Crimson Tide holds off Aggies 49-42 - WRBL

Crimson Tide holds off Aggies 49-42

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Top-ranked Alabama football overcame an early 14-0 deficit, scoring 28 consecutive points to close the first half on the way to a wild 49-42 victory over No. 6 Texas A&M Saturday afternoon before an overflow crowd of 87,596, the fourth-largest crowd in Kyle Field's 87-season history (capacity: 82,589).

Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron passed for a career-high 334 yards and four touchdowns and the Alabama defense overcame a shaky start to contain A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel for much of the game as the Tide captured its 16th consecutive victory away from Tuscaloosa and its ninth straight win at an SEC road venue. The Alabama offense rolled for 570 total yards (236 rushing, 334 passing) while running back T.J. Yeldon rushed for 149 yards and safety Vinnie Sunseri returned an intercepted pass 73 yards for a score.

The teams combined for 1,196 yards of offense in the game (628 by A&M, 568 by Alabama). The Aggies' total is the most ever given up by Alabama in a single game, eclipsing the 611 total yards by LSU in 2001. The Tide, meanwhile, gained its most yardage against an opponent since gaining 618 yards against Ole Miss in 2011.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley had 12 tackles to lead the Alabama defense. Safety Landon Collins added seven stops, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had six tackles, cornerback Cyrus Jones had five tackles, plus an interception, and jack linebacker Denzel Devall had five stops.

The Aggies took the opening kickoff, starting at their own 16-yard line and quickly moved to an early lead. After a 12-yard run by quarterback Johnny Manziel on the opening play to reach the Aggie 28, Manziel passed to wide receiver Mike Evans for 32 yards on a streak pattern to the Alabama 40-yard line. After another Manziel keeper failed to gain, he connected with Evans again for 35 yards to the Tide 5. From there, running back Ben Malena rushed for a yard, then Malena took a pitchout for three more yards to the Tide 1 before Manziel passed off play-action to tight end Cameron Clear for a 1-yard touchdown with 12:21 left in the first quarter. Taylor Bertolet's kick gave the Aggies a 7-0 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, Alabama's Christion Jones was downed at the Tide 10. Two false start penalties stymied the Tide offense, eventually forcing a punt that set up the A&M offense at the Aggie 41 with 9:21 left in the first quarter.

From there, the Aggies moved 59 yards to another touchdown. Manziel kept for 11 yards on first down into Alabama territory at the Tide 48. On the next play, Manziel was flushed from the passing pocket and scrambled for 13 yards to the Tide 35. He then hit Evans on another streak pattern down the right sideline, this one for 34 yards to the Tide 1, giving Evans three catches for 101 yards at that point in the game. After an incomplete pass, Malena scored on a one-yard run. Bertolet's kick gave A&M a 14-0 lead with 7:47 left in the first quarter.

The Tide offense responded on the ensuing possession to cut the lead in half, driving 75 yards in six plays to a touchdown. After a fair catch in the end zone on the kickoff, the drive started with an AJ McCarron completion to wide receiver Amari Cooper for 13 yards to the UA 38. McCarron then hit receiver Kevin Norwood for another 13 yards to the Aggie 49. Running back Jalston Fowler then took a handoff straight up the middle and rumbled for 15 yards to the Aggie 34. McCarron passed to tight end Brian Vogler for 12 yards in the middle of the field to the Aggie 22. From there, McCarron threw to Norwood on a deep post route. Norwood made a spectacular leaping catch while turning around over Aggie defensive back De'Vante Harris at the goal line to score for Alabama. Cade Foster's kick drew the Tide within a touchdown at 14-7 with 5:24 left in the first quarter.

Alabama forced an Aggie punt on the next A&M possession, starting another Tide possession at the Alabama 20-yard line. After incompletions to Cooper on the first two plays, McCarron finally connected with Cooper on a comeback route for 21 yards and a first down at the Tide 41 on the last play of the first quarter. The second period started with an incompletion intended for Vogler. McCarron then passed to tight end O.J. Howard for 15 yards to the Aggie 44. On the next play, McCarron handed to Fowler, who lateraled back to McCarron who passed to DeAndrew White on a deep streak pattern. White hauled in the pass around the Aggie 10 and raced into the end zone. Foster's conversion kick tied the game at 14-14 with 14:15 remaining in the second quarter.

The ensuing kickoff was not returned, and A&M set up at its 25 to start the next possession. On first down, a run by Malena was stopped for no gain. On second down, Manziel passed to receiver Travis Labhart for 12 yards to the Aggie 37, then Labhart was held by Tide safety Vinnie Sunseri for a holding penalty that move the Aggies to the A&M 47. After a false start penalty created a first-and-15 for A&M at the Aggie 42, Manziel passed to receiver Derel Walker for six yards to the Aggie 48, then hit Walker again for 16 to the Tide 36. After a Malena rush lost three yards, Manziel gained five on a keeper. On third-and-eight at the Tide 34, Manziel eluded a rush around the 50 and launched a high lob pass up for grabs that receiver Edward Pope nabbed from a crowd of defenders for a 12-yard gain and a first down at the Tide 22.

