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SEC football roundup: Mizzou blasts Tennessee, championship game set
Missouri running back Cody Schrader (7) runs with the ball as Tennessee defensive back Wesley Walker defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
COLUMBIA, Mo. — The first time Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz spent serious time with Cody Schrader was after the walk-on running back arrived on campus, gambling that the talent that made him a Division II star would transfer to college football's highest level.
On Saturday night, it produced one of the finest games in school history.
Schrader ran for 205 yards and a touchdown, caught 5 passes for 116 yards and led the No. 16 Tigers to a 36-7 rout of No. 14 Tennessee that ended a 4-game losing streak in the series.
“One of the things that gets lost in his story is he’s a talented player," Drinkwitz said. “He has this stubborn refusal to quit.”
Schrader’s 321 yards from scrimmage were 12 shy of the school record set by Devin West in 1998.
“The whole recipe of this whole thing is work,” Schrader said. “You have to be able to hit a person in the mouth for four quarters, and either they're going to fold or I'm going to fold. And I'm determined not to fold.”
Schrader had plenty of help. Brady Cook shredded the Vols for 275 yards passing and accounted for two TDs. Luther Burden III had a touchdown reception that basically sealed the outcome, and Daylan Carnell closed it out for the Tigers (8-2, 4-2 SEC, No. 14 CFP) with a 38-yard pick-6 against one of their biggest nemeses.
The Volunteers (7-3, 3-3, No. 13) had outscored them 128-48 in their two games with coach Josh Heupel on the sideline.
“This is the first time I beat them since I've been here,” Tigers cornerback Jaylon Carlies said. “This is a huge one for us.”
Missouri’s win clinched the SEC East for No. 1 Georgia before it even took the field against No. 10 Ole Miss on Saturday night. The Bulldogs will face eighth-ranked Alabama in the conference title game on Dec. 2 in Atlanta.
The Vols' Joe Milton III threw for 267 yards with a touchdown and an interception against Missouri. But he got little help from a penalty-prone offense and one of the nation's best running attacks, which finished with 83 yards on 23 carries.
The Vols prefer to run plays quicker than a blink, and that high-octane offense usually leads to some gaudy numbers. But when the Tigers forced equally quick punts, the Tennessee defense exhausted itself with long stretches on the field.
Missouri prefers to play quickly, too. But it controlled the ball instead, holding it for all but 1:45 of the first quarter and more than 21 minutes of the first half. That further exhausted the Tennessee defense and resulted in a 13-7 halftime lead.
It should have been 10-7 — or closer — but the Vols' Jaylen Wright fumbled in Missouri territory with 20 seconds left. Schrader promptly ran for 35 yards and, after two more plays, Harrison Mevis kicked a 46-yard field goal as time expired.
Missouri ran 42 plays for 300 yards in the half; Tennessee ran 23 for 201.
“It's still a one-possession game,” Heupel said. “Got to be willing to come out and play hard and we didn't get that done.”
Indeed, the Tigers extended their lead with an 80-yard touchdown march in the third quarter, then took advantage of a dropped pass by Tennessee and personal foul on the Vols' Omarr Norman-Lott to add a field goal a few minutes later.
The Vols had a chance to make a big stop to start the fourth quarter, when the Tigers were leading 22-7 and facing third-and-10 at their own 1. But when Cook rolled out, he saw a yawning gap in the Vols' defense and ran 24 yards for a first down.
That was costly. This was costlier: When the Vols did get the ball back, Milton had his throwing arm knocked by one of his own teammates. The play was initially ruled an incomplete pass, but replays showed it was a fumble and recovery by Missouri, giving Schrader and Co. the ball back with just over 10 minutes left in the game.
The Tigers added Burden's touchdown catch to make it 29-7, and Carnell's interception got the party going at Faurot Field.
“End of the day,” Heupel said, “you’re going to have to live with this one for a while.”
Georgia wins East
ATHENS, Ga. — No. 1 Georgia had plenty of reasons to celebrate before the Bulldogs even took the field.
The party never stopped.
