Aggies Escape Oxford
For the second year in a row, the Texas A&M Aggies had to travel to Oxford, Miss., to face the Ole Miss Rebels. For a second time, the Aggies narrowly avoided defeat.
The game began, as it often has during the Kevin Sumlin coaching era, with an Aggie score. QB Johnny Manziel (31 of 39 for 346 yards and 124 yards rushing) led his team down the field in efficient fashion, highlighting the drive with a 35-yard pass to WR Travis Labhart (8 catches for 97 yards) that landed at the seven-yard line. RB Ben Malena (16 carries for 61 yards) took it in from there for the touchdown.
The Rebels stalled at midfield on a failed fourth-down attempt, but the Aggies could not capitalize. New starting kicker Josh Lambo missed a 36-yard field goal attempt, and the score remained 7-0. Ole Miss answered that mistake quickly, with QB Bo Wallace (22-36 for 301 yards) finding WR Vince Sanders for a 70-yard strike.
The Aggies’ next score came courtesy of scatback Trey Williams who, finally healthy, showed his tremendous speed and cutting ability with an 18-yard TD run. The teams traded punts before Mississippi added a field goal of 42 yards by Andrew Ritter. Texas A&M had its own failed fourth-down conversion, making the score 14-10 at the half.
The Aggie defense kept up its unusually good night with a three-and-out to start the second half, and the Aggies drove the field in short order, capped by a five-yard Manziel TD run to go up by 11.
At this point Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze made a decision to begin splitting time at quarterback between Wallace and run-oriented backup Barry Brunetti. The Rebels went on a ground attack down to the A&M 16-yard line. That’s when Brunetti switched found freshman WR sensation Laquon Treadwell for a 16-yard catch in the end zone. The Texas A&M defenders appeared to have no answers.
Its offensive unit once again drove the field with ease, but instead of another score, Manziel threw an interception in the end zone to Ole Miss LB Keith Lewis. However, three plays later, Wallace turned the ball over with an interception to Aggie LB Darian Claiborne. The Rebel defense stiffened, and the Aggies had to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Lambo that put his team up seven.
A wild fourth quarter began with a huge Jaylen Walton kick return that would result in another Brunetti touchdown pass to tie the game.
On the next possession, things started to look bleak for the Ags, as Manziel coughed up the ball to DB Trae Elston on the A&M 41-yard line. The Rebels took the lead three plays later after Wallace connected with Treadwell for his second touchdown, this one for 19 yards.
Now in a hole, Manziel stepped up, hitting Derel Walker and Malcome Kennedy for big plays. Williams scored his second TD on a speed play to the outside just a few plays later, outracing the defense to the pylon for a nine-yard score. Ole Miss broke the tie once again with a 50-yard touchdown from Wallace to Walton that put the Rebels up seven with just six minutes to go.
The Aggies penultimate drive was a doozy. Texas A&M found itself with 4th and 7 near midfield, and Manziel had one of those plays, rushing for 13 yards when the game could have been essentially over. Then, Mike Evans hauled in a Manziel pass and proceeded to conjure up his high-school basketball days as he hurdled a standing Ole Miss defender on his way to a 26-yard gain.
With the game tied, the Aggie defense stepped up big, and Wallace fell short. The Ole Miss signal caller threw three times with three incompletions. The Rebels were forced to punt it back to A&M with less than three minutes left. A pass to Walker and two runs by Manziel got the Aggies into Ole Miss territory. Running backs Malena and Tra Carson teamed to get their team to the 15.
Sumlin called time with four ticks on the clock and put the game in the hands (and foot) of Josh Lambo. With time expiring, he drove the ball perfecting through the uprights, giving the Aggies another hard-fought win in Oxford.
The loss was a rough one for the Rebels, their third in a row after three wins to begin the year. The Aggies get to go back home for a tilt against #24 Auburn, a resurgent program with a new coach in Gus Malzahn. Aggies everywhere are just happy they’ll return with a win after a long Saturday night in Mississippi.