QUICK HITS: Tide loses first game of the year

Nick Saban

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was "magical" as Alabama coach Nick Saban called him, leading his team to a 29-24 victory over the top-ranked Crimson Tide Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.

Five quick hits from Texas A&M's 29-24 takedown of No. 1 Alabama:

1. The unthinkable happened Saturday night in Bryant-Denny Stadium. SEC newbie, No. 15 Texas A&M, came into foreign territory (the Aggies have never been to Tuscaloosa) and knocked the nation's No. 1 team off its pedestal with a 29-24 victory.

This is only the Aggies second win over a top-ranked team in program history.

"We probably dug a ditch that we couldn't quite dig out of," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "You have to give them a lot of credit. We didn't play our best game today and we didn't execute the way that we needed to execute. That starts with me. I take full responsibility."

2. Texas A&M got off to a fast start going up 20-0 in the first quarter, thanks to tricky quarterback Johnny Manziel. Heading into this game, Johnny Football as he's nicknamed, led the SEC in total offense, averaging 383.2 yards per game. Against Alabama, the nation's top-ranked defense, Manziel racked up 345 total yards (92 rushing, 253 passing).

Defensively, Alabama could not stop Manziel or his connection with receiver Ryan Swope, who is just the second receiver to go for over 100 yards against Alabama this season (111 yards on 11 catches).

Even when it appeared the Tide's defense made the right call, Manziel made plays.

"We had a lot of undisciplined, missed assignments," Saban said. "We didn't play with the kind of discipline you have to play with, especially against their quarterback, whether it's pass rush lanes or executions of pressures or whatever."

Added defensive end Damion Square: "They were just getting off the ball faster than us."

3. Texas A&M led 20-0 after the first quarter. Alabama's offense had no answer in those first 15 minutes, as AJ McCarron completed just one pass for five yards and was intercepted for the first time this season (his pass attempts without an interception streak ended at 291).

"Their defensive coordinator was throwing some really bizarre looks at us that we had never seen before," said center Barrett Jones.

Added McCarron: "They did a good job scheming up and showing us things we didn't practice."

Twenty points was the largest deficit Alabama has seen since losing to South Carolina in 2010, so how did the team keep its composure?

"The scoreboard doesn't matter," McCarron said. "It doesn't matter if you're down 20 or up 20, you gotta keep playing. You gotta score regardless, so it shouldn't matter."

In the second quarter, McCarron went 9-of-11 for 81 yards and by halftime, Alabama had cut A&M's lead to six points.

4. Down 29-17 with 8:37 left in the game, McCarron led a nine-play, 94-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 54-yard bomb to freshman receiver Amari Cooper. The crowd, that had been taken out of the game a little bit, was back with a vengeance.

Alabama's defense followed up by forcing A&M to a three-and-out on the next possession.

Then came the game-winning drive that wasn't. McCarron hit his favorite deep threat—Kenny Bell—for 54 yards to get to the Aggies six-yard-line. Once inside the five, McCarron scrambled to the two. He said after the game he thought he was going to make it in the end zone, but was tripped up by an A&M defender.

On fourth-and-goal from the two, McCarron looked for Bell again in the lower right corner of the end zone, but was intercepted by Deshazor Everett.

"It was just a quick play, a one-hit wonder," McCarron said when asked to describe that final dagger.

But even when all seemed lost, Alabama almost got the ball back with 35 seconds left. A&M faced fourth-and-1 from its own 13, but the Tide jumped offsides which quashed any lingering hope.

"The players were told, ‘Make sure you stay onsides, they are going to try to get you to jump offsides with a shift or a motion or something,'" Saban said. "The players are disappointed. There are a lot of lessons to be learned."

5. A storyline heading into this game was how Alabama would respond after such an emotional and physical game last week against LSU. But the matchups against the Aggies as definitely not an example of active recovery.

Saban admitted after the game he was concerned heading into this game because although his players looked refocused at the beginning of the week, they started to wear down emotionally towards the end.

"We just couldn't seem to get the kind of mental energy and intensity that we needed to play against this kind of team," he said. "We have had a pretty tough stretch here and that's no excuse…[A&M] had lost to two Top 10 teams [Florida and LSU] by three and five points and they are a better team now than they were then."

When McCarron was asked if the team was out of gas heading into this matchup, he responded with a quick, "No, not at all."

"We have to refocus," McCarron added. "We don't have an option. We've got to get back to what we do."


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