Carson Beck threw for 306 yards, Kendall Milton ran for 127 yards and Brock Bowers made a triumphant return for the Bulldogs, who punctuated their spot in the SEC Championship Game with a 52-17 demolition of No. 10 Ole Miss on Saturday night.
Georgia (10-0, 7-0 SEC, No. 2 CFP) turned in its most thorough performance of the season on a cool, rainy night, seemingly peaking at just the right time to make a run at its third straight national title.
“It's not one guy,” coach Kirby Smart said. “There's guys everywhere.”
Georgia scored touchdowns on its first four possessions, building a 28-14 halftime lead against Ole Miss (8-2, 5-2, No. 9) and cruising the rest of the way to its 27th consecutive victory.
Even before the kickoff, the Bulldogs knew they had clinched another SEC East title and a Dec. 2 showdown against Alabama.
Then there was the return of Bowers, the star tight end who sustained a high ankle sprain that required surgery in an Oct. 14 victory over Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs beat Florida and Missouri without their most dynamic offensive weapon, but it was clear this team is even better when he's on the field.
A huge cheer went up from the crowd when Bowers was shown on the video board as one of the starters, just 26 days after his surgical procedure. He didn’t have a huge game — 3 catches for 34 yards — but an 8-yard touchdown reception in the opening minute of the fourth quarter was a reminder of what he means to the offense.
Bowers' mere presence requires defenses to lean his way, opening up the field for his teammates. Georgia averaged 10 yards per snap, piling up more than 300 yards in each half.
“I would assume that their attention would be shifted to him," Beck said. “If you're gonna focus attention on him, OK, I'm going to spread the ball around.”
Beck did just that while completing 18 of 25 passes, including a 29-yard touchdown to Ladd McConkey.
Milton and Daijun Edwards ran for 2 touchdowns apiece as Georgia piled up 293 yards on the ground and 610 yards overall. Milton essentially finished off the Rebels with a 33-yard scoring burst right up the middle early in the third quarter.
Eliminated from contention in the SEC West by No. 8 Alabama's 49-21 victory over Kentucky earlier in the day, Ole Miss pulled out all the stops in hopes of becoming the first team since 2021 to beat Georgia. The Rebels went for it three times on fourth down, converting twice, and also pulled off a fake punt.
It wasn't nearly enough against a Georgia team that is chasing history, even with Quinshon Judkins running for a pair of touchdowns early on.
“I think that [Georgia] offense is overlooked," Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said. “It's a defensive-made team, people think. But that's a really good offense.”
In a further blow to the Rebels, quarterback Jaxson Dart was knocked out of the game late in the third quarter after being sandwiched between two Georgia defenders.
Dart was cleared to return, according to Kiffin, “but I didn't see a need at that point to put him back in.”
Alabama wins West
LEXINGTON, Ky. — After early-season talk about its dominance waning, No. 8 Alabama is back on a familiar perch in the SEC and bound for a destination it knows well.
Credit that resurgence to a quarterback who also ignored the noise to progress.
Jalen Milroe had a career-high 6 touchdowns, 3 each rushing and passing, and Alabama cruised past Kentucky 49-21 on Saturday to claim the SEC West Division title.
A week after rushing for a career-best four touchdowns in a 42-28 victory over LSU, the sophomore used his arm and his feet to surpass that total and lead the Crimson Tide (9-1, 7-0 SEC, No. 8 CFP) to an eighth consecutive victory and third conference championship appearance in four seasons.
Milroe had 4 total touchdowns by halftime, 3 passing, including throws of 26 and 40 yards to Amari Niblack and Kobe Prentice. The first score came after he sat out the game's sixth snap with an injured left thigh while being tackled on a 16-yard keeper.
“I’m not satisfied with the performance,” said Milroe, who completed 15 of 22 passes for 234 yards with 1 interception. “I have a lot of things I have to improve.”
Milroe extended a play for his third passing score by rolling right, pointing to Roydell Williams and hitting him in stride at the 12 on the way for another 26-yard TD to make it 28-7. Williams tightroped the sideline for the final yards before crossing the goal line.
