It had been more than a full calendar year since Alabama had lost a game, but the Crimson Tide's 13-game winning streak and hopes of repeating as national champions came to a screeching halt on Saturday afternoon in a 29-24 loss to Texas A&M.
The legend of Johnny "Football" Manziel will surely grow to Superman levels after the redshirt freshman quarterback for the Aggies completed 24-of-31 passes for 253 yards, two touchdown passes, 18 rushes and 92 rushing yards.
So what went wrong for Alabama?
First things first: The Crimson Tide coaching staff—head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart—was simply not prepared for what head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury came to Tuscaloosa with.
The Aggies punched the Crimson Tide in the mouth early, gaining 249 of their 418 yards in the first four possessions of the game.
The Crimson Tide didn't contain Manziel and his ability to escape the pocket, make throws on the run and run away from defenders. He forced Alabama into a hole that it simply wasn't able to dig itself out of.
Alabama successfully adjusted and kept Manziel contained from late in the second quarter on. uBt at that point, it was too late. Manziel got into a rhythm with wide receivers Mike Evans and Ryan Swope, and that was enough to take the Aggies home.
Saban simply got outcoached by Sumlin.
But that doesn't mean that the Tide didn't have a shot.
Freshman running back T.J. Yeldon, the man who caught the game-winning touchdown last week vsersus LSU, went from hero to goat after he fumbled on the A&M 34-yard line down 23-17 as Alabama was driving for the potential go-ahead score.
The fumble came after Texas A&M missed a field goal that would have given the Aggies a two-score lead. Yeldon's fumble shifted momentum back to the Aggie sideline, and they responded with a two-play, 66-yard drive for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
Yeldon burst onto the scene with a fantastic freshman season, but he's still a freshman, and not protecting the football in that play was a freshman mistake.
Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron didn't have his best night either.
Sure, the 309 passing yards were nice, but he threw two picks—his first two picks of the season—including the back-breaker down on the goal line with 1:36 to play when a touchdown would likely have won the game.
Certainly not a Heisman-worthy performance.
But McCarron shouldered too much of the responsibility. He threw 34 passes on the night, as opposed to 31 rushing plays called by the Crimson Tide. That's not what has made the Tide successful over the last few seasons. Alabama is known for running the ball and playing defense, and it did neither at an elite level.
Some of it had to do with the fact that they were playing catch-up, but offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier put too much of the game in McCarron's hands.
Some blame will fall on Tyler Hayes, the freshman linebacker who committed a neutral-zone infraction when Texas A&M was lining up to punt with 0:40 to play. The penalty gave A&M a first down and essentially ended the game.
That's a little unfair to Hayes.
He shouldn't have jumped offside, but orchestrating another game-winning drive with no timeouts is too much to ask of McCarron, even though he did it just last week.
Fans will certainly look for a scapegoat, but there wasn't one in Alabama's loss to Texas A&M. The overwhelming theme and lesson is that the Crimson Tide were outplayed by Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon in T-Town.
Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the better team. Texas A&M was just that on Saturday afternoon.
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