Conference Week In Review: Southeastern Conference
Week 10 – SEC Football Scores:
- Georgia 37, Ole Miss 10
- Florida 14, Missouri 7
- Tennessee 55, Troy 48
- Auburn 42, New Mexico State 7
- Texas A&M 38, Mississippi State 13
- Arkansas 19, Tulsa 15
- Vanderbilt 40, Kentucky 0
- Alabama 21, LSU 17
Week 10 in the Southeastern Conference provided the kind of game that football fans were hoping for last season, when the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers squared off in two separate battles, one for the SEC West championship and the other for the BCS national championship. In 2011 and then in January of 2012, these fierce division rivals gained the attention of the college football world, but not quite the full admiration of it. Alabama and LSU slopped around on offense in most of these games, scoring a combined total of just one touchdown… and that one came with under five minutes left in the second meeting (the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans in early January of 2012). On those days, the two defenses were strong, but the quarterbacks, especially for LSU, did not measure up.
What made this 2012 tussle so delightfully and deliciously different from 2011 is that the quarterbacks responded, bringing some big-league ball to the yard and creating an enjoyable mixture of offensive and defensive excellence.
Last year, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron struggled profoundly against LSU in the regular season. He led his team to just six points in an overtime contest and was unable to solve the Bayou Bengals’ secondary. In this contest, McCarron wobbled in the second half, hitting just one pass for zero yards in the first 28 minutes after halftime. However, McCarron was masterful in the first half, piloting his team to a 14-3 lead at the intermission with a steady hand and a locked-in mind that displayed total focus on the task in front of him. McCarron gave Alabama a lead, and he put his team in position to win.
This is where the game’s first major plot twist emerged: Zach Mettenberger excelled.
Yes, Mettenberger – the embattled LSU quarterback who had floundered throughout the first two months of the season, save a solid performance against South Carolina on Oct. 13 – finally played at the level LSU coaches and fans had been expected from him in 2012. Mettenberger sliced up Alabama’s secondary in the second half, hitting receivers on a lot of quick routes – most of them to the outer edges of the field but with some of them probing the middle third of the field as well. LSU’s coaching staff made effective halftime adjustments and attacked the vulnerable parts of Alabama’s defense. LSU’s passing proficiency guided the Tigers to two touchdowns and a 17-14 lead. McCarron, watching his defense stumble, lost confidence during the second half. However, when Bama’s defense prevented LSU from sealing the game with one final first down inside the three-minute mark of regulation, McCarron got one more look at the ball.
Alabama stopped LSU with just over two minutes left in regulation. Out of timeouts, the Tide watched the clock run just under the 1:40 mark. LSU kicker Drew Alleman missed a 45-yard field goal that would have given the home team a six-point lead with 1:34 to go. Needing only a field goal to tie, McCarron gained a crucial amount of confidence and freedom. He played like it in the following 43 seconds.
McCarron ate up LSU’s defense with a series of on-target throws. He worked the outside of LSU’s defense and met little resistance from the Tigers, who could not generate a pass rush with their front four. With 51 seconds left – again, just 43 seconds after LSU’s field goal miss – McCarron hit running back T.J. Yeldon on a 28-yard screen pass that hit paydirt. Alabama had abruptly turned likely defeat into victory. The Crimson Tide, on their heels for most of the second half and definitely on the ropes in the latter stages of regulation – had been able to silence Tiger Stadium with a last-minute touchdown. The drive by McCarron will live forever in SEC lore, and in the history of one of college football’s elite programs. Alabama will win the SEC West this season and play either Georgia or Florida in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1.
Georgia moved within one win of that SEC title game by whacking Mississippi. The Bulldogs can clinch the East by beating Auburn next week. Florida stayed in the running for both the East and a BCS bowl bid by surviving an upset bid by Missouri. Vanderbilt’s thrashing of Kentucky got the Wildcats’ head coach, Joker Phillips, fired on Sunday afternoon. Texas A&M took one more step to respectability by pounding an overrated Mississippi State squad on the road.
By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer