Auburn is getting used to these wild endings. What’s next?
This may have been the craziest ending to an Iron Bowl ever. Alabama’s last-second 57-yard field goal attempt fell short and was returned by Auburn’s Chris Davis from the back of the end zone down the left side of the field and Alabama’s lack of athleticism on the field goal team was unable to catch him. Davis might as well keep running all the way to Atlanta, because the Auburn Tigers are going to play for the SEC Championship after claiming the SEC West Division title with the win over Alabama.
Auburn needed a touchdown to make overtime a possibility, and they got it by fooling Alabama’s secondary in to closing in on a mobile Nick Marshall. Marshall switched hands and tossed to a wide open Sammie Coates, who sprinted down the field for a 39-yard score to tie the game at 28-28. Alabama still had time to work with though with two timeouts and they started to move down field. The game appeared to end in regulation when Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon ran out-of-bounds on a 23-yard run. The clock appeared to expire but officials took another look and decided to add one more second on to the clock, ruling Yeldon stepped out-of-bounds with that much time on the clock. The extra second turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Auburn fans, who were initially not happy with the call.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban then made what turned out to be a poor decision, opting to try a 57-yard field goal with Adam Griffith. The Tide had been 0-3 on field goal attempts by Cade Foster earlier in the game. The decision not to take one more chance with McCarron on the field may have cost Alabama the win, an SEC title and perhaps a shot at a BCS title. Going for a 57-yard field goal given Alabama’s kicking production this season was certainly questionable, without hindsight. Considering the way a game was won at Auburn two weeks ago, Saban should have taken a chance letting McCarron toss one deep.
The longest play in Alabama history appeared to have saved the season’s ultimate goal for the Crimson Tide earlier in the quarter. Pinned inside their own one-yard line, AJ McCarron heaved a deep ball to Amari Cooper down the left side line, and Auburn’s defenders could not make the tackle to allow Cooper to run uncontested the length of the field for a 99-yard touchdown play in the fourth quarter. It gave Alabama a 28-21 lead before Marshall completed the pass to Coates to tie the game.
Auburn will take on either Missouri or South Carolina in next week’s SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. If Missouri defeats Texas A&M Saturday night it will be Missouri representing the SEC East in the conference championship game.
Big plays have been the key to a big first half for No. 3 Oklahoma in Stillwater. A 59-yard kickoff return to the Oklahoma State four-yard line set up Oklahoma’s first touchdown of a wild first half, and running backs Samaje Perine (68 yards) and Joe Mixon (66 yards) have ripped off long touchdown runs against No. 11 Oklahoma State and the Sooners hold a 44-20 lead on their in-state rivals at halftime.
Oklahoma’s first three touchdown drives all needed four plays or fewer, but the Sooners also showed it could work a drive and finish it off with a score as well. The Sooners put together a 12-play drive spanning 80 yards, with Baker Mayfield capping things off with a five-yard touchdown pass to Dimitri Flowers. Mayfield connected earlier with Sterling Shepard. Oklahoma State’s lone touchdown of the half came on a J.W. Walsh touchdown pass to Jhajuan Seales from 26 yards out. Walsh got the start instead of an injured Mason Rudolph. Rudolph sprained his ankle, but he did enter the game late in the first half as the Cowboys attempted to spark the passing game. Walsh was 13-of-19 for 133 yards and a touchdown before Rudolph entered the game. It did not go so well, as Rudolph was picked off by Jordan Thomas, who returned the interception 32 yards for a touchdown, giving Oklahoma a commanding 35-10 lead.
Just how bad of a half was this for Oklahoma State? It turns out it was the worst first half in over a decade.
Whichever team wins this game will be awarded the Big 12 championship. That was made clear when Baylor was upset by TCU last night in soggy Fort Worth, Texas. For Oklahoma, a win also likely secures a spot in the College Football Playoff despite being off next week. Oklahoma State may need a few more bounces to go their way given the most recent standings, but it would certainly be within reach if the Cowboys can beattle back to grab the win. Stopping Oklahoma’s offense to makr that happen may not be easy though given how the firts half played out.
