TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WCBI/UA Athletics) — Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel passed for 253 yards and accounted for 345 yards of total offense to lead the 15th-ranked Aggies (8-2 overall; 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference) to a 29-24 upset of top-ranked Alabama (9-1 overall; 6-1 in the SEC) on Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Manziel led the Aggies to a shocking 20-0 first quarter lead by leading the Aggies to touchdowns on their first three offensive possessions of the game before the Crimson Tide could being to rally. Put in the position of having virtually no margin for error, the Alabama offense could not overcome the deficit despite the Tide defense righting its ship for most of the next three quarters. Even though Alabama outgained A&M 431 to 418, three turnovers proved fatal to the Crimson Tide comeback. Two turnovers in A&M territory, a fumble at the Aggie 34 and an interception on the goal line, ended potential Alabama scoring drives in the fourth quarter.
The outcome dealt a serious blow to Alabama’s national title hopes, but the Crimson Tide remains in the driver’s seat for an SEC West Division title. The Tide entered the game two games up on all other teams in the division, and remains one game up in the standings needing a win over Auburn on November 24 to clinch a spot in the SEC Championship Game on December 1. A&M is the only team that can win a divisional tie-breaker with Alabama due to the win over the Tide, but needs an Alabama loss to Auburn to get that berth.
For Alabama, running back Eddie Lacy rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries while receiver Amari Cooper caught six passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. McCarron completed 21 of 34 passes for 309 yards and two scores, but was undone by the two interceptions. Manziel rushed for 92 yards to lead the Aggies, also throwing for 253 yards while completing 24 of 31 with two touchdowns.
After Alabama punted on its opening possession, A&M became the first team to take its opening possession against the Tide for any points since Mississippi on October 15, 2011. The Aggies marched 73 yards in nine plays, aided by a 15-yard face mask penalty. Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel sparked the drive with a 29-yard run to the Crimson Tide 14-yard line. Four plays later, running back Christine Michael ran it in from a yard out for a 7-0 Aggie lead with 10:34 left in the first quarter.
Alabama responded to A&M’s opening score with a drive of its own, but a turnover ended the threat.
Running back Eddie Lacy started the drive with an 18-yard burst off right tackle, and then followed up the middle for five more. But the drive ended when on an interception of a McCarron pass by A&M’s Sean Porter at the A&M 43, which Porter returned to the Alabama 41-yard line with 9:39 left. Porter’s theft was possible due to a jarring hit on receiver Kenny Bell by Aggie safety Howard Matthews. That interception ended McCarron’s streak of passes without an interception at 292, a school record.
A&M capitalized immediately as Manziel threw deep on the first play to receiver Kenric McNeal off a play fake for 31 yards to the Tide 9-yard line. Three plays later, Manziel spun from a heavy pass rush and connected with wide receiver Ryan Swope, who was wide open in the middle of the end zone, for a touchdown to give A&M a 14-0 lead with 7:59 left in the first quarter.
The Aggies moved into scoring position again on their next possession. After converting a third-and-one play, A&M faced a third-and-six at its own 41; Manziel faded to pass, then ran to his left and raced 32 yards to the Tide 27. On the next play, Manziel rank for seven more before hitting a screen pass to Malcome Kennedy for five yards. Running back Ben Malena took a handoff and ran for eight yards to the Alabama seven-yard line. After a pass lost three yards, Manziel connected with Thomas Johnson for eight yards to the Tide two. Three plays later, Michael took a handoff and scored from one yard out to give A&M a 20-0 lead after a missed extra-point kick with 41 seconds left in the first quarter.
Alabama’s offense came to life at the start of the second quarter. The Tide narrowed the margin to 20-7 with a 13-play, 75-yard march that consumed 5:37 as running back T.J. Yeldon capped the drive with a two-yard run. After Yeldon started the march with a pair of four-yard runs, McCarron connected with wide receiver Kevin Norwood for seven yards to the Alabama 40. Another Yeldon run yielded nine yards before Lacy ran for 11 more to the A&M 40. Facing a third-and-seven at the A&M 37, McCarron hit Lacy on a pass for three to set up a fourth-and-four at the Aggie 34. Lacy converted it by hauling in a four-yard pass on the sideline. After a five-yard run by Lacy, McCarron hit tight end Michael Williams for 20 yards to the Aggie 5. From there, two Yeldon rushes yielded pay dirt for Alabama.
A&M’s offense responded with another drive, but the Alabama defense was able to stop them at the Tide 33 with 4:10 left in the first half. The Aggies took 13 plays to move 62 yards in 5:54, but lost the ball on down when Manziel was forced out of bounds two yards shy of a first down on a fourth-and-six play from the Tide 37.
