Perry.

When he left the game, Geno Smith moved from "Star" back to free safety, while Maurice Smith, a cornerback, came in to play the Star spot. Geno Smith hasn’t had much playing time at free safety, and Maurice Smith’s natural spot is at corner.

The two Smiths will have their work cut out for them at practice this week, preparing for full-time duties, at least in the first half.

Alabama’s quarterback battle has, understandably, been in the spotlight in the early goings of the 2014 season, but its secondary has been shaky from the get-go.

It gave up 365 yards to start the year against West Virginia, which exploited its 6'3" receiver Kevin White in mismatches against the Crimson Tide’s undersized cornerbacks. It was really the only game Alabama has played against a legitimate offensive threat, and it largely failed that test.

Even Southern Miss had success, though in spurts, against the Alabama secondary on Saturday. Golden Eagles quarterback Nick Mullens finished the day with 207 passing yards, hardly gaudy numbers but on par with his games against Mississippi State (212) and Alcorn State (208).

The defense has also forced just one turnover, recovering a fumble against Florida Atlantic, and has yet to record an interception. That will definitely be a point of emphasis this week.

And the secondary will already be at less than full strength.

Safety Jarrick Williams, who was a rock at the Star position and was especially physical in run support, is out with a broken bone in his foot. Cornerback Eddie Jackson—who took the place of the 5’11” Bradley Sylve, who was burned several times by White in the opener—left the game, though Saban said afterwards that it likely won’t keep him out.

Which brings us to Florida.

It’s hard to get a read on the Gators, since they’ve played only one game after lightning cancelled their season opener against Idaho. In a win over Eastern Michigan, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel hit 31 of 40 passes for 248 yards and a score in about three quarters of play. The Gators moved the ball well—as they should have—against that level of competition.

Alabama struggled against teams that could throw the ball last season, and through three games, it hasn’t shown that those issues are behind it.

And as a team with a dangerous quarterback comes to Tuscaloosa next week for Alabama’s SEC opener, losing one of its starting safeties hurts even worse.

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Georgia Football: Dawgs' Road to the SEC Title Game After Loss to South Carolina

Tomorrow is a new day for the Georgia Bulldogs. 

And as cliché as that may sound, that’s probably the best news for Mark Richt's team following its 38-35 road loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday. 

A Bulldog effort that was plagued by glaring missteps—an inability to convert third downs, poor coverage in the secondary and two missed field—is over and done.  Now, it’s time to fix those mistakes and look forward to a host of still-achievable goals, including a trip to the SEC Championship Game.

Here’s what Georgia’s road to Atlanta for the conference title looks like.

 

It Is Broke, So Fix It

A big win against Clemson to open the season made it easy to overlook the flaws of the Bulldogs.  A furious second-half performance put away the Tigers and put a disguise over some underlying messes, but those inner demons flared up in a big way against South Carolina.

The problems Georgia had against the Gamecocks were mostly symptomatic of long-standing shortcomings.  Depending on one's perspective, that could be good or bad. 

On the positive side, no new chinks in Georgia’s armor were exposed.  Georgia missed a couple of big-play threats in its passing game and struggled to convert third downs. But everyone knew wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley would be out for the contest. 

The secondary struggled mightily, but that was expected under first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. It's reasonable for Georgia fans to anticipate the unit improving as the season progresses.  Special teams play—much to the chagrin of Bulldogs fans—has long been a problem for Georgia.  In that regard, two critical missed field goals was no surprise.

Nothing new popped up for Georgia, and that's a good thing.

On the negative side, however, it is fair to wonder when these issues will be resolved.

Any shortcomings of the offense should look better when star receivers get back on the field.  And to be clear, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has still moved the ball well.  Even against South Carolina, the Dawgs found success both through the air and on the ground.

Defensively, time is the reactive element in the improvement equation.  Pruitt, talented as he may be as a young defensive mind, is not a miracle worker.  It’s unfair to expect him to be one.  What he is, however, is an educator.  It takes time to teach young players.  Accordingly, it would be off base to think this defense—especially the secondary—won’t improve.

