Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron had a reasonably solid game, but the first interception he recorded this year led to a Texas A&M touchdown and his second of the year, with just over a minute and a half to play ended the Crimson Tide hopes of a miraculous comeback.
Instead, Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel was all he had been billed in leading the Aggies to a 29-24 upset of the nation’s number one ranked team.
The loss almost certainly ended any Bama chances of repeating as national champion. The Tide must defeat Auburn in two weeks in order to capture the Southeastern Conference Western Division championship and play for the SEC title.
Texas A&M is in its first year as a member of the SEC. The Aggies improved to 8-2 overall and 5-2 in conference play. Bama suffered its first loss of the year and is now 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the league.
Alabama has its final non-conference game of the week next Saturday hosting Western Carolina in a game that will be televised on the SEC Network beginning at 11:20 a.m. CST.
After trailing throughout the game, Alabama seemed poised to pull out victory in the final minutes. Bama got the ball back at its 40 with 4:27 to play. An excellent McCarron pass to Kenny Bell was pulled in at the 15 and run down to the Aggies 6-yard line. Most of the 101,000 in attendance probably expected the Tide to make runs at the goalline. But on first down, the Tide called a pass and McCarron scrambled for no gain. After Lacy ran for a yard, McCarron had to scramble again, and made it to the two-yard line.
On fourth down, McCarron tried again to connect with Bell, but the pass was intercepted by A&M’s Deshazor Everett.
The Tide kept faint hopes alive by holding A&M and downs. It seemed the Aggies would punt the ball back to Aalbama in reasonable field position with about half a minute to play.
Those hopes were dashed when Alabama jumped offsides, giving A&M a first down and ending the game.
Alabama was never so happy to be trailing by a touchdown as was the case at halftime, when Alabama trailed Texas A&M by only 20-14. From the start, it looked as if Bama had forgotten everything it had ever learned about containing a quarterback. To be sure, Johnny Manziel, the fabulous Texas A&M freshman, has done it to everyone, but nevertheless it was disconcerting as the Aggies marched to three consecutive touchdowns with Manziel making big plays against the Crimson Tide’s usually disciplined defense.
The first Texas A&M march was 73 yards in nine plays and took fewer than three minutes. Part of the problem was a facemask penalty against Alabama, but it still looked awfully easy. On a second and eight from the Alabama 43, Manziel broke free on a 29 yards run. Two plays later it was first-and-goal from the four and two plays after that A&M tailback Ben Malena was into the end zone. Taylor Bartelot kicked it to 7-0 less than five minutes into the game.
Down 7-0, the Alabama mood seemed to be more disgust than disappointment. On the Tide’s next possession, facing third-and-five from near midfield, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron suffered his first interception of the season. The ball hit Kenny Bell, but Bell was racked by Howard Matthews, the ball popped into the hands of Sean Porter, and returned 16 yards to the Tide 41.
Manziel completed a 32-yard pass to Kenric McNeal on first down to set up a first-and-goal. On third and 10, Manziel was jarred loose from the ball momentarily, but caught it, escaped the rush, and then passed to a wide open Ryan Swope in the middle of the end zone for a 14-0 lead with less than half a quarter played.
Alabama’s offense was still not moving and the Aggies got the ball back at the A&M 27 with 6:40 to play in the quarter. Five minutes later the Aggies were finishing up a 14-yard, 73-play drive with fullback Christine Michael going in from a yard out. The drive including a 33-yard Manziel scramble on a third-and-six play. However, the Aggies missed the extra point, so with just under a minute to play in the first quarter, it was Texas A&M 20, Alabama 0.
Two fourth down plays – one successful by Alabama, one unsuccessful by Texas A&M, would play a role in the second quarter.
