Saturday's Top 25 football: Defense shines, No. 4 Georgia prevails against Texas A&M

John Zenor
Associated Press

Athens, Ga. — No. 4 Georgia is still on course to make a run at the College Football Playoff.

No thanks to the offense.

The No. 4 Bulldogs managed only one touchdown Saturday, but Rodrigo Blankenship booted four field goals and the defense stymied 24th-ranked Texas A&M for a lackluster 19-13 victory.

Georgia (10-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference; No. 4 CFP) wrapped up the league schedule with its fifth straight victory, but it was a struggle all the way.

On a wet day between the hedges, the Bulldogs managed only 260 total yards and didn’t really seal the victory until D’Andre Swift broke off an 11-yard run on third-and-1 with 2½ minutes remaining.

“No bones about it, we’ve got to improve,” coach Kirby Smart said. “There were things tonight that we missed that were there. That’s the frustrating part.”

While the Bulldogs struggled offensively, the defense turned in another dominating performance until the closing minutes, when fatigue set in and the unit had to get by without top cornerback Eric Stokes, who left with an undisclosed injury.

His backup, freshman Tyrique Stevenson, knocked away a pass that forced the Aggies to punt with 4:21 remaining.

They never got it back.

“Those guys are relentless,” said Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, who had another tough game. “I’m really thankful they’re on our team.”

Georgia wide receiver George Pickens (1) makes a catch for a touchdown as Texas A&M defensive back Debione Renfro (29) defends in the first half.

Texas A&M (7-4, 4-3) was held to just minus-1 yards rushing and 274 yards overall, one week after piling up 319 yards on the ground in a rout of South Carolina.

In his final game at Sanford Stadium, Blankenship connected on field goals of 41, 49, 37 and 31 yards to become Georgia’s career scoring leader with 418 points. He passed Marshall Morgan (407), Billy Bennett (409) and previous leader Blair Walsh (412).

“The history of great kickers that Georgia’s had,” said Blankenship, who gained notoriety for his thick goggles but will be remembered for his uncanny accuracy. “Just to be among the ranks of those guys is really an honor.”

Blankenship’s performance was especially impressive in the sloppy conditions. His 49-yarder came when the rain was at its heaviest.

“It was straight down the middle,” teammate Richard LeCounte marveled. “That’s special.”

Athens was hit by storms before the game, and another line rolled through in the second quarter, keeping famed mascot Uga X confined to his doghouse.

Then, suddenly, the showers cleared.

So did the cloud over the Georgia offense.

Just after sun broke through the clouds, bathing the towering north stands in light, freshman George Pickens slipped free down the right sideline and hauled in a 16-yard pass from Fromm, pushing the Bulldogs to a 13-3 lead at halftime.

It would be Georgia’s only trip to the end zone.

The Bulldogs kept settling for field goals, and Texas A&M finally produced its lone TD of the game. Going 75 yards in 10 plays, the Aggies scored on Kellen Mond’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Jhamon Ausbon with 11:16 remaining.

They got no closer.

“I think we showed a lot of guts,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Unfortunately, there are no moral victories. We’re not here for moral victories. We played a great football team very well, but we’ve got to find that last 2 inches at the top of the mountain.”

More Top 25

(At) No. 1 LSU 56, Arkansas 20: Joe Burrow passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns, Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for a career-high 188 yards and three TDs and LSU clinched its first trip since to the Southeastern Conference championship game since 2011.

LSU (11-0, 7-0) can finish no worse than a tie for first with Alabama (10-1, 6-1) and owns the tiebreaker by virtue of the Tigers’ 46-41 triumph in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9.

Burrow’s first touchdown was a 37-yarder on the game’s first possession to Ja’Marr Chase, and the two connected on a 50-yarder in the third quarter on which Burrow eclipsed 4,000 yards for the season and Chase increased in single-season LSU record for TD catches to 15.

Burrow’s other touchdown toss came on a short crossing route to Justin Jefferson, who ran the last few yards of the 10-yard scoring play.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire scored on runs of 89, 27 and 26 yards, each time leaving at least one defensive back grasping at air, to give him 14 TDs rushing this season. His 89-yard run was a career long.

The Razorbacks (2-9, 0-7) have lost eight straight.

(At) No. 5 Alabama 66, Western Carolina 3: Mac Jones passed for 275 yards and three touchdowns in little more than a half and Alabama began life without Tua Tagovailoa with a romp over Western Carolina.

With Tagovailoa watching much of the game from a cart behind the bench, the Crimson Tide (10-1) treated its injured quarterback to a one-sided show against the Catamounts (3-9). Alabama is ranked fifth in the College Football Playoff rankings and hoping to somehow make the field despite failing to win the SEC West.

This one was about taking care of business five days after Tagovailoa underwent surgery on his right hip. It wasn’t the type of game for impressing the selection committee.

Alabama forced five turnovers, including Xavier McKinney’s 81-yard interception return for a touchdown, and got big plays from Jones and wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Jones completed 10 of 12 passes with only one attempt after halftime in his second career start. Smith had four catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns, including a 57-yarder when he juked a defender before sprinting to the end zone. Waddle produced 101 yards and took a screen 54 yards for a touchdown, then returned a punt 49 yards to near the goal line.

