Business as usual on first Saturday

SEC TEAMS DO THEIR JOB, BUT LOUISVILLE WINS UGLY

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistSeptember 7, 2009 

John Clay

To be a big boy, you have to take care of business.

And Saturday in Cincinnati, Rich Brooks' team did just that, manhandling overmatched Miami of Ohio 42-0.

Only on opening weekend, most all the SEC big boys took care of business.

Oh, Georgia lost. But the Bulldogs were up against it in Stillwater. No Matthew Stafford. No Knowshon Moreno. And Oklahoma State is a top-10 team.

New Georgia quarterback Joe Cox entered like a lion, directing an 80-yard touchdown march on the game's initial possession. But Cox finished a lamb, suffering an interception and a lost fumble in the final frame as Boone Pickens State prevailed 24-10.

And Gene Chizik's takeoff at Auburn encountered turbulence. The game was tied at 10 late in the second quarter when a short Louisiana Tech kickoff helped Auburn kick a 49-yard field goal just for a shot of adrenaline.

Still, the host Tigers' lead was but 23-13 before a pair of fourth-quarter scores took the final margin to 37-13.

Meanwhile, the other SEC members did what SEC members are supposed to do: maul lesser prey.

Lane Kiffin's Tennessee debut saw dad Monte's defense force Western Kentucky into minus-17 yards on the first 17 Hilltopper plays. WKU gained all of 9 total yards by halftime. It scored seven points for the game. Tennessee scored 63.

Mississippi State welcomed a sellout crowd for Dan Mullen's debut and responded with a 45-7 thumping of Jackson State.

Florida is looking for the next Percy Harvin. Sophomore speed demon Jeff Demps did a reasonable impression in UF's expected 62-3 slaughter of Charleston Southern. Demps carried five times, but for 89 yards.

Not one, but two freshman running backs at Vanderbilt topped 100 yards in the Commodores' 45-0 blanking of Western Carolina. Zac Stacy gained 133 yards. Warren Norman gained 105.

Arkansas beat Missouri State 48-10 as transfer Ryan Mallett completed 17 of 22 passes for 309 yards. That's an average of 14 yards per pass by the way. His backup, Tyler Wilson, completed 13 of 19 for 138 yards and two scores.

In a tougher test, LSU traveled 2,600 yards, overcame an electric atmosphere accompanying the debut of Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian, and won anyway 31-23, despite the Huskies gaining 478 total yards.

And as South Carolina did by beating North Carolina State 7-3 Thursday, Alabama held the SEC banner high over the ACC on Saturday, beating Virginia Tech. 34-24.

Kentucky held serve itself, and if Saturday's performance was not a clean ace down the middle, it was a clear winner.

Much of the post-game praise went to the offense, but after allowing 98 yards in the first quarter, the UK defense allowed 90 yards the remainder of the afternoon.

True, the defensive line didn't produce a tremendous amount of pass rush. Miami threw the football on 61 percent of its plays, yet the Cats came up with two sacks, one by safety Winston Guy.

But considering that Louisville is the next opponent, it's logical to think that Steve Brown's schemes included a healthy helping of vanilla. No reason to give anything away.

And what about Louisville? The Cards toiled to beat an abysmal Indiana State 30-10 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Saturday. Bobby Petrino's old U of L teams would have stacked 70 points on the sorry Sycamores. This isn't that Louisville.

"I'm disappointed with the way we played, and I think our players are, too," said U of L coach Steve Kragthorpe afterward.

The SEC would say, that's not taking care of business.

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