Alabama immediately mounted another scoring threat. McCarron opened the drive with an 18-yard pass to receiver Christion Jones to the A&M 49. Lacy ran for 18 yards to the Aggie 31, then McCarron connected with receiver Amari Cooper on passes of five and seven yards to reach the A&M 19. On a second-and-15 at the Aggie 24, McCarron hit Cooper for 15 at the sideline to the Aggie nine-yard line. A pass to Jones gained two, then a run by Lacy added five more to set up third-and-goal at the Aggie two-yard line. From there, Lacy ran it in at left guard for a two-yard touchdown to narrow the Aggie lead to 20-14 with 19 seconds left in the first half.
Both offenses went three-and-out to start the second half. A&M started at its own 20 after the exchange of punts, but was pushed back to its own one-yard line due to a penalty and a sack of Manziel by Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley at the Aggie 1. An ensuing punt set up the Tide at the Alabama 48-yard line with 10:07 left in the third quarter.
The Tide constructed a 41-yard drive in 10 plays that consumed 5:11. The march concluded with a 28-yard field goal by Jeremy Shelley that drew the Tide within 20-17 with 4:56 left in the third quarter. Lacy rushed four times for 14 yards and caught a pass for 21 yards to spark the march. The Aggies replied with a scoring march of their own, moving 63 yards in 16 plays and using 5:40 of game time to score on a 29-yard field goal by Taylor Bertolet to give the Aggies a 23-17 lead with 14:16 remaining in the fourth quarter.
On a third-and-10 play from the A&M 30, Manziel connected with Swope between two defenders for 30 yards to the Tide 40. Alabama was called for a personal foul on the hit of Swope, moving the ball to a first down at the Tide 25. The march stalled at the Alabama 19. From there, Bertolet entered the game and missed wide right on a 37-yard field goal attempt with 10:06 remaining.
The Alabama offense, pushed back to its 18 by a holding penalty, came to life on a 49-yard pass from McCarron to Cooper that carried to the Aggie 33. On the next play, Yeldon burst through a hole for eight yards, but fumbled when hit by A&M’s Steven Terrell. Aggie defensive back Dustin Harris recovered the ball at the A&M 34 with 9:10 remaining.
A&M wasted no time in seizing the momentum and expanding its lead. The Aggies swiftly moved 66 yards on just two plays. On the first play after the Alabama fumble, Manziel connected with Swope on a streak pattern behind Tide safety Robert Lester, who had good coverage on the play. The completion gained 42 yards and set up the Aggies at the Alabama 24-yard line with 9:01 remaining. On the next play, Manziel drilled a perfectly thrown pass in the far left front corner of the end zone to Malcome Kennedy for a 24-yard touchdown pass to give A&M a 29-17 lead with 8:37 remaining. Manziel’s attempted pass for a two-point conversion was incomplete.
Alabama started its ensuing possession at its own six-yard line after an illegal block on the kickoff, but overcame the field position by marching 94 yards in nine plays to a touchdown. After a run by Lacy gained four yards, McCarron completed six of eight passes to span the remaining 90 yards. The capper was a 54-yard connection to Cooper down the left sideline for the touchdown. That came one play after an incomplete pass on a near-interception by A&M. The score drew the Tide within five points at 29-24 with 6:09 remaining.
The Alabama defense forced the Aggies to punt in three plays. Aggie punter Ryan Epperson punted 44 yards from his 21 and Christion Jones returned it five yards to the Tide 40, setting up the Alabama offense with 4:27 left in the fourth quarter. On the first play, McCarron threw deep down the middle to Kenny Bell, who ran a post pattern and reached the A&M six-yard line. On first-and-goal at the A&M six, McCarron was stopped for no gain. Lacy gained one yard on a run off the left side to set up third-and-goal at the Aggie five-yard line.
McCarron could not find an open receiver on the third-down play and scrambled for three yards to the A&M two-yard line to set up a fourth-and-goal. McCarron rolled to his right and, with three receivers in the area, attempted to connect with Bell at the goal line, but his pass was intercepted by A&M safety Deshazor Everett at the goal line. Everett returned the ball to the Aggie four with 1:36 remaining.
Alabama called its final two timeouts after the first two plays of the ensuing A&M possession, a pair of rushes by running back Ben Malena that set up third-and-two at the A&M 12 with 1:25 on the clock. Malena took a handoff on third down and was stopped for a one-yard gain to set up fourth down at the Aggie 13 with the clock running. A&M lined up to punt with 40 seconds remaining, but an Alabama defender jumped into the neutral zone to give the Aggies a first down, effectively ending the game.