The Calm Before the Crimson Storm
“One game at a time” is nothing but a figure of speech. At least that’s the way it went down last week in College Station.
The well-worn sportsism might sound nice, and coaches and players might even believe it, but with Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide looming on the schedule next week, Saturday’s contest against Sam Houston State was little more than an afterthought to many of the Aggie faithful. Every play and every player registered through a Crimson colored prism, and by game’s end, we were ready for next weekend.
Johnny Manziel and the Aggies ran up over 700 yards of offense in a 65-28 victory Saturday afternoon, but the defense limped along at times, in part due to the absence of several key players to suspension. Five defensive players were out to start the game, including three probable starters. Two of SHSU’s four touchdowns came on plays of 60-plus yards, and for the second week in a row, several true freshmen were called upon to shore up the defense. That unit in particular remains a work in early progress.
The offense has no such concerns, and the positives from this game were legion.
Reigning Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel finally got to start a game after sitting out the first half of last week’s win over Rice, which seemed to work out quite well. Manziel thew for 403 yards on 28-41 passing, with one interception, and also picked up with 36 yards with his feet. Most notable was how often he stayed in the pocket and found his receivers like a normal quarterback, since it’s tough to imagine ‘Bama will allow the kid to do anything but stay put. Manziel ended the night with three passing touchdowns and another one on the ground, but the one that got away was as good as any of the rest. Manziel ran to the corner and bull-rushed a DB into the end zone, but his toe touched the sideline early, so refs spotted the ball at the one.
The home crowd finally got a chance to see Oklahoma transfer and former Texas high school star Brandon Williams star run the ball, too. Williams been on the team since January 2012, but injuries and dodgy transfer rules kept the man they call Slim stagnant until Saturday. What an impressive entrance he made, though. Williams nearly scored early in the third quarter but was stopped right at the goal line. A few plays later, he got on the board with a 10-yard swing pass from Manziel. Williams looks like a keeper in the backfield for as long as he sticks around, and may even end up becoming a true star.
Last week, freshman phenom Ricky Seals-Jones wowed Aggieland with a 71-yard breakaway touchdown. This week it was another young one, as JaQuay Williams hauled in a 20-yard TD pass from Manziel and later made a spectacular one-handed grab on the sidelines. Second-year receiver Sabian Holmes, the son of former Longhorn DB Tony Holmes, had his best game as an Aggie, finishing with five catches for 60 yards and a 1st-quarter touchdown.
RB Ben Malena and WR Mike Evans often get taken for granted, but they each had excellent games. Malena gained 91 yards on ten carries and scored a touchdown, while Evans had a career day with seven catches for 155 yards. RB Tra Carson is starting to become a mainstay, scoring two more touchdowns to follow his two in week one. He’s the big back head coach Kevin Sumlin’s been looking for.
The tight ends have yet to be used in the passing game, and everyone in Tuscaloosa knows it. New addition Cam Clear is 275 pounds and just waiting for his shot. Don’t be surprised to see it on Saturday. Also, the actual, official, really real starting defense hasn’t seen the field this season. When that unit finally gets together, they’ll be staring across the line of scrimmage at AJ McCarron and the Alabama Crimson Tide – tough first assignment, no doubt.
Alabama comes to College Station in the biggest game Texas A&M has played in quite some time – maybe ever. The national spotlight will be on this top ten matchup, and the way in which the Aggies fare will dictate how they’re perceived the rest of the way. A loss, and it’ll be another example of not taking advantage of an opportunity on the big stage. (See: every bowl game of the last 20 years before 2012.) A win, and the maroon kool-aid will flow with legitimate talk of playing for national championships.
The move to the SEC was about playing teams of this quality in games of this magnitude. In a few days, the Fightin’ Texas Aggies will have all the chance in the world to take advantage of it. You know the nation will be watching.