COLLEGE STATION, Texas — If there was ever the Texas A&M defense to make a stand, it came midway through the fourth quarter Saturday against top-ranked Alabama.
But just as they had done most of the day, a defense nicknamed the Wrecking Crew wasn’t up to the task in a 49-42 loss.
Alabama shredded the sixth-ranked Texas A&M defense for 568 yards and put the game away with a 65-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass from A.J. McCarron to Jalston Fowler.
The game-sealing drive shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
The Aggie defense had its problems in its two victories over Rice and Sam Houston State, allowing a total of 899 yards in those games. No one is ever going to confuse Alabama with either of those two schools.
McCarron had his way with the A&M defense. So did running back T.J. Yeldon. And running back Kenyon Drake. And the 10 receivers that McCarron found mostly wide open in the A&M secondary.
By the time the game ended, the Crimson Tide had rolled up 568 yards, 34 first downs and average 8.6 yards every time they snapped the ball.
Scoring 42 points and rolling up 628 yards of offense is normally a good sign for A&M, but not Saturday.
“I probably wouldn’t have thought that (score 42 and lose) but once you get in the games, that’s how it is,” said Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin. “That’s just the way the game’s playing out. I don’t think anybody probably saw that coming. That’s the kind of game it was. You give them credit. They made some big plays on third downs and some chunk plays to keep us off balance.”
On the game-sealing drive, it wasn’t a big play that hurt the Aggies but an old school grind-it-out drive. Alabama took more than five minutes off the clock on the nine-play drive, with McCarron finding O.J. Howard for a 26-yard play that got Alabama down to the A&M 20. Six plays later it was 49-35 and there was just 2 minutes, 28 seconds remaining.
Not even Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans could overcome that big of a deficit.
Manziel threw for a career high 464 yards and five touchdowns and Evans had a school record 279 receiving yards but all they could do is watch that drive.
“That’s what we wanted, we wanted to get the ball back to our offense and give us a chance to go out there and try to win this game,” said Manziel. “If we could have held them to a field goal or get a turnover, I was just kind of pacing, watching the game as it went on.”
While Manziel was setting a school record with his 464, he also threw two interceptions. One of those was returned for a touchdown and another came in the Alabama end zone and denied the Aggies a chance to go up 21-14 in the second quarter.
There were no such mistakes by McCarron, who went 20 for 29 and wasn’t sacked.
“You can’t let a great quarterback like A.J. McCarron not get hit or pressured at all,” said A&M defensive end Julien Obioha. “They ran a lot of play action which doesn’t help the defensive line get any pressure. But we’ve got to come up with a way to get pressure on the quarterback. He can’t sit back there all day. He’s too good.”
Big-play good too. Alabama tied the game at 14 on a 44-yard flea flicker from McCarron to DeAndrew White in the second quarter. It took the lead on a 51-yard pass play to Kenny Bell five minutes later.
Three Alabama running backs had runs for at least 14 yards and five receivers had at least 21-yard receptions.
Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said Alabama came out with some unbalanced formations the Aggies hadn’t seen before and they had to adjust to at halftime when they trailed 28-14. Alabama had just 14 offensive points in the second half but that was enough.
“That’s a good football we just played,” Snyder said. “Alabama’s a really good offensive team. They’re a good football team period but on offense I thought A.J. McCarron played light’s out today.