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College football: No. 2 Alabama beats No. 3 Georgia; South Carolina tops No. 15 Auburn

Alabama's Najee Harris breaks away from the Georgia defense on Oct. 17, 2020 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Alabama’s Najee Harris, who had 31 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown, breaks away from the Georgia defense Saturday night in the Crimson Tide’s 41-24 win.
(UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Mac Jones passed for 417 yards and four touchdowns, and No. 2 Alabama’s aerial assault picked apart No. 3 Georgia’s heralded defense in the second half of a 41-24 victory Saturday night.

The Crimson Tide (4-0, 4-0), with coach Nick Saban stalking the sideline after a COVID-19 scare, rallied with three touchdowns in a 10-minute span starting late in the third quarter of a battle of the Southeastern Conference’s last remaining unbeatens.

The nation’s top scoring offense ultimately got the decisive upper hand in a battle with the Bulldogs (3-1, 3-1) and one of the nation’s best defenses.

“This was an obvious great win against a very, very good football team,” said Saban, who was cleared early in the day after a false COVID positive. “I was very proud of the way our guys fought in the game.

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“I sort of knew it was going to be a 15-round fight and we wouldn’t be winning until the late rounds.”

Georgia had no answer for Jones and star wide receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, especially with Alabama’s own beleaguered defense grabbing two second-half interceptions and three overall.

Alabama’s Nick Saban, who was cleared to coach Saturday, has been almost as good of a leader when it comes to preaching safety measures regarding the novel coronavirus.

Smith caught 11 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns, including one in the fourth quarter that effectively put it out of reach.

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Waddle caught a 90-yard touchdown pass and gained 161 yards on six catches.

“The goal was just to win the game,” Jones said. “You can look at their defense. They have good players in the secondary, they have good linebackers, they have good defensive linemen, but so do we.”

There was some old-school ground and pound too. Najee Harris gained 152 yards in 31 carries with a touchdown. He did it against the nation’s top run defense, which came in allowing 38 rushing yards and 12.3 points per game.

Georgia’s Stetson Bennett completed 18 of 40 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns, including an 82-yarder to James Cook. But he threw three interceptions.

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Alabama got a boost about seven hours before the game when the SEC cleared Saban to return to business of usual, determining a Wednesday COVID test was a false positive. He tested negative Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The Tide has won the last six meetings with Georgia, including a 3-0 record against Saban’s former defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart. The first two came in the January 2018 national championship game and the SEC championship game the following season.

South Carolina 30, No. 15 Auburn 22

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Kevin Harris ran for two touchdowns, and South Carolina turned three interceptions thrown by Bo Nix into points to defeat Auburn for the first time in 87 years.

The Tigers (2-2, 2-2 SEC) had won eight straight in the series and jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes. But Nix, a sophomore quarterback, threw three picks and the Gamecocks (2-2, 2-2) cashed in each time to win consecutive games for the first time in more than a year.

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Shi Smith had eight catches, including a 10-yard touchdown grab midway through the third quarter that put South Carolina ahead for good at 20-19.

Auburn was driving on its next series when Nix threw his third interception — the second to cornerback Jaycee Horn, who brought the ball down the left sideline to the Tigers’ eight-yard line. Harris was in the end zone a play later for a 27-19 lead, and Auburn could not recover.

Horn is a junior who has been a lockdown corner most of his career, but the interceptions were his first at South Carolina.

“If a team throws at him like that every game, he’ll have a game like that every game,” Gamecocks wide receiver Shi Smith said of Horn, the son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn.

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The Tigers closed to 30-22 on Anders Carlson’s 22-yard field goal with 6:39 left. Auburn got the ball back once more with 2:15 left and drove to the South Carolina 13. Nix, though, was called for intentional grounding trying to avoid a sack, and the Gamecocks held on to beat the Tigers for the first time since 1933.

No. 1 Clemson 73, Georgia Tech 7

ATLANTA — Trevor Lawrence brushed off the first interception he has thrown this season and passed for a career-high 404 yards and five touchdowns as Clemson overwhelmed Georgia Tech.

Lawrence completed 24 of 33 passes. All of his scoring passes came in the Tigers’ dominant first half. Clemson led 52-7 at halftime and kept adding to the lead in the second half, even with second- and third-stringers on the field.

Lawrence left the game after Clemson’s first possession of the second half.

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Clemson (5-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) outgained Georgia Tech 671-204. The Tigers compiled an equally lopsided 29-7 advantage in first downs.

The second-longest streak of passes without an interception in ACC history ended late in the first quarter when Zamari Walton picked off a pass by Lawrence.

Georgia Tech (2-3, 2-2) provided its fans an early thrill when freshman quarterback Jeff Sims threw a 59-yard scoring pass to Jalen Camp in the first quarter for a 7-7 tie. The Yellow Jackets’ upset hopes faded quickly.

No. 4 Notre Dame 12, Louisville 7

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Kyren Williams ran for 127 yards, Ian Book had a 13-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, and Notre Dame held off Louisville.

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Williams ran 25 times and had his third 100-yard game of the season to help the Irish (4-0, 3-0 ACC) win their 22nd straight at Notre Dame Stadium.

