Missouri clinched the SEC East and a spot in the conference championship game against Auburn after erasing an early deficit to beat Texas A&M 28-21 on Saturday night.
CBS' Eye on College Football summed up the victory:
FINAL: Missouri 28, Texas A&M 21. http://t.co/sUDHFTbDqK Tigers vs. Tigers for the SEC.— Eye on College FBall (@EyeOnCFB) December 1, 2013
Faurot Field was awfully loud early on, but it didn't seem to phase Johnny Manziel and company at first. With 6:34 left in the opening quarter, running back Tra Carson went 29 yards for a touchdown to cap off a 10-play drive and open up the scoring.
The Aggies' defense troubled James Franklin in the first quarter. Missouri's first drive was a three-and-out, and the Tigers couldn't generate points after getting into Texas A&M territory on their second and final drive of the quarter.
Franklin finally found paydirt in the middle of the second, when highly touted wideout Dorial Green-Beckham separated from an Aggie defender for a 38-yard touchdown to knot it up at seven apiece.
Missouri Athletics' Patrick Crawford noted DGB's place in the Missouri record books (reminder: he's a sophomore):
That was #Mizzou WR Green-Beckham's 15th career receiving touchdown. Sixth all-time for Tigers. Was tied with Washington at 14.— Patrick Crawford (@p_crawf) December 1, 2013
Johnny Football decided to take it into his own hands after seeing Mizzou's equalizer and did what he does best—strike, and quickly. A little more than one minute later, he connected with Derel Walker for a 32-yard touchdown in tight coverage after escaping from pressure.
Here's a look at Manziel's big-time play:
Something must have clicked in the Missouri locker room at the half, because the third quarter was all Tigers.
They went 75 yards in seven plays to open the quarter, riding the back of Henry Josey for a number of first downs and a 35-yard catch from L'Damian Washington. The drive was capped off by a Marcus Murphy two-yard score that tied the game up at 14 all.
Murphy was able to get out to the edge to punch it in:
Franklin hit Washington for a five-yard score to put Mizzou up 21-14.
Missouri had all of the momentum in the game at that time but wasn't able to take advantage. Its next drive stalled at its own 48, giving Texas A&M an opportunity to put together a long drive, and that's just what the Aggies did in the opening stages of the fourth quarter.
Despite starting at his own 2-yard line, Manziel marched his offense down the field with a couple of big completions to Travis Labhart. Scampers of 18 yards and 25 yards from Trey Williams set up Ben Malena, whose seven-yard TD run tied the game.
Johnny Football didn't have his best game, as Kevin McGuire noted, but he still found a way to make special plays:
One play Manziel shows why he should return for one more year, the next play he throws up a prayer and someone upstairs is answering.— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) December 1, 2013
That 98-yard drive set the tone for a fourth quarter that was a struggle for both offenses. The scoring slowed down as both defenses made things difficult for the mobile quarterbacks.
Then, Henry Josey happened. After four straight punts combined, Josey burst through the Aggies defense for a 57-yard touchdown. The junior was hardly touched near the line of scrimmage, and he beat out everyone else in a footrace.
With that play, Missouri was in the driver's seat to set up an SEC title game that nobody expected as B/R's Barrett Sallee illustrated:
We are 3:34 from the SECCG being set, with Missouri facing Auburn. Raise your hand if you had that before the season (put your hand down)— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) December 1, 2013
With 3:34 remaining and Missouri winning 28-21, the stage was set. The ball was in Manziel's court, with seemingly one chance to drive his team down the field and tie up the game.
That chance lasted three plays. His last throw of the game was a screen to Mike Evans, who lost six yards, and Kevin Sumlin decided to punt with just over two minutes left instead of going for it on 4th-and-13.
With two timeouts, he rolled the dice on his defense, and it didn't pay off. Franklin hit Eric Waters for a 16-yard catch and Russell Hansbrough's first down run one play later put the icing on the cake for Missouri's SEC East championship.
After going from no bowl game to the SEC title game in one year, Tigers fans let out plenty of jubilation by rushing the field:
What a crazy turn of events in one season. Back in September, this matchup between second-year SEC teams would've been seen as another road test for A&M on the way to a BCS game.
Instead, Texas A&M is sporting its fourth loss and Missouri—who wasn't expected to challenge for a conference title after a 5-7 campaign last year—is heading to Atlanta. Go figure.
Manziel's already fringe hopes of repeating his Heisman glory seem to have faded in the Aggies' second straight loss, and now the sports world will glue to his pending decision of whether to return to college for another year or bolt to the NFL.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: B-
Manziel was banged up again, and Missouri bottled him up in the pocket—he rushed 11 times for just 21 yards. He went 24-for-35 through the air for just 195 yards and a touchdown, good for just 5.6 yards per completion.
The touted redshirt sophomore made some big plays and could've played better, but this loss really came down to a lack of help in the offense. His receivers didn't make plays during the crucial part of the game.
James Franklin, QB, Missouri: B+
What really gave this offense another dimension, however, was his success on the ground. The Aggies defense didn't account for his legs, as he rushed 18 times for 80 yards.
It was an emotional victory for the senior in his last home game.
Henry Josey, RB, Missouri: A-
His 57-yard touchdown was the difference in the game. With less than four minutes left, Manziel and the Aggies only got the ball one more time for the rest of the game, which was a three-and-out.
Josey finished with 13 carries for 96 yards and that conclusive score.
National title hopes are still alive for Missouri. As stated before, the Tigers completed their dramatic turnaround by winning the SEC East. South Carolina would have taken that spot if the Tigers slipped up.
For Texas A&M, it's the fourth loss of the season. The Aggies will await a bowl invite.