GREENBERG: Alabama-Texas A&M game lives up to the hype
BY STEVE GREENBERG September 15, 2013 12:30AM
Updated: October 16, 2013 7:01AM
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Third-and-eight from the Alabama 34-yard line, and Johnny Manziel is dropping back, twisting and turning, in trouble, out of trouble, back some more, he’s sacked, he isn’t, he can’t, he won’t ….
He did. Manziel threw a ball up for grabs over the middle that traveled 40 yards and was caught for a gain of 12. In a 14-14 game between sudden archrivals Texas A&M and Alabama, it was the play of the college football season, or at least the play of September. Kyle Field quaked with passion. The Crimson Tide, who lost to the Aggies in 2012, were in deep trouble again.
But then they weren’t. A bat of an eye later, Manziel badly overthrew a fade into the end zone and was intercepted. The Tide — who trailed 14-0 in the first quarter — promptly went 80 yards in four plays for a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
It’s a new year, Johnny Football fans.
But it’s the same old Bama.
“You just took 10 years off my life,” Alabama’s Nick Saban told his coaching counterpart, Kevin Sumlin, on the field when it was over.
Truly, Alabama’s 49-42 victory was a brilliant display by both teams, with more big plays than we could count coming after the sequence described above.
Manziel threw a 95-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans, one of seven hookups between the pair for an amazing 279 yards.
Tide safety Vinnie Sunseri had a 73-yard interception return for a touchdown, a run to glory that made it 35-14 and seemed to signal the end for the Aggies.
It wasn’t the end. Alabama’s AJ McCarron threw for 334 yards and four scores, but the Aggies kept fighting. The Tide piled up 630 yards of offense, but still they had to cover an onside kick in the final minute before they finally exhale.
“Nobody can say this team quit,” Sumlin said.
It’ll be a while before we get another game this good. Anywhere. It was special.
And yet it represented more of the same. Alabama had to overcome a loss to the Aggies to get back to the top of the mountain last year, but it got there — for the third time in four seasons. And now?
A few of the names and faces have changed, but the “A” flag is waving in the late-summer breeze and the Tide is begging anyone to try to climb on up and tear the flag down.
It might happen.
It probably won’t.
Alabama withstood a 14-0 punch from Manziel and his boys in the most anticipated, most hyped regular-season college game in years. The Tide — whose vast success has been built on a foundation of punishing defense — had to score, over and over, and did, over and over. Manziel, who threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns and ran Saban’s defense ragged, had perhaps the best game of his career.
And this is a Heisman winner we’re talking about.
A Heisman winner, but not a national champion. Not this year. Alabama isn’t done yet.