On first down, Manziel rushed for seven yards to the Tide 15, then Malena gained eight yards on a run to set up first-and-goal at the Tide 7. Manziel kept for three yards to the Tide four-yard line. On second-and-goal at the Tide 4, Manziel passed to receiver Ja'Quay Williams on a post route to the left corner of the end zone, but Alabama's Cyrus Jones intercepted the pass to end the threat and give the Tide the ball at their own 20-yard line with 10:27 left in the second quarter.

On first down, running back Kenyan Drake took his first carry of the day for two yards to the Tide 22. McCarron then play-action faked and hit Howard for 27 yards to the Tide 49. After an incompletion for Cooper, McCarron hit wide receiver Kenny Bell on a short pass. Bell ran past a clearing block and broke free for a 51-yard touchdown to give the Tide a 21-14 lead with 8:55 left in the second quarter.

The Tide defense overcame a 15-yard personal foul to force A&M to punt from the Aggie 38. Drew Kaser's 51-yard punt went out of bounds at the Tide 12 and Alabama took over at its own seven due to a substitution infraction on the play. Alabama went to the rushing game on the drive as Yeldon rushed for six, seven and 13 yards on the first three plays to reach the Tide 33. Then, McCarron passed along the sideline to Norwood for 17 yards to the 50. On first down, Yeldon gained six over left guard, then was stopped for no gain in the middle to set up a third-and-four at the A&M 44. McCarron passed to Vogler across the middle for a gain of 12 to the Aggie 32, then passed to Drake for two yards to the A&M 30. On second-and-eight, Drake took a handoff through left guard for 10 yards and a first down at the A&M 20.

Drake took another handoff up the middle and bounced to his left on a 16-yard run to the Aggie four. From there, Yeldon came in at running back and scored on a four-yard run off right tackle. Foster's kick gave the Tide a 28-14 lead with 45 seconds left in the second quarter.

After an Alabama punt to start the second half, Manziel rushed for nine yards from his own 34 to the Aggie 43. On the next play, Manziel passed deep into Tide territory where safety Vinnie Sunseri intercepted at the Alabama 27-yard line. Sunseri took the ball and weaved downfield through the Aggie offense, eventually leaping through an attempted tackle at the goal line for a touchdown. Foster's conversion kick gave the Tide a 35-14 lead with 12:41 left in the third quarter.

A&M responded quickly. LaQuvionte Gonzalez returned the kickoff 40 yards to the A&M 42. From there, the Aggie running game revved up with Tre Carson rushing for three yards, Malena rushing for nine, four and three yards to the Alabama 36, then Manziel rushing for seven on a play that was negated by a holding penalty. That miscue moved A&M back to a first-and-20 at the Tide 46. Malena rushed for seven on first down before an incomplete pass set up third and 13 at the Tide 39. A pass interference call on Tide cornerback John Fulton set up the Aggies with a first down at the Tide 25. Running back Tra Carson carried for eight yards on first down to the Tide 17, then Carson rushed for three more for a first down at the Alabama 14 with 9:45 left in the third quarter. Manziel then passed to receiver Malcome Kennedy for a 14-yard touchdown. Bertolet's kick shaved the Alabama lead to 35-21 with 9:32 remaining in the period.

The Alabama offense came right back to restore the 21-point lead, driving 83 yards in 10 plays to extend the lead. Yeldon rushed four times for 44 yards on the march, and Fowler added two carries for 14 yards before Drake capped the drive with a three-yard run. Foster's kick gave Alabama a 42-21 lead with 4:16 left in the third quarter.

A&M marched 80 yards in four plays early in the fourth quarter to narrow the Tide lead. Manziel had a 20-yard run and a 24-yard pass to Walker before the 12-yard scoring pass to Kennedy with 13:20 left in the fourth quarter. Bertolet's kick trimmed the Tide lead to 42-28.

McCarron started the ensuing possession with a 26-yard pass to White to the A&M 49. Yeldon then bulled for 11 yards, then eclipsed the 100-yard mark with six more to the Aggie 32. Fifteen yards were added to the play due to an illegal participation penalty on A&M, giving the Tide a first down at the Aggie 17. Yeldon blasted for nine yards to the Aggie 8, then for two more to a first-and-goal at the A&M 6. Yeldon then carried up the middle for five more to the A&M 1, then was nailed by A&M free safety for a two-yard loss and fumbled on the play. A&M linebacker Shaan Washington recovered for the Aggies at the A&M 3 with 8:42 left in the fourth period.

Facing a third-and-eight at the A&M 5, Manziel connected with Evans who had broken free behind the Tide secondary. Evans hauled in the pass at the A&M 40 and raced into the end zone to complete a 95-yard touchdown play. Bertolet's kick narrowed the Alabama lead to 42-35 with 8:04 remaining. It moved Manziel past 400 yards passing for the game, and moved Evans to 247 receiving yards in the contest.

Alabama's offense was unfazed. The Tide methodically moved down the field to a clinching touchdown, marching 65 yards in nine plays and chewing up 5:36 of game time. The drive was keyed by a 26-yard pass from McCarron to Howard to the Aggie 20 and was ended by a five-yard McCarron pass to Fowler for the touchdown. Foster's kick gave the Tide a 49-35 lead with 2:28 left.

A&M raced back with a 75-yard scoring march capped by a four-yard pass from Manziel to Kennedy with 15 seconds left. Bertolet's kick made it Alabama 49, A&M 42.

Dayne Young

Dayne is a sports anchor and reporter for WRBL. He started covering the Chattahoochee Valley in September 2012. More>>

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