Alabama avenged its only loss from last season with a 49-42 victory over Texas A&M.
After falling behind 14-0 to start the game, the Crimson Tide scored 35 unanswered points to take control against their SEC West rival. They then held off a late charge by A&M to escape Kyle Field with an impressive victory.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron led the way with 334 passing yards and four touchdowns, outdueling Johnny Manziel, who had 562 total yards and five touchdowns, but also two interceptions.
This was arguably the most highly anticipated game of the college football season, matching up two of the top teams in the SEC and the country. Alabama is also the two-time defending national champion facing the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Manziel.
Fortunately for fans, the action on the field did not disappoint.
It did not take long for Texas A&M to show it was ready for this game. Manziel put together a quick drive to open things up, finding top receiver Mike Evans for a couple of long plays, as noted by CBS Sports:
Two jumpballs to Mike Evans, two huge completions. 1st and goal Texas A&M. Evans too tall for Tide CB John Fulton— Eye on College FBall (@EyeOnCFB) September 14, 2013
Manziel then showcased his ability to make things happen on a busted play to produce A&M's first touchdown.
After a three-and-out by Alabama, the Aggies drove the ball down the field and scored a second touchdown on a tough run by Ben Malena to go up 14-0.
At this point, it seemed as though Texas A&M could possibly run away with the game. Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee provided this statistic after the second touchdown:
Texas A&M: 143 total yards, Alabama: 10— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) September 14, 2013
Of course, it was also a similar start to the 2012 version of this game, which saw the Aggies get out to a 20-0 start in the first quarter. Alabama made that game competitive, but the Tide were never able to take the lead in what became their only loss of the season.
That was not the case in this game, as the Tide started to roll with a 14-0 deficit. They cut the lead in half thanks to this play from McCarron to Kevin Norwood.
As Pat Forde of Yahoo! notes, this was a necessary response:
Strong response by Alabama. If Bama doesn't stop itself, expect to see them move at will vs A&M D.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) September 14, 2013
Head coach Nick Saban used a little bit of trickery on the second score with this successful flea flicker to DeAndrew White to tie things up 14-14.
Manziel tried to steal the momentum back with arguably one of his best plays of his career, a scramble out of a sack and successful third-down completion.
Unfortunately, he followed that up with an interception in the end zone while trying to find his receiver on a lob. This gave the Tide the ball back as they continued the run, taking the lead on a 51-yard screen pass to Kenny Bell.
Alabama ended the half on a 28-point run to lead by 14 going into halftime, a surprising score after how the game started.
The effective play by the road team continued after halftime, although now it was from the players on the defensive side of the ball. A long pass by Manziel landed in the arms of defensive back Vinnie Sunseri, who had an impressive 73-yard return into the end zone to make it 35-14.
After the two teams matched touchdowns in the third quarter, Texas A&M cut the lead to 14 early in the fourth quarter with a second touchdown reception by Malcome Kennedy.
When the Crimson Tide had a chance to put it out of reach, running back T.J. Yeldon made a big mistake with a fumble near the goal line. As SportsCenter notes, this kept the game alive:
HUGE TURNOVER! T.J. Yeldon fumbles at the goal line, A&M recovers! It's still a ball game. #BAMAvsTAMU— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 14, 2013
Three plays later, this was proven true, as Manziel found Evans for an incredible 95-yard touchdown pass.
However, Alabama snuffed A&M's hopes with another touchdown drive that took over five minutes off the clock, capped by a five-yard pass to Jalston Fowler to make it 49-35.
Texas A&M scored one more touchdown with 15 seconds remaining to cut the lead to seven, but a failed onside kick attempt ended the game.
This battle was a show of two truly elite offenses, but Alabama proved it is still the top team in the country with a tough victory in this one.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: A-
As far as statistics go, Manziel did just about everything you could want a quarterback to do. As his school's Twitter account noted, he continues to make history:
Johnny Manziel is nearing the 300 pass/100 rush mark. Has 3 previous 300/100 games. No one else in FBS history has done it more than twice.— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) September 14, 2013
He eventually finished just short of this with 98 rushing yards, although he also had 464 passing yards and five touchdowns.
Unfortunately, two interceptions were the difference in the game. Neither was an awful play, but the passes were just bad enough to cost his team a win.
In a game against the No. 1 team in the country, you have to be almost perfect to pull off an upset. Manziel was not that on Saturday.
Mike Evans, Texas A&M: A+
Although Manziel has been the story for Texas A&M over the past two seasons, Evans showed that he is a big part of this team and one of the top receivers in the nation with a strong performance against Alabama.
The sophomore finished with seven catches for 279 yards and a touchdown, and he served as a safety net for his quarterback throughout the game. At 6'5" with solid speed, he is a matchup nightmare that the Aggies were able to take advantage of often.
After posting huge numbers as a freshman last year, it is clear that big things are still to come for Evans.
AJ McCarron, Alabama: A+
On a team with so many assets around him, McCarron does not get enough credit. However, the quarterback was impressive in this game when his squad needed him the most.
Down 14 points in the first quarter, the senior calmly led his team down the field for a vital touchdown and then kept the momentum going with an almost unstoppable offense.
He finished 20-of-29 for 334 yards and four touchdowns, showing that he is truly one of the best players at this position—not just a game manager on a great team.
Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama: A-
Alabama is never short on playmakers, and that is exactly what Vinnie Sunseri was for the defense for the second game in a row.
He returned a touchdown for an interception to give his team a big lead early in the second half—something that is becoming quite common, as noted by College GameDay:
The junior also scored a touchdown against Virginia Tech in Week 1. He was consistent in coverage throughout the game, and he is becoming yet another key player on the Tide's defense.
Alabama was already a favorite to reach the national championship game, but this win puts the squad in even better shape.
Things get much easier for Texas A&M next week, as the team hosts SMU in a nonconference game, while Alabama has a home game against Colorado State.
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