Associated Press

Critical mistakes cost Vanderbilt in upset bid of No. 10 Georgia

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It’s not often you see a team on the business end of a 31-14 final walk away saying, “Man, we let that one get away.” But that’s the case for Derek Mason and Vanderbilt after the ‘Dores dropped a 17-point decision to No. 10 Georgia in Nashville Saturday.

First, let’s examine how Georgia secured its 31 points. Isaiah McKenzie opened the scoring with a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown at the 4:33 mark of the first quarter. The Bulldogs held the lead through the first half, but the score would have been 7-6 at the break had Vanderbilt safety Oren Burks not allowed a Greyson Lambert pass to split his wide-open hands. Sony Michel raced in from 31 yards on the very next snap.

Vanderbilt drove the field in an attempt to pull within 14-9 at the half, but Tommy Openshaw‘s 43-yard field goal try doinked off the left upright.

Georgia officially put the game away in the third quarter with a 20-yard Marshall Morgan field goal and a five-yard Lambert run, pushing the edge to 24-6, but Vanderbilt made things interestin in the fourth quarter… until they didn’t.

After a missed 43-yard Morgan field goal try, Vanderbilt marched 71 yards in nine plays until an ill-advised four-yard scramble by Commodores quarterback Johnny McCrary on a goal-to-go situation from the Georgia eight. Vanderbilt forced a three-and-out and immediately moved 42 yards in five plays, capped by a seven-yard strike from McCrary to Latevius Reyford and then a McCrary run to pull the ‘Dores within 24-14.

Vanderbilt uncovered the ensuing kickoff, but McCrary gave the ball right back to Georgia at the Bulldogs’ 20. After another Georgia punt, Vanderbilt moved to the Bulldogs’ 28 before he was again intercepted, and Dominick Sanders returned the pigskin 88 yards to put an exclamation point on the ballgame.

Add it all up and you get three interceptions (including one for a touchdown), a missed field goal and a missed interception and a punt return touchdown surrendered in a game where Vanderbilt managed to control the ball (89 to 66 total plays, five more minutes of possession, two more first downs).

Vanderbilt limited Lambert for much of the day. He was held without a completed pass in the first half, getting himself pulled in favor of sophomore Brice Ramsey for the Bulldogs’ final first half drive, and completed 11-of-21 passes for only 116 yards on the day. Nick Chubb, as he’s done since he first stepped on the field, carried the Georgia offense with 19 carries for 189 yards. Michel was also a key contributor with 86 yards and a touchdown on 14 touches.

McCrary completed 24-of-50 throws for 295 yards with a touchdown and three picks. Ralph Webb led Vanderbilt in rushing with 25 carries for 68 yards.

For Georgia it was their 19th win in their last 21 tries against Vanderbilt and third win in their last four SEC openers.

The Bulldogs (2-0, 1-0 SEC) return home to face South Carolina next week, while Vanderbilt (0-2, 0-1 SEC) hosts Austin Peay.

Drag racing accident leads to arrest for Mississippi State commit

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Mississippi State commit Nathaniel Watson has gotten himself into some legal trouble before his arrival at Mississippi State. Watson, currently a high school senior, was charged with assault first degree and a handful of traffic violations following a traffic accident earlier this month. Another student from Watson’s high school was arrested for reckless endangerment and other traffic violations as well. The two are accused of drag racing.

“The accident occurred after Tyrone Davis, also a student at [Maplesville High School], lined up in front of the school with his vehicle along with Nathaniel Watson’s vehicle for a race, witnesses stated that they lined up side by side and floored it, and both vehicles were squalling their tires and fishtailing up the highway heading into town,” according to an Maplesville Police Department press release (via The Clanton Advertiser). “As the racing vehicles topped a hill, an oncoming car caused Nathaniel Watson Jr. to swerve and lose control striking a power pole, cutting it in half and knocking power out to portions of Maplesville.”

A passenger in Watson’s vehicle suffered a crushed femur, fractured pelvis, a broken right arm and internal injuries. Neither vehicle involved in the accident was insured. Watson currently awaits a date in court in a county court. There has been no update or comment from Mississippi State’s football program or head coach Joe Moorehead about Watson or his status with the football program at this time.

Watson signed with Mississippi State on February 7. The wide receiver and two-sport athlete signed with Mississippi State over Auburn.

NCAA rule prevents Penn State football players from participating in THON activity

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This weekend is the annual THON dance marathon at Penn State, which has traditionally done wonders in racking up donations to help fight pediatric cancer. This year, however, the NCAA rulebook is getting in the way of one of the events members of Penn State’s football team typically participate in.

