So what did we learn over the weekend?
1. Is Les Miles is on the hot seat? There are a lot of upset LSU fans this morning and deservedly so. After doing this for a lot of years, I’m sure I’ve seen a worse example of mismanaging of the clock than LSU had at the end of the Ole Miss game in Oxford. But for the life of me, I can’t think of one. The head coach and offensive coordinator did so many things wrong at the end of that game, won by Ole Miss 25-23, I’m not sure if I can keep count. But let’s start with this: Trailing by two points, LSU had the ball at the Ole Miss 32-yard line with a couple of time outs and about a minute left. Instead of running the ball and giving your field goal kicker—who had already made a 50-yarder—a chance to win the game, LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton decided to get cute, throwing the ball on the next three plays. The net result was lost yardage (taking LSU out of field goal range) and the burning of both timeouts. The last time out was inexplicably called with only nine seconds left, wasting 17 seconds. Everybody is talking today about Jordan Jefferson spiking the ball with one second left to run out the clock. Yes, that was bad. But the mistake was made when LSU started throwing the ball once the Tigers got into field goal range. Miles has developed this reputation as an unconventional coach willing to take risks and at times it has served him well. But he didn’t put the reins on his offensive coordinator and it bit him in the butt. That’s what head coaches get paid to do.
2. Georgia got what it deserved: I’ve just about run out of words for the 2009 football team at the University of Georgia. It is an undisciplined team that makes too many mistakes. After four more turnovers against Kentucky the Bulldogs have 26 on the season and are minus-18 in turnovers. Do you realize that Georgia has only forced eight turnovers this season (one fumble, seven interceptions)? Georgia has played 11 football games this season and has only recovered one—ONE–fumble. Do you know how hard that is to do? There is no point in beating up senior quarterback Joe Cox, who has the most interceptions in the SEC with 14 (along with Jevan Snead of Ole Miss). The fact is that that Georgia head coach Mark Richt has a lot of questions to answer before 2010. But he’s the head coach and has earned the chance to fix these problems. All I know is that it didn’t look good for Georgia fans to be streaming out of the stadium with the game still on the line. But I hear how frustrated they are with this team and how concerned they are about the state of the program.
3. Ryan Mallett is the best quarterback in the SEC. Tim Tebow is the best player in the league but nobody is playing the quarterback position better than Mallett of Arkansas. On Saturday against Mississippi State he completed 18 of 34 passes for 313 yards and five touchdowns. Arkansas leads the nation in red zone production with 41 scores in 42 trips to the red zone. In those 42 trips inside the 20-yard line Arkansas has scored 32 touchdowns and nine field goals. That’s good quarterbacking, folks.
4. Houston Nutt will look back on this season and wonder: Why didn’t I get Dexter McCluster the ball more? McCluster had another great day for Ole Miss against LSU. He carried the ball 24 times for 148 yards, caught three passes for 18 yards and threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Shay Hodge to give the Rebels a 22-17 lead. That’s 28 touches for 192 yards. In his last four SEC games McCluster has 739 of his 903 rushing yards this season. In that stretch Ole Miss has beaten Arkansas (30-17), Tennessee (42-17), and LSU (25-23), and lost to Auburn (33-20). Ole Miss became a better team when it started getting the ball to McCluster and taking the pressure off quarterback Jevan Snead. When this season is over Houston Nutt will look back and wonder why he didn’t do it sooner.
5. Are you looking for a good head coach? Look at Randy Edsall. Sometimes the mark of a really good coach is not just wins and losses. Take the case of Connecticut (5-5), which knocked off Notre Dame in double overtime on Saturday. This season the Huskies have had to endure a series of close, gut-wrenching losses:
12-10 to North Carolina
24-21 to Pittsburgh
28-24 to West Virginia
28-24 to Rutgers
47-45 to Cincinnati
Prior to the West Virginia game on Oct. 24 Connecticut was forced to deal with the unthinkable when teammate Jasper Howard was stabbed to death. That’s why the win over Notre Dame, said Edsall, was the biggest in the history of the school. “A couple of close games, and then you lose a teammate, you lose a brother, you lose a son and you’re trying so hard to honor him by winning on the field. We hadn’t done that,” said Edsall, the former assistant at Georgia Tech.
Now they have and the game ball, Edsall said, will be sent to Howard’s parents in Florida.
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