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College football notebook

No. 2 Alabama pulls away from No. 3 Georgia to win SEC showdown

South Carolina's Jaycee Horn intercepted two passes and deflected another to a teammate that turned into a third in the Gamecocks' first win over Auburn in 87 years.
South Carolina's Jaycee Horn intercepted two passes and deflected another to a teammate that turned into a third in the Gamecocks' first win over Auburn in 87 years.Joe Robbins/Getty

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 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The Crimson Tide (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) 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 last Wednesday. "I was very proud of the way our guys fought in the game. “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 receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, especially with Alabama’s own beleaguered defense grabbing two second-half interceptions and three overall.

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Smith caught 11 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns, including one in the fourth quarter that effectively put it out of reach. Waddle caught a 90-yard touchdown pass and gained 161 yards on six catches.

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

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.

Alabama got a boost about seven hours before the game when the SEC cleared Saban to return, determining a Wednesday COVID test was a false positive. He tested negative Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. A maskless Saban was yelling at a referee after an intentional grounding call in the second quarter.

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Florida State stuns No. 5 UNC

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 No. 5 North Carolina, 31-28.

Travis guided an offensive that generated 434 yards for Florida State (2-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), 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.

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 8 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. What followed was a nail-biting second half as the Tar Heels mounted a comeback attempt.

Breakthrough for South Carolina

Jaycee Horn had the first two interceptions of his career and his pass break-up led to a third — all which South Carolina turned into touchdowns — for a 30-22 victory Saturday that was its first win over visiting Auburn in 87 years.

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Horn is a junior who’s been a lockdown corner most of his career.

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

Horn was assigned to Auburn receiver Seth Williams, one of the best receivers in the Southeastern Conference, averaging 18 yards a catch. Williams finished with four catches for 74 yards, but no scores.

“I heard a lot of people saying I [don’t] have any ball skills, which is crazy to me,” Horn said. “I just knew the day would come when I’d have a lot of opportunities to make plays.”

Kevin Harris ran for two touchdowns for Carolina (2-2), Smith added a 10-yard TD catch, and Horn and the defense did enough to stop Bo Nix and the No. 15 Tigers (2-2).

Notre Dames dodges Louisville’s upset bid

Kyren Williams ran for 127 yards and Ian Book had a 13-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter that gave No. 4 Notre Dame the lead for good as the Fighting Irish held off Louisville, 12-7.

Williams ran 25 times and had his third 100-yard game of the season as the Irish (4-0, 3-0 ACC) won 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 36:15 including a game-ending 14-play drive that burned the final 7:55.

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Book completed 11 of 19 for 106 yards and ran 12 times for 47 yards.

The loss was the fourth straight for the Cardinals (1-4, 0-4), who got 118 yards passing and 49 rushing from Malik Cunningham. Javian Hawkins, the nation’s No. 3 rusher coming into the game, was limited to 51 yards on 15 carries.

Clemson wrecks Georgia Tech

Trevor Lawrence brushed off the first interception he has thrown this season and passed for a career-high 404 yards and five touchdowns as No. 1 Clemson (5-0) overwhelmed Georgia Tech, 73-7, in Atlanta.

Led by Lawrence, Clemson’s 671 yards and 73 points were the most allowed by Georgia Tech in the modern era. It was the most points allowed by Georgia Tech since a 94-0 loss to Auburn in 1894.

The Yellow Jackets (2-3) travel to Boston College next weekend.

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.

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. It ended Lawrence’s streak of 367 passes without an interception, falling short of the ACC record of 379 set by North Carolina State’s Russell Wilson from 2008-09.

Kentucky times it right, beats Vols

Two years ago, Kentucky was playing well before being shut down at Neyland Stadium by a Tennessee team with a losing record. Wildcats coach Mark Stoops was convinced something had to change. What he did in 2020 was build a detour into his team’s three-hour bus ride Friday from Lexington to Knoxville. A small change, but worth a try to snap a 17-game losing streak at Tennessee. Mission accomplished: The Wildcats beat the 18th-ranked Volunteers, 34-7. “Two years ago, we didn’t come out and play well at the start of the game,” Stoops said. "Stopping at the University of the Cumberlands broke up our [travel]) day. " The University of the Cumberlands is a small, private college about an hour north of Knoxville in Williamsburg, Kentucky, and a couple blocks off Interstate 75. It was Kentucky’s first win in Neyland Stadium since 1984, and the Wildcats' largest margin of victory in Knoxville since 56-0 in 1893 … Brady White’s sixth touchdown pass with just over a minute remaining completed a school-record 21-point comeback and host Memphis (2-2, 1-2 American Athletic) beat Central Florida, 50-49, to snap a 13-game losing streak to the Bulls. Dillon Gabriel became the first UCF quarterback to throw for over 500 yards and blew past that mark with 601 yards on 35-of-49 passing with five scores … Isaiah Spiller ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns and Kellen Mond threw for two scores to help No. 11 Texas A&M (3-1) beat host Mississippi State, 28-14, handing the Bulldogs (1-3) their third straight loss … Liberty rushing leader Josh Mack came down with a stomach bug Friday night, so Shedro Louis got the nod and helped sink Syracuse in a big way. The seldom-used running back scored on touchdown runs of 75 and 52 yards, quarterback Malik Willis passed for one score and ran for another, and visiting Liberty beat Syracuse, 38-21, to remain undefeated. It was the program’s first win ever against a Power Five conference team. Louis, a third-string sophomore, rushed for a career-high 170 yards for the Flames (5-0) . . . A week after a 42-17 road loss to top-ranked Clemson, the No. 13-ranked Miami Hurricanes beat visiting Pittsburgh, 31-19. D’Eriq King threw four touchdowns, including two to Will Mallory, to lead the Hurricanes (4-1). The Panthers (3-3) lost their third consecutive game.

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