Special teams mistakes remain a mystery.  Over the summer, coaching duties were divvied up between linebackers coach Mike Ekeler and tight ends coach John Lilly.  In Week 1, special teams play (namely, a Todd Gurley kickoff return) stole the show.  On Saturday, special teams cost Georgia the game.  But much like the defense, this is still a work in progress.  And to be fair to kicker Marshall Morgan, his struggles against South Carolina were atypical.

The season is young.  The beauty for the Bulldogs is that even with all of these ugly mistakes, they still had a chance to win.  The talent is there.  The coaching is there.  If those two components continue to complement each other, the results will also be there.

 

Tactical Attack

As far as the schedule is concerned, Georgia is hardly out of the chase in the SEC East.  South Carolina has a conference loss on its resume as well, and the Gamecocks have the more difficult remaining schedule thanks to road games against Florida and Auburn.  Coach Steve Spurrier’s squad looked much improved on Saturday, but it would be ill advised to crown them as the division champ this early.  Another loss is certainly a possibility for South Carolina.

As for Florida, the other favorite in the division, nothing has changed—at least not relative to Georgia.  Beating the Gators in Jacksonville will give the Dawgs the advantage over the Gators, and Will Muschamp is 0-3 against Georgia since becoming Florida’s head coach.

Other contenders, like Missouri and Tennessee, may yet stake a claim to the division crown, but Georgia still has an opportunity to dethrone both the Tigers and the Volunteers.

If Georgia quickly rectifies its deficiencies, winning out is a feasible outcome for this team.  Doing so would most likely mean punching a ticket to the SEC Championship Game.

 

Learn and Move On

After the game, head coach Mark Richt was, as expected, left with regrets. 

But there are worse times for such second thoughts, and Georgia could learn something from their most recent opponent, the South Carolina Gamecocks.  After two games, South Carolina seemed down and out of SEC contention.  Now, the Gamecocks are arguably the favorite in the SEC East.

Georgia’s played only two games.  As South Carolina showed, a lot can change game to game and week to week.  If the Bulldogs can take strides forward on a practice-by-practice basis, the SEC Championship Game may still be in the cards.

 

Unless otherwise notes, all quotes obtained firsthand.

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Winners and Losers from Week 3 of College Football

Even on a Saturday when we didn't see it coming, college football again reminded us how it never fails to be weird, unpredictable and wonderful as four ranked teams went down. 

In the afternoon, East Carolina upset suddenly cinderella Virginia Tech, Bobby Petrino found out the ACC won't be a cake walk and the Head Ball Coach somehow put another one over on college football's early season darling Dawgs. 

In prime time, USC's defense lost its teeth in Chestnut Hill and Rick Neuheisel's son led UCLA over Texas after the Bruins' Heisman trophy candidate Brett Hundley went down early.  

Needless to say there was a ton of drama. 

So let's get the conversation going. Which teams, players, coaches and/or moments were the best from Week 3? Which ones struggled?

Begin Slideshow

Southern Miss vs. Alabama: Game Grades, Analysis for the Crimson Tide

The Alabama Crimson Tide improved to 3-0 after controlling the Southern Miss Golden Eagles throughout a 52-12 victory.

Following a field goal from Southern Miss on the opening drive, Alabama never ceded control of the nonconference blowout.

 

Pass Offense

If teams can figure out how to stop Amari Cooper, the Alabama offense will be quite limited. The problem is, however, the junior is an absolute stud and not an easy matchup.

Blake Sims connected with Cooper on eight of his 12 completions, finishing with 168 yards and two touchdowns. Jacob Coker was efficient off the bench, finding his target on five of seven attempts.

 

Run Offense

T.J. Yeldon registered a meager 6.2 yards per carry, which was the sixth-best average on his own squad Saturday night. Yeah, it was a good day on the ground for Alabama.

Kenyan Drake scored three times, and Derrick Henry led the team with 79 yards, while Tyren Jones added 43 more and a touchdown. The Crimson Tide's blockers washed the Golden Eagles off the line of scrimmage all game long.

