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Three & Out appears every Sunday and Wednesday in 2010 to give you three SEC thoughts, news and notes. In today's edition, we take a look at Stephen Garcia's big day, the thriller in The Swamp and Auburn's resilience.
WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?
Two weeks ago, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier pulled quarterback Stephen Garcia in the fourth quarter in a road loss to Auburn. The move was curious to say the least, as backup Connor Shaw threw two interceptions and the Gamecocks fell to the Tigers.
My how things can change.
Garcia was spectacular Saturday afternoon, leading his team to a 35-21 upset of the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide in what was arguably the biggest game in Columbia in decades. The junior was 17-of-20 for 201 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on the afternoon.
An inexplicable brain fart early in the third quarter where he threw the ball out of the back of the endzone after a bad snap for a safety nearly negated Garcia's perfect first half performance, but he recovered like a veteran should and didn't crumble under Alabama's pressure.
Spurrier was very critical of Garcia following the loss to Auburn, but wasted no time announcing that he was still the starter, giving him plenty of time to coach him up with two weeks to prepare for the Tide. Spurrier and quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus deserve a ton of credit for that win over Alabama. Their quarterback stood tall, and wasn't intimidated when everyone on the planet thought he would (and should) be.
I don't know who or what LSU head coach Les Miles made a deal with to have the best luck of anyone on the planet, but I want to sign that contract too.
The Mad Hatter was at it again Saturday night, calling the behind-the-back fake field goal that Auburn backup quarterback Jacob Allen made famous against LSU 11 years ago. In true Les Miles fashion, he threw in a wrinkle, turning near disaster to gold yet again. The bad toss bounced and hit place kicker Josh Jasper perfectly in stride, earning a first down and setting the Tigers up for the game-winning touchdown.
Only Les Miles could take a disjointed quarterback situation on the road to the Swamp, call one of the most risky fake field goals in history, have a football bounce perfectly to his kicker as if it were planned, and go on to get the win.
I don't want to sell LSU short. They outplayed Florida the entire night and deserved to win that game. The Tigers had not been able to make anything happen through the air all season, but Jarrett Lee was fantastic, going 9-of-11 for 124 yards and two touchdowns. With that said, Les Miles seriously has the best luck of anyone on the planet.
In college football, winning is winning, on matter how you get there. Miles certainly has shown an affinity for taking circuitous routes to getting wins, but the Tigers are 6-0 and tied with Auburn for the lead in the SEC West. Whatever works.
STICK WITH WHAT GOT YA THERE
Raise your hand if you thought that Auburn would be bowl eligible before Alabama. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller???
The big knock on Auburn this year is that they seemingly take entire halves off. Typically, it's been the first half, and the Tigers have found ways to come back. Saturday night, they flipped the script and took most of the second half off, and it nearly cost them the game.
But when it mattered most, head coach Gene Chizik and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn gave the ball to their playmaker. Just like it did in the previous five games, it paid off.
Tied at 34 and after a botched reverse on a kickoff return, Cam Newton took over the game, leading the Tigers on a critical 19-play, 87-yard drive that bled the final 7:31 off the clock. Wes Byrum kicked the game-winning 24-yard field goal as time expired, giving Auburn a 37-34 win over Kentucky. It was the second-longest drive in school history.
Now firmly implanted in the Heisman Trophy discussion, Newton kept his team in the national championship hunt as well, finishing the evening with 210 passing yards and a career-high 198 rushing yards. He accounted for 74 of the 87 yards on the game-winning drive. So far in 2010, he's been the most valuable player in the SEC, and there isn't a close second. Everyone in Commonwealth Stadium knew what Auburn was going to do on the final drive, and it literally didn't matter. There was just no answer for Newton.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee
Don't forget to check out "Y'all Play Nice" from CFN's Russ Mitchell and Brian Harbach every Thursday during the season.
2010 Three & Out Archive
Three & Out – October 10, 2010
Three & Out – October 6, 2010
Three & Out – October 3, 2010
Three & Out – September 29, 2010
Three & Out – September 26, 2010
Three & Out – September 22, 2010
Three & Out – September 19, 2010
Three & Out – September 15, 2010
Three & Out – September 12, 2010
Three & Out – September 8, 2010
Three & Out – September 5, 2010
Three & Out – September 1, 2010
Three & Out – August 25, 2010
Three & Out – August 18, 2010
Three & Out – August 11, 2010
Three & Out – August 4, 2010
Three & Out – July 28, 2010
Three & Out – July 21, 2010
Three & Out – July 14, 2010
Three & Out – July 7, 2010
Three & Out – June 30, 2010
Three & Out – April 21, 2010
Three & Out – April 14, 2010
Three & Out – April 11, 2010
Three & Out – April 8, 2010
Three & Out – April 5, 2010
Three & Out – March 31, 2010
Three & Out – March 28, 2010
Three & Out – March 24, 2010
Three & Out – March 21, 2010
Three & Out – March 18, 2010
Three & Out – March 15, 2010
Three & Out – March 11, 2010
Three & Out – March 5, 2010
Three & Out – March 2, 2010
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