SEC Football: Game Balls, Top Performers from Week Nine

Oct 29, 2016; SEC Football; Oxford, MS, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Kamryn Pettway (36) runs the ball during the second half of the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Auburn won 40-29. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Hello there. Welcome to our weekly “Game Balls” column here at Southbound and Down. In this column, we will give you our picks for who the top performers on offense, defense, and special teams from SEC Football were this week. Though some overlap may occur, this is not a re-posting of the SEC’s Players of the Week.

In addition to the top performer, we will also give you two “Honorable Mentions” for each category. If you are reading the article and think that someone was snubbed, or even omitted entirely, then please let us know in the comment section.

Below their names, I will attempt to tell  you a bit about the player’s performance this week. That way you can see why I felt they deserved a Game Ball. But again, if you think someone else performed better, let us know.

This week there were several big games happening across the conference, and thus there were many players who performed at a high level for their teams. This did make it tough to decide who should get the “Game Balls” this week. Nevertheless, we here at Southbound and Down have powered through and will give you what you came to see.

Some players on losing teams perhaps deserve to be on this list. However, if a player can’t lead his team to a win, then that is a pretty big knock against them. For a player on a losing team to make our list he must perform virtually flawlessly.

Well, without further ado, let’s just dive on in. We will start with the offensive “Top Performer” and the two offensive “Honorable Mentions.” Click on the handy link below to see who gets the offensive “Game Ball” this week.

Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Offense: Benny Snell Jr., RB, Kentucky

I have praised Stanley Williams in this column before. And I stand by that praise, for the man called Boom is a talented SEC running back. What he isn’t, however, is a physical, battering-ram of a running back. But Kentucky has found one of those running backs.

Benny Snell Jr. is just a freshman, but the coaches already trust him to handle a full workload. Against Missouri on Saturday, Snell carried the ball 38 times for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Snell saw a great many of his snaps come via the Wildcat formation. He would charge into a stacked box and emerge five yards downfield. It truly was a great performance for the young man.

Honorable Mentions:

Kamryn Pettway, RB, Auburn

Oct 29, 2016; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (7) gets away from Samford Bulldogs defensive lineman Ke

Speaking of battering rams, nobody in the SEC embodies that more than Kamryn Pettway. Pettway is big, but he’s also surprisingly quick. Against Ole Miss, Pettway carried the ball 30 times for 236 yards and a touchdown.

Prior to the season, after Jovon Robinson’s dismissal, I wrote an article where I suggested that Gus Malzahn feed the big man. And feed the big man he has. Pettway has rumbled for 933 yards and seven touchdowns on the season, despite splitting time with Kerryon Johnson. He is a special talent.

Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State

Nick Fitzgerald had a phenomenal game against Samford, racking up over 500 yards of total offense. He completed 20 of his 35 pass attempts for 417 yards and five touchdowns. Plus, he rushed for 119 yards and two more touchdowns on 19 carries.

It has not been a good year for Mississippi State. The loss of Dak Prescott, along with other key players, has proven difficult to overcome. However, Fitzgerald looked like a good quarterback on Saturday.

Oct 29, 2016; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Jamarcus King (7) celebrates after making a game-sealing interception against the Tennessee Volunteers in the fourth quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Defense: Jamarcus King, DB, South Carolina

Jamarcus King was a force in the Gamecock defense against Tennessee. His two interceptions were vital in helping South Carolina secure the upset. He also added five tackles and broke up two more passes.

South Carolina’s upset of the Volunteers was by far the biggest story in the SEC Football world last weekend. While Jake Bentley and the offense performed admirably, most of the credit should go to the stout Gamecock defense. They held a potent Tennessee offense to just 21 points and got the win for Will Muschamp. King was the single most important player on that defense on Saturday.

Honorable Mentions:

Sep 3, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive back Tray Matthews (28) reacts after making a tackle during the second quarter against the Clemson Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Tray Matthews, DB, Auburn

The Auburn defense got lit up by Chad Kelly on Saturday. That means that there were lots of wide receivers running loose all over the field. The man who was responsible for tracking them down was safety Tray Matthews.

Matthews led the team in tackles with 11, six of which were solo. Since transferring from Georgia, he has been a standout in the Auburn defensive backfield. He could go pro after this season, but may be better served by returning for his senior year.

Blake McClain, DB, Kentucky

Another individual who was responsible for cleaning up wide receivers running amok was Kentucky’s Blake McClain. McClain made eight tackles against Missouri, all of which were solo. McClain is small, at just 5’11” 200 pounds, but the senior is a sure tackler.

Sep 10, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers kicker Daniel Carlson (38) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams: Daniel Carlson, K, Auburn

Another week, another honor for Daniel Carlson. I feel like he wins a Game Ball every week. The man is absolutely automatic. Against Ole Miss he made all four of his field goal attempts, including a long of 47, and all of his extra points, giving him a total of 16 points on the day.

Carlson is only a junior, but I genuinely feel that he should declare for the NFL Draft a year early. Someone will take him. He’s that good.

Honorable Mentions:

Sep 17, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators punter Johnny Townsend (19) punts the ball against the North Texas Mean Green during the second quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Townsend, P, Florida

Johnny Townsend is a great punter, and he showed it against Georgia. Townsend punted six times and averaged 48 yards per attempt. That’s a great number. Punters are largely undervalued by the fans. However, a great punter can be the difference in a game.

Take this game for example. Georgia’s offense was struggling to move the ball. Therefore, the farther they had to move the ball in order to score, the less likely they were to successfully do so. Townsend made sure that the Dawgs would have to drive a long way against his defense. Georgia could not do so, and the game was won.

Christian Kirk, WR/PR, Texas A&M

Having Christian Kirk returning punts against New Mexico State just isn’t fair. He returned both of his chances for touchdowns. One from 70 yards out, the other from 73. That’s about as good of a day as a punt returner can possibly have.

Oct 29, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Christian Kirk (3) returns a punt for a 70 yard touchdown against the New Mexico State Aggies in the first half at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Thank You!

Thank you so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed the article. If so, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also, share your own top performers in the comments below. Finally, check in again next week to see who gets a “Game Ball” in Week Eight.

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