CFN Analysis: Texas A&M's Win Over Alabama

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 10, 2012


CFN Instant Analysis of Texas A&M's season-changing win over Alabama

Richard Cirminiello

Mike Sherman is definitely no longer in College Station.

Texas A&M finally learned how to finish a game, something that had notoriously vexed the prior regime for years. The Aggies started fast in the opener with Florida, yet lost by three. Three weeks ago, the Ags jumped on LSU, but couldn’t hold on in a 24-19 defeat. This evening in Tuscaloosa, of all places, A&M finally got it right in the second half of a tight SEC game.

There are so many remarkable aspects to this upset of top-ranked Alabama, from the poise of Johnny Manziel to the play of an underrated Texas A&M defense. However, I sit here with mouth agape that the Aggies squandered an early 20-point lead in one of the country’s most hostile environments, and had their backs to the end zone late in the final quarter, yet still hung on for the most meaningful upset of the 2012 so far.

Now what? Politics has its October surprise, and college football always delivers its November surprises. Today’s shocker, for instance. In other words, it’s a little too early to count the Crimson Tide out of the national championship race just yet, despite the fact that it’s looked eminently mortal in consecutive weeks. ‘Bama is now in the unfamiliar position of watching scoreboards while it attempts to remain the highest ranked one-loss team in the BCS standings.

Yeah, there’s still time for the defending champs to get back into the title chase. For right now, though, the folks in Eugene, Manhattan and South Bend feel as if they’ve been handed a gift, courtesy of Texas A&M and a young quarterback that absolutely no one outside of College Station had heard of just three months ago.

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

Alabama 29, Texas A&M 24.

I’m sorry, what? Switch what? You mean Alabama LOST?

For the second consecutive season, the vaunted Tide lost a home game in which it was favored, and for the second straight week it looked average at best. Now it remains to be seen whether fate (with the help of Bama's vocal/influential fan base) will grant Nick Saban & Co. another mulligan.

This game actually opened as expected...within reason. Not unlike the Florida and LSU games, Texas A&M started like it was late for a date with Kate Upton, seemingly surprising its host with its up-tempo offense.

But no, this game wasn’t lost here. 20 points to start a game is nothing to raise your nose at, and we can’t recall the last time Alabama was down 20-0 in a first quarter at home. But the Tide cut that margin to six with dominating play in the second quarter, and opened the third by thrashing Johnny Manziel and the Aggies offense with two three-and-outs (including three sacks on six plays, and nearly a safety).

But a funny thing happened on the way to a second half blowout…the Tide ran out of gas. The whole team, including its coaching staff.

For that, we hope TAMU head coach Kevin Sumlin had the team plane stop in Baton Rouge on the flight home, so he could give LSU’s Les Miles a big, sloppy kiss...because the Tide’s lethargic second half performance had as much to do with the 80+ snaps and 40 minutes of possession that the Tigers forced Alabama to defend on November 3 as anything that TAMU did Saturday night.

READ MORE: Mitchell: Bama Exposed, What Comes Next?

By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN

Ding dong, the witch is dead.

That sound you just heard are the exuberant exhales of fans in Eugene, and most notably Manhattan and South Bend. Because just like that, there are no longer any unbeaten teams in the SEC.

The other loud rumbling you hear is the beginning of an incredulous debate. You’ll now begin to hear a loud and steady rumbling that a one-loss SEC champion deserves to get the nod over an undefeated team from another conference in the BCS title game. Of course, if more than one undefeated team remains, the chances are certainly there that the SEC gets shut out of the BCS National Championship game for the first time since the 2006 season.

But will it happen? Will the voters be swayed by six straight national titles, countless NFL prospects, and a perception and understanding that the SEC is the best team in the country? It’ll certainly be a hot debate as the season winds down, and you can bet there will be some severe pressure to leave an undefeated Notre Dame or Kansas State team out of the really big dance.

Perhaps the best support against an SEC team with one loss getting in is the evidence we are left with tonight. Despite what everyone will tell you, Texas A&M is still a Big-Twelve team living in the SEC in year one. If it can beat the top of the SEC on the road, we should all understand that other leagues can play and win against the big, bad southeast this year.

