Quick hits from the Championship Saturday action. For more on Week 14, check out our Friday Snaps, coverage of Louisville-Rutgers, Oklahoma-TCU and the epic clash between Alabama and Georgia, plus our complete Top 25 review.
• Wisconsin 70, No. 14 Nebraska 31. This game wasn’t even as close as the final score indicates, which is really saying something. The Huskers were down 42-10 at the half — Wisconsin scored its final touchdown of the second quarter on a trick play with 20 seconds left on the clock, because Bret Bielema enjoys reminding folks he’s Bret Bielema — and scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter after the Badgers had already crossed the 60-point mark.
“We kind of set our minds before the game that this is our game,” Monteé Ball said afterward. “The running backs were going to set the tempo.” Offhand, with 539 yards gained on the ground alone, we would venture to suggest they succeeded in their efforts.
Fun tidbit: Ball rushed for 201 yards on 21 attempts and three touchdowns, and was neither the leading scorer nor the leading rusher for the Badgers. Melvin Gordon rang up 217 yards on nine carries with one score, while James White added four touchdowns and 109 yards on 15 carries. Lost in all that: Taylor Martinez doing this Family Circus touchdown run. Don’t forget that Taylor Martinez did this, because it was awesome.
Wisconsin trailed Nebraska 3-4 in the series before tonight’s cannon show. Has a series ever been leveled with such gusto? And what will a defense of Stanford’s caliber make of these five-loss Badgers, who wouldn’t have even been in position to claim the Big Ten title and earn a Rose Bowl berth if not for other programs’ sanctions? “It’s OK to get there,” said Bielema of the Rose Bowl, “but you need to win it.” They’ll get their shot on New Year’s Day. [BOX | RECAP]
• No. 2 Alabama 32, No. 3 Georgia 28. We’ve watched a lot of both these teams this season, and had a lot of thoughts about how Saturday evening in the Georgia Dome might play out. But not in our most ridiculous flights of whimsy did we imagine the SEC Championship Game would be this much fun. Stewart Mandel and Michael Rosenberg were both in Atlanta to watch the virtual national title play-in game and have full reports from the scene. But let’s take a moment to celebrate a few of our favorite elements of the game:
- Eddie *&^(*ing Lacy: The championship game MVP barreled up and down the field for 181 rushing yards on 20 carries, and scored twice while averaging a stinging 9.1 yards per attempt. This is a big number even for an Alabama running back, and it’s a season high for Lacy.
- T.J. Yeldon: The freshman now has a perfect 1,000-yard season after his 153-yard rushing performance in the Georgia Dome. ‘Bama finished with 350 rushing yards in total. Yeldon’s successful two-point conversion in the third quarter also prevented Georgia from being able to tie the game with a field goal as time wound down in the fourth.
- Todd Gurley: He continued Georgia’s tradition of plug-and-play freshman tailbacks with a 122-yard outing against the nation’s second-ranked rushing defense.
- Alec Ogletree: The linebacker led the Bulldogs in tackles and returned a field goal blocked by Cornelius Washington 55 yards to the end zone.
- Evil Richt: We like Mark Richt the most when he’s doing things like smiling beatifically at excessive celebration penalties in hotly contested Cocktail Party games, or when he’s calling a successful fake punt just minutes after ‘Bama failed at one. This was the moment, early in the second quarter, when we knew we wouldn’t be changing the channel.
- Jesse Williams: The ‘Bama bruiser went down on the field early with a leg injury and came roaring back later to bully opposing linemen.
To the future: the Tide are bound, of course, for sunny Florida and a title-game date with Notre Dame. Georgia’s postseason destination is still unknown; the Dawgs were slotted into the Cotton Bowl versus Texas in SI.com’s latest projections. [BOX | RECAP]
• No. 13 Florida State 21, Georgia Tech 15. Fans of BCS clown shows suffered a psychic blow, as the possibility of a six-loss team competing in the Orange Bowl evaporated with Georgia Tech’s loss. But Atlanta’s hells of engineers put a healthy scare into the Seminoles in Charlotte. FSU was shut out of scoring completely after James Wilder’s second touchdown run in the second quarter, and it managed to avoid the upset first by holding two consecutive Jackets scoring drives to field goals, then by intercepting Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington with just more than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. Washington completed 4-of-14 pass attempts for 76 yards, all of which came on Tech’s final two drives. One possession ended in a touchdown; one ended in that upset-killing interception.
