Originally Published: September 11, 2011

What sophomore slump?

By Mark Schlabach

A year ago, then-freshman running backs Michael Dyer and Marcus Lattimore were important pieces in their teams' surprising runs to the SEC championship game.

Dyer, from Little Rock, Ark., ran for 1,093 yards in 2010, helping Auburn finish 14-0 and win a BCS national championship. Lattimore, from Duncan, S.C., ran for 1,197 yards with 17 touchdowns last season, helping South Carolina win its first SEC East title.

On Saturday, Dyer and Lattimore picked up where they left off, helping their teams win key SEC openers with dominating performances.

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John Reed/US PresswireMichael Dyer carried the ball 18 times for 150 yards and two TDs in Auburn's SEC-opening upset over Mississippi State.

Dyer ran 18 times for 150 yards with two touchdowns in Auburn's 41-34 upset of No. 16 Mississippi State at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday. A week after the defending BCS national champions looked so sloppy in a 42-38 victory over Utah State, the Tigers gained 381 yards of offense and scored 31 points in the first half against the Bulldogs.

Dyer gave Auburn a 7-0 lead with a 35-yard touchdown run in the first half, then his 2-yard run late in the first half put the Tigers ahead 28-21.

"[Offensive coordinator Gus] Malzahn creates opportunities for everyone in this offense, not just one player," Dyer said. "We can do anything on offense, and he allows us to do it. We just try to make the most of every situation."

With quarterback Stephen Garcia struggling in his first start of the season, the Gamecocks had to rely on Lattimore even more on Saturday. Lattimore ran 22 times for 176 yards with one touchdown in No. 12 South Carolina's 45-42 victory at Georgia. His 3-yard touchdown with 3:30 left put the Gamecocks ahead for good and helped send the Bulldogs to their first 0-2 start since 1996.

"We weren't going to forget about him," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "He gives us our best chance to win. At the beginning, there wasn't much room to run there because Georgia's line was able to stuff us. It opened up some in the second half, and he was able to move the ball. He's a great back, and we had to keep going to him. He gives us hope to make any kind of run."

Dyer and Lattimore weren't the only SEC sophomores who played big on Saturday. Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray threw for a career-high 405 yards with four touchdowns on 34-for-41 passing while running for one other score in the Volunteers' 45-23 victory over Cincinnati at Neyland Stadium. Bray's favorite targets were two more sophomores -- Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers. Hunter, from Virginia Beach, Va., caught 10 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown. Rogers, from Calhoun, Ga., caught 10 passes for 100 yards with two touchdowns.

"I've never had three of them like this, this young," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. "I hope they keep doing what they are doing. The tests are going to get harder, but it is good to see where they are. That's two pretty good games by a quarterback and two really good games by those two wideouts. They made a lot of plays."

Texas' unexpected spark

By David Ubben

AUSTIN, Texas -- Before he took the field, Jaxon Shipley had a decision to make.

Gloves or no gloves?

Facing a third down near midfield with just less than three minutes to play, offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin dug inside the most famous bag of tricks in college football.

This wasn't Boise, where Harsin used to be the offensive coordinator -- Texas still has a ways to climb before it's back on the big stage -- but it looked like it.

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Erich Schlegel/Getty ImagesFreshman wide receiver Jaxon Shipley provided Texas with the spark it needed to get by BYU.

A running back handed the ball to a streaking Shipley, who tossed it downfield to dual-threat, zone-read specialist quarterback David Ash.

BYU didn't touch the ball again. Texas won 17-16 after trailing 13-0 at the half.

"That was something we tried to set up," Harsin said. "Their third-down defense was pretty good, and we needed to get some kind of spark there. It was an opportunity -- we felt it would work in that situation."

That word -- spark -- seemed to come up a lot after Saturday's win. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert struggled early. Texas' offense needed a spark. It won't be the last time that word comes up, but most often, it'll be aimed at the revolving door behind center that replaced Gilbert, filled by Ash and Case McCoy.

But on Saturday night, with Texas trailing 16-10, it was Shipley, the true freshman receiver, who provided it to spark a go-ahead touchdown drive with two plays before the Boise-influenced razzle dazzle took over Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

His first catch of the night? He made it in traffic for 14 yards -- and hurdled two defenders as he caught it. Not after he caught it.

To read the rest of David Ubben's story, click here.

