COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The performance by one quarterback Saturday was predictable. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won a Heisman Trophy a year ago, passing and prancing past the best defenses in the country.
Yet in a 49-42 Alabama victory, it was Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron who dazzled and dominated the Aggies’ defense, which was at full strength for the first time this season.
Manziel and his buddy, receiver Mike Evans, did brutalize the Alabama defense, with A&M rolling to 628 yards, the most ever against the Crimson Tide. Manziel threw for 464 yards, with 267 going to Evans. Manziel also rushed for 98 to give him 562 combined for the game, his second best performance in his career.
But Manziel also threw two interceptions, one in the end zone and another that was returned 73 yards for a touchdown.
McCarron was the most opportunistic, leading his team back from an early 14-0 deficit, then directing a late touchdown drive to put the game out of reach for the Aggie offense. The victory for the top-ranked Crimson Tide (2-0) crushed the crowd of 87,596 fans at Kyle Field and dashed the party for what had been one of the most highly anticipated contests in school history.
The A&M defense frequently used eight to nine men at or near the line of scrimmage to plug the running lanes for the Crimson Tide tailbacks and to put pressure on McCarron.
“I said going in AJ would have to beat us, and he was on fire,” said A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder.
McCarron threw for a career-high 334 yards, completing 20 of his 29 passes, with four touchdowns to four different receivers. Alabama scored 28 consecutive points from midway through the first quarter to the third.
McCarron’s 44-yard pass to DeAndrew White off a flea flicker tied the game at 14-14 early in the second quarter. Then his swing pass to Kenny Bell six minutes later gave the Tide its first lead of the game, one it never relinquished.
A&M didn’t sack McCarron. The Aggies hurried him into one incompletion.
“With the type of offense A&M has, you have to eat up the clock and pound the ball,” McCarron said. “Overall, we did well.” Although A&M devoted much of its defense to doing so, the Aggies still couldn’t stop the potent Alabama rushing attack, as tailback T.J. Yeldon rushed for 149 yards on 25 carries.
With just under nine minutes to play, the Tide was trying again to stretch its lead to three touchdowns. But the Aggie defense made one big play. Linebacker Steven Jenkins forced a Yeldon fumble at the Aggie 1 and freshman Shaan Washington fell on it at the 4.
Then Manziel and Evans desperately tried to bring the Aggies back.
They combined for a 95-yard touchdown on a simple go route to cut the score to 42-35. After Alabama scored to give them a 14-point margin with 2:28 to play, Manziel led A&M on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Malcome Kennedy. It was Kennedy’s third touchdown of the game.
Manziel accumulated 229 of his total yards after Alabama had built a 21-point lead. All but one of Evans’ receptions and 17 of his yards occurred in either the first or fourth quarters.
“I am proud of these guys,” Manziel said. “The one thing I kept telling them, no matter what point it was in the game, was that we were never out of it.”