3:30 PM ET, September 14, 2013
Kyle Field, COLLEGE STATION, TX
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Unable to stop Johnny Manziel, Alabama answered Texas A&M the only way it could: The top-ranked Crimson Tide just kept on scoring, hoping to have the ball last.
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When AJ McCarron took a knee to end it, Alabama was finally safe. There was nothing more Manziel could do.
McCarron threw four touchdown passes, Vinnie Sunseri returned an interception 73 yards for a score -- sidestepping Johnny Football on the way to the end zone, too -- and Alabama paid back No. 6 Texas A&M with a 49-42 victory Saturday.
Manziel was his spectacular self, throwing for a career-best 464 yards, running for 98 and throwing five TDs. His 562 total yards is the second-most in Southeastern Conference history, ranking only behind the 576 he had against Louisiana Tech.
"We knew we were going to have play this way on offense to have a chance in this game," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "I didn't think they were going to score 42 points, but I kind of thought they would score some points and they did."
Alabama (2-0, 1-0 SEC) spotted the Aggies (2-1, 0-1) a 14-0 lead, shades of last season when A&M jumped out to a 20-0 lead on the road en route to a victory that all but won the Heisman Trophy for Manziel.
McCarron and the Tide didn't take as long to respond this time, ripping off the next 35 points. McCarron tossed three touchdowns in the first half to put Alabama up 28-14. Sunseri's pick-6 made it 35-14 less than three minutes into the third.
"I'm so proud of our players for the resiliency they showed getting behind 14-0," Saban said. "Just slowly and methodically coming back in the game and building up the lead."
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The Manziel magic moment came in the second quarter, when he retreated 25 yards behind the line of scrimmage, pulling away from one pass rusher who had a handful of jersey and launching a deep ball down the middle with another Tide player in his face. Edward Pope came down with the alley-oop for a 12-yard gain that will make every highlight reel. But a couple of plays later Manziel was picked off in the end zone and the game swung the Tide's way.
"I will take that one on me," Manziel said.
His third-quarter pick and whiff on the tackle put the Aggies in a deep hole.
"I thought his play was Johnny-like," coach Kevin Sumlin said. "Anybody who's seen him play, that's about right."
Alabama's best defense was its offense. The Tide gained 568 yards and kept Manziel pacing on the sideline with a couple of long drives.
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"With the type of offense A&M has, you have to eat up some clock and pound the ball," said McCarron, who passed for 334 yards.
This rematch of A&M's 29-24 win in Tuscaloosa, Ala., last November was hyped for months, heightened by offseason drama about Manziel that culminated with the sophomore getting suspended for half of the opening game after an NCAA investigation into whether he was paid for signing autographs.
Manziel only answered questions about the game afterward. He was one of many Aggies reminding everyone what happened to the loser of this matchup last year.
"This wasn't the Super Bowl," Manziel said. "Alabama lost a game last year and still went on to win the national championship. Our season isn't over."
Bama-A&M II lived up to the billing, but this SEC heavyweight matchup was no 9-6 Game of the Century. The offenses were all but unstoppable.
"They're unbelievable," Sunseri said. "There's a reason he won the Heisman. He's an unbelievable player, I don't care what he does off the field. He has great receivers and everything. We knew it was going to go back and forth and we just had to try to slow him down."
A&M's defense was leaky in its first two games against far weaker opponents. Against Alabama, even with the return of four key players from various suspensions, it put up little resistance. And while the Tide's offense wore out the Aggies, its defense struck a big blow in the third quarter.
Manziel threw deep down the middle to Malcome Kennedy, but Jarrick Williams had tight coverage for Alabama and tipped the pass into the air. Sunseri came down with it and was off in the other direction, stutter-stepping as Manziel slid on by while trying for a one-arm takedown. The safety broke another tackle on the way into the end zone and Alabama was up 35-14.
Manziel walked slowly across the field to the A&M sideline, taking a couple of glances toward the end zone and Alabama's celebration. A crowd of 87,596 that was booming like a jet engine earlier fell silent. They were hoping to see the Aggies get their third victory against a No. 1 team, and second straight against Alabama.
Alabama was poised to go up three touchdowns in the fourth quarter when Texas A&M's defense slammed into T.J. Yeldon a couple of yards from the goal line, causing a fumble the Aggies recovered at the 5.
Two plays later, Manziel found Mike Evans deep. The big receiver broke away from a tackler and went 95 yards for a score that made it 42-35 with 8:04 left. Manziel sprinted out of his end zone toward the other to celebrate. The crowd was alive again.
In need of a time-consuming drive, leaned on Yeldon and McCarron. On third-and-goal from the 5, McCarron faked the hand off, rolled right and flipped to Jalston Fowler for the touchdown to make it 49-35 with 2:28 left.
Manziel threw one more TD with 15 seconds left, but Alabama grabbed the onside kick and that was that.
Saban's defense had given up 628 yards, the most ever allowed by Alabama, and 42 points. Evans finished with 279 yards on seven catches for the Aggies, but the Tide had won.
"I know you tried to make it out (to be) a 61-year-old guy against that good quarterback but we didn't have much of a chance in that game," Saban said. "We had a lot better chance our team against their team. "
And the Aggies found out just how tough it is to win two in a row against the Tide. In seven seasons under Saban, only LSU has done it.
It was far from a typical Alabama, but the two-time defending national champions will take it.
