Saturday, November 3, 2012
Manziel and Aggies run over Bulldogs
By Edward Aschoff
Heading into Saturday, Texas A&M had mopped the floor with most of the defenses it faced. But it just couldn't get by quality defenses in the second half.
The 16th-ranked Aggies had a lot to prove against No. 15 Mississippi State and its defense, and they didn't disappoint. Behind flashy freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Aggies rolled up 693 yards in their 38-13 win against the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State's defense was looking to rebound after getting pounded by No. 1 Alabama the week before, but regressed mightily in front of its home crowd. Johnny Football gashed the Bulldogs for 129 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and also threw for 311 yards. The only positive for the Bulldogs' defense was that it didn't allow a passing touchdown from Manziel.
And when Manziel wasn't gutting the Bulldogs' defense, running back Ben Malena and Christine Michael did a pretty good job of helping their quarterback out, as they combined for 162 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries.
Receivers Mike Evans and Ryan Swope also combined for 18 catches for 218 yards.
Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2 SEC) took a big step forward, as it continues to grow in its first year in the SEC, while the Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2) took a major step back. It's becoming painfully obvious that Mississippi State's soft early schedule masked a lot of issues this team has on both offense and defense.
Quarterback Tyler Russell looked efficient during the first part of the season, but in the past two games, he's thrown for 381 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions on 34-of-60 passing. The offense has been overmatched and the defense has been gutted by the two best teams the Bulldogs have played this season. A lot of credit has to go to Texas A&M, which held the Bulldogs to 310 yards and just 98 rushing yards, but Mississippi State hasn't had any sort of offensive rhythm in the past two games.
The really troubling issue is how poorly the defense has played. It's given up 30-plus points in three of its past four games (two losses), and more than 1,000 combined yards in the past two weeks.
For a team that looked like it could win nine or even 10 this season, those numbers just got a lot harder with a tough schedule still remaining in the month of November.