The final matchup for the Group of Five conferences’ championship games is officially set.
Needing a win against UConn to wrap up the AAC East, Temple went out and did just that, with the Owls closing out a very successful and historic 2015 regular season with an impressive 27-3 win over the Huskies. A loss to UConn by Temple would’ve handed the East division to USF.
As has been the case most of the season, it was the Owls’ defense that was the star of the show as the visiting Huskies were limited to 138 yards of offense. Putting an exclamation point on the defensive dominance, UConn averaged a meager .3 yards on 26 carries.
Now, 10-2 Temple will have a week to prepare for 11-1 West division winner Houston in the first-ever AAC championship game. Because of the Cougars’ conference record, the game, which will very likely determine the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bowl bid, will be played on UH’s on-campus home field.
Temple will be looking for the football program’s first conference title since claiming the Middle Atlantic crown way back in 1967. Already, though, the Owls’ 10-win season is just the second in school history, with the first coming in 1979. With two more wins, the owls could get to 12 wins on the season; the previous three seasons, they won a total of 12 games.
No. 12 Florida is already locked into playing for the SEC championship next week, but any thought of potentially playing in the College Football Playoff could be in some serious danger at home. At halftime in Gainesville, the Gators are trailing rival No. 13 Florida State 10-0 and struggling to keep drives alive.
Both teams have played well on defense, as demonstrated by the combined third-down conversion success between the two offenses. Florida has converted just three of 10 third-down attempts, while Florida State has gone without a third-down conversion despite having seven tries. The Seminoles did convert a fourth down play, and it was a big one.
Sean Maguire had one of those “no, no, no, yes!” moments midway through the first quarter. On fourth and goal from the one-yard line, Maguire rolled right and looked for an open receiver. As he ran out of room on the right side of the field, he threw against his body to a covered Jeremy Kerr in the end zone and somehow managed to thread a needle for a touchdown. The score lifted the Seminoles to a 10-0 lead.
Florida was dealt a scare in the final minutes of the half. Running back Kelvin Taylor needed to be helped off the field after appearing to injure his left ankle. He returned after missing just a couple of plays for the Gators.
In a contest that’s essentially a play-in game for a continuing chance at the College Football Playoff, both Notre Dame and Stanford are slugging it out like they’re aware of exactly what’s on the line.
Through a quarter and a half of play, the defensive talent was evident on both sides of the ball; the last half-quarter, though, both offenses awoke as the Cardinal has taken a 21-20 lead on the Irish heading into the halftime locker room. Trailing 14-13 and having seen a pair of drives stall inside the Cardinal 10-yard line, the Irish eschewed another red zone opportunity to squander as DeShone Kizer hit Will Fuller on a pretty 73-yard touchdown pass with 2:15 left in the second quarter to give them a 20-14 lead.
The Cardinal, meanwhile, scored on its first two possessions of the game, with both touchdowns coming off the arm of senior quarterback Kevin Hogan. While those first two drives netted 153 yards of offense, the next two totaled all of 24 yards and ended with a pair of punts. The Cardinal’s possession after the late Irish touchdown began at their own 25 and ended with the third Hogan touchdown pass of the half, accounting for the 21-20 halftime score.
The Domers actually had the opportunity to add at least three more points after that, but a Kizer fumble near the Cardinal 20-yard line that was recovered by Stanford wasted another scoring opportunity for the Irish.
C.J. Sanders‘ 93-yard kick return was the Irish’s first score of the game. Justin Yoon kicked a pair of field goals at the end of the drives that petered out in the red zone.
In addition to the three touchdowns, Hogan has thrown for a game-high 180 yards. Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey totaled 137 all-purpose yards — 55 rushing, 23 receiving, 59 on kick returns.