Texas A&M stuns No. 1 Alabama
by W. Brian Hale
Nov 11, 2012 | 1505 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama's Eddie Lacy (42) leaps over Texas A&M's Howard Matthews (31) during their game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. Photo by Lee Walls Jr.
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TUSCALOOSA — In what was billed to be an epic quarterback duel between Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, the Aggies’ signal-caller got the final edge against his national championship-winning opponent in a 29-24 win over the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

Although McCarron threw for 309 yards on 21 of 34 passes and a touchdown, he also throw two interceptions — including a key fourth and goal pick with two minutes remaining in the game to all but end the Crimson Tide’s chances of emerging victorious for their 13th consecutive win.

Manziel produced through the air and on the ground, completing 24 of 31 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns, while running for 92 yards on 18 carries to record 345 yards of offense on the night. He connected with Ryan Swope 11 times for 111 yards and a touchdown.

“Texas A&M did a lot of things tonight to keep us off-balance and we didn’t play well defensively. When you face a quarterback like Manziel, it’s crucial you play your defensive assignments and make good tackles — we didn’t do either,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “Offensively, we made too many mistakes between the turnovers and the penalties we drew. We’re going to have to do a much better job of execution on both sides of the ball.”

After holding the Crimson Tide to a punt on the initial possession of the game, the Aggies put the first points of the game on the scoreboard, with tailback Christine Michael finding the endzone on a one-yard run – capping off a 9-play, 73-yard drive to put Texas A&M ahead 7-0.

On the following series, McCarron’s streak of 291 passes without an interception ended when Aggie linebacker Sean Porter picked off his pass and returned it 16 yards. It would set up a 4-play, 41-yard scoring drive, ending with Manziel connecting with Swope on a 10-yard touchdown strike for the 14-0 edge.

The Aggies added another score before the conclusion of the first quarter following a 73-yard, 14-play drive, as Michael took the ball in from a yard out for the touchdown. Texas A&M kicker Taylor Bertolet would fail to connect on the extra point, with the Aggies still on top, 20-0.

Alabama scored its first points of the game to begin the second quarter, after a 13-play, 75-yard drive that saw running back T.J. Yeldon find the endzone on a two-yard run, cutting the lead to 20-7.

The Crimson Tide defense held the Aggies on downs on the ensuing series, and then drove 67 yards on 10 plays as Lacy scored on a two-yard run to draw Alabama closer, 20-14, going into halftime.

After an exchange of possessions to begin the third quarter, Jeremy Shelley put the Crimson Tide within three on a 28-yard field goal, with Texas A&M still in control, 20-17.

The Aggies would solidify their command of the game on two scoring drives in the fourth quarter. First, Bertolet hit a 29-yard field goal after a 16-play, 63 yard drive. Three series later, Manziel found Malcome Kennedy for a 24-yard touchdown strike to pull Texas A&M further away, 29-17.

Alabama began its rally with eight minutes remaining in the game, as McCarron found Cooper on a 54-yard strike to move the Tide within five, 29-24.

Hopes of an undefeated season for the Crimson Tide were dashed, however, when McCarron threw his second interception of the game into the awaiting arms of Aggie cornerback Deshazor Everett on the Texas A&M two-yard line with less than two minutes left in the game.

Despite the loss, Saban reminded his team that they still control their own destiny in the SEC Western Division race and could still find a way back into the national championship picture.

“I told our guys that we still have a lot to play for. We have two games left — we win next week and against Auburn and we’re playing for the SEC title,” Saban said. “With the exception of our 2009 team, every national title I have won has been with a squad that has had a loss. This team can win a title too and it’s up to us to fight for it.”

The Crimson Tide outgained the Aggies in total offense, 431-418 yards, but were hampered by three costly turnovers.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley led the Alabama defense with 14 total tackles, also recording a quarterback sack and a tackle for a loss. Noseguard Kirby Ennis had 7 tackles, a sack and a tackle for a loss as the top defender for Texas A&M.

Amari Cooper was McCarron’s top receiver for the contest, with six catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. Eddie Lacy led all Alabama rushers with 92 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown.