Wow! What an incredible game. Coach Saban probably summed it up best when he said to Kevin Sumlin during the post game handshake, “You just took ten years off of my life!”
If someone had told me the final score would be 49-42, I surely would have guessed that A&M would be on the winning end. I said all week that we couldn’t win in a shootout with the Aggies. But the score was misleading. This wasn’t really a shootout, with both teams going back and forth scoring on each possession. We scored 35 unanswered points after initially falling behind 14-0. So, BAMA really dominated much of this game. But the fact is that Johnny Manziel is just that good. I have to credit him. Anyone that can abuse a Nick Saban coached defense two years in a row deserves the hype they receive. And the kid did this to us after almost a year to prepare for him! Sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due. But in spite of another incredible performance by Manziel, the TIDE prevailed in the end, and that’s all that matters.
Here’s how I graded our performance today:
OFFENSE – A: The penalties and the one costly fumble on the goal line are the only things that kept me from giving us an A+ here. But after the first two possessions, our offense more than found their groove. Tremendous pass protection and excellent run blocking from our offensive line. Remarkable improvement from two weeks ago! So that concern seems to have been answered. O.J. Howard made some huge plays for a freshman, and it was great to see A.J. place confidence in him. And it was wonderful to see Jalston Fowler and Kenyon Drake run the ball so effectively. T.J. Yeldon played great as expected, although it was disappointing to see him draw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after his touchdown. Uncharacteristic for him, and I doubt if we’ll see him make that mistake again. Nice to see Kenny Bell take one to the house! So glad he decided to stay with the team. I imagine he feels like he made the right choice now. Also, we had great play calling today. Opened it up when we had to, then ran the ball and used up clock when we had a good lead. A.J. McCarron proved that he now deserves to be in the Heisman race. But I’m sure that’s the last thing on his mind. He’ll gladly take another National Championship over the Heisman. The guy epitomizes what it means to be a leader, a winner, and a champion. No doubt that he’s a tremendous “game manager,” but anyone who thinks that’s all he is hasn’t been watching him very much. Keep your “Johnny Football,” as great as he is. I’ll take A.J. McCarron over any QB in the country, without hesitation.
DEFENSE - C: In spite of the poor play in the secondary and 42 points given up overall, our defense played hard and made the necessary adjustments to allow our offense to get the job done. This could actually turn out to be A&M’s lowest scoring game of the entire season. That’s just how potent Manziel and their offense are. Our secondary will definitely improve under Saban. No doubt about that. We have so much talent, just young and inexperienced at spots. But I really don’t think we can accurately assess our defense based on this game. Johnny Manziel is an anomaly. He makes everyone look bad. I don’t think we’ll have the same problems against more conventional QB’s. So don’t focus on the 42 points we gave up today. I don’t think this is indicative of how good our defense really is.
SPECIAL TEAMS - B-: Struggled on kickoffs and returns. But at least we didn’t give up any punt returns or kickoff returns for TD’s. Cody Manziel (umm, Vern, that’s ManDELL thank you!) punted well, as usual. Once again, we didn’t attempt a field goal, so that can’t be assessed. But I think we’ll be fine in that area. Most importantly, our good hands team fielded the onside kick without incident to seal the victory. So we have some things to work on in the special teams department, but we were solid enough overall.
COACHING - A+: I never bought into the talk about Coach Saban having all this time to prepare for Johnny Manziel. There are rare players that come along once in a blue moon who are simply unstoppable. You can have an excellent defensive game plan and perfect schemes, but sometimes a player is just too good to stop. I was prepared for that. But Nick Saban and the coaching staff get an A+ because they figured out a way to beat Texas A&M without stopping Johnny Football. Our offense was our defense today, keeping Manziel on the sidelines to limit his damage just enough. Coach Saban proved his genius once again, demonstrating that he knows how to win games in more ways than one. His ability to keep our team focused after falling behind 14-0 in the blink of an eye is testimony to his leadership. Most teams would have been emotionally devastated and would have caved in. But with Saban at the helm, our players never doubted. The entire coaching staff deserves praise for keeping our players focused and confident today. In spite of all our defensive mistakes and the heroic plays made by Manziel, our coaching staff kept our players focused and kept them fighting. And therefore our defense made huge plays when we had to, and their unfailing effort proved to be enough in the end. Our players have complete faith in the coaches and complete faith in each other, and our coaches have complete faith in the players. That’s a winning combination, the result of the unshakable foundation of confidence and trust that Coach Saban has established at the Capstone.
So, overall… I’m thrilled with this win, and I expect our team to only get better in every area as the season progresses. Don’t overlook Ole Miss, and expect another battle to the wire when we play LSU. But I feel a lot better today than I did two weeks ago.
The bottom line is that today a very good team edged out a great individual. And while individuals win Heismans, teams win championships. ROLL TIDE!!!