By Andrew Kahn
This is the CBS Local SEC Football Report. Every Tuesday, this space will recap the results and top performances from the Southeastern Conference and look ahead to key match-ups the following week.
Shootout in the home of the Cowboys
In a game that featured 31 points over the final nine minutes of regulation, Texas A&M emerged with a 50-43 overtime victory over Arkansas. Christian Kirk, one of the most electrifying players in college football, caught two touchdowns and returned a kick 100 yards for another score.
Kirk’s grab put the Aggies ahead to start overtime and Armani Watts’ interception in the end zone on third down sealed the win. After the game, NFL star Larry Fitzgerald tweeted at Kirk to “go get that Biletnikoff Trophy,” awarded to the nation’s top receiver. Among the more hyped receivers coming into the season—along with Oklahoma State’s James Washington and Alabama’s Calvin Ridley—Kirk certainly has a chance if he has a few more performances like he did Saturday.
More importantly, the Aggies got the win in a critical game for both teams. The match-up took place in the home of the Dallas Cowboys for the fourth straight year. Three of the last four meetings between these two schools have gone to overtime, and A&M has won six straight in the series.
More Gator magic
There was more time on the clock and not nearly as much ground to cover, but for the second week in a row Florida scored a touchdown in the final minute to win. This time, the result was a 28-27 win over Kentucky, the Gators’ 31st straight in the series. Down 13 in the fourth quarter, reserve quarterback Luke Del Rio found an uncovered Freddie Swain for a five-yard score with 46 seconds left. Improbably, it was the second time Kentucky had failed to defend a receiver and allowed a touchdown.
This was a gut-punching loss for a Kentucky squad trying to make noise in the SEC East. Half of Florida’s points came on Kentucky’s communication failures. The first came immediately after a timeout near the end of the first half. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops tried to call his own timeout just before the game-winner, as there were only 10 Wildcats on the field and none near Swain. Stoops took responsibility for the breakdowns after the game. This is what he said about the final touchdown: “We were getting into a big goal line set and both corners came out and we left them uncovered. That’s our fault. We tried to change personnel groups too late, we should have lived with the call that we had.”
Other notable performances:
Vanderbilt had allowed 13 points through its first three games. It took Alabama three drives to surpass that, and the Crimson Tide never let up, going on the road and silencing the Commodores 59-0. Total yardage: Alabama 677, Vanderbilt 78.
In last week’s report, I wrote it was “fair to assume” Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm would have to attempt more than the 13 passes he threw in the previous week against Samford in order to beat Mississippi State. Nope. Fromm threw just 12 times on Saturday. One was on a flea flicker on Georgia’s first play from scrimmage for a touchdown, and the rout was on. The final, 31-3, was a result of big plays and a defense that stifled a previously red-hot Nick Fitzgerald.
Tennessee and South Carolina both escaped against inferior competition. The Vols snuck past winless UMass, 17-13. Tennessee coach Butch Jones used the word “unacceptable” multiple times to describe his team’s performance. South Carolina needed a field goal with seven seconds left to beat Louisiana Tech 17-16. The hero, freshman kicker Parker White, was 0-for-4 in his career, including two misses on Saturday, before knocking in the game-winner from 31 yards out. The kick was set up by a great catch by Bryan Edwards.
The other SEC results (home team first): Missouri 14, Auburn 51; LSU 35, Syracuse 26; Mississippi (off)
Biggest game: Georgia at Tennessee
By the point spread, this is expected to be the closest game in the SEC this week, and the last time this match-up was decided by more than one possession was 2010. Last year, Tennessee stunned Georgia with a Hail Mary as time expired. If the Bulldogs read some of their press clippings, they might expect to roll over the inconsistent Vols. But as we’ve already witnessed in the conference this season, teams that look great one week can stumble the next.
Keep an eye on: Mississippi State at Auburn; South Carolina at Texas A&M; Vanderbilt at Florida; Mississippi at Alabama
It’s a “show me something” game for Auburn, whose offense came alive against Missouri on Saturday but will need to prove it against a more formidable foe this week. Texas A&M will try to build on its momentum before a particularly tough stretch of games. Vanderbilt will attempt to bounce-back; Mississippi will hope to avoid a blowout.
For the diehards: New Mexico State at Arkansas; Eastern Michigan at Kentucky; Troy at LSU; Missouri (off)
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about college football and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn