Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel celebrates with his teammates following Saturday’s 29-24 victory over top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — AJ McCarron and Alabama came up just short this time with the game, and probably their national title hopes, on the line.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide rallied from a three-touchdown deficit Saturday and nearly took the lead before leaving Bryant-Denny Stadium with a 29-24 loss to Johnny Manziel and No. 15 Texas A&M.
Bama (9-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) is down but coach Nick Saban isn’t counting his team out of the national championship race just yet.
“Two of the three national championship teams that I coached lost a game,” Saban said, counting one at LSU. “This team still has an opportunity to win the West and go to the SEC championship game and win a championship. There’s still a lot for this team to play for.”
Now, the Tide will have to beat struggling Auburn to clinch the West and get into the SEC title game. As for the national title, Alabama will have to hope for another shakeup in the form of losses by Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame. If the Tide wins out, and two of those teams go down, a third national championship in four seasons is still in play — along with a seventh straight for the SEC.
For now though, the SEC is on the outside looking in at the BCS title race.
The Aggies (8-2, 5-2), playing in the Southeastern Conference for the first season after ditching the Big 12, also might have ended the league’s run of BCS titles at six years.
The defending national champion Tide, who have been No. 1 almost all season and had won 13 straight, didn’t go quietly.
McCarron nearly pulled off a second straight scintillating comeback. He threw one touchdown pass and motored the ball downfield before Deshazor Everett stepped in front of his fourth-down pass at the goal line with 1:36 left.
Manziel passed for 253 yards and rushed for 92, confounding the Tide defense with his ability to keep plays alive as the Aggies scored the game’s first 20 points.
“No moment is too big for him,” coach Kevin Sumlin said of his remarkable redshirt freshman.
The Aggies had been 1-10 against top-ranked teams with the only previous win coming 30-26 over Oklahoma in 2002, but Manziel and Sumlin have entered the SEC with speed and swagger — and fit right in.
“They played a tremendous game and certainly outplayed us,” Saban said.
Alabama managed a second-shot national title after losing to LSU just over a year ago in the regular season but seems a longshot to do it again. Alabama would have secured a spot in the SEC championship game with a victory and only Western Carolina and Auburn remaining.
No. 7 FLORIDA 27, LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 20
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Jelani Jenkins returned a blocked punt 36 yards for a touchdown with 2 seconds remaining and Florida rallied in the closing minutes to avoid a huge upset.
Florida (9-1) did little on offense most of the day and looked to be in serious trouble when quarterback Jeff Driskel left the game with an ankle injury.
The Rajin’ Cajuns (5-4) led 20-13 after Alonzo Harris’ 2-yard run and a blocked punt for a touchdown. But Jacoby Brissett rallied the Gators. Brissett found Jordan Reed down the middle for a 39-yard gain and then hit Quinton Dunbar for 3-yard score with 1:42 remaining.
ULL was content to play for overtime.
But Loucheiz Purifoy came off the edge and got his right hand on the punt. Jenkins picked up the deflection and went untouched the other way.
No. 10 CLEMSON 45, MARYLAND 10
CLEMSON, S.C. — Tajh Boyd threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns as Clemson won its sixth straight and record 12th in a row at Death Valley.
Clemson (9-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) had little trouble with the banged-up Terps (4-6, 2-4), who again started linebacker Shawn Petty at quarterback because of season-ending injuries to their four scholarship passers.
The Tigers ended things early as Boyd passed for a 13-yard touchdown to Adam Humphries and a 28-yard score to DeAndre Hopkins. In between, Clemson defensive end Corey Crawford brought a Petty fumble 16 yards for a touchdown as part of his team’s 21-point first quarter.
Clemson star receiver Sammy Watkins left the game in the second quarter with a lower leg injury.
SYRACUSE 45, No. 11 LOUISVILLE 26
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Ryan Nassib threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns, Jerome Smith ran for 144 yards and Syracuse handed Louisville its first loss of the season.
Playing in the last home game of his SU career, Nassib directed an offense that gained 524 total yards. Nassib went 15 of 23 and passed Donovan McNabb for second on the school’s career yards passing list.
The Orange (5-5, 4-2 Big East) blew the game open with three touchdowns in the second quarter and Louisville (9-1, 4-1) allowed more points than it had in any game this season.
