Week 3 Rewind
September 16, 2013
By Brian Edwards
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Texas A&M raced out to a 20-0 lead at Alabama last season and held on to capture a 29-24 victory. This time around Saturday in College Station, the Aggies jumped out to a 14-0 advantage. All that had happened during The Summer of Johnny was forgotten and Kyle Field was as raucous as any venue in America.
But Alabama senior quarterback A.J. McCarron had been here before. Not there at Kyle Field, literally, but in the same type of scenario. And as usual, the Mobile product delivered for the Crimson Tide.
McCarron, who now owns a 27-2 record and two national titles in 29 career starts, orchestrated four consecutive scoring drives to put his team in front 28-14 at intermission. McCarron would complete 20-of-29 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
Manziel was spectacular but his two interceptions turned the game around in ‘Bama’s favor. In fairness to Manziel, however, the first pick wasn’t on him in my opinion. With the game knotted at 14-14, Texas A&M faced a second-and-goal opportunity at the ‘Bama four.
Manziel threw a fade to the corner that was intercepted by Cyrus Jones. If you watched the replay, the A&M receiver didn’t do a very good job of fighting for position. Trailing 28-14 early in the third quarter, Manziel was intercepted by Vinnie Sunseri, who made a remarkable return of 73 yards to paydirt for his second pick-six of the season.
But the Aggies wouldn’t die. After both teams traded TDs, Manziel found Malcome Kennedy for a 12-yard scoring strike to cut the deficit to 42-28.
Alabama answered with a strong drive and appeared to be poised to score again on a second and goal from the one. But T.J. Yeldon coughed up a fumble that was recovered by the Aggies.
To be clear, Nick Saban has forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know. But a few plays later, he (or defensive coordinator Kirby Smart) made a colossal mistake. With Texas A&M facing a third and nine from its own five, Manziel noticed man coverage on his favorite target Mike Evans.
With Sunseri, ‘Bama’s All-American safety, inexplicably shading to the other side of the field, Manziel dropped back into his own end zone and let it fly. Evans, who would finish the day with seven receptions for 279 yards, ran under it and took it to the house for a 95-yard touchdown.
Four plays after Alabama was one yard away from going ahead 49-28, we had a one-possession game with more than eight minutes remaining.
When McCarron marched his offense back on the field, the urgency level wasn’t where it was in Baton Rouge last season when Alabama trailed with less than two minutes left. But Saban was ready to have a coronary if Johnny Football got the chance to go back on the field down by only seven points. McCarron and Yeldon would let it happen.
With a nine-play 60-yard drive that took more than five minutes off the clock and sucked the life out of Kyle Field, Alabama put the game on ice. The drive only went to third down once on the final play when McCarron found Jalston Fowler for a five-yard TD pass off a beautiful play-action fake.
For our purposes, though, the game was still a nail-biter. And Johnny Backdoors would deliver for Texas A&M backers who took the eight-point underdog. Manziel’s four-yard TD pass to Kennedy with 15 ticks remaining made it 49-42.
‘Bama would recover the onside kick and McCarron needed to take a knee just once from out of the victory formation. The 91 combined points soared ‘over’ the 63-point total. Manziel connected on 28-of-39 throws for 454 yards and five TDs. He also rushed for 98 yards on 14 carries.
Yeldon rushed for 149 yards and one TD on 25 totes. ‘Bama will host Colorado St. in Week 4 before Ole Miss comes to Tuscaloosa.
Speaking of the Rebels, they will get an open date leading into their date with the Tide. Hugh Freeze’s team improved to 3-0 (2-1 ATS) by trouncing Texas 44-23 as a 2.5-point underdog.
Jeff Scott ran for 164 yards and one TD on 19 carries and also had a 73-yard punt return for a TD. Bo Wallace threw for 177 yards and two TDs and also ran for 57 yards and one score.
UCLA fell behind 21-3 at Nebraska in the second quarter of their showdown in Lincoln. But the Bruins scored 38 unanswered points en route to collecting a 41-21 win as short underdogs. They were five-point ‘dogs early in the week but the number came down to three by late Friday afternoon. By kickoff at noon Eastern, some books had made the game a pick ‘em.
UCLA sophomore QB Brett Hundley completed 16-of-24 passes for 294 yards and three TDs. He also rushed for 61 yards. Jordon James rushed for 105 yards and one TD for the Bruins.
Former Nebraska QB Tommie Frazier, who led the Cornhuskers to the national title in 1995, was honored at the game. Frazier wasn’t happy with the team’s performance and called for changes, especially in terms of the defensive coaches.
Bo Pelini responded at his Monday presser by saying, “If that’s how he feels, we don’t need him.” When you’re on the hot seat at Nebraska, it’s probably not a good idea to take shots at one of the school’s most legendary figures.
On Monday, the Pac-12 reprimanded the officials for Saturday’s Wisconsin-Arizona St. game due to the way they mishandled the end of the game. The Sun Devils won a 32-30 decision but failed to cover the number as six-point home favorites.
Wisconsin had a golden opportunity to win outright and hook up money-line backers with a +185 payout (risk $100 to win $185). The Badgers advanced to the ASU 13 with 18 seconds remaining, but they didn’t have any timeouts left.
Therefore, it would be understandable if Gary Andersen wanted to take a shot at the end zone. In that scenario, as long as QB Joel Stave got the ball out fast and didn’t get sacked, everything would be all good. I would’ve been fine with just going ahead and kicking the field goal.
The last thing on earth you want to do is run any sort of play where the clock keeps running and you risk something crazy happening in terms of getting the ball spotted for the next play. Well, Andersen wanted to do just that. He told Stave to center the ball (Wisconsin was on the right hash for what would’ve been a 30-yard field goal) and then spike it on the next play.
There would be no next play. Stave moved to his left and took a knee and then placed the ball on the ground, hoping the referee would jump in and mark the ball quickly. The ASU players wisely jumped on the ball, acting as if they had just recovered a fumble. Chaos ensued and the refs had no sense of urgency whatsoever.
The refs got the ball marked with 1 or 2 seconds left, but it was too late for a spike to stop the clock. Yes, the refs failed to do their job properly, but it was Andersen’s mistake for giving the officials that opportunity.
I’ve always liked Andersen, but this defeat is completely on him.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--UCF’s win over Penn State at Beaver Stadium lifted it to 3-0 going into an open date that precedes a home game vs. South Carolina. Yes, the Golden Knights can get to a BCS bowl game this year. In fact, if they beat the Gamecocks and win at Louisville, don’t discount the notion that they could vault into the top 10 of the national rankings by the end of October.
--Louisville remained undefeated with its 27-13 win at Kentucky as a 13-point favorite. The Cardinals had to be pleased with UCF’s win at PSU and will certainly be pulling for the Golden Knights against Steve Spurrier’s team. --Texas Tech improved to 3-0 both straight up and against the spread by capturing a 20-10 win over TCU on Thursday as a three-point home underdog. The Red Raiders host Texas St. this week. They have an excellent chance to win their first seven games before playing at Oklahoma on Oct. 26.
--Texas has lost 10 of its last 21 home games.
--UCLA was a great halftime bet. Trailing 21-10 at Nebraska, the Bruins were favored by three for +8 adjusted. They won by 20.
--5Dimes had Akron with 110/1 odds to win outright at the Big House. The Zips nearly did just that but couldn’t punch it in inside Michigan’s five in the final seconds. The Wolverines won, 28-24, but Terry Bowden’s team easily took the cash as a 35-point underdog.