But let’s pause on that argument for a moment.

Let’s give credit to Texas A&M. It would have been hard enough to win against the ‘Tide in College Station, but to come into Tuscaloosa and outplay a very gifted Alabama team is THE best win of ANY team this year by a landslide.

And if Johnny Manziel wasn’t in some serious Heisman talk leading into this game, he should be on the tip of voters’ tongues now. The knock on him coming into the game was his very average showing against solid defenses. He put that to rest today going against arguably the best defense in the country by passing for 253 yards and 2 TDs on 24 of 231 attempts. He also ran for eighteen times for 92 yards--accounting for 345 yards of total offense in the first person. Forget that he’s a freshman, forget that he doesn’t play on one of the top handful of teams in the country. He has simply made A&M a highly competitive team this year.

Things are getting interesting. Let the fun continue.

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek


Sometimes, the collective and vague "they" of the English language refers to your own self. When "they" said Texas A&M couldn't beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa… not this year, not this time… the chorus flowed partly from within. I didn't think a first-year SEC team could figure it all out in its first try against Nick Saban, its first foray into Bryant-Denny Stadium, its first great test of an up-tempo offense that has not been embraced by the rest of the conference.

Yes, some spread principles have surely made their way into the SEC in recent years. Urban Meyer succeeded with his offense, felt to be too gimmicky in the eyes of many pundits. Kevin Sumlin's offense represented an even more audacious attempt to uproot Southern football orthodoxy.

A Sumlin-Kliff Kingsbury offensive production doesn't just spread out defenses to gain angular and numerical advantages; it relies on tempo as well. Johnny Manziel found against Florida and LSU that his ability to dictate tempo was confined to the first 30 minutes of a game. Would A&M really be able to execute for two whole halves and stand in the way of a repeat national championship for the Crimson Tide?

The notion of a Tidal upset didn't seem to carry much water. Johnny Football decided to walk on that water instead… while getting timely assistance from a defense that did not give in when the smart money suggested it would.

Everything about this Texas A&M team was manly on Saturday, in the classic old-time sense of the term. Sure, the Aggies came wrapped in a spread-and-fast-tempo package, but they made virile and valiant plays all game long… plays that a former A&M head coach named Paul W. Bryant would have appreciated.

Receivers Mike Evans and Ryan Swope made terrifically tough catches that also carried supreme significance relative to the game's ebb and flow. A&M's defense held Alabama to a field goal late in the third quarter when it seemed that the Tide were on the verge of taking control. The Aggies' front seven didn't evaporate into so much fine powder in the face of Alabama's running game.

Then, on two successive snaps at the very end of this memorable drama, A&M – a team nicknamed the "Gaggies" in light of a longstanding penchant for blowing second-half leads – honored the 1978 Alabama team by standing tall on the goal line. First, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron tried to make a Jake Plummer impersonation. A swashbuckling, open-field run reminiscent of the 1996 Heisman Trophy finalist for Arizona State was on the verge of giving Alabama the win, but a terrific open-field tackle on McCarron at the 2 preserved A&M's lead for one more play, giving Alabama one more chance to lose.

On that extra play – the play that wouldn't have occurred if not for A&M's hustle – Aggie defensive back Deshazor Everett stepped in front of a quick-trigger McCarron pass and secured it in his arms. History, rationality, and Alabama's knack for making winning plays in crunch time all pointed to a Crimson Tide victory. The ability of Texas A&M – an SEC newbie, a bastion of fast-tempo counterculture football – to march into Tuscaloosa and shatter Alabama's national championship is a remarkable testament to the Aggies. This win is an accomplishment that will last a lifetime in the minds and hearts of the men who forged it.

It's also an event that will likely convince other SEC coaches to emphasize a fast-tempo offense, the offense Nick Saban always said he didn't like.

Drastically changing the national title calculus in college football on a mid-November evening is momentous enough on most occasions. Texas A&M might have also change the way Southeastern Conference football is played. Not a bad three and a half hours, Johnny Manziel and Company.

