Aggies Show Their Youth in Home Loss to LSU
No one, except … maybe … me.
Looking at the numbers after Texas A&M's home loss, almost every statistic but the score suggests a win for the Aggies. The boys in maroon bested the Tigers in terms of first downs, third-down conversions, and total offense. The Aggies committed fewer penalties and won time of possession, too.
To my eye, Texas A&M fielded the better team in Saturday's matchup with LSU. More athletic, more dynamic, more talented, it might be fair to say the Aggies should have won, even if Texas A&M entered the game ranked well below the Tigers' sixth place BCS standing, at a mere 18th. But when time expired, the Aggies had lost, 19-24, proving that experience trumps talent in high-stakes SEC football.
In a sentence: LSU took advantage of their opportunities, while the Aggies could not.
A&M's inexperience and lack of poise gave the Tigers plenty of chances, too. With 4:22 left to play in the first half, with the Aggies up 12-0, Johnny Manziel threw his first of three interceptions in the game. Up to that point, the LSU offense had almost nothing to show, but the momentum swing following the interception changed all that.
The Tigers took over on their own 42, and the Aggie secondary that has struggled all season helped them down the field. On third and 9, Tony Hurd Jr. interfered on LSU receiver Jarvis Landry, turning what could have been a three-and-out into a first down. Then, for a little while at least, LSU offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa remembered he had a running team and let RBs Jeremy Hill and Michael Ford take over. Ford's 20-yard touchdown run and ensuing Drew Alleman extra point gave the Tigers 7 with 2:33 left in the half.
Still, 12-7 over LSU at halftime? I would have taken that, but it wasn't to be. Before the half ended, Aggie sophomore running back Ben Malena put the ball on the ground, and the Tigers recovered at the A&M 41. And once again, an offense that had mostly lain dormant came to life.
LSU's Zach Mettenberger had trouble passing all day, going just 11-29 for 97 yards, but given the opportunity to score off an Aggie mistake, the Tiger arm came up with a perfect TD toss, threading two A&M defenders and connecting with Kadron Boone in the end zone for a SportsCenter top play. LSU took a 14-12 lead into halftime and never looked back.
In the third quarter, a youthful mistake by redshirt freshman Mike Evans cost Manziel his second interception. The freshman QB fired a pass that hit Evans in the chest when the Aggies' impressive young receiver turned his head toward a wide-open field just a touch too early. Evans missed a catch that could have given the Aggies a go-ahead score, and instead the ball ricocheted into the air and dropped into the waiting arms of LSU's Kevin Minter.
But the Aggie players weren't the only youngsters on the field Saturday. Ray-Banned first-year OC Kliff Kingsbury showed his inexperience against LSU, too, and it might have cost the Aggies the win.
After a cut block negated a tricky throwback pass to Ben Malena and another Aggie touchdown, Kingsbury's play calling turned predictable and completely ineffective. While Malena and senior Christine Michael damaged LSU up the middle in the game's first half, Kingsbury repeatedly dialed up runs for his smaller-than-average quarterback in the second. Kingsbury abandoned what had worked early, failed to respond to LSU's defensive adjustments, and allowed LSU's defense to focus almost solely on the freshman QB.
Meanwhile, the Aggie defense showed up to play. After missing last week's game, defenders Deshazor Everett, Steven Jenkins, and Howard Matthews all returned this week, and the difference was obvious. It's too bad the offense couldn't get them the win they deserved. But as Kevin Sumlin reminds us, this is only Manziel's seventh game.
"He learns from everything. He learns from every series," Sumlin said. "Every experience is a learning experience for him. This is game seven for him." It was also game seven for Mike Evans and Thomas Johnson, the receivers responsible for two of Manziel's three interceptions. It was game seven for Kingsbury and Sumlin, too. But I still like A&M's talent. Add experience, and next season could be a big one for the Aggies.