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Saturday Lessons: October 17

Forgive the brevity; I'm still catching up from having attended a game on Saturday and been driving all day on Sunday.

It was another one of those weeks.

Just like Week 3, this was one of those weeks were the top teams struggled. Florida tried to lose to Arkansas but couldn't quite pull it off, and Alabama had trouble with South Carolina. Texas, Boise State, and USC all barely won. Iowa couldn't put Wisconsin away until late. Virginia Tech, Ohio State, and Nebraska all lost varying degrees of upsets. On weekends like these, you just have to survive and advance.

Alabama is very fortunate to have Mark Ingram.

With Greg McElroy seemingly regressing by the week now, Alabama needed someone to make it up. That someone was Mark Ingram. In submitting the best individual performance of the week, Ingram rushed for 242 yards and had another 23 yards receiving. He tore up what is otherwise a pretty stout South Carolina defense, and his touchdown run with just under five minutes to go iced the game.

Alabama will need more than that to win against a good offense though. From an offensive scoring standpoint, it was a 6-6 ball game until Ingram's fourth quarter touchdown. Stephen Garcia made the Big Mistake and McElroy didn't, and that accounts for the rest of the margin in the game. Ingram's big day nicely papered over what was otherwise a bad day for the offense, as it rushed for 1.3 yards per rush without his carries and McElroy's yards per attempt drops from 4.6 to 3.8 yards per attempt without his receptions. The Alabama defense was excellent, but that goes without saying these days.

Florida is fortunate to have a win.

Thanks to YouTube and the Wiz of Odds, I've had a chance finally to see the three calls that Arkansas fans are upset about. The personal foul on Malcolm Sheppard? Horrendous. The pass interference on Ramon Broadway? It's close, but Broadway put both hands on Deonte Thompson's chest and appeared to push as he was turning around. Even if he didn't push, that's asking for a flag. The no call on Riley Cooper for offensive pass interference? It's hard to tell from the angle that the YouTube video is from, but Cooper was going for the ball and, since he was in front, couldn't have been "all over the back" of the defender as Gary Danielson said. A bad no call (see comments). The refs should have been consistent in making those last two plays either both flags or both no-calls.

All that aside, Florida's offense executed poorly. The play calling was random at best and idiotic at worst. The secondary had its worst game since last year's loss to Ole Miss. The defense was mystified by just about every pass to a running back. The team swore last week that it wouldn't let this one be a let down game after its big road win. In retrospect, it had better have been a let down game, or else they'll lose next week in Starkville if Anthony Dixon can do a decent Jerious Norwood impression.

Arkansas let one slip away.

I've attended a game where you go on the road against a better team, have the refs (and in this case, the clock operator too) screw you over late, and lose on a field goal with just seconds to go. I've been there. It sucks. Hard.

Look at everything the Razorbacks had in their favor though:

  • Sacked Tim Tebow six times
  • Recovered four fumbles, including three in the red zone, without turning it over themselves
  • Held a team previously averaging 285 yards rushing to just 136 on the ground
  • Gained 357 yards on a defense that had previously given up no more than 210 in FBS play
  • Connected on a 75 yard touchdown pass
  • Saw Brandon Spikes go out injured early in the first quarter
  • Saw Florida shank a punt from its own end zone
  • Held Florida to the same number of points that Tennessee's terrific defense did

That should have been a recipie for a relatively easy win, especially considering how badly Florida was playing. They submarined their chances quite a bit though with:

  • At least five dropped passes, one of which was in the end zone
  • Ryan Mallett missing open receivers all day, including two open ones in the end zone
  • Getting just seven points on three possessions that began in Florida territory
  • MIssing two field goals

It sucks when the refs help the other team out copiously on one of its twelve drives. But, any time you have that many advantages and then shoot yourself in the foot that many times, you have to look at yourself in the mirror. Florida may have had some help from the refs in winning the game, but the Gators got a lot more help from the Hogs. It should have been 14-3, not 10-3, at halftime and easily could have ended up roughly in the neighborhood of a 33-20 Arkansas win.

Georgia and Kentucky stopped the bleeding.

The Bulldogs were feeling really bad after last week's bludgeoning at the hands of Tennessee. Vandy turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. UGA cruised to a 34-10 win where it came out comfortably ahead in just about all statistical categories. This one wasn't really about the score or stats though, as beating up on a team that lost to Army means very little. The key thing was getting a nice, easy win to rebuild confidence going into the bye week to help preparations for a suddenly very vulnerable looking Florida team.

Kentucky, meanwhile, picked up its first SEC win in dramatic fashion. The Wildcats scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to beat a now reeling Auburn team at Jordan-Hare. It has to be a great feeling after losing a heartbreaking game - and Mike Hartline - last week against South Carolina. UK needed that one to get back on track for going to a fourth straight bowl, and they got it.

Auburn did not.

Maybe we were giving the Tigers a bit to much credit for all those early non-conference games. Just a bit.