Don't Blame Johnny Manziel If Texas A&M's Defense Didn't Show Up

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterSeptember 14, 2013

Sep 14, 2013; College Station, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive linesman Ryan Kelly (70) lines up before the snap against the Texas A&M Aggies during the first half at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the absurd conclusions that arose from Johnny Manziel's tabloid-riddled offseason, the most laughable was the assertion that all the commotion would somehow affect his play on the field, or it would affect his teammates. 

It sure didn't look that way on Saturday when Texas A&M led top-ranked Alabama 14-0 in the first quarter, and it didn't look that way when the Tide were forced to recover an onside kick to secure a dramatic 49-42 win over the Aggies. 

Manziel and his teammates came ready to play, ready to win. 

And Johnny Football did his part. His final numbers for the day were 464 yards passing with five touchdowns and 98 yards rushing. He accounted for nearly 90 percent of his team's total yards on offense and six fewer yards than the entire Alabama offense. 

Love him or hate him away from the field, Manziel is the ultimate gamer on it. His head-on-a-swivel style makes him difficult, if not nearly impossible, to contain. Nick Saban and Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, the best coaches in the game today who had months upon months to prepare, still could not keep Manziel contained. 

That doesn't mean Manziel played perfectly. There were the two costly interceptions. One in the end zone on a fade route that not only took a touchdown away from the Aggies, but also resulted in a scoring drive for the Tide on the following possession. 

The other was a tipped pass that ended up in the hands of Alabama defensive back Vinnie Sunseri, which he returned all the way back for a 73-yard touchdown. 

Those mistakes were costly and played a difference in the game. But the Aggies' defensive effort was a significant reason for the loss.

A&M had a difficult time getting Alabama off the field. The Tide had three drives in the game of at least nine plays spanning 65 yards or more. In fact, seven of Alabama's 11 offensive drives (10 if you discount the kneel down at the end) went an average of 78 yards. All but one resulted in a touchdown. 

The other ended in a fumble by Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon's near A&M's goal line. Three plays later, Manziel connected with wide receiver Mike Evans for a 95-yard touchdown pass. 

Still, that drive took off four and a half crucial minutes that the Aggies would have loved to have had. 

The Tide attempted just four passes in the fourth quarter—all completions—to 13 runs, nine of which came in a row from Yeldon. 

Alabama often lined up in run-heavy formations. There was no secret about what was coming. A&M simply couldn't stop it. And Nick Saban's team was able to run 10 minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter. 

There's not much Manziel can do when he's sitting on the sideline. 

The terrific irony is that Alabama, Saban specifically, was heavily criticized after last year's loss to A&M for not running the ball down near the goal line for what would have been the game-winning score. Against the Aggies this time around, all the Tide practically did was run the ball late in the game.

Then, on a third-and-goal with under three minutes remaining, McCarron hit running back Jalston Fowler on a play-action pass in the flat to put 'Bama up 14. It was a beautiful play call and perfectly executed.

All because Alabama ran the daggum ball.