 

Pass Defense

Southern Miss receivers worked the Bama secondary on the opening drive, snagging five passes for 62 yards en route to a quick field goal. But the Tide increased the pressure and did not allow explosive plays, limiting Nick Mullens to 5.9 yards per attempt.

The Golden Eagles were most effective through the air, but Alabama surrendered so little to the USM offense, regardless.

 

Run Defense

Nothing. That's what the A'Shawn Robinson-led defensive line surrendered between the tackles. Southern Miss just had 57 yards on 18 carries, managing a single rush that gained more than 10. Overall, it was an outstanding performance by the men up front.

 

Special Teams

Excluding an unlucky bounce ricocheting off an Alabama punt blocker, it was another solid showing by the special teams. Adam Griffith hit all seven extra points, knocking home a 30-yard field goal, too.

JK Scott's lone punt pinned Southern Miss at its own 10, and Christion Jones averaged 27.8 yards per kick return.

 

Coaching

Watching Nick Saban chastise offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin after a touchdown was rather comical, especially when the Tide scored seven of them. Alabama averaged 7.5 yards per play, compared to allowing 4.8 to Southern Miss.

Additionally, the Crimson Tide were incredibly disciplined, being called for just three penalties, converting seven of 11 third downs and not committing an offensive turnover.

 

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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Oklahoma's Jordan Phillips Celebrates 1st Sack of 2014 Season with Shmoney Dance

After getting his first sack of the season against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday night, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips decided to show off some moves by doing the Shmoney dance.

The sack was a big one on third down, forcing the Volunteers to punt the ball away. According to Oklahoma's Twitter account, the sack now gives Phillips 2.5 for his career.

[Vine, Twitter]

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Texas Tech Football: Why Justin Stockton Is Crucial to the Red Raiders' Success

In early January 2013, Texas Tech football coach Kliff Kingsbury made an addition to his coaching staff that didn't make many headlines or create much buzz around the country.  On that day, he hired former high school coach Mike Jinks to coach the Red Raiders running backs in Lubbock.

Jinks was in the later stages of building a high school juggernaut in a San Antonio suburb.  Before Jinks’ departure, the Steele Knights were one of the best teams in the country, with a roster loaded with Division 1-caliber talent. 

While Kingsbury’s decision to hire Jinks as running backs coach didn't look like a game-changing move on paper, the move paid dividends only 10 days later.

Then, Steele running back Justin Stockton committed to Texas Tech.  He was the most highly touted recruit of the Kingsbury era to that point.  Whether or not Stockton’s commitment was based solely on Jink’s presence is unknown, but it had to have helped.

He was a 4-star recruit, according to ESPN Recruiting Nation, and had a very productive high school career.  As a senior, he rushed for 2,159 yards and scored 38 touchdowns.  For his career, he amassed over 6,000 yards on the ground and averaged a phenomenal 11 yards per carry.  He was rewarded for his terrific senior season, as he was one of the running backs named to the Associated Press Class 5A All-State first team.

Stockton showed up on the High Plains with several other backs ahead of him, but after Kenny Williams moved to linebacker and Stockton showed his explosive big-play ability, he found himself in line for a decent number of touches as a true freshman.

In the Red Raiders’ opening game against Central Arkansas, Stockton rushed for 38 yards on six carries.  He also recorded his first collegiate touchdown, a six-yard run, to give Tech a 21-16 lead before the end of the first half.

If you think that was pressure, it gets better.  Just a week later, in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, the Red Raiders found themselves locked in a dogfight against heavy underdog UTEP. 

After the Miners churned out a long 11-play, 88-yard touchdown drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock, Kingsbury’s squad had only five minutes, five seconds left in the game and needed a touchdown. 

The blustery winds of the Sun Bowl had thrown off Davis Webb’s passing a little bit, so they needed Stockton to lead them down the field.  Stockton broke off long runs of 24 and 20 yards to get the Red Raiders into position to win the game.  Webb promptly found Bradley Marquez in the end zone for his third receiving touchdown of the game, but they wouldn't have been in position to do that if not for Stockton.

