Associated Press

Tennessee in danger of first winless SEC season after falling to No. 20 LSU

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It was supposed to be a festive night at Neyland Stadium. Peyton Manning was in the house and Butch Jones wasn’t. But a driving rain and one player’s inability to field a punt dampened the night — pun intended — as No. 20 LSU cruised to a 30-10 win over Tennessee on a windy, soggy night in Knoxville.

Tennessee actually played an decent first half, which was largely erased by Marquez Callaway muffing not one but two punts.

Callaway’s first fumble came at his own 15 yard line, which LSU’s Russell Gage hopped on. The Tigers gained only two yards on the ensuing possession, but it was enough to allow Connor Culp to knock through a 30-yard field goal.

Tennessee answered with a 14-play, 53-yard drive that killed over half a quarter. The 7-minute, 39-second march ended at the LSU 27-yard line, allowing Aaron Medley to tie the game with a 45-yard boot with 13:59 left in the second quarter.

LSU’s offense went three-and-out again, but Callaway again fumbled the ensuing punt, which Michael Divinity, Jr. grabbed at the Tennessee 19. LSU’s offense capitalized this time, as Darrel Williams rushed in from 10 yards out to put the Tigers up 10-3 with 11:31 left in the frame. 

Tennessee strung together another double-digit play drive that ended at nearly the exact same spot as the previous one — this one was the 28 — but swirling winds pushed Medley’s 46-yard field goal (far, far) wide left.

But as the weather picked up, both offenses came alive.

LSU closed the half by putting up its first self-made points of the night. The Tigers needed only 28 seconds to move 61 yards as Danny Etling hit Derrick Dillon for a 12-yard completion, Williams rushed for 36 yards and Etling carried for a 13-yard touchdown with 2:08 left in the first half.

The Vols struck back after LSU’s score, moving 75 yards in four plays and 45 seconds. Jarrett Guarantano hit Callaway for consecutive long passes, one for 26 yards and another for 46, which Callaway caught through pass interference and turned into a touchdown with 1:23 left in the first half.

LSU completely dominated the second half, though. After forcing Tennessee back to its own 3 on the opening possession of the second half, LSU accepted the ball at midfield and handed the ball to Derrius Guice seven times in a 9-play drive, including the final carry,  a 3-yard burst to put the Tigers up 23-10 after Culp missed the ensuing extra point.

The clubs traded punts on their next possessions and, facing a 13-point deficit with 17 minutes remaining and nothing to lose, Brady Hoke elected to go for a 4th-and-1 from his own 21. Guarantano was stuffed, and LSU needed only two plays to push the lead to 30-10 with 2:06 left in the third quarter.

Etling finished the game hitting 11-of-15 passes for 81 yards with nine carries for 42 yards and a touchdown. Guice led all runners with 97 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, while Williams added seven carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns.

Guarantano connected on 13-of-23 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown, while John Kelly mustered only 47 yards on 25 carries.

Saturday night’s game was the two sides’ first meeting since 2011, also in Knoxville, which ended in a 38-7 LSU win. The Tigers have won five straight in the series.

The win keeps LSU (8-3, 5-2 SEC) in prime position for a spot in one of the Florida New Year’s Day bowl games, while Tennessee (4-7, 0-7 SEC) needs to beat Vanderbilt next week to avoid the first 8-loss season and the first winless SEC season in school history.

Tennessee fumbles its way to a halftime deficit vs. LSU

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If only Marquez Callaway could catch a punt. Callaway’s two fumbled punts handed LSU 10 of its 17 points as Tennessee trails 17-10 at the half at a windy, rainy Neyland Stadium.

Callaway’s first fumble came at his own 15 yard line, which LSU’s Russell Gage hopped on. The Tigers gained only two yards on the ensuing possession, but it was enough to allow Connor Culp to knock through a 30-yard field goal.

Tennessee answered with a 14-play, 53-yard drive that killed over half a quarter. The 7-minute, 39-second march ended at the LSU 27-yard line, allowing Aaron Medley to tie the game with a 45-yard boot with 13:59 left in the second quarter.

LSU’s offense went three-and-out again, but Callaway again fumbled the ensuing punt, which Michael Divinity, Jr. grabbed at the Tennessee 19. LSU’s offense capitalized this time, as Darrel Williams rushed in from 10 yards out to put the Tigers up 10-3 with 11:31 left in the frame. 

Tennessee strung together another double-digit play drive that ended at nearly the exact same spot as the previous one — this one was the 28 — but swirling winds pushed Medley’s 46-yard field goal (far, far) wide left.

