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Casey’s Call: College Football Recap – Tide Rolled

Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

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By Casey Keefe
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South Carolina 35 Alabama 21: I have to admit, this game shocked me. Yes, I knew South Carolina was a very good team. Yes, I knew the game was in Columbia on Gamecock turf. And yes, I realized anything can happen in an SEC game… But at the end of the day, I never thought there was any way Alabama would actually lose to South Carolina.

The Gamecocks did a masterful job of executing their gameplan. They neutralized Alabama’s two biggest strengths – their run game and their defense. South Carolina did the impossible of holding Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson to a combined 64 yards on the ground. ‘Bama’s bread and butter is their run game, and S.C. miraculously found a way to shut it down. The other surprising factor to me is how easily they were able to score on ‘Bama’s defense, especially early on.

The Gamecocks started fast and secured a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter. They were led by quarterback Stephen Garcia who was outstanding on the day (17/20 – 201 yards – 3 TD’s), as was receiver Alshon Jeffery (7 receptions – 127 yards – 2 TD’s) who made big play after big play. Also invaluable was Marcus Lattimore and the damage he did on the ground (93 yards – 2 TD’s). Alabama tried their best to rattle Garcia like they do every other QB it seems, but they couldn’t. Garcia was unflappable.

The Tide made it very interesting in the fourth quarter when Greg McElroy connected with Darius Hanks on a 51 yard touchdown pass which cut the deficit to 28-21. ‘Bama then got a lucky interception off Garcia on a tipped ball, and all of a sudden the crowd was quiet and the Tide were in business. They drove deep into S.C. territory in an attempt for the tying score, but were dealt a huge blow when McElroy was sacked on a third down play. 4th and 11 was brought up from the 25 yard line. ‘Bama lined up for a field goal which they ended up faking, and let’s just say it didn’t turn out the way Nick Saban hoped for.

Taking over after the failed fake, S.C. went on a marathon 10 play, 74 yard drive that resulted in a Marcus Lattimore touchdown which was the final nail in the coffin. In the end, it’s not that Alabama came out flat or underprepared – they were just out-coached and out-played by an inspired S.C. team. Give the Gamecocks all the credit in the world. They took away ‘Bama’s strengths, and gave the Tide a taste of their own medicine.

LSU 33 Florida 29: This game was a perfect example of how competitive and unpredictable the SEC is. LSU showed me nothing through the first 5 weeks that would make me think they were capable of playing a game like this. They went into the Swamp against a flawed but still good Florida team, and managed to out-tough and out-execute them.

LSU took control of the game when they scored 10 straight points in the final 82 seconds of the first half. The outburst gave them a 20-14 lead heading into the break. From there, Florida was dazed. The Tigers used their two quarterback system and got efficient play out of both Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. The Swamp was quiet and it seemed like the Gators were sleep walking. Urban Meyer’s club however got the shot in the arm they desperately needed when John Brantley hit Carl Moore with a 51 yard pass midway through the fourth quarter. The drive would be capped off with a Mike Gillislee 5 yard touchdown run. After a successful two point conversion try, the Gators jumped ahead 29-26.

With just 3:21 left, the Tigers battled back and put together a drive that featured a season-changing play. Facing a 4th and 3 with 35 seconds left, LSU lined up for a game-tying 52 yard field goal… Judging by the situation and Les Miles’ past, you would have to imagine a fake was possible. Well, that’s exactly what happened – the ball was snapped, the holder Derek Helton tossed the ball behind his head, the ball hit the ground and popped up right into kicker Josh Jasper’s hands who ran it 5 yards for the first down. Lee then hit Terrence Toliver with a 28 yard pass which moved LSU down to Florida’s 3 yard line.

Three plays later, LSU ran a fade which resulted in a Lee to Toliver game winning touchdown. Thanks to the Tigers sharp offense, stingy defense and the guts of Les Miles, LSU walked out of The Swamp with a monstrous win. As surprised as I am to say it – the Tigers were the better team. They deserved to win. Last week I called them the worst 5-0 team in the country. Well, now they’re the worst 6-0 team in the country… No, I’m still not a believer.