Milroe was pushed into the end zone for two 1-yard scores and spun in for another from 3 yards in the third quarter, highlights of a day in which he carried 8 times for 36 yards. Jamarion Miller also ran for a 3-yard TD as Alabama beat Kentucky (6-4, 3-4) for the eighth consecutive time and won its eighth straight since losing to then-No. 11 Texas in September.
“This team has come a long way,” said coach Nick Saban, who reached his 10th SEC title game with Alabama. "A lot of guys have made significant improvement and have listened to the coaches.
“It's great we won the West and have the opportunity to play for an SEC championship. I think there were few people after the Texas game and the South Florida game. ... there were a lot of naysayers out there that didn't believe in these guys. But I always believed in this team that they would develop into something special.”
Ray Davis rushed for two short TDs and Tayvion Robinson caught a 6-yard scoring pass from Devin Leary for the Wildcats. Leary's pass followed Nasir Addison's recovery of a fumbled punt on Kentucky's sideline at the Crimson Tide 32, one of Alabama's few mistakes on an otherwise dominant day.
Milroe had the other turnover, throwing a second-quarter interception that Alabama's defense quickly offset by picking off Leary six plays later.
Daniels adds to Heisman case
BATON ROUGE, La. — If LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels wins the Heisman Trophy, he should thank Florida’s defense during his acceptance speech at New York City.
All of them by name.
The Gators (5-5, 3-4 SEC) showed plenty of fight Saturday night at Tiger Stadium, but Daniels and the Tigers (7-3, 5-2) proved too much to overcome and won 52-35.
The LSU’s star’s Heisman campaign rolled on at the expense of the Tigers’ longstanding rival during their final meeting as SEC division crossover foes.
Daniels threw for 372 yards and 3 scores, rushed for 234 yards and 2 scores on 12 carries, and the Tigers compiled 701 yards.
The stakes were not as high between two SEC blue bloods. The action, though, was at fever pitch, especially during a third quarter featuring 35 points, 370 yards and the Gators’ only lead of the game.
A 1-yard keeper by quarterback Graham Mertz gave the Gators a 28-24 lead, but LSU led all but 1:07 as Florida could not contain Daniels.
Following the Gators’ go-ahead score, Daniels completed a pair of 12-yard throws before taking off from the pocket for a 51-yard touchdown run.
A 6-yard touchdown pass on LSU’s next series to running back Noah Cain pushed the Tigers’ advantage to 38-28.
The Gators, though, would not go away.
A 5-yard run by Trevor Etienne cut the lead to 38-35 with 10:27 to go, marking the third touchdown for Florida’s sophomore star who grew up 90 miles west of Tiger Stadium in Jennings.
Daniels answered with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Brian Thomas Jr., who finished with a team-leading 150 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. SEC yardage leader Malik Nabers chipped in 132.
Trailing 45-35, the Gators’ hopes ended when Mertz’s pass to freshman Eugene Wilson III was incomplete on fourth-and-3 from the UF 49.
Florida’s loss was its fifth straight for the first time in the longstanding series dating to 1937 and played every year since 1971. The Gators won nine straight meetings from 1988-96.
The defeat dropped coach Billy Napier to 11-12 during his second season with the Gators. Florida travels next to No. 14 Missouri.
Aggies rout Mississippi State
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Jaylen Henderson accounted for four touchdowns in his first career start and Shemar Stewart returned a fumble for a score to lead Texas A&M to a 51-10 rout of Mississippi State Saturday night.
The victory makes Texas A&M (6-4, 4-3 SEC) bowl eligible after failing to qualify in last year’s 5-7 season.
Henderson threw for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns, and ran for 60 yards and 2 more scores with Max Johnson out with a rib injury. Henderson, a transfer from Fresno State, is the third starting quarterback this year for the Aggies, who lost Conner Weigman to a season-ending foot injury after four games.
Henderson connected with Ainias Smith on a 19-yard TD reception to extend the lead to 27-10 with five minutes left in the second quarter. Henderson made it 34-10 with an 11-yard touchdown run just before halftime.
Jarred Kerr sacked Mike Wright early in the third quarter and forced a fumble. Stewart, a 6-6, 285-pound defensive end, scooped it up and escaped one would-be tackler before rumbling 43 yards for the touchdown to make it 41-10.
