Week 3 SEC Superlatives: Missouri mayhem, LSU’s passing prowess and Georgia’s streak

In June the SEC upped the penalties for schools whose fans stormed the field after big wins. It took three weeks of the 2023 football season for the first league member to earn a $100,000 fine. That team: the Missouri Tigers, after most of the 62,000-plus fans in attendance took over Faurot Field following a 30-27 win over No. 15 Kansas State.

Worth it? Absolutely.

“Our fans storming the field deserve that,” coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “The gold on that field was so awesome, it was so awesome to see. I know our fans have been waiting for a long time, and sold (the stadium) out for us today.”

Amid a lackluster showing by the SEC in nonconference play, the best win belongs to Missouri knocking off the defending Big 12 champions. The biggest victory of Drinkwitz’s tenure was redemption for last season’s 40-12 loss to Kansas State in Manhattan. Saturday’s win should also serve the Tigers well on the recruiting trail. The game’s two biggest stars — aside from kicker Harrison Mevis, who drilled the walk-off 61-yard field goal — were St. Louis natives: quarterback Brady Cook, who dreamed of playing for the Tigers growing up, and receiver Luther Burden III, a consensus five-star recruit who turned down the sport’s biggest programs to stay home. His decision to star for his home-state team on a big stage was validated with a two-touchdown performance.

Missouri is 17-6 at home under Drinkwitz since 2020. Looking ahead, the rest of the schedule offers opportunities for more big moments.

This Saturday, the Tigers take on Memphis off-campus but still in-state at The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis. Then they return home to Columbia for their SEC opener against Vanderbilt. Assuming they care of business to close out September, Week 6 will feature a 5-0 and likely ranked Missouri hosting LSU, with a chance to top the Kansas State win as the biggest of the Drinkwitz era.

Missouri earned the SEC’s Best Win and Best Moment of Week 3. Here’s what else around the league garnered recognition.

Best conference play debut: Florida 

A few weeks ago, the Gators were in turmoil following a 24-11 loss to Utah. Today, they’re ranked No. 25 in the AP Poll, and there’s a much different feeling after a huge 29-16 win over Tennessee. Florida has found an offensive identity thanks to the running game, led by Trevor Etienne. The Gators dominated time of possession by a margin of more than 15 minutes; a 50 percent third down conversion rate helps with that.

Defensively, the Gators held a Tennessee offense that had averaged over 250 yards per game on the ground through two weeks to just 100 yards and three yards per carry. Simply put, it was a performance that coach Billy Napier’s program needed, and it extended a 10-game home winning streak against Tennessee in the process.

Florida took advantage of a rough penalty night for the Volunteers, who racked up 10 in total. Napier credited the home crowd after the game for their contributions to several Tennessee procedural penalties.

Best record-breaking performance: Harrison Mevis, Missouri

Mevis’ game-winner was the longest in SEC history, and what better way to rewrite the record books than to clinch a top-15 win and set off a field-storming. Mevis is known for his deep ball accuracy; he’s a career 78.6 percent kicker from 50-plus yards.

A touchdown that defied the odds: Under immediate pressure from the Akron defense, Kentucky quarterback Devin Leary shook off a few tacklers, then slipped the ball just before being brought down to running back Ray Davis, who wove his way 58 yards for a score. The flip into the end zone is the icing on the cake.

Runner-up: Jacob Borcila, Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt lost to UNLV, but this 44-yard field goal by Jacob Borcila is must-see. How did he do that?

Daniels was unstoppable through the air against Mississippi State, finishing 30 of 34 for 361 yards with four total touchdowns. Equally unstoppable was wide receiver Malik Nabers, who hauled in 13 catches for 239 yards and two touchdowns. This dot to the pylon was the best throw of the day.

Worst trend: Mississippi State’s offense

Mississippi State began the season 2-0 in spite of an offense that’s struggling to find its way under first-year coordinator Kevin Barbay. The issues were magnified during Saturday’s 41-14 loss to LSU, in which the Bulldogs only managed 201 total yards and 10 first downs. At one point in the first half, they had run 16 plays for seven yards.

Through three weeks, Mississippi State’s offense ranks last in the SEC in total yards, passing yards, third down offense and number of plays over 10-plus yards. The Bulldogs’ transition away from the Air Raid was a central storyline entering the 2023 season, and the new attack is stumbling out of the gate.

Celebration of the week: Knox Kiffin

Ole Miss pulled away in the second half to a 48-23 win over Georgia Tech, boosted by a four-minute stretch in the fourth quarter during which the team scored 17 points. The scoring spree came with the return of Lane Kiffin’s son Knox and the fire extinguisher.

Stat(s) of the week

1. Auburn senior cornerback Jaylin Simpson has recorded an interception in each of Auburn’s three games. He’s averaging 29 yards per return including a 50-yard pick six in Week 1 against UMass.

2. After an uninspiring 17-3 win over South Florida, Alabama found itself outside the AP poll’s top 10, sliding to No. 13. That broke a 127-week streak of top-10 rankings for the Crimson Tide, dating back to September 2015. It’s the second-longest streak in the AP poll era (since 1936), behind only Miami’s 137-week run from 1985 to 1993.

3. The nation’s longest winning streak belongs to the back-to-back national champs, who made it 20 victories in a row with a 24-14 win over South Carolina. Georgia is the eighth team in SEC history to reach the 20-win milestone.

The SEC’s longest winning streaks

Team Streak Seasons

















Most head-scratching decision: Josh Heupel’s timeout usage

It was a frustrating night in The Swamp for Tennessee. With nine seconds left and the game decided at 29-16, Tennessee coach Josh Heupel called a timeout after a Florida kneeldown on third down, forcing the Gators to run another play on fourth down. Quarterback Graham Mertz wandered backwards to try to kill off the final nine seconds but was pushed just hard enough by Tennessee’s Omari Thomas as he went to kneel. Chaos ensued.

The scuffle resulted in discipline from the league: Florida offensive linemen Damieon George Jr. and Micah Mazzccua and tight end Dante Zanders will be suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game against Charlotte. Tennessee defensive lineman Omarr Norman-Lott will be suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game against UTSA.

Why did Heupel call timeout? He said he wanted another shot at the end zone and to compete the right way. An admirable explanation, but the decision came with consequences. Heupel did apologize.

(Photo of Harrison Mevis: Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)

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