Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M: Postgame Grades for Aggies' Win in 2013 Cotton Bowl
No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 11 Oklahoma are through with the 2013 AT&T Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma fell hard to the Aggies 41-13, and Johnny Manziel confirmed his Heisman victory by shredding the Oklahoma defense in every way imaginable.
The Aggies came out strong, but faltered a little in the first half. Texas A&M took a slight 14-13 lead into halftime, and it looked a little like Oklahoma had figured the Aggies' defense out.
A&M would come out in the third quarter and prove that assessment completely wrong. Leading with a three three-and-outs and scoring almost at-will against Oklahoma, the Aggies would cruise to a 28-point victory in the battle.
Click through the slides to see Texas A&M's complete postgame grades for its controlled demolition against the Oklahoma Sooners.
Overall Grade: A+
Johnny Manziel set the tone for the game on the opening drive, and he went on to perform at a championship level for the rest of the game. Manziel found holes in Oklahoma's defense everywhere he turned, even when the holes were nowhere near the middle of the field.
Manziel's command of the offense did not display any Heisman rust, as he ripped off not one, but two 20-plus-yard runs on the Aggies' opening drive. Both were on third downs, and the second one ended in the end zone.
Manziel's opening drive was just the tip of the iceberg, and he would spend the rest of the game ripping off jaw-dropping runs and passes to give the fanbase more than just a little hope for the 2013 season.
Johnny Football ended the game with an AT&T Cotton Bowl-record 516 yards of total offense, and he certainly proved that he deserved the Heisman. Oklahoma's worst loss of the season prior to this one was a 17-point loss at home to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Johnny Manziel: 22-of-34 for 287 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and 17 carries for 229 yards and two touchdowns.
Overall Grade: A
Whenever Johnny Manziel wasn't busy making an “Oklahoma: You just got served” video, his running backs were helping him all over the field. Manziel's tandem of tailbacks teamed up to gouge the Sooners for 97 total yards and two more touchdowns.
Texas A&M rushed the ball 31 times for 326 yards and four touchdowns. That's an average of 10.5 yards per carry. Every ball-carrier on the A&M squad ripped off a run of at least 20 yards at one point in the game, and Oklahoma responded the only way it knew how: by losing.
Ben Malena rushing: eight carries for 56 yards and one touchdown with a long of 23.
Ben Malena receiving: two receptions for 11 yards.
Trey Williams: six carries for 41 yards and one touchdown with a long of 30.
Overall Grade: A
The sole reason for the wide receivers getting a grade below perfect was the big-time tipped pass in the end zone that ended up in the hands of Oklahoma's Javon Harris. Passes are going to get dropped or missed, it is part of the game. However, that shift in momentum was huge at the time.
Luckily, A&M's defense would kill Oklahoma's ensuing drive with a pick of its own, but the fact that the Aggies missed out on seven points cannot go overlooked. With that out of the way, we can now focus on how they got the big grade.
Texas A&M's receivers totaled 307 yards on just 23 catches and accounted for two touchdowns. The A&M offense crushed the spirit of the Sooners with its sheer explosiveness. When the score stood at 14-13 entering halftime, it looked like this game was heading for a “shootout” tag.
When the third quarter started, Texas A&M was the only team that held up its part of the bargain. A&M outscored Oklahoma 27-0 in the second half to bring home the win.
Ryan Swope: eight receptions for 104 yards and one touchdown with a long of 33.
Mike Evans: seven receptions for 83 yards with a long of 20.
Uzoma Nwachukwu: three receptions for 81 yards and one touchdown with a long of 35.
Malcome Kennedy: three receptions for 28 yards with a long of 18.
Kenric McNeal: 1-of-1 passing for 20 yards.
Overall Grade: A+
Along with the offensive line, the tight ends played an especially impressive game. They gave everyone the blocks they needed to throw down record-setting yardage in the final game of the season. Manziel and the running backs had plenty of protection when they hit the edge for big gains, and the tight ends were a valuable part of that.
No tight ends caught passes in the game, but the numbers in the previous slides raise this question: At what point in the game did A&M need to use them as receivers?
With the team averaging 9.59 yards per play (including incomplete passes), the tight ends were far more useful in pass-protection and run-blocking. This was a brilliant display of teamwork across the board, and the total stats will prove that.
Texas A&M rushing: 31 carries for 326 yards and four touchdowns.
Texas A&M passing: 23-of-35 for 307 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Overall Grade: A+
The offensive line manhandled the Oklahoma front four, and opened up holes wherever they wanted to. Most importantly, the line pushed Oklahoma behind Johnny Manziel consistently. Manziel used that to his advantage and gouged the Sooners at-will for points, yards or a trip out-of-bounds to stop the clock.
This offensive line is one of the most complex in the nation. Most offensive lines protect the quarterback from pressure, and they're heading back to the line for the next battle. At Texas A&M, protection is only half the equation. Once the line pushes the defense behind or around the quarterback, the real fun starts.
They have to get off their blocks, chase down the quarterback and open holes to the secondary after a pass breaks down. They block for the quarterback when he's throwing, but when a play is well-covered, they are also responsible for his success on the ground.
