A YEAR MAKES QUITE A DIFFERENCE
If he could do it all over again and get a re-do on last year's game two with Kentucky, a game the Florida Gators lost, 27-16, there are probably a dozen things Dan Mullen would do differently, but he couldn't prepare for Kentucky's experience and the fact this was only his second game as Florida's head coach. One of the chief reasons Kentucky dominated that game on both lines of scrimmage was the bulk of the players Mark Stoops put on the field were in their second and third year in his system. With only an opening game win over D1AA Charleston Southern to go by, there wasn't much for Mullen to go by. He still didn't know which players were the best fits, who needed more and who needed less playing time, and who could best handle pressure situations.
Game two, therefore, was this gigantic flop in which a 31-year winning streak over the Wildcats came to an unceremonious end in front of a stunned Ben Hill Griffin crowd. The glaring difference was in the Kentucky running game where the offensive line opened gaping holes for Benny Snell Jr., who ran for 175 of Kentucky's 303 rushing yards. When Florida tried to pressure UK quarterback Terry Wilson it seemed he always had an escape route. Whatever the Gators ran offensively only seemed to work well between the thirties.
Consider it the ultimate learning experience.
“Our job is to put guys in the best position to make plays and I don’t think we were doing that,” Mullen said at his Monday press conference. He went on to say that a “lack of knowing all the guys on the team and the experience of knowing the players and how they would react and respond in the game” also factored in the outcome. That wasn't an excuse being offered, just a realistic assessment.
A year later, Mullen has an air of confidence about him. For the most part, he knows what his players can do and how they're going to react. It's a veteran starting lineup on both sides of the ball so Mullen knows what those guys can do under pressure and how to scheme to give them the best chance to make plays. Beyond those starters, however, there are a number of kids who figure prominently in the rotations and for some of them, the first road trip will be a brand new experience.
“We’ll probably get on the plane and it’ll be some guy’s first time ever on an airplane,” Mullen said. “That’s a distraction. I’ve had it, especially if they really start freaking out.”
If Mullen can keep the distractions to a minimum he has a very good chance to open the Southeastern Conference portion of the schedule with a win. Just as you can't put toothpaste back in the tube once it's been squeezed out, Mullen can't do a thing about what happened last year against the Kentucky Wildcats. He can, however, make sure there isn't a similar experience in 2019.
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
#2 Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC): Despite a 62-10 blowout win over New Mexico State, Nick Saban still found things to grouse about. Monday it was a passing game that produced 285 yards and four touchdowns. “I don’t think we were real crisp in the passing game – I’m not talking about any fault of Tua (Tagovailoa), but just sort of sloppy in protection, sloppy in route-running,” Saban said. Saturday: at South Carolina (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
Arkansas (1-1, 0-1 SEC): HBC Chad Morris has made the switch at QB, benching Ben Hicks in favor of Texas A&M grad transfer Nick Starkel. Coming off the bench in the loss at Ole Miss, Starkel hit 17-27 passes for 201 yards and a TD. Hicks was 7-16 for 98 yards. Saturday: vs. Colorado State (1-1)
Auburn (2-0, 0-0 SEC): In their 24-6 win over Tulane, the Tigers allowed only 223 total yards and just one trip into the red zone … Auburn has bribed New Mexico State with $1.85 million to come to Auburn and take a beating in 2023. Saturday: vs. Kent State
#3 Georgia (2-0, 1-0 SEC): A DUI used to be an automatic two-game suspension at Georgia. No longer. Freshman defensive end Bill Norton, who didn't make the trip to Vandy on opening weekend, played against Murray State … D-lineman Julian Rochester, who has been slowed by a knee injury, has been cleared to play. Offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson is out of the walking boot but isn't ready to play just yet. Saturday: vs. Arkansas State (1-1)
Kentucky (2-0, 0-0 SEC):At his Monday press conference, HBC Mark Stoops said the Wildcats will miss injured quarterback Terry Wilson but they won't back down from the Gators. Stoops said, “We’re sad for Terry and it stinks because it’s part of our game, but believe me, we’re going back to work with the intent to win a football game next week, and that’s the way we’re going to approach it every week.” Saturday: vs. #9 Florida (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
LSU (2-0, 0-0 SEC): Coach O says LSU didn't have air conditioning in its locker rooms in Austin Saturday night. Texas (big surprise here) issued a statement saying the AC in the locker rooms works just fine. Additionally, Texas put the LSU marching band in the end zone upper deck of Darrell Royal Stadium. Saturday: vs. Northwestern State (0-2)
Mississippi State (2-0, 0-0 SEC): The injury to QB Tommy Stevens is to his right (throwing) arm. HBC Joe Moorhead remains hopeful that Stevens will be okay to play Saturday … Former Michigan running back Kareem Walker received notification from the NCAA Clearinghouse that he is eligible to play. Walker was a redshirt freshman at Michigan in 2017. He played at Fort Scott (KS) Community College last year. Saturday: vs. Kansas State (2-0)
Missouri (1-1, 0-0 SEC):Of Missouri's 10 penalties for -100 yards in the win over West Virginia, two were for chop blocks. All 10 penalties were flagged in the first half. Saturday: vs. Southeast Missouri State (1-1)
