Missouri holds down Texas A&M, sets up Tiger fight in SEC Championship

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Henry Josey‘s 57-yard touchdown right up the middle of Texas A&M’s defense in the fourth quarter may as well have gone for another 678 miles to Atlanta. The No. 5 Missouri Tigers (11-1, 7-1 SEC) will play for the SEC Championship Game in their second year in the conference. Not too many people saw that coming, especially since the Tigers had a rough go in their rookie season in the new conference. After dispatching of No. 21 Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC) Saturday night in Columbia with a 28-21 victory, Missouri wrapped up the SEC East Division to keep South Carolina from sneaking in to Atlanta.

Missouri appeared to have seized control of the momentum in the game in the third quarter. A short touchdown run by Marcus Murphy finished off a 75-yard drive to tie the game at 14-14 early in the second half. The fast start was essential for Missouri after a sluggish first half against an Aggies defense that played one of their finest halves of the year. Missouri’s defense then started to lock down on Johnny Manziel and the Aggies offense, and they kept Texas A&M off the scoreboard in the third quarter. Missouri had another score in them though.

Midway through the third quarter James Franklin tossed a five-yard pass to L’Damian Washington to give the Tigers the first lead of the night, 21-14. But they could not keep Manziel and Texas A&M’s offense down for long. In the fourth quarter the Aggies drove the length of the field with a 98-yard drive ending with a seven-yard run by Ben Malena to tie the game at 21-21. But Missouri still had a big play left in them. It came on a run right up the heart of the Texas A&M defense by Josey late in the fourth quarter. A 57-yard run by Josey gave Missouri a late 28-21 lead. After that, Texas A&M’s offense was flustered trying to make a play happen that just would not develop. The Missouri defense held strong and regained possession to allow the offense to run the clock out.

Missouri will now represent the SEC East in the SEC Championship Game next weekend in Atlanta. They will face Auburn, who stunned Alabama in a fantastic finish in the Iron Bowl to clinch the SEC West. Missouri will be playing in their first conference championship game since playing in the 2008 Big 12 championship game against Oklahoma. Missouri did not play in a bowl game last season, and now they get to play for the SEC Championship. That is quite the turnaround by Gary Pinkell‘s team.

Texas A&M’s season is certainly not done. The Aggies finish in fourth place in the SEC West behind Auburn, Alabama and LSU, but still figure to receive an attractive bowl match-up. Manziel could also still receive an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, although his performance down the stretch has lacked top plays.

Manziel, Aggies send Mississippi State to the dog house, 51-41

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Johnny Manziel is probably the most entertaining player in college football today. He packs so much drama every time he is on the field. At times he gets away with taking chances, but there are other times he does not. In Texas A&M’s (8-2, 4-2 SEC) 51-41 victory at home against Mississippi State (4-5, 1-4 SEC) Manziel passed for over 400 yards and five touchdowns to completely overshadow his three interceptions and a couple of sacks when he held on to the football too long.

Manziel threw two touchdown passes in the second half and Ben Malena and Trey Williams added one each on the ground as the Aggies pulled away from Mississippi State after halftime. Mississippi State was led on offense by emerging dual-threat quarterback Dak Prescott, who passed and rushed for over 100 yards each, had two touchdown passes and rushed for a touchdown as well.

The thing with Manziel is, at the college level he will make mistakes but he is more than capable of making up for them. Today Manziel tossed his ninth, tenth and eleventh interceptions of the season, which is already two more than he threw in his Heisman Trophy 2012 season. But Manziel also took his season touchdown pass total to 31, five more than last season. During the television broadcast of the game there were times when the thought Manziel may have played his final game in Kyle Field popped up, and for good reason. The expectation is that Manziel could likely be heading to the NFL Draft, but is that the right decision? Might a return in 2014 do Manziel good to polish his skills just a bit more?

 

Is Arizona State’s Grice college football’s top red zone running back?

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The sport of college has evolved to the point where offenses tend to favor the passing game more than the running game, but once a team penetrates the red zone there are some dependable options carrying the football. Perhaps none are better right now than Arizona State running back Marion Grice.

Arizona State has been inside the red zone 43 times this season. The Sun Devils still get pass-happy inside the 20-yard line but Grice has carried the football 31 times through seven games and has scored a touchdown a little more than a third of the time. That is a pretty good ratio, and among the best in the country.

Here is a list of the top ten running backs with red zone touchdowns, according to CFBStats.com (as of October 23, 2013). No running back in the country has more red zone touchdowns than Grice, but Boise State’s Jay Ajayi is right in the conversation.

Red Zone Rushing Touchdowns

  1. Marion Grice (Arizona State) – 11
  2. Jay Ajayi (Boise State) – 10
    Keenan Reynolds (Navy) – 10
  3. Antonio Andrews (Western Kentucky) – 9
    Tyler Gaffney (Stanford) – 9
    Dallas Crawford (Miami) – 9
    Fitzgerald Toussaint (Michigan) – 9
  4. Jahwan Edwards (Ball State) – 8
    Ben Malena (Texas A&M) – 8
    Zach Zwinak (Penn State) – 8

Ajayi and Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews have really been carrying the load for their teams inside the red zone. Of the players listed above, only Ajayi, Andrews and Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds have carried the football more than 31 times inside the red zone.

