A high school coach in western North Carolina once said that more football games are lost than won. It sounds odd at first, but watching teams implode with turnovers, penalties and fundamental breakdowns on a weekly basis reveals the truth of that old saying.
It happens at every level, and the SEC is not immune. Missouri and Tennessee were their own worst enemies in SEC East losses last weekend, while Georgia and Ole Miss didn’t exactly do themselves any favors in their defeats.
With that in mind, let’s hand out some blame for each SEC school’s Week 9 loss:
Tackling (50 percent): An inability to tackle consistently isn’t the only reason the Tigers allowed a staggering 377 rushing yards in a loss to Kentucky, but it’s the main one.
“We didn’t tackle well,” coach Barry Odom said. “I’ve got to figure that out. That’s maybe the single-most frustrating thing right now. We’re not very good tacklers.”
Injuries have depleted the defensive front seven and forced some inexperienced players onto the field, but that’s no excuse for poor fundamentals.
Injuries (30 percent): With Donavin Newsom’s first-quarter injury, the Tigers played most of the day without their two best linebackers and leading tacklers. Michael Scherer is out for the season with a torn ACL, while Newsom’s status for the game at South Carolina is unknown.
The lack of experience and depth was a real issue against the Wildcats, and it showed up on the stat sheet — and the scoreboard.
Negative momentum (20 percent): Missouri went 0-for-October and now is in the midst of a four-game losing streak.
Saturday’s attendance of 50,234 was the lowest at Faurot Field for a conference game since 2005, and a slow start — falling behind 21-0 — led to groans from those who did decide to attend. When fans complain, players’ heads start to drop and the cycle becomes self-defeating.
Offensive personnel/play calling (70 percent): Over at DawgNation, the debate rages: Was it the play-calling, or was it the players? Folks need somewhere to point the finger for an anemic offensive showing in the loss to Florida.
It might be both. Georgia rushed for just 21 yards and tallied 8 first downs in the game. Part of that is a lack of push from an underachieving offensive line.
Another factor is predictable play sequences from coordinator Jim Chaney and not putting the ball in the hands of its best offensive player, Nick Chubb, often enough.
At 4-4 overall, the Bulldogs clearly need improvement in both areas.
Halftime adjustments (30 percent): Georgia led this game, 10-7, in the second quarter, and trailed only 14-10 at the break.
While Florida didn’t set the world ablaze in the final two quarters, the Bulldogs were plain awful. Kirby Smart’s team picked up just 2 first downs and 47 yards in 6 second-half drives.
Miscues (70 percent): How does a 15-point favorite lose on the road to a conference opponent? One way is to follow Tennessee’s path at South Carolina. Start slowly, get stopped on downs right before halftime (firing up the home crowd) and turn the ball over a bunch.
The Gamecocks converted three Tennessee turnovers into 14 points, and in a close game, that’s tough to overcome. To make matters worse, the Volunteers were whistled nine times for 87 yards in penalties Saturday.
Regression at quarterback (30 percent): This was supposed to be a magical season for Tennessee and its senior quarterback Josh Dobbs. It hasn’t turned out that way.
He looked flustered against South Carolina, and he was responsible for all three giveaways (two interceptions and a fumble). He has 11 interceptions already this season, after tossing only 5 all of last year.
Dobbs hasn’t taken that next step in his development, and it’s showing up on the scoreboard.
Fourth-quarter execution (75 percent): Chad Kelly was tremendous, throwing for 465 yards and 3 touchdowns, but it wasn’t quite enough against Auburn. The Tigers outscored the Rebels, 13-0, in the last 15 minutes to secure the win.
Ole Miss had three drives in the final quarter, with the results of a punt, an interception and a turnover on downs. Auburn’s last four drives finished with, in order: field goal, field goal, touchdown and kneel-down.
The Tigers finished stronger, and were rewarded with a victory.
Bad luck (25 percent): Evan Engram is a runaway choice for a first-team SEC nod at tight end, and he’s having an amazing season. But he dropped a go-ahead touchdown pass from Kelly in the fourth quarter, and the interception that followed on the next play set up the Auburn score that put the game away.
It’s just been that kind of season in Oxford.