The game Saturday between Alabama and Texas A&M pretty much lived up to its considerable hype, which is no small feat. It began much like last year's meeting between the two, with the Aggies jumping out to a 14-0 lead. Then the Crimson Tide's offense got into gear, helping Alabama reel off 35 straight points to take control. They'd have to withstand a fourth-quarter rally from Texas A&M, but they managed to hold on.
Somewhat surprising was the way in which Alabama began to turn the, er, tide. Once down 14-0, and perhaps feeling some added pressure from how good A&M's offense had looked, the Crimson Tide put the game on AJ McCarron's shoulders, and he delivered. Alabama threw the ball 14 times over its next four drives while running it just twice, and when that stretch was over, the Tide held a 21-14 lead.
Our Alabama blog, Roll Bama Roll, was both relieved and impressed by what it saw from McCarron and the offense:
Folks, after much hand-wringing over the past couple of weeks, we might just have an offense after all. Following a generally poor showing against a game Virginia Tech squad, the big uglies showed up and showed out in this one. AJ said it best when he commented after the game that his jersey never came close to getting dirty. He had basically all day to throw the ball, and was generally on-time and accurate after persevering through what appeared to be some butterflies early. Indeed, the passing game was something to behold, as AJ connected with no less than ten different receivers en route to a 334 yard, four TD performance and, perhaps most importantly, no INTs.
There was no shortage of big plays from either team, and it was this flea flicker that got the Tide even at 14-14:
It was a rough day for the Aggies' defense -- not that Alabama's was better -- but Texas A&M fans nonetheless felt pretty good about how the team played against the reigning national champions. A&M blog Good Bull Hunting has a thorough post-game assessment.
Some people will say it's the same ol' Aggie football. High expectations, no or little results. But I'm not sure you can be that disappointed/upset about the game. Yeah, we are awful on defense. But at the same time we were just a couple of plays away from beating Alabama once again. We know you can't make mistakes against them. You have to play perfect. We did last year in Tuscaloosa. We didn't this year at home and it cost us the game.
GBH also shared this nugget:
Texas A&M totaled 628 yards on the day, the most ever against a Nick Saban coached defense. THE MOST EVER.
It's actually the most yardage an Alabama team has given up in program history. Yeah, that's nothing to be upset about. If that historic production is not enough to win, there's not much to do but tip the ol' cap and move on.
Johnny Manziel threw a pair of costly interceptions -- one in the end zone, another that was returned for a touchdown -- but he was outstanding in general, looking exactly like the guy who baffled Alabama's defense en route to an upset win last year. This time around, his efforts weren't quite enough, though his numbers were huge. And there was this bit of magic, the Manziel Experience rolled up into one crazy play:
Alabama should have had a sack or an interception or forced a fumble, but instead, that happened.
Again, the Alabama defense allowed more yardage at Texas A&M that any Tide team has in the history of the football program. Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M are no doubt part of the reason for that -- Mike Evans' seven receptions for 279 yards and a touchdown is just staggering -- but it still makes you wonder just how good Alabama is. Can they handle an explosive offense like Ole Miss or Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, should they make it that far? If they get into an unexpected shootout against another team with a better defense -- say, LSU -- can the Tide come out unscathed on the other side?
Here are the complete highlights from the big day in College Station: