Texas A&M: 10 Things We Learned from the Aggies' Win vs. Sam Houston State
Like we have seen all season long, the Texas A&M Aggies offense marched down the field on their opening drive, culminating in a seven-yard touchdown pass from Johnny "Football" Manziel to Mike Evans. It was the 11th time this season that Manziel and the offense scored before their opponent. It was also, surprisingly, the only score of the first quarter.
The Sam Houston State Bearkats held on as long as they could, limiting the Aggies to only 14 points for the first quarter and a half. In fact, Sean Porter and the Aggie defense outplayed their own offense for most of the first half.
That's something we don't hear too often.
As a product of the hard-fought game, things got chippy pretty early. Multiple unnecessary roughness and facemask penalties were called as Bearkat defenders tried to slow down Manziel. The Aggies weren't the innocent party either, as senior Christine Michael was ejected from the game after throwing a punch at a Bearkat defender.
Things settled down in the second half as the Aggies pulled away in the third quarter.
Manziel was pulled after the first play of the third quarter—a 89-yard touchdown pass to Uzoma Nwachukwu. He finished his stat padding game with 267 yards passing, 100 yards rushing and four total touchdowns.
After the starters were pulled, Sam Houston State put up over 300 yards and scored four late touchdowns to pull the score to a respectable 47-28 final.
With Saturday's win, Kevin Sumlin set the record for most wins by a first-year coach at Texas A&M, notching his ninth. Next week, the Aggies could reach the 10-win threshold with a win at home against Missouri, only adding to the already sensational inaugural year in the SEC.
Though only a "glorified scrimmage" there are several things we learned Saturday about the BCS bowl-contending Texas A&M Aggies.
Mike Evans Is a Freshman Phenom
Johnny Manziel looked left, looked right, scrambled and then darted a ball on a rope to a covered Mike Evans who hauled it in for the Aggies' first touchdown of the game.
There was only more to come.
After a seven-play, 75-yard drive, Manziel lofted a perfect spiral to the corner of the end zone. Mike Evans outjumped his coverage by a mile, hauling in yet another touchdown pass.
The freshman finished the game with six receptions for 81 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Can you imagine the Aggies have at least another two years to develop him? He could easily become the next Jeff Fuller in College Station, if not better. After all, he is already outproducing highly regarded Ryan Swope this season for the title of the most productive receiver on the team.
With Manziel and Evans both in their first year, this could very well be the most dangerous duo in the country for several years to come.
The "Sherman Curse" Is Not Completely Gone
The Aggies defense held Sam Houston State to 56 total yards and only four first downs in the first half. The Bearkats finished with 382 total yards and 22 first downs.
Obviously, when the team goes up 47-0 with 10:41 left in the third quarter, it's going to be hard to maintain focus. But its another thing to fumble, give up two onside kicks and fail to stop the run.
The only positive to the whole situation was that the "Sherman Curse," referring to the Aggies' astounding inability to maintain a lead in 2011, was contained to the fourth quarter and the backups.
That didn't stop the coaches from berating their players about the mental lapses.
You can bet Sumlin will dedicate some time this week, and before the Aggies' bowl game, to continuing to focus no matter what the circumstances are.
The Defense Can Be SEC Caliber
As mentioned before, Mark Snyder's unit held the Bearkats to only 56 total yards in the first half. That's impressive, no matter who the opponent is.
The defense looked like a completely different unit than the one that gave up 57 points to Louisiana Tech on October 13th.
They may not be as consistently impressive as Florida, LSU or Alabama, but Damontre Moore and Co. can really turn it on at times.
The unit is ranked 53rd in total defense, 27th in scoring defense and 28th in run defense. Most impressive is their 41st defensive pass efficiency ranking. It may not force you to take a step back, but it's exponentially better than the Swiss cheese secondary we saw last year.
The Legend of Johnny Football Has Limits
After the first offensive play in the third quarter resulted in a 89-yard touchdown pass to Uzoma Nwachukwu, Kevin Sumlin decided to take the legend a little too far.
Manziel attempted the extra point, missing badly.
I think Aggie fans will settle for Manziel being able to do almost everything. After all, his kick was closer than some of Bertolet's have been.
