One does not simply walk into the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party,” something both new quarterbacks learned the hard way on Saturday.
Georgia’s Jacob Eason and Florida’s Luke Del Rio put forth brutal games against motivated defenses in the annual Jacksonville matchup, but another first-time SEC East starter fared much better in South Carolina.
Across the conference, the margin between the winning and losing quarterbacks was razor thin.
See how every SEC quarterback graded out in Week 9:
Jake Bentley: A+
Stats: 15 of 20 for 167 yards, 2 TDs
Obviously, this is still graded on somewhat of a curve, but Bentley played a great game in his first start against an SEC opponent. As everyone knows by this point, Bentley graduated from high school a year early and was expected to redshirt this season, but he has a stranglehold on South Carolina’s starting job after a nearly flawless performance in a fantastic win over No. 18 Tennessee at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Nick Fitzgerald: A-
Stats: 20 of 35 for 417 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs; 19 carries for 119 yards, 2 TDs
The defense made this game much closer than it should have been, but what a game by Fitzgerald in Mississippi State’s win against Samford. The sophomore was responsible for 7 of the Bulldogs’ 8 touchdowns and more than 80 percent of Mississippi State’s total yardage. He needs to improve his passing significantly, but Fitzgerald is showing flashes of Dak Prescott in stretches.
Chad Kelly: B+
Stats: 36 of 59 for 465 yards, 3 TDs, INT
It’s difficult to evaluate this kind of performance considering the circumstances. Kelly broke Archie Manning’s Ole Miss record for passing yards in a game and added 3 touchdowns, but he threw a critical fourth-quarter interception that allowed Auburn to put the game out of reach three plays later. This game is a microcosm of Kelly’s career at Ole Miss.
Stephen Johnson: B
Stats: 14 of 23 for 208 yards, 2 TDs, INT
Johnson has become more comfortable throwing the ball every week, and his biggest game came in the biggest spot for the Kentucky Wildcats. Johnson threw one of the most beautiful passes of his career for a 65-yard touchdown to Jeff Badet and added a 13-yard touchdown on a dump-off to Boom Williams. One more win and Kentucky would be bowl-eligible for the first time in the Mark Stoops era.
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 29, 2016
Trevor Knight: B
Stats: 15 of 24 for 204 yards, 2 TDs
Knight had a great game against New Mexico State’s subpar defense, throwing scoring passes on a 3-yard toss and 41-yard bomb in Texas A&M’s victory over one of the worst FBS programs. He was able to come out of the game early and allow Jake Hubenak to gain some reps.
Sean White: B
Stats: 15 of 22 for 247 yards, TD; 5 carries for 27 yards
Auburn’s White has quietly become the most-efficient passer in the SEC and averaged 11.2 yards per attempt in an impressive performance against Ole Miss’ attacking defense. He spread the field just enough for RB Kamryn Pettway to smash the Rebels up the middle, which is exactly what he needs to do in Gus Malzahn’s offense. He’s picking up more responsibility every week.
Jacob Eason: C
Stats: 15 of 33 for 143 yards, TD
Eason’s numbers weren’t great and Georgia lost by two touchdowns, but it’s hard to blame the quarterback. The entire brunt of the offense was put on his shoulders, despite Florida’s electric secondary. Eason had a brilliant touchdown drive early in the game, but just couldn’t get enough help from the rest of the team to keep it up.
Luke Del Rio: C-
Stats: 15 of 25 for 131 yards, TD, INT
Florida picked up an easy victory, but Del Rio was underwhelming. He averaged only 5.2 yards per attempt and led the Gators to only 231 total yards of offense. He’s fortunate the defense was so effective, or the poor offense would have been the story of the game.
Drew Lock: C-
Stats: 18 of 31 for 220 yards, 2 TDs
It wasn’t Lock’s worst game, but the vast majority of his numbers came after the outcome was all but decided. He put up just 45 yards on 11 passing attempts in the first 20 minutes of the game, as Kentucky took a 21-0 lead against Missouri. He threw one touchdown pass before the break and added his second late in the fourth quarter, when the game was already decided.
Josh Dobbs: D
Stats: 12 of 26 for 126 yards, TD, 2 INTs
Dobbs is a boom-or-bust player and that was on full display in Tennessee’s crushing loss to South Carolina. The senior threw a pair of interceptions to South Carolina DB Jamarcus King, including one on first down with 3 minutes, 42 seconds left in the game. By the time Tennessee got the ball back, it had just 35 seconds left.