The SEC’s two most consistent quarterbacks over the past three seasons took the field for the final time on their home turf on Saturday.
One, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, inked a beautiful final chapter. The other, Georgia QB Aaron Murray, left his final home game early with a torn ACL that will leave him sidelined for the remainder of the season.
Both players will be remembered as very good quarterbacks for entirely different reasons. McCarron has an opportunity to wrap his collegiate career with three consecutive BCS national championships. Saturday, during a 49-0 rout of Chattanooga, the senior surpassed Jay Barker as the program’s all-time wins leader as a quarterback. Considering Alabama’s storied tradition, that honor says plenty about what McCarron has accomplished in his tenure under coach Nick Saban.
McCarron, a possible Heisman Trophy finalist, completed 13 of 16 passes for 171 yards and 2 TDs. One pass above all others stood out – a 5-yard completion to Corey McCarron, AJ’s brother who walked on as a wide receiver.
Murray will leave school without an SEC championship. He came just yards away from engineering an upset over Alabama and McCarron a year ago – a win that almost certainly would have propelled the Bulldogs into the BCS National Championship Game.
Instead, Murray failed to even lead Georgia to a BCS bowl.
The senior instead leaves with individual accolades, such as the SEC career records for passing yards and touchdown passes.
For the first time in Murray’s career, he will watch a game from the sideline when his Bulldogs take on Georgia Tech. He will watch as Hutson Mason takes the reins of the program Murray brought oh-so-close to an elusive spot in the national championship game just a season ago.
Murray did enjoy success in his final collegiate game, completing 18 of 23 passes for 183 yards and 4 TDs. He suffered the knee injury on his final pass – which resulted in his only interception of the game.
McCarron and Murray along with LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Missouri’s James Franklin and South Carolina’s Connor Shaw all figure to be gone at season’s end.
So much turnover at the game’s most important position could result in a significant leveling off from what many consider to be the nation’s strongest conference
Let’s take a look at Week 13 in this week’s SEC Rewind:
Week 13 Results
Mississippi State 24, Arkansas 17 (OT)
No. 11 South Carolina 70, Coastal Carolina 10
Georgia Southern 26, Florida 20
No. 1 Alabama 49, Chattanooga 0
No. 22 LSU 34, No. 12 Texas A&M 10
Georgia 59, Kentucky 17
Vanderbilt 14, Tennessee 10
No. 8 Missouri 24, No. 25 Ole Miss 10
Show-Me One More
The James Franklin-led Missouri offense that hummed before the senior quarterback separated his throwing shoulder didn’t make an appearance after the first-quarter touchdown drive. Missouri’s attack looked clunky at times, rusty at others but – behind a bend-but-don’t-break defensive effort and key special teams plays – found a way to win.
Ole Miss had several chances to stem Missouri’s momentum.
When the Tigers needed their defense most, though, it rose to the challenge.
The first example came late in the first quarter when the Rebels, still playing for bowl positioning, drove the ball to the 1-yard line. However, Missouri held, forcing a fourth-and-goal from the 1. Ole Miss jumped, creating a 23-yard field goal, which the Tigers subsequently blocked.
Missouri finished the game allowing just one field goal on three Rebels trips inside the 10-yard line.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Tigers’ win came after the defense prevented Ole Miss from converting a fourth-and-goal from the 13. They got the ball leading by two touchdowns with 8:08 remaining – a sometimes tricky spot for fast offenses built around passing games. However, Missouri’s offensive line manhandled the Ole Miss defensive front. The trio of RBs Henry Josey, Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough picked up five first downs and burnt all three Ole Miss timeouts in running out the clock.
In doing so, the Tigers put themselves one home victory over Texas A&M away from doing something few thought possible to start the season: Win the SEC East.
LSU Ends A&M’s Sugary Sweet Dreams
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy chances weren’t the only hopes that got dashed inside Tiger Stadium.
LSU’s defense teamed with its ball-control offense ensured the Aggies’ first trip to Louisiana this year would also be their last.
Even with two losses, Kevin Sumlin’s team seemed like a logical bet as the Sugar Bowl’s at-large selection come bowl season – if it beat LSU and Missouri on the road.
Saturday’s loss leaves the Aggies further, but not too far, down the pecking order. It does, however, mean any BCS chances that existed heading into this week have now vanished.
Breaking in the majority of his starters, LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis has endured an uncharacteristically difficult season. His defense flawlessly executed its plan this week, though.
The relentless pass rush contained, harassed and flustered Manziel into 16-of-41 passing with 2 INTs. Even Manziel’s TD pass came on a play when the closest defensive back slipped to the ground on the wet turf.
Manziel finished with just 54 rushing yards, too.
A&M was never going to win this game on defense. That unit hasn’t shown the ability to stop a competent attack all season – a troubling trend considering it has shown little to no progress.
Manziel knew going into this week’s game – as he has in virtually every game – that he would have to lead A&M to outscore its opponent.
It simply didn’t happen on Saturday.
As a result, the Aggies will not be able to get a BCS bid.
We’ve avoided doing this all season, but it seems impossible to not recognize the job John Chavis’ entire unit did in shutting down Johnny Manziel and the Aggies. The defense pressured and contained Manziel. When players missed him, they circled back rather than taking themselves out of the play. Their efforts resulted in Manziel completing just 16 of 41 passes with 2 INTs. The vaunted A&M offense managed just 299 total yards of offense and 19 minutes, 41 seconds in time of possession.
RB Henry Josey – Missouri
Missouri knew it had to win its final two games to capture the SEC East crown. Josey did his part, running 15 times for 95 yards and 2 TDs in the victory at Ole Miss.
QB Aaron Murray – Georgia
In the final game of his storied career, Murray threw 4 TD passes in leading Georgia to an easy win over Kentucky.
RB Terrence Magee – LSU
LSU coach Les Miles has been known to go with the hot hand in the run game. This week against Texas A&M, that meant feeding Magee. The junior ran 13 times for 149 yards and a TD to help the Tigers dominate the clock (more than 40 minutes) and the game.
QB Patton Robinette – Vanderbilt
The Commodores’ backup quarterback came in and executed perfectly on the fake jump pass. Rather than throwing, Robinette tucked the ball away and ran it around right tackle for the game-winning touchdown with 16 seconds remaining in regulation to give Vanderbilt the win over rival Tennessee.
S Nickoe Whitley – Mississippi State
Whitley recorded 10 tackles on Saturday and forced a fumble he also recovered to set up what could have been the game-winning score. That State missed the field goal to essentially end regulation doesn’t change Whitley’s strong performance.
Topics: Alabama Crimson Tide, Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana State Tigers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, South Carolina Gamecocks, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Vanderbilt Commodores