The No. 24 Auburn Tigers rolled into College Station on Saturday and pulled off a stunning upset over the No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies in what can only be described as one of the most exciting games of the year. Adding to the drama, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel was knocked out of the game by the Tigers briefly in the fourth quarter, but returned for a thrilling finish.
ESPN's College Football Twitter feed put the last-second drama into perspective amid the chaos:
As NFL Network's Albert Breer illustrates, the victory speaks more to just how great the SEC is, as opposed to a failure on the Aggies' part.
REMEMBER: Auburn's victory over A&M is NOT a sign of trouble for the Aggies, only an illustration of the SEC's depth!!!!— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) October 19, 2013
As expected of any game featuring Manziel, the game was a pretty display of offense from both sides before Auburn pulled off a furious comeback in the fourth:
|Texas A&M Aggies||14||10||7||10||41|
It didn't take long for Manziel and the Aggies to jump out to an early lead. In fact, Manziel orchestrated a six-play drive in less than two minutes to start the game, which he capped off with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans.
As great as Manziel was on his team's opening drive, Nick Marshall was just as good for Auburn. The Tigers easily marched down the field on their first drive highlighted by a 32-yard scamper from Corey Grant. Marshall capped-off the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run.
In a shocking turn of events, the Texas A&M offense was actually stopped on its second drive. Manziel threw an interception, but it was more on his receiver, who bobbled the ball before a defender could snag it out of the air:
Despite the short field, the Aggies defense stood their ground and limited the explosive Auburn offense to just three points.
That's all Texas A&M needed to get back the lead, as the Aggies used just two plays on their next drive to go down for a score via a 64-yard hookup from Manziel to Evans:
Marshall then made a mistake of his own after A&M's quick score by losing the football mid-rush. Manziel was quick to respond with a mistake of his own after scrambling out of the pocket and throwing a pass up for grabs 40 yards down the field, which was promptly intercepted:
Take a deep breath, because that was just the first quarter.
With the scored tied 17-17 in the second quarter, it appeared that the game was heading to halftime that way when Manziel found Evans for their third touchdown hookup of the day with just over 20 seconds remaining:
For those counting at home, that's five receptions for 182 yards and three touchdowns for Evans—at halftime:
The second half started on a quiet note when compared to the first. Both teams exchanged punts before Marshall orchestrated another beautiful scoring drive topped by a delayed screen pass that receiver Sammie Coates took 43 yards for a touchdown:
Manziel was not amused with Auburn tying things up, and after several pretty runs found—shocker—Evans in the end zone for a fourth touchdown connection to put the Aggies up 31-24:
Not content with a touchdown lead, Manziel and the Aggies drove the ball back down the field as soon as they got it back, but were promptly stuffed. No matter, as head coach Kevin Sumlin reached into his bag of tricks and called a fake field goal that worked to perfection:
The good vibes ended quickly as the fourth quarter began. As Manziel attempted to make a play in the red zone, his throwing arm was slammed into the turf and the training staff had to help him off the field.
While the drama of Manziel's injury overshadowed the game itself, Marshall once again led the Tigers down the field for a major score. This time, Marshall took it in himself for his second rushing touchdown of the day:
Manziel's injury was far from the worst news of the day at that point, as the Aggies offense stalled with Matt Joeckel under center. Marshall and the Tigers promptly took the ball back and easily went down the field to take a four-point lead after a short-yardage touchdown from Cameron Artis-Payne:
Of course, this story would not be complete without a Manziel comeback in which he led his team down the field to score. He silenced any of the doubters over his shoulder by slinging it effectively in his first play back, as illustrated by CBS:
His first throw: perfect back-shoulder throw to Evans. 26 yards. (Who else?)— Eye on College FBall (@EyeOnCFB) October 19, 2013
Manziel led the Aggies the rest of the way and took it in himself to give Texas A&M a 41-38 lead:
Not to be outdone, Marshall and the Tigers were able to march back down the field in the face of a short clock and hostile crowd and took the lead back courtesy of a Tre Mason rushing touchdown:
The score gave Manziel and Co. 1:19 to work with while down by four points. The drive started off predictable enough—two passes to Evans went for major yardage, leaving the Aggies at the Auburn 18-yard line. That forced the Tigers to begin using timeouts in the hopes of getting ball back with time after the inevitable Aggies score.
After an incompletion, a sack and a questionable non-call on a horse-collar tackle on a Manziel five-yard rush, Manziel was sacked one last time on 4th-and-13 as Auburn pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year:
Sumlin touched on the lack of a horse-collar call after the game as reported by Brent Zwerneman:
Sumlin on controversial tackle late of Manziel: I'm not here to say it was (a horsecollar). ... I thought he pulled him straight down.— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) October 19, 2013
Key Player Grades
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, QB: B
It was another classic performance for Johnny Football to build his Heisman case, although he could have been better, as his two interceptions came on ill-advised passes.
Those mistakes aside, the Aggies rarely had to punt because Manziel was so efficient in finding the holes in Auburn's defense.
Thanks to a stout Tigers pass rush, the game plan from the get-go was to utilize Manziel in more of a rushing manner, which explains the variety of quarterback rushes that resulted in him leading the team with 48 yards rushing.
Of course, he also threw for 454 yards and four touchdowns while toughing out the shoulder injury he sustained in the fourth quarter. While Manziel couldn't pull out the victory, it was just another day at the office from a statistical standpoint.
Mike Evans, Texas A&M, WR: A
It's hard to put into words just how great of a performance sophomore Mike Evans put together against the Tigers.
Evans caught 11 passes, which he turned into a ridiculous 287 yards and four touchdowns. Not only is Evans Manziel's favorite target, he inflates Manziel's stat sheet with all the plays he rumbles down the field using his 6'5", 225-pound frame.
There is not much else Evans could have done to win this game for the Aggies. He had a shot at a late touchdown, but two defenders ensured the ill-advised pass fell harmlessly in the end zone.
Nick Marshall, Auburn, QB: A
Nick Marshall was the MVP for Auburn, and perhaps the overall MVP, as he beautifully executed the Tigers' spread attack from under center as they pulled off the jaw-dropping upset.
Ending up with 236 yards and two touchdowns, not to mention another 100 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, Marshall was the key for Auburn throughout the game.
While his accuracy was not always where it needed to be, Marshall's ability to take advantage of a soft Aggies defense is what ultimately won the game for the Tigers.
Auburn now sits at 6-1 with a 3-1 SEC record and heads into a break of sorts against a 2-5 Florida Atlantic team.
Texas A&M now has a 5-2 record with a 2-2 mark in the SEC and also heads into a matchup against Vanderbilt. It's important to mention the Commodores knocked off No. 15 Georgia Saturday.
While Auburn relishes in the major upset, the Aggies are left scrambling for a way to re-ignite their national title hopes.
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