Sunday, September 4, 2011
SEC helmet stickers: Week 1
By Edward Aschoff
It's time to look back at the best in the SEC from the first week of the season:
Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State: Ballard came into the season expecting big things and left the season-opener making quite the first impression. Ballard carried the ball just 10 times against Memphis, but had a career-high 166 rushing yards and three touchdowns in Thursday's 59-14 win. One run went for 66 yards while another went for 46. Ballard showed off speed and power, running through, around and past as many defenders as he could. Thursday was Ballard's 13th career game. He now has five where he’s scored at least three touchdowns.
Chris Rainey, RB, Florida: Florida's best player, regardless of position, showed why he could be the Gators' most valuable player in Saturday's 41-3 win over Florida Atlantic. The shifty speedster had an impact in the running game, passing game and on special teams. He also had a touchdown in each phase as well. He carried the ball 11 times for 79 yards and touchdown, caught a team-high six passes for 67 yards and a score and returned a blocked punt 22 yards for a score to give himself the touchdown trifecta.
Chris Brooks, K, Auburn: Kickers are usually only praised when they put points on the board, but this one made the play of the day in the SEC. With the Tigers trailing Utah State 38-35, barely two minutes remaining and Auburn set to kick off, Brooks delivered a perfect onside kick. First, he faked right before bouncing the ball high and to his left. The ball traveled about 12 yards before Emory Blake came down with it with no Aggies around him. It was a kick that basically won the game for the Tigers, who traveled 56 yards on the ensuing drive to avoid the upset and win 42-38.
Les Miles, LSU coach: Miles has had to deal with more off-the-field distractions than he'd care to talk about leading up to the highly-anticipated game with No. 3 Oregon. But all he did was coach a heck of a game and celebrate as his Tigers dismantled Oregon 40-27 inside Cowboys Stadium. His starting quarterback was suspended for his role in a bar fight, his best playmaking receiver was ruled ineligible by the NCAA, and his best offensive lineman in Josh Dworaczyk was out with an injury. LSU mustered just 273 yards of total offense, but forced four turnovers, scoring on one in the blowout victory. Hats off to The Hat.
Antonio Allen, LB/S, South Carolina: Lining up at the hybrid linebacker/safety spot known as the "Spur," Allen recorded 16 total tackles, forced two fumbles, recovered two fumbles and broke up two passes in South Carolina's comeback 56-37 win over East Carolina. One of his fumble recoveries led to a crucial early touchdown when the Gamecocks scored five plays after Allen fell on a loose ball during a kickoff. His forced fumble on the second play of the second half helped set the Gamecocks get their third touchdown of the night to bring the game within three points at 24-21. Allen jarred the ball loose from ECU's Lance Lewis when he caught a pass and lunged forward.