Particularly impressive this evening: the Yellow Jackets’ defense, led by Jeremiah Attaochu, who had nine credited tackles (six solo), two tackles for loss and two sacks of FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel. It’s the second-lowest scoring performance by Florida State this season, and just more than half of their 2012 per-game average. [BOX | RECAP]
• No. 7 Kansas State 42, No. 23 Texas 24. Right up until the end of the third quarter, a ballgame was taking place in Manhattan. Rushing scores from Collin Klein and John Hubert had been countered by a touchdown pass from Case McCoy to Jaxon Shipley, a scoring run from Malcolm Brown and a field goal from Nick Jordan, giving the Longhorns a 17-14 lead. Then, in fewer than 15 minutes of clock time, the Wildcats proceeded to score four touchdowns without interruption, with Hubert and Klein taking turns. Klein’s mark of 287 yards of total offense is only slightly above average for him, which is an awfully nice problem to have.
Stewart Mandel’s latest bowl projections, updated after Saturday’s games, predict some lovely parting gifts for the two teams tied atop the Big 12 standings, with K-State in the Fiesta Bowl as the conference champ and Oklahoma as an at-large selection in the Sugar. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that, as projected earlier, Texas will play its postseason football in Arlington versus Georgia in the Cotton Bowl. [BOX | RECAP]
• No. 12 Oklahoma 24, TCU 17. Let the commemorative clothing spring forth! Oklahoma will have at least a partial claim to the Big 12 title after knocking off TCU in Fort Worth.
Landry Jones completed 22-of-40 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. His first scoring pass to Damien Williams in the closing moments of the first quarter gave the Sooners a lead they held until the end of the second, when Trevone Boykin ran into the end zone from six yards out for the Horned Frogs. Jones took the lead back three minutes later with a 24-yard touchdown strike to Jalen Saunders, and the Sooners did not trail again. Williams added a 66-yard scoring run just after halftime that accounted for most of his 115 rushing yards.
Though Boykin came out on the wrong end of the scoreboard today, we’re really going to love watching him in the future. Thrust into the starting quarterback job following the unexpected departure of Casey Pachall, Boykin came into Saturday’s game with 1,966 yards of total offense. He added 231 passing yards and 36 rushing yards Saturday, plus two touchdowns and one turnover.
• Baylor 41, No. 24 Oklahoma State 34. The Bears close out the 2012 regular season just as they began it: on a three-game win streak. They move to 7-5 following the home upset of the Pokes. Baylor jumped out to a 24-3 lead by the beginning of the second quarter — with four different players scoring on a field goal, an interception return and two offensive touchdowns — and maintained enough of a scoring pace to keep Oklahoma State from ever coming within fewer than seven points. Nick Florence threw for nearly 300 yards, as Nick Florence tends to do, and rushed for 71 more. But the score you want to watch is this late break from Lache Seastrunk, who visibly pulled up with an ailing hamstring midway through the play and still outran the Cowboys’ defenders. Seastrunk finished with 178 rushing yards on 16 carries. [BOX | RECAP]
• Cincinnati 34, Connecticut 17. As expected, the Bearcats got past the Huskies — though UConn led at halftime and entered the fourth quarter trailing only by four points. Two longish Tony Miliano field goals and a four-yard George Winn run eventually put the game out of reach. And speaking of four: Thanks to tonight’s outcome, we’re currently enjoying the much-anticipated tie for first place in the Big East standings — a tie that encompasses fully half the teams in the conference. Congratulations to Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse! [BOX | RECAP]
• Tulsa 33, Central Florida 27. Admitting some bias right up front: We like it when UCF wins because “Blake Bortles” and “Bortlesball” are fun to say, but Bortles couldn’t ball in overtime, and the Golden Hurricane claimed the 2012 Conference USA championship. [BOX | RECAP]
• West Virginia 59, Kansas 10. ‘Eers gonna do what ‘Eers gonna do against a defense as squishy as the Jayhawks. Geno Smith wrapped up his Mountaineer regular-season career with a 407-yard, three-touchdown performance, while Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin each notched a triple-digit receiving game (159 yards and 110 yards, respectively). Andrew Buie led the Mountaineers in rushing with 100 yards on 12 carries. [BOX | RECAP]
• Arkansas State 45, Middle Tennessee State 0. The Sun Belt may not have an official championship game, but the Red Wolves could not have clinched a conference title any more emphatically. [BOX | RECAP]
• No. 25 Boise State 27, Nevada 21. So much for breaking that three-way tie in the Mountain West. Boise State, San Diego State and Fresno State each end the regular season with one conference loss and one conference win over each of the others. [BOX | RECAP]