(At) Arizona State 31, No. 6 Oregon 28: Freshman Jayden Daniels completed 22 of 32 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns and Arizona State intercepted two of Justin Herbert’s passes in the fourth quarter.

Arizona State (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) ended Oregon’s College Football Playoff hopes and its nine-game winning streak. The Sun Devils snapped a four-game losing streak with their first victory over a top-five team since Oct. 14, 2017, against then No. 5 Washington.

Oregon (9-2, 7-1) has clinched the Pac-12 North title and a place in the conference championship game.

The Sun Devils held on after Oregon scored three touchdowns in a 6:38 span in the wild fourth quarter.

The Ducks, down 24-7 with 8:42 to play, scored twice on three-play drives. It took them 59 seconds to make it 24-14 on Cyrus Habibi-Likio’s touchdown run, then 43 seconds to get Herbert’s scoring pass to Johnny Johnson III. Then, with Arizona State facing third-and-16, Daniels hit Brandon Aiyuk in stride for an 81-yard touchdown strike with 3:54 to play.

Herbert and Johnson connected again for a touchdown with 2:04 left, but Arizona State was able to run out the clock.

Aiyuk had seven catches for 161 yards, Frank Darby finished with four catches for 125 yards and running back Eno Benjamin had 168 total yards.

No. 7 Utah 35, (at) Arizona 7: Zack Moss ran for a season-high 203 yards and Utah rolled against skidding Arizona.

The Utes (10-1, 7-1 Pac-12, No. 7 CFP) have won seven straight games and are the lone Pac-12 team in serious contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff after No. 6 Oregon lost to Arizona State earlier on Saturday.

Utah's defense was dominant once again, holding an opponent to seven points or fewer for the fifth time in six games. Arizona managed just 196 total yards and a big chunk of those came in the fourth quarter when mostly backups were playing.

Tyler Huntley completed 19 of 23 passes for 211 yards with one touchdown and one interception for the Utes. Tight end Brant Kuithe ran for two touchdowns on two carries.

Arizona (4-7, 2-6) has lost six in a row.

(At) No. 8 Oklahoma 28, TCU 24: Jalen Hurts passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more and Oklahoma beat TCU to clinch a spot in the Big 12 championship game.

Hurts ran for 173 yards and passed for 145. He became the third Oklahoma quarterback to rush for at least 1,000 yards in a season.

Kennedy Brooks added 149 yards rushing for the Sooners (10-1, 7-1, No. 9 CFP), who kept their College Football Playoff hopes alive.

Max Duggan rushed for 92 and a touchdown for the Horned Frogs (5-6, 3-5), who missed a chance to become bowl eligible.

Oklahoma won its 20th consecutive November game dating to 2014. The Sooners outgained the Horned Frogs 511 yards to 204, but turned the ball over three times.

(At) No. 13 Baylor 24, Texas 10: Charlie Brewer accounted for 296 yards and two touchdowns and No. 13 Baylor wrapped up a spot in the Big 12 championship game a week after the Bears missed a chance to do so with their first loss of the season.

The Bears (10-1, 7-1 Big 12, No. 14 CFP) have their sixth 10-win season, and fifth since 2011. This one comes just two years after the school’s only 11-loss season in coach Matt Rhule’s debut when he took over in the aftermath of a sprawling sexual assault scandal that led to two-time Big 12 champion coach Art Briles getting fired 3 1/2 years ago.

Texas (6-5, 4-4) lost for the third time in four games, ending its long-shot bid to get back to the Big 12 title game for the second year in a row.

(At) No. 15 Notre Dame 40, Boston College 7: Ian Book threw three touchdown passes and Notre Dame corralled Boston College star running back AJ Dillon.

The fourth straight victory by the Fighting Irish (9-2, No. 15 CFP) completed their second straight unbeaten season (7-0) at Notre Dame Stadium, where they have won 18 straight. But for the second straight week, the stadium was not filled after a streak of 273 sellouts since 1973. The announced crowd of 71,827 was 5,795 short of capacity.

Leading 16-7 at halftime thanks to Jonathan Doerer’s field goals of 47, 20 and 45 yards, the Irish scored 17 points in the third quarter to bury the Eagles (5-6). Dillon, a 250-pound junior who had 1,451 yards entering the game, was held to 56 yards on 14 carries.

(At) No. 16 Auburn 52, Samford 0: Auburn held Samford to 114 yards and forced four turnovers, JaTarvious Whitlow scored twice and the Tigers tuned up for the Iron Bowl against Alabama with a rain-drenched rout.

Auburn (8-3) forced and recovered a fumble on a fourth-and-4 on Samford’s opening drive, the first of three turnovers and a trio of three-and-outs across Samford’s first six possessions. The Tigers had 13 tackles for loss and held Samford to 2 yards per play, 2 of 13 on third down as Auburn’s defensive starters were benched a few minutes into the third quarter.

Samford (5-7) had scored in 213 straight games.

