SEC play continued this weekend, with Florida, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina all bagging wins. Florida beat Georgia to improve to 1-1 and drop the Bulldogs to 0-2. Tennessee opened league play with a 44-15 defeat over an improved Vanderbilt. The Commodores are now 1-1 in league play. South Carolina outdid Kentucky 43-22, moving to 2-0 and knocking the Wildcats to 0-2. And Alabama moved to 2-0 with a resounding 53-7 defeat of Mississippi State.
Tennessee is the defending SEC Champion, and the Vols have endured a fair amount of turnover over the long offseason. So getting the win while blooding several freshman left Tennessee head coach Marty Bradley pleased.
“We played better than I anticipated, to be honest with you. Vanderbilt’s a much improved team,” said Bradley. “Everything just kind of came together there for about a 20-30 minute stretch and we were able to put a few tries on them to get them playing from behind.”
Tennessee starved the Commodores of possession most of the game and proved superior in the scrum, thanks in part to the play of loosehead prop Jake Murphy, who Bradley fingered as a standout. Simon Galluzzo led the Vold with two tries, and the coach was also complimentary of his backrow, especially flanker Drew Randolph.
“Nice to see him step up and get across the field,” Bradley said of Randolph. “Vandy really wants to move the ball around. They’ve got some hard-running centers and they’ve got wings with some ability, so they really wanted to move the ball, so our flankers were tasked with really getting across the field today, and they did.”
In Athens, Ga. The Gators needed everything to stave off an improved Georgia side. Three of Florida’s four first-half tries were sandwiched by Georgia tries, and the Bulldogs opened the second half with a try to make it 20-19. Florida put up two more tries before Georgia scored again, one of which capped off prop Rich McDonald’s hat-trick.
“He made some good plays on his own, was in the right place, he supported, set some nice things up,” Florida coach Ken Simmons said of his prop’s three-try performance. “He’s a good open field player…Looking at him you wouldn’t think it, but he’s turned into one heck of a player for us, and he’s our team captain at this time. The players respect him.”
This weekend is a big one in the SEC, as Florida and Tennessee tussle in a match will go a long way in deciding which two teams get to the conference semifinals from the East Division and undefeated Alabama hosts unbeaten South Carolina.