The 5’9” true freshman has an impressive and diverse skill set.  He can run the ball between the tackles, catch passes out of the backfield as well as effectively return kicks and punts.  An example of his explosiveness and wide array of talents came in the San Antonio All-Star Game, when Stockton scored five touchdowns, three of those on kickoff returns.

After Kenny Williams moved over to linebacker in an attempt to solidify a defense that couldn't stop the run last year, it put a lot of pressure on the other running backs.  Junior DeAndre Washington has the most experience of the running back core and also was a 4-star recruit, but Stockton is the dynamic change-of-pace back that gives yet another option for the Red Raiders.

For Tech’s offense to start firing on all cylinders, they need Stockton to break off more runs like he did on that last drive against UTEP.   

The Red Raiders have struggled a bit of late, but they still have the necessary weapons to have one of the most prolific offenses in the nation.  They have a quarterback, Davis Webb, who has all the tools to engineer Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense, three talented running backs who have the ability to rotate and keep their legs fresh and a slew of receivers with big-play ability.

However, they had plenty of firepower last season when they went 8-5.  One of the biggest differences this year, though, is Stockton.  He adds a kind of offensive presence that you don’t see very often.  Texas Tech has had several solid running backs this century, but Stockton has the potential to be better than any of them.

He has breakaway speed, as he was a decorated track star in high school, and his outstanding vision and elusiveness make him a threat to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball.

Expect Kingsbury to incorporate Stockton into the offense as much as possible.  He can line up in the backfield or as a slot receiver, and that kind of versatility is an offensive play-caller’s dream.  He will probably be the second option to get carries in his freshman year, but as he gets more familiar with the offense and grows a bit, he should develop into one of the most productive backs in the Big 12.

The Red Raiders still have huge question marks on the defensive side of the ball, which is why they need all of their young skill players to blossom into terrific college players if they hope to compete with the other high-powered offensive attacks in their conference.

Stockton will be a vital part of the offense this season, and as he goes, so will Texas Tech.  It might seem odd that a backup running back has such a vital role in the team’s success, but he has the talent to serve as a tremendous complement to Washington. He might even match Washington’s touches as he works his way into different packages and personnel groups.

If Stockton continues to run wild when the Red Raiders face better defenses in the heart of their schedule, the offense will thrive and might even be a dark horse for the Big 12 championship.

If not this year, then definitely before Stockton uses up his eligibility. 

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The Game That Broke the SEC East Wide Open

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina had to let it ride in its game Saturday afternoon against Georgia if it wanted to have any hope of winning the SEC East, and head coach Steve Spurrier's crew hit the jackpot, albeit with a lot of help from Mark Richt and the Bulldogs.

With the 38-35 win, the Gamecocks broke the SEC East wide open.

Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan set an SEC record by hitting his 20th consecutive field goal early in the game, and then missed his final two—including a 28-yarder that would have tied the game late in the fourth quarter.

If play-calling issues hadn't popped up, he probably wouldn't have been in that position to begin with.

After a pick by Damian Swann set the Bulldogs up in the Gamecocks red zone, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and head coach Mark Richt chose to pass on first down rather than hand off to Heisman Trophy contender Todd Gurley—who had already racked up 131 yards on the night.

Georgia's seemingly annual flaw was exposed on Saturday, as the Bulldogs defense was lit up to the tune of 447 yards—271 through the air—and routinely left South Carolina wide receivers running free with nary a defender in sight.

"The whole game, coach called some great stuff," Gamecocks quarterback Dylan Thompson said. "Guys were open."

They were open all day, especially early. Thompson connected on 10 of his first 11 passes, including several over the middle to receivers who were running free. That got him into a groove, as South Carolina built a 24-13 lead at halftime.

A win for Georgia would have further fueled the Dawgs' early-season hype train and put them two games ahead of South Carolina—with the head-to-head tiebreaker—for the coveted trip to the SEC championship game in Atlanta. But, that would have been way too clean for the topsy-turvy SEC East. 

So who's the favorite now? 

Not South Carolina, according to Spurrier.

