Mizzou defense takes control, contains Manziel for win

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Johnny Football was going to take it all away.
This improbable season. The trip to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference championship game. The top-five national ranking.
All of it.
  
Saturday
night’s sellout crowd of 67,124 at Memorial Stadium watched as
Missouri’s seven-point lead disappeared on a nine-play, 98-yard
touchdown drive by Texas A&M early in the fourth quarter.
 
Johnny Football had done it again.
 
But then something funny happened.
 
The Missouri defense took over.
Yes,
the same Tigers defense that couldn’t hold on to a 17-point lead in the
final minutes against South Carolina in late October. The same Missouri
defense that had been stingy for all but a few minutes over the first
11 games and for much of Game No. 12.
 
After Texas
A&M tied the score at 21-21 with 10:43 remaining, the Tigers’
defense answered the bell and shut out the Aggies on their final three
series.
 
Henry Josey busted loose for a 57-yard
touchdown run with 3:34 remaining and defensive coordinator Dave Steckel
took care of the rest.
 
Missouri 28.
 
Texas A&M 21.
“If
you can hold Texas A&M to 21 points, you’re playing pretty good
defense — without question,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “And
that’s probably an understatement.”
  
Johnny
Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, completed 24 of 35 passes
for 195 yards and a touchdown and ran 11 times for 21 yards. His 195
passing yards and 124.8 passer rating were his second-lowest of the
season.
 
Missouri chased him around all night with
its impressive collection of defensive ends — Michael Sam and Kony Ealy
and Markus Golden and Shane Ray — and the defensive backs, led by
cornerback E.J. Gaines, were strong enough in coverage to limit
Manziel’s options.
 
“We were relentless, in just
the effort. Relentless,” Pinkel said. “Our defensive line wanted him so
bad. They wanted a piece of him every chance they got. And he’s a great,
great player. I’ve been doing this for a long time. John Elway was
always, I thought, probably the best college player that I’d ever seen.
This guy, he’s had one or two games in 24 games that have not been up to
par. The rest he changes games. We did a great job. I think we got him
off sync a little bit.”
 
The Tigers’ defense was at
its best during Texas A&M’s final three possessions, holding the
Aggies to one yard on nine plays.
 
That’s three three-and-outs.
 
With the game on the line.
 
With everything on the line.
 
“With
their front seven, there’s a reason they lead the league in sacks,”
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “We weren’t able to move the ball
quite like we needed to in order to be effective and (Missouri’s
defense) had a lot to do with that.”
In the
final three series, Manziel completed two out of six passes for three
yards. He was hurried on his four incompletions, by Golden, Ray, Sam and
defensive tackle Lucas Vincent. He also ran for negative-two yards,
stopped behind the line by middle linebacker Andrew Wilson on a
first-down scramble.
 
“We knew they had a great
player in Manziel and our key was to keep him contained, which we did,”
linebacker Kentrell Brothers said. “He made a couple big plays, but we
also made a couple big plays on him.”
 
The Tigers might have also squashed Manziel’s Heisman hopes in the process.
 
Manziel didn’t meet with the media following Saturday’s game.
 
Instead, A&M wide receiver Travis Labhart talked about him.
“He’s
such a competitor,” Labhart said. “He’s our team leader, and he’s
always going to take losses tough. A lot of the times, he takes a loss
tough because he thinks it’s on him. He’ll bounce back like he has all
year.”
  
As Labhart spoke, fans and Missouri
players were still scattered across Faurot Field, the sound system at
Memorial Stadium playing “Georgia On My Mind,” an ode to the Tigers’
next game.
 
A few minutes later, it was “We Are the Champions.”
 
It was that kind of night.
 
Thanks to the Missouri defense.
 
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com.