"We needed everybody all in today," Saban said. "Even though it got ugly at times, they competed and it was a great win for us."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Alabama looked to have the game in hand early in the fourth, but Texas A&M kept calling. Bama had to recover an onside kick to seal the win.
Gameball goes to... AJ McCarron went 20-for-29 passing with 334 yards and four touchdowns. McCarron kept his poise with every Aggies comeback.
Stat of the game... 0-4. The Aggies are 0-4 when "College GameDay" comes to College Station. The four games have been decided by 15 combined points.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||3-6||5-8|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||0-0|
|TD||12:21||Cameron Clear 1 Yd Pass From Johnny Manziel (Taylor Bertolet Kick)||0||7|
|TD||07:47||Ben Malena 1 Yd Run (Taylor Bertolet Kick)||0||14|
|TD||05:24||Kevin Norwood 22 Yd Pass From AJ McCarron (Cade Foster Kick)||7||14|
|TD||14:15||DeAndrew White 44 Yd Pass From AJ McCarron (Cade Foster Kick)||14||14|
|TD||08:55||Kenny Bell 51 Yd Pass From AJ McCarron (Cade Foster Kick)||21||14|
|TD||00:45||T.J. Yeldon 4 Yd Run (Cade Foster Kick)||28||14|
|TD||12:41||Vinnie Sunseri 73 Yd Interception Return (Cade Foster Kick)||35||14|
|TD||09:33||Malcome Kennedy 14 Yd Pass From Johnny Manziel (Taylor Bertolet Kick)||35||21|
|TD||04:16||Kenyan Drake 3 Yd Run (Cade Foster Kick)||42||21|
|TD||13:20||Malcome Kennedy 12 Yd Pass From Johnny Manziel (Taylor Bertolet Kick)||42||28|
|TD||08:04||Mike Evans 95 Yd Pass From Johnny Manziel (Taylor Bertolet Kick)||42||35|
|TD||02:28||Jalston Fowler 5 Yd Pass From AJ McCarron (Cade Foster Kick)||49||35|
|TD||00:15||Malcome Kennedy 4 Yd Pass From Johnny Manziel (Taylor Bertolet Kick)||49||42|
Johnny Manziel proved that his performance in the upset of Alabama last year was no fluke, amassing 562 total yards and throwing for 5 touchdowns on Saturday. The reigning Heisman winner has a Total QBR of 78.7 vs Alabama over the last 2 years, well above the 17.9 QBR registered by all other quarterbacks vs the Tide in that span. Manziel been way more effective as both a runner and a passer than almost all other QBs that Nick Saban's defense has taken on.[+]
Quarterbacks vs Alabama Defense - Last 2 Seasons
The 42 points allowed by Alabama are tied for the 3rd-most points allowed by an AP No. 1 team on the road and are the most allowed on road in a win. Previous high was 38 in a 45-38 OT win by Nebraska at Missouri in 1997.[+]
Most Points Allowed on Road by AP No. 1 Team - AP Poll Era (since 1936)
The 42 points allowed by Alabama is the most allowed by the Crimson Tide in a WIN in school history.
NEXT LEVEL: Johnny Manziel had a career-high six completions on passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield Saturday. In two games against Alabama, Manziel has completed 71% of passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield, compared with 36% against all other teams.[+]
Johnny Manziel Throws of 20+ Yards
AJ McCarron threw all 4 of his touchdown passes when facing 5 or more pass rushers. All 5 of McCarron's touchdown passes this season have come against the blitz. Since the start of last season McCarron has thrown 17 touchdowns with 1 interception against five or more pass rushers.[+]
AJ McCarron vs Texas A&M
Alabama gained 234 yards on 37 rushes (all designed) against Texas A&M. That is 115 more yards than the Tide had in Week 1 against Virginia Tech, when they had their fewest yards on designed running plays in any game in the last 2 seasons. The Tide had 14 rushes on which first contact was not made until 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. They had 5 such runs in Week 1.[+]
Alabama Designed Runs
Texas A&M had more offensive yards than Alabama, but the one extra turnover by the Aggies (2 Int compared to `Bama's 1 fumble) made the difference. This is reflected in each offense's "expected points added" - the number of net points contributed by the offense, taking into account their performance on every single play they were on the field. Both Alabama and Texas A&M finished with incredibly high offensive EPA, but Alabama added more points with both their rushing and passing attacks, resulting in the victory.[+]
Alabama vs Texas A&M - Expected Points Added on Saturday
Alabama allowed 42 points, the most the Tide have allowed since Tennessee scored 51 on Oct. 25, 2003.
Alabama's -22.7 defensive EPA vs Texas A&M was by far their worst mark under Nick Saban, nearly double digits below their second-worst performance in his 7 seasons there (not adjusted for the strength of the opponent).[+]
Worse Defensive EPA in Single Game - Alabama Under Nick Saban
Mike Evans totaled 279 yards receiving on nine targets Saturday. Johnny Manziel had five times as many yards per attempt when throwing to Evans compared with everyone else. In three games this season, Manziel has completed 16-of-20 passes when targeting Evans.[+]
Johnny Manziel Passing
As of the 7 minute mark, Texas A&M has outscored Alabama 34-0 in the 1st quarter the last 2 seasons.
Johnny Manziel holds the top 3 games in terms of total offense in SEC history. 3 of the top 5 games have come against Alabama.[+]
Most Yards of Total Offense in a Single Game - SEC History
ESPN Stats & Information