No. 12 SOUTH CAROLINA 38, ARKANSAS 20
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Connor Shaw threw for two touchdowns and ran for another score for South Carolina.
Shaw was 15 of 23 for 279 yards for the Gamecocks (8-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference), who finished with six league wins for only the second time in 20 years in the SEC.
Arkansas (4-6, 2-4) will now have to beat both Mississippi State and LSU to make a bowl game after starting the season No. 10 in the country.
No. 14 OKLAHOMA 42, BAYLOR 34
NORMAN, Okla. — Landry Jones threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns, Damien Williams ran for 99 yards and two scores and Bob Stoops moved into sole possession of second place on the school’s career wins list. Backup quarterback Blake Bell scored on a 55-yard keeper in the fourth quarter for the longest run by a quarterback in the Stoops era.
No. 15 STANFORD 27, No. 13 OREGON STATE 23
STANFORD, Calif. — Kevin Hogan threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns in his first collegiate start, and Stanford overcame four turnovers to rally past Oregon State.
Cody Vaz fumbled late in the fourth quarter to give the Cardinal (8-2, 6-1) the ball at the Beavers 29. The only Oregon State (7-2, 5-2) turnover turned out to be the difference.
Hogan hit tight end Zach Ertz for a 13-yard touchdown for the go-ahead score and Stanford stopped the Beavers twice more. The Cardinal will head to second-ranked Oregon next week with a chance to take over sole control of the North Division and move closer to a spot in the conference championship.
No. 18 NEBRASKA 32, PENN STATE 23
LINCOLN, Neb. — Taylor Martinez threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Turner for Nebraska’s first lead, and the Cornhuskers overcame a double-digit, second-half deficit for the fourth time this season.
Ameer Abdullah ran for 116 yards on a career-high 31 carries, and Martinez finished with 104 yards as the Huskers pounded away on the ground on a windy afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
The Huskers (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten), down 14 points at half, got TD runs of 1 and 2 yards from Imani Cross to tie it at 20.
Martinez threw 56 yards to Kyler Reed on a third-and-5 and, three plays later, found Turner on a short slant in the end zone for the lead with 10:57 left.
Penn State (6-4, 4-2) looked ready to regain the lead, but tight end Matt Lehman fumbled into the end zone and Nebraska recovered.
No. 19 TEXAS 33, IOWA STATE 7
AUSTIN, Texas — David Ash passed for 364 yards and two touchdowns and Texas honored former coach Darrell Royal by whipping Iowa State.
No. 21 USC 38, ARIZONA STATE 17
LOS ANGELES — Marqise Lee caught 10 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, Curtis McNeal rushed for 163 yards and two more scores, and Southern California bounced back from consecutive losses against skidding Arizona State.
Matt Barkley threw for 222 yards and three TDs while becoming the leading passer in conference history for the Trojans (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12), who overcame a slow start and five turnovers to snap their two-game skid.
No. 24 RUTGERS 28, ARMY 7
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Brandon Coleman caught his second touchdown of the game on a 31-yard pass from Gary Nova with 8:49 to play and Rutgers survived a valiant effort by mistake-prone Army.
In bouncing back from its first loss and a two-week layoff that featured Hurricane Sandy and a Nor’easter that dumped a foot of snow in New Jersey, the Scarlet Knights (8-1) scored three times in the final nine minutes.
Rutgers also relied upon a 2-yard touchdown run from Savon Huggins and a 73-yard fumble return by Duron Harmon during the final minute.
Army (2-8) played tough, but it could not overcome three lost fumbles, a dropped touchdown pass, two blocked field goals and three late game-changing miscues that cost them the game.
No. 25 TEXAS TECH 41, KANSAS 34
LUBBOCK, Texas — Running back Eric Stephens threw a 3-yard jump pass to Darrin Moore for a touchdown in double overtime to lead Texas Tech past Kansas.
Kansas had a chance to tie but Michael Cummings couldn’t connect with Tre’ Parmalee in the end zone on fourth-and-9.
The Jayhawks (1-9, 0-7 Big 12) came from behind in the fourth quarter and sent the game into overtime on a 32-yard field goal by Nick Prolago with under a minute remaining in regulation.
Seth Doege completed 45 of 59 passes for three touchdowns and 476 yards for Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3). He had one interception in the second quarter that seemed to give the Jayhawks belief they could upset the Red Raiders.
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