No SEC ending ever will trump the “Kick Six,” but the unforgettable finish between Georgia and Tennessee came close on Saturday.
We got a pair of successful half-field heaves in the final 10 seconds of the ballgame, the latter of which kept the Volunteers’ dream season alive and left Butch Jones weeping on the field, hunched over like a priest who just completed a day-long exorcism.
The moment was surreal; an all-timer.
Great football plays deserve nicknames that help them remain fresh in fans’ minds for decades: The Bush Push, Miracle at Michigan, The Play… these names run the gamut of specificity. We’re looking for something that’s fun to say and immediately conjures up an image.
If we were to focus on the number of “surrender cobra” responses in the Georgia crowd, it would make sense to go with “The Clarke County Cobra Conductor.”
A more generic option: “The Sanford Stunner.”
But let’s get a little deeper and incorporate a signature aspect of the venue on Saturday. Neither Tennessee nor Georgia fans are likely to forget “The Heave Between the Hedges.”
(NOTE: The “Dobbsnail Boot” — a reference to Georgia’s 2001 win over Tennessee —appears to have strong grassroots support in the early going.)
Bulldogs QB already Mr. Clutch
Eighteen-year-old Jacob Eason is already one of the league’s best quarterbacks, and he’ll drop dimes in Athens through at least 2018.
The true freshman rebounded from a rough loss last week in Oxford to put up stellar numbers (17-of-28 passing for 211 yards, 3 total touchdowns, 1 interception) against Tennessee.
His go-ahead touchdown toss with 10 seconds remaining was destined to be played on Bulldogs highlight reels forever … until “The Heave Between the Hedges” reminded us that Tennessee is a zombie squad that never will lose another game.
Eason’s clutch 47-yard throw to Riley Ridley (the younger brother of Alabama star Calvin) was his second big-time play of the season; the first being a fourth-and-10 passing touchdown to beat Missouri on Sept. 17.
Georgia might not stick on the national radar this season, but Eason will attract plenty of viewers looking for a glimpse of the SEC’s future.
Vandy blows its chance
The Commodores had an excellent opportunity to knock off Florida in Nashville for the first time in nearly three decades but failed to score the 14 points they needed for a “W.”
Jim McElwain’s Gators were pretty lifeless after a heartbreaking loss the week prior in Knoxville. The offense was stagnant. The defense was allowing big plays on the ground. But Vanderbilt simply could not get out of its own way on offense.
With a win, Derek Mason could have locked up another season of security. Now his team is 2-3 with a tough road ahead. Bowl prospects? Bleak. Employment situation? Dire.
Quarterback is one of Vandy’s glaring problems. The Commodores are completing 51 percent of their passes and collecting 5.41 yards per attempt.
The Ralph Webb-led ground game is strong. The line is OK. The receiving options are decent. But Kyle Shurmur and Wade Freebeck have looked awful behind center this autumn.
A particularly bad play that swung momentum Saturday: Shurmur stared down his primary receiver until the route was dead and gone, decided to throw it anyway and made All-America candidate Jalen “Teez” Tabor’s eyes light up:
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 1, 2016
Dak Attack historically good
Former Mississippi State star Dak Prescott has acclimated to the pro game with noted ease, and he continued his strong rookie season with a big day on Sunday at San Francisco.
He completed 23 of 32 passes for 245 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions, outdueling former Mizzou standout Blaine Gabbert for a 24-17 win by the Bay.
Prescott’s passer rating is 98.52 through four games. Here’s how that stacks up against the best rookies in NFL history:
- Robert Griffin III (Washington, 2012) — 102.4
- Russell Wilson (Seattle, 2012) — 100.0
- Dak Prescott (Dallas, 2016) — 98.5
- Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh, 2004) — 98.1
- Dan Marino (Miami, 1983) — 96.0
Keep in mind: The other quarterbacks on this list all started most of their team’s games (Prescott has a ways to go), and fellow rookie Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles owns a 103.8 passer rating through three contests.
Vols-Bulldogs moments that caught our eye
- Ex-Alabama — and current Georgia — cornerback Maurice Smith was on the wrong end of the “Kick Six” and the “The Heave Between the Hedges.” Here’s how the moments stack up for him:
Georgia DB Maurice Smith comparing today's feeling to the "Kick Six" Iron Bowl ending in 2013: "It's toe and toe. It's right beside it."
— David Paschall (@DavidSPaschall) October 1, 2016
- If you ever wonder why SEC football programs employ so many people, look no further than the invaluable “get back” guy:
— Jake Reuse (@ReuseRecruiting) October 1, 2016
- Our own Jesse Re Simonton provided a great postgame look at Tennessee’s victory against Florida last week, and he scored another viral hit on Saturday:
This is what exaltation looks like. Part II pic.twitter.com/oHDVijbPhY
— Jesse Re Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) October 1, 2016
- Also, this…
Tennessee hero Jauan Jennings ranks tonight's Hail Mary catch second on his all-time list.
No. 1? "Burning Tabor."
— Jesse Re Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) October 2, 2016
- Butch Jones “had a feeling” his original call on the final play was not going to work, so he made perhaps the most important second-guess in Tennessee history.
Non-SEC moments that caught our eye
- Michigan defensive back Jourdan Lewis sealed the Wolverines’ 14-7 win against Wisconsin with a one-handed interception:
- Penn State kicker Joey Julius has made a name for himself as a wrecking ball on kickoffs, but he got a dose of his own medicine from Minnesota’s Jaylen Waters, who was kicked out of the Nittany Lions-Golden Gophers game for this hit:
- Notre Dame and Syracuse came out firing early, posting a combined total of 36 first-quarter points. Notre Dame quarterback Deshone Kizer was particularly sizzling. Before a penalty wiped out his third passing touchdown, his stat line momentarily read: 3 of 3 for 216 yards and 3 touchdowns.
- Clemson got a huge win against Louisville, but it attempted to choke out the Heisman Trophy front-runner in the process:
Boulware is trying to break Lamar Jackson pic.twitter.com/WiPBL3fbzd
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) October 2, 2016
- Former Texas coach Mack Brown is now a color commentator, but FOX apparently is pulling him in too many directions. Brown dipped out of the BYU-Toledo telecast on Friday when the lengthy game began encroaching on his travel plans.
Eye on the Playoff
OK, it’s officially October, which means we can begin dreaming of College Football Playoff matchups and not feel like complete fools. Here’s my current projection:
- (1) Ohio State vs. (4) Louisville
- (2) Clemson vs. (3) Alabama
The biggest game of the regular season — Ohio State vs. Michigan — will determine which team gets top billing in the Playoff this season. Out West, I’ll root for Washington, which is 5-0 for the first time since the year I was born, but the Huskies have too many dangerous road games left, beginning with the trip this week to Oregon.
We can’t count on the Big 12 at this juncture, so it is out. Alabama probably will drop a game between now and December, but a one-loss Crimson Tide team should waltz into the field.
That leaves a hotly contested No. 4 spot … and I think the winner of Louisville-Houston will get it. Both teams look outstanding, but the Lamar Jackson-led Cardinals should get the road win on Nov. 17 and then watch the ACC title game from home before getting their playoff invitation.