SEC News and Notes

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ALABAMA: The Crimson Tide's quest to become three-peat national champions got off to a strong start in their opener against Virginia Tech, as they won the neutral-field contest, 35-10. Christion Jones was the unquestioned star with three touchdowns -- a punt return, a kick return, and a reception -- while accounting for 256 all-purpose yards. He became the first player in school history to score two return TDs in the same game, according to the Alabama record books dating back to 1944. Jones's historic day helped mask a sub par outing by A.J. McCarron, who completed just 10-of-23 pass attempts for 110 yards, a touchdown and an interception. T.J. Yeldon accounted for 75 rushing yards on 17 carries, crossing the plane on a two-yard score in the first quarter. Vinnie Sunseri picked off a pass and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown for the defense, which allowed just 212 yards of total offense. Alabama (1-0) is idle this week and begins SEC play on Sept. 14 with a crucial road matchup against Texas A&M.

ARKANSAS: The Brett Bielema era got off to a great start, as the Razorbacks tallied 522 total yards and dismissed Louisiana over the weekend, 34-14. Brandon Allen completed 15-of-22 passes for 230 yards in his first career start, tossing three touchdowns paired with zero interceptions. Javontee Herndon was on the receiving end of two of those scoring strikes, finishing the afternoon with three receptions for 73 yards. Arkansas (1-0) rushed for nearly 300 yards, with Jonathan Williams (18 carries, 151 yards, TD) and Alex Collins (21 carries, 131 yards) both putting in a full work load. Defensively, Trey Flowers logged two sacks and a forced fumble. Arkansas's next contest takes place this Saturday against Samford.

AUBURN: In Gus Malzahn's first game as head coach, the Tigers secured an impressive non-conference triumph over Washington State, 31-24. Most of Auburn's (1-0) damage came via the rushing attack, where it racked up 297 yards. Corey Grant saw limited action in the backfield with nine carries but made them count with a career-best 146 yards, highlighted by a 75-yard touchdown run. Tre Mason added 73 rushing yards and a touchdown, and he also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score. Nick Marshall won the quarterback competition in the offseason but was quiet in the opener, going 10-of-19 for 99 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Robenson Therezie was a difference-maker defensively with a pair of picks. The Tigers host Malzahn's former team, Arkansas State, on Saturday night.

FLORIDA: The Gators' offense wasn't as sharp as they hoped in their opener, but behind a fantastic defensive effort they were able to take down Toledo, 24-6. Florida (1-0) took to the rushing attack early and often with 48 rushes for 280 yards. Mack Brown shined in the feature role, toting the ball 25 times for 112 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Jeff Driskel's final line was modest at best, throwing for 153 yards with a four-yard scoring strike to Gideon Ajagbe in the third quarter, although he did complete 17-of-22 passes and went without a turnover. The defense held the high-powered Rockets to a meager 205 yards of total offense, with Cheatham Norrils recording a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on the same play. UF visits Miami this Saturday for a difficult non-conference test.

GEORGIA: In the marquee matchup of the opening weekend, the fifth-ranked Bulldogs were upended by the eighth-ranked Clemson Tigers in a thriller, 38-35, in a game that featured four ties and five lead changes. Georgia (0-1) had no problem generating offense, cranking out 545 yards, but it also surrendered 467 yards to the Tigers. Aaron Murray completed 20-of-29 passes for 323 yards, but while he had a rushing score, he was held out of the end zone through the air. Todd Gurley was outstanding in the national spotlight, gaining 154 yards on just 12 carries, while finding the end zone on two occasions. Keith Marshall (43 yards) and Quayvon Hicks (37 yards) also added rushing scores. Turnovers made the difference in this one, as Clemson scored seven points off two UGA turnovers, while the Bulldogs failed to score off the Tigers' only miscue. UGA's road doesn't get any easier, as it hosts South Carolina this Saturday.

KENTUCKY: The Wildcats opened the season with a neutral-site, non-conference contest against Western Kentucky, falling to the Hilltoppers in a 35-26 final. Jalen Whitlow earned the starting gig under center, and while he showed promise outside the pocket (75 yards on seven carries with a TD), he failed to impress with his arm (10-of-15, 78 yards). Maxwell Smith saw action in relief and looked much better, throwing for 125 yards and a touchdown on 8-of-13 passing. Demarco Robinson acted as the No. 1 receiving option for both quarterbacks and finished with five receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown. Raymond Sanders was solid out of the backfield, racking up 98 rushing yards on 14 totes while adding three receptions as well. UK (0-1) plays its home opener this Saturday against Miami-Ohio.

LSU: The Tigers faced a tough opening-night test against No. 20 TCU on a neutral field, but they never trailed in the contest and went on to claim an impressive 37-27 triumph. Terrence Magee set the tone on the ground, rushing for 95 yards on 13 carries while punching in a pair of crucial third-quarter touchdowns. Alfred Blue was also integral in the rushing attack, racking up 89 yards. Zach Mettenberger was not efficient with his pass attempts, completing just 16-of-32, but he ended with 251 yards and a touchdown and went without an interception. The Tigers (1-0) defense stifled the high-powered Horned Frogs, holding them to just 259 yards of total offense. LSU raises the curtain on its home schedule this Saturday when it welcomes UAB to Baton Rouge.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: The Bulldogs came up small in their season opener against Oklahoma State, mustering just 333 yards of total offense in a 21-3 setback. Mississippi State (0-1) actually got out to a lead midway through the first quarter following a 40-yard field goal from Devon Bell, but that would be the only source of scoring on the afternoon. Tyler Russell completed 10-of-16 passes for 133 yards and an interception before leaving with an injury in the third quarter. Dak Prescott (7-of-17, 89 yards, INT) failed to impress in Russell's absence. LaDarius Perkins gained 50 yards on 16 carries, while Josh Robinson toted the ball eight times for 48 yards. MSU will try to get back on track this week when it plays its home opener against Alcorn State.