"Nahhhhh," he exclaimed in the postgame press conference. "We're just happy to get the win."

Thompson took the same stance as the Head Ball Coach regarding the landscape of the division.

"I don't know," he said. "We always want to win the one against Georgia. There's so much running through my mind right now."

The truth is, nobody knows.  

South Carolina certainly has a puncher's chance, Florida has the defense to stay in virtually every game and defending champ Missouri hasn't missed a beat despite significant roster turnover.

In one night, and perhaps with one missed kick or ill-advised play-call, the entire landscape of the SEC East changed. 

In 60 short minutes, the favorite came back and said "we're not dead yet," and kept the SEC East wide open for everybody—itself included.

Buckle up.

It's going to be a wild ride.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Georgia vs. South Carolina: How Bulldogs' Loss Will Shake Up Week 4 Rankings

No team emerges from an SEC battle unscathed.

That line of thought was amplified in Saturday's meeting between No. 6 Georgia and No. 24 South Carolina, which the Gamecocks won 38-35, as it was the week's lone showdown between ranked opponents.

With widespread implications as to how the Week 4 rankings would look—not to mention playoff resumes down the line—it seemed only right that the game was decided by a fourth down that measured out like this, per CBSSports.com's Chip Patterson:

Here is a look at how The Associated Press Top 25 stacked before Saturday's SEC showdown:

Obviously, all of that goes up in flames.

After a thrilling proclamation to everyone that a playoff berth might be a reality, thanks to an opening-week win over then-ranked No. 16 Clemson 45-21, Georgia coach Mark Richt certainly looks something akin to a prophet now. Before the trip to Columbia, he had cast a gloomy outlook on the heavyweight battle.

“I got a feeling this game could get a little bloody,” Richt said, per ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough. “I think both teams are tough, physically. … Before it’s over, it may get down to a bit of a fistfight.”

Indeed.

Hutson Mason, despite throwing for 191 yards and a pair of scores, made a litany of costly mistakes in a hostile environment, which did much to nullify the efforts of back Todd Gurley, who gained 131 yards and a score on the ground.

A missed field goal in the final frame with just minutes left on the clock by Georgia's Marshall Morgan, right after an interception by his defense, kept things at the final score. The Bulldogs then failed to stop the aforementioned fourth-and-short conversion to see their rank and playoff chances take a serious hit.

As Jason McIntyre of TheBigLead.com noted before the spot, the playoff implications, above all else, were most important:

When it comes to ranks, the Bulldogs seem sure to fall to No. 12 at the very least. Right below them in the current ranks, Baylor took care of Buffalo 63-21, and others such as USC and LSU seemed sure to follow suit and get a promotion.

For South Carolina, the season-defining win sets up nicely. The schedule after Georgia has always been quite soft thanks to a visit to Vanderbilt, a home stand against Missouri and a trip to Kentucky before a bye and a visit from Furman.

Clearly, the rank that just shot up the charts right along with rejuvenated playoff chances will only continue to swell and make up for that season-opening 52-28 loss to Texas A&M.

Further helping the Gamecocks' surge up the charts is a slew of upsets on the weekend, including Virginia Tech suffering a letdown a week removed from upsetting Ohio State, losing to East Carolina 28-21.

No. 21 Louisville looked uncomfortable at best at Virginia, as it continues to pick up the pieces after Teddy Bridgewater's departure, losing 23-21.

Outside of the unexpected loss to what is clearly a very good Aggies team, Gamecocks fans can go ahead and claim this is all going according to plan.

Next week, the Bulldogs return home and welcome a winless Troy squad to town, which should allow the team to suffer any inevitable hangover and still emerge with a win. Even better, Knox Bardeen of FoxSports.com offers some encouraging news:

The Gamecocks, surely riding high, hit the road for yet another SEC encounter, albeit one that seems a bit easier than Saturday's game, with the opponent being 1-3 Vanderbilt—barring a letdown, of course.

In what was a down week from a mile away, the polls needed a major upset to go down in order to pique interest on the path to Week 4.

South Carolina served up the biggest of all.

 

Stats via ESPN.com. AP poll via The Associated Press.