By Bart Doan
Follow me @Bart_cfn

That thud you heard? A sequoia just fell, and its name was Alabama. Rarely am I all that stunned by college football. The Florida’s block a punt to beat ULL, the Texas Tech’s outlast Kansas. It’s how the game works, or so it feels most of the time. Count me stunned tonight, because Texas A&M did what couldn’t be done, and in nail chewing fashion.

The arc of the game just felt like it would tilt to Alabama, who looked moderately hungover after a crucial win in Baton Rouge last week early. Nick Saban is a Bill Belichick disciple, which means he works to control the meat of the game, which is the halftime and opening third quarter tilt. It appeared everything was par for the course when Eddie Lacy smoked in for a short TD run before the half, a death knell to inexperienced teams.

But time and time again, TAMU put sand up on the docks to ward off Alabama’s tide. This had the entire narrative of a great team with steely resolve on what wasn’t their best day yanking out a W against a young, inexperienced opponent. But it didn’t happen. On a fourth down everyone in the nation assumed would be converted, AJ McCarron slung an interception. One a punt where everyone in the nation was sure Bama would pull one out of the ethereal archives to win with 40 seconds left, they jumped offsides (controversially, mind you). And here we are.

The narrative of the 2012 college football season just changed, and it changed a lot. The SEC champion playing for the national title birth right just took a face plant on a sidewalk. Tripped over a crack.


So where do we go from here? Is it that the spread offense with a freshman QB is suddenly viable...just so long as the SEC patch is on the jersey? Make no mistake, TAMU has done nothing prior to tonight to suggest that it’s an elite team. But we view teams in, typically, a one game vaccuum, where we over-sell a win or a loss. That is where we are here, tonight.

TAMU was a mediocre football team last year in the Big 12, and their main loss was a quarterback who was drafted in the top 10 of the NFL draft. I’m not disparaging them, but the learning curve this year was immense for this team. Obviously they’ve met it. Johnny Manziel grew up today, and quickly.

TAMU grew up today, and surprisingly. Yet the reality is, in the grand scheme of things, this drilled the SEC. There is no argument for an SEC team with one loss over an unbeaten Kansas State, Oregon, or Notre Dame. It will be a voyeur few weeks for Mike Slive. TAMU resurrected college football...or destroyed it tonight...depending on which side of the fence you are painting.

This was a grown man’s win for Kevin Sumlin. This was a statement maker. In one fell swoop, 2012...at least the college football portion of it...just changed. Johnny Football 1, AJ Steady 0.

By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

There's a lot to take away from Texas A&M's surprising victory over Alabama.

First, the SEC's hopes for a seventh consecutive national championship are now on life support. Sure, it might still be the best conference in the land, but there's no way that a one-loss SEC team is going to jump an undefeated Kansas State, Oregon, or Notre Dame. At least two of these three teams will need to lose for the chant of "S-E-C, S-E-C" to continue at this year's BCS title game.

In other words, the conference needs to pull for Southern California, affectionately known in the South as "the other USC", to defeat Notre Dame and Oregon in the Pac 12 title game. Anything less will leave the SEC on the outside looking in.

Another thing that we learned from this game is that Johnny Manziel belongs in the Heisman Trophy race. As I wrote in our Tuesday Question, I thought that he would finish fifth in the voting if the season ended last week, but that he had a chance to move to the top if he played well against Alabama. He did just that today, throwing for 253 yards and running for 92 yards. However, the most impressive thing that Manziel did was to keep plays alive with his legs, eluding Crimson Tide defenders several times to pick up first downs.

While this performance might not be enough to overtake Kenjon Barner, who's astronomical numbers make him the favorite right now, it certainly adds his name to the discussion.

Finally, we learned that Kevin Sumlin is a slam-dunk to win the SEC's Coach of the Year this season. Let's be honest: after Alabama cut the lead to 20-14 before the half, everyone had to be thinking, "Here we go again, A&M's going to blow another huge lead, just like they did last year". However, this year's team didn't fold in the second half: it made the plays when it needed to. Even though the defense gave up over 400 yards, it came up with the stops when it had to have them, including Deshazor Everett's key pick fourth and goal with less than two minutes remaining.

That's a sharp contrast from last season, when the Aggies blew double-digit leads several times. The fact that A&M is now 8-2 speaks volumes about Sumlin's leadership.