Associated Press

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

1 Comment

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.

QB controversy in Tuscaloosa? Freshman Tua Tagovailoa impresses at Alabama spring game

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and those tuning in to the Crimson team’s last minute 27-24 win over the White team had to be especially impressed with the Tide’s explosive offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In particular that comes at the quarterback position, where there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.

The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You could normally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.

Tagovailoa did throw a pick-six in the second quarter but that was mostly because linebacker Terrell Hall made an unbelievable play on a swing pass to snatch the ball out of the air and run it all the way back to the opposite end zone. Freshman tailback Najee Harris (70 yards rushing) as well as stud wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy (134 yards, two scores) also stood out on Saturday.

In all, offense ruled the day as the two quarterbacks combined for over 600 yards through the air. That probably won’t make reviewing film with Nick Saban all that pleasant for members of the secondary next week but was probably good news to most fans after lackluster performances down the stretch to end last season.

Either way, everybody should probably start brushing up on how to pronounce Tagovailoa even if he doesn’t ultimately unseat Hurts as the starter because the young QB has lived up to the early billing by recruiting analysts.

Baylor freshman tailback Abram Smith out for the season with spring ACL tear

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Baylor kicked off the first spring game of the Matt Rhule era on Saturday and wrapped things up with a 65-39 Gold team victory over the Green squad that included a pretty impressive touchdown catch from former basketball player Ish Wainright.

The news wasn’t all rosy in Waco however as after the game Rhule announced that freshman running back Abram Smith would be lost for the 2017 season after suffering an ACL tear in the Bears’ first spring practice.

Smith wasn’t being counted on as being a starter this season but his loss is a fairly big blow to the team’s depth at the position. Returnees JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams already missed parts of the spring game due to injuries on Saturday, leaving just senior Wyatt Schrepfer to take most of the carries late in the contest.

All three figure to be good to go by the time fall camp rolls around but there’s not much behind them with Smith being lost for the year. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, the early enrollee likely would have seen some snaps in 2017 but will instead have to spend it redshirting on the bench.

Brian Kelly takes the blame for Notre Dame’s struggles last season

1 Comment

Notre Dame wrapped up spring football with the Irish’s annual spring game on NBC Sports Network on Saturday afternoon in South Bend and front and center was not surprisingly head coach Brian Kelly.

While fans of the team were probably most interested in how quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked, Kelly did go into detail about what the offseason has been like after last year’s disappointing 4-8 campaign. While the coach has been known to be a bit defensive when it comes to the team’s struggles, he did open up during a sit-down interview and was transparent in taking the blame for the way 2016 went.

“When you have a losing season, you have to look at yourself first,” Kelly told NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth. “I’ve always felt like there isn’t a bad football team but there is bad leadership and I don’t think I provided the kind of leadership (last year). It starts with yourself.”

Kelly goes on to discuss the significant changes to the Irish coaching staff, how this team is very much a work in progress and how Wimbush is handling taking over as the starting signal-caller.

The Gold team ended up winning the spring game 27-14 over the Blue team behind a strong defensive performance. If Saturday’s outing was any indication, Notre Dame should be much improved this upcoming season and that seems to start from the top on down.

SEC commissioner confirms graduate transfer rule changes will be discussed at spring meetings

Getty Images
2 Comments

We’re still over a month away from the SEC’s annual spring meetings down in Destin, Fla. but one item we might be able to confirm is on the agenda will be the graduate transfer rules for the conference.

It’s a hot topic around the league and particularly so at Florida, which is in the mix to land Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire but can’t officially take him due to restrictions from the conference office.

That may change however, as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey confirmed in a radio interview on Friday with ESPN Gainesville.

“It will come up,” Sankey said, according to SECCountry.com. “I do think we need to look where we’ve been restrictive in the past because of the absence of national rules and look at reducing some of those restrictions. I’m one who would position it as interest in freeing things up without just removing every restraint, because I think the restraints have been healthy for us.”

At the heart of the issue is a rule that limits schools from taking additional graduate transfers if previous graduate transfers failed to meet academic requirements after enrolling. The move was designed to prevent a number of situations where players would transfer over just to play and not really go through coursework at their new school.

Other NCAA conferences have failed to follow the SEC’s lead in this area however and now the league is being put at a bit of a disadvantage on the graduate transfer market. This is particularly an issue with the Gators this offseason but it seems as though there will be quite the discussion down in Destin among athletic directors and head coaches about changing the rules to be on more of a level playing field with other conferences on this front.