Auburn's winning ways continue

By Edward Aschoff

AUBURN, Ala. -- All week, Auburn's football players heard how their winning streak would end. They heard that they weren't physical enough or tough enough to stop Mississippi State and its red-hot offense.

Yet when the game was over -- for a second time -- Saturday, the Tigers were pounding their chests as Jordan Hare Stadium erupted at the sight of the 41-34 win. Those same Bulldogs who were meaner and tougher were left battered and beaten on the Plains.

"We beat a good football team today. It's that simple," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "It's really good to see a group of young guys figure out different ways to win.

"There are a lot of young guys right now that are learning what it takes to continue to fight every down and have a chance to win in this league. That was a fight out there today. That was a brawl out there today. It was hot; it was physical; both sides were tired. It really became like one of those old heavyweight fights, and it's the last man standing."

This team is young and inexperienced, but it's also resilient and knows how to play for four quarters. More importantly, it finds ways to win.

To read the rest of Edward Aschoff's blog, click here.

No moral victories for Utah

By Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- Losing is misery. Losing a close game is doubly so. Utah center Tevita Stevens and his teammates trudged off the Coliseum field and into the long, cavernous tunnel that leads to the locker room thinking about all the what-ifs, all the moments that make a game what it is instead of what it might have been.

Misery, yes, but Stevens couldn't help but look up and notice something a bit surprising, particularly in jaded L.A. USC fans weren't jeering them. They weren't even ignoring them.

"It kind of impressed me that when we were walking out all of the USC fans were standing up applauding us," he said.

There are no moral victories. Utah didn't come to the Coliseum, didn't join the Pac-12 expecting to be satisfied with being competitive, with not being an easy out.

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Kirby Lee/US PresswireUtah came close against USC, but that wasn't good enough for QB Jordan Wynn and the Utes.

The Utes expect to win.

"There's no happiness in a loss," Utes quarterback Jordan Wynn said to reporters who were plumbing for some consoling parting gifts in a 23-14 nail-biter that wasn't decided in USC's favor until the final ticks clicked off the game clock.

Said coach Kyle Whittingham after praising his team's fight, "In no way am I trying to paint the picture of a moral victory. There is no such thing in my mind."

USC mostly had control of the line of scrimmage: It rushed for 152 yards, and the Utes managed just 81. It outgained Utah 416 yards to 319. But the Trojans also were sloppier: three turnovers to one for Utah, including two deep in Utes territory. And that helped the Utes hang around and be in position to win -- or at least force overtime -- in the end.

Utah took over at its 33-yard line with 1:01 left and no timeouts, trailing 17-14. Wynn found Dres Anderson for 18 yards to get things going. Then, on fourth-and-10 from the USC 49-yard line, Wynn connected with DeVonte Christopher for just enough for a first down -- it was so close, the play required a review and a changed spot that added critical inches to the Utes' cause.

Anderson drew a pass interference penalty on Tony Burnett, and that left Utah on the 24 with 11 seconds remaining.

"I thought we were going to get overtime," Wynn said.

But Coleman Petersen's 41-yard field goal attempt was low and was easily blocked by Matt Kalil. Game over. (Hours after the game, the Pac-12 office ruled that Torin Harris' return of the block counted as a touchdown, so the extra points were added after the fact.)

"Honestly, I thought we had it," Stevens said. "It was heartbreaking."

To read the rest of Ted Miller's story, click here.

Helping hand (and foot) for Michigan

By Michael Rothstein

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Roy Roundtree leaped up in the back corner of the end zone, the pass from his quarterback, Denard Robinson, on its way and Notre Dame cornerback Gary Gray right there with him.

Robinson threw it high. He needed to give Roundtree a chance. He did -- and in the process capped off what had been a wild and wacky evening for both the quarterback and the guys he relies on to make him look good when he throws the ball.

Fitting, too, that on a night when Michigan honored its most well-known receiver, Desmond Howard, it came down to a wide receiver making a game-winning play to beat Notre Dame.

In 1991, Howard had "The Catch," when Elvis Grbac pump-faked and hit a diving Howard in the end zone to beat Notre Dame. Twenty years later, Robinson found Roundtree with two seconds left for a 35-31 win.

Roundtree fought with Gray and got one foot down in the end zone before falling out of bounds. The officials reviewed the play, but there was no question to Roundtree. He was in. He made sure he got his foot down.

To read the rest of Michael Rothstein's story, click here.


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