Vanderbilt vs. Texas A&M: 10 Things We Learned in Aggies' Win
Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies avoided a second consecutive loss by defeating the Vanderbilt Commodores, 56-24.
Manziel led six scoring drives, threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns while All-American-caliber receiver Mike Evans caught his 10th and 11th touchdown passes in 2013.
The Aggies defense matched its season total with seven sacks, and defensive back Howard Matthews' pick-six defined A&M's victory.
Kevin Sumlin's team became bowl-eligible with its sixth win and taught the nation a few lessons along the way.
Johnny Manziel Doesn't Need to Run
Manziel is the most dynamic quarterback in college football. He eludes pressure, breaks the ankles of potential tacklers like a running back and has excellent vision.
But sometimes he doesn't need to use the latter two.
Designed running plays were not a part of the game plan, as Manziel had just four rushing attempts.
Manziel stood in the pocket, found his receivers and completed 25 of 35 passes, including his first 10 on the Aggies' opening drive.
Save for one bad throw that resulted in an interception, Manziel made the proper reads and good decisions throughout the day.
The Aggies Have a Stable of Running Backs
Texas A&M racked up 182 rushing yards on a 5.7-yard-per-carry average.
Trey Williams gained 65 yards on just six carries, and his 11-yard score showcased a move that could be played over and over again. So, please, watch it repeatedly.
Sophomore Brandon Williams set career highs, running 11 times for 61 yards and a touchdown, and Ben Malena tacked on 24 yards on five attempts.
Add that to Manziel's running ability, and A&M's ground game has a logical argument for being underutilized at times.
But That Stable Has Control Issues
The Aggies scored 56 points, but it left at least 17 points on the field.
Trey Williams and Tra Carson both ripped off long runs and proceeded to fumble the ball. Plus, wide receiver Travis Labhart (pictured above) lost control as he neared the end zone.
Williams, Carson and Labhart fumbled on successive possessions, and each one occurred on the Vanderbilt side of the field.
Overall, Texas A&M lost four fumbles, and Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News notes Kevin Sumlin "did not know what was going on, and [the Aggies] have got to take care of the ball."
With UTEP coming to town next weekend, Texas A&M can get its ball-security issues fixed.
Mike Evans Is a Machine
All he does is catch touchdowns.
Evans grabbed his 15th and 16th career scores and moved his season total to an SEC-high 11.
Over Texas A&M's past four games, the redshirt sophomore has snagged 26 passes for 526 yards and eight touchdowns.
Evans is Manziel's No. 1 receiver and safety outlet even when tightly covered, so his number of targets is not about to diminish anytime soon.
Malcome Kennedy Quietly Made Plays
Every team knows that Manziel wants to connect with Evans, so the quarterback needs another target to step up.
On Saturday, Malcome Kennedy was that guy.
Kennedy caught five passes on the Aggies' first possession, leading Texas A&M to an opening-drive touchdown for the seventh consecutive game
Although Kennedy later dropped a fourth-down pass when he was wide open, he was a reliable target for Manziel.
Kennedy finished the day with 83 receiving yards on a career-high eight receptions.
Howard Matthews Changed the Game
Vanderbilt had scored 17 unanswered points to cut the Aggies' lead to 11 and received the opening kickoff in the second half.
But junior defensive back Howard Matthews flipped the momentum of the game with his 26-yard interception return for a touchdown.
It was Matthews' first career pick, and it could not have come at a better time.
Oh, by the way, Matthews had a game-high 14 tackles, including one for loss and also deflected another pass. Long story short, he had a career-best day.
A&M's Defense Came to Play
Texas A&M set the tone early, forcing four punts on Vandy's opening drives. Ultimately, the Aggies defense matched its season total with seven sacks and tallied a season-high 12 tackles for loss.
Gavin Stansbury accounted for 2.0 sacks while Darian Claiborne earned 1.5 of his own. Steven Jenkins notched eight tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss (1.0 sack) and broke up a pass.
Matthews, Nate Askew and Jordan Mastrogiovanni each recorded an interception, and the Aggies surrendered just 234 passing yards.
Compared to what the opposition has done lately, the game was a breath of fresh air for Texas A&M fans.
The Secondary Contained Jordan Matthews
"You can't stop it, you can only hope to contain it."
With a 17-yard catch in the second quarter, Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews became the SEC's all-time leader in career receiving yards.
Matthews had eight receptions, but the Aggies held the talented receiver under 100 yards and without a touchdown for only the third time this season.
The Commodores found Matthews five times on a single drive after the game was well in hand, so De'Vante Harris—who had two pass breakups—and the rest of the Texas A&M secondary did an admirable job on Vandy's star.
Special Teams Was Caught Sleeping
Down 25 points, Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin called for his team to attempt an onside kick, and the Commodores recovered it.
After Vandy scored a touchdown, Franklin had his kicker try another, and the Aggies would not have recovered it had the ball stayed in bounds.
Later in the day, North Carolina State caught Florida State snoozing, so Texas A&M was not alone as the victim of a surprise onside kick during a blowout.
But you can bet the Aggies will be more prepared for onside kicks from now on.
Texas A&M Is Not Content
Many teams would be thrilled with a 6-2 record. But how does Johnny Manziel view Texas A&M's season?
Per Zwerneman, "frustrating."
Bowl eligibility is nice, but the Aggies wanted a conference title and a shot at the national championship—neither of which will happen barring unbelievable collapses by teams around the country.
UTEP, Mississippi State, No. 13 LSU and No. 5 Missouri remain on the schedule, and Texas A&M will not be content with anything less than four wins.