A message from Penn State informed media members there would be no media availability for football players at the THON event at the Lasch Building due to an NCAA rule regarding time restrictions in the offseason.

“We were informed this afternoon that due to the NCAA Time Management regulations, our current student-athletes are not permitted to participate in the THON event at the Lasch Building nor conduct media interviews [today] as it is a mandatory day off for the team,” a statement from Penn State Associate Director of Athletic Communications Kris Petersen said.

Members of Penn State’s football team have typically spent part of the day interacting with kids benefitting from THON’s mission, but that has tended to overlap with offseason days already scheduled through the athletics department for the football program. Because this was a scheduled day off for the football program, players are not permitted to take part in any organized activity while representing the football team. Although, one wonders just how far the NCAA would have been willing to challenge Penn State on this infraction in the event there was a conflict.

Players on the team can still participate and appear at the main event in the Bryce Jordan Center, and a couple already have along with head coach James Franklin.

Georgia football coaches all getting well-deserved raises

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File this one under stories that should have been expected from a mile away. The football staff at Georgia, following up on an SEC title and appearance in the College Football Playoff national championship game, are getting bumps in pay. As a whole, the assistant coaching staff under head coach Kirby Smart will be paid roughly $2 million more than the staff received a year ago, according to a report from Seth Emerson of Dawg Nation.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will see the biggest pay raise with of $900,000 to bump his total pay up to $1.5 million. That would make him one of the top assistant coaches in assistant coaching salaries. Based off last year’s USA Today salary database, Tucker would be the fifth highest-paid assistant coach, and that may even be higher now given some of the offseason changes in the assistant coaching pool. Last year, four assistant coaches received a total pay of at least $1.5 million, and three of them were in the SEC (LSU’s Dave Arranda and Matt Canada, and Texas A&M’s John Chavis; Clemson’s Brent Venables was the outlier).

Keeping in line with another growing trend when it comes to power conference programs and how much money is budgeted for the football staff, Georgia will give strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Sinclair a $150,000 raise from his previous contract of $300,000.

What has not been finalized, publicly at least, is what the future holds for the contract of Smart. After a wildly successful season, Smart is expected to receive a raise as well as Georgia continues to build something special under his leadership after just two seasons. Smart was paid a base salary of $3.75 million last year, according to USA Today’s salary database, which made him the 9th highest-paid coach in the SEC in 2017. That is fair, considering Smart was a first-time head coach and other coaches in the conference had more head coaching experience, but Smart has quickly proven himself among his peers in the conference and is likely to move up the SEC coaching salary ranking quite quickly. Nick Saban (Alabama) and now Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) may still be on another playing field in terms of salary, but Smart should manage to move up closer to the high-end of the SEC salary spectrum.

Purdue raises $388,000 in beer and wine sales at football games

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Around the nation, college football attendance took a downward trend, but the Big Ten was the rare conference to see an increase in attendance. At Purdue, not only did more fans attend games in the first season under new head coach Jeff Brohm, but Purdue saw a revenue surplus fueled by the expanded sale of alcoholic beverages at football games.

According to The Journal & Courier, Purdue athletic department recorded $567,000 in gross revenue, of which $388,000 was generated from the sale of beer and wine last fall at football games in Ross-Ade Stadium. It was the first time alcohol sales had been expanded to the entire football stadium, as opposed to limited offerings in premium sections of the stadium.

“In general, it was very positive and it added to the game day experience. Fans responded to it,” athletic director Mike Bobinski said. “We’ve talked to our concessionaire group (Levy Restaurants) about how we can improve the operation so we don’t create bottlenecks and long lines that cause people to miss extended periods of the game. It was a really good start.”

The success of expanded alcoholic beverages at football games at Purdue continues a growing trend of alcoholic sales at athletic events around the country and will only help to encourage other schools to explore similar options if they have not already. Ten schools in the Big Ten already offer alcohol sales to fans at football games, but Purdue is just one of four to currently offer the sales throughout the majority of their football stadium.

The games that saw the most amount of money spent on alcohol at a Purdue home football game were the Michigan and Indiana games, with $88,341 and $98,223 spent on alcohol, respectively. Bottoms up, indeed.

The other chunk of revenue that helped pad Purdue’s budget sheet was a season-opening game in Indianapolis against Louisville. The game was played in Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, and each school received a check for $805,267.