On day of upsets, Texas A&M benefits with wild win

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On a day full of upsets around college football, Texas A&M managed to avoid an upset bid from Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi. Josh Lambo‘s short field goal as time expired gave Texas A&M a wild 41-38 victory. The win paired with some losses around the country should help the Aggies move up in the rankings on Sunday.

A game short on scoring in the first half, or at least shorter than expected, turned in a second half that saw momentum swing back and forth. Things really got crazy in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M extended their four-point lead with a field goal to open the fourth quarter, but Ole Miss quickly responded with a quick seven-play, 51-yard touchdown drive capped by a Barry Burnetti touchdown pass to Evan Engram from nine yards out. It was starting quarterback Bo Wallace who tossed the next touchdown pass, this time to freshman Laquon Treadwell, from just inside the red zone roughly 90 seconds later, capitalizing on a fumble by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Manziel and Texas A&M had an answer though, driving 75 yards on seven plays for a touchdown, served up by the speedy feet of Trey Williams for a nine-yard score.

Ole Miss and Texas A&M continued to exchange blows, first with Wallace connecting with Jaylen Walton for a 50-yard touchdown, and then with Manziel leading the Aggies down field for a six-yard touchdown run to cap a 75-yard drive. Manziel would lead the game-winning drive after Ole Miss went three-and-out with three incomplete passes to leave TexasA&M with more than enough time. Manziel rushed for 25 yards and completed a 14-yard pass to move the Aggies down to the Ole Miss 32-yard line and running backs Ben Malena and Tra Carson helped set-up the game-winning field goal attempt by Lambo from the Ole Miss 15-yard line.

Manziel did not have a touchdown pass, but he did run for two and put up big numbers. For the fourth time in his career Manziel passed for 300 yards (346) and rushed for 100 yards (124). That is the most times that has happened in FBS history.

The Aggies are now 5-1 and still looking good in the SEC West picture, although they will need some help if they are to get by Alabama in the standings to earn a trip to Atlanta at the end of the season. For the Aggies, the next few weeks should result in wins against Auburn, Vanderbilt and UTEP (non-conference, of course), and likely against Mississippi State. That would set up a 9-1 Texas A&M team to hit the road for their final two games at LSU and surprisingly strong Missouri. The Aggies should also be moving up in the rankings with the upsets that were occurring in other games. Stanford and Georgia losing should allow Texas A&M to move up at least two spots when the new polls are released, and the BCS standings are coming shortly.

Ole Miss linebacker and leading tackler Serderius Bryant had to be taken off the field on a stretcher after a tough collision with Manziel on a fourth down run that went for a first down. Earlier in the game, Ole Miss lost Robert Nkemdiche as well to a strained hamstring suffered while chasing Manziel.

The Fifth Quarter: Week 5 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

Scheduling buzzsaw complete
One of the major storylines of the weekend heading into the Top-10 matchup between LSU and Georgia was current Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray and former Bulldogs/current Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger.  While neither disappointed, it was another defining team moment for the squad from Athens that’s had a season’s worth in the first month of the football year.  The huge 44-41 win over LSU was UGA’s second win over a team ranked No. 6 in the country this season, the first coming three weeks ago against SEC East rival South Carolina.  Their lone loss?  A season-opening three-point defeat on the road at the hands of Clemson, which was No. 8 at the time but has climbed to No. 3.  Thanks in large part to the play of Murray — four touchdown passes on the day, including the game-winner with under two minutes left — the Bulldogs still control their own destiny; win out through early December, and UGA will head to Pasadena to play in the last-ever BCS championship game.  Of course, their opponents in Saturday’s game can say the same thing, as can Alabama.  Still, from the heartbreak in the opener to an absolute meatgrinder two of the last three games, Mark Richt has to be beyond ecstatic with the position his football team finds itself in.

Braxton back, boon for Buckeyes
After Kenny Guiton lit up opposing defenses for 10 touchdowns in two starts, many were calling for the senior to start even after Braxton Miller was healthy enough to return from a knee injury.  Urban Meyer wouldn’t hear of it, and Miller showed why.  In his first action since the first quarter of a Week 2 win over San Diego State, Miller accounted for 281 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 win over Wisconsin.  The win was the Buckeyes’ nation’s best 17th straight, and its first over a ranked team since beating Michigan to end the 2012 regular season.  Whether it was enough to impress voters, though, remains to be seen.  OSU’s first four wins of the season came against three FBS teams that had won a combined two games entering Week 5 as well an FCS program.  The fact that OSU couldn’t put away the Badgers after holding a 31-14 lead in the fourth quarter could give those with the power pause.  Regardless, OSU will have another chance to impress next week as they travel to Evanston to face No. 19 Northwestern.

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