As the rain increased, so, too, did Auburn’s offensive production. After a seven-point first quarter in which they struggled to convert third downs and had a 43-yard field goal blocked, the Tigers had 193 yards of offense and 24 points in the second. Whitlow and D.J. Williams accounted for 130 yards from scrimmage in the first half and Williams added his second touchdown of the season in the third quarter.

After completing 15 of 23 passes for 150 yards and a score, Bo Nix’s day also was done early in the third quarter.

(At) No. 17 Cincinnati 15, Temple 13: Michael Warren II ran 13 yards for a touchdown on a cold, raw night, Coby Bryant went 98 yards with a blocked extra-point attempt and Cincinnati clinched a spot in the American Athletic title game.

The Bearcats (10-1, 7-0) secured the AAC East title and remained the only unbeaten team in league play. They would host the title game if they win next week at No. 18 Memphis, which shares the AAC West lead.

Temple (7-4, 4-3) had won four straight against Cincinnati with its dominant defense, but couldn’t get enough out of its offense until too late on a windy, rainy night with temperatures in the 30s and snow falling in the closing minutes.

Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder played despite a sore passing shoulder and was only 9 of 25 for 62 yards. Warren finished with 106 yards rushing.

No. 18 Memphis 49, (at) South Florida 10: Brady White threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns and Memphis shrugged off two early turnovers to beat South Florida and retain a share of first place in the American Athletic Conference West Division.

The Tigers (10-1, 6-1, No. 18 CFP) have won five straight since their only loss, at Temple, and they can clinch a third straight appearance in the AAC championship game with a home win over No. 17 Cincinnati next week.

White had two passes intercepted twice in the first half when USF (4-7, 2-5) led 10-7. The graduate transfer settled in and took control of the game with help from a bevy of playmakers.

Memphis rushed for 325 yards, with Patrick Taylor gaining 95 on 17 attempts and scoring on runs of 3, 5 and 10 yards. Leading rusher Kenneth Gainwell averaged 9 yards a carry and finished with 128.

No. 20 Boise State 56, (at) Utah State 21: George Holani ran for a career-high 178 yards and two touchdowns, powering Boise State.

Jaylon Henderson threw for 187 yards and three scores in his second start as Boise State (10-1, 7-0 Mountain West) clinched a share of the Mountain Division title and a berth in the Mountain West Conference championship game for the third straight season.

Jordan Love threw for 229 yards and a touchdown to lead the Aggies (6-5, 5-2), who lost to the Broncos for a fourth consecutive season.

Holani averaged 11.1 yards per carry to pace a Boise State rushing attack that churned out a season-best 297 yards on the ground.

Navy 35, (at) No. 21 SMU 28: Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry generated 357 yards of total offense and scored the winning touchdown.

Perry found a seam and scampered 70 yards with just over 6 minutes remaining to break a tie. He finished with 195 yards on 38 carries with two touchdowns on the ground and completed 9 of 15 passes for 162 yards and another score.

The Midshipmen (8-2, 6-1) still have a shot at the West Division crown of the American Athletic Conference should No. 18 Memphis falter down the stretch. The Tigers own the tiebreaker by virtue of their 35-23 victory over Navy on Sept. 26.

CJ Sanders had a 100-yard kickoff return for SMU (9-2, 5-2), tying the longest in the 60-year history of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

No. 22 Oklahoma State 20, (at) West Virginia 13: Dru Brown threw two touchdown passes in his first start, Chuba Hubbard surpassed 100 yards rushing for the ninth consecutive game and No. 22 Oklahoma State won its fourth straight.

Brown and national rushing leader Hubbard generated just enough offense for the Cowboys (8-3, 5-3 Big 12, No. 21 CFP).

Hubbard ran 26 times for 106 yards, far below his 173-yard average, but he ran for 47 yards on two key second-half drives that helped Oklahoma State take control and showed off his receiving skills the entire game.

West Virginia (4-7, 2-6) didn’t have as much luck inside the red zone. The Mountaineers couldn’t convert on three plays from the 1-yard line in the second quarter and they twice had to settle for short field goals.

(At) No. 23 Appalachian State 35, Texas State 13: Darrynton Evans ran for 154 yards and three second-half touchdowns for Appalachian State.

The victory, combined with Arkansas State’s in over Georgia Southern, guarantees the Mountaineers (10-1, 6-1 Sun Belt) a spot in the Sun Belt Conference championship game for the second straight season.

Zac Thomas threw for 174 yards and two TDs for the Mountaineers.

Tyler Vitt threw for 154 yards and a score for Texas State (3-8, 2-5).

(At) No. 25 Virginia Tech 28, Pittsburgh 0: Hendon Hooker threw for 153 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 25 Virginia Tech over Pittsburgh.

Hooker threw touchdown passes to Tré Turner and Damon Hazelton, and Virginia Tech’s defense scored on a fumble return, as the Hokies (8-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) notched their sixth win in their past seven games.

The Virginia Tech win sets up a showdown next weekend with rival Virginia, with the victor claiming the ACC’s Coastal Division and an ACC championship game berth on Dec. 7.

Pittsburgh (7-4, 4-3 ACC) finished with a season-low 177 yards. Kenny Pickett completed 10 of 26 passes for 103 yards.