The LSU Tigers out-muscled an outmatched Texas A&M Aggies defense and kept reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel in check for the second straight year in Saturday's 34-10 victory in Baton Rouge.
Led by junior running back Terrence Magee, LSU's rushing attack amassed over 300 yards, which gave the team a commanding advantage in time of possession in this SEC showdown.
Magee's one-yard plunge for the BCS No. 22-ranked Tigers' first score of the day was set up by his 65-yard burst:
Meanwhile, Manziel did not have much of a running game to work with and was forced to throw for much of the game. He completed just two of his first 10 passes and missed star receiver Mike Evans on a wide-open touchdown play down the sidelines that would have knotted the score at seven early.
Evans was upset with Manziel's misfire, and it portended what was to come for the sophomore sensation. Manziel completed just 16 of 41 passes for 224 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Manziel did use his excellent feet to run for a team-high 54 yards, but it wasn't nearly enough to bail out the 12th-ranked Aggies this time around.
Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger rifled precise passes all across the field in Tiger Stadium, and gave LSU a 14-0 lead with 13:15 left in the second quarter by hitting Jarvis Landry on a pivotal third down for a 10-yard score.
That was a common trend; the Tigers capitalized on 11 out of 17 third-down conversions, while the Aggies—who typically convert over 50 percent—were held to five-for-14 in the category.
After a Texas A&M field goal, Mettenberger found Landry wide open behind the Aggies defense, and a little extra effort helped him into the end zone to make the score 21-3.
But Manziel and Co. would not go quietly. Derel Walker—who had a game-high six receptions for 130 yards—broke open in man-to-man coverage, and Manziel didn't miss him:
Thirteen penalties for 111 yards couldn't prevent LSU from dominating in this one, as both interior lines controlled the point of attack in the trenches. It forced Texas A&M's defense onto its heels, and had Manziel under duress all game.
A 13-play, 71-yard field goal drive by LSU ate up the first 6:03 of the third quarter, and a miscommunication between Manziel and Evans on a back-shoulder throw led to an interception.
From there, the Tigers chewed up nearly six more minutes of the third-quarter clock and had Kenny Hilliard run it in from two yards out to stretch the lead to 31-10.
Another nine-play drive in the fourth quarter led to a second Colby Delahoussaye field goal, which were the last points of the game.
Manziel's late third-down heave to Evans kept the Aggies' final drive alive, but by then the outcome was already well in hand for the home team—even before Manziel's second interception in the end zone.
Near the end, Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated felt compelled to tip his hat to LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, who befuddled Manziel for the second straight time:
After the game, LSU head coach Les Miles emphasized how his team's zero turnovers and refusal to give up possession of the ball were vital in securing the win:
Here are some player grades, along with a brief look ahead at each team's regular-season finale.
Terrence Magee, RB, LSU: A
Magee's eruption in the first quarter set the tone for the Tigers' ground-and-pound, which helped Mettenberger tee off on some big plays downfield.
As SportsCenter's official Twitter feed points out, the first LSU drive was literally all Magee, all the time:
There is plenty of depth in the Tigers backfield, but Magee wound up with 13 carries for a career-high 149 yards, with his long first-quarter run serving as a fitting summary of how the game went.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: B-
This was easily Manziel's worst performance of the season, but Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com still regards Manziel as one of the best players in recent college football memory:
Whether or not Manziel repeats as the Heisman Trophy winner remains to be seen. It is worth highlighting how bad the Aggies defense has been, though, and that was on full display in Baton Rouge.
Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU: A
Good for the freshman corner, who had the tough task of matching up with Evans all afternoon and did an admirable job marking him.
Robinson was not responsible for Evans' 38-yard jump-ball catch in the fourth quarter, and pestered him enough to deny him a touchdown later in the drive.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: C
When Manziel missed Evans on the sidelines for an early touchdown, the big, physical receiver was upset at the missed opportunity.
It seemed to impact how he played for the remainder of the contest until it was too little, too late. Evans often looked for flags that were not thrown in his favor, and by the end, he had only four receptions for 51 yards.
If the Aggies are meant to get back on track on offense, Evans will need to remain focused for the entirety of the game and not get as flustered when he isn't getting calls.
Another arduous road trip looms for Texas A&M as it prepares to take on another Tigers team in Missouri. LSU will gear up for a Friday evening showdown with Arkansas and have the benefit of playing at home yet again.