It came against an inspired 3-4 Louisville defense that spent most of the afternoon on the field. Notre Dame controlled the clock for more than 36 minutes, including a game-ending 14-play drive that burned the final 7:55.

Book completed 11 of 19 for 107 yards and ran 12 times for 47 yards.

The Cardinals (1-4, 0-4) have lost four in a row.

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Fans aren’t being allowed to attend USC and UCLA football games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but families of players want to be able to be inside the stadium.

Florida State 31, No. 5 North Carolina 28

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Jordan Travis ran for two touchdowns and threw a scoring pass to help Florida State build a big first-half lead, and the Seminoles held off North Carolina.

Travis guided an offensive that generated 434 yards for Florida State (2-3, 1-3 ACC) but was shut out in the second half.

North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell led three second-half touchdown drives to pull to 31-28, but the Tar Heels (3-1, 3-1) had drops on third and fourth down in the final seconds to end the comeback bid.

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The Seminoles gave coach Mike Norvell a signature victory in his first season in Tallahassee following a shaky start that included a blowout loss at Miami.

Travis, a redshirt sophomore, completed eight of 19 passes for 191 yards and ran 16 times for 107 yards as the Seminoles jumped out to a 31-7 halftime lead, the most dominating performance for the program in recent memory.

No. 11 Texas A&M 28, Mississippi State 14

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Isaiah Spiller ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns and Kellen Mond threw for two scores to help Texas A&M beat Mississippi State.

Texas A&M (3-1, 3-1 SEC) led 14-0 at the half and had 325 yards of total offense in the game. Ainias Smith caught five passes for 20 yards and a touchdown. Chase Lane had a 51-yard touchdown reception in the opening minutes of the third quarter.

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Mississippi State (1-3, 1-3) had little offensive rhythm for the third straight game. The Bulldogs’ first touchdown came on Emmanuel Forbes’ interception return in the third quarter.

Florida football coach Dan Mullen announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19, joining at least 21 Gators players and coaches with that result.

Bulldogs coach Mike Leach benched starting quarterback KJ Costello midway through the second half for freshman Will Rogers, same as he did last week in a 24-2 loss at Kentucky. Rogers connected with Malik Heath for a 15-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

Texas A&M’s defense continually disrupted the line of scrimmage, finishing with six sacks and eight tackles for loss. Mississippi State had minus-two yards rushing and 217 yards of total offense.

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No. 13 Miami 31, Pittsburgh 19

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — D’Eriq King threw four touchdown passes for Miami in its win over Pittsburgh.

Will Mallory caught two of King’s scoring passes as the Hurricanes (4-1, 3-1 ACC) bounced back from a 42-17 loss at top-ranked Clemson last week.

The Panthers (3-3, 2-3) lost their third straight and were without senior quarterback Kenny Pickett, who suffered an ankle injury against Boston College last week. Pickett leads the nation with 1,389 passing yards but didn’t travel with the team to South Florida.

Redshirt freshman Joey Yellen replaced Pickett, completing 22 of 46 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown.

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Alex Kessman kicked four field goals for the Panthers and became Pitt’s all-time leader with 57. Kessman surpassed Chris Blewitt, who had 55 field goals from 2013 to 2016.

Kentucky 34, No. 18 Tennessee 7

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Kelvin Joseph and Jami Davis returned interceptions for touchdowns in the first half, and Kentucky shut out Tennessee in the second half.

It was Kentucky’s first win in Neyland Stadium since 1984, the Wildcats’ largest margin of victory in Knoxville since 56-0 in 1893, and their most lopsided victory in the series since 1935.

After getting six interceptions and allowing only a safety against Mississippi State last week, Kentucky (2-2, 2-2 SEC) picked off three passes against the Volunteers (2-2, 2-2).

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Brandon Crossley ended the first overtime possession with an interception and Chris Naggar made a field goal to give No. 17 SMU a 37-34 win over Tulane.

Tennessee has now followed up an eight-game winning streak with a two-game losing streak.

Joseph’s 41-yard touchdown and Davis’ 85-yard return — both off interceptions thrown by Jarrett Guarantano — helped put Kentucky up 17-0 in the second quarter.

No. 23 Virginia Tech 40, Boston College 14

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Hendon Hooker ran for a career-high 164 yards and three touchdowns and threw for a score in Virginia Tech’s victory over Boston College.

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Khalil Herbert added 143 yards rushing for the Hokies (3-1, 3-1 ACC). They ran for 350 yards in bouncing back from a road loss to North Carolina.

Virginia Tech scored off four of BC’s five turnovers to pull away. The Eagles (3-2, 2-2) turned it over three times in the first half alone, with the most damaging coming when quarterback Phil Jurkovec overthrew an open Jaelen Gill deep in Virginia Tech territory. Devin Taylor intercepted the pass for the Hokies, and Hooker’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Herbert made it 17-7.

Boston College cut it to 17-14 on a touchdown pass from Jurkovec to Hunter Long with 7:11 left in the third quarter, but the Hokies scored the final 24 points — 17 of those off BC turnovers.


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