Ole Miss (1-1, 1-0 SEC): Linebacker MoMo Sanogo, who broke a fibula and tore a ligament in the first quarter of the Arkansas game, will be out a minimum of 10 weeks. Saturday: vs. Southeastern Louisiana (1-0)
South Carolina (1-1, 0-0 SEC): After former DL Josh Belk claimed he left South Carolina because of the threat of losing his scholarship if he didn't work out while recovering from his injury, the athletic department issued a statement that pointed out all athletic scholarships are 4-year agreements that cannot be revoked because of a medical reason. Saturday: vs. #2 Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
Tennessee (0-2, 0-0 SEC): This quote from HBC Jeremy Pruitt is going to go over well with Vol fans. Monday morning, Pruitt said, “There’s not much difference in winning and losing. If you look at Saturday’s game, there’s probably 80 plays on offense and right about that on defense. You never know when the play is going to present itself that could decide the outcome of the game, so that’s why you try to create the right habits in practice and you practice it until you don’t get it wrong.” Saturday: vs. Chattanooga (1-1)
Texas A&M (1-1, 0-0 SEC):Sophomore running back Jashaun Corbin is out for the season after suffering a severe hamstring injury in the Aggies' loss to Clemson. His place in the starting lineup will be taken by Isaiah Spiller. Saturday: vs. Lamar (1-1)
Vanderbilt (0-2, 0-1 SEC): The Commodores were flagged for 13 penalties for -100 yards in the loss to Purdue and the running game produced only 71 yards on 27 carries. Saturday: Open
GOOD QUOTES FOR TUESDAY
From Paul Finebaum on WJOX on his belief Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt has the Vols on a path toward a disastrous season:
“You just don’t want to write someone off this quickly, but you start going week by week and as long as you get past Chattanooga, the schedule is self-explanatory, Florida, Georgia, I mean what, there aren’t any wins there. The danger is the season is going to be over so quickly that the interest in Tennessee as opposed to anything but a side show or a freak show will vaporize. That’s when he goes into late October, early November and is trying to find fans, really anyone to talk about his own ineptitude, that’s when you go from Defcon 4, to 3, to 2, to 1.”
From Andy Staples of The Athletic, there is a feeling of hopelessness in Tallahassee with Willie Taggart running the football show:
“It drove previous coach Jimbo Fisher nuts that Florida State was so cash-strapped compared to the programs the Seminoles recruit against, so it’s tough to imagine the school coughing up a $17 million buyout of Taggart if the Seminoles aren’t any different in 2019 than they were in 2018.”
From Stewart Mandel of The Athletic on the lack of progress for Michigan and quarterback Shea Patterson:
“Amid all the buzz coming into the year for Patterson, the offensive line and receivers, people may have minimized the fact Michigan would be relying on completely unproven running backs. Freshman Zach Charbonnet ran 33 times for 100 yards, but the Wolverines’ running backs struggled in pass-protection. He can improve with time. Less fixable, however: Patterson’s ceiling is lower than advertised. Which means Michigan probably has a lower ceiling than that of preseason Big Ten favorite.”
From Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated on LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who threw for 471 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Tigers past Texas in Austin:
“He is confident. He is brash. And he is a baller, a description used by his own coach. He misfired on just nine of 39 passes Saturday night, and one of those was a dropped touchdown. He used his athletically gifted targets, all of them getting a piece of this spread pie: Justin Jefferson (9 catches, 163 yards), Chase (8-147) and Terrace Marshall (6-123).”
OOPS OF THE WEEK
The winner – and there is no second place here since the error was so egregious – is ESPN play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti. When some Auburn students spelled out “Ride for Rod” it was a tribute to the late Rod Bramblett, the Auburn radio play-by-play announcer who died in a tragic auto accident during the summer. Benetti saw it and stated this was a tribute to his broadcast partner and analyst, Rod Gilmore.
“They’re spelling Rod by the way,” Benetti said. “That’s very nice. It’s for Rod Gilmore. They’re spelling your name. They’ve got a heart for you. I mean that’s just for you.”
Gilmore responded, “Oh, for me? Beautiful!”
Prior to the game, Auburn showed a tribute video dedicated to Bramblett and his wife, who also died in the accident.
ESPN and Benetti have apologized for their insensitivity.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: The ESPN staff ranked the teams in all five power conferences from top to bottom of each league. They have the Gators ranked fifth in the SEC (1. Alabama; 2. Georgia, 3. LSU and 4. Auburn). In the Big Ten, they have Michigan ranked sixth. In the ACC, they have Miami ranked seventh and Florida State 14th. It's a 14-team league, by the way … Derrius Guice, who missed all of last season with an ACL tear, injured his other knee in the Washington Redskins' loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Guice was scheduled for an MRI Monday … Lynn Swann has tendered his resignation as Southern Cal's athletic director after three years on the job … With two home runs against the Arizona Diamondbacks Monday night, former Gator Pete Alonso regained sole possession of the Major League home run lead. Alonso has hit a National League record 47 homers and is within five of Aaron Judge's all-time rookie record.