He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. After consecutive shootouts against Arkansas and Ole Miss, the Aggies finally got cut.
Despite off-the-chart nights from QB Johnny Manziel and WR Mike Evans, No. 14 Texas A&M was upset by the eleventh-ranked Auburn Tigers 45-41 Saturday in front of a sold-out crowd at Kyle Field.
Unlike Ole Miss, who went away from rushing the ball last week when it mattered most, Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn’s crew kept it on the ground and exploited an Aggie run defense that started the year shaky and has since shown no signs of improvement. The Auburn defense gave up its share of points, but on the Aggies’ final drive, they came up with two big sacks to save the day and earn the win.
Manziel had another monster day, gaining more than 500 total yards, the fifth time he’s achieved this feat. He’s the only SEC player in history to ever gain that amount more than once in a career. In the fourth quarter he went down hard and hurt his throwing shoulder. After missing a series, he came back and attempted to lead his team to victory. A gutty performance, to be sure, but one that came up short. (Manziel’s status for next week's game against Vanderbilt is unknown.)
Saturday's loss overshadowed a career night by Evans, who bested his 279 yard torching of Alabama with 11 catches for 287 yards and four touchdowns against Auburn. On several drives, he and Manziel made offensive football look easy. Manziel also continues to find WR and former walk-on Travis Labhart in the passing game, this time to the tune of seven catches for 79 yards.
There don’t appear to be many answers on the defensive side of the ball. DB Deshazor Everett returned, but the front seven was the real problem. The Aggies rarely got pressure on the quarterback and gave up 6.3 yards per rush. From the day he took the job, Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has talked about “increasing the profile” up front, meaning getting bigger and stronger linebackers and defensive linemen. He’s accomplishing this in recruiting, but it takes time for this to have any effect on the field. Even talented freshman are still freshman.
A lot still remains in play for the Ags. Big games against a surging Missouri squad and an always-dangerous LSU team loom at the end of the year, with both games on the road. While the Aggies always have a chance with Manziel behind center (if he’s healthy), the defense will almost assuredly make these games worrisome.
Welcome to life in the SEC.
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