 

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Texas Longhorns Mess Up Coin Toss vs. UCLA, Coach Charlie Strong Is Furious

Considering this is college football, the UCLA Bruins probably weren't prepared to throw the Texas Longhorns off guard by choosing to defer after winning the coin toss.

Apparently, no one told the Longhorns captains that deferring means they have the option to receive in the second half, so they elected to kick.

According to Bruin Report Online, the referee even tried explaining the situation to the Texas captain, but he still wanted to kick.

Brian Davis from the Austin American-Statesman tweeted that head coach Charlie Strong was furious at Tank Jackson, the player who apparently made the call.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr. was apparently quite surprised about the decision, according to Bruin Report Online.

[Twitter, YouTube, h/t For The Win]

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Georgia vs. South Carolina: Game Grades, Analysis for Bulldogs and Gamecocks

The meeting between the Georgia Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks was well worth the wait.  After a 90-minute delay due to weather, things started early with lots of points and very little defense.

That proved to be the case throughout the evening, but ultimately coach Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks prevailed and put themselves in pole position in the SEC East. 

Here are positional game grades and analysis for both teams.

 

Georgia Bulldogs Grade Analysis

 

Passing Offense

Hutson Mason threw the ball extremely well in the first half, but it was odd that Georgia didn't go back to the passing game more often—particularly in the red zone.  In the second half, the emphasis was more on the running game, but Mason was still more than serviceable.  A few throws were late and/or high, but it's hard to put the loss squarely on Mason.

 

Rushing Offense

In the first half, holding penalties wiped out several long Todd Gurley runs.  Things opened up more advantageously in the final two quarters.  The Bulldogs finished the evening with 217 rushing yards, which is certainly hard to argue with.

 

Pass Defense

Georgia's pass defense was nonexistent in the first half.  The Dawgs struggled to pressure quarterback Dylan Thompson and as a result he picked apart a mostly unimpressive secondary.  The second-half effort was aided by some improvements in pressure, but any strides made against the pass were largely because South Carolina placed an emphasis on running the ball later in the game.

 

Run Defense

Georgia contained Mike Davis and the Gamecocks' ground attack in the first half, but the Gamecocks didn't need to run the ball.  Oddly enough, South Carolina's running game got stronger after Davis tweaked an ankle.  Brandon Wilds and Davis found just enough holes to make Georgia pay.

 

Special Teams

A missed field goal late in the first half hurt Georgia, but a missed attempt in the waning moments of the contest cost Georgia the game.  Kickoff coverage was poor in the second half, but those missed opportunities—six combined points were left off the board on missed field goals—proved insurmountable.

 

Coaching

For the first half, Georgia seemed to play it very safe. This approach was not in and of itself discouraging, given the second half turnaround the Dawgs pulled off in the season opener against Clemson.  The plan for the second half was sound, but this South Carolina team was more than Georgia could overcome—especially with Georgia having problems with execution.

 

 

South Carolina Gamecocks Grade Analysis

 

Passing Offense

Quarterback Thompson had himself a game on Saturday.  He struck early and often.  He let up some in the second half but mainly because South Carolina committed to eating the clock and running the football.  Georgia was unable to stop the Gamecocks passing attack.

 

Rushing Offense

South Carolina didn't run the ball especially well in the first half, but with Thompson on fire, the Gamecocks didn't need to.  In the second half, Wilds and Davis picked up yardage at critical times. They didn't dominate the entirety of the game's final 30 minutes, but they did enough to crush Georgia's spirits.

 

Pass Defense

The Gamecocks looked susceptible in the secondary, but South Carolina put pressure on Mason in the first half.  The second half followed a similar tone, but Georgia's failure to commit to the pass bailed out a poor South Carolina secondary.

 

Run Defense

South Carolina gave up yards in chunks throughout the afternoon.  The Gamecocks did a nice job of limiting yardage on the ground on first downs, but far too often Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel broke tackles for meaningful gains.

 

Special Teams

No news is often good news on the special teams front, and that was certainly the case for the Gamecocks on Saturday.

