Stanford fell out of the top 10 after losing at Utah last week, while UCLA stayed unbeaten by throttling Cal. Thus, the Bruins came into Stanford stadium as the higher ranked team. But they left with a loss and the Cardinal are likely to pass the UCLAns when tomorrows rankings come out. The game was on at the same time as the Ags, so I only saw bits of it. A&M and Auburn went to halftime in time for me to switch and see this amazing TD catch, however. Stanford ended up beating UCLA 24-17 with defense and power running.
Wisconsin handled Illinois easily in a game not broadcast here.
Texas A&M started the day at #7 despite having a defense near the bottom of the country. The Ags had given up 30 or more points to four of six previous opponents, and the two who failed to hit 30 were Sam Houston (28) and SMU (13). A&M had destroyed Auburn last year, when the D was not as bad, but the Tigers got rid of Gene Chizik and brought back Gus Malzahn as their head coach. It was difficult to gauge how good Auburn would be based on their 5-1 record, as most of their wins were vs. weak teams. But red flags were that they had beaten the Ole Miss team that the Ags barely escaped last week, and that they had not been blown out by LSU. Auburn came to Kyle leading the SEC in rushing.
As has become customary, the Ags took the early lead by scoring on the opening drive. Auburn answered and then got the ball back on a Manziel INT that was deflected off the hands of tight end Nehemiah Hicks. The Tigers moved the ball but the Ags forced them to settle for a field goal and a lead that lasted for all of two plays when Manziel hit Mike Evans for the second of his 4 TDs on the day. A&M failed to capitalize on a fumble when Johnny threw his second pick of the day, trying to force the ball into coverage after escaping a sack on a classic Johnny football scramble. Auburn drove 96 yards for their second lead of the game.
Both defenses got multiple stops in the second quarter, but the Ags were able to tie things up at 17. Then the Tigers made a tactical error after a Drew Kaser punt pinned them at their own 1 with 1:04 to go in the half. Instead of running Auburn threw on first and third downs, missing an open receiver the first time, and hitting WR Sammy Coates in the hands on the second throw. Fortunately for the Ags, Coates dropped the ball and the Tigers had to punt from deep in their own territory. The Ags got the ball on the Auburn 42 with 36 seconds to get a score. It didn’t take that long. 1 play, Manziel to Evans for TD #3. Ags up 24-17 at halftime.
At this point the Aggie faithful were concerned about the D, but felt like we had the service advantage going into the half. When the D got a stop on the opening possession of the second half, I expected A&M to put together a drive and open a larger margin. Instead the Ags went 3 and out. Auburn drove and scored (24-24). A&M answered (31-24). Late in the 3rd quarter the Ags got another stop and it looked like the good guys would get some breathing room as the Ags drove down to the Auburn 5 as the quarter ended.
The Auburn D had been getting more pressure on Manziel than most opponents. A&M countered that by calling more running plays from passing formations, causing the rush to slow down for fear of being beaten by Johnny’s elusive running. For the past season and a half, Manziel has been able to avoid getting hurt on these runs. Now, at the start of the 4th quarter, after a false start made it 2nd and goal from the 10, Manziel was landed hard on his right shoulder or elbow at the end of a run to the 2 and had to leave the game with an injury. Backup QB Matt Joekel was not able to connect with Hicks on the 3rd down play and the Ags settled for a FG and a 10 pt lead (34-24).
From this point on, the Aggie D was completely unable to stop Auburn’s offense. The Tigers scored on drives of 75, 69, and 75 yards. After the first Auburn TD of the final quarter, Manziel was still being treated and Joekel was not able to move the team. This allowed Auburn to take the lead at 38-34. Manziel came back in and drove the Ags to a TD to retake the lead at 41-38. Auburn answered to score their final TD and make it 45-41 with 1:19 to go.
At this point, it looked like Johnny would get another “Heisman moment” game-winning drive. He took the Ags from their own 35 to the Auburn 18 with 43 seconds left. A throw to a doble-covered Mike Evans in the endzone was incomplete – a few inches eithe way and it could have been either the game-winning connection or a game-ending INT. On second down Auburn’s Dee Ford sacked Manziel. On third down, Johnny scrambled around the left side but was brought down by Kris Frost with what Aggie fans everywhere thought was a horse-collar tackle for a personal foul and an automatic first down. No call. Fourth and 13 from the 21. I still thought the Ags would pull out the thriller. But instead, the protection broke down and as Good Bull Hunting’s Hypno-Toad wrote afterward:
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and the smiles never lack;
But there is no joy in Aggieland – mighty Johnny took a sack.
Ags were not the only upset victims this weekend.