But as the weather picked up, both offenses came alive.

LSU closed the half by putting up its first self-made points of the night. The Tigers needed only 28 seconds to move 61 yards as Danny Etling hit Derrick Dillon for a 12-yard completion, Williams rushed for 36 yards and Etling carried for a 13-yard touchdown with 2:08 left in the first half. Etling conected on 8-of-12 passes for 50 yards, and Williams led all rushers with 50 yards on three carries. Derrius Guice mustered only four carries for 10 yards.

The Vols struck back after LSU’s score, moving 75 yards in four plays and 45 seconds. Jarrett Guarantano hit Callaway for consecutive long passes, one for 26 yards and another for 46, which Callaway caught through pass interference and turned into a touchdown with 1:23 left in the first half.

hit 10-of-12 passes for 144 yards, and John Kelly led the Vols with 17 carries for 29 yards.

A 53-yard Culp field goal clanged off the right upright as time expired.

Tennessee will receive to open the second half.

On to Atlanta: No. 7 Georgia responds to first loss by running right over Kentucky in SEC rout

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It’s been six days of hearing how they got run over. Six days of hearing how they couldn’t throw the ball. Six days of wondering how their offensive line would bounce back from embarrassment. Seven days after suffering their first loss of the season in humiliating fashion though, No. 7 Georgia bounced back by running right over SEC East rival Kentucky in a 42-13 rout that had the team looking a lot more like the one who was the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff just two weeks ago.

The Bulldogs’ victory was naturally fueled by their ground game, which was bottled up last week at Auburn but returned with a vengeance behind the two senior running backs who said their farewells to the hedges at Sanford Stadium with even more eye-popping numbers for the red and black. Nick Chubb led the way on a day where he also topped the 1,000 yard mark for the season, finishing with 151 yards and two scores — the last of which was a 55-yarder down the sidelines that delighted the crowd and will probably be replayed a few times at next spring’s NFL Draft. His teammate in the backfield, Sony Michel, wasn’t too shabby either with 87 yards and a trio of trips to the end zone as well.

Quarterback Jake Fromm managed to have an efficient outing in the passing game after shaking off an interception on the opening drive of the game. The freshman wound up with 123 yards in the air and threw a beautiful touchdown right into the waiting arms of Javon Wims in the first half. With both phases firing on all cylinders, especially from the second quarter on, Georgia rolled up over 500 yards of offense as afternoon turned into evening in Athens.

The Wildcats looked threatening early after grabbing that initial turnover and were generally hanging around until just before halftime. QB Stephen Johnson likely will spend most of the post-game in the ice tub after numerous hits from that ferocious front seven of the home team, luckily managing only to get sacked three times and throwing for 138 yards. Things were equally difficult for tailback Benny Snell, who was impressive in clawing his way to 94 yards and Kentucky’s only touchdown.

It wasn’t enough in the end however, as Georgia went a perfect 6-0 against the East division and wrapped up regular season play in the SEC with the victory. They’ll head to Atlanta the next weeks as they’ll take on in-state rival Georgia Tech next Saturday before heading to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to meet the winner of the Iron Bowl with a conference title and College Football Playoff spot on the line.

Coaches talk plenty about putting last week behind them and moving forward and it’s safe to say that’s the case for Kirby Smart’s team after another easy romp in conference play.

Nation’s leading receivers named among 10 Biletnikoff Award semifinalists

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The Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation has trimmed down the list of the nation’s top receivers to 10 semifinalists for this year’s Biletnikoff Award. The award doesn’t necessarily have to go to a wide receiver, but this year’s award will maintain that tradition with 10 semifinalists all playing the wide receiver position.

Among the semifinalists are the nation’s leading receiver, Colorado State’s Michael Gallup (1,298 yards), the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns, West Virginia’s David Sills V (18 touchdowns), and the nation’s leader in receptions per game, SMU’s Trey Quinn (9.6 receptions per game). The semifinalist list also includes key players on conference contenders like Deontay Burnett of USC and James Washington of Oklahoma State.

A Big 12 receiver has won the award each of the past two seasons, so that may be good news for one of the three semifinalists from the Big 12 this season. Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook won the award a year ago, preceded by Baylor’s Corey Coleman in 2015.A Big 12 player has won the award a total of six times since 2007, with Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree and Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon each winning the award twice.

