Three and Out: No. 1 Alabama outlasts No. 6 Texas A&M in 49-42 shootout
The hype for Saturday's SEC West showdown dated all the way back to Texas A&M's upset of Alabama last season, and the game between the Crimson Tide and the Aggles certainly proved to be worth the wait. Despite trailing 14-0 in the first quarter, top-ranked Alabama roared back to exact revenge on No. 6 Texas A&M 49-42.
The Aggies and the Crimson Tide have quickly forged a must-watch rivalry, and Saturday's shootout was one for the books. Here are three quick takeaways from Alabama's Week 3 victory:
• Alabama is comfortable rallying from an early deficit. This matchup seemed to be heading the Aggies' way out of the gate, when A&M raced to a two-touchdown lead less than eight minutes into first quarter. But the hostile atmosphere of Kyle Field and the early deficit did little to deter coach Nick Saban's Crimson Tide. Alabama reeled off 35 straight points and held the Aggies scoreless until midway through the third quarter.
If that script sounds familiar, that's because it is. In Texas A&M's 29-24 win over the Tide in Tuscaloosa last season, the Aggies jumped to a 20-0 lead before 'Bama stormed back to make the score 20-17. The difference this year was that the Tide rallied much earlier, setting the tone for a high-scoring victory.
Five different Alabama players reached the end zone as part of the team's 35-point surge, including safety Vinnie Sunseri, whose 73-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter was his second pick-six in as many games. 'Bama quarterback AJ McCarron also had a big day, thanks in part to an improving offensive line, which surrendered four sacks against Virginia Tech in Week 1 but kept a clean sheet against Texas A&M. The Tide showed they will bend but not break in the toughest of situations.
• Both quarterbacks rose to the occasion. Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel might have gotten the best of McCarron last season in Tuscaloosa, but it was the 'Bama signal-caller who left College Station with the victory this time around. McCarron completed 20-of-29 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions. Against A&M in 2012, he threw two picks, but he was mistake-free on Saturday, and he kept the Crimson Tide's offense churning against a porous Aggies defense.
Manziel ripped Alabama's secondary early -- his first six completions went for 135 yards and a touchdown -- and he helped Texas A&M stay alive late with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, including a 95-yard bomb to wide receiver Mike Evans. Still, while Manziel racked up 562 total yards, he committed two costly miscues, throwing a pair of interceptions that led directly to Crimson Tide touchdowns: In the second quarter, 'Bama scored only four plays after cornerback Cyrus Jones intercepted Manziel in the end zone; and Sunseri's pick-six in the third quarter gave the Tide a 35-14 lead.
Manziel torched the Alabama's vaunted secondary for most of the afternoon, but he likely won't soon forget his two interceptions -- especially the one he threw to Jones in the end zone -- which would have given the Aggies a 21-14 lead.
• Defense? What defense? This game was certainly fun to watch, but it was even more astounding on the stat sheet. Among the highlights:
-- Texas A&M wide receiver Evans had 279 receiving yards on seven catches, an average of 39.9 yards per reception.
-- The Aggies' 42 points were the most allowed by Alabama under Saban.
-- The Crimson Tide and Texas A&M combined for 62 first downs (31 apiece).
-- Manziel's 464 passing yards were the most by a quarterback against Alabama since LSU's Rohan Davey threw for 528 yards against the Tide on Nov. 3, 2001.
-- Evans' 95-yard fourth-quarter touchdown reception is second-longest pass play in Aggies history, behind only Randy McCown's 96-yard pass to Chris Taylor in 1999.
-- This was Alabama's first victory when it had allowed 35 or points or more since it beat Arkansas 41-38 on Sept. 15, 2007.
https://twitter.com/CecilHurt/status/379021987516915712 What did you think of Saturday's showdown? Let us know in the comments.