Missouri punches ticket to SEC title game; more late Week 14 Snap Judgments
• No. 5 Missouri 28, No. 19 Texas A&M 21: In just their second season in the SEC, the Tigers needed a win over the Aggies to secure a date with Auburn in the conference championship game. Standing in Missouri's way was the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and one of the top offenses in college football.
The Tigers held A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (24-of-35, 195 yards, one touchdown, 21 rushing yards) largely in check, although the Aggies were able to tie the score at 21 with a 98-yard drive that was capped by a seven-yard Ben Malena scoring run with 11:04 left in the fourth quarter. But Mizzou's defense came through when it had to, and the Tigers offense turned to junior running back Henry Josey to provide the knockout blow. Josey (96 rushing yards, one touchdown) broke through a big hole and raced 57 yards to the end zone with 4:25 remaining to give Missouri the winning score.
All South Carolina -- which had defeated Clemson just a few minutes earlier on Saturday evening -- could do was watch. The Gamecocks would have won the SEC East if the Tigers had lost to Texas A&M. Missouri's victory ensured that coach Gary Pinkel's team would finish the regular season with only one loss, and with a chance to win the conference title a year after it had gone 5-7 (2-6 SEC).
Pinkel and the Tigers reiterated a number of times this season how important staying healthy was to their success, and even though Mizzou suffered its share of injuries this year -- including losing starting quarterback James Franklin for a number of games to a separated shoulder -- the Tigers were able to rally down the stretch and win their last four games. [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 10 South Carolina 31, No. 6 Clemson 17: Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw came into Saturday’s game having never lost as a starter at home. Thanks in large part to five Clemson turnovers, he will finish his career at Williams-Brice Stadium without a blemish. South Carolina won its fifth straight against the Tigers -- the Gamecocks' longest winning streak in the series -- as Shaw completed 14-of-26 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 103 yards and another score.
Even with all the errors, Clemson had a chance late. Trailing 24-17 with just over five minutes to play, the Tigers' defense stopped South Carolina and forced a punt, but returner Adam Humphries coughed up the ball, giving it back to the Gamecocks deep in Clemson territory. Three plays later, wideout Pharoh Cooper hit tailback Brandon Wilds on an option pass for a 26-yard touchdown to seal the game.
"[The Tigers] don't play well when they play us," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said in a brief ESPN interview after the game.
The Gamecocks' joy didn't last long -- they had to sit and watch while Missouri played its way into the SEC championship. South Carolina's 10-2 record should still be enough for an at-large BCS berth. As for Clemson (10-2) and quarterback Tajh Boyd, they were done in this season by Florida State and South Carolina -- just like last year. [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 8 Stanford 27, No. 25 Notre Dame 20: In a game that went exactly how the Cardinal prefer, Stanford controlled the time of possession and field position. The Cardinal’s bread and butter is a power running game led by Tyler Gaffney, and that’s what it got against the Fighting Irish.
Gaffney ran for 189 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries, and Stanford overcame two interceptions from quarterback Kevin Hogan to win a game it easily could have looked past, as it locked up a spot in next Saturday's Pac-12 championship game a week ago. A late interception by Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees (16-of-34, 199 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions) undid any hopes of a comeback for the Irish. [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 22 UCLA 35, No. 23 USC 14: Interim coach Ed Orgeron got the Trojans this far, and the fact that he made the game against the Bruins meaningful after how this year started was certainly an accomplishment. But UCLA was simply the more physical and more complete football team on Saturday. The Bruins’ terrific linebackers, including freshman Myles Jack and senior Anthony Barr, led the defensive effort. UCLA's defense forced two turnovers and had six sacks in the win. Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley -- a talented player who has struggled to be consistent this season -- stayed within himself and made play after play, throwing for 210 yards, while rushing for 80 and two touchdowns.
After the game Hundley said, "UCLA runs L.A." And it's hard to argue right now until USC can answer.
The future of Coach O is up to athletic director Pat Haden. Regardless of whether Haden decides to stick with Orgeron or not, our hat is off to the coach for bringing USC's season back from the dead after Lane Kiffin’s firing in late September. [RECAP | BOX] • No. 13 Arizona State 58, Arizona 21: The Sun Devils clinched home-field advantage in next week's Pac-12 title game against Stanford with a resounding blowout of the Wildcats, despite being without running back and touchdown machine Marion Grice. D.J. Foster filled in nicely, carrying 23 times for 124 yards and two scores. Arizona State lost its first meeting with Stanford 42-28 on Sept. 28, and it will need quarterback Taylor Kelly to be efficient against the Cardinal for coach Todd Graham's team to have a shot at playing in the Rose Bowl. [RECAP | BOX]