Well, what can you say about Vanderbilt and South Carolina’s season opening games?
I know. Not much. Both teams have to dig deep to find a silver lining.
Heavy underdogs Temple and Texas A&M piled on Vanderbilt and South Carolina respectively in the first games televised by the ballyhooed SEC Network.
By the way, just wondering how those new 3-4 defenses are working out at both programs?
South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier painfully watched his No. 9 ranked team surrender 680 yards, 511 of them in the air, while getting boat-raced by the Aggies, 52-28.
Spurrier’s analysis after the game was spot on. He said his team got out-coached, out-played, man-handled and even worse.
“We got clobbered,” said the Head Ball Coach, whose documentary, The Believer, aired on the SEC Network Wednesday night.
Against the Aggies, the Believer couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Neither could the overflow crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium.
It was the worst home loss in Spurrier’s career and crushed an 18-game home winning streak.
“I have been reading like you guys have about our new 3-4 defense,” Spurrier said after the shellacking. “Did anybody like that 3-4 defense? But I don’t know if it would have mattered if we’d have played a 6-6 defense. I don’t know if 12 out there would have helped that much.”
Aggies quarterback Kenny Hill more than made up for the loss of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Hill toasted the Gamecocks, completing 44 of 60 passes for 511 yards, the most ever given up by a South Carolina defense. He spread it around to 12 different players and ran 99 plays.
Unlike Manziel, Hill didn’t make a money sign or flip off the South Carolina sideline.
If you didn’t know better, you might think Spurrier was coaching the Aggies. Their offense looked like a throwback to Spurrier’s Fun ‘N Gun days at Florida. Remember the name Kevin Sumlin. Spurrier surely will.
Out on West End, it was Mother Nature who was the big winner. Lightning delayed the scheduled 8:15 p.m. kickoff until eight minutes shy of 10 p.m. The 37-7 defeat ended at 1:14 CDT Friday morning. Mercifully, only a hand-full of insomniacs hung around until the final gun.
And if anyone knows the 3-4 defense inside-out, it is Vanderbilt’s first year head coach Derek Mason. It’s the defense he ran as Stanford’s defensive coordinator.
But unlike South Carolina, Vanderbilt’s big problem was offensive turnovers. Sure they gave up 37 points to a Temple team that won all of two games last season. But in Thursday-Friday’s game, the Commodores had seven turnovers. All but 10 of Temple’s points came off Vandy turnovers.
It marked the first time Temple defeated an SEC team since beating Florida in 1938.
Temple took advantage of Vanderbilt’s hospitality, scoring five of six times inside the red zone.
Mason, who had named Patton Robinette as his starting quarterback, went to the bullpen not once, but twice. Stephen Rivers got in the game as did Johnny McCrary, who threw three passes, two of them to Temple.
“I don’t think Patton got the hook,” Mason said. “Patton Robinette could be the guy next week. He just didn’t get off to a good start.
“We felt we needed to switch. We needed a different type of rhythm. We needed to jump-start our offense a bit.”
It reminded me of the 1990 Vanderbilt team that opened the season at SMU in Dallas. SMU was coming off a two-year NCAA death penalty where they didn’t play a game and fielded a team made up of primarily freshmen and sophomores, many of them walk-ons.
SMU won 44-7, and that game led to Coach Watson Brown’s firing.
I didn’t see this Temple upset coming. Mason inherited a lot of quality players by former coach, James Franklin. And this is one of the four non-conference teams the Commodores count on to get bowl eligible. The loss left them behind the 8-ball.
“I put this on my shoulders,” Mason said. “We did not do a good job of executing. Offensively we couldn’t sustain drives. Defensively there were too many plays. … It was a rough night at the office.”
A rough night for two SEC East teams, for sure.
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.