There were three significant games in the Southeastern Conference last weekend with the Top 10 matchups plus the game at Lexington with Ole Miss getting beaten by Kentucky. A loss by the Rebels set the stage for Houston Nutt to lose his job 48 hours later.
I was impressed with Kentucky’s true freshman quarterback from California, Max Smith, who did an excellent job of handling his team’s offense in his first college start. I understand he was a tight end in high school, who moved to quarterback when the starter got hurt and did a good job at the new position.
I thought Smith did a great job against Ole Miss. If he develops the big quarterback will keep the Wildcats in a lot of football games and give Kentucky a chance to win some games like Mike Hartline and some of the other quarterbacks who have played there in recent seasons have done.
Smith’s strong play enabled the Wildcats to come up with what was a big victory for Joker Phillips. The Kentucky coach needed to win that football game just like Houston Nutt at Ole Miss needed to win it. When his Rebels lost it was devastating for Nutt.
Houston Nutt's last game as Ole Miss coach was Saturday in Lexington.
I wasn’t surprised that Arkansas was able to handle South Carolina in Fayetteville because the Gamecocks were struggling on offense going into that game. Arkansas is good enough to score points against almost anybody it plays, including LSU. That will be an interesting football game when those two teams get together later this month.
South Carolina’s loss opened the door for Georgia to win the SEC East and go to the championship game in Atlanta. It certainly helped Mark Richt and it made Auburn’s task this week a bit harder as the Tigers head to Athens, but that task wasn’t going to be easy no matter what happened to the Gamecocks.
The other game of interest in the SEC was that big offensive shootout in Tuscaloosa. It reminded me of a game that I saw when I was a prospect in 1956. I was at the Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech game. Those teams weren’t ranked one and two, but they were two and three that day. I believe Oklahoma was No. 1 at the time.
Tennessee won 6-0 in Atlanta. Johnny Majors was the tailback for the Vols. Both teams quick-kicked five or six times that day. Neither of them wanted the ball. Neither wanted to make a mistake on offense and that is kind of what it looked like out there on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa where neither team looked like it wanted to take chances on offense.
Although he didn’t make many big plays, quarterback Jordan Jefferson of LSU was the difference in LSU’s win over Alabama. When it came down to the end, Alabama’s quarterback, A.J. McCarron, didn’t make the plays needed to win and Jefferson didn’t get his team beat.
In the overtime McCarron threw the ball too quickly, or too hard, on the middle screen to start the period. I couldn’t tell which one of those it was. Then he overthrows Trent Richardson on the wheel route on second down. Between those plays, Alabama got a penalty for breaking the huddle with 12 men. On third down, McCarron just kind of lays down. I guess he did that to keep from losing more yardage because he was going to get sacked.
LSU then got the ball for its chance in overtime and all it needed to do was hand off and kick a field goal to win. The Tigers then made what I thought was a courageous call on the option play because a lot of different things can happen if you do that.
If it was a play that Jefferson checked to based on the defensive look he saw, you can bet that his coaches on the sideline about had a heart attack because several bad things can happen like laying it on the ground where the defense can pick up the football and run for a touchdown, and if that happens the game is over. LSU did a great job of executing the option and came within an inch of scoring a touchdown when the running back stepped on the out of bounds line on his way into the end zone.
LSU’s kicking game, which was strong all night, took care of business from there and made the short field goal as LSU remained unbeaten.
Defensively, the game lived up to my expectations because both have teams great defenses that played well.
Offensively, both teams played very, very conservatively. Going into the contest I thought both would have a difficult time running the football and that was the case, although LSU had more success with it than Alabama did. That, along with the kicking game, was the difference. None of the quarterbacks made a difference in the passing game.
You have to give LSU credit for winning on the road in that environment. I was impressed with the job Coach Les Miles did just like the job Coach Gene Chizik did for Auburn last season when his Tigers came from behind in the second half to win at Tuscaloosa. When you do something like that on the road the players have to have confidence in the head coach on the sideline, and it was obvious to me that was the case Saturday night.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat’s Picks.
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