2017 Biletnikoff Semifinalists

  • Darren Andrews, UCLA
  • A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
  • Deontay Burnett, USC
  • Keke Coutee, Texas Tech
  • Michael Gallup, Colorado State
  • Steve Ishmael, Syracuse
  • Anthony Miller, Memphis
  • Trey Quinn, SMU
  • David Sills, West Virginia
  • James Washington, Oklahoma State

As No. 1 falls, No. 2 Alabama claims 31st straight regular season win in gut check at No. 16 Mississippi State

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The top three teams in college football all went on the road Saturday, all against top-16 teams. No. 1 Georgia already lost, and No. 3 Notre Dame is in the process of going down. No. 2 Alabama went to No. 16 Mississippi State and trailed much of the night, was nearly doubled up on time of possession, and it didn’t matter. A late touchdown pushed Alabama over Mississippi State for a 31-24 win, the program’s 31st consecutive regular season win.

Alabama nearly found itself down 28-17 in the fourth quarter and missed a would-be game-winning field goal with two minutes remaining, but absorbed and survived those blows to take over at its own 32 with 1:01 remaining and a full holster of timeouts. The drive appeared in danger in facing a 3rd-and-15 at its own 43 with 31 seconds remaining, but Jalen Hurts found Calvin Ridley for his third long catch-and-run of the night, this time for 31 yards. That set up a game-winning 26-yard snatch-and-dash to Devonta Smith with 25 ticks left.

The win pushed Alabama to 10-0 overall, 7-0 in the SEC and an unquestioned No. 1 in every poll that matters with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3 SEC) utterly controlled the first quarter, but found itself locked in a 7-7 tie. The Bulldogs accepted the ball to open the game and clicked off 11 plays, moved the ball to the Alabama 41, killed the first half of the frame and then punted, pinning Alabama at its own 5.

The Bulldog defense forced a three-and-out, and its offense pushed its way down the field on a 6-play, 57-yard touchdown drive punctuated by an 11-yard Aeris Williams run.

On the ensuing possession, Mississippi State forced a 3rd-and-5, where a conversion would have given Mississippi State the ball with a 7-0 lead while Alabama’s offense ran a total of six plays over the first quarter. Instead, Hurts found Ridley for a 63-yard catch-and-run, and Hurts rushed in a 1-yard score two plays later.

The next two drives played out the same. Mississippi State strung together an 11-play, 73-yard drive again capped by a Williams run. And again Hurts and Ridley connected, this time for 61 yards. Ridley finished the game with five grabs for 171 yards, and Hurts hit 10-of-19 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers. Josh Jacobs rushed in from a yard out two plays later, tying the game at 14-14 with 9:26 left in the second quarter.

Alabama grabbed its first lead to open the second half, moving 63 yards in seven plays to set up a 30-yard Andy Pappanastos field goal. Mississippi State, however, picked up where it left off, reclaiming the lead on a 13-play, 69-yard drive that consumed more than 6:30 off the clock and concluded with a 2-yard Nick Fitzgerald rush. Fitzgerald completed 13-of-24 passes for 158 yards, and Mississippi State pounded out 49 rushing attempts, which gave the Bulldogs a near 18-minute edge in time of possession. 

The Bulldogs forced a three-and-out on Alabama’s next possession and had a chance to seize complete control of the game after moving to a 1st-and-10 at the Tide 11, but Fitzgerald’s 3rd-and-7 pass sailed incomplete. Jace Christmann knocked in a 25-yard field goal to give Mississippi State its third touchdown lead of the night, a 24-17 edge with 14:13 to play.

And for the third time of the night, Alabama erased Mississippi State’s touchdown lead with an immediate touchdown of its own. The Crimson Tide rumbled 82 yards in 10 plays, in the process converting a 4th-and-4 at the MSU 34 with a 13-yard Hurts rush. Damien Harris tied the game two plays after that with a 14-yard rush.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood helped Mississippi State begin its next drive at its own 40 and the Bulldogs eventually penetrated to the Alabama 42, but Dan Mullen elected to punt on 4th-and-3 with 6:30 to play. Logan Cooke‘s punt sailed into the end zone, and Alabama had the crease it needed to grab control of the game.

Three straight Bo Scarborough rushes pushed the ball to midfield, and a Harris run placed it at the Mississippi State 33. Mississippi State forced a 3rd-and-8, but a pass from Hurts to Ridley drew a pass interference flag, staking Alabama to a 1st-and-10 at the MSU 16 with 4:05 to go. However, three straight Hurts run lost yardage, and a 41-yard Pappanastos field goal clanged off the left upright. 

Mississippi State moved into Hail Mary territory on its last gasp drive. Fitzgerald’s first heave from the Alabama 49 was fell incomplete, but he was given another chance after a pass interference flag. His second chance, from the 34, sailed out of the end zone, sealing the win for Alabama.