Alabama finally got on the scoreboard with a 13-play, 75-yard drive. McCarron completed a pass to Kevin Norwood for a first down, Eddie Lacvy had an 11-yard run for a touchdown. On fourth and four, McCarron connected with Lacy on a first down pass that just made it to the marker at the Texas A&M 30. After Lacy gained five, McCarron then found tight end Michael Williams on a 20-yard gain to the five. Two plays later, T.J. Yeldon took it up the middle for a touchdown, cutting the deficit to 20-7 with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
On A&M’s next possession, the Aggies drove to the Alabama 37 and faced fourth-and-six. Texas A&M gambled and lost, Manziell knocked out of bounds a couple of yards short by linebacker C.J. Mosley.
The Tide had 4:10 until intermission and used that time wisely.
McCarron hit Christion Jones on a play action pass for an 18-yard gain and Lacy followed with an 18-yard run to the A&M31. Back-to-back pass completions to Amari Cooper got the first down at the 19. An incompletion and a false start were bad news, but a 15-yard completion to Cooper got the first down at the Texas A&M 9. A short pass and a five-yard Lacy run made it third and goal at the two. From there Lacy bulled in for the touchdown and it was 20-14.
Manageable, so it seemed.
After a brief punting duel to start the second half, Bama began at its 48. Two Lacy runs got a first down at the A&M 40. Two plays later McCarron dumped it off to Lacy for 21 yards to the 19. Bama, however, was unable to get another first down and settled for Shelley’s 28-yard field goal.
Bama had scored 17 unanswer points and pulled to within 29-17.
Texas A&M was able to match that field goal with a long drive that finished the third quarter and went into the fourth quarter. The Aggies got a good start with Manziel completing a 36-yard pass on first down and a 25-yard pass later in the drive. A nice play by Mosley was instumental in getting the drive stopped at the 11, from where Bartolet kicked a 28-yard field goal to extend the Aggies’ lead to 23-17.
A&M had another field goal try, but missed on a 37-yard attempt.
McCarron hit freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper for a 50-yard gain to the A&M 38. On second down, T.J. Yeldon looked like he was headed for yardage, but he was hit by the Aggies Steven Terrell and fumbled. Dustin Harris recovered for the Aggies at the A&M 34.
From there it took just two plays for Manziel to deliver the winning score. He connected with Ryan Swope for 42 yards, and then Malcome Kennedy made a fine one-handed catch in the end zone on a 24-yard play. A&M had gone 66 yards in two plays, taking just 33 seconds. The two-point conversion try failed, leaving A&M up by 29-17 with just over eight and a half minutes to play.
Bama didn’t start its comeback well, getting a block in the back penalty on the ensuing kickoff. That meant Bama was at its 6-yard line. It was torturous. Lacy had a short run and on third down McCarron connected with Marvin Shinn, barely making a first down. Three consecutive pass completions picked up a couple of more first downs. Two plays later, McCarron spotted Cooper behind his defender streaking down the left sideline. Cooper took the pass for a 54-yard touchdown. With 6:09 to play, the Tide had pulled to within five points at 29-24.
But the team that had pulled off what looked to be impossible a week earlier in a come-from-behind victory over LSU in Baton Rouge, had an improbable melt down to scuttle a doable home win.
Manziel was the star of the show. He rushed 18 times for 92 yards and completed 24 of 31 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. Swope had 11 catches for 111 yards.
Lacy led Alabama in rushing with 16 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown. McCarron completed 21 of 34 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown, but suffered two interceptions. Cooper had 6 receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown and Bell had 3 catches for 73 yards.
Mosley was in on 14 tackles for Alabama, nine primary stops, and had a sack. Dee Milliner was in on 10 tackles, four primary.
A&M had 23 first downs to 17 for Bama. The Aggies had 46 rushes for 165 yards, the Tide 31 runs for 122 yards. Texas A&M had 77 plays for 418 yards, while Alabama had 65 plays for 431 yards.
Alabama had three turnovers (two pass interceptions and a lost fumble), Texas A&M none. The Aggies were penalized four times for 26 yards, Bama six times for 56 yards. A&M converted 11 of 18 times on third down, Alabama 7-15.