 

Coaching

Spurrier and his coaching staff dealt with the long delay extremely well.  The Gamecocks came out fired up and ready to make plays.  The opening drive was a thing of beauty.  In the second half, they showed true resiliency and enough discipline to hold off a charging Georgia team.  

Great win for this coaching staff.

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Georgia vs. South Carolina: Score and Twitter Reaction

No. 24 South Carolina pulled off a 38-35 upset win over No. 6 Georgia on Saturday in a game that was literally decided by inches.

Holding a three-point lead in the final minutes, the Gamecocks converted a fourth-down quarterback sneak that was ruled a first down by the smallest of margins. The home team was able to run out the clock from there.

Paul Finebaum of ESPN gave his impression of the South Carolina win:

Dylan Thompson threw for 271 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for the Gamecocks, while Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds combined for 159 yards on the ground.

Todd Gurley led the way for the Bulldogs, rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Quarterback Hutson Mason also added two passing touchdowns. 

Before the game, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier was well aware of the stakes for the SEC East battle. 

"It’s pretty much a must for the division if we’re going to have a shot. It would be very helpful," he explained, via John Boyette of the Athens Banner-Herald.

His squad responded well, and the team is now back in good position for a division title after losing the opening game of the year to Texas A&M. 

Saturday's matchup took a long time to get started due to some inclement weather, as Prim Siripipat of ESPN described:

After the lightning subsided, the teams were able to take the field, although the rain continued throughout much of the game.

South Carolina was the first to strike and built up an early double-digit lead thanks to some strong play by Thompson in the first half. Josh Kendall of The State provided a look at the quarterback's stats early on:

ESPN's Danny Kanell gave his analysis of the senior quarterback:

The biggest moment for Georgia in the first half was a 33-yard touchdown on a screen pass to Sony Michel on an incredibly quick drive, as noted by SportsCenter:

Other than that, the Bulldogs had to be happy going into halftime down 24-13 considering Gurley was still on the field (and not ejected). This was in doubt due to a scuffle in the second quarter, which CBS Sports' Jeremy Fowler described:

Gurley made a big impact throughout the second half with a number of long rushes. He scored a two-yard touchdown early in the third quarter and was quite impressive whenever he got the ball, as Kevin Weidl of ESPN explained:

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee joked about the running back's ability:

One of his most impressive runs came on a 3rd-and-16 where he changed direction and got the first down. CBS Sports provided a view of the change of events:

The run extended a drive that led to a Jay Rome five-yard touchdown catch. With the score and two-point conversion, the Bulldogs had cut the Gamecocks' lead to three.

South Carolina answered right back, though, with some strong running of its own. Davis and Wilds led a four-play touchdown drive all on the ground, capped off by an impressive 24-yard run by Wilds. 

College GameDay could not resist the opportunity for a pun:

When Georgia countered to get the score back to 38-35, ESPN's Stuart Scott explained how good the game was:

Later in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs had a chance to tie with a 28-yard field-goal attempt, but Marshall Morgan missed the chip shot. ESPN Stats and Info explained why this was such a shock:

South Carolina then got a few first downs to seal the victory, including a big fourth-down conversion on a quarterback sneak that was very close. Former college football coach Pete Roussel provided an image of the final measurement:

The play was reviewed and confirmed, and South Carolina came away with the win.

Both of these teams entered the year with high expectations, not only for an SEC title but also for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Gamecocks got a big boost for both of these scenarios, although there is still a lot of football to be played.

Things get much easier for the Bulldogs from here as they return home for a game against Troy. This will be the first of three winnable games at home, with Tennessee and Vanderbilt also coming up. This could be a good chance to build some momentum for the rest of the year.

South Carolina continues its SEC schedule with a road game against Vanderbilt and a tough home game against Missouri in two weeks.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Georgia Safety Quincy Mauger Destroys South Carolina WR Nick Jones

Georgia safety Quincy Mauger made a huge hit on South Carolina wide receiver Nick Jones during this heated SEC battle. Is this the biggest hit of the 2014 college football season so far?

Watch the video and let us know.

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