Michigan State 34 Michigan 17: Unlike the two games above, this one played out exactly the way I predicted. The sole focus of the Spartans was finding a way to contain Denard Robinson, which they did in outstanding fashion. Robinson played the worst game of his young college career, tossing 3 costly interceptions (1 in the endzone) and only gaining 86 yards on the ground, nearly 100 less than his average. State proved it takes a whole lot more than one player to beat a quality team like themselves.

Not to be out-done, the Spartan offensive unit showed they weren’t just along for the ride. Quarterback Kirk Cousins played a fantastic mistake-free game (18/25 – 284 yards – TD) and the run game was in full effect with Edwin Baker, Le’Veon Bell and Larry Caper teaming up for a combined 249 yards rushing. All in all, State outgained the Wolverines 536-377, and topped them in time of possession (36min – 24min).

As exciting and talented as Denard Robinson is, he’s not superman. He can’t do it all by himself – especially with Michigan’s defense being as vulnerable as they are. I don’t want to say they were a fraud 5-0 club, but anytime a one-dimensional team such as themselves go up against a legitimate balanced team with a tough defense like State, it’s a battle they’ll lose every time.

The Spartans have now beaten their in-state rival for the third straight season which is something they haven’t done in 43 years. Good things are happening in East Lansing.

Rutgers 27 UConn 24: If you are a betting man, you learn quickly to stay away from UConn-Rutgers games. It doesn’t matter how good or bad either club is, or what type of momentum either team comes into the game with. Throw all that stuff out the window. These matchups are always close and unpredictable. This latest installment was no different.

After a rough start, the Huskies took complete control of the game as they rolled off 17 straight points in the final 6:36 of the first half to take a 24-17 lead into the break. UConn was hitting on big plays thanks to Cody Endres and Jordan Todman. Things also weren’t going well for Rutgers from a refereeing angle, so the frustration was starting to build.

It looked like the game was in the bag for the Huskies after they stopped Rutgers on a 4th and 2 on their own 13 yard line midway through the fourth quarter. Everything changed however after the Scarlet Knights defense got a stop and struck quick with their offense on a Chas Dodd 52 yard touchdown pass to Mark Harrison which knotted the game up 24-24. The defense stepped up again and got the ball back for Dodd who drove down the field and set up a game winning 34 yard field goal by San San Te with 13 seconds left.

This is UConn’s second straight last-second loss to Rutgers. As painful and costly as this was for Randy Edsall’s team, you have to give credit to the Scarlet Knights. Their freshman quarterback Chas Dodd played great (18/29 – 322 yards – 2 TD’s) and the team as a whole showed tremendous toughness and perseverance hanging in the game and coming out on top.

Quick Hits…

- USC and Stanford played the definition of a back-and-forth game – four ties and seven lead changes. Matt Barkley and Andrew Luck combined for 675 yards, 6 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. After USC took a one point lead with 1:12 remaining, Luck and company drove right down the field and set up a game winning chip shot field goal for Nate Whitaker as time expired. 37-35. Déjà vu for the Trojans.

- Florida State was very impressive in their 45-17 thrashing of Miami. They jumped on the ‘Canes and had control of the game from the start. Jacory Harris played one of the worst games of his career and Miami’s defense was flat-out non-existent in the romp. So much for “The U”.

- Slowly by slowly, things are starting to come together for Notre Dame. They took care of a good Pitt Panther team in South Bend thanks to some crisp offense and timely defense. Brian Kelly still has an uphill climb, but the Irish took another positive step on Saturday with the 23-17 win.

- I had my doubts that Arizona could be a legitimate contending team, and I was proven right thanks to Ryan Katz and the Oregon State Beavers who topped ‘Zona 29-27 in Tucson. State is a very solid team, so there’s nothing to be embarrassed about for the Wildcats…but it is a costly Pac 10 loss.

- Auburn improved to 6-0 for the first time in 6 years thanks to their last second win over Kentucky. Cam Newton was spectacular, totaling 408 yards – 198 of which came on the ground. He also accounted for 4 first half touchdowns. The Wildcats stormed back in the second half, but the Tigers slipped by thanks to Wes Bynum’s game winning field goal as time expired… With Alabama going down, the SEC got a whole lot more interesting.

Check back tomorrow for my Tuesday Top 10…

Questions? Comments? Email me: ckeefe@wfan.com

Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter: @CaseyKeefeWFAN