SCOTT: Florida readies for LSU

The defense and special teams played better, but the offense Florida showed two weeks ago in a 31-3 loss to Alabama looked a lot like the one LSU coaches and players will see on film in Florida's 35-9 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday.

Florida's offense practiced most of the week without quarterback Chris Leak, tailback DeShawn Wynn, center Mike Degory and receiver Jemalle Cornelius and it showed against Mississippi State.


Sure, the Gators scored 32 more points and earned a total of 480 yards, but a big chunk of those points and yards came after Florida had the game well in hand.


More important, the offensive line continued to struggle, running back Kestahn Moore fumbled twice, the option only showed flashes of becoming a legitimate threat and quarterback Chris Leak, already trying to play through a bruised right shoulder injured in the Alabama game, took another beating and threw two interceptions.


Florida scored just three points on its first six possessions before it finally started moving in the right direction, thanks in large part to the defense and special teams.


The defense gave up a 76-yard TD run to Jerious Norwood but still recorded six sacks, three turnovers and two safeties and knocked starting quarterback Omarr Conner out of the game in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the kicking game downed four punts inside the 15-yard line, recovered a fumbled punt return to set up a score and blocked a punt for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.


"Defense is going to carry all championship teams, and I think that's what we are," linebacker Brandon Siler said. "We'll carry it as long as we can. We'll carry it as long as we need to."


While they're at it, they can take turns carrying Leak's arm around campus this week. Leak threw an interception on the Gators' first possession and didn't find his passing rhythm until the second half. He also left the game at one point with his arm dangling off his shoulder and admitted it was still "sore" after the game.


"I didn't want this out, but Chris didn't practice this week. All he did was hand off," Meyer said. ""He's a very courageous guy, a tough guy. He missed some throws. Hopefully we'll get him right this week. For the circumstances, he played very good."


That makes it even more important for the Gators to improve in other areas. Moore started in place of Wynn on Saturday, but the Gators also got carries from freshman Markus Manson and junior Skyler Thornton. Manson gave the Gators hints of his speed with 45 yards on seven carries, but for now, Meyer said, the Gators will be tailback by committee, "until someone steps up and owns the spot."




Georgia entered Saturday's game with Tennessee with wins over Boise State, South Carolina, Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State and a whole lot left to prove. The No. 5 Bulldogs took a big step offering that proof with a 27-14 win over No. 8 Tennessee in Knoxville.


"I think this was a game that really put people out there to show that these guys can play a quality opponent and win a game and do it on the road," Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley said. "A lot of people doubted our team even through these first four games but I think this game will do a lot of justice for us."


Shockley presented some proof of his, overcoming an interception and a fumble by completing 16 of 27 passes for 207 yards and running for 51 yards in his first major victory as a starter.


"He's never really been in this type of game before where he was the starter and where he really had to fight the adverse conditions," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "He handled it like a champion. He did not flinch."


The Bulldogs (5-0) must still face Florida and Auburn among their remaining six games, but for now they are in the driver's seat in the SEC East.


"This is the first test -- this Georgia Bulldog team ain't going nowhere, baby," junior defensive tackle Ray Gant said. "We're in charge of our own destiny. We run our own destiny now. There's nobody else. We're going to be the death of us if anything. Right now, we're on a collision course with Florida. But first, we have to think about Vanderbilt next week."


In the meantime, think about this: the Bulldogs are undefeated after five games for only the third time in 23 years. The last two times they pulled that off they won the SEC title, in 1982 and 2002.




While Georgia moves on toward Saturday's game at Vanderbilt Tennessee has an open date this week to regroup, fix its broken offense and prepare for next week's game at Alabama.


The defense gave Tennessee a chance to win, but the offense remained enigmatic, this time hurting itself with two fumbles, an interception and too many penalties among the team's 12 penalties for 78 yards. The running game managed only 48 rushing yards and tailback Gerald Riggs Kr. Produced only 52 yards rushing on 19 carries, while quarterback Rick Clausen gave away two first-half turnovers and failed to rally the Vols as he did against LSU.


"Lack of execution was the biggest thing," Clausen said. "Their defense was good, but we stopped ourselves a lot. We shot ourselves in the foot."


Even the special teams failed. Punter Britton Colquitt obviously didn't learn anything from the LSU game because he continued to punt to Georgia's Thomas Flowers, who made him pay with a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 20-7 lead with 8:50 left in the game.


As if that wasn't enough, cornerback Jason Allen's season may be shot for the next few weeks. After Georgia tight end Leonard Pope ran over him just below halftime, Allen had to leave the field on a cart due to a hip injury. His status doesn't look very positive for the Alabama game.


"We don't know how severe it is, but I've been told that it doesn't look good," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said.


Add it all up and a team that once talked about playing for the national championship suddenly looks like a long shot to win the SEC East after losses to Florida and Georgia.


"As it seems right now, yeah, we're out of the championship picture," said linebacker Kevin Simon.

So where do the Vols go from here? Check out these responses from Tennessee's post-game interview room:


"If I could sprinkle some magic dust on it, I'd sprinkle it," Fulmer said.


"I wish I had some magic dust to sprinkle on it," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said.


Magic dust?


"We'll keep working and try to fix it," Riggs said. "We're going to see exactly how mentally tough we are. We're not going to split this team up. We win as a team and lose as a team."





It's hard to believe but you won't see Arkansas-Auburn on television this Saturday - anywhere.


That's because Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles has declined a request by Auburn to show Saturday's game on a pay-per-view basis.


Broyles said he won't allow it because the game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville isn't a sellout. However, Auburn offered just about everything but its first-team defense to make the pay-per-view possible.


Auburn made several offers, including: buying the remaining unsold tickets; paying for all the production costs and letting Arkansas pay-per-view the game in its own state; paying the production costs and showing the game in Alabama but not Arkansas; go through the SEC office to work out some sort of favorable deal for the Razorbacks.


Broyles didn't bite. In fact, he hasn't approved a pay-per-view game since 1995, when the No. 18 Razorbacks lost to No. 10 Tennessee 49-31 at Fayetteville. Could there be some sort of connection?




While Mississippi State's defense continues to show some improvement in coach Sylvester Croom's second season, his offense seems to taking a step backward each week.


This week's open date comes at a good time for an offense trying to play through injuries to Norwood and some of the offensive linemen. The Bulldogs also need to get Conner healthy and back on track after some shaky performances in recent games.


Of course, the schedule hasn't helped. In four conference games over the past five weeks against Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Florida, the Bulldogs have been outscored 123-26.


"Now we'll just have to put the first half of the season behind us," Croom said. "We'll work hard and focus on coming back in the second half of the season and play a lot better."


The schedule becomes more friendly in the second half, with winnable games against Houston, Kentucky, Arkansas and Ole Miss sandwiched around Alabama on Nov. 5.

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