Tennessee did the unthinkable, finally snapping Florida’s 11-game stranglehold in Knoxville on Saturday. The Vols got big performances from several key players in the win, but a few stood apart.
Auburn’s struggle moving the ball opened up opportunities for a new star to emerge.
Texas A&M failed to pass the ball at a high level, but Trevor Knight still took over the game.
Here are a few of the top studs and duds from Week 4 of SEC play.
Stud: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
Barnett second-half play was pivotal in Tennessee’s comeback. Barnett broke through the line for 3 tackles for loss and 2 sacks, almost all in the second half of the program-changing win over Florida. He also had an interception slip through his hands that would have surely been a pick-six.
Barnett has potential to be one of the best defensive ends in the nation. He showed it Saturday. He has been inconsistent imposing his presence on opposing quarterbacks, but came up big in the biggest spots.
Dud: PR Antonio Callaway, Florida
To be clear, Callaway as a receiver was outstanding on Saturday, catching four passes for a game-leading 134 yards in the Gators’ 38-28 loss. However, he had a couple of costly special teams miscues.
The first came 4 minutes into the game. Tennessee was forced to punt after a strong performance from the Florida defense, and the kick looked like it was going to bounce into the end zone. However, Callaway tried to field it, but muffed the ball and it was recovered at the 5-yard line by Tennessee. Later in the fourth, Callaway had another punt coming in almost the same place, but he ran to the end zone and called a fair catch on the 2-yard line. The Florida drive was stalled right from the start and Tennessee eventually got a stop and won the game.
Callaway’s boneheaded plays aren’t why Florida lost, but they helped change the momentum of the game. Jim McElwain will have to re-evaluate his punt return responsibilities.
Stud: QB Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
Knight got off to a slow start against Arkansas in the SEC West’s best matchup on Saturday. He got things going in the second quarter. Knight took a quarterback draw 42 yards for a touchdown and added took an option play 48 yards for another score to tie the game at 17-17 at the half.
Then in the second half, Knight found a streaking Josh Reynolds for a 92-yard touchdown and Christian Kirk for a 9-yard score to ice the game. His passing remains inconsistent at times, but Knight’s poise and leadership is proving to be the difference for the Aggies in an impressive start to the season.
Dud: Mississippi State defense
Massachusetts was one of the worst offensive teams in the nation through three games, averaging 11.7 points and 234.4 yards per game and getting off to a 1-2 start. However, Mississippi State made the Minutemen look like an efficient offense at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
Quarterback Andrew Ford threw for 273 yards and 4 touchdowns in his second career game against an SEC defense. Running back Marquis Young added a breakaway 83-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs are lucky Ford threw 3 interceptions, including a pick-six, or this game could have gone the other way.
Stud: K Daniel Carlson, Auburn
It’s not often a kicker is the best offensive player on a football team, but Carlson might be the exception. Auburn’s offense struggled to move the ball, but the All-American kicker made sure the Tigers lived to fight another day.
Carlson hit 6 field goals, including kicks of 51, 29, 29, 31, 37 and 29 in the tight win over LSU. Gus Malzahn told media that he feels comfortable letting Carlson kick out to near 60 yards, and it’s easy to see why. He has one of the most reliable legs in America and should be contending for the Groza Award come season’s end.