The wide receivers, tight ends and running backs are generally too far away to be of immediate help, and the line has to protect him until the rest of the offense can get back to relieve them of their duty. The numbers don't lie.
Texas A&M total offense: 66 plays for 633 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception.
Overall Grade: B+
Texas A&M's defensive line was stout all night long. The line allowed only 67 rushing yards in the first half and 56 rushing yards in the second half. While there were moments when the defense broke down and allowed Oklahoma to score, the line wasn't the source of the issue.
Of course, holding a team to 13 points in 60 minutes shows that there weren't many issues to begin with. Even in the second quarter, when Oklahoma scored its lone touchdown, the Sooners only rushed for 34 yards.
The defensive line did everything it needed to do, with one exception: The linemen failed to put consistent pressure on Landry Jones. The line put plenty of pressure on him, but the first half saw him pick Texas A&M apart all the way to the threshold of the end zone. The defense stood up in the end zone, but they didn't apply consistent pressure until the second half.
The lone sack recorded came late in the second half, when Oklahoma had already lost the will to win. The linemen need to create more pressure than that. If so, a national title is attainable sooner rather than later.
Overall Grade: B+
The linebackers had fundamental issues with tackling throughout the first half. The guys would hit their target in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage, fall away and lose grip, and the runner would be free. The defensive backs would come save the day, but the damage was done in terms of yardage.
Oklahoma marched down-field for points on three of its first four drives. One of those doesn't count against the defense, though.
Oklahoma had driven down-field, and the Sooners were lined up with a first-and goal. A&M allowed the Sooners to the half-yard line, and the Sooners were sure they were going to score. The Aggies stood up on second, third and fourth downs. The third-down attempt was stopped in space, one-on-one by Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter.
The fourth-down attempt was unsuccessful as well, but the refs threw the “offsides” flag halfway through the attempt. That allowed Oklahoma to change its mind and kick a field-goal.
The linebackers certainly did their part in allowing the Sooners to score 13 points, but some of that fell on the coaches as well. When the defense was in the right play at the right time, Oklahoma couldn't do anything. It was the issue of execution in tackling that brought the linebackers' grade down to what it is.
Overall Grade: A
The secondary for A&M was excellent as soon as they figured out how to cover the Sooners. While A&M had plenty of offensive plays that went for over 20 yards, Oklahoma's longest gain of the night was a 19-yard pass.
Dustin Harris came up with the secondary's biggest play of the game when he picked off Landry Jones in the second quarter and returned the ball 22 yards. At the time, Jones was leading a drive that had started on a Johnny Manziel interception in the end zone, and Harris' pick flipped the momentum switch.
The defensive backs made few mistakes, they didn't allow a single play of 20 yards or more, and they cleaned up after the linebackers' missed tackles whenever it was needed. The only breakdown in the secondary on the night was the single Oklahoma touchdown pass, and that was less a breakdown than it was a great pass from a talented quarterback.
The defensive backs did an amazing job in the second half, and Oklahoma's desperation drives were mostly composed of passes. Even on completions, the corners and safeties were right there to make the tackle.
Overall Grade: A-
Special teams had a decent night, and the only real blemish was a missed extra point by Taylor Bertolet. Ryan Epperson's yards-per-punt average was a seemingly low 34.8, but that's not the best measure of his effectiveness in this game.
He punted four times, and two were downed inside the 20. That was a big part of the Aggies' success. After his punt that was downed on the six, Oklahoma drove 87 yards and only got a field goal off the possession. If he hadn't placed that punt so perfectly, Oklahoma would have likely entered halftime with a four-point lead.
That kind of motivation could have made this a much different game. Oklahoma had driven down-field many times and only had 13 points to show for it. That is the condensed version of how the Aggies crushed the Sooners' spirits.
Overall Grade: A
The coaches took a little while to figure out Oklahoma's offense, and the Sooners took advantage of that. Oklahoma kept up with A&M for the first half, and the teams were only one-point apart when the refs blew the halftime whistle.
A big part of that was the A&M play-calling on defense. On many of the plays, A&M would stuff the Sooners at the line of scrimmage, but Oklahoma would run a different play and speed by sloppy tacklers to gain a first down.
The pass coverage was a little loose in the first half as well, but the defense did get to stand up in the end zone twice. Oklahoma only found the end zone once, and the Sooners didn't score at all in the second half.
That's what brings us to the overall grade. A&M played a first half that was actually below its potential, and the Aggies still allowed only 13 points. Make no mistake, the coaching was not bad by any stretch of the imagination. The coaches just had to make some serious halftime adjustments.
What earned them an “A” for the game? Those halftime adjustments. The Aggies entered halftime looking a little better the Florida Gators did in the Sugar Bowl, and they came out of halftime looking like the 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide in the BCS title game.
Any coach who can make adjustments like that should be paid well enough to stay at A&M until he loses his touch or retires. Kevin Sumlin might not have gotten a trophy for what he accomplished at A&M, but he should get the league's longest contract extension. If not, there are at least three SEC programs (Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky) that would love to have him.
Gig 'Em! Aggies. Wait...you already did!
Texas A&M Aggies 41, Oklahoma Sooners 13