By: Kyle Norris, KCOU Sports
It was a David vs. Goliath matchup. A Mizzou win would have meant complete chaos for the College Football Selection Committee.
But on this Saturday, Alabama would have none of it.
The Crimson Tide cruised to a 42-13 victory over the Tigers to claim their fifth SEC Championship game win and second in three years.
Mizzou, playing in its second straight SEC Championship, could not get any offensive momentum from the opening kick. Alabama won the toss and elected to receive in the first half, and it was a choice that boded well for the Tide. Bama quarterback Blake Sims was a perfect 5 for 5 on the opening drive of the game, leading his team 68 yards on 10 plays for the early 7-0 lead off of the T.J. Yeldon one yard run into the endzone.
Missouri’s first time to move the chains did not come until its third drive of the game. By that point, two thirds of the first quarter had passed. Mizzou quarterback would go 1 for 5 for 7 yards on the Tigers’ first two possessions. Luckily for Mizzou, the defense, that had kept the team in ballgames all year long, was doing what they do best through one quarter.
Disaster struck for the Tigers with 11:58 left in the second quarter. Not only did the Tigers give up a 58-yard air strike to a wide receiver not named Amari Cooper, star defensive end Shane Ray was called for targeting and thrown out of the game. The Sims to DeAndrew White strike made the score 14-0 Tide, and the loss of Shane Ray meant that Missouri was going to need other defenders to step up the rest of the game.
The only other game where one of the Ray/Markus Golden tandem was half gone was another memorable game for Mizzou, in a bad way. Golden sat out of the Mizzou/Indiana game with an injury, and Mizzou would fall to the now 4-8 Hoosiers 31-27 at Faurot Field. But the Tigers hung around with a much better Crimson Tide in this matchup.
Missouri would answer the touchdown and ejection with the team’s longest drive of the game to that point. Led by a 15-yard Marcus Murphy run, and by a 32-yard Jimmie Hunt reception, Andrew Baggett would cap the 58 yard drive with a field goal and put the Tigers on the board 14-3.
But Alabama continued to pressure Mizzou as the Tide converted on third down three different times on the following drive. 14 plays, 75 yards, and almost six minutes later, another short two-yard Yeldon rushing score put the Crimson Tide up 21-3 with less than three minutes to go in the first half. The score would hold 21-3 going into the half, and Mizzou had a large hole to overcome in the second 30 minutes. But the Tigers have been known as a second half team, and Maty Mauk had statistically been the best QB in the SEC in the fourth quarter of games.
Mizzou needed a score to start the second half, and that’s exactly what they got. The Tigers had a 3rd and long to start the drive, and Mauk found Hunt for 10 yards. 3rd and long again, and guess who? Mauk found Hunt way downfield for a 63 yard completion and the Tigers were looking at a first and goal from the one yard line. It took Mizzou till the fourth down play to finally break the endzone, but the Mauk to Bud Sasser one-yard touchdown reception made it 21-10 and Missouri again was within striking distance of the #1 ranked team in the nation.
The Missouri defense would then respond and keep Alabama from scoring on the next drive. The Tigers got the ball back and would drive down the field again to score three points. Jimmie Hunt had another long downfield catch on the drive, this time 47 yards, and Andrew Baggett’s second field goal of the day made it a one-possession game with under five minutes left to play in the third quarter. After the first three drives of the third quarter, Mizzou had outgained Alabama 140 yards to 27. With the fourth quarter coming, Mizzou had to have the edge going into the game’s final 15 minutes. But Alabama would drive all the way down to the Missouri two yard line to end the third quarter.
It took Alabama one play into the fourth quarter to finish the 64-yard drive. A Sims to Christion Jones connection made the score 28-13, and Mizzou was looking for two scores to get back into the ballgame. There were two more scores in the game, but neither would go to the Tigers. Although Missouri pushed the Tide back to the Missouri 10 to start their next drive, they quickly down 90 yards for another touchdown. Blake Sims ran 26 yards to cap the drive, and hope quickly started to fade for Mizzou, down 35-13 with 7:38 left.
Mizzou had to score on its next drive to stay alive. The drive started well, but the biggest play of the drive turned out to be the final blow for Missouri’s chance at the 2014 SEC Championship. A 23-yard Darius White reception ended with a fumble recovered by the Tide, and the Crimson Tide faithful saw the College Football Playoff in the distance. Add one touchdown to Tide running back Derrick Henry’s credit, and at the end of 60 minutes, Alabama had won their second SEC Championship by beating Missouri 42-13.
Sims was nearly perfect in the game for the Tide, going 23 for 27 for 262 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mauk did not have his worst performance, but his 16 for 34 was his sixth game under 50% completion this year. He threw for 272 yards and the one touchdown to Sasser. Heisman candidate Amari Cooper shined again for Alabama, breaking the record for receptions in an SEC championship game with 12. He also broke the SEC record for most receptions in a season with 115, and will still have at least one more game to pay. Hunt also made a name for himself for the Tigers, grabbing six catches for 169 yards, averaging just over 28 yards a catch.
Both teams will find out their bowl fate on Sunday. Alabama is likely heading to the first College Football Playoff. Missouri will go bowl-ing with its 10-3 record, but there are a number of bowls that Mizzou could be heading to.