Alabama vs. Texas A&M: 10 Things We Learned in Aggies' Loss
And that's exactly what it was as Alabama held on for a 49-42 victory. Texas A&M came out on fire, going up 14-0, before Alabama scored 28-straight points before halftime.
But Johnny Manziel wouldn't go away quietly as he brought his team back in the second half before ultimately losing.
It was a tough loss, but one Texas A&M will learn from.
Here's a look at 10 things we learned in the Aggies' loss.
Mike Evans Could Be an All-American
Nobody thought much of sophomore wide receiver Mike Evans through the first two games of the year, despite having 239 yards receiving.
But his seven-catch, 279-yard effort against Alabama showed he has All-American potential.
Standing at 6'5", Evans has the height to match up against most defensive backs in the country.
He had 135 yards on the first two drives, then had a big 95-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter after Alabama turned it over in the red zone.
Should he continue that kind of play, Evans will no doubt be in the All-American conversation come season's end.
The Pass Defense Has Some Issues
Texas A&M has some serious work to do on its pass defense.
The concern entering the game was in the rush defense, which had given up 546 yards through the first two games.
While the rush defense has some issues of their own, there were too many breakdowns that allowed Alabama to have big plays. In total, Texas A&M gave up 334 yards through the air.
Two of those big plays went for touchdowns in the first half. The first was a 44-yard pass DeAndrew White, while the second went to Kenny Bell for 51 yards.
They cleaned things up in the second half, but the breakdowns in the first half put the Aggies behind.
The Aggies Have Heart
Down by 21 points late in the fourth quarter, Texas A&M could have just mailed it in and accepted Alabama was the better team.
But they didn't, showing how much heart and pride they had.
It was said the only way the Aggies would have a chance is if they got a turnover on defense. With Alabama up by 14 and driving in the red zone, that's exactly what Texas A&M got when the ball popped loose from T.J. Yeldon.
Three plays later, Evans had his 95-yard touchdown reception and it was a seven-point game.
Texas A&M had its chances, but came up short. Still, they continued to fight and made a game of it.
Without Johnny Manziel, Aggies Are Average
How many times did we see Manziel escape from pressure only to throw the ball to a receiver downfield?
Most other quarterbacks would have taken the sack or been forced to take the sack. But not Manziel.
His elusiveness allowed plays to extend, and he was able to move the chains as a result.
I think it goes without saying (and most would agree), without Manziel, the Aggies aren't one of the best teams in the SEC or the country. He makes them a versatile team and gives them chances to win against the best in the country.
Then again, Manziel would make any team an instant national-title contender.
Defensive Line Not Getting a Push
Zero sacks and only one tackle for loss. That's all the Aggies had from their defensive line.
They did have one play in the red zone where they forced T.J. Yeldon to fumble the ball, but other than that, the defensive line was manhandled by Alabama's offensive line.
Alabama had 23 rushes go for five yards or more, with only 14 going for less than that.
That simply can't happen when you're playing a team like Alabama. If you hope to beat the best, then you have to be the best where it counts—in the trenches.
Offensive Line Shows Promise Despite Losses
Despite losing a guy like Luke Joeckel, the Aggies' offensive line is showing they can do the same things without him.
While their blocking for running backs needs to improve, they gave Manziel a lot of time to make plays in the backfield. And while Manziel was making plays with his feet, they were still motoring to give their quarterback as much time as he needed.
Nobody expects the Aggies to have the best offensive line in the country. But with the way Manziel moves, they did a good job at protecting him, keeping Alabama to only one sack for the game.
It's not a bad effort from that group.
Nothing Is a Given, Even with Johnny Football
The Aggies learned a tough lesson early in the second quarter that nothing is ever a given, even with Johnny Football.
After Alabama tied the game at 14-14, Texas A&M again drove down the field ready to score its third touchdown of the game. But Manziel floated a pass to the left corner of the end zone, only to get intercepted by Cyrus Jones.
Texas A&M had moved the ball all over the field with no problem against Alabama. It seemed the Aggies thought the touchdown would be a given from the 4-yard line, but the Crimson Tide made them pay.
It was a hard lesson as the Tide went on to score the go-ahead touchdown four plays later, putting them up for the first time. It was a lead Alabama would never relinquish.
Another Receiver Has to Step Up
While Evans had a monster first two drives of the game, it was when Alabama changed its gameplan on him that forced Manziel to look elsewhere.
Other receivers made a few good plays, but those were few and far between in the second and third quarters.
Texas A&M needs another receiver to step up and be a threat like Evans. If they don't, teams will continue to key in on him, making Manziel utilize the other guys to be successful.
To put it into perspective, Evans had 60 percent of the Aggies' receiving yards. That can't happen if Texas A&M plans to beat other SEC teams.
Cupcakes Are No Way to Prepare for Alabama
When Alabama is the third team on your schedule, cupcake teams are no way to prepare for them.
While the Aggies did make a game of it late, had they faced a tougher team in one of the first two weeks, they might have been able to handle the same kind of adversity they faced in the middle quarters. They seemed not to have much of a response during that time, which allowed Alabama to get a 21-point lead—twice.
While colleges set their schedules years in advance, that doesn't stop a team like Alabama from playing a tough out-of-conference opponent like Virginia Tech.
In May, the Aggies cancelled future games with USC (2015-16) and Oregon (2018-19), according to Brett Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle.
With a playoff system being instituted as well, one loss would end any hopes of the Aggies competing for a national title if their non-conference schedule is as soft as this year's.
It's no longer about easy wins. It's about showing the conference's dominance over other conference's top teams.
Kyle Field Is SEC Country
Florida and LSU visited Kyle Field last year, but Saturday's game with Alabama showed just how electric the atmosphere could be.
The SEC has seven of the 14 largest stadiums in college football, and all of those atmospheres are electric on game day.
Texas A&M's fans showed that Kyle Field belonged with the likes of LSU's Tiger Stadium and Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium as great atmospheres.
We all knew about the "12th Man" while the Aggies were in the Big 12, but now that they're in the SEC, they have shown they belong with the best fan bases in the conference.