QB Johnny Manziel stars vs. Alabama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Hey, Texas A&M. The Southeastern Conference called. And bring your playbook.
You may have Johnny Football, the most exciting player in college football since RG took his III to the NFL, and you may have proved everyone wrong about your ability to compete in the toughest league in the game. But you also may have ended the SEC's streak of six consecutive BCS championships.
To put it in terms you may understand in your part of Texas, they don't cotton to that around here.
No. 15 Texas A&M stunned No. 1 Alabama 29-24, and the Aggies may have to rename themselves the Trojan Horses.
"You trying to make me the villain?" Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin asked. "Well, there's 120 other teams that are happy. No one is going to ask me anymore if we deserve to be here."
No, they're not. As defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said, "We beat them. It shouldn't have been that close."
Led by redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel -- that's Johnny Football to you at home -- Texas A&M won its first-ever game in Bryant-Denny Stadium by scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions. Manziel did his best Doug Flutie imitation in establishing that 20-0 lead. In the first half, he scrambled and passed for 200 yards.
In the second half, when the Crimson Tide's defense figured out how to chop off his running lanes, Manziel still gained another 145 yards of total offense. He finished 24-of-31 for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another 92 yards.
When Alabama mounted its inevitable comeback, and had first-and-goal at the Aggies' 6 to score the winning touchdown with 3:54 to play, the Aggies' defense not only held, but picked off AJ McCarron on fourth down.
The vendors on Paul W. Bryant Drive who sold T-shirts Saturday commemorating "The Drive" that beat LSU last week won't have any new inventory.
That was the third of three turnovers forced by Texas A&M, and the only one that the Aggies didn't convert into a touchdown. Instead, they converted it into a kneel-down, every coach's favorite play.
The Aggies are led by a group of seniors who bought into what Sumlin and his staff teach. Seniors under a new coach have taken down more teams than they have bolstered. It's hard to adjust to a new staff. All credit goes to players like linebackers Sean Porter, whose first-quarter interception ended McCarron's school-record string of 291 passes without a pick, and wide receiver Ryan Swope (11 catches, 111 yards, one touchdown).
But they are surprised at the maturity shown by Manziel, too.
"It's pretty incredible," Swope said. "You saw him make plays on his feet. You saw him make spectacular throws. He just really handled the offense really well. ... I'm happy for Johnny."
Everyone is happy for Johnny, save for those interested in the SEC playing in Miami on Jan. 7. If the SEC really did want to revoke the Aggies' membership, there are at least two conferences that might take them.
OK, maybe not the Big 12, which Texas A&M left high and dry earlier this year. But the Aggies' victory will likely allow No. 2 Kansas State to ascend to the top of the BCS standings. And the Pac-12, which attempted to lure the Aggies to membership a few years ago, no longer has to worry about whether No. 3 Oregon can climb over someone to play in its second BCS Championship Game in three seasons.
It is premature to proclaim that the King is dead. In a system in which a team can lose on Thanksgiving weekend (LSU, 2007) and win the BCS championship, it is too early to say that the Southeastern Conference will not win its seventh consecutive crystal football. No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 Florida are lurking about, not to mention where Alabama will land in the BCS standings announced Sunday night.
The Aggies prevented the Crimson Tide from clinching the SEC West, but if the Tide beat Auburn in two weeks, Alabama will play Georgia in the SEC championship game. Presumably, that winner will be first in line behind Kansas State, Oregon and No. 4 Notre Dame, another reason that the three of them should be sending Texas A&M a selection of fine meats and cheeses.
The last team from outside the SEC to win the BCS would have been the 2005 Texas Longhorns, who defeated their Big 12 rival Texas A&M along the way. That was big news to a seventh-grader at Kerrville (Tex.) Peterson Middle School named Johnny Manziel.
And now, seven years later, Manziel may be two victories short of an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York. Sumlin entrusts Manziel to run his offense, but Manziel, like all first-year players, is not trusted to speak to the media. Manziel has undergone media training, and presumably he will speak in New York, if not before.
That's not all that the Aggies have to anticipate. They may be two victories short of an at-large bid to the BCS. If they get thrown out of the SEC, the Aggies will go out in style.
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