MISSOURI: The Tigers looked sluggish early on in their season opener, trailing Murray State after one quarter, but from there they ripped off 45 unanswered points to cruise to the 58-14 triumph, amassing 694 yards of total offense in the process. James Franklin was outstanding, completing 26-of-38 passes for 318 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, while connecting with 11 different receivers. The Mizzou rushing attack was firing on all cylinders as well, generating 358 yards and five touchdowns. Henry Josey shined in the feature role, gaining 113 yards and a score on 13 carries, while Russell Hansbrough needed just eight attempts to register 104 yards and two touchdowns. Missouri (1-0) will continue its homestand this Saturday when it hosts Toledo.

OLE MISS: In a wild, season-opening battle, the Rebels used a fourth-quarter rally to dismiss league rival Vanderbilt, 39-35. The Commodores led 28-17 late in the third quarter, but Ole Miss (1-0, 1-0 SEC) scored three touchdowns in the final 16 minutes, including the game-winning 75-yard TD run by Jeff Scott with just 1:07 left to play. Quarterback Bo Wallace was integral in the comeback with 283 passing yards, 48 rushing yards and a pair of second-half rushing scores. Backup QB Barry Brunetti also saw work around the goal line, running in a pair of TDs himself. Scott finished with 138 yards (his eighth- career 100-yard game) on just 12 carries, while highly-touted freshman Laquon Treadwell made a strong debut by reeling in nine balls for 82 yards. The Rebels step out of conference this week for its home opener against Southeast Missouri State.

SOUTH CAROLINA: The sixth-ranked Gamecocks wasted little time getting their season started off on the right foot, as they jumped up to a 17-0 first- quarter lead over North Carolina and went on to defeat the Tar Heels in Thursday night's FBS season opener, 27-10. Connor Shaw completed 11-of-20 passes for 149 yards, including a 65-yard scoring strike to Shaq Roland on the third play of the game. The signal-caller also scrambled for 43 yards. Mike Davis' action was limited as he carried the ball just 12 times, but he made every touch count, gaining 115 yards, the majority of which came on a 75-yard TD scamper. Dylan Thompson completed his only pass attempt for a 29-yard score to Kane Whitehurst. The defense held the high-powered Tar Heels to a meager 293 total yards. South Carolina (1-0) gets back to action this Saturday in a crucial SEC East clash with Georgia.

TENNESSEE: The Volunteers began the Butch Jones-era in sterling fashion, shutting out Austin Peay, 45-0, to record the program's 800th win. Senior running back Rajion Neal set the tone by rushing for 141 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries, while Marlin Lane (six carries, 38 yards, two TDs) was also effective in limited work. Justin Worley was nearly perfect in his debut, completing 11-of-13 passes for 104 yards in just one half of action, tossing touchdown passes to Devrin Young, Alton Howard and Brendon Downs. The defense was outstanding, holding Austin Peay to 211 total yards while forcing two turnovers. Tennessee (1-0) will try to continue its success this week when it hosts Western Kentucky.

TEXAS A&M: The Aggies looked sluggish in the first half without their Heisman- winning quarterback, but things picked up upon his return after the break as they cruised to a 52-31 victory over Rice. After serving his first-half suspension, Johnny Manziel was nearly flawless for the rest of the game, completing 6-of-8 passes for 94 yards and three touchdowns, while Matt Joeckel (14-of-19, 190 yards, TD) performed well to start the game. Mike Evans hauled in six receptions for 84 yards and was on the receiving end of two of Manziel's scoring strikes. Ben Malena showed a strong burst both as a rusher (12 carries, 82 yards, TD) and as a receiver (rec, 18 yards, TD). Tra Carson (14 carries, 76 yards) punched the ball over the goal line on two occasions, and Ricky Seals-Jones hauled in a 71-yard TD pass from Joeckel in the second quarter. Texas A&M (1-0) continues its four-game homestand to start the season this Saturday with a date against Sam Houston State.

VANDERBILT: The Commodores seemed poised to open their season strong in last Thursday's opener, as they held an 11-point lead over Ole Miss late in the third quarter, but they faltered down the stretch, and a 75-yard run by the Rebels' Jeff Scott with under two minutes to play was the final nail in the coffin as they lost in a thriller, 39-35. Austyn Carta-Samuels impressed under center by completing 21-of-36 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns, but a pair of interceptions proved costly in the end. Jordan Matthews showed why he is an All-SEC receiver, pulling down 10 balls for a career-high 178 yards and a touchdown, and he has now gone over 100 yards receiving in 11 of his past 20 games. Wesley Tate couldn't get much going on the ground (17 carries for 39 yards), be he did manage two short touchdown runs. Jerron Seymour was much more explosive in the backfield (five carries, 43 yards, TD). Vanderbilt (0-1, 0-1 SEC) entertains Austin Peay this Saturday.


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