Saturday featured several teams ready to prove themselves, and quarterback play set them apart.
Austin Allen and Trevor Knight starred for Texas A&M and Arkansas, but only one was able to avoid mistakes in a big win. Tennessee QB Josh Dobbs also made his case to join the nation’s elite, while a couple of freshman showed flashes of what should come.
This is how every SEC team graded out on Saturday:
Chad Kelly: A
Stats: 18-24 for 282 yards, 2 TDs; 4 carries for 53 yards, TD
Ole Miss needed a win to prove its legitimacy, and Kelly delivered. After the defense scored on a pick-six, Kelly took over. He led an 84-yard touchdown drive and then tossed a 55-yard pass to DaMarkus Lodge. He pushed the lead to 45-0 with a 41-yard rushing score before being sat down after the game was iced.
Trevor Knight: A
Stats: 12-22 for 225 yards, 2 TDs; 10 carries for 157 yards, 2 TDs
Saturday night’s Texas A&M-Arkansas matchup featured two of the top teams in the SEC going at it, but Knight’s performance pushed the Aggies over the top at JerryWorld. Knight was responsible for four touchdowns, including a pair of breakaway runs for 42 and 48 yards, and a 91-yard bomb to Josh Reynolds after getting backed up in Aggies territory. Knight has been exactly what Texas A&M needed this season.
Josh Dobbs: A-
Stats: 16-32 for 319 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs; 17 carries for 80 yards, TD
Dobbs had a disastrous start against Florida, completing just one of his first eight passes as Tennessee fell into a 21-0 deficit. But by the end, Dobbs had engineered one of the strongest performances of his career. He threw passes of 23, 20, 67 and 42 yards, while being responsible for all five Tennessee scores. Dobbs’ performance was essential in the Volunteers’ first win over Florida since 2004.
Drew Lock: A-
Stats: 26-36 for 402 yards, 5 TDs
Lock and Missouri played against lowly Delaware State, but there isn’t much with his performance to complain about. He threw for more than 400 yards, avoided turnovers and made it look easy, as he should against a weak FCS opponent.
Austin Allen: B+
Stats: 28-42 for 371 yards, 2 TDs
Arkansas lost hold of this game down the stretch, but you can’t blame Allen. The junior made some wildly impressive throws despite being under duress all night. He averaged an impressive 8.8 yards per attempt and didn’t throw an interception, though he did fumble (that wasn’t really his fault). Allen is already ahead of where his older brother was at this time in his career.
Nick Fitzgerald: B
Stats: 25-38 for 299 yards, 3 TDs; 15 carries for 110 yards
Mississippi State barely escaped disaster against UMass, but Fitzgerald had a nice bounce-back performance after struggling against LSU last week. Fitzgerald led four touchdown drives in the second half to help the Bulldogs come from behind to beat the Minutemen at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Jalen Hurts: B-
Stats: 16-24 for 164 yards, TD; 7 carries for 54 yards, TD
Hurts didn’t stand out in Alabama’s win over Kent State, but he didn’t need to as the Crimson Tide dominated 48-0 in Tuscaloosa. This was just another game for Hurts to continue to grow as a quarterback in Nick Saban’s offense.
Kyle Shurmur: B-
Stats: 18-29 for 279 yards, TD, INT
Vanderbilt was reeling and in desperate need of a win, and Shurmur delivered with a strong performance against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers took an early 14-0 lead, but Vanderbilt held strong and the game was tied 24-24 as time expired in regulation. Shurmur threw his lone TD pass in overtime to lead Vaunderbilt to a win.
Austin Appleby: C
Stats: 23-39 for 296, 3 TDs, INT
For a half, it looked like Luke Del Rio might be out of a job. Appleby was impressive and threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns in the first half in leading Florida to a 21-3 advantage at the break against Tennessee. But Appleby mustered just 16 passing yards during the Volunteers’ 38-0 run that took control of the game. His final numbers were still good, but Appleby struggled down the stretch.
Sean White: C
Stats: 19-26 for 234 yards
White was average against LSU’s attacking defense, but average was good enough as Auburn came away with a victory. White has continued to gain confidence as the season has progressed and cemented his position as the Tigers’ starting quarterback.
Stephen Johnson: C-
Stats: 11-19 for 135 yards, INT
Johnson told reporters before the year that he came to Kentucky to start. However, in his first start against an SEC team, he didn’t give himself much of a chance to take Drew Barker’s job. Johnson was contained through the air and on the ground. It took a big day from UK’s running backs to pull off the win against South Carolina.
Brandon McIlwain: C-
Stats: 15-30 for 177 yards
South Carolina was playing one of the worst defenses in college football, but the Gamecocks offense still struggled. McIlwain accumulated just 177 passing yards against a team that was allowing 285 through its first three games.
Jacob Eason: D
Stats: 16-36 for 137 yards, INT
Some games, freshmen look like freshmen. That was more than evident in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday. Eason averaged just 3.8 yards per attempt as Georgia was obliterated by Ole Miss. He threw for just 68 yards in the first 36 minutes of the game, when the Rebels went on a 45-0 run. Eason will be fine, but this was an awful day.
Danny Etling: D
Stats: 15-27 for 118 yards, TD
Auburn has a good defense, but Etling did himself no favors in LSU’s road loss. He averaged just 4.4 yards per attempt and failed to connect consistently with star receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre. If Leonard Fournette’s injuries continue to flare up, LSU is in big trouble.