Mississippi State (4-6, 1-6) gave true freshman Chris Parson his first career start in their fourth game since quarterback Will Rogers injured his non-throwing shoulder. But went back to Wright, who started the last three games, early in the second after Parson threw two interceptions.
Parson re-entered the game on the ninth play of the drive after Wright’s fumble and Tyreek Chappell intercepted him in the end zone. He threw for 36 yards and Wright had 68 yards. The team's only touchdown came on a kick return on the opening kickoff.
It’s the third straight loss for the Bulldogs, who’ll have to win their final two games to become bowl eligible for a 14th straight season.
Mississippi State jumped out to an early lead when Zavion Thomas returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.
Texas A&M evened the score when Henderson scored on a 22-yard run on A&M’s first possession.
Deuce Harmon intercepted Parson on Mississippi State’s next drive, but the Aggies couldn’t take advantage of the turnover and punted.
A 1-yard TD run by Amari Daniels with about 2 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter put Texas A&M on top 14-7. Parson was intercepted again on the next drive when his pass was deflected by Chappell and picked off by Jacoby Mathews.
A 33-yard field goal by Randy Bond on the last play of the first quarter extended the lead to 17-7.
Bond added a 52-yard field goal that made it 20-7 early in the second.
Mississippi State cut the lead to 20-10 on a 35-yard field goal by Kyle Ferrie about seven minutes before halftime.
Gamecocks win big
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Spencer Rattler had a goal he shared with his South Carolina teammates before taking the field against Vanderbilt.
“Let's win big,” Rattler said.
Rattler passed for 351 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Gamecocks won their 15th straight over Vanderbilt, 47-6, on Saturday.
Rattler, in his second year since transferring from Oklahoma, has been one of the brightest spots in a so-so season at South Carolina (4-6, 2-5 SEC). He's connected on more than 70% of his throws with 17 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.
This was his second straight game over 300 yards and his fifth this season.
“I feel like always in the month of November I've played at a high level, no matter where I was at,” Rattler said.
Rattler and the Gamecocks took control early to open a 27-0 lead and break a four-game SEC losing streak.
Rattler, who also ran for a score, finished 28 of 36 and was looking for the end zone with the game well in hand as he connected with O'Mega Blake on a 26-yard TD to put South Carolina up 40-6.
And it continued South Carolina's last-ditch hope for a bowl game, which would be the third in as many seasons under coach Shane Beamer.
“In one word, momentum,” tight end Joshua Simon said. “We wanted to get that momentum and finish strong.”
It won't be easy with Kentucky, ranked for several weeks this season, ahead next Saturday and revived rival Clemson to close out the regular season, to reach the six wins necessary for the postseason.
It was another disheartening performance for Vanderbilt (2-9, 0-7), which must go to No. 14 Tennessee — the Vols won that 56-0 a year ago — to avoid a second winless SEC season in coach Clark Lea's three years.
Rattler and the Gamecocks came out firing despite the rainy, cold air and consistently found his favorite target this season in Xavier Legette.
Legette's 39-yard catch to the Vanderbilt 1 bailed out a scrambling Rattler and defensive tackle Alex Huntley caught the TD pass a play later.
Rattler hit all seven of his passes on the next drive, which he ended with a 1-yard TD run.
Mario Anderson had a 72-yard touchdown burst after escaping a wall of Vanderbilt defenders to put South Carolina ahead 27-0 in the third quarter. Anderson finished with 102 yards rushing.
Gamecocks freshman Keenan Nelson Jr. blocked a Matthew Hayball punt and ran it back 18 yards for a touchdown.
Legette, who had 9 catches for 120 yards, became the fifth South Carolina receiver ever to surpass 1,000 yards in a season with 1,093. It was his fourth game with over 100 yards in pass catches this season.
The biggest drama after halftime was whether South Carolina would post its first shutout over an SEC team since 2006. But Ken Seals' 19-yard scoring pass to Quincy Skinner Jr. to start the fourth quarter took care of that.
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