Sidelines with John Clay

The robbery story, Damien Harris decision and more Big Blue Links

Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick sacks Kent State quarterback Mylik Mitchell in the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick sacks Kent State quarterback Mylik Mitchell in the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Associated Press

Big Blue Links for Tuesday:

Nick Saban’s side of the robbery story. Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader reports, “You know the joke that always starts with ‘three guys walk into a bar?’ Well, Alabama Coach Nick Saban has quite the variation on that story and it famously involves one of the uncles of Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops. The uncle, named Bob Stoops like Mark’s older brother at Oklahoma, was sitting at a bar in Youngstown called The Talk of the Town with then-Michigan State defensive coordinator Saban talking football.”

Jalen Hurts brings an extra dimension. My report from Mark Stoops press conference on Monday, “The Texas native has completed 64 of 102 passes (62.7) percent for 727 yards and five touchdowns and one interception. He’s also second on the team in rushing behind Damien Harris with 251 yards on 45 carries, an average of 5.6 yards per carry. In the 48-43 win at Ole Miss, Hurts rushed for 146 yards on 18 carries.”

No one in Kentucky should have ill feelings toward Damien Harris. Mark Story of the Herald-Leader writes, “At 7:44 p.m. Sunday, Alabama running back Damien Harris took to Twitter to express his feelings. With the Crimson Tide set to face Harris’ home-state school, the University of Kentucky, Saturday night, @DHx34 tweeted ‘this week is personal …’ Within minutes, the tweet was deleted.”

Harris believes he made the right decision. Rainier Sabin of reports, “The glare of the spotlight on Damien Harris was once white-hot, the pressure unrelenting. Recruiting analysts tracked his every move. Journalists chronicled his exploits on the football field. And people all over Kentucky pinned their hopes on the local teen, wishing the star running back would attend the state’s flagship university.”

Mark Stoops shakes off dissent on his call-in show, reports Jon Hale of the Courier-Journal. “The second caller of the show, ‘Bob in Florence,’ called UK the ‘Chicago Cubs of college football’ then took issue with Stoops’ decision to hire offensive coordinator Eddie Gran from Cincinnati. ‘I don’t know what you all saw in him but I’m disappointed in what I’ve seen,’ Bob said.”

Benny Snell is here to stay. Chris Angolia of the Kentucky Kernel writes, “Saturday against South Carolina, many came into the game wondering if they would see the explosive Snell get carries with Jojo Kemp returning from injury. Not only did Kemp return from injury, but he has a track record of playing well against the Gamecocks, so when the senior carried the ball three times in the first half, it seemed as if we would see more of Kemp in the second half.”

There was talk of Lamar Jackson on NBC’s Tonight Show. Eric Crawford of WDRB reports, “Four games and 25 touchdowns later, Jackson is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. He has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And on Monday night, the actor Samuel L. Jackson was talking about him with Jimmy Fallon on ‘The Tonight Show.’ As Fallon showed an Instagram screenshot with Trevon Samuel sitting next to L. Jackson on the Louisville bench. Fallon pointed to Lamar Jackson and said, ‘He’s a great quarterback.’”

Alabama has played 13 true freshmen to this point. Michael Casagrande of has the rundown.

Playing Alabama a tall task. Derek Terry of Cats Illustrated reports, “Alabama is 4-0 on the season and has only had one competitive game. The Crimson Tide thrashed USC 52-6 to start the season and then easily handled a solid Western Kentucky team. Alabama rallied from a 24-3 deficit early against Ole Miss in week three and held on to win a 48-43 shootout. Last week Alabama shut out Nick Saban’s alma mater Kent State 48-0.”

Storylines for Saturday. Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause reports, “7. Kash Deposit . True freshman middle linebacker Kash Daniel saw more action on defense against South Carolina, playing in relief of starter Courtney Love. Though he didn’t record a tackle, Stoops said getting Daniel on the field is something the coaching staff hopes to do more of going forward. “

Man who set fire to Toomer’s Corner oak tree faces additional felony charge. Mike Niziolek of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports, “The Auburn Police Department filed new charges Monday afternoon against Jochen Wiest, the suspect arrested on suspicion of lighting one of the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner on fire. Wiest allegedly lit the rolled tree on fire in the early hours Sunday following Auburn’s 18-13 win over LSU. “

Auburn student hailed a hero in incident. Rebecca Burylo of the Montgomery Advertiser reports, “Two days ago one of the oaks at Toomer’s Corner was set ablaze and Herron Taylor became a hero. The junior in biomedical sciences at Auburn University was taking a picture in front of the College Street oak that had been covered in toilet paper following an Auburn football victory. That’s when the friend taking their picture noticed something else in the frame.”

When Josh Dobbs is at his best, anything possible at Tennessee. Mike Strange of the Knoxville News-Sentinel writes, “Joshua Dobbs delivered the coup de grace Saturday, plowing over Florida safety Marcus Maye, among others, on a 5-yard touchdown run. The play that iced the 38-28 win — which snapped an 11-year losing streak to the Gators — was the 24th rushing touchdown of Dobbs’ Tennessee career. So we’ve seen that before. Florida has seen that before.”

Georgia giving up too many big plays. Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph reports, “Georgia has given up 18 plays of 20 yards or more through its first four games of the season. Eight of those big plays came against Ole Miss, which included a 23-yard pass from Chad Kelly to Evan Engram on the Rebels’ first play from scrimmage and a 41-yard rushing touchdown by Kelly in the third quarter. “

Time not on LSU’s side, reports David Ching of ESPN. “It remains to be seen whether that will look much different than what the Tigers ran under Cameron. It probably won’t. But a massive overhaul is probably not advisable in the middle of a season, anyway.”

SEC football games on television Oct. 1

12:00 - Alcorn at Arkansas (SEC Network alternate)

12:00 - Florida at Vanderbilt (SEC)

3:30 - Tennessee at Georgia (CBS)

3:30 - UL-Monroe at Auburn (SEC Network alternate)

4:00 - Texas A&M at South Carolina (SEC)

7:00 - Kentucky at Alabama (ESPN)

7:00 - Memphis at Ole Miss (ESPN2)

7:30 - Missouri at LSU (SEC)

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