Kliff Kingsbury Is the Guy
You probably already knew this after the Aggies posted 29 points on the vaunted Alabama defense, but Kliff Kingsbury and Kevin Sumlin's offense can beat anybody.
The Aggies have gotten exponentially better on offense since their season opener against Florida, and I'm sure Kingsbury would love to have a second shot at either the Gators or the LSU Tigers.
As the Aggies offense continues to roll through the SEC, Kliff is going to become a hot commodity on the coaching carousel. A&M fans can only hope athletic director Eric Hyman will do anything to keep him in College Station.
Like Manziel, Kingsbury will only get better as he gets more experience. That's a scary thought since his offense is already posting over 400 yards on SEC defenses.
Kevin Sumlin Was the Right Choice
There were a lot of people, including myself, who were at least a little concerned that a coach coming from a team in the Conference USA would be coaching the Aggies through their first season in the nation's toughest conference.
Honestly, a 20-17 loss to the Gators in their season opener had many Aggies feeling pretty good.
The excitement in Aggieland has exploded since then.
It doesn't hurt to have a quarterback like Johnny Manziel either.
Regardless, Sumlin has proved he is easily capable of coaching a big-time program. After Saturday's win over Sam Houston State, Sumlin set the record for most wins by a first-year coach at Texas A&M. Next week, he can break his own record and reach a double-digit win season.
Trey Williams Is Not Ready
Trey Williams, yet another sensational freshman for Texas A&M, is electrifying, but he isn't ready to handle the No. 1 running back position.
With the game well within hand and the Aggies in a position to burn some serious clock, Williams fumbled the ball in their own territory. The fumble led to one of the four fourth-quarter touchdowns by the Bearkats, a collapse that Aggies are very familiar with.
In the end, the scoreboard showed a final of 47-28 so nobody will remember Williams' fumble. But going forward, this is something Williams must address if he wants to share equal time with Ben Malena next year.
He is already a little disadvantaged by his size, standing at a conservative 5'8", 175 lbs. Williams has the speed to compensate, but he needs to make sure he is physically and mentally ready to be a full-time running back.
That means being smart and reliable with the football.
Power May Be Shifting in Texas
The "brand" in Texas has been the burnt orange of the Texas Longhorns for some time now.
The more success the Aggies find in the SEC, the quicker this is going to change. Sumlin already has another highly touted recruiting class entering the program next year, and that could be a trend for coming years.
Since the Longhorns lost to Alabama in the 2009 National Championship they haven't been the same. Mack Brown is contending with rumors of wanting him to resign and the football team is failing to live up to expectations on the field.
As long as the Longhorns are struggling in the second- or third-best conference in the nation and the Aggies are succeeding in the toughest conference, recruits will at least have to take a second look at which program they want to attend.
Taylor Bertolet Gets No Respect
What's more embarrassing than being benched in favor of the quarterback to kick an extra point?
An extra point!
I didn't like the call to begin with because Manziel had little to gain from the attempt. The fact that his kick was nowhere near the uprights doesn't help the decision either.
There is no need to mess with a kicker who has already struggling immensely.
You might need him in one of the final two games. Remember LSU and Florida?
Texas A&M Is BCS Bowl Worthy
With an opportunistic defense and an electrifying offense, Texas A&M has easily been one of the most exciting team to watch this year.
After knocking off Alabama and barely falling to Florida and LSU, the Aggies are just as deserving as any other team in the SEC. In actuality, if Randy Bullock was still enrolled at Texas A&M, the Aggies may be one game away from playing in an SEC championship game with national championship implications.
The boys from College Station have everything a BCS bowl game desires.
A big-name player? Check.
A fanbase willing to travel? Check.
An appealing season? Check.
The catch is that many of the other SEC programs contending for a BCS bowl also have these things. A Heisman finalist and potential winner could tip the scales.
Shoot, Skip Bayless thinks the Aggies could win it all this year, if given the chance:
Right now if there were an 8-team college football playoff, I'd pick Texas A&M to win the national championship.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) November 13, 2012
Regardless of where A&M lands in the bowl selection, the Aggies have certainly had a season to remember. If the Aggies are left out of any BCS Bowl, a shot at revenge in the Cotton Bowl